The Truth You Know

by Sue Priebe

In Matthew 11 we read the story of John the Baptist in prison.

John heard about the things Jesus was doing so the Bible tells us he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus what may seem to us a very strange question.  “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else?”  How could John ask such a question?

This is the same John who is described in John 1:6-8 as the man sent by God “to tell about the light so that everyone might believe of his testimony.  John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.”

This was the same John who recognized the Messiah while they were both in their mothers’ wombs.  Remember his mother Elizabeth proclaimed that the baby leapt within her.

This is the same John whose father was given a prophetic word that “he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God…He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.”  (Luke 1:16-17)

This is the same John who was confronted by the Jewish leaders about his identity.  He replied quoting Isaiah in John 1:23, “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”

This is the same John who identified Jesus when he saw Him saying “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!  He is the one I was talking about then I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for He existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel…I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him.  I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that He is the Chosen One of God.”

So, what happened that would make John send his disciples to Jesus to ask if He really was the One?

His entire ministry had been based on declaring that very revelation.  What brought such doubt to his mind?

What expectations might he have had?  Did he expect Jesus to work a miracle and get him our of prison?  Surely Jesus would at least come to see him.  I am sure his mind was working overtime …..”maybe Jesus really isn’t who I thought He was.”  His circumstances may have been causing him to doubt what he absolutely knew to be true.

Historians tell us that John was in prison for about a year and a half.  This man who lived outdoors was now imprisoned with very little light, very little fresh air, very little company.  He was definitely in quarantine! 

Science tells us that prolonged social isolation can actually change the shape and function of our brains.  The region responsible for learning and memory can shrink in response to long-term isolation and the part that regulates fear and anxiety goes into overdrive.

Unexpected circumstances, isolation and distancing can cause us to doubt what we know to be true!  This was definitely a time of isolation for John.  Even though John said “He must increase and I must decrease,”  I don’t think he had counted on ending his life in prison.

As we enter another month of isolation and distancing, we must not let our minds “shrink” away from what we know to be true.  In times of isolation and stress, we too can begin to doubt.  We can begin to wonder where God is in the midst of this pandemic when economies are shaking, when our whole world changed in a matter of days.  We might ask,  “Where are you God?” or “Why aren’t you doing something about this?  We can’t even go to church!  People are dying!”

Jesus’ answer to John might seem strange to us.

There is a message in it for us too.  Did Jesus even answer the question? Jesus sent His answer, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.”  And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”

It may seem to us that Jesus’ answer was obscure, but it would have been clear to John who would have recognized that Jesus was quoting Isaiah 35 and 61, prophetic scriptures describing the ministry of the Messiah.  John also probably recognized the portion of the scripture that Jesus didn’t say:  Jesus did NOT say the phrase from Isaiah 61 that “prisoners will be freed.”  What was the message Jesus was sending? “Yes, I am the Messiah, but you will not be getting out of prison.”

Jesus also added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”  Some versions say “those who are not offended by me.”  Basically Jesus was saying to John—“Don’t turn away from me, don’t doubt what you know to be true because I don’t do what you expect me to do!  You know who I am.  Trust me even in your current difficult circumstance.”

I believe the Lord is saying the same thing to us today.  Our desire is for Him to intervene and stop this virus.  Perhaps we have an unmet need for which we have been praying.  The message Jesus is sending us is, “Don’t fall away, or don’t be offended by me because I am not doing what you think I should be doing.”  It is time for us to stand firm on what we know to be true!

An encouraging part of this story is that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves when we have some fear and doubt in these difficult times.  In Luke 7: 28 Jesus said, “I tell you of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John.”  If the greatest one who ever lived (besides Jesus, of course) can have moments of doubt, so can we.

We may have those moments, but the key is not to stay in that place of doubt or fear.  Remember what the Word of God says.  Remember who God is.  Remember that He is a good God and His character has not changed.  After hearing the report from Jesus, I think John faced his situation with confidence, and we can do the same.  Jesus reminded John what the Bible said about the Messiah, and I believe Jesus’ response reminded John what he himself had seen and heard.

In times of difficulty, we must hang on to what we know to be true and not give in to doubt.  God is still God, and He is working in ways that we may not yet see, but that does not mean He is not working.  It is a time to stand firm in the Lord and the power of His Might!

“In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might.  Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier] so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (spiritual) places.  Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious].  So stand firm and hold your ground having tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), and having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news].  Above all, lift up the [protective]shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.  With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.” Ephesians 6:10-18 (AMP)

Sue Priebe is Associate Pastor at City of Hope Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, a Chaplain for Marketplace Chaplains and serves on the Board of Directors for Women of the Word. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God in ways that are relevant and applicable to daily life. She also has a deep love for Israel and travels there frequently connecting with believers there and teaching God’s Word on location. 

