Making The Last Lap The Best

Healthcare-Elective-Care-Hero

Although I haven’t met them, I feel a close kinship with several WP writers. I often imagine joyfully meeting them in heaven, “Hey! It’s you!”. David Ettinger is one such writer. I’ve read his articles in Zion’s Fire for many years and enjoy his blog, http://ettingerwriting.wordpress. I commented today on his blog about aging and he encouraged me to turn the comment into a post!

At 64, like David, I’m included in the huge population of aging baby-boomers. Sometimes I have to remind myself, “Move on, you’re too old for those jeans!” or, “That’s for younger folks, act your age!” Mostly I need no reminding. I catch my reflection off guard or wonder, what’s the word I’m looking for…

But as believers we stand apart from the vast number of ‘baby-boomers’ and need not clamor over every new study on failing health, mental decline, or worry over aging alone in the world. Yes, take care of our vessel with healthy foods, good exercise and intellectual challenges. But our greatest hope and trust is not in a ‘good lifestyle’ but in a good and faithful God.

Years ago, the Lord taught me the precision of the sword, the word of God, that “…penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit…” My husband Bob grew up in the projects of Brooklyn, his neighbor, Donia Marie, was a strong believer. Her husband abandoned her and their children but her faith did not waiver – she shared the Gospel with the families around her and often invited them to church. When the youths, such as Bob, joined gangs, Donia Marie continued to pray and show them God’s love.

Her diligent prayers yielded much fruit. Several youths, such as Bob, became a true believers years later, always remembering their neighbor’s faithful witness. In 2006 her family called from out of state, sharing that Donia Marie suffered from Alzheimer’s. We went out to visit. This dear sister could not remember Bob, nor did she recognize her own daughter, but she recited scriptures, remembered the precious Gospel, and sang songs of praise while we were there. Her mind may have failed but her spirit and the life of God within her, was alive. Although she died in 2007, her testimony and love are still spoken of today. This encouraged me in many ways, realizing that mental health does not preclude spiritual health, and the purposes of God are not thwarted by our diminished capacities.

The Lord equips us for every season of our life, whether we are weakening from illness, aging or injury. Unlike the world’s challenges, ‘Fight your weakness! Reverse aging! Five Steps to Live Longer!’ our Lord declares, ‘When you are weak, then you are strong!’

Zac Poonen makes this point often in his Bible teaching, succinctly expounding, from Genesis to Revelation, how God waits for our own strength and flesh to reach ZERO for Him to move in with His strength, His purposes, and His divine power.

“All the trying circumstances, frustrations and disappointments, heartaches, etc that we go through are meant by God to bring the strength of our self down to zero”. (https://www.cfcindia.com/wftw/the-new-wine-in-new-wineskins) I highly recommend his books such as New Wine.

Brother Zac cites this truth with the spiritual giants of scripture who, at their weakest point, their ‘final years’, their point of greatest lacking – God said, ‘Now you’re ready to serve!’ When our ‘self-strength’ is gone, the Holy Spirit can move through our brokenness for God’s glory.

Paul Washer also edifies my faith, teaching ‘God is Creating Weakness in Our Life’. Pointing to our precious forerunner, Jesus, Pastor Paul cites Isaiah’s prophetic word, “Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My chosen One in whom I delight…” God upheld Jesus, Paul Washer expounds, upon how much more must He uphold us!

“Jesus didn’t spend lengths of time in prayer because He was so spiritual or to show devotion; He was praying because He needed prayer, He needed to draw upon the Father’s strength…”

“Our problem is never that we’re too weak! God is constantly working weakness in us. We don’t even know how weak we are!”

Only believers can claim the certainty of ‘strength’ and ‘purpose’ as our natural lives decline and weaken. If we’re still here, still in the race, God’s purposes for us in this world remain: preparing us for His Kingdom, conforming us to the image of Christ, reaching out with the Gospel and declaring the coming of the King.

I pray to grasp ahold of these truths, to walk closer with the Lord – our forerunner in this race – and make the last lap the best lap before I meet Him face to face!

