A new year is here and not much has changed since January 2021 in many ways. Covid is still a significant issue even though there is a vaccine. Many people are isolated, sad and depressed. We have to look to God for His mercy and grace through all life’s happenings.
The people of Israel had some very depressing times in the centuries before Christ. They had turned away from God and His favor had left them. God even told them what would happen through his prophets. They would be invaded and conquered, with many of them taken to Babylon in exile.
These were trying times for ‘God’s people’. But, in the midst of it all, God sent His prophets to encourage His people.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14.
We have just come through the Christmas celebration and heard the story of Jesus’s birth. It is so reassuring that God gives us hope, not only in our Savior’s birth and life, but in telling us long beforehand that He would be providing this means of restoration for the world.
This hope can bring us through the trials of life.
The Joel Prophecy: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:28-29.
So, take hold of the hope God has given us through His son, Jesus, and through the prophesies given in scripture.
Titus 2:13-14 “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
Encourage one another with these words!
The Valley of the Dry Bones and Christmas.
A passage in Ezekiel may seem quite unrelated to the Christmas story, but when two different devotionals happened to refer to this unusual vision on the same day, I took notice.
Ezekiel 37 depicts God taking the prophet Ezekiel to the middle of a valley full of dry bones. God instructs Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones, saying, “Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life…Then you will know that I am the LORD.” The story goes on to show that the bones come to life and stand up on their feet – a vast army. God told Ezekiel that the bones represent the people of Israel, whose bones are dried up and their hope is gone. God promised to breathe life back into His people and give them hope!
What a clear picture of the Christmas story! Not only did God’s Spirit breathe a new life to form within the virgin, Mary, but the birth of Jesus also came to bring hope to a lost world.
Do you have a ‘valley of dry bones’?
A dream that has been put on a back shelf and is gathering dust? A diagnosis that seems to take your breath away? A struggle with addiction that robs you of life? A barrier to success that prevents financial security? Death of a loved one that leaves you alone?
God wants to encourage you that He is ready to breathe life into your valley of dry bones, and give you hope! Jesus has come to give you abundant life! We celebrate His birth this month. The world was full of darkness, discouragement and despair when, on a night long ago, God breathed life into a little baby born in Bethlehem. That breath of life then walked on the earth with men, finally giving up His breath to bring us salvation. Through the centuries, God has breathed life into us - countless ‘dry bones’ - and raised us up to an eternal life full of hope!
Whatever you identify as your ‘dry bones valley’, are you ready for God to breathe life back into it? Let Him do the miraculous!
“Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD…I will put my Spirit in you and you will live…Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.” Ez 37:13-14
The leaves are down from many of the trees around my house now. Some maples and elms still tenaciously hold onto their clothing, but, before long, these too will succumb to the perennial shedding that winter brings. This reminds me of a truth heard in our church sermon this morning: the rain falls, the flood comes, the wind blows and slams against the good and the bad equally. No matter who we are, the seasons come and go, the sun rises and sets, the world turns on its axis…all the same whoever we are.
We also are all sinners, meaning that, no matter who we are, our nature is counter to the perfect goodness of God. He is holy – a concept that even I have trouble understanding. But God gave us a way to bring us back into a relationship with Him through the life and sacrificial death of Jesus. Jesus wants to show all people how God loves them. All people. Not just the good people who already try to know God, but even the people who have no idea that God exists or loves them. Jesus went to all people. It didn’t matter what race, gender, what they had done, or what they were doing.
The woman of Samaria had two things against her knowing God’s love in the society of Jesus’s day. She was the wrong race AND the wrong gender. But Jesus chose to travel through Samaria and encounter her where she lived. Jews went around that region, totally avoiding a group of people who they believed were outcasts and not worthy of God’s love; the Bible even says that Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. This person was also a woman and more thought of as property. Jesus treated her with respect and love, and as a result, many OF Samaria believed Jesus’s words of salvation.
Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery in a similar loving manner, asking for those without sin to throw the first stone. All walked away and Jesus led her to a relationship with the loving Father.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector. He was a traitor among his own people. Jesus called to him specifically to show him God’s love, and the man’s relationship with God was restored.
Jesus was truthful and loving to all of the above people.
I want to see people as Jesus sees them – as all deserving of God’s love. I want to shed prejudices, conscious and unconscious biases. Jesus didn’t have them - He died for ALL people. He encounters each of us right where we are, still with our sins, our prejudices and our biases. He loves me in spite of these things. He loves you, wherever you are and whatever you've done.
Just as the rain may fall on the just and the unjust, God's love and salvation is offered to the good and bad. It is up to us to accept what He has offered. We don't need to get cleaned up first. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, the adulterous woman and the traitorous tax collector, we aren't judged by Jesus when we meet Him. As we take His hand and experience God's love and forgiveness through Jesus, we are changed and become who God meant us to be - His beloved children.
October 2021 STAY POSITIONED
A recent devotional referred to Exodus 33:21 with the title, “Positioned for God’s Blessing”: And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock.” The writer encouraged those reading his words to ‘stay positioned for God’s blessing.’
I have had more than the typical number of readings lately telling me to wait on the Lord’s timing, and this attitude adjustment culminated with the admonition to stay positioned for God’s blessing. It has been many years since the birth of The Harvester Chronicles: JP Knights, and it is easy to become discouraged that the project will never come to pass. Yet, God continues to tell me to wait on Him. So I do. When I think about it, God has ‘waited’ even longer than I have to bring this story to the world. He has picked the exact time, place, and yes, even person, through whom to present this tale. He knows when all will work together for the project to bring the most people to Him, and He is setting the stage to act!
When I consider each aspect of birthing the saga of angels interacting with people, I realize that God has this under control. All I need to do is ‘stay positioned’!
How does a person ‘stay positioned,’ you may ask? I believe that trying to know God and His will is the best way to do that. Praying, asking for help, reading the Word, listening to wise pastors and teachers, fasting, and tuning in to the Spirit’s voice all keep a person set for God to act when the time is right. In the meantime, understanding that staying positioned is not a static, nothing-going-on, type of thing is important. It takes balance and alertness constantly so that you don’t fall.
Where are you right now with the promise or vision God has given you? Have you given up? Remember that God planted that desire in your heart, and, like a seed, it needs time to grow and mature. Habakkuk 2:3 reminds us that “the vision is … for an appointed time … though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” What a promise!!!
As for me, I strive to ‘stay positioned’ for the ‘appointed time’! How about you?
For the Lamb…!
The God of Miracles
Some of you may recall the song with the above title that was the opening music for the Oral Roberts television hour years ago. I remember getting home from Sunday church and hearing, “The God of Miracles is reaching out His hand. The God of Miracles is moving through the land…”
A recent devotional challenged me to revisit the miracles that God has done in my life in order to dispel doubts floating around in my head during a time of waiting. I first remembered how the Lord led someone very close to me to offer funds to retain Dr McAfee’s services in starting the JP Knights Project. When Dr McAfee told me the amount that was needed to begin, I didn’t know where the money would come from, but God performed a miracle, and the funds were procured in a manner I would never have imagined!
The way that The Harvester Chronicles: JP Knights got to a publisher is another miracle. I don’t even know how Redemption Press publisher, Athena Dean Holtz, got my email, but there was her request for me to send her my manuscript, and before long Redemption Press was publishing my book.
Then, Redemption Press forged a relationship with film director, Kevin McAfee. That program only lasted a short time, but it was long enough for me to jump at the opportunity to have my story go to film.
So…do I lose hope now? No. The God of Miracles is still in charge! Even though the way seems unknown right now, I continue to seek God’s path and pray for His leading, believing that His timing, His work, His miracles are about to happen! We know that spiritual warfare is real, and the enemy delights in us forgetting who God is – a miracle worker!
