The Spirit of Simeon

Tucked away in the story of the birth of Jesus are stories of other amazing men and women of faith. One such man was an older man named Simeon who spent his life in eager anticipation of seeing the Hope of Israel.

Luke 2:22-35

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There is something powerful that happens when one generation eagerly invests their life and attention into the promise of the next generation coming after them. When the older, wiser generation refuses to let their life end before they have invested their resources and time in seeing the promises of God fulfilled in those younger than them, it creates a powerful heritage and momentum that is calculated over centuries.

Simeon was a man eagerly anticipating and watching for the promises of God to be fulfilled for Israel, and he was watching for the Messiah. He was vigilant in his pursuit of the Hope God had promised.  Every child born, and every person who operated in any godly passion and authority was on his radar. He didn’t want to miss what God was doing.

It’s easy to look at a politically troubled world and say “It’s all going to hell in a hand-basket!” It’s quite another to eagerly watch for the goodness of God His promises being walked out in the next generation. The joy of being a part of that promise, and not wanting to die until you see the fruit of that promise in those coming after you is something that many people miss.

There is a temptation after you have lived a full life to put your motor into park. It’s not really your responsibility anymore what happens with the world, because you already did your part; but what if you could make your life part of the legacy of God’s goodness by continuing to look for the goodness of God in those younger than you, and affirming, nurturing and encouraging them?

What if you, who carry the promises of God, passed them on to a generation who needed to hear them? What if you could prophesy hope, victory, and comfort to a world unsure of its future? That’s what Simeon did.

Even though baby Jesus was the carrier of the ultimate hope for the world and would likely not understand Simeon’s words, it was to the benefit of Mary and Joseph to hear the promise declared. It was an historical moment for Israel, and you and me that Simeon watched and waited for this Messiah, and then declared the promise of God without shame or reservation when he recognized  him in the temple that day.

It is to the benefit of your family, community, city, state, nation, that you prophesy (speak the words of God) to the next generation. In even 50 years from now when your children’s children are questioning if God is real, it is your story and mine that they will reflect on for their decisions. So tell your redemption story. Tell it over and over. Tell then next generation that God is faithful and will walk them through everything life throws at them. Tell them that God answers prayer and shuts the mouths of lions, rescues from the pit, redeems from slavery, and recreates from ashes. Tell them there is nothing impossible with God, and they have the power to change the world with God alive in them. Tell them that their hearts will break, and be filled in the process, and the fruit of their lives will continue to encourage and strengthen weak hearts for generations to come. Tell them.

Let the life of Simeon inspire you to be looking for God’s goodness in every generation you are alive to see, then boldly declare God’s promises again and again!SimeonPainting by Ron DiCianni

 

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Highlights from Lagos

I have probably started four blogs so far trying to encapsulate the experiences of being in Lagos, Nigeria for Reinhard Bonnke’s Farewell Crusade, and I just don’t know where to start. Many of you gave towards my trip, and I want to say “Thank you thank you thank you!” from the bottom of my heart! This trip was a step into promises God gave me as a young girl, and I relished every minute! So, for you, I will write my personal highlights, and later I will publish the blogs regarding the event overall. Grab a snack and open your heart to the Holy Spirit as you read!

Since the first day I saw a televised snippet of a Reinhard Bonnke crusade in Africa, I have not been able to get the images out of my head—-thousands and thousands of precious people hungry to know God, standing for hours in crusades after having walked hours or days, receiving Jesus and being transformed and full of joy and expectation of the new life God gave them and the life hereafter. I was twelve or thirteen when I saw my first bit of a crusade on Christian television. From that day, and for all these years since, I have prayed for Africa. Nigeria was one of those countries I prayed for since my teen years. My earnest desire was to go one day.

Just touching down into Lagos, and exiting the airplane, my heart began to burst. Tears welled up in my eyes. What an amazing God! He was giving me the gift of seeing the people for whom I had prayed for so many years. I got to stand on Nigerian soil, smell Nigerian air, and look into the eyes of a people God gave me a love for, yet I had never met. He is such a generous God!! This trip was a gift!