WHY RUSSIA IS NOT THE ENEMY — The Scripture Library

An Unpopular Opinion Regarding the On-Going Russo-Ukrainian War by Jeff Dominguez

Last February 24, 2022, Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, launched a full-scale attack in an attempt to invade their neighbor country, Ukraine. This caused immediate chaos and panic across Ukraine and has made the entire world worried. International leaders joined forces to convince Vladimir Putin […]

WHY RUSSIA IS NOT THE ENEMY — The Scripture Library

The unprovoked invasion into Ukraine is shaking the world with grief, fear, and anger. For an Armenian, it stirs up utter dread to see a powerful nation invading a peaceful one for no reason, exacting destruction and ruining lives. As I fervently prayed for the Armenians besieged by Turkish backed Azeris, I pray for the Ukrainians, for the strength and faith of the body of Christ, for fighters’ fortitude, for God to intervene as their high tower and bulwark.

But like Jeff Dominguez elaborates in this embedded post, I also cry out for the Russians. The Russian soldiers, conscripted and compelled to fight, duped by propaganda. The Russians and Ukrainians, neighbors since forever, share similar if not the same culture, religion, and family life and history of communist tyranny. They marry each other. Russians have no blood lust to kill their neighbors.

I pray for them, that their hearts be gripped with conviction and their feet weighed down like lead. May their eyes are opened for repentance and cause them to retreat – confounding the world and exalting the Lord.

I encourage anyone reading this to read brother Jeff’s post. I never saw his blog before but last night I came to a realization as I turned away from the harrowing newscasts. This is not normal or rational, it is outside the flesh. This is supernatural, and Putin is inspired if not captivated by demonic forces.

For us as believers to be true contenders in this battle, we must enter in spiritually. Yes, we could make our anguish known to legislators and contribute to humanitarian aid. But we ourselves have a Commander and Chief. We are not conscripts, He owns us completely. I pray that, under the Lord’s authority, we gain spiritual revelation of these world events, direction in prayer, and see the opportunities to extol our Savior and His Kingdom – the only true and lasting hope.

May we link arms as His body and stand as a light in this darkness.

NYPD: Missing Man Formation

Almost everyone grieves the loss of these two outstanding young men, dedicated to public service, ambushed and killed by a treacherous reprobate. To honor their service and sacrifice, I would encourage those who missed the services to view the funerals online for Detectives Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, promoted posthumously.

Prior to my retirement from State Parole, I covered the Harlem precincts, including the 32 precinct, for nearly 30 years. We often worked alongside NYPD during investigations, executing warrants and making arrests. On my own, I averaged about 20 homevisits a week in Harlem, checking on curfews, parolee status, community and family complaints, and general assistance to releasees. That’s about 1,000 home visits a year. While there were some hairy moments, I was never afraid, never wanted to leave the Harlem community for ‘easier’ precincts or positions.

That was then.

Just a week before these shootings I wondered, How to Live in a Reprobate City, noting the dilution of criminal offenses by newly elected D.A. Bragg. The deaths of Detectives Rivera and Mora now mark the fourth and fifth shootings of NYPD officers in January alone seem a grim launch into 2022.

We don’t have a ‘gun problem’, as some politicians would sum it. We have a serious violence problem, morality problem, and sin problem which is reaping the dark and tragic fruits of lawlessness.

As Detective’s Mora’s casket left St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the skies held a traditional sad tribute – a Missing Man Formation. In honor of a lost one of valor, planes or helicopters fly overhead in formation, then one will depart.

Today, helicopters flew in Missing Man Formation to honor Det Wilbert Mora,

Mora missing man formation

While both Detectives Rivera and Mora are a tremendous loss to our community, there is, I fear, one even greater.

The incremental annihilation of God’s laws, God’s ways, and God’s decrees is leaving us to the destructive ways of human nature. We have boldly rejected God and elect men and women to establish this anarchy.

There is a colossal Missing Man Formation flying overhead everyday. His absence and departure, His abandonment in judgment, will culminate into the worst lament of mankind.

May we, who know God, seek Him everyday, call upon Him everyday, walk with Him everyday and however He wills, may we boldly represent God and His salvation through Jesus Christ alone. He may be a ‘Missing Man’ to those around us – let us be a light that He may be seen.

