When God Leads Into a Pothole

The three weeks of Prayer in the Plaza proved to be fruitful and defining for me.  I cannot measure the impact of God’s work amongst our first responders, patients, and families but I can testify that keeping an appointment has this great benefit – God shows up.   He speaks and impassions when our hearts seek to align with His.

At the same time, several of us embarked on an End Times Bible Study, posted once a day through Frontier Alliance International*.   This 14 lesson Bible Study is enthralling, opening up and igniting once-familiar prophetic scriptures.  Fruitful prayer time and Bible study churned my heart even more than before.  My husband and I both agreed – we want to be in the flow of God’s work, we want to fulfill all His call and service appointed to us – we so want our lives to count for the Lord in these end days.  

Spiritually invigorated, I prepared for a fast to go further in devotion and hear from the Lord.  To what might He call me?  To serve here in NYC, perhaps utilizing social work credentials to counsel or maybe the Lord would call us away.  I knew He would lead as I drew near…so sure and with such anticipation I began my fast, but it quickly seemed obliterated…

Before leaving for work, Bob unwittingly disclosed something that ignited a past deep marital wound.  My emotions erupted into an argument which continued fuming after he left, even moreso when I blamed him for ruining my peaceful quest to search God’s will.  How could I seek the Lord when I’m so angry?  

I immediately recalled a comment that I had just posted on David Ettinger’s site (EttingerWriting.com)  basically stating that God uses crisis and personal calamity to expose what is in us that we might rout it out to move forward in service.  This truth strongly pressed upon me, undeniably revealing a fleshly wound and sin that must be surrendered.

At first I thought I could ignore the fuming of my heart and open the word of God.  Not possible.  If you’re truly seeking God, He will mercifully corner you with what He wants to say.  I could not escape compelling verses calling believers to ‘obey’ the word of God, wives ‘respect’ their husbands, ‘submit’…there was no way to move forward without hashing this out.  The ‘argument’ was not ruining my fast, it was actually God’s response to my heartcry to serve.

When our heart is at ‘X’ but God commands ‘Y’ we can only pray for the Lord to change our heart, superficial formulas do not work.  (Although I did google ‘How to Respect Your Husband When He’s a Jerk’ which was a bit helpful).  I had to admit though, I fail at having, “…the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  If God greatly values “gentle and quiet”, He must loath to see angry and argumentative!

So, my fasting began yesterday with a repentive cry for God to change my heart, heal my heart, and enable me to obey.   Although not perfect, by the time Bob returned home, my heart had softened toward kindness and respect.

Prayer in the Plaza and invigorating Bible studies stirred my heart with a greater longing and passion to know God’s will and serve Him.  Instead, a dust-up revealed flaws of my heart, a pothole I could not but go through.

But going through, I’m pressing on – trusting in our Forerunner with Whom we will not fail!

*Frontier Alliance International   –  for End of Age Bible Study:  First download Frontier Alliance International App, then Go to Maranatha tab,  then Global Bible Study then End of Age (white horse icon), click on  Main Sessions.

 

 

Prayer in the Plaza

Many readers, family and friends may remember our community battles here with Columbia University’s ongoing land grab in New York City, posted here ,  here, and here    for example.  Commandeering housing and small businesses, they set their sites on our street to take a stretch of it for their ‘plaza’.  While the community fought to save our street, the wheels of political and financial power spun against us.  Soon part of our street was closed and the work began.

However, as believers, we grip a hold of God’s sovereignty, even in times of loss, defeat, and disappointment.  “Who knows”, I thought in the end, “maybe we can use the plaza for a Christian event or something…”.  Admittedly I was sour to them though as they closed the street and began their work, “I won’t step one foot onto this plaza!”

That was last year.

All of that is inconsequential to the crisis here in NYC with Covid-19, deeply shaking us all.  While close friends are suffering with this illness, community members have died, and friends and relatives go bravely to work in hospitals and correctional facilities, I prayed, as many do, what might I do, Lord?  Yes, we help those who are affected, sharing and delivering groceries but how can the Lord be exalted?

While praying one morning, it came to me that the ‘plaza’ is adjacent to the hospital.  All the students left weeks ago, it is just a vacant area with chairs, tables and planters.  Ambulances speed by, hospital staff scurry to work….I need to be there, I need to press in and pray and take a stand for the Lord!    

