Breadcrumbs from God

In 1812, the Grim Brothers published the German fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. In the story, Hansel and Gretel are kidnapped in a gingerbread house. They leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind them as they walk through the forest. Their intention was for the breadcrumbs to be a trail helping them retrace their return.

Today, a trail of breadcrumbs can refer to a series of connected pieces of information that will help lead to the solution of a problem.

Spiritually, I believe God provided a trail of breadcrumb for the Israelites when they traveled to the Promised Land. In contrast to Hansel and Gretel’s trail, God’s trail led the Israelites forward. They would not return to Egypt.

The breadcrumbs are known as manna. The story is found in Exodus 16. For forty years, God provided breadcrumbs until the Israelites reached the Canaan border. Every morning the ground was covered with thin flakes that looked like white coriander seeds and tasted like wafers made with honey. Psalm 78:24 says, “He (God) rained down manna for the people to eat, He gave them the grain of heaven.

Each family gathered and prepared their daily share of manna. They ate these breadcrumbs for sustenance during their travels. The sun dried up the remainder of the manna.

God had an additional purpose for His breadcrumbs. Deuteronomy 8:16 says, “He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you.

The Israelites’ breadcrumbs of manna led them along the path to the Promised Land. These crumbs helped them keep moving in step with what God had in mind.

God still gives us spiritual breadcrumbs today. His breadcrumbs are found in scripture. We can feed on His Word every day. He gives us fresh words every morning when we read our Bibles. Like the Israelites, we need His fresh bread daily. God’s Written Word gives us spiritual nourishment, strength and guidance. Psalm 25:4 says, “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me Your paths.

Breadcrumbs do not end in the Old Testament. Jesus refers to bread when satan tempts Him in the desert. Jesus says in Matthew 4:4, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.‘”

Jesus says in John 6:31-35, “’Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat. Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.

Manna was a foreshadow of Jesus. However, Jesus is not just a breadcrumb. He is the whole loaf of bread!

Jesus says in John 6:48-51, I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.

I wonder if Jesus made breadcrumbs out of bread. There are two accounts in scripture where Jesus feeds a multitude of people. On one occasion He feeds 5000 and 4000 on another. (See Matthew 14:13-21 and Matthew 15:32-39) Both times, Jesus gives thanks and breaks either 5 or 7 loaves of bread. Not only is everyone satisfied, but there are leftovers. That’s a lot of broken bread that may be described as breadcrumbs!

I do not mean it in an irreverent way, when I suggest that we may partake of breadcrumbs today. However, let us remember that broken bread is more than breadcrumbs.

Broken bread is symbolic of Jesus’ dying on the cross. Jesus explained this to His disciples while they were sharing the Passover meal. Luke 22:19 says, “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’’”

In I Corinthians 11:17-31, Paul refers to these words of Jesus. He also stresses the holiness of the sacrament of communion. He focuses upon the bread in verses 23 and 24.For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’”

When we celebrate the sacrament of holy communion, may the pieces of bread we consume lead us back to Jesus.

One final scripture for us is found in Revelation 2:17. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.

Manna and broken bread. Let us we remember the meaning of these symbolic breadcrumbs. And then, let’s leave our own spiritual trail of breadcrumbs leading others to the Bread of Life.

MASKS!!!

My husband and I continue to opt for Sunday morning worship online rather than in person. The final picture we recently saw on our computer screen was an open Bible with a mask placed upon it. Our pastor had stepped aside but his Bible and mask remained. I see this image as a prophetic picture of promise. Although we continue to wear facial masks to protect others and ourselves from the ongoing coronavirus, the day is coming when masks will no longer be needed.

Meanwhile, we continue to wait. We anticipate the development of medication and a vaccine. For now, we wear our masks.

However, there are other types of masks we wear. No need to wait for a vaccine to remove these masks.

For example, a smile may mask how we really feel. A smile portrays happiness. But, are you really happy? You may be smiling on the outside but frowning on the inside. You may be tired of the prevailing pandemic heaviness and feeling depressed. You may be apprehensive about what the school year holds for your children. However, you turn your inward frown upside down and other people see only a smiling mask.