How to Live in a Reprobate City

Wait, can a city be reprobate? Or are only individuals given over by God to a reprobate mind…”given over” as a convicted prisoner is given over for sentencing? I believe that both assertions are true as individual corrupt minds promote and elect the leadership that will govern over them. Collectively, there is a ‘reprobate mind’, set against God, against His commandments – preparing to receive the “wages of sin”.

NYC’s flashpoints of sin are almost forgotten but not by God. The culmination of ‘Gay Pride’, landmark celebratory parades and festivities continue to resound and replicate around the globe. ‘Abortion up to delivery’, legislation effective January 2019, had to repeal several penal laws to allow the murder of viable babies even as they are pushing through the womb. This great victory was celebrated at the State Capital but most notably in NYC as elected officials clapped and cheered before cameras and the city was lit up in triumphant celebration for the world to see.

The Empire State Building, set aglow to celebrate this infanticide, was not struck by lightening. No tsunami washed over the city. Instead, I believe, God silently yet powerfully effected an abandonment of this city. He is still here, of course, and faithful to the brethren, but is allowing rebellious unrestrained expression bring about unrestrained consequences of sin. God has given us over to a reprobate mind.

A year after the murderous abortion celebration came ‘Bail Reform’ 2020, delighting ‘progressives’ and igniting freed detainees. The great lie of Satan, “you can sin and nothing will happen!” was planted in the NYC judicial system, just prior to, just in time for, the riots of George Floyd. Criminals are freed, instigated, and emboldened toward utter lawlessness while police, set upon and degraded, retire, quit and transfer in record numbers.

Crime and lawlessness rule once again in this city but with great difference – it is facilitated by the leadership. In fact, according to the newly elected Manhattan District Attorney, crime is no longer crime in this city.

“Bragg has sparked a firestorm after announcing that his office will no longer prosecute a variety of crimes, from resisting arrest to drug dealing. He has also laid out a plan that lowers the type of crimes that armed robbers, for example, can be charged with by reducing the charges to lesser counts. What has been considered felonies would be cut to misdemeanors, which would often mean no jail time for offenders.” (from Fox News report, 1/12/2022)

One need not be a retired law enforcement to conclude that consequences are powerful influencers of behavioral change. However, after supervising felony offenders for nearly 30 years I must say that no other factor affects decisions more than considering sure and exact consequences. Hollow threats are laughable but real consequences, punishment for crimes, can stir rational thinking and change behavior.

How is one to live for Christ in a ‘reprobate city’? Are we to live in a reprobate city?

The answer to the latter is, of course, and surely, what springs forth from the cities will cast seeds into the nation. The apostle Peter exhorts us, “prepare your minds for action”, having our mindset toward holiness and unto the Lord. If we walk aright before the Lord, we can know the confidence and power of walking in His favor and faithfulness wherever He calls us to live.

The greatest temptation for those striving to live a righteous life is to fight against the ‘unrighteous’, to hammer shameless leaders and their supporters. However passionate and logical, it is not God’s way.

“For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness…” Fighting a political party is easier, even rewarding to the flesh. But as Lloyd Martyn-Jones expounds in The Christian Warfare,

“The term “world rulers”…is a very powerful word which conjures up the notion of power to govern and to rule the whole world.”

Martyn-Jones also states in this captivating book,

“There are unseen “rulers” who are manipulating world affairs…”

“They are manipulating the Press and all other such agencies…”

“There is nothing more monstrous than that people should joke about the devil…”

So how to live for Christ when the heart of the city is reprobate and the majority celebrate it?

While the whole world lies in darkness and is ripening to receive the antichrist, as believers (I remind myself!) we’re not called to fight fallen man. They are already under the wrath of God, should we defeat them to preserve ‘our way of life’ which is destined to conform to the antichrist? Surely this is a devilish snare set to derail us from the high call of God.

“You are the light of the world” proclaimed Jesus about His followers. I pray to be a light in this dark world, obedient to Him, available to Him, humbled under His word. My flesh would rather fight but my heart knows it’s all futile and worse, what purposes of God will I miss by following carnal fervor?

