The Gospel Proclaimed From a Distance

Before opening God’s word this morning I checked some news and recent posts from sites I follow.  In excatholic4christ Tom proclaims the Gospel (along with current events, special topics, etc)  with the hopes of releasing folks from false doctrine.  Today, in Weekend Round-up, he embedded a brief message by John MacArthur who, in part, extolled upon the Corona virus as an important opportunity to proclaim the Gospel.

Then I opened God’s word and, as I began to read II Timothy I realized…Paul was ‘social distanced’ for most of his ministry, preaching from prison and chains.  And wow, through him the Gospel spread throughout the world! 

Last week I read a very encouraging devotional message written by our late Pastor Dave Wilkerson. I frequently create my own cards, and felt inspired that morning to make one from this devotional,  adding personal messages for my family, relatives, and some faraway friends….  March 19th (2)

Each card had a personal message from me, some had added scriptures.  Here are some responses…

One elderly aunt texted me and said, “Amen and Amen!  Loved the reading, thank you!!”

Another aunt, turning 90 this year, called with much gratitude, “Lisa, thank you so much!  I know that Jesus is our only hope through everything, it’s only our faith that counts…”  We had such an uplifting time of sharing, I was so happy and impressed that her faith had come alive since our last contact.

My closest beloved relative, also turning 90 this year didn’t mention it at all.  In a subsequent phone call, when mail delivery subject came up she said, “Oh, I got that thing you sent in the mail.  Thanks”  and went on to another topic.  (I have to keep praying for my mom).

My sister Stephanie however, who is a nurse, called me to share this…as she received and began reading the card and scriptures enclosed, a close colleague called, overburdened and overwhelmed.  Marge* has a completely disabled husband and is the sole supporter of her home.  My sister said, “I just received this encouraging mail, I’m texting it to you now…”  When Marge read it she called my sister back in tears, “That’s just what I needed!  I need to trust God with all this….thank you so much!”  This meant so much to me as I have prayed in the past for Marge.

While I’ve struggled with feeling unproductive during these days, I’m praying for more ways, as John MacArthur preached, to proclaim the Gospel.  I hope to gain more from God’s word as well.

May the Lord stir all our hearts to proclaim Him and grow in Him…social distancing cannot stop the Holy Spirit and the Gospel from dispelling the darkness!

 

I Could Not Help Him Die

My brother’s birth was a most wonderful event in my life.  Being much older, I had the fun and fulfillment of sharing in Paul’s life events, learning to walk, going to school, homework helps, football cheers, wedding happiness and most joyful – the arrival of his precious children.

Even greater than all that was mentoring Paul into a living and saving faith through Jesus Christ our Savior.

When cancer struck him I was shaken but soon found that it deepened our fellowship with each other and importantly, with the Lord.  Daily phone counsel and prayer built us in faith and courage; although out of state, my frequent visits were precious.   I witnessed God’s work in Paul’s heart and faith and was certain of God’s call upon his life, positive that the Lord would heal.   When four year old Ella scampered by me one day, turned and surprisingly said, “Jesus is going to heal my dad!”  my heart was gripped…no way would God disappoint and dash her precious faith!

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A year later they would be fatherless

Within three years, Paul was hospitalized.  One day, shaking their heads, doctors called the family together, “there’s nothing more we can do…” My heart immediately erupted, ‘of course there’s nothing you can do, now God will show you what He can do!’ 

With courage and strength,  Paul knew he was dying, something I could not see nor receive.  I refused.  After so gladly sharing in all his life experiences, I dropped the ball at this crucial juncture of life and faith…I could not help him die

During his last night, I stood vigil by Paul’s side, praying through the night.  Even when he died the next day I reached out my hand to him, my heart cried, “now, even now Lord I believe You can raise him up!”

In the months that followed, the Lord brought healing into my anger and crisis of faith.  While I deeply regret not counseling Paul into eternity, in subsequent years God led me to help others, several parolees, who were suffering and dying.

This post has swirled in my heart for a while, perhaps the corona crisis stirred it up more.  However, I am convinced that our high call as Christ’s Body, especially toward our brethren, not only lies in mentoring each other as we walk with the Lord but mentoring each other as we die in the Lord.

