This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘church’

Crazy Faith

All things r possibleCrazy Faith. Radical faith even. World-changing faith. That is what I want.

Is it more important that I be loving? Yes. I Cor. 13 teaches me that love is the most important Christian trait of all. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also want the other good things the Bible tells us are possible to obtain.

For many years, I had faith in God–that He existed, that He was faithful, that He was amazing. But there are levels of faith I wasn’t exposed to until many years after my salvation experience.

When I became deathly sick in 2000 with a mysterious ailment that doctors couldn’t even diagnose, I learned a new level of faith. I had believed that God COULD heal, that God SOMETIMES healed–IF it was His will. But through those dark years of sickness, I came to believe that it is absolutely His will to heal–no question or doubt in my mind.

knowing God will

I can’t find one example of someone Jesus refused to heal in the Bible. If He took the stripes for our healing, then it was for all Christians, because the Word says He is no respecter of persons. WILL everyone be healed? No. In the same vein of thinking, WILL everybody be saved? No. Yet the Bible tells us it IS His will that none perish and that all be saved (II Peter 3:9 and I Timothy 2:3-4). Is healing a Heaven or Hell issue? Goodness, no. You can enter those pearly gates just as easily having died of cancer as if you simply died of old age.

But let’s don’t go there. That’s a whole different subject. Let’s talk about crazy faith.

faith--seeing light

You see, I am radical. I believe the Word when it says: “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’” (Mark 9:23) Do you know what “all” means in the Greek? ALL! (My good buddy Revonda reminds me of that a lot!) I take Him at His Word when I read Luke 1:37: “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Now, the scholars will chime in to say that we must ask according to God’s will. I agree. James 4:3 says “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss.” So when I ask something that I know by the Word is God’s will, then I believe that I receive, that it won’t be impossible, that it WILL come to pass.

I can find very few people who will stand with me in this kind of faith. I’m talking about the Luke 11:5-10 kind of “knocking in importunity” faith that doesn’t give up, the Luke 18:1-8 faith that faints not and continually cries for manifestation to take place. If we only believe when we see results, then is that faith at all?


Last night my water pipes froze in this record-breaking Arctic blast we’re experiencing, despite my dripping water faucet that I left on all night and despite my heated house and well-house. At first, the water seemed to be running okay. The hubster had just gotten into the shower after coming home at 8:30 a.m. from his third-shift job and had just soaped up his face when the water suddenly stopped flowing. I suppose the little water that came out at first was what was in the pipes already before the freeze stopped the flow closer to the well-house.

So like many others, there we were without water, with the danger of ruptured pipes and with a forecasted high of 22 in the cities south of us, which meant down in my shaded valley of Danbury, it might hit 19 degrees as tops. Not much chance of thawing out.

The poor hubster–already tired from working overtime through the weekend–ended up downstairs in our freezing cold basement, using a hairdryer on the pipes unsuccessfully, using a space heater on them to no avail. He finally gave up and turned the little heater off. We put our EdenPure heater downstairs in the early afternoon and hoped it would help a bit.

All morning and into the afternoon, I waited to hear the drip of water begin from the turned-on faucets in the kitchen and nearby bathroom. But not a sound nor a drip came forth.

The frustrated hubster said to me, “Well, it’ll probably be tomorrow before it thaws out.”

I felt something rise up inside me. “I refuse to believe that,” I replied.

“Well, it is what it is, Leslie,” he answered in a very negative voice.

“Well, I believe we can lay hands on those pipes and command that water to flow,” I declared.

“Then do it,” he challenged me.

I sat there a minute and realized I was rather angered by his pessimistic attitude and approach. I knew I didn’t need to go lay hands on the pipes in my present state of mind. (Or rather, my wrong state of HEART!) “I will shortly. And you’ll see a miracle,” I said, not arrogantly but confidently.

Then I softened and began to worry about his unusually downcast mood. “Do we walk by faith or by sight?” I asked him. “Do we believe God can do anything or don’t we? Why are you so depressed when you have lately been so convicted by God to study faith and healing?”

He confessed ruefully, “Because when I soaped up my face this morning in the shower, I began to praise God for His favor in protecting our water pipes. As soon as the words left my mouth, the water quit.”

I began to feel more sympathetic toward him, but at the same time, my faith rose up, and I began to preach. Yes, preach. I preached by the Spirit with tears, power and anointing for over half an hour, maybe much longer. I spoke the Word from II Cor. 5:7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight” and from all over that Bible, including the Scriptures I mentioned above.

I testified of how radical faith makes us look crazy to the world–daring to say we are healed when we still manifest symptoms of sickness, stepping out to proclaim no lack even when the bills are past due. Why? Because His Word says that He wants His people whole, that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can even ask or think, that He came to give us life and life more abundantly, that it is a Godly desire to prosper and be in health even as our souls prosper.

life more abundantly

“Am I speaking ‘name it, claim it’ faith, like laying hands on a Cadillac or some such stuff as I’ve seen abused on TV?” I cried out. “NO! I don’t believe that lustful junk. I’m simply saying that our God wants us to have the things that we need and that are part of His will for our lives, and lack isn’t a part of that.”

I told the hubster, who was attentively and hungrily listening to my “sermon,” how Habakkuk 3:17-19 had been strong upon my heart lately:

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. . .”

“Well, it’s pretty hard to rejoice and have faith when you ain’t got a sheep in the stall or a crop in the fields,” the hubster remarked drily.

“Of course it is,” I replied. “But TRUE faith comes forth in tough times. We are like gold being refined in the heat of the fire; when it is heated up, the impurities rise to the surface. When we go through trials and hard times, what’s really deep within us will surface, and it often ain’t pretty. It’s all fine and dandy to rejoice when things go well, but can we keep the faith and joy of the Lord when darkness falls?”

I told him that when tough times come, we don’t have to pretend to like it. But it is then that we say to the Lord, “Father, I don’t like what is going on. I don’t understand why it is happening. This is threatening to take me under. But I KNOW that You are faithful and wise, so I am going to trust that You are going to work a miracle from this tragedy or calamity or obstacle, in order that Your glory will shine forth!”

beat darkness--thank God

Finally, the hubster melted and came over to kiss me. “Then pray for my unbelief. I want to have the kind of faith you’re talking about.”

I melted, too, and smiled at him, “I don’t have the level of faith that I want either. So we’re on that journey together, aren’t we? The Bible says that ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.’ I have just preached the Word of God for quite a while now. You have heard it, and your faith will therefore be increased. I am believing for a miracle with this water situation. It IS God’s will that we have water–a necessity–and it is NOT His will that suffer lack by having hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of repairs if the pipes burst. We have the authority to command the water to flow freely in our house–even above the laws of nature which say it is frozen. We believe for the ‘SUPERNATURAL’ which means ‘OVER AND ABOVE THE NATURAL.'”

That humble man of God hugged me and walked out the door to go up the street to get us a hearty meal–our occasional Tuesday treat. I got up from the couch to use the toilet, not even minding the thought that it hadn’t been flushed in many hours of use. As I walked into the bathroom where there still wasn’t even the faintest drip of water from the open faucet, I realized that I was now totally at peace. The frustration/semi-anger that so often blocks faith and healing prayers was gone.