What is your struggle right now? Is Covid impacting your work, your school, your activities? Has someone else’s sin threatened to destroy you? Has a friend turned on you? David and others in the Bible claimed ‘the battle is the Lord’s’. Are you trying to fight on your own? Remember the miracles in your life, and turn the battle over to the Lord!
Guest blog contributor: Gary Lambert
Sorry we are so late with the blog this month.
Busy, busy, busy. The overwhelming word of our summer. I am supposed to be retired, but I am busier than when I was working. Juggling about 6 different projects or more at the same time can be a difficult challenge. Are you busy? Are you doing what God wants you to do? Or, are you just doing stuff to get it done? Knowing what God wants you to do is challenging for all of us. It can be difficult to hear what you are to do. Praying and asking for guidance and to do His will is the best place to be. If you don’t ask, then why would He give it to you?
I have many days where I plan out what I am going to do, but I end up doing something that I did not think about doing that needed done. God’s guidance! He knows what needs done and can guide you to do it without you even knowing it. If we ask him, God guides us through our daily tasks. Are you aware of Him doing this for you? It is God’s Grace and will for us to work and live for Him, so think about it, Did He guide you to do something today, or yesterday?
I have been wanting a specific tractor for years. I check online to see if I could get one on sale and keep track of how much it costs. This tractor costs between $45,000 and $55,000 depending on where it is and how it is equipped. I had to go to the dealer to get a part for my small tractor and had been putting it off for over 2 weeks. Waiting for a rainy day or a convenient time to go. Busy, busy, busy. Finally on a day it was supposed to rain, I needed to take the car to get service done, so I decided if it rains I will go to the tractor dealer for my part. Car was done, no rain, went home. Then we got a sprinkle and I said I would go to get my part. After I got my part I went next door to the used equipment dealership to say hi because I know them well. Both men I talked to told me about this tractor that has been there less than 24 hours. I agreed to look at it. It is 13 years old and not even broke in. It is basically new for less than half the price of what I had been looking for. Not exactly the tractor I wanted, but it is all I need to get the job done. Yes! I believe God led me to the deal that can’t be passed up.
Are you listening to what and where God leads you? Are you asking for guidance in your daily routine? Are you praying for wisdom? Wisdom is amazing! You can accomplish anything with God’s wisdom! With wisdom and guidance anything is possible!
Sunshine, tank tops, beaches… I don’t know about you, but I LOVE summer. It probably has to do with preferring warmth as opposed to cold. I love running in the early morning when the world is barely up, appreciating the songbirds and beauty of the awakening day. I love being out in the heat of the day, feeling the warmth of the sun all over me while in a tank top and shorts or swimsuit rather than bundled up in winter garb. I love working in the garden, watching what we planted grow and bear fruit. Then I love sitting on our yard swing as stars wink their greetings when night falls, with a campfire blazing before me, fireflies darting about and owls hooting in the distance. The long days allow more time to be outside, and our wrap-around porch provides the perfect perch during a summer thunderstorm.
What are your favorite things about summer? Pause to thank God for these special seasonal blessings!
What I love about summer most (the heat), may be what others dislike. That’s the thing about seasons…they are times of change that could be welcomed by some, yet hated by others.
My church is going through a season of change as our senior pastor has felt God calling him to another path, and he has stepped down while awaiting God’s direction. This has been a surprise to all of us, but our pastor, along with church leadership, continues to emphasize that doing what God leads us to do may be opposite what seems to make sense. This was further illustrated by our speaker today, who talked about Elijah and what happened in 1 Kings 17.
Elijah made a proclamation to Ahab (bad king) and Jezebel (worships Baal and murders prophets of Yahweh) which resulted in a drought. Then Elijah hid in a ravine by a brook, and was fed by ravens until the brook dried up. It sure seems like God would have or could have kept that brook going until the drought was over, but He didn’t. And he sent ravens, a detested bird, to feed the hidden prophet. The ravens brought bread. Bread doesn’t bake itself, so the assumption is that the birds stole the bread from villagers nearby.