I believe God has us living amongst reprobate minds for two reasons. One, to draw nearer to Him through prayer and His word, becoming more dependent upon the Him and ultimately to conform to the image of His Son. Secondly, there are people in the darkness, those whom the Lord would call out. Representing Him in the short time we have left in this world, may God reveal them, enable us to minister to them, counsel them in the truth and draw them into the Kingdom of God.

May the Lord embolden and brighten His life and light in us, order our steps, and call His sheep from within the ‘reprobate city’ – wherever it is.

The Caravan Keeps Going….

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A lively discussion of current events ensued during a recent stay at my parents’ house, voicing critical and disparaging opinions of political leadership. Sensing its futility, my father put the kabbash on the debate, “There’s an old Armenian saying” he said, “‘Շունը հաչէ, կարավանը կը քալէ’, The dog barks, the caravan goes on…” No matter how loud our complaints and objections, none will not stop or change anything!

My father was born and raised in Syria, lived in an Armenian community, amongst Arabs and Jews. He speaks Arabic, Armenian, Turkish, English and French – and also remembers wonderful cultural adages.

Though the debate ended, this particular proverb stayed with me, bearing spiritual significance. How many Christians ‘bark’ at social and political movements and protest immorality and corruption? Are we ‘barking’ at the caravan, at the multitudes marching upon that ‘broad road that leads to destruction’? Will that bring about any real change? Is that what the Lord did, what the apostles did?

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one”.

Believers, above all people, should know that this world is on a course; the fruition of sin, the rampant rebellion, and grievous apostasy are all prophesized with detail. The utter futility, if not devilish snare, of protesting and vying for political power has no place as we serve our King.

I pray to live as a “stranger and sojourner” here in this condemned world. May I resist every fleshly temptation to change the course of this world. With resolve I pray not to bark at the caravan but may God help us to rescue those marching in it.

Where He Leads is Worth the Wait

Some beloved brethren had been praying for me in my search to find a church, not just a church but to be ‘placed in the body exactly where He wants us.’ Instead of writing out emails, I’m posting the Lord’s answer!

The pandemic taught me the value of home worship, personal growth in scripture, and gathering with ‘two or more’ in His name. When churches opened we began to seek out fellowship. After 20 years under Pastor Dave Wilkerson’s godly leadership, we had a firm scriptural foundation and clutched the standards of God’s word.

So often though, our spirits cringed at the compromise, the levity, the carnality, and worldliness that frames many churches today. Without obedience, without preeminence, the Lord will not lead. Godly roots that once bore eternal fruit seemed pulled out and discarded for modern, entertaining, and diluted gospel messages. But we pressed on…

In October I felt inclined to visit a church that I had vaguely known about for several years. I had never visited but during the Azeri invasion upon Armenians last year (Sept to Nov 2020) they were the only church to have online prayer meetings. Joining in, I was impressed with their genuine faith and zeal. The Lord heightened my interest in this church until we finally visited The Armenian Evangelical Church. Bob and I don’t usually gravitate to an ethnic or race specific church but this one proves different.

Week by week the Lord answered the questions in my heart, checking off Biblical standards of worship and fellowship that would not escape my heart. The Bible wholly believed, honored and esteemed as God’s unchanging word? Preaching the whole counsel of God? Service with frequent prayer? Songs, hymns, honoring and exalting the Lord? Pastor personable, available, and offering prayer and godly counsel? Yes, yes and yes!

It is the newest oldest church in New York. New with a bright new pastor, zealous for the work of God to go forth, not just for Armenians but for ‘whosoever’ the Lord will gather. New with folks the Lord called in, Bob and I (a Puerto Rican and Armenian), a Turkish Kurd, a Cuban and Filipino.

Established in 1896, we just celebrated our 125th anniversary. This church, downtown Manhattan, was founded years before the Armenian Genocide which began in 1915. My heart is gripped wondering, how did they gather and worship when our people were slaughtered and annihilated for their faith? What messages were preached, how was their faith challenged, even crushed…

Did they know we would be there today, singing praises and believing God?