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I sit right behind the sign

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My daily prayer meeting, 10-11am, includes me and the Holy Spirit – and others who are joining in from their homes.  Prayer points include:

  • Prayer for nurses and doctors, EMS, hospital support staff – firstly for brethren who are serving, may the Lord undergird them, speak words of life to them overflowing to coworkers and patients.  For all those who have heard the Gospel, who may have an ember of faith, may the Lord fan those embers into flames and ignite a living faith.  Lord, let them sleep well at night, give them rest, encourage them in every way.  Speak to those who don’t know You, draw them to Your word and let them find strength in You.
  • Patients and their families –   Be a source of healing, Lord, physical, emotional, and spiritual.   Lord, many are now at the edge of eternity.  I pray that there may be a harvest even now, let a believing nurse, attendant, or food service worker speak an apt word, an appointed word.  For those patients suffering who have heard the Gospel, Father in heaven, fan those truths within them and bring them to repentance and safe into Your arms.                                                                                       I pray for their families who tragically say goodbye at an ambulance, never to see their loved one alive again.  Comfort them Lord, and draw them to You.
  • Encouragement for support staff in health care and law enforcement –  they are often hidden away from limelight – food workers, custodial and maintenance staff, nurses aides, secretaries/receptionists, suppliers.  Draw them to You Lord, let them find their strength in You.  Put a song in their heart as they work, often behind the scenes.
  • For law enforcement, NYPD, NYFD, DOCS, and security teams – encourage them,  strengthen them Lord, protect them from criminal assaults and virus infection.  I pray for the believers within, such as Correction Officers for Christ and those in the NYPD,  let Your Holy Spirit pour forth through them, sharing Gospel truths even to the inmates.
  • I pray for all those passing by –  hospital staff, dog walkers, residents –  Lord, let them read the sign and kindle their hearts to ‘PRAY’,  let that word stick to their hearts and follow them.  Let them begin to think of You.

There are many other points to pray as the Lord leads.  Over all this I am also praying…Lord, don’t waste this affliction.  Bring our community, our city, our state, our nation to repentance.  Confound our self-reliance and our pride in this time of shaking and turmoil…in Your mercy turn our eyes upon You. 

This can be our finest hour to rise up and honor God through this darkness.  May the Lord loosen our grip on this world,  give us greater hunger for His word and deepen our devotion to Him.  May our remaining days count for Him and fulfill His purposes – no matter how big or small they may seem.

 

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.*

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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.

 

Love Thy New York Neighbor

The Lord’s famous ‘Good Samaritan’ story often stirs my heart.  Sometimes I wonder, why did He use the term ‘neighbor’ when the needy person in the story did not “live next door or near the person in question”?  Two ‘neighbor’ stories always come to mind, one near and one far….

A few years ago a Mormon couple moved into the apt next door.  They were a bit overly friendly and even baked cookies to leave at everyone’s door.  (But no one I know would eat food left at their door)  Soon after, invites to Mormon services were given and, not surprisingly, the flyers looked very ‘mainstream Christian’.   I wondered, was this ‘loving your neighbor’?

The second story is far away and long ago when my father lived in Aleppo.  As a youth he worked for an Arab in a small shop around a cluster of stores.  One day there was an Islamic uprising against the Jewish community, Jews were beaten and shops were vandalized.  When club wielding, menacing men came to the Jewish shop next to my father, the Arab dashed out and stood in front of the Jewish shop.  He spread his arms wide across the doorway and boomed, “You must kill me first to get to them.  They are my neighbors!”

Born in the rough and tumultuous Middle East, Jesus’ concept of ‘neighbor’ defies most superficial ones of today.

I try to uphold ‘neighborly love’, sometimes incidentally, carrying groceries for elderly, visiting someone sick, getting mail.  Sometimes, it is a commitment of friendship such as with ‘Hilda’ in Juanita’s Joy and Making The Last Seconds Count.  But the truth is, I was hungry for more – more love to flow in and through me.

If God “determined the times set (for men) and the exact places where they should live” it would seem that one’s ‘neighbors’ are assigned as well – whether they are near or not.   While my heart was burdened for the Kurds oppressed and under fire in Syria and I was drawn to the ministries of Kurdistan, the Lord made His will clear…

I was disappointed that my heart was so kindled but not by God.  Shortly after the Kurdistan kibosh though, God opened the door of my neighbor’s life and ushered me in.  Joanna*, a single working parent with a chronic illness, always seemed okay and self-sufficient.  But when her life unraveled through illness and loss and without family or support she was greatly needing an outpour of “oil and wine”.

When the Lord kindles the love, the ‘oil and wine’ begin to flow.   Coming alongside her with childcare, practical resources and emotional support seems supernatural in that it is not ‘taking away’ but ‘adding to’ my life…friendship, pleasures of giving and mentoring, and the joy caring for a cheerful toddler…

Moreover, Joanna spoke of a church life some time ago.  The Holy Spirit is stirring a living faith and I believe she will grasp the Gospel and find the new life promised through our Savior Jesus.

May we always have the faith to thank God when the crossing bar lowers on our path, pausing us, redirecting us or just stopping us from pursuing our own desires.  And may He order our steps and infill our hearts with the “oil and wine” ready to flow toward that “neighbor” along our path!