Then there were the crowds–just like the ones burned into my mind, and the ones I have watched via YouTube– and I was standing among them in the hot Nigerian sun waiting to hear the simple, yet powerful Gospel being preached by the ministry team of Christ for All Nations. I worshiped and danced with the locals as we praised God on the soggy, sand-covered crusade grounds. I bowed my face into that same soil as I heard the 600k+ voices singing “Agnus Dei” and we all declared “Worthy is the Lamb”! It was a Revelation chapters 4 and 5 scene. Then came the preaching of the Gospel. The simple message, that we have all sinned and become separated from God, but that God wanted to bridge that gap we created, and He did so by sending His Son, Jesus to pay the penalty of our sin–through death on a cross, and through His death, His shed blood, and His resurrection, we are free from the bondage of sin if we receive Jesus’ payment for our sin. The door to the heart of God swung wide open for us, and now we are adopted as sons and daughters, with a promise of life forever with God–never to have a moment without Him. Even knowing how the message goes, I couldn’t wait to hear the ending! The invitation! God didn’t give His invitation just to the rich, or powerful, the good, or the lovely. He invited all of us! He died for all of us!! I would stand in the presence of thousands of people who would hear the Gospel and for the first time in their life give their hearts to God and be set free from the torments of sin, and the fear of evil, the guilt and shame of their mistakes. They would instead receive hope, deliverance, healing, and a brand new life. It was a joyous occasion every day of the crusade!

Then there was the moment I knew I was there for.  Daniel Kolenda was preaching on the Blood of Jesus. He began to break the curses of witchcraft, of superstition, of diseases, and illness, of sin, and things began happening. Wandering to the front of the crowd, and standing in front of the stage came a young woman, possessed by demons, thrashing and yelling as Daniel continued to pray and declare victory. My heart went out to her immediately. I felt God tell me to “go and love her like a mother and set her free”. Christ for all Nations trains pastors and local leaders to do the ministry in the crusades, so I hesitated to make a move so as to not interrupt protocol. It wasn’t long before a crowd gathered around this young woman, and many began praying for her and casting the demons out. She fell to the ground, and many cloistered around her for quite a long time. It looked like there was already plenty of prayer ministry, and no space for me to enter the group, so I waited. A half hour passed, and the woman was still thrashing and screaming as the last of the demons tried desperately to keep their home in her. I noticed there were only three people gathered around her then, and I noticed that the young woman was tired as she sat in the wet sand, being puppeted by the demons inside of her. I heard God again, “go, love her like a mother, and set her free.” So I rushed to the woman’s side. I first picked up her hand and held it in mine and began to stroke it.

“It’s okay, Baby, God is setting you free. You can let this thing go, it doesn’t belong to you.” I said. Others were still praying for her and commanding the devils out, and I moved in closer and put my arms around her and hugged her close. I stroked her hair and kissed her forehead, and began to speak peace to her body. She was still wrestling the demons inside and began to choke. She grabbed my hand and put it on her throat saying, “They are choking me!” I and the others around her took authority over the demons attempting to choke her, and I layed her head against my chest and told her to rest. She began to vomit, and she pulled away to spit on the ground. When she was done, I pulled her in close again, stroked her hair, and loved her.  It was just a few minutes more, and she was totally free. Peace overtook her body, her eyes no longer held a wild gaze, but were tender and full of gratitude for what Jesus had just done for her. I felt a love her as if she were my own daughter, and I held her and kissed her head.

The crusade had ended some time ago as we all sat in the sand ministering to this woman, and I had to leave to catch the bus that brought me to the crusade grounds. I had to leave. I prayed with her, blessed her, and left her to the ministry of local pastors as I headed to my bus. I cried the rest of the way to the hotel in gratitude again of the mercy and compassion of God who loves us enough to see us free, and allows a mama from Alaska to be part of His plans and purposes.

This, along with meeting people from all over the world who came to be part of this crusade filled my happy tank to the highest level, and then burst. Thank you for your prayers for me, for your encouragement, and for your generous gifts that carried me there and then safely home again. You get to share the blessings I received.

Nigeria

 

Nigerian Crusade

Bonnke Lagos

A few weeks from now I will be heading to Lagos, Nigeria to participate in the “Passing the Torch” crusade of Christ for all Nations Ministries. Christ for all Nations is the Ministry of Reinhard Bonnke and Daniel Kolenda. A few blogs ago, I told you about the privilege I had to attend their “School of Evangelism” in Florida, and it only whetted my appetite more to see first hand what I have only seen in video footage over the years. Here is a sampling of what I expect to see: “Harvest Joy”

I will be traveling with the CfaN ministry team as they will host a two-day “Fire Conference” for Nigerian Pastors, as well as an evangelistic crusade where they will  preach the Gospel and pray for the sick.

This opportunity has been a dream of mine since I was an 8th Grader. I am so excited to see the faces of the nations I have prayed for for years. I am excited to to share in the encouragement for native pastors, and to see the lame walk, the blind eyes open, the deaf hear, and the multitudes come to Jesus!