God often answers our diligent, ongoing, persistent prayer in a multifaceted way. He did not just bring me to a godly church. Not only to a growing fellowship led by His Holy Spirit. Not only to a pastor under whose authority I can submit….

But the Lord brought me to Armenians not gathering to mourn and commemorate, not gathering to protest and march, not gathering for a wedding or funeral but gathering with joy before the Lord, with a living faith and an expectation of God’s leading and life to go forth.

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New friends, new pastor in middle, new smile on my face…

Several of my readers were praying for us and I truly want to thank you and encourage you all, press on, do not give up. If the Lord has you waiting in a pasture, let Him feed you and speak to you there. Where He leads you will be so worth the wait.

When the Devil Speaks…

do we listen? Of course not – or do we?

Believe it or not, I’ve always loved the NYC subway system, grateful to ride on the world’s largest system, traveling great distance for a small fare. However, flagrant lawlessness and random violence compels me now to only ride city buses. Of course, any trip is twice as long but it’s safer, right?

Half way home on a recent bus ride a woman boarded and immediately broke the peace of all therein. Although she was well dressed, there was a rage in her countenance and with it she verbally dominated the bus. An African American, she spewed out racial and personal slurs with bellowing volume, never pausing. She paced through the bus and targeted nearly everyone. I pretended to read as I gauged the scene – everyone was cowering, grown men were gripped to their seats. If this woman physically lashed out to any vulnerable person, would anyone assist? Could I bum rush her?

Her cutting and humiliating taunts were personal as she pointed to total strangers jeering and ridiculing their unseen weakness and vulnerability. When she got to me, she announced, “I SEE YOU!!” and spewed out a very personal thing that would embarrass and humiliate me.

No doubt she was demonic and a bum rush would be utterly futile against such spiritual power! Her devilish assignment completed, she finally exited – the whole bus exhaled in relief.

While I let those biting words deflate my heart, assuredly that is not the devil’s worst maneuver or assault. While the “whole world is a prisoner of sin”, Satan’s sole target are those freed from this prison through the blood of Christ. His powers are deployed personally, secretly and cunningly, fashioned and honed with capacities beyond our human purview.

One appalling evidence of apostasy found in entire churches, pulpits, ministries and thereby hearts of believers themselves is the blindness and disregard of the powers of darkness. Derailed from godly commission, retired from the fight, most churches no longer contend for the honor of God nor for the true salvation of man, they are so entrenched in worldliness, the devil need not attack them at all!

To dismiss and diminish the ‘powers that rule this world’ brings success to the devil’s wiles. They are world powers and they are personal powers. As the people of God, as the Body of Christ, we often fail to acknowledge the kingdom in which we now live. We are the outsiders and, to walk close to our Lord, we must maintain that separation.

To a great extent, most believers are comfortable in this Kingdom and work to maintain that comfort and fit. While they become ‘spiritual’ during crisis or illness, most ‘Christians’ are content with worldly wisdom, motivational sermons, and overused spiritual clichés, powerless mantras. The ‘powers of darkness’ are nearly obsolete to many professed believers.

We can’t expect Satan to announce himself on a bus – if only he would be so obvious and exposed! We must walk in the Spirit to discern the diverse ways he speaks into our lives to bring chaos, discord, discouragement, and depression – to rob us of our peace. If possible, he will frame every circumstance that comes upon us with an understanding that is separate and apart from God and His unchanging word. (I wholeheartedly recommend Martyn Lloyd Jones’, The Christian Warfare where expounds upon these life giving truths of God)

Contending in Satan’s kingdom, to make this world a ‘better place’, is an alluring substitute for God’s unchanging purpose and fight: to deploy us into the spiritual battle to free men from the clutches of this world, reconciling them unto God for His coming Kingdom.

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Patient and stealth, Satan intervenes in a plethora of schemes and allurements to derail us from God’s plan for our lives. Once off track, we are left with artificial fruit. Whatever short time remains for us, I pray to be diligent and discerning. May we recognize the craftiness and deceit of the enemy who speaks through many venues. May we stay in the battle and fulfill every call and purpose of God for His glory!