God’s Word can help us remove these masks. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Isaiah 61:3 NKJV tells us there is oil of joy available to replace mourning and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Isaiah 66:5 says, “Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy.” When we experience the joy of the Lord, we are truly happy and do not need a mask. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” II Timothy 1:7 NLT reminds us, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Words come out of our mouths. Masks cover our mouths. Words can create masks. If you are asked how you are doing, you may be quick to respond that you are fine. However, inside you are not fine. Unrest within our country may be causing unrest within your soul. Your bank account may be dwindling faster than you can replenish it. You try to mask your wounds and worries with words that are not true.

Scripture assists us with removing word masks. Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” I Peter 5:7 NLT instructs us,Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.Psalm 19:14 declares, “May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

God is not a proponent of masks. I Chronicles 28:9 says, “the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.Jesus says in Luke 12:2 NJKV, “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.

The truth of these verses are validated in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve made a type of mask of fig leaves. They tried to hide their sinfulness. God saw behind their fig leaves. However, He did not leave them alone wearing fig leaves. He desired a relationship with them. So, He replaced Adam and Eve’s fig leaf masks with garments of animal skin. He was revealing His plan for the blood of Jesus to take away the sins of the world so we can have a personal relationship with Him today.

Just as God dealt with the masks of Adam and Eve, He wants to help us remove our masks. He extends His grace to us. He says in II Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.Grace is God’s empowering presence that causes us to be who God created us to be and to do what He has planned for us to do. God wants to help us take off unnecessary masks. No need to wait any longer. God sees behind our masks and knows our hearts.

I continue to think about the prophetic promise I perceived from the image of the Bible and mask. We can stand on God’s Word and His promises that we will get beyond this pandemic and will no longer need to wear masks for physical protection. Meanwhile, God is encouraging us to take off our emotional masks. He desires for us to stop pretending. He knows our secrets and insecurities. He does not want us hiding our feelings from Him. He wants to help. Romans 12:2 NKJV says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

II Corinthians 3:17-18 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” To me, unveiled faces are unmasked faces.

 

Birds Without Cages

Cageless Birds! I like the image. It is not a phrase that originated with me. However, it is a concept I want to pursue.

I first heard about the idea of people being confined in cages from a friend. She shared how the Lord had shown her a birdcage. The message she received was that many of us are in cages and the Lord wants to set us free.

Then, my granddaughter told me about a set of devotional books she was using called Cultivate. I looked into this series and discovered their website is cagelessbirds.com. Their ministry is dedicated to seeing hearts liberated by the love of God.

I am intrigued! I want to be a cageless bird!

My Reader, do you feel like a bird in a cage? Do you want to be free?

Let’s begin by thinking about a birdcage. A birdcage is a wire structure used to confine birds. It is usually large enough so the bird can fly around a bit. However, the bird does not have the freedom to fly freely. It is constrained.

Sometimes as humans, we put ourselves in a cage. Or, other people’s actions and reactions may stick us in a cage. A cage restricts us. A cage can symbolize bondage. We may not be in a physical cage, but we can be in an emotional or spiritual cage.

Jesus says in John 8:34, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” That’s being spiritually caged in!

The Psalmist says in Psalm 118:5 NLT, “In my distress I prayed to the LORD, and the LORD answered me and set me free.” Prayer and repentance are keys that unlock the cage’s door.

Psalm 34:19 declares, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” When we allow our troubles to overwhelm us, we put ourselves in a cage. However, this verse continues to promise we will be delivered. This means the Lord will open the door of the cage allowing us freedom. We do not need to be held in bondage forever.

We do not need to stay in a cage. The Lord says in Nahum 1:13, “Now I will break their yoke from your neck and tear your shackles away.” Like shackles being torn away, I visualize the wires of a cage being cut. The outcome is cageless birds or people.

Romans 8:1-2 tells us, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

Isaiah 61:1 says, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” In Luke 4:18, Jesus read these words from the scroll declaring His purpose on earth. Jesus offers liberty and freedom. Today, if we feel imprisoned in cages, we can call upon the name of Jesus. He will set us free.

Jesus informs us in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” He goes on to declare in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

This allows us to be as free as the birds. We can be cageless birds!