In Charles Spurgeon’s Sermons on the Last Days, he preaches on Biblical truths regarding Christ’s return.  However, in the sermon, ‘A Last Lookout’ Spurgeon speaks of our own ‘end’, with a focus on the faith of apostles Paul and Peter…

“He (Paul) does not even say, ‘The hour of my death is at hand,’ but he adopts a beautiful expression, “the time of my departure” – words which are used sometimes to signify the departure of a vessel from the port; the pulling up of the anchor so that it looses its moorings when about to put out to sea…”

“Beloved believer in Christ Jesus…To die is to depart out of this world unto the Father.  What say you about your departure?”

The time of our departure, though unknown to us, is fixed by God, unalterably fixed; so rightly, wisely, lovingly settled, and prepared for, that no chance or haphazard can break the spell of destiny.”  (italics his)

“If you take counsel with death, your flesh will find no comfort; but if you trust in God, your faith will cease to parley with these feverish anxieties, and your spirit will enjoy a sweet calm…To live in constant communion with God is a sure relief from all these bitter frettings”

“There is a time to depart; and God’s time to call me is my time to go.”

May the Lord walk us through this life as His light for the truth, refreshing and encouraging those He appoints along the way.  May the reality of our eternal life in God’s Kingdom overshadow everything in this temporal world and become a living truth to share with others, to help them live and help them depart.

Hidden Gems on Prayer

 

15848842764352718631669038022870Yesterday I reviewed my bookcases, a project I periodically do to make room for more books.  The ‘giveaway’ pile is never big – I love my books and rarely shelve fluff or frivolities (those I borrow from the library!).   While going through my favorites like Watchman Nee, Charles Spurgeon, Zac Poonen, A.W. Tozer, David Wilkerson, Elizabeth Elliott, James Montgomery Boice…(Agh, forgive me for boasting of my treasures!) I found some written notes lodged in the shelf.

Entitled “PRAYER” on lined note paper, they were obviously points I made from one of my favorite books.  I sought but could not identify the inspirational source.  But, the truths are so good, I had to share them.  Here are the points as I wrote them….Anyone recognize the author of these truths?

 Prayer 

* for those in right relationship w/ God (“belong to Him”) 

* prayer is to “accomplish His will” 

*  is the act of the “believer working together with God” – the union of believer’s thought w/ the will of God.  

– not expressing our wish to God to yield to our petition, to fill up our selfish desire -prayer is joining in the will of God and crying out “Thy will be done”.                           -does not alter the will of God (which is foreordained)

Why God creates man?? (page 6)

  • – to be united with Him in defeating Satan and his works.  “He exalts His people by asking them to work w/Him”. 
  • “Prayer means that our will is standing on God’s side.  Aside from this, there is no such thing as prayer.”  (page 8)
  • Today:  How strong are our opinions, desires, plans and pursuits?  How much of ‘self’ in our prayers?

I John 5:14

*When a believer is in need….should we ask, “will such a lack affect God?  Does He want me to be in need?”  (Q: Can my need/suffering be an intricate part of God’s plan in my life at this time?)

“True prayer is real work”     “A self-denying work”

*To work for God w/out self interest is hard – to pray to Him w/out self interest is harder.”

“Prayer is the rail for God’s work (pg 11) as a train…a locomotive full of power capable of running 1000 miles a day – but w/o rails it cannot move a single inch.”  (relationship between prayer & God’s work)

*Our most important work:  prepare the way of the Lord.  “Whatever prayer is not according to God’s will is utterly void.”  We are fellow-workers w/ God – we cannot pray unless we know what His will is (example of Jesus – in continuous communion w/ God in Heaven, unified in will)

Highest motive of prayer:  to enjoin our will w/ God’s so that He may work. 

Page 19

Prayer that reflects/communicates our own expectations/our own thinking has a lo value attached to it;  However, if we bring the matter to God and let His Spirit merge our will and thought into God’s will, God’s thought, we shall discover within us a deep longing which is, in fact, a reproduction of His will & thought.  (His burden will be ‘reproduced’ in us)  AS SUCH:  Our prayer is able to shake up hell & affect Satan.  For this reason, Satan will rise up to hinder such prayer

“All prayers which come from God touch the powers of darkness.”

**Spiritual Warfare**

Perhaps our physical bodies, our families, or whatever pertains to us will be attacked by Satan.  Such prayer calls forth Satanic assault  (to discontinue our praying).  If a burden cannot be released thru prayer, fasting must follow.  “The Lord is always apprehending someone or some people to be the expression of His will.”  (pg 36)

“Burden” is the secret of prayer, w/o a burden to pray – there can hardly be success.  *If you are not touched inwardly, you cannot pray.*

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

These notes stir and refresh me in this time of uncertainty, may these points refocus my prayer.  I would like to review the source but at this time it eludes me!