As I head out on this journey, I ask for prayer. Pray that God’s call on my life will be walked out in courageous passion. As I witness Reinhard and his team reaching out in Nigeria, my heart wants to continue to burst into flame and burn red hot with a passion to reach the lost. I know that this trip is part of the bigger picture in the direction God has set my heart, and I am so excited to keep stepping.

If you are interested in giving towards this trip, you may make checks payable to “Regent Life Church” and attach a note designating it to me and my trip. Their address can be found by clicking: here

I will keep you updated.

The Raven and the Eagle

“I am carrying on a great project, why should I leave this thing I am created and destined to do, in order to accomodate your threats?”

*eagleI’m sitting on my deck today, looking out at the view. If you have ever been to Homer, Alaska, you will understand it when I say that the view never gets old. But this time, as I am sitting in the stillness, the quiet is interrupted by the sound of a raven in the distance. With a constant cackling, and cawing, the raven is repeating a pattern of swooping down, then ascending again over the head of a bald eagle, perched in its nest. Sometimes the talons of the raven are bared as it descends in attempt to threaten the eagle away from its nest, and other times it uses its most frightening of noises in an attempt to appear more mighty than he is. The eagle flinches, returns a voice that tells the raven to back off, and perseveres through the seemingless endless taunting and threats. I watch in awe wondering how long the eagle will put up with the taunting, and I consider the  raven’s perseverence wondering when he will tire and finally give up.

As I watch this drama unfolding, my mind wanders to a passage in Nehemiah 6:1-9 and God begins speaking to me:

Nehemiah 6:1-9 (NIV)

1When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”

But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.

5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written:

“It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”

8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”

9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

If I were to characterize these people mentioned in the above story, Nehemiah would be the “Eagle” and Sanballat and his friends and aids would represent the “Raven”.

Nehemiah was a Jew who had been in the captivity of the Persian Empire as a result of when Babylon overthrew Jerusalem, burning its temple and city in 586 BC, and carrying off prisoners of war. That empire was then overtaken by the Persians in 539 BC and the Jewish people that remained in Babylon were now servants of Persia’s kingdoms and policies. Nehemiah was one of these men…serving the Persian King but longing for his homeland.

Nehemiah desires to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls and fortify the city again, as now many Jews have been given permission to return to their homeland. The King of Persia, Cyrus, agrees to let Nehemiah go and accomplish this dream. The King even helps fund the mission and provide materials for Nehemiah to rebuild the wall.

Even with the  King’s permission, the King’s resources and Nehemiah’s vision, discouragement and threats were in abundance. Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and the other men of enemy nations of Israel, were hard at work to discourage Nehemiah from finishing what he started. They taunted, they threatened, they bared their talons as it were in order to remove Nehemiah from his assignment. I love Nehemiah’s response from verses 3 and 4:

“3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.”

Like the eagle on its nest, carrying on a great work, the raven’s attempts at dissuading it were met with a profound reality: “I am carrying on a great project, why should I leave this thing I am created and destined to do, in order to accomodate your threats?”

Then again, the enemy sent a provocative rumor in hopes to engage Nehemiah in battle over the purported lie, to which Nehemiah responds in verses 8 and 9:

8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”

9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Knowing the “Raven” was hoping to weaken his resolve and to wear him out with trouble, the “Eagle” considered his strength against the Raven, but did not rely on it to finish the task. Nehemiah prays, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Nehemiah knows he is on a God-sized assignment. That reality alone fuels his passion to finish, but he also knows that his dreams and desires are fires lit by God Himself, and God Himself would have to sustain them. Nehemiah had the strength of the eagle with the King’s resources, help, and permission, but his perseverance in the midst of persecution and threat, he credits to the presence of God in his life, and the purposes of God in his work.

Eventually the raven I am watching from my deck becomes tired of his threats not being taken seriously, and retires to a branch on a nearby tree. Squawking and cawing loudly as he perches, he takes a few more minutes to make noise, and eventually flies away unsuccessful.

Then another scripture comes to mind:

Isaiah 40:31(NIV)

31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

And I pray, “Lord strengthen my hands.”

 

*Photograph courtesy: Laural Sabin photography:Click here to see more of her work.

Time Enough for One More

Yesterday was Easter, and after our family returned from church, I put into gear my “Easter Day Plans.” With only a few members of our family home for this holiday, I planned to sit down as a family and watch Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. So after our meal was over, and after venturing out on an egg hunt, I grabbed my box of kleenex, and we settled down in our living room to watch the Easter Story.

I had watched this movie when it first came out years ago, and I remember just lingering in my theatre seat with my head in my hands weeping for at least 10 minutes after the credits rolled. The severity of the torture, mockery, and beatings that Jesus endured and that this Hollywood film could portray, was more than I could take in, and the fact that He endured it all for me was overwhelming.