Lord, Raise Up Nathans!

The greatest cultural tragedy of our time is not political corruption, immigration crisis, abortion fervor or economic downfalls. From heaven’s view, church apostasy, carnality and compromise are what grieves God’s heart.

Does a church, a group of believers, start out apostate? Do they first gather together as a kernel of faith with compromise in their hearts? Nearly every overgrown church and ministry once began with a group of sincere believers, perhaps in someone’s home, even gathering to worship in a garage. Leadership emerges, spiritual momentum grows, and bigger venues are sought – all with prayer and longing for God’s Kingdom.

So what happens? How do sincere believers morph into a mega-church and become apostate and worldly? How do esteemed pastors, whom I have learned from in the past, swerve into compromise, questioning or diluting the Biblical tenets such as creation, truths of the end times, and the established protocols for God’s people? How do they pivot away from holiness and aspire to worldly success and acclaim?

Nearly always, the light of Christ exponentially dims as the church grows with wealth, popularity and cultural/political influence. Knowingly or not, the worldly design of success, wealth, celebrity status and world status slowly takes root – opposite to God’s design of growing deeper in humility, sacrifice, and separation from the world.

One central fault of design predicating compromise is the utter esteem of one leader, rather than a plural leadership of elders as described by Paul. It is often a predictable pattern now, always bringing disillusionment and, at its fruition, painful heartbreak with ministries implode.

The pattern seems thus: a gifted leader becomes the central focus of church success and so to maintain the ‘church success’ of popularity, wealth, public image and proliferation, the inner circle spins or covers up indiscretions and sin. They surround themselves with ‘yes men’ just as the world would.

Q: Where would David have ended up without Nathan? Without the conviction of Nathan, who bravely rebuked this king, David would have fallen into the worst judgment known to man – God would have turned him over to his sin. Without conviction, without godly sorrow, comes hardness of heart and justification of sin. A ‘Nathan’ is a great gift from God – unafraid to convict of sin and compromise (personal notes from my Bible, source unknown)

It is deeply painful to love and serve in a profound ministry and watch it implode however, hindsight reveals that God leaks and uncovers sin and opens the eyes of those who will see. “Leakage” is a concept in law enforcement investigations – referring to leads and clues from criminal behavior that can reveal the truth. There is leakage pulpits as well.

When ‘Nathans’ rise up too late, their voice is diminished and they are often expelled from the circle of influence as there is so much to lose. And the church will then spin a story about why they left.

Although several ministries come to mind, and I rarely mention names, I will say that the ‘cover-up’ in John MacArthur’s church regarding his COVID illness and others in the church is very telling. It is leakage for any who care to see. Other leakage would be his assertion that ‘those who take the mark of the beast can still be saved’ – utterly contrary to scripture. While he rightly points out apostate doctrines and erroneous leaders, he wrongly often ridicules them, leading his congregation to laugh when they should really be crying.

Where are the Nathans to rise up, when leaders’ hearts are still tender and fearfully bent toward God?

As part of Christ’s body, we are all called to more than being fed God’s word. He installs gifts in each of us, that we may rise up and live out scripture – the “living and active, sharper than any two edged sword” word of God. Do we believe it is, ‘God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking and correcting’?

‘Nathans’ may fail to rise up, squelching the conviction in their heart. Or, they may be expelled from the church when they do. But without scriptural and godly rebuke, roots of compromise and carnality will seep into every aspect of the church or ministry and the end result, even if the ministry stands, will be Ichabod.

“You are the man!” Words of conviction yet of great love, as God chastises those He loves, those He calls His own.

Oh Lord, stir our hearts with Your purposes, and raise up the hearts of Nathans in your congregations, rebuke us, humble us. Let us aspire to holiness, not success, that others may see the Lord.

God Doesn’t Need a Yard Sale

This past weekend we took off for the country, Amish country actually, to enjoy some activities and relaxation. I reviewed churches in the area, hoping to find brethren to join in worship and grounded scriptural preaching. One church seemed very conservative and doctrinally sound. I called them and learned that their worship is not flashy or entertaining but prepared to exalt God. They are a large congregation, with two services to accommodate hundreds of attendees.

