Lessons from the Vine

Lessons from the Vine

Recently, I heard a presentation from one of the pioneer winemakers in Israel. During his talk, he explained how they were able to make an exceptional bottle of wine, still regarded today to be one of the best wines in the country. Rather than talking about the grapes, he talked about the roots. As he shared about what is going on underneath the surface, I couldn’t help but make some parallels to my own life.

Focusing on the word: focus

In Jeremiah 1:11-12, it says,  “Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.””

As we forge deeper into 2018, I sense the Lord saying to prepare for high definition focus, divine favor and kingdom fruitfulness.

Let’s focus on the word: focus. One aspect of the word means to have clear visual definition. Focus is the act of concentrating interest or activity on something specific. In this interchange between the LORD and His prophet, Jeremiah, the LORD wanted to know what Jeremiah sees. What was he looking at? How did he perceive what was in front of him? What was his prophetic perspective?

When it comes to prophets and prophecy, the scriptures are clear. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:9, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part.” In verse 12, he adds, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” In other words, we don’t know it all and we can’t see it all. We prophesy according to our limited view and understanding. 

I’ll never forget the first time we took our children to the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. This uniquely designed facility is used to house and display ancient manuscripts — including the first Dead Sea Scrolls to be discovered. The building’s white-tiled dome is shaped like the lid of the first jar in which the scrolls were found at Qumran. When our family entered this facility for the first time, I was amazed to see our children gaze at the words written on these scrolls and actually make out some of the words as they read the inscriptions in ancient biblical letters. 

One of the focal shifts that is underway at this time is best explained by a recent vision that I had in a time of prayer. In the spirit, I saw intercessors, worshippers, prophets, and many of God’s children, both men and women, being given access to the heavenly library where there are a multitude of books and scrolls. Some of the books and scrolls chronicled the works and the ways of God in generations past. Some of the books and scrolls were for generations to come. The books and the scrolls that were opened on the tables contained the written plan of God for THIS generation. Access was being given to God’s children to read and to understand God’s plans for this hour. Like strategists, wisdom and knowledge began to shape the minds and mindsets of those reading these books and receiving these scrolls.

In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah sorrowfully declares “Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions.”

God wants us to declare His word with clear focus and prophetic accuracy. To do so, we need a spirit of wisdom and revelation. Consider afresh the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 1:17-21: 
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”

There is no limit to the divine favor or the level of kingdom fruitfulness that will result from a life aligned to the will and purpose of God. That is why it is so essential that we see clearly what He is doing and where He is moving. There is no door that He cannot open and no obstacle that He cannot overcome for those who are prophetically focused and accurately aligned to the Father’s will. 

The prophet Habakkuk was also facing some very confusing and challenging times in his generation. He needed to understand how the LORD was moving and why He was choosing to use who He was using to fulfill His purpose. He did something that made all the difference - and this is a key for all of us. He says, “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected.” He desperately needed heavenly perspective in order to regain a prophetic focus. The LORD answers and declares, "Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”

So, what do you see? 

Ask the Lord to open the eyes of your understanding in order to precisely discern His purposes for this time in history. May it be said of us, what the LORD said to Jeremiah. “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.”

Capturing God's Heart For Israel

An article by Steve Carpenter

Having served in a variety of ministry capacities for over two decades, we had never been on a trip to Israel, or even come close to the Middle East. It was a part of the world that our circles didn’t talk about much, let alone a place where we would travel. We had a heart for outreach and we had led many small groups to over forty countries, engaging in all types of effective and focused efforts, but Israel just wasn't on our radar screen. One day, in early 2003, all that changed. 

It’s a major game changer when you can see God’s word in scripture correlating with God’s work in history. In early 2003, while living in Seattle, a biblical passage from Isaiah chapter nineteen began to capture our attention. This chapter is primarily about Egypt, but in verses 23-25, Isaiah speaks of a highway being raised up from Egypt to Assyria (which includes the modern nations of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and parts of Iran). This prophetic highway also goes through Israel, and the text indicates that these three regions and people groups will, one day, begin to serve together, resulting in a blessing in the midst of the land. 

The 2003 invasion of Iraq (March 19 – May 1, 2003), was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War or Operation Iraqi Freedom in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom and smaller contingents from Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in twenty-one days of major combat operations. Iraq is located at the northern part of this highway that Isaiah is prophesying about in Isaiah 19:23-25: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, ”Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.” NASB

As we began to prayerfully consider a trip to the Middle East, we felt a divine directive to come to Israel first. It was as though the Lord was indicating, “If you want to effectively participate in what I am doing in that part of the world, you first have to capture My heart for Israel.” 
In the summer of 2003, our family came to Israel for the first time. We spent a full month traveling throughout the land of Israel, meeting with many people, and visiting the very places that the pages of scripture so eloquently describe and equally define. It was an incredible experience for our family.

 Our personal mandate to “capture God’s heart for Israel” took a major leap forward when we arrived at the Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem. My wife, Taffy, who was pregnant with our daughter, stood beside me and our two young sons in the large open plaza adjacent to the Temple Mount and in front of the Western Wall. As we stood there, a myriad of thoughts flooded my mind and emotions stirred my soul. 

At that time, I didn’t realize that we were actually standing on Mount Moriah. Mount Moriah is the mount on which Abraham offered Isaac in Genesis 22. In 1 Chronicles 21, it is identified as the location of Arunah's (or, Ornan's) threshing floor that David purchased for six hundred shekels of gold. Mount Moriah is where Solomon built his Temple, according to 2 Chronicles 3:1. This is the very place of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever.” 2 Chronicles 33:7b

For the Jewish people, the Western Wall is a place of mixed emotions. It is a place of deep despair for what they have lost, and profound hope for what they long to regain. As I stood there that day, I also felt this mix of emotions as I tried to understand the sights and sounds coming forth from this significant place. In my mind, I was a bit confused and in my heart, I felt an intense sadness. 

These thoughts and emotions were interrupted as the Lord began to engage me in a conversational way. I wasn’t hearing audible words, it was more like a prayerful dialogue with God in my spirit. It started with a question. “Do you love your son, Samuel, more than you love your son, Elliot?” My response was ,“No, I love them both the same.” The next question was similar. “When your daughter, Caitlin, arrives in a few months, will you love her more than the boys?” I wasn’t sure if this was a trick question, as there is a unique and special connection between father and daughter. After a few moments, I had to conclude that I will love all my children equally. I actually said, “I will love all of my children with all of my heart.” It doesn’t really make logical sense to say it that way, but every parent knows that this is the profound mystery of parental love. 

The conversation continued. “Although you love all of your children equally, Samuel holds a special place, as he is your firstborn.” Instinctively, I understood that in every family with multiple children, there is a firstborn. With that place as firstborn, there comes a responsibility to help model the vision and values of the father and mother to the entire family. It was at this point that the “eyes of my heart” began to open. It was as though the Lord was saying, “I don’t love Israel more than Iraq, or the United States more than the United Kingdom or Korea more than Japan, but among My children of nations, I also have a firstborn and My firstborn is Israel.” 

For me, this was a profound moment of revelation and the beginning of my journey to see Israel and the nations from a heavenly and more biblically accurate perspective. Something from God’s heart that transcends politics, policies and prophecies was planted in my heart that day at the Western Wall and before I left, I could feel a heavenly hope beginning to surge in my soul. 

For thus says the Lord: "Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, 'Oh Lord, save Your people, the remnant of Israel!' Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together; a great throng shall return there. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.” Jeremiah 31:7-9 NKJV