Now we have a great prophet, hiding in a ravine by a dried-up brook, eating stolen bread. I don’t think this is what Elijah had in mind when he followed the LORD.
Then God sent Elijah to Zarephath, a region where the worship of Baal began and where Jezebel was from. What, God? Jezebel who searches for and kills the prophets of Yahweh? Isn’t this going in the wrong direction?
We know that God’s ways are different than our ways. Are you following God, but you question the direction because it doesn’t make sense? Join the crowd! Just as my pastor and church are questioning what is going on and how this can possibly be for the best, you may be seeking God and are shown a path that seems opposite of what you thought the plan was. Don’t lose heart and don’t hesitate to do what God is telling you to do!
In JP Knights, Garrett’s family let go of their farm and ended up with something ‘exceeding abundantly’ beyond what they could imagine. Liz gave up involvement at her school and she became a warrior in God’s army. Joel was led to a path of leadership although he was content to be a follower of Kyle. Jill shied away from any public or social interactions, but had a special spiritual gift bestowed on her as she stepped away from her typical behaviors. Chris risked losing social standing among his peers, but ended up going a different path than he expected.
The Bible, along with the JP Knights, show us that going an unexpected, but God-directed route, is sure to bring us to fantastic places of incredible spiritual potential if we but listen to that small, still voice of God showing us the path. Be patient and believe. Don't fear to do what God is telling you to do!
6/5/21 WORK AS TO THE LORD AND NOT TO MEN Col 3:23 (paraphrased)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an angel? A messenger of God and part of an enormous army of His soldiers? The Lord of Hosts - this name of God we have heard spoken of is actually His position of authority concerning the Host of Heaven: angels. If I was an angel, would I have followed Satan and a third of all angels in disobedience to my supreme commander? There's a pretty good chance that I would have! ...Not saying that my human self would want to turn from the Creator and the Lord of Hosts, but just acknowledging how hard it is not to sin and how we all fall short of what we were made to be and do.
I see this every day when I work for my earthly employer. I struggle to 'do my work as to the Lord and not to men.' The day starts pretty well, usually, with enthusiasm to please God in all I do, and not to react to little annoyances that every job has. Sometimes I'm hijacked relatively early from this lofty goal, and other times I make it for a few hours, but before long I am more concerned about what I think others think of me than 'doing my work as to the Lord and not to men.'
This back-and-forth skirmish in my brain is like watching a tennis match. For a moment the ball is in the Lord’s court and the next it is in my ‘self’ side. I fret and worry about what I’m doing and is it good enough and am I fast enough and… The list goes on. Then I remember that the pressure leaves when I focus on pleasing God. Ahh… Yes. When my motivation is to please the Lord, the extraneous baggage that I drag around is laid at the feet of my Master, and I wonder why I waited so long to ‘do my work as to’ Him rather than men!
You would think that this revelation would last through the day, but it seems it does not take much for me to revert back to worrying about what others think.
But, you know, God is pleased for each choice I make to return to His peace about my work. So, even though that tennis game continues through the day, I’m hoping that my decision to desire ‘pleasing God’ for each and every thing I do has resulted in more time every day seeking to ‘do my work as to the Lord and not to men.’
Reading about Tsadde and the angels in JP Knights is an encouragement to me. You don’t see Kaph asking what Qoph is doing, or complaining that Gimel should take charge. They respect each other and allow each angel to do the work God has given them to do. THAT is what I want to do each day. Concentrate on the good work God has given me to do, do it with motivation, do it responsibly and with a good attitude, not worrying about others and not complaining. My day goes MUCH better when I do my work as to the Lord and not to men!