I also learned from their website that one of their families had incurred a great loss. Their barn, with all their animals, had burned down. The church website posted a ‘Yard Sale’ to address the great need to build a new barn. People could donate things to sell. I myself do not have a yard but know enough about yard sales – they are a source of extra income, not a windfall. Perhaps this is just a ministry’s kind gesture. Surely the Body will rise up to the need of the members!

My heart recalled the days of Times Square Church, where the Holy Spirit pressed forth through the pulpit. The greatest joy was seeing His redemptive work as drug addicts, prostitutes, the broken and despairing were called to repentance and new life. Broadway actors found their way to the Truth, tourists dropped in and found something of Life to bring back home. I often invited ex-convicts whom I supervised.

Serving the Lord was a great honor, as was providing for His servants. There was never a time of ‘convincing’, ‘cajoling’, or pressuring the Body. The Holy Spirit would move hearts without hesitation. Once, for example, a beloved pastor known to our church, was in need. He was a pastor in Siberia, serving God amongst many drug addicts, alcoholics, and impoverished. Pastor Dave Wilkerson came to the pulpit and said, “We learned that the church in Siberia needs a new roof, if anyone feels led to contribute.” Bob and I were not prepared at that moment to give but would surely bring an offering later. Too late! Before the service was over, the need was met. Bob and I were actually disappointed, we missed the honor of providing for a beloved servant.

Before our trip I went to the bank to get some checks. This time, we would be prepared for the Lord to call upon us!

We arrived as the worship service started. It was a large, modern sanctuary for a congregation of about one thousand. The songs did indeed exalt the Lord, one I had never heard bowed my heart and teared my eyes…

However, when I opened my eyes and looked around, everyone else was singing like statues. Ok.

Sermon outlines were available and, when a pastor rose to preach a message, it was clear he would be preaching on persecution. He followed the outline and the scriptures therein however, the sword seemed dull and the waters stagnant, my mind wandered and Bob fell asleep in his chair. Ok.

I was still thinking of the ‘Smith’ family, living next to the ashes of their barn. Was there room at the pulpit for the Holy Spirit’s plea?

Although there were happy events and fellowships happening, there was no plea – perhaps this family were not really members? After the service we left the sanctuary and went to a big counter called INFORMATION. A woman greeted us and, learning that we were visitors, began reaching for ‘welcome’ brochures and information. I asked about the ‘Smith’ family barn…

“I saw that the ‘Smith’ family’s barn burned down recently. Are they members of your church?”

“Oh yes!”

“It sounds like a tremendous loss, esp with their farm animals and equipment…”

“Yes, they’re farmers, it’s their livelihood, a terrible loss…”

“Oh. I noticed that the church is having a Yard Sale next week. But I also read online that they need $150,000 to build a new barn. It doesn’t seem that a Yard Sale could possibly meet that need….is it just a stereo type or is it true that the Amish do ‘barn raising’ in one day for each other?”

“No, it’s true, they do. But we’re not Amish”, with that she slowly shuffled the ‘Welcome’ brochures away from us and mumbled, “If you want any more information, you’ll have to call the church office.”

“Oh, ok. thank you.”, I smiled on a cheery note, “By the way, I’m Lisa, this is my husband Bob”

She stared back in silence. No name given, welcome appeared rescinded!

Bob and I were baffled, “She didn’t want to give us her name.” “I know, and she pushed aside the brochures, out of our reach!” We didn’t plan to ‘raise the whole barn’ but wanted to partake in the Lord’s work for brethren in need. But was the Lord working?

What happened to the Holy Spirit? To the kinship of brethren? Do we believe the words we sing, that God “holds the oceans in His hands”, that He is “full of wondrous deeds”? If the Amish, working in the flesh, can gather and build a barn for their community in one day, what might the Holy Spirit do if the Body of Christ cries out to Him and believes?

“…how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:13

Surely the Lord calls upon His brethren, irresistibly moving their hearts to give with joy. The Holy Spirit can call various strangers to a church with open hearts to give. Great need is God’s opportunity to display His faithfulness and His life in our midst!