May the Holy Spirit stir and refresh us all so, while the world churns and shakes, we will stand steadfast in payer and communion with the Lord!

 

 

 

Believers in the Day of Corona

Is the Corona Virus a passing calamity or worldwide catastrophe?  Only the Lord knows and His plan in these end days will prevail.  Here in NYC I just finished a morning grocery shop – bustling aisles with many empty shelves.  Yes, take precautions, yes stock up a bit but always keep a focus – what is the Shepherd’s plan for His sheep?   

I appreciate my husband’s protective qualities, “If things get bad, we’ll leave, we’ll go to New Hampshire or Massachusetts…”  These are options where family would welcome us.  Sometimes it’s God’s will to flee, sometimes maybe most times, it’s God’s will to serve.

One of my studies inspired me greatly this week.  Re-reading I Samuel, I noted in my heart how devoted David was to the sheep assigned to him.  According to his jealous brothers, they were but a “few sheep” (17:28).  But even as he ran with zeal to conquer a giant, David found a shepherd to oversee those sheep.  He fought for them and defended them.

This may seem weird but I’m sharing this anyway.  Yesterday I was searching for ‘stuffed acorn squash recipe’ on my phone and when I pressed search (or some button) this came up:  http://www.spurgeon.org, “Spurgeon and the Cholera Outbreak of 1854”.  (Site title is The Spurgeon Center).   Posted by Geoff Chang, Spurgeon’s response to this health crisis seems much like the heart of David:

“During that epidemic of cholera, though I had many engagements in the country, I gave them up that I might remain in London to visit the sick and the dying. I felt that it was my duty to be on the spot in such a time of disease and death and sorrow.”

Pastor Chang’s article more fully describes Spurgeon’s devotion to the suffering, even ministering to unbelievers who had previously mocked him.  Those who study and love Spurgeon know that he struggled with depression through his ministry however, during this dark time, he poured himself out as Christ to those stepping into eternity.

Popular and beloved, no doubt this spiritual giant could have ‘fled’ to places of tranquility but would have missed the call of Christ to those sheep, insignificant to the world but precious to the Good Shepherd.

Perhaps our Corona crisis will fade away or possibly turn into something we never expected.  Surely God is preparing His Body for worse days to come, surely He has left us here for His purposes and His call.  

While much of the city is shut down here and folks stock up to hunker down, I consider the sheep in my midst…my elderly neighbors and single parent ‘Joanna’ whose 3 year old I babysit every morning.  The thought of ‘fleeing’ fades from my mind.

Apostle Paul warned, “There will be terrible times in the last days”.  Jesus declared of these days, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Help us to stand firm Lord, wherever You post us.  Help us to be that light, a beacon for You and Your kingdom and fulfill every purpose intended for us.  Amen.

 

Inside Israel

We recently returned from a robust trip to Israel.  While our itinerary was jam packed, certainly every site we saw is a well tracked path.  So, I will not post pics of Masada, Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea or even the Armenian Quarter  (ok, maybe one)…

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Yousef*, our Arab Christian tour guide, expounded a depth of spiritual and historical knowledge as a native with 20 years experience leading Americans through Israel and Palestine.  He introduced himself as a “true believer in Jesus Christ” and often taught scriptural truths as related to various historical sites. It was obvious that he had a love for all the people we encountered – Jews, Muslims, Bedouins, and Druze – rich or poor.

It is not only what Yousef shared of Israel that still stirs my heart but what he revealed about us.

Yousef challenged the group at every Christian/religious site, “Can anyone describe what happened here?” “How was this place significant to Jesus Christ?” “Who was Herod the Great?…”  Either most of the group was shy or had little Biblical foundation.  While traveling at great cost and distance to see religious sites, most of the group was either unwilling or unable to converse in Biblical truths.

Yousef shared his experience during the tumultuous ‘Second Intifada’, 2000-2005, a time of violent uprising between Palestinians and Israelis.  He left Israel during that time, traveling to USA to possibly relocate to relative’s homes.  Job opportunities were sparse for him but what he recalls to us is this:  “I visited their church and was sure they would be focused with concern and prayer for the crisis in Israel.  When I came to the meeting however, they were all talking about which pizza had the best cheese.”  I felt a collective inner shame for the sated Body of Christ, isolated and disinterested in the suffering of distant brethren.