I looked into the mirror and smiled delightedly at myself as the unexpected thought hit me, “Lord, now I can pray with a clear conscience, can’t I?” I had gone in there simply to use the toilet, but instead I pointed to the faucet and spoke in full confidence and with great boldness, “In the name of Jesus, I take authority over the ice in the pipes and declare that it is God’s will that His children have water, and I command the water in MY house to flow freely RIGHT NOW!”

AS SOON AS I SAID THE LAST WORD, water burst forth from the faucet like lava erupting from a volcano, like a fountain springing up in the desert. It didn’t begin with a drip or a trickle; it was an immediate stream of water flowing forth! And I’m not talking about a five-second delay, like on television. I’M TALKING TO-THE-SECOND IMMEDIACY! The last word left my mouth, and in the same second, the water gushed out in obedience.

I screamed in joy and began to praise God loudly! With shaking hands, I grabbed the phone and called the hubster. He didn’t answer. Within a few minutes, he pulled in, and I ran to throw open the door–cold air and all!

“Alan!” I cried. “We’ve had a miracle! Come see!” His eyes wide, he hurried in and saw the kitchen faucet running, with fresh, pure water coming forth. Before I could even tell him the story, his eyes filled with tears.

“Tell me exactly how it happened!” he urged me, following me into the bathroom so that I could reenact the story. He listened and cried, wiped his eyes and listened again, then he began to praise God with me, tears streaming down his face.

“I could almost believe that He let the water freeze to build my faith and reassure me that He can do ANYTHING,” Alan speculated.

“Perhaps,” I replied. “Who knows? He works in mysterious ways indeed.”

faith sees the invisible

Our rejoicing went on throughout the afternoon. The scoffers will say that it was the heating of the day (yeah, it was up to a blistering 15 degrees at that point) or the EdenPure heater that did the trick. Maybe they helped. But you’ll never convince me that the water literally GUSHING FORTH at the EXACT SECOND that I commanded it to was a coincidence. I choose to give all of the glory to God who can do ANYTHING according to His will.

I hate the term “Bible-thumper” that is used derogatorily against Christians today, but I will admit that I did pat the Word emphatically a few times during my preaching today to stress that if the Bible says it, then it’s true–no matter what circumstances may imply or what negative symptoms are being manifested. I refuse to back down on the veracity of His Word. I will believe that healing is His will, no matter how many times we battle sickness around our house, no matter how many times my prayers seem of no effect.

His Word cannot lie. WE are imperfect and can fail or fall into unbelief, but HIS WORD IS TRUE NONETHELESS.

Radical faith. Crazy faith. Faith that the lost world mocks you for, that even some Christians scoff at you for, that many whisper about you behind your back for. That’s the faith I want. Faith to raise the dead, see blind eyes opened, have food multiplied in times of lack, walk on water if need be. Yep, that’s the faith I want.

If the world is gonna call us crazy anyway, we might as well be crazy indeed–CRAZY ABOUT JESUS!

God we serve--miracles

My New Year’s resolution: Take this world from me. . .

I LOVE New Year’s

Booze? Nah. Crazy parties? Nah. Listening to famous singers on TV and watching the ball drop? Nah.

Once I became a follower of Jesus as a 19-year-old, I spent most New Year’s Eves in my church in Winston-Salem. We called them “Watch Night Services.” We were prayerfully “keeping watch” as the New Year came in.

I loved such services–anointed music, great preaching, a break for delicious snacks before praising in the New Year!

But since about 2002, I’ve been compelled to be in my hometown of Walnut Cove on New Year’s Eve–in the town that I am called by God to intercede for. After I helped start a church there in 2003, we began our own watch night services each Dec. 31. A couple of times we even held a revival during the last week of the year, finishing the final service at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Although I left that church in 2009, I still felt convicted to be in my town on this pivotal night of the year.

Then came the end of 2010. I had a huge desire to be in an anointed prayer/praise service on the last night of our calendar year. But my teenage son asked me to take him to a local church that was having simply food and games. Although I loved the church, I wasn’t thrilled to just play games and eat. It seemed carnal when I was yearning for spiritual.turn your eyes upon Jesus 2

But I felt from the Lord that I should be thankful for a 15-year-old son who wanted to be in a church on New Year’s Eve–even IF he was simply playing games. So I took him. When we were done with our fellowship and games, I dropped him off at his dad’s (his turn to have him) shortly before midnight. As I drove home through Walnut Cove, I put my hand out of the window into the frigid air and proclaimed blessings on this town that I adore.

Too soon, I was home–all alone, with my kids at their dad’s and my hubster at work. Quickly I turned off the car, thinking that I wanted to hurry in before the ball fell in Times Square. That is something I haven’t seen really since I was 19, having not been home at midnight since then.

Then it hit me: “Leslie, you wanted something so spiritual tonight. The ball falling isn’t wrong or anything, but it’s what the WORLD does on this day. YOU don’t want to do what the WORLD does; you want to do what GOD says to do.” You see, we Christians are not of this world. We are IN this world, but we are not OF this world. We are pilgrims and strangers passing through.just pilgrims passing thru

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. . .” I John 2:15


So I sat in my car in the dark coldness, praying for wisdom from God on how to spend this symbolic night. Suddenly, I felt to turn on the radio which stays on 94.1 K-LOVE. I heard the Spirit of the Lord instruct me to take the first song that came on after midnight–in 2011–as my motto for the year. I became very excited, anxious to hear what song played.

The music started and these words came forth:

“Take this world from me
I don’t need it anymore
I am finally free
My heart is spoken for.”

It was so perfect that I nearly shouted! “Take this world from me; I don’t need it anymore.” That is what had been in my heart. God had confirmed exactly what I was strongly feeling.


Today–on Dec. 31, 2012–it has been two years since that wonderful New Year’s Eve when my Lord spoke to me through song. As I told our church group on Sunday morning, I still long to have more of the world taken from me by God. I yearn to be less worldly, less carnal and more spiritual.

Now, I don’t want to be so heavenly-minded that I’m no earthly good. Instead, I want to be so heavenly-minded that I am an ENORMOUS earthly good to all who need to hear the Gospel!

focus on JesusWhat is it in this world that takes your focus from God’s kingdom? Do you have too much going on in your life? Are you spread too thin? How can we have a single vision when we are pulled in so many different directions?

2013 is almost here. Why not turn our eyes upon Jesus and focus so solely on Him so that our every step in life is guided by His Spirit? If you are born again, you are already a spiritual being. Yet you live in a physical world. REMEMBER that despite your physical surroundings and fleshly temptations, you are primarily a spiritual, eternal being. You may go through a physical death one day, but you will live again. You are already eternal.

So why not take 2013 and live like those spiritual beings that we are? This entails focusing on Him so that all worldly things follow in the wake of you following Him.start 2013

It’s all well and good to make lists of New Year’s resolutions. But as my very wise daughter Meghann intimated in church on Sunday, have you considered asking God to help you determine what those should be, lest we endeavor to fulfill them in our own strength? And then, why not ask Him throughout the year to help you meet those goals?