Watching the movie with my kids, I was peppered with questions as the story they had heard in bits and pieces over the years was now played out in a timeline of harrowing events. Between my bawling and nose wiping, I would explain who various characters were and what their roles were in the moments leading up to the crucifixion.

Over and over in scripture, when you read about the life of Jesus, you read about a man who was moved with compassion. He was constantly followed by crowds, and every crowd had needs–lots of them. Every effort He made to withdraw to solitary places to re-fuel, pray, rest, was met with one person, if not 5000+ persons, begging for His help or for a moment of His time.

The introvert in me cringes at the idea of having a super busy day, then finally relaxing with my family only to be barraged by a crowd of people all needing something that only I can provide them. And yet, this is Jesus on a daily basis. Even more striking is that those who insisted on His help, despite their verbal or societal persecution and isolation, always  received it. I’m talking about Blind Bartemaeus who shouted and shouted on the side of the road: “Jesus, Son of David, Have mercy on me!” And as the people around him told him to shut up, he cried out all the more. Bartemaeus received his sight back that day. (Mark 10:46-52)

Others would include the Caananite woman who insisted that if Jesus even dropped “crumbs” of His goodness in her direction, it would be enough to heal her daughter who was tormented of an evil spirit…and He did, and the daughter was healed. (Mark 7:24-30)

So, we are watching the final hours of Jesus’ Passion played out on the screen, and true to His character, even completely bludgeoned, dehydrated and weak, Jesus takes time. Dangling by nails on a cross suspended high in the air, a thief on one side of him cries out for mercy. If ever there was a “bad time” to ask for help from someone, this moment would seem to be the epoch. It’s been a long day…the kind of day where death is the welcomed ending in order to end the suffering. He is nailed to a tree for goodness sake!! What can Jesus do for a man like that at a moment like this??

I begin weeping again, as Jesus, full of compassion looks in the direction of the thief and comforts him with the assurance that He heard his cries for mercy, He loves and values the man, he forgives him, and He will personally see to it that when his last breath is taken, he will be joining Jesus in Paradise.

With His last ounces of oxygen, with the final moments of enough energy to speak, Jesus takes time for one more. Confirming again that God places a high value on people, affirming again that those who cry out to Him are heard, and that He answers, Jesus shows us what the Father looks like even while hanging on a cross. It’s some kind of beautiful madness.

Through a faltering voice I tell each of my kids in the living room, “This is the Jesus we have given our lives to. This is the Jesus we are living for. Whatever it may cost us to follow him, He is worth it all.” And I weep again, in awe of the God who has the time to answer my cries for help, and is moved with compassion for everyone He has made.

If ever there was a good time for you to call on Him, it is now. “Jesus, have mercy on me!”

passion1

 

The Singing of Birds

Spring tells the story of hope reborn, and good things yet to come.

The Musings of Cate Morris

Homer SunriseThey’re back.  The silence of winter has been broken by the melodies of songbirds.

The bleakness of long dark days, that wane into long dark cold nights has been interrupted–even changed.

From the boughs of spruce trees and the barren limbs of alders and cottonwood come the melodic tones of the songbirds, who having completed their long migrations from the southern hemisphere, have perched in my trees to welcome my mornings.

It’s another sign of the promise of a faithful God who promised that there would be seasons, and that seasons would change.  For every Winter there is a Spring, and for every dark night there is a promise of new light, warmth, and fresh beginnings of a day full of new mercy.

The ground beneath my feet softens, changing from frozen earth to thin layers of mud that gradually become deeper layers of moisture and soil as the ice melts…

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Ummm….What was the Assignment?

I am reminded of this blog from seven years ago, as I prepare to be a part of a commissioning service for people called into ministry. I am reminded over and over that our assignment is about preparing a bride.

The Musings of Cate Morris

I envision the role of a worship leader similar to Abraham’s servant in Genesis 24 who was commissioned by his master to find and prepare a bride for his son Isaac.   Abraham bestowed gifts on the servant in order that the servant would lavish them on the bride-to-be.  Abraham entrusted him with the task of finding her, giving her gifts, and securing her heart for Isaac.

I’m sure the servant looked rather decked-out and wealthy as he traveled into town with Abraham’s many camels.  He himself may have even looked attractive with his determined demeanor.  Maybe the servant himself was a single man who hadn’t married and needed a wife as well.  I don’t know.

Several things you don’t see in this servant is a desire to flirt with the bride-to-be.  He doesn’t flatter her with stories about himself, or spread his fame using the position he has been given. …

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