Our tour ended with an exhortation and plea,  “When you go home, open your Bibles, read them!  Let all that you’ve seen bring the words to life.”  Referring back to his time in the United States Yousef opened his heart, “I left the States in 2005 – I missed the dirty, noisy streets of Jerusalem!  I love this country and had to return….but now I regret it.  There’s an undeniable stirring, an certain unrest and hostility.  I tell you for sure, it is not ‘if’ war breaks out here, but ‘when’.”

As elsewhere in the Middle East, particularly Syria, the Christian population is suffering and shrinking.  Once 20% in Palestine, now Christians are 1%, fewer than 10,000.  Many may be ‘nominal’ Christians but even still my heart was burdened.  With the nonstop traffic of tour buses from all over, I wonder how many of these sojourning Christians will seek and receive a burden for these brethren?  Multitudes flock to religious icons and shrines, but how many will align with the burden of Christ’s heart for His people?

If we will “open our Bibles and read them” we too will see, it is not ‘if’ but ‘when’.  If we take our salvation with certainty, we must take the prophecies of scripture with like conviction in our hearts.  A celebrated authority will arise, the charismatic Antichrist.  Betrayal, violence, and chaos are destined for Israel.  Yes, God Himself with be their victory and triumph, but what is our role as Christ’s Body in the world?

I loved every bit of Israel and my visits to Palestine.  I want though, more than any itinerary and tour, to realize what the Holy Spirit is showing me – Lord, align and press in my heart your truths and views of this great land.

Go to Israel while you can.  See everything, there’s so much!  But let the Holy Spirit be your inner tour guide and open your spiritual eyes with heaven’s view!

(*not his real name)

 

Remember the Darkness But Stand in the Light

Cattle Car

Actual cattle car used to transport unsuspecting Jews to Auschwitz – Freedom Tower looms above.

There is a profound exhibit at The Museum of Jewish Heritage commemorating those who perished during Jewish Holocaust, particularly at Auschwitz.  I highly recommend a lengthy visit there to anyone visiting NYC.

I take a personal interest in the Holocaust as it sequentially follows the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide, 1915 to 1922.  In fact, Hitler famously boasted,

“Our strength consists in our speed and our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter – with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It’s a matter of indifference to me what a weak Western European civilization will say about me….. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”  August 22, 1939, excerpt from Hitler’s orders to Wehrmacht commanders, a week prior to Nazi invasion of Poland.

Premeditated, systematic and diabolical, the Ottomans’ plan proved a formidable forerunner for the Nazis.

map of transports to auschwitz

Transport strategy to rout European Jews to Auschwitz

list of jews in world

tally of Jews in Europe, summed for extermination

 

While Armenians, Jews, and other victims may cry, “Never again!”, we as believers understand that, even as our brethren are persecuted and suffer today, global persecution and annihilation is on the sure horizon.

The power of social engineering, scapegoating, and ostracizing was blatant in Germany, permeating the culture through education, media, and government.  Wickedness was ripe in the hearts of Germans when a Jewish teenager avenged the deportation of his parents by killing a German diplomat.   Kristallnacht – ‘the Night of Broken Glass’-  was the horrific response.   Fermented anti-Semitism exploded with violent destruction of Jewish stores, homes, schools, and synagogues.  From one youth’s crime came the arrest of 30,000 Jewish men who were then sent to concentration camps, solely for being Jewish.   While this unleashed the holocaust, Nazi Germany was strategically and socially prepared.

thousands arrested after kristallnacht

Thousands of Jewish men arrested during Kristallnacht. 

 

Those fortunate to visit this engrossing exhibit will see filmed testimonies, rare artifacts, Auschwitz reconstructions, military charts, photos and more.  Juxtaposed against cruel and relentless suffering and death was the phenomena of overwhelming German passion and devotion to Hitler.  Moreover, civilians and businesses were complicit in the murder of thousands systematically killed every day –  none of the concentration camps, death chambers, and crematories could have functioned without architects, engineers, suppliers, builders, and transport experts.

Two grievous realities became evident at this exhibit.  Despots like Talaat Pasha and Adolph Hitler are satanically inspired, if not indwelt.  Secondly, evident in the filmed interviews and testimonies, is the heartbreaking reality that nearly all the Jews marked for destruction did not believe it or perceive it until they actually arrived and faced it.