For example, you are craving Reese’s peanut butter cups (king-size pack–two measly cups, like 24 hours in a day, are never enough) and taco-flavored Doritos for lunch. However, you realize that this goes against your New Year’s dietary goals and is not the best option for a healthy body. It also is not exactly what your Creator would want for your lunch menu.

I usually consider two options:

A. Eat the Reese’s and Doritos and resolve to do better tomorrow


B. Struggle to fight the temptation, bitterly eat a salad instead–all the while salivating for chocolatey goodness.turn your eyes upon Jesus

But there is an option C: pray for God to help me fight the temptation and even take the urge away from me. I will confess that I don’t usually go for option C, but in 2013 I intend to. I want my New Year’s resolution list today to be Spirit-led and my attempts to keep these resolutions throughout the year to be Spirit-enabled.

Don’t you?

C’mon–join with me this year to say, “Take this world from me; I don’t need it anymore.” And let’s focus on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith!

(Click on the link below to hear MercyMe’s great rendition of the song I heard to start 2011 and am again using as my motto for 2013!)

If you build it. . . (Part IV)


As the night of Feb. 5 drew nigh, I could feel the tension mounting. The fate of Lois’ house was in the hands of the congregation of First Baptist Church. Would I be able to have an Elisha house to provide a place of rest and refreshing for God’s people?

The enemy hovered near to whisper pessimistic things to me. “Those people don’t know the whole story. They don’t realize how Lois wanted you to have the house. They’ll vote against it.” Or “It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Your friends who go to First Baptist and who would vote to give you the house won’t be at church. They’ll be watching football.”Held on so long

Despite the dark thoughts that occasionally came, I endeavored to stand firm in the faith that God had promised us this house when we prayed over it on July 3, 2011. We never ONCE asked Him to give us the house. We simply asked Him to give us clarity as to what His will was, and He confirmed it was to be ours. We never once asked Lois for the house when she was alive, we never once asked First Baptist for the house when she died, we never once asked God for the house AT ANY TIME. Yet every single time, the house kept coming back to us like a boomerang.

All things r possible

Suddenly, I remembered a dream that I had dreamed a year ago that had seemed very spiritually significant at the time. I couldn’t quite remember the details exactly, so I scrolled through my Facebook private messages to find where I had sent the dream to my close spiritual friends when I first dreamed it.

When I found it, I gasped aloud. I had dreamed the dream EXACTLY one year before the deciding vote on Super Bowl Sunday 2012. I dreamed it on Sunday night, Feb. 6, 2011, which in the coming year was Sunday night, Feb. 5, 2012–THE VOTE. (Remember: Lois had not even offered us her house at the time of the dream! I had no clue that was coming.)

The setting of the dream was a Sunday night service at First Baptist Church (just like the vote time!). At the beginning of the dream, I slipped in late to a pew near the back on the left side of the church (if viewed from the back door–right side if viewed from the front). I went up about three to four pews from the back where there was a lot of space on the side nearest the wall. I slipped into the pew and slid all the way down to where my second cousin Joy Dodson and her husband J.R. were sitting on the end of the pew closest to the center aisle.

People were lining up to walk to the front of the church, making me think I had really missed a lot of the service. They were going out one row at a time from the front, the way you do at a funeral or wedding, but they were going to the front, not to the back of the church. It was almost time for our pew to go.

I whispered to ask Joy what was going on. She whispered that someone had died, a girl with no parents who had been adopted by an older lady in the church who had died earlier. Everyone was going forward to see the body.

I stepped into line behind Joy, feeling very self-conscious, wondering what people nearer the front would think as they saw me walk by, because I rarely ever go back to visit my childhood church. Many of my relatives go there, and I love the folks at that church.

As I got to the front, to the right of the podium on the platform (right if you’re looking from the back of the church), there was the body. When I looked down into the box (not a coffin really–more like a bassinet or something), there was a baby dressed in the same thing I was wearing–red and black plaid. I was in a jumper with a black turtleneck beneath it, but I don’t remember if the baby was in a red and black plaid jumper or just a red and black plaid sleeper or something a baby would wear.

What freaked me out is that the baby was moving and wiggling with open eyes, although it looked as if it had been asleep. I was thinking, “Hey, this baby is not dead!” Although I was freaked out, I didn’t say anything because the church was totally silent. I filed through the line and turned to go back to my seat.

That’s all I recall of the dream. I do remember it striking me heavily that the baby and I were dressed alike. I thought that perhaps the baby was me. My mom reminded me that when I was three months old, I was placed in a bassinet in that exact spot on the platform at First Baptist Church and allowed to stay during the worship service. It was a special service where they honored the oldest and the youngest person in the church–me being the youngest.

Now, a year later, the dream made perfect sense. I was indeed the baby, or perhaps the baby represented my ministry. Lois was the wealthy woman who had died who had “adopted” me and made me (the ministry) her heir. But in the years since my divorce, many people had thought that my ministry was dead–just like the baby.

But IT WAS NOT. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance–cannot be taken back! So the baby that everyone thought was dead was wiggling and wide-eyed. And I was sitting beside a lady named JOY. As I moved toward the front of the church toward the baby (my ministry), I followed closely on the heels of JOY. I was in the presence of JOY! (Even more interesting that Joy’s surname is Dodson–as in Lois Dodson Smith.)

An interesting aside: remember the Sunday morning that our church went over to pray at Lois’ house on July 3, 2011 and we felt that He gave us the sign that it was ours? Well, that very night, I had gone to the Winston-Salem DASH game with my family. Guess who I saw at the concession stand? My cousin, Joy Dodson! I had not seen her in a few years! When I asked her where she sat at First Baptist Church, guess where she said? EXACTLY where I had dreamed I saw her. And I had no way of knowing that.

I remember thinking on that July night at the DASH game that seeing Joy on the very same day that God had confirmed the house was ours and finding out that she sat exactly where she sat in my dream was yet another confirmation from the Lord that the house situation would work in our favor.

All of this was running through my mind on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. How could all of these incredible happenings be false?

They were not false! They were true! First Baptist Church voted almost unanimously to give us the house. When one of the trustees called to give us the news, I was overjoyed!sunshine after rain

I had asked that a stipulation be put on the transfer: that if we ever decided to give up the house, it would go back to First Baptist. Lois would’ve wanted that, because she loved her home church. In turn, the church put a stipulation: that we must become a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation.

Although it took quite a while to finish the paperwork for the IRS and several MONTHS for the IRS to confer 501(c)3 status on us, at last that day arrived. In mid-October 2012, we received the long-awaited for letter from Washington, DC, congratulating us on our 501(c)3 status!

Shortly after that, we were invited to a morning worship service at First Baptist Church where my mother and I were called up front for a special ceremony of transfer of deed/title. It was a joyous time with my relatives and friends who attend that church. Pastor Jim reiterated to the congregation that he had heard Lois say numerous times exactly what she wanted to do with her house. I will never forget that man’s integrity. A less honorable man would’ve ignored a dead woman’s wishes and thought of the gain his church could have from such property. God bless Pastor Jim and First Baptist Church!