This month I would like to highlight some incredible work done by Dr Kevin McAfee and the Oceania team, including Jim, Stephanie, Jennifer and Jag. They have worked on a World War II documentary over the past several years, inspired by a true story. Having completed the documentary, they submitted it to various film festivals.
To date, FINAL WORDS OF WORLD WAR II has won over 14 awards from all over the world!
Berlin, Rome, Sweden, Cannes Global, New York, Hollywood, Canada, Virginia and Georgia!
Congratulations from all the JP Knights prayer warriors and fans!
Thoughts for May: Divine Detours
In The Harvester Chronicles: JP Knights (p.340-341), Jill and Joel are driving back from the prison during the storm when they are shown a different route to take than they normally would. They see angels ahead who take them on a detour to get back home safely.
Have you ever had a divine detour? Seemingly going in the opposite direction than what you and maybe others think is the right way?
God wants us to trust Him, even when things aren't as you may have expected. Why do we have detours? Does it mean you have gone the wrong way and God is trying to get you back on track? Maybe. Sometimes our own will wins over what God wants for us. When we realize this, God may provide a route back to His path, or He may allow a different path to unfold that will equally please Him.
What if you believe you are following God, but the path is difficult and seems to go in a different direction than you are headed? God may use divine detours to do more than we can imagine (Eph 3:20 "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.") His ways are above our ways, and His thoughts are above our thoughts. God will use these detours to accomplish more than we can imagine. We are so limited by our experiences that we sometimes can't think of the possibilities that God has in mind.
What do you do if you're on a divine detour?
First, submit your will to Him. Ask Him to get you back on track if you have strayed outside His Will, and ask His forgiveness. Then TRUST GOD! What may seem like the wrong way may turn out to be God's way to bring great and wonderful experiences to you and others. Don't be afraid - allow God's peace to fill you. If others don't understand, be patient and don't turn from God's path in your life. Keep doing what God asks you to do, and you will be surprised how He guides you and actually brings you to that goal that seemed, for a time, to be in the opposite direction!
April. What does this month mean to you?
Today is April Fool's Day. Perhaps you remember a trick someone played on you. I'm thinking about the weather fooling me with 3" of snow on the ground after 60 degree days enticed me that winter was over.
Spring. Although the season of spring begins in March, for my area the real signs of spring come in April. The bulbs come up through the lingering snow or crusted ground. The pussy willow buds appear as soft nubs at the ends of branches. Birds flock at our feeders and the familiar robins hopscotch through the yard. Peepers noisily call from the ponds and swampy areas. Leaves will soon emerge from seemingly lifeless trees. It's like the world heaves a humungous sigh as winter finally withdraws and new life rushes in.
Recently, a verse in Joel caught my attention in a devotional I was reading. It is right before the Joel Prophecy used in The Harvester Chronicles. Joel 2:25-27 reads, "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten..., My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame."
What 'years' have you lost? For many, Covid meant that 2020 into 2021 has been lost. All the hopes, dreams, plans, opportunities - gone. Lost.
God is ready to restore our lost years! Much like the spring gives us a renewal of life around us, God promises to restore us. He calls us to repentance in Joel 2:12-17, and then He responds by refreshing the land (verses 18-27) and finally by pouring out His spirit in Joel 2:28-29. These are the verses on which The Harvester Chronicles are based.
Are you ready to be restored? As He refreshes the land after the lost year of Covid, prepare for Him to pour out His spirit on all flesh!
For the Lamb!
Dr. Beth Lambert is a Pediatrician and Medical Director in Pennsylvania. JP Knights is the first film from her books.
Kevin & Lynn McAfee along with Jim and Rachel Gromer met to begin the script writing process for JP KNIGHTS the movie. Thanks for praying for the entire team!
Dr. McAfee and the team of GRP with Stephanie Musser met with city fathers in Pennsylvania at the Holiday Inn to discuss strategies for shooting in Johnstown.