When teaching His disciples to pray, Jesus included freedom. Matthew 6:13 says, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” When we ask for deliverance from evil, we are asking our Heavenly Father to set us free from our cages. He hears and answers this prayer.

Each of us can declare Psalm 119:45 NLT, “I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.”

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” We are warned to not return to the cage. This may be harder than we think if we try to do it in our own strength.

Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit. I see the Holy Spirit being the perfect picture of a cageless bird. In Luke 3:22, the Holy Spirit is described as a dove when He descended upon Jesus at His baptism. The Holy Spirit is our Helper who not only helps us out of our cages, but also helps us stay out of the cages that may try to entrap us. (see John 14:26)

II Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

We are as free as the birds in the air. No more bondage or cages. Freedom! We have the privilege of being cageless birds. Even more significantly, we have the help of the Holy Spirit, the perfect Cageless Bird.

Spiritual Snapshots of Biblical Grandparents

Grandparents’ Day is observed the Sunday following Labor Day, usually the second Sunday of September. According to newstimes.com, the purpose of this holiday is to recognize the importance of fostering generational relationships. It has been stated that this day is “to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of the strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.”

On September 10, 1979, President Jimmy Carter declared Grandparents’ Day a national holiday. Included in his proclamation are the following words. “Grandparents are our continuing tie to the near-past, to the events and beliefs and experiences that so strongly affect our lives and the world around us. Whether they are our own or surrogate grandparents who fill some of the gaps in our mobile society, our senior generation also provides our society a link to our national heritage and traditions.”

Psalm 44:1 says, “We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us what You did in their days, in days long ago.This sounds like grandchildren revealing their relationship with their grandparents.

Grandparents have the privilege of being a link to our biological, spiritual, and national heritage.

Recently, I dusted off some old family photo albums. They provided me with a resource to share my biological family history. I found pictures of my grandparents that brought back fond memories. Family photos tell stories in addition to revealing images.

I wanted to fill gaps between my grandparents and my grandchildren. This meant introducing five generations to each other through photo albums. I had the opportunity to show my grandchildren pictures of what my parents and grandparents looked like physically. I also shared stories of who my parents and grandparents were spiritually.

I then thought about the Bible as a photo album of individuals who lived thousands of years ago. The Bible is filled with character portraits created with words. Verbal rather than visual photographs. Images of generations portrayed and preserved in God’s holy scrapbook. Let’s look at a few scriptural snapshots.

Snapshots of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob reveal three generations depicting grandfather, father and son. God reiterated His promise of making this family a great nation to each generation. Abraham’s promise picture is found in Genesis 17:1-8. Isaac’s pictorial promise is recorded in Genesis 26:2-5. Jacob’s portrait of promise is found in Genesis 28:12-15.

We cannot leave this family without additional pictures. Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel, became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. The nation of Israel started with a man who eventually became a spiritual grandfather to many nations. Henry Blackaby has said, “The quality of the father will affect the quality of the following generations.”

God was faithful to declare His promise to each generation of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He never changed His mind. Psalm 33:11 declares, “the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.I am reminded of Hebrews 13:8. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.

We pursue more generational photographs. Let’s linger in the book of Ruth. We see another family’s representation of grandmother, mother and son. In Ruth 1:2, the first pictures appear. We see Elimelech beside Naomi. We look at portraits of their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. However, the three men died and Naomi was left with a daughter-in-law Ruth. Not the way one would expect the family tree to appear. By the conclusion of this section of scriptural snapshots, we see Naomi as the grandmother. Ruth is the mother and Obed is the son. Naomi did not became a grandmother genetically, but she adopted Obed as her own. According to Ruth 4:16, she became the grandmother who served as Obed’s nurse. Older generations have a vital role as grandparents in various ways.

Although once the grandson of the family tree, Obed became the father of Jesse who became the father of David. We first found pictures of Obed as a son. Then as a father. Finally as a grandfather. Each generation passes on a heritage to the next generation. Psalm 33:11 says, “the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.