I sometimes think of how much easier it would’ve been on everybody involved had Lois’ wishes simply been followed before she died. We spent well over a year with nowhere to meet except a private home. We often felt as though we were spinning our wheels because we didn’t have a place to conduct our workshops, classes, Bible studies, counseling sessions. Meanwhile, First Baptist Church had to pay for insurance, lawn care, legal fees.

But a friend of mine reminded me that in my dream, I had to wait in line to get to the front to see the “baby.” There was a matter of timing. So I don’t worry about the lost time. God can even multiply time! And He will surely repay First Baptist for every penny they spent; they will not be the losers at all. I’m sure we all learned valuable things while we waited.Don't worry

So as I sat in First Baptist Church on that sunny Sunday morning, I was moved immensely. I saw the stained glass window in memory of my grandparents who were prominent members of that church. I saw the baptistry behind the choir loft where the mural was placed in memory of my grandmother–Irene “Reny” Richardson Smith–who taught Sunday School there. I thought of my grandpa–Papa Jack Smith–who had such a heart for missions. He was sent out from First Baptist long ago to revive Danbury Baptist Church and to lead services at Sunset Park and Hanging Rock, often taking me along to sing solos.

I knew that Papa Jack and Granny Smith would approve of the mission work their daughter and granddaughter wanted to carry out at Lois’ house. I knew that Lois was watching from Heaven, rejoicing that her wishes had been honored.

delight in the LordAnd I remembered a petite little girl, sitting in an upstairs Sunday School room long ago, listening raptly as her teacher told the class about the Shunammite woman who built a chamber for the prophet Elisha–a little girl who began to dream right then of doing the same thing one day, a little girl whose God did not forget her heart’s desire, a little girl who grew into this woman that I am today who never turned loose of her dream.

The house is very old. It has deteriorated in these years of vacancy. When we turned on the water this week, we heard Niagara Falls under the house and quickly shut it off. Mold and mildew dot the walls after years of little or no heat/AC. Some ceilings threaten to fall in. We have a very small congregation and little money at this time.

burdens into blessings

But when I walk into Lois’ house, I know that God’s hand is on it. And I know that if He has worked all of these other miracles, He is well able to help us fix the house step by step–in His time.

He is faithful that has promised.

Sandy and Darlene in the kitchen of Lois' house!

Sandy and Darlene in the kitchen of Lois’ house!

Me showing our church group the master bedroom suite which would be set aside as an Elisha chamber. Missionaries, evangelists, revival preachers could stay here for a season to seek the Lord, rest, be recharged and refreshed. We intend to make it available to any church in town who has a visiting revival preacher.

Me showing our church group the master bedroom suite which would be set aside as an Elisha chamber. Missionaries, evangelists, revival preachers could stay here for a season to seek the Lord, rest, be recharged and refreshed. We intend to make it available to any church in town who has a visiting revival preacher.

This upstairs room needs much repair. It would be a great place for the Walnut Cove History Room named after Lois.

This upstairs room needs much repair. It would be a great place for the Walnut Cove History Room named after Lois.

The top of the stairs in this house that was built in the late 1800s, possibly by a Mr. Allen. (That was the surname of some of my relatives in Walnut Cove in that same era!)

The top of the stairs in this house that was built in the late 1800s, possibly by a Mr. Allen. (That was the surname of some of my relatives in Walnut Cove in that same era!)

This upstairs bedroom could be used as an "upper room"--a place set aside for deep prayer and study.

This upstairs bedroom could be used as an “upper room”–a place set aside for deep prayer and study.

Looking down the stairs at the front door. This house was first owned by Amos Miller. Later Lois' dad, Wesley Dodson, bought it.

Looking down the stairs at the front door. This house was first owned by Amos Miller. Later Lois’ dad, Wesley Dodson, bought it.

This upstairs room over the master bedroom suite is perhaps in the worst shape of all. It could be part of the Walnut Cove History Wing or it could be a classroom one day. Who knows?! God does!

This upstairs room over the master bedroom suite is perhaps in the worst shape of all. It could be part of the Walnut Cove History Wing or it could be a classroom one day. Who knows?! God does!

Lois was so proud of her chandelier in the parlor. This would be a classroom or meeting room.

Lois was so proud of her chandelier in the parlor. This would be a classroom or meeting room.

Our group couldn't resist going in to see the house (most of them for the first time!) after the decision was made by First Baptist. The house has much potential and would provide the space necessary for all that our ministry wants to do! Praise God!

Our group couldn’t resist going in to see the house (most of them for the first time!) after the decision was made by First Baptist. The house has much potential and would provide the space necessary for all that our ministry wants to do! Praise God!

God will provide

If you build it. . . (Part III)

PART III OF A DREAM COMING TRUE. . .All things work together

When Lois–our would-be benefactress–passed away on Aug. 9, 2011, the dream of having her home to use as an “Elisha house” in Walnut Cove seemed to shrivel up and die with her. For weeks after her sudden death at age 93, I was confused, disheartened, without clear direction. I had been so sure that Lois would live to see her house in our hands and even be the guest of honor when we dedicated the Lois Dodson Smith Room of Walnut Cove History in that very house.

Now she was gone, and the house had passed to First Baptist Church–the very church where the dream of having an Elisha house was birthed in my heart as a little girl. In addition to the heartache of losing the house, there was the greater heartache of the loss of Lois. I was devastated, having intended to spend time with her once I quit my editor’s job in September, but she passed a month before that.

And my mind kept going back to Sunday morning, July 3, 2011, when I had been sure that God had given us a clear sign that the house would be ours. On that day, our Times of Refreshing group was having our regular church service at the beauty shop where we met. By our starting time of 9:30, only six people were there; several were missing. Strangely enough, the ones present were the only ones who had had ties with my ministry for several years.

I suddenly felt to tell this “elect group” all about Lois’ house and the controversy surrounding it. Up to that point, my mom, my hubster and I had kept the situation private. My friend Yvonne–my dear friend who used to be a crack addict before she devoted her life to the Lord–said that her street friends/crack addicts/drug dealers would come to that house if we ran it. She said she could feel the Spirit running all up and down in her the more we talked about the house. She was bold and said that she really felt that we would get it. She believed that end of town seems to be darker than the rest of Walnut Cove and needs a light somewhere.

I told them that I felt we should gather in a circle and worship together for a while, then pray individually for discernment, then actually go over to Lois’ house–less than a mile away. When our circle broke apart and we went our separate ways, I hit my knees and began to listen to the Lord.

Suddenly I heard Him say that the person who walked right up to the door of Lois’ house and touched the doorknob would know immediately if the house was supposed to be ours. It startled me so much that I nearly jumped out of my skin. I pondered getting a piece of paper and writing what He had said to me so that I would have proof it happened once we all got to the house, but I didn’t want to disturb everyone’s prayer time.

I began asking the Lord if I should go first and run to be the one to touch the doorknob. But no–I felt a peace that whoever got there first would be the right one. Even though my hubster and I brought up the rear of the vehicle procession to Lois’ house (we had to lock up the beauty shop), I still figured I could quickly get to the door. I assumed no one else would think to go to the door, since it was locked and they had seemed more interested in walking around the property.