There’s no scriptural call to bring your unwanted possessions before the Lord. God needs no Yard Sale. All He needs is a faithful believing heart, even with a few fish and loaves, to demonstrate that He is our Father, He will provide, and He will never fail us. That’s where His testimony shines in the world!

‘Ingenuity’, ‘digital marketing’, ‘fundraising ideas’ and ‘fun small groups’ are good for social affairs, not supernatural affairs. Are our plans God-led plans? If so, they will not fail – He’s in charge and His purposes will prevail.

May we as a people hunger for and call upon God, depending upon Him, that we may be a God-led people that fulfill His will and glorify Him as we pass through this world.

Heartbreak in the Heights

We happen to live in Washington Heights, venue for the popular movie, “In The Heights”. I moved here 40 years ago as a student in the 80’s. It was, at the time, the cocaine capital of the east coast and the Marielitos prevailed in vicious crime sprees. Two blocks over from my building is Armory which, at that time, sheltered 800 homeless men who often spilled out onto building doorsteps. None of this bothered me in fact, it was a renters delight at the time and perfect venue for a social work student.

While I have never seen Dominicans singing and dancing in the street, I have a love for my neighbors and community and appreciate enduring with them over the years. My husband and I remained active in our downtown church for over 20 years, but also hoped to find a church in the neighborhood. While the Lord graciously opened a small Bible study in our home for a year, my heart yearns for more, to worship and share the Gospel within the community. Is it just me or the Lord charging my heart?

We learned of a church gathering in the park just 3 blocks from us. Their website had some solid foundational tenets although with some contemporary ‘buzz words’, but we were open to whatever the Lord would show us, outside in a park on a summer morning. I love the idea of praising God, in English and Spanish, out in the park – may others hear and hearts stir!

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Everyone was kind and welcoming. After a time of praise, the pastor spoke with a simple message from John chapter 3, ok. It was good to be with neighborhood folks, most I have never met. However, after the service we met with the pastor to flesh out the beliefs, mission, and teachings of the church. He was excited about youth outreaches, invites to athletics and games and gauging the needs of the community. From there he spoke with vigor of his Genesis Bible study, expounding on things that most people, including myself, don’t know and never heard of…”the first tabernacle was really in the Garden of Eden…..” He quoted a central author in this discovery whose name he mentioned several times but I can’t remember.

He explained at length how violations of “Social Justice” is the central issue behind of Israelites’ exile, founding the church mission of social justice. We could barely wedgeway into his mount of scriptural justifications – my head couldn’t digest his perspectives. Back to Genesis I honed in to ask point blank, “Do you believe in the Biblical account of creation, that God made all in six days?”

A two second hesitation here is all I need but he fueled up more fervor to explain how he was ‘freed’ from the conventional Biblical account through elaborate studies in sophisticated theology, history, and Egyptian culture. I will not even elude to at or hint at what he shared; unraveling the supernatural demonstrations of God’s power and His magnificence is just devilish.

At the end I restated, “I believe in the Bible’s account, it is the foremost introduction to God’s greatness and awesomeness. To diminish that, questions all of His supernatural power and the miracles throughout the Bible…”

As though speaking down to the ‘unenlightened’ he replied, “Yeah, my father still believes that” (I immediately thought, does he have a church? Where is it?) he added, “…and about 30-40% of our attendees at the church still believe that” (Until, I thought, they take your Genesis course and the truth is scrubbed out of their hearts!)

We left with my head swirling with ‘deep’ religious explanations I had never imagined but, moreover, I was heartbroken for the lack of holiness, brokeness for the lost and a fear of God.

God can surely call us to a place that is imperfect, incomplete – even chaotic. But never where truth is disdained and error is taught with fervor. Not sure how long we’ll still be in the Heights but my heart is still searching for God’s presence here and perhaps some sheep to join in worship, who love God and His precious unchanging word, and have a heart for the lost.

I will “keep on asking, seeking, and knocking”, praying for the Lord to order the steps of my feet and my heart. May He lead us to where He is working that we may co-labor with Him in the fields for the harvest.