We must commemorate and honor those who suffered and perished and uphold the memory of brave heroes that stood up and risked all on their behalf.  But as believers in Jesus Christ and the living word of God, we must remember one more thing:  tribulation, persecution and death await those saints who live as the Anti-Christ arises.

We may not believe it, we may not perceive it, but unwarranted hatred for Christians is fermenting.  While our brethren in Islamic areas suffer daily, our plight is stirring in the undercurrents of social engineering, political posturing, and educational indoctrination.  This world power, the Anti Christ, will be “…given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.”

Unlike Hitler, who basked in the adoration of Nazi Germany, the Anti Christ will be adored throughout the world, “…every tribe, people, language, and nation.  All inhabitant of the earth will worship the beast..”   Unimaginable?

gas-chamber-auschwitz.jpg

The world watched as Christians and Jews were annihilated and the apathy continues today.  But we, as believers, cannot afford to be complacent, scripturally ignorant, or enrapt with the world.   This world is fermenting and cultivating an anti-Christ spirit that will ripen like ‘Kristallnacht’ – may we stand today and on that day in a way that honors our Lord. 

hitler quote

 

“…you despicable reprobate.”

This is a partial quote from a comment I made on a social media page under a photo of a triumphant hunter gloating over a killed magnificent elephant.   Wanton animal cruelty and desecration of God’s creation provoke intense emotions (in me anyway) however, even as I wrote that comment I sensed it was my flesh arising, not the Spirit of God within.

While this was still stirring in my heart, I read today David Ettinger’s post, The Gold Standard of Christian Behavior .  His focus points to the angry and provocative political comments posted by many believers in social media.  Through scriptural reference David rightly contends that it is unbiblical and ungodly, challenging readers:

“What possible good does such behavior accomplish in sharing the love of Christ with a lost and dying world? …Does posting hateful political messages…do anything for the cause of Christ?  Would an unbeliever really want to hear what you would have to say about Jesus?”

What would I say if I passed by such a ‘hunter’?  Can I, at all, change my focus from his prideful killing and imagine his eternal fate before the Creator?  Or, more to the point, can I look at my own past sinful deeds and call myself a ‘despicable reprobate’?

There are so many reasons to justify emotional fervor but only one reason for believers to resist – the word of God calls us much higher.  Investing our heart into political, social, environmental, animal welfare causes etc will always lead us into a fleshly battle where we’re fighting those lost in darkness.  It’s no threat at all to the works of Satan and sadly, no gain at all for the Kingdom of God!

Is there any place for righteous anger?

In Living As Jesus Lived, Zac Poonen presents the divine attributes of Jesus as our only standard – His purpose, His holiness, His power, His love.  In Christ’s holiness is also “His zeal for the purity of God’s house.”     Brother Zac further expounds:

“The Bible commands us to be angry without sinning. (Eph 4:26).  When the Roman soldiers beat Jesus and whipped Him in Pilate’s hall, He patiently bore it all.  He was never once angry where it concerned His own person.  Such anger would have been sin.  But where it concerned the purity of God’s house, it was different.  There, to refrain from anger would have been sin.”  (emphasis Zac Poonen)

The  apostle Paul expressed such zeal as he founded the first churches:

“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.  “Expel the wicked man from among you”.”    (I Corinthians 5:11-12)

To our discredit, much of our ‘righteousness’ as believers comes from judging unbelievers – we’re not as bad as those ‘despicable reprobates’.  But our claim to follow Christ mandates aspiring to a higher, separated standard.  Judging those in the world, who live in darkness, ‘captivated by sin’ is futile and ungodly.  But upholding God’s standards within the Body of Christ is mandated – we are His ‘ambassadors’, representing a holy God before a dark world.

How can we refrain from judging ‘despicable reprobates’ in the world?  How can we have the boldness to uphold God’s standards in the church?  Only God can ignite a grief in our heart for the lost and unlovable.  And only the Lord can raise up a godly zeal and impassion us toward holiness in the Body that claims to be His in this world.

Help me Lord, to walk in your ways!

Addendum:  I’ve received some verbal comments from some who are familiar with these ‘trophy hunters’.  They rightfully assert that the acts desecrating God’s creation is ‘despicable’.   I agree.  And, I would add, we are never called to redefine or diminish sin.  But, I clarified, when we judge the sinner, there’s no room to warn him that “the wages of sin is death”.   We can preach the Gospel and call people to repent, pray that the Holy Spirit brings them to “godly sorrow that leads to repentance”, but the gavel at the end belongs to the Judge.