But as I got out of my car, I saw Darlene march boldly up to that door. I felt my breath catch in my chest. She opened that outer door and grabbed the doorknob. I couldn’t believe (oh Leslie of little faith) that it was happening as He said it would.

My hubster took this picture shortly after Darlene first approached the door.

My hubster took this picture shortly after Darlene first approached the door.

Darlene immediately smiled and turned around to motion for me. She pointed to a decorative window area to the right of the door and asked, “What do you see?” I saw two slivers of wood that had fallen from the wooden framing and had landed on the sill in the shape of a cross.

I gasped, “A cross.”


Darlene nodded and said, “We’re supposed to have this house.” We all began rejoicing and grew teary-eyed. Sandy felt to go get her anointing oil.


Sandy brings the anointing oil to Darlene and Mama

Darlene anointed the front doorknob.



I felt to go anoint the side door which was a separate entrance to the master bedroom suite (Elisha’s chamber!). I wept as I did it, imagining that my childhood dream of having a little room for the prophet was about to come true.



As we later walked around the property. Darlene said it was like coming home to Grandma’s house. Two familiar crack addicts walked by, looking at us. I waved and called them by name. They are my friends. Yvonne said that the house would provide a place for such people to come–to have something to do, to get counseling, to find help.


As we were leaving–in a jubilant mood, having even taken our picture in front of the house–my mom lifted her hands and said, “Eli-sha [pronounced in Hebrew el-ee-shah’]–God sets free!” I froze because when I anointed the bedroom door, I had remembered how I once thought we should call the house “Elisha House” in honor of the little chamber the Shunammite woman built onto her house for the prophet to be refreshed.


I left Lois’ house that morning, knowing for the first time that it was supposed to belong to Times of Refreshing.

But that was in July. Now it was August, Lois was gone and the house had been given away. Were we wrong that July morning? Did we just THINK we heard the voice of God?

Before we knew it, it was autumn. Sometimes someone would bring up the disappointment over the house. By then, I had a strange peace and would just smile at them, saying, “It’s not over yet, you know.” It SEEMED to be over, but I knew down deep that it wasn’t.

We never said another word about the house to outside sources. Before Lois died–when she was so upset over her house not being given to us–I had pleaded with those concerned to follow Lois’ wishes–truly not out of gain to me (the house was so decrepit it would’ve been easier to let someone else have it!) but out of a desire to see a dying woman’s wishes granted.

But once she was gone, I took my hands off the issue and stepped aside. Hadn’t Lois’ last words to us been that it was in God’s hands now?

a way out of no way

And then one day, a miracle happened. A phone call came from a leader at First Baptist Church. We were informed that the pastor, a very Godly man named Jim, had told the church trustees that he didn’t feel it was right for them to accept Lois’ house. He recounted to them how she had told him time and time again that she wanted her house to go to me and my mom.

I was overwhelmed with gratitude! This was a pastor who truly wanted to do the right thing, whose heart must be pure before God. Even if nothing came of his desire to give us the house, I knew that I would forever honor him for his sense of justice.

When word came that the trustees had voted to give us the house, my amazement grew. Although I had trusted God to move in this situation and felt instinctively that the house issue wasn’t dead, seeing it unfold before my eyes was incredible.

But that wasn’t the last step. Next, the vote would go to the deacons. Pastor Jim kept insisting to them that he, with his own ears, had heard Lois make her wishes plain.

We were on pins and needles to hear the outcome of the deacons’ vote. What joy when the call came that their decision was also “yes”!

But it was not over yet. The final step would be to bring the issue to the entire church. The vote would be held on Super Bowl Sunday night, Feb. 5, 2012.

I was tantalizingly close to seeing my childhood dream of having an Elisha house come true, but it all rested on a vote by the people at the very church that helped birth that dream in me. . .

(Continued in “If You Build It–Part IV”)

always believe something wonderful

If you build it. . .(Part II)


Lois at about age 50

Lois at about age 50

When I arrived that early spring day of 2011 at Walnut Ridge Assisted Living at the behest of the imperial Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith, I was nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I loved Lois–feeling a kinship with her as far as our intense love for Walnut Cove–but she intimidated me just a little. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and usually got it, too! And she could be stern if crossed.

So with a bit of trepidation, I entered her room where I found her with her daytime sitter, Robin, and my mother, whom Lois had also requested to see. My mother had known Lois all of her life, having grown up in First Baptist Church where Lois was a prominent member. Lois had always been fond of my mom, calling her “my little girl” for as long as my mother could remember. And now, my mother went faithfully every Thursday to minister in song to the residents of Walnut Ridge, always taking time to visit with Lois, as she had for many, many years.

As we went to the dining room to talk, Lois pinned me to the chair with her penetrating gaze: “If I gave you my house, Leslie, what would you do with it?” Robin, who loved Lois like a mother, had prepared me somewhat for what Lois wanted to talk to me about, and I was still somewhat in shock over it.

Dodson hotel

The Dodson Hotel in Walnut Cove, run by Lois’ father

You see, Lois owned a large, two-story white house on Second Street in Walnut Cove. She claimed that it was one of the oldest houses in town–perhaps THE oldest. She had moved into it at age six after her father–the owner and proprietor of the famous Dodson Hotel–had passed away suddenly. From that point on, Lois lived in the majestic white house all of her life until she made the difficult decision to move to the Assisted Living at age 86.

In the early part of the 21st century, Lois donated her house to the Town of Walnut Cove, asking them to use it for their town hall. Her love for her town was well-known, as was her generosity and willingness to help others. The local paper did a big story on the donation, with a picture of Lois sitting on her porch.

The years passed, and the Town did not follow through with Lois’ desire to convert the house into a town hall. After studies were done, they determined that the cost to transform the house into a place of business such as they needed would be prohibitive, and parking would be an issue. The once-regal house stood vacant, deteriorating more and more as the years went by. The Town and other organizations used it for storage, and Lois constantly chafed at the thought that her house stood empty.

Once, in about 2006, my mother was visiting with Lois as she did weekly. Lois said, “Judy, I wish I could get my house back from the Town. I would give it to you and Leslie and your ministry and let y’all do something good with it!” My mother told me about the incident, but I merely shrugged my shoulders in resignation, never dreaming that the house would be owned by anyone but the Town.

So when the Town voted to give the house back to Lois in Feb. 2011, I was shocked. But I never dreamed she would remember that once upon a time she had wanted to give it to us. In fact, I don’t remember the thought ever crossing my mind.

Until the day the sitter called me. . .

Lois and her sitter, Robin, at Christmas 2009

Lois and her sitter, Robin, at Christmas 2009

As I sat with Lois, I nervously told her the visions and dreams I had for the town I loved so passionately–to have a place of refuge for those who were weary, burnt out, at the end of their rope. To see the the drug addicts set free. To see the alcoholics delivered. To see the chains of poverty and ignorance broken. To see God’s Spirit poured out in a mighty way in Walnut Cove!

Lois listened carefully and questioned me more specifically. How would I use her house for that?