 

 

Watchful Gardeners

by Kim Warf

Let us be watchful gardeners and keepers of the inner treasure.

As natural gardeners of our flowers and vegetables, there is much care and foresight given. The necessity for proper soil and healthy seeds and seedlings are understood and due diligence is given for the hope of an abundant harvest.

What of the garden of our hearts? It is from there, the Bible tells us, that the issues or the overflow of our lives will stem. So, the condition of our heart foretells the condition of our lives.

Take care that seeds of discontentment are not allowed to flourish there. Those are like the pesky weeds that grow deep roots and choke out the wonderful things you are trying to grow .

The Bible refers to this in Hebrews 12:15, ‘See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled’. These deep, dark roots of offense become tangled and twisted causing distress for oneself and will spread to others if not dealt with immediately.

In Mark 4, we see another scenario. Here, the condition of our heart is addressed. “Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.” Even when good seed is sown (God’s word), if the condition of our heart isn’t right, it will not flourish and produce properly.

If good seed can be choked, what happens when “bad seed” (negativity, divisiveness) evil is sown? Be vigilant over the soil of your heart and do not receive these words as truth. At the very least, take the time to get the “whole story”.

Do you remember when we first came to know the Lord?

There were strongholds that were deeply rooted in our hearts and minds. Over time, our minds and hearts were renewed by the good seed of the Word of God. We need the truth and the love of God to realign our mind and thinking. This is true for every season of life.

Let’s be watchful gardeners of our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 warns us to “Keep our heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

Thankfully, we are then instructed how to do this:
Verse 24 “ Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you.”
Verse 25 “Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you.”
Verse 26 “Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established.”
Verse 27 “Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.”

How do I know what is good seed and what is bad seed? The good seed brings forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness and the bad seed brings forth distress. The watchful gardener will reap what is sown.

Kim Warf is the associate pastor, alongside her husband Paul of New Beginnings Church in Bangor, ME.  She is also a Board Member of Women of the Word and has served as Conference Chairman of several WOW conferences in Maine. Paul and Kim have two grown daughters and a beautiful grand-daughter.

Defensive and Offensive Weapons against the Coronavirus

by Betsy Roy

I am Christian, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am also a nurse, a wife, a mother and grandmother.

First I will give the practical weapons against bacteria and viruses (like “flu” and “coronavirus”).
  1. WASH your hands!! Wash them well with lots of soap, water and long enough (at least 20 seconds). Get all surfaces of you hands (front, back, between fingers, under nails).  See picture
  2. STAY home if you’re sick! Don’t infect others!
  3. DON’T shake hands and DON’T touch your face and eyes.
  4. SNEEZE and COUGH into tissues and dispose of them.
  5. BUILD UP your immune system. Eat right, get rest, exercise. Take a good multi-vitamin. Extra Vitamin C and D are also a good idea.
  6. SUBMIT to and OBEY the governing authorities of your pastor, employer, community, state and nation regarding meetings, travel and health directives in hospitals, nursing homes, etc. according to Romans 13:1.
Now for the spiritual weapons. the Bible tells us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (natural) but mighty through God (2 corinthians 10: 4-5)  so let’s use them!

Believing prayer and saying what God says works! About 18 months ago I received a diagnosis that frankly did scare me at first. So, I understand fear but I didn’t stay there. Here are some of the scriptures the Holy Spirit gave me to fight with and I believe they will work against the flus and coronavirus also.

  1. If you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior you are a child of God. Know who you are, remind yourself you are not of the world and declare it to the powers of darkness that try to intimidate you with fear. You are a daughter of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords and HE is in your midst and has taken away the judgments against you and clears away your enemies.  (Zephaniah 3:14 – 17) Sickness is an enemy!
  2. I do not fear bad news! My heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. I am blessed because I fear (reverence in awe) the Lord and greatly delight in His commandments! (Psalm 122: 1, 4 – 8)
  3. God’s Word is life to me and healing to all my flesh. I am attentive to His words. (Proverbs 4: 20-22)
  4. Christ redeemed me from the curse of the law becoming a curse for me. (Galatians 3:13) 
  5. Jesus healed all who were sick, took our illnesses and our diseases. (Matthew 8: 16-17; Isaiah 53: 4-5; 1Peter 2: 24)
  6. Jesus gives life to my mortal body through His Spirit who dwells in me and has set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8: 2, 11)
  7. I fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6: 12)
  8. I am strong in the Lord and put on the whole armor of God to stand against the schemes of the devil. I pray at all times in the Spirit. (Ephesians 6: 10 – 18)
  9. I take refuge in the Lord, rather than trust in man. The LORD is my strength and my song and has become my salvation. (Psalm 118: 8-9, 14)
  10. I do not think like everyone else does. I wait for the LORD and put my hope in Him. (Isaiah 8: 11) His thoughts are higher than man’s thought and His ways are higher than man’s ways. (Isaiah 55: 8-9)

Finally, stay in peace. Stay your mind upon God.  Do not give into fear or be anxious. Rejoice in the Lord! (Philippians 4: 4-6) Stop listening to and watching the news all the time, including social media. I’m not saying stick your head in the sand, but don’t let yourself get bombarded by all the hype either.

