He is Sovereign Over All Our Enemies

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph. 6:12                   

The problems you are having with your husband, your in-laws, your co-workers, and your kids, are not with them. No, they are flesh and blood. The battle is really with powers and principalities, Satan and his demons. You must fight spiritual enemies with spiritual warfare.  (Excerpt from 4 Rules For Fighting Your Enemy, http://www.amountainoffaith.com )

We don’t often think of “powers and principalities” or “Satan and his demons” as the cause of so much distress, calamity and grief.  The article quoted above holds important truths worth meditating upon.

Our faith in God will deepen exponentially as our trust finds deep roots in His sovereignty over everything – including our enemies.  The word of God demonstrates this most profoundly when God Himself lets down a protective hedge, allows the enemy to encroach, and shakes our heart to rise up in faith.  In this way He reveals Himself to us, His faithfulness and power – a great reward indeed.  

The Lord showed this again to me during a long distance drive last weekend…..

Although my husband had repented from a period of backsliding in our marriage, he is plagued by attacks of darkness,  partly due to entanglements with those who practice witchcraft.  I see and experience evidence of this witchcraft.  One minor occurrence he reports happens in his agency truck – hazard lights will go on, A/C will turn on or off on its own, warning lights will flash for no reason.  

It was inconsequential to me until in our own car with our two cats and lots of stuff on that long distance drive….

The A/C went on high and cold.  When I complained to my husband, he insisted, “I didn’t touch it! Maybe this is like my vehicle, things going on and off on their own…”  

“Well”, I drove on, “I don’t care if the A/C, the hazards or anything else flashes on as long as nothing touches the engine or brakes!”

Shortly thereafter, while in a middle lane of a major highway and with 30 miles left to our journey, the car started shaking and jerking.  Bob immediately laid a hand on the dashboard and we both prayed.  The shaking and jerking stopped, occurred again and we continued praying for the Lord to bring us home safely.  

Which He did.

Mechanical? Supernatural?  Intentional or not, our trust must be in the One who claims total ownership of our lives.  We are His “treasured possession”, we “are bought with a price.”    (Deut 7:6, 14:2;  I Corinthians 6:20, 7:23)

Remember that our Lord has paid all the price for us; there is no mortgage or lien upon us; we have therefore no right to give a portion of ourselves to Satan. And he has bought us entirely from head to foot, every power, every passion, and every faculty, all our time, all our goods, all that we call our own, all that makes up ourselves in the largest sense of that term; we are altogether God’s.   Charles Spurgeon, “Bought with a Price” excerpt

Yes, our life is not our own, we are to surrender and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice unto God.  But our Owner takes full responsibility for us, providing, defending, and seeing us through every situation.   

In these end times, may the Lord teach us how to spiritually battle, lead us to dig deep into His word and stand firm behind His living promises to us…..waiting upon Him for the appointed time of victory.

 

Can Animals Preach the Gospel?

Can they proclaim the Good News and the glory of God?

Lovers of scripture can indeed find numerous examples of God expressing His great power and divine purposes through His creation.  At God’s command insects, animals, and forces