I told her we would use it as a place for church groups to meet, for Bible studies to be held, for classes on healthy living, for workshops on how to break addictions, for a food pantry, for Christian counseling sessions, for whatever the Lord directed. I also related to her my childhood dream of having a chamber set aside for missionaries/evangelists/preachers/teachers to be able to stay for a time of seeking the Lord and/or rest. I mentioned as well that I wanted a room set aside as a historical museum for Walnut Cove, appropriately named the Lois Dodson Smith Room.

When my spiel was done and my heart for ministry had been poured out, Lois sat back with a satisfied look on her face. “I want you to take my house–you and Judy–and do something good for this town with it,” she said matter-of-factly. There were occasional times in that final year of her life that her mind wandered, but there were more times that she was the same old Lois she had always been, and this was one of those times.

And once she made her decision, she never wavered. Lois constantly talked to her sitters and the employees at Walnut Ridge about her desire to give the house to us. She was even bold enough (as always!) to tell the pastor and deacons of First Baptist Church who came to visit that she wanted her house to go to “Judy’s crew,” as she often called us.

But due to legal circumstances beyond our control, Lois’ will was never changed. Although our ministry, Times of Refreshing, was incorporated as a non-profit entity with the State of NC (churches are automatically nonprofit anyway, but we went the extra mile), we were not a 501(c)3 federally. For this reason, the house wasn’t transferred to us, despite Lois’ wishes.

I will never forget the last time that I ever saw her alive. It was a Tuesday–the worst day of the week in many ways for me. Tuesdays were press days and often found me working 18 hours straight to put out The Stokes News. When the phone rang that late July morning, I nearly didn’t answer it, but now I thank God I did.

It was Robin, Lois’ beloved sitter, telling me that Mrs. Lois wanted to see me. I began to make my excuses that it was press day, and I was running behind. Robin, who knew the rigid Lois better than probably anyone else, simply listened and then repeated, “Lois wants you to come down here.”

I sighed and knew then and there that I would obey. Within the hour, I was in Lois’ room, along with Robin and my mother. Lois kept asking, as she did every Thursday when my mother visited, “What are you all doing with my house?” We kept telling her that we couldn’t do anything with it, since it wasn’t ours. She insisted that the house be given to us. We once again repeated that the decision to do that was out of our hands. She even instructed Robin to pick up the phone and call her lawyer. I asked if we should leave the room, being very uncomfortable with the thought of being present while she talked to her lawyer. Lois told us to stay right where we were.

And so we did, eying each other nervously. We had never once asked for the house to be given to us, and although we felt that her offering it was God’s gift to us, we didn’t want to get in the middle of anything or cause trouble.

Lois and her best friend from childhood, Hazel, eating chocolates in their room that they shared at Walnut Ridge

Lois and her best friend from childhood, Hazel, eating chocolates in their room that they shared at Walnut Ridge

As I left her room later that day, I hugged her and told her I loved her. At the door, I looked back at her as she sat upright in her favorite chair. Her face was staring at the wall in front of her, leaving me to see only her regal profile. Her face was solemn, and somehow I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never see her alive again. Tears sprang to my eyes, and I left quickly before I began to weep openly–something I finally did once I was alone in my car.

On Thu., Aug. 3, my mother saw Lois for the last time. They discussed the house which had not yet been willed to us, and Lois’ last words to my mother were, “It’s in the Lord’s hands now, Judy.”

Five days later, Lois Dodson Smith passed from this earth at the age of 93. Her house went to First Baptist Church, per her unchanged will. Bitterly disappointed, my mother and I decided to trust Lois’ last words, leaving it to the Lord. We never approached the legal system nor the church, opting rather to avoid any trouble or ill will and to honor Lois’ memory peacefully.

What had seemed like God’s beautiful answer to my childhood request to have an “Elisha house” now seemed, through Lois’ sudden death, to be no answer at all. To come so close to your dream and feel it slip away is a heart-wrenching thing, but I kept hearing Lois say, “It’s in the Lord’s hands now.”

And so it was. And so He miraculously moved. And so, through the goodness of many people, the dream did not die after all. . .

(Continued in “If You Build It–Part III”)

delight thyself

If you build it. . .(Part I)


My childhood church, First Baptist of Walnut Cove

My childhood church, First Baptist of Walnut Cove

When I was a little girl, I loved going to Sunday School at First Baptist Church in Walnut Cove, North Carolina. My teachers would teach us wonderful Bible lessons, sometimes using the flannel boards that children so love. While the other kids clamored to hear the more popular stories–Noah’s ark, the baby Jesus being born, the miracle of the loaves and fishes–I was the odd man out.

You see, my favorite story was an unusual one–straight from the Old Testament in the book of II Kings (not a real popular book in the realm of children’s Sunday School!). Something in my little girl heart was touched to the core by the story of the woman of Shunem who talked her husband into building a chamber onto their house for the prophet Elisha.

II Kings 4:8-11: “Now it happened one day that Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a notable woman, and she persuaded him to eat some food. So it was, as often as he passed by, he would turn in there to eat some food. And she said to her husband, ‘Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly. 10 Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.’ 11 And it happened one day that he came there, and he turned in to the upper room and lay down there.”

elisha-shunammite-womanThere’s more to the story, but that was the gist of it. Somehow, the thought of that Shunammite woman wanting to bless the prophet with a room of his own–a room in which to meditate on the Scriptures, pray unto his God, rest after the labors of ministry–blessed ME beyond measure.

I never forgot it. And I treasured a secret desire deep in my innermost being: the desire to one day do the same–to make a place for a man or woman of God to rest and find the presence of God in solitude.

But when I grew up and got married, there was never any room for visitors. We were financially-challenged much of the time, in small spaces with little room for guests. In our little rental house in Kernersville, there was no room. In the tiny mobile home on the Forsyth County side of Walnut Cove, there was even less room.

Yet still I dreamed.

When we finally bought a house, space was still tight for our growing family, but I wanted to be the Shunammite woman nonetheless! When a preacher came from Maryland to hold revival at our church in Winston-Salem, I quickly volunteered to provide room and board for him and his family, giving up my bed for them. Perhaps I couldn’t build a chamber on the side of my house, but I could give them my own chamber!

One day in about 2004, I heard that a big plantation-style house in Walnut Cove was up for sale. It had been the Pinecrest School–a home for mentally and physically challenged adults. I walked through the house, yearning to buy it so that I could take the little building to the side of it and make an “Elisha chamber” out of it. I drove through the property so often and talked to my four children about it so much that they started calling the little white outbuilding “the missionary house.”

But the asking price was way above our means, and the house was sold to people who chopped down the stately trees in front of my dream house and turned it into a horse farm rather than a place for burned out Christians and/or exhausted missionaries and evangelists.

And so I settled back into routine life, wondering if my dream would ever come true. When I eventually moved to Danbury, I decided that when the kids grew up, I would take one of the bedrooms downstairs and make it into a refuge for any Christian who needed a place to escape the rigors of the modern world for a time of prayer and seeking the Lord.

Still, that seemed like such a long time away.

And then one day in the spring of 2011, destiny came knocking on my door.

By then, I was a busy newspaper editor, trying to run a fledgling Christian ministry on the side. When my phone rang one hectic day, I really didn’t have time to talk. But the caller said something that stopped me right in my tracks.

Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith at age 92 eating at Walnut Ridge Assisted Living

Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith at age 92 eating at Walnut Ridge Assisted Living

Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith–a 92-year-old lady whom I considered the “First Lady of Walnut Cove”–wanted to meet with me and had directed her sitter to call me. I hurried down to Walnut Ridge Assisted Living to see what Mrs. Lois wanted. I had interviewed her in the past for my newspaper column, taking copious notes of her incredible memories of the history of my beloved hometown of Walnut Cove.

But I had gotten so busy working 24/7 for the newspaper that I had neglected to visit Lois in the past two or three years, and now I felt guilty when she called for me. Little did I know that her request to see me would change my life and start me on my way to fulfilling the dream I had nurtured since my long-ago childhood at First Baptist Church. . .

(Continued in “If You Build It–Part II.”)

Feast of Tabernacles: the season of our rejoicing!

I’ve gone through yet another season of what we often call Jewish holidays (I call them Feasts of the Lord), and we’ve come to my favorite one of the year. Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, is the most joyful feast of all to me.

It is the 7th feast, held in the 7th month, lasting for 7 days. Ahhh, perfection.

And because God loved His people so much, He asked them to extend the festival 1 more day, to tarry with Him a little longer. In fact, an ancient Jewish midrash (story, exposition, interpretation) claims that what God said to His people about His rationale for the extra day was, Your departure is difficult for me. Stay with me one more day.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Think of how much you love your significant other and what it would mean to you if he/she begged you to stay a little longer with him/her. Surely it would thrill your soul. Well, even more so when it’s the Creator of the Universe–the ultimate Lover of your soul–who asks you to linger with Him.

During this 8-day celebration, there is an emphasis on good food. I like that! Each night, observant Jews eat dinner in their sukkah (booth)–a little hut constructed in the yard to recall the reason for this holy feast: that God provided well for the Israelites as they dwelt in booths (sukkot is the plural of booth in Hebrew) in the wilderness. You might invite the neighbors over for cake and wine (grape juice for me–ha ha!) in the sukkah as you enjoy the evening air and gaze on the stars and nearly-full moon in the night sky.

Sound like fun yet?

And guess what God commanded the Jews to do during this week? REJOICE! Wow, somebody please command me to rejoice–I will definitely oblige!

But this is just for the Jews, you say. We Gentiles don’t bother, do we? Well, if we do choose to celebrate Sukkot, we will enjoy the blessing of it. The early church, which was of course predominantly Jewish by birth, still celebrated the annual Feasts of the Lord, until this practice was eventually frowned upon when Catholicism took root.

But the main reason we Christians would profit from studying and/or celebrating Sukkot is that it is a festival of hope for the future. Yes, it celebrates the past (“He has provided for us before, as in the wilderness”) and it solidifies the present (“He is providing for us even now!). But this Feast points forward to the future when His provision will be eternal.

It reminds us that we will tabernacle with our Lord forever one day. Every day in eternity will be Sukkot. You see, the Feast could’ve ended in the prescribed 7 days–7 being the number of divine completion.

But it didn’t. There is an 8th day–8 being the number of new beginning, a number outside of time as it doesn’t exist within our neat, little 7-day week. The 8th day represents eternity.

Jesus fulfilled the 4 spring feasts: His death (Passover), His burial (Feast of Unleavened Bread), His resurrection (Feast of Firstfruits) and His outpouring of the Holy Ghost (Pentecost). But the 3 fall feasts have yet to be fulfilled. A little over 2 weeks ago, we celebrated the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah)–representative of His 2nd coming. Ten days after that, we had Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)–symbolic of the coming Judgment Day when His atoning blood will make all the difference for those who follow Him.

What’s next after His return and judgment? Eternity with Him–Feast of Tabernacles–the grand diamond in the crown of Jewish holy days.

When you study this Feast, some passages of the New Testament make even more sense. You’ve probably read John 7 and totally ignored that the whole chapter is about our Messiah celebrating Sukkot. You’ve probably read verses 37-38 and never questioned why Jesus suddenly rose up in the Temple and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Just a random comment? No! If you understand Sukkot, you realize that each morning during the Feast, the priest drew a pitcher of water and poured it out as a sacrifice as part of a plea/prayer to God for rain during the coming winter months. After the long, dry summer, the rains, which began about November in Israel and lasted until around March, were crucial to crop development in the coming year. Sukkot was the time to beseech God to send the blessed precipitation.

So imagine that this water ceremony has just taken place in the Temple. And here comes Jesus–this “upstart” from Nazareth–who interrupts things by crying out that HE is the water they need. And the Word doesn’t say that He just spoke up. HE CRIED OUT.

Can you imagine the horror the Temple leaders felt? “Blasphemy!” they may have whispered to each other.

And our Lord wasn’t finished. The next day, it is recorded in John 8 that Jesus went back to the Temple to teach. He didn’t just haphazardly speak what is written in verse 12: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

That statement seems to come from nowhere. But if you know about Sukkot, you would know that each night of the Feast, there was a fabulous light display in Jerusalem. Not only were the huge Temple lampstands blazing, but also the multitudes of pilgrims in the city celebrating Sukkot would have their sukkahs alight as they rejoiced into the night.

The Jews at that time, who had just been dazzled by the nightly light show for a week, would totally “get” what Jesus was saying. He had just diverted their focus during the water ceremony to Himself, pinpointing Himself as the water they needed. NOW, He diverts their focus on light to Himself, declaring that He is the light they need.

What a nerve, the “big wheels” of that day must’ve thought. Their familiarity with Sukkot made Jesus’ comments even more inflammatory than what we clueless Gentiles perceive. It is imperative that we get out of our comfort zones and study the culture that Jesus preached in. It gives us knowledge we have been ignorant of for too long. Think about how we have sometimes made erroneous doctrines from things the Apostle Paul said in his letters–all because we did not understand the culture of that day or the circumstances of the people to whom he wrote.

Perhaps another reason that we would do well to study Sukkot in particular is that we very well may be celebrating it in Jerusalem one day. Zechariah 14:16-18 says this: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”

This is an endtime prophecy that pertains to us. EVERYONE will keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Wouldn’t we do well to learn about it now? The Jews see each Feast of the Lord as a “mikrah”–a rehearsal or foretaste of what is to come. So when I keep Sukkot, I see it as a rehearsal of my blessed eternity with Him!

If we belong to Him, we have already started our eternity! We are eternal beings just passing through this mortal life before we move on to our “real” life! We rejoice because He came down to tabernacle with us in the flesh for 33 1/2 years and then returned again as the Holy Spirit Who tabernacles with us constantly!

May we give Him all the glory in this the season of our rejoicing! And to think, WE’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN!

Click on the link below to watch the teaching I did on Sukkot at our church, Times of Refreshing, this past Sunday morning. Just ignore the phone ringing on camera; we are a casual group that meets in a home temporarily. Beneath this link is a handout that will help you follow along with the video. Enjoy!