Let’s pray together………..Father God you are on the throne! You are greater than any sickness or disease including the coronavirus. I thank you that I am your daughter and that my household and those who live in it are under the protection of the shed blood of Jesus. I do not fear for myself nor my family. I do pray for those who have been afflicted by flus and coronavirus. I ask for your mercy and healing. Along with my brothers and sisters in the faith I raise the standard of the blood of Jesus against this flood of sickness knowing that your WORD prevails against all the power of the enemy. We stand firm in expectation of the victory you bring. Amen.

Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word, an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel

Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren which are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation.

 

An Appeal to Heaven

by Dr. Lynn Lucas

Genesis 22 starts with “after these things, God tested Abraham.” So what are “these things” referred to in verse 1? In Genesis 21:33 Abraham plants what the King James version declares is a “grove of trees in the wilderness,” and declares he has come to know that God is the Everlasting God. In the original language Everlasting God actually should be translated “God is the Self Existent Life Giver,” Who Was Before Time, and IS After Time, Who therefore Walks with You Through Time. God was declaring to Abraham that as the Everlasting God, He will never say that something will happen unless it will happen. This revelation empowered Abraham’s faith so that he could pass the test when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. He could say with confidence to those servants with him “the lad and I will go yonder and worship and will return to you” (v.5). He expected to return with Isaac because God had made the covenant that depended on the birth and life of Isaac. Hebrews 11:19 says that Abraham expected God to raise up Isaac from the ashes AND RETURN HIM TO ABRAHAM.

We, therefore, should realize that the God who walks with us through time is the One Who already knows how things will end. He makes promises and gives us words based on the things He sees as completed. Jonah’s conversation with God in Jonah 4:1-3 is a practical example of this truth. Paraphrasing Jonah’s words to God, Jonah said, “I told you that you would cause me to be a success, and there would be a great revival here. That is why I went to Tarshish. They are our enemy, and I did not want them saved.” Jonah knew he would be a success before he started out because God had given him the job and hadn’t warnd him, as He had other prophets, that the mission would not succeed.

 A practical example from our country’s history occurred during the Revolutionary War when General Washington looked at his situation and said, “We are outmanned, outgunned, and out-supplied, and our country can never be independent and become what it was founded to be unless we win this war, so our only hope is an APPEAL TO HEAVEN.” He then commissioned his top aide to create an “Appeal to Heaven” flag, imagesa very simple flag with a tall evergreen tree on an all-white background highlighting the words “Appeal to Heaven.” That flag few over every American fort, every American ship and every American troop who marched into war as a reminder that as we Appeal to Heaven, God will change the outcome. God has promised and what He has promised and planned, comes to pass in and through our lives.

Since we know that the foundation of our country was based on biblical principles, we should not find it strange that the story of Abraham explains the design of Washington’s “Appeal to Heaven” flag. The Hebrew language clarifies the reference in Genesis telling us that Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at the well of the sevenfold oath. The tamarisk is one of the few trees that can thrive in an arid place. There are two types of tamarisk trees: one growing 10 to 15 feet tall, the other 20 to 30 feet. The Bible also indicates that he did not plant a grove, but a single tree. The tamarisk is an evergreen tree that produces a small white flower. People called this flower manna, long before God provided manna in the wilderness. Abraham marked the seven clauses of the covenant God made with him, some fulfilled and some not, by planting an evergreen tree, which would draw people in an arid place to a well of refreshing water. He planted it as a reminder to generations to come that the God Who Was Before Time is the God Who is After Time; therefore, He is the God Who Walks with Us Through Time. As we admit that we are outmanned, outgunned, and out-resourced, God intervenes and miracles happen when we make our Appeal to Heaven.

img_lucasDr. Lynn Lucas holds doctorates in Theology and Ministry. She is the Senior Pastor of Fountainhead Congregation on Long Island. Her congregation has witnessed the miraculous as they have stepped out in faith to do what God has commissioned them to do in reaching the hurting and lost. Dr. Lucas is a regular speaker at Women of the Word, a Christian womens conference ministry.