Now we flip to the New Testament for a few more photos. Paul says to Timothy in II Timothy 1:5. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.The biological heritage of grandmother, mother and son is specifically named. However, there is also reference to the spiritual heritage passed down through the three generations. Timothy’s grandmother planted faith first in her daughter. Then she continued to cultivate that faith in her grandson as well. Grandparents have the privilege and honor of passing on a spiritual heritage to their biological lineage.

If I am sharing my testimony, I often refer to this passage in II Timothy. However, I make some name
changes. I replace Lois with Katherine, my grandmother, and Eunice with Dorothy, my mother. When I apply this verse to present generations, I make more changes. Lois becomes Cheryl and Eunice becomes Jill, my daughter. The names of my six grandchildren can be interchanged for Timothy. I was blessed while I fulfilled the roles of grandchild and child. Then I became a mother. Now am honored to be a grandmother. Proverbs 17:6 NLT says, “Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children.

It is my privilege to invest in the lives of my grandchildren. It is a blessing for me to spend time with them and it is my responsibility to pray for them. I strive to fulfill the following lyrics of Steve Green’s song Find Us Faithful.

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

Grandparents’ Day is coming. It is an opportunity to keep generations connected physically and spiritually. Proverbs 13:22 NLT states,Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren. May we take time to share photos and stories of past generations. Let’s also take an interest in the pictures being taken and stories being written today. Remember Psalm 100:5. “For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Worrier or Warrior

I look at the situations surrounding our personal lives, our nation and our world. I see the COVID-19 pandemic threatening not only our physical health but also our emotional health. I see political motives threatening the accuracy of our upcoming elections. I see organized groups with hidden agendas endangering our democracy and freedom. As an American citizen, I mention what I see happening in our nation. However, I know similar, and even worse, situations exist around the world.

What am I going to do about what I observe? Am I going to focus on these happenings or am I going to focus upon God? There are big problems, but God is bigger! My goal is not to be a persistent worrier but to be a prayer warrior.

I Peter 5:7 NLT instructs us, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.Our human instinct may be to worry. However, our spiritual responsibility is to be a warrior. Luke 21:36 NLT says, “Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.

Worry is a natural tendency. However, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33-34, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.Jesus also says in John 14:1, Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.

Jesus asks in Luke 12:25, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” The answer is no one! God does not want us to be persistent worriers. He equips us to be prayer warriors.

II Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV tells us, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.The turmoil of our world is real but it should not control us.

Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.This verse defines the two sides of the spiritual battles we face. Jesus is the commander of one side of the spiritual battle while satan influences the opposing force. We know God will be victorious, but meanwhile, we engage in spiritual warfare.

When we go into the spiritual war room to pray, we must be clothed with the armor God provides His warriors. Ephesians 6:11-17 describes our spiritual armor. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Notice that Paul urges us to put on the full armor of God – not just 1 or 2 pieces. As intercessors, we need full protection!

Paul continues to say in Ephesians 6:18 NLT, Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Prayer is the battle plan that achieves victory over worry.

What Paul shared with the Romans is relevant for us today. I want to highlight a few verses from Romans 8. In verse 15, Paul writes, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father.’” Fear leads to worry. Paul points out that as believers in Christ, we are freed from fear. So, no need to worry. Paul continues in verse 18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us.” Yes, we are encountering sufferings today. But, according to verse 26, the Holy Spirit helps us pray while we are in troublesome times. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.” Paul asks in verse 35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” He answers in verses 37-39. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I love the fact that as prayer warriors we are more than conquerors!

Apostle Gabriel Cross of Pure Glory International Ministries  shared a post entitled “Conquering Warrior.” He wrote the following.It doesn’t matter what happens to you, what matters is what you do with it. Are you going to bow and succumb TO THE ENEMY’S LIES OF WHO YOU ARE NOT…or are you going to use it as motivation to worship YAHWEH and CONQUER like the WARRIOR THAT YOU ARE?”

My Reader, are you going to be a worrier? Or, are you going to be a warrior who worships and prays?

I Thessalonians 5:17 is a powerful challenge. Various translations give us the same command with different words. Pray without ceasing. Never stop praying. Pray continually. May this verse be a life goal for us as prayer warriors.

May Romans 12:12 NLT be the spiritual strategy for our personal lives, our nation and our world. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.