What is Sukkot?
The final Biblically-commanded feast of the Jewish year (Lev. 23:33-44)
–Celebrated in the seventh month Tishri on days 15-21 (Lev. 23:34)
–Tishri 22–Day 8–is also celebrated (Lev. 23:36)
–A sabbath with new offerings specified (Num. 29:36-38)
–Called “Shemini Atzeret” (8th, solemn gathering)
— “Atzeret” comes from a root meaning “to hold back”
–God asked Israel to tarry 1 more day! (“Your departure is
                difficult for me. Stay with me one more day.”)
“Sukkot” = “booths” (singular is “sukkah” = “booth”)
–Sometimes called Festival of Booths
–Reminiscent of how Israel had portable dwellings in the wilderness
Also called Feast of Tabernacles
–“Tabernacle” = “mishkan”; also means “dwelling place”
Celebrates fruit harvest (grapes, olives)
–Exod. 23:16– “. . .the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.”
–Firstfruits celebrated barley harvest, Pentecost–wheat harvest
Called “The Feast of all Feasts” (I Kings 12:32)
–Pilgrims came from all over Israel to Jerusalem (like Passover and Pentecost)

What is required on Sukkot?
First day is a full Sabbath (Lev. 23:35)
Only four things commanded in Torah for this Feast
–Live in sukkah (Lev. 23:42)
–Bring offering in addition to regular offerings (Num. 29:12-39)
–1st day: 13 young bullocks and many other things
–Number of bulls goes down each day: significant
–Gather the four species (Lev. 23:40)–probably to be waved joyfully
–Etrog (citron): “boughs of goodly trees”
–Lulav: “branches of palm trees”
–Myrtle: “boughs of thick trees”
–Willows: “willows of the brook”
–Rejoice (Lev. 23:40)
–Because harvest is done and/or repentance is successful
–Called “season of our rejoicing” (Deut. 16:15)–“. . .because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.”
Every 7th year at this Feast, a public reading of Torah (Deut. 31:10-13)

How is Sukkot mentioned in the Bible?
Solomon chose it for consecration of Temple (I Kings 8:2-4)–shekinah glory fell!
Celebrated while wall was being rebuilt in Nehemiah’s time (Ezra 3:4)
Jesus sent His brothers to the Feast (John 7:2-8) then He went secretly (John 7:10-53)
It is mentioned for the future: all nations will come to Jerusalem for Sukkot
–Zech. 14:16– “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”

What are the Jewish traditions of Sukkot?
Many Jews don’t connect this to High Holy Days
Some say living in huts comes from agricultural component (harvesters in huts in fields)
They begin building sukkah at end of Yom Kippur–families building together often
–Sukkah: temporary shelter, roof of branches/twigs/leaves to keep sky visible
–Must eat in it; some sleep in it. Rejoice in it; don’t suffer (go home if it rains!)
–Kids decorate it: fruit/flowers/paper chains/crepe paper/Indian corn/gourds
–God turned their wilderness into a garden
–Stresses the impermanence of life
Special theme of trusting God (as Israel in the wilderness)
–Don’t become entombed in the safety of your houses; trust God
Special “guests” are invited, 1 per night in order: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David (all wanderers or exiles)
–Women, too, now! Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Abigail, Esther
They believe waving the 4 species brings a blessing of rain
–They circle sanctuary, branches in hands (7 times on 7th day)
–Number 4 is seen as symbolic–completion on Earth
Praise is recited each day (“hallel”)–often Psalms 113-118
Entire book of Ecclesiastes is read
–Stresses the vanity of life (dwell in huts), so eat/drink/be merry (rejoice)
–Festival season in spring starts with Song of Solomon (idealism of young love) and ends in fall with cynicism of old age!
Special readings are Exod. 33:12-34:36, Ezek. 31:18-39:16 (endtime war)
Special emphasis on birth: Day of Atonement wiped slate clean
–We begin over like newborns (water associated with birth)
Anticipates the messianic end of days (Zech. 14:16)
7th day called “hoshana rabbah” (“the great hosanna”)
–Should be full festival day, but adding 8th day changed that
–Seen as final day of judgment
–Solemn morning service (final seal not on Book of Life/Death until then)
–After morning service, festive meal with nuts, carrot rings (wealth)
Some stay up all night on 7th night to study Torah (Deut.)
–Old tradition: if you see your shadow with no head, you’ll die in next year
Week of great hospitality: visiting from sukkah to sukkah, having wine and cake
–Poor should be invited as guests
Theme of gathering in (harvest) and encircling (God surrounded them in wilderness)
Prayers for rainfall in coming winter months (Nov.-March), especially on 8th day
–Water libation (sacrificial outpouring) each morning at service
–Jesus knew this: John 7:37-38
Lighting ceremony each night (Jesus alluded to this in John 8:12 then healed blind man)
Some save lulav or willows to light fire for Passover to burn leaven or bake unleavened bread
–Ties festival cycle together
8th day: Torah festival
–Pentecost celebrates receiving Torah; Sukkot celebrates having it daily
–Very much a children’s festival with dancing, singing, carrying of flags
–7th day was end of perfect time cycle; 8th is a day beyond time
Strict Jews celebrate a 9th day–”Simhat Torah” (rejoicing in the Torah)
–Scrolls taken from ark then paraded around sanctuary
–Final verses of Deut. read, then 1st verses of Gen. (cycle renewed)
Entire festival has redemption theme–God redeemed them in desert
–Dry times in summer represented desert wandering

What does Sukkot mean for us as Christians?
It comes right after Day of Atonement (after judgment, millennial reign of Christ)
Celebrates harvest of fruit (James 5:7-8–“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
–Joel 2:23 prophesies of endtime when God sends former and latter rains in same month–final harvest!
Fruit planting takes place during spring rains (seed planted during Passover)
–Fruit matures during summer and is ready for harvest in fall
Celebrates God’s provision in the past (wilderness), present (harvest done) and future!
This Feast will be celebrated eternally as we dwell with Him (8th day)–mikrah: rehearsals
We are now tabernacles: I Cor. 6:19–“Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost”
–As He dwelt in the tabernacle of the wilderness, now He dwells in us!
Feast demands joyfulness; so does life in Christ
–Neh. 8:10– “. . .the joy of the Lord is your strength”
–Psalm 16:11– “. . .in thy presence is fullness of joy”
–Phil. 4:4–“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.”
Jesus was probably born during this festival: rotation of priests in OT possibly proves it
–At that time, Israel was divided into 24 districts (I Chron. 24)
–Each district sent 2 priests to the Temple each week to serve
–ALL priests went to Jerusalem 3 weeks each year (Deut. 16:16)
–Zacharias, dad of John the Baptist, priest of the order of Abijah (Luke 1:5)
–His division was 8th division to go (I Chron. 24:10)
–He ministered 9th week of year (all went up 3rd week)
–He was serving his time when he was promised a son (Luke 1:8-13)
–Gabriel came to Mary in 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy
–Would’ve been during Hanukkah–starts 10th month, 25th day
–Jesus born 9 months later–Feast of Tabernacles
–He came to Earth to dwell (tabernacle) among men
–He was the tabernacle in which God dwelt fully (Col. 2:9)
–Wouldn’t it be like God to fulfill a festival cycle? (born and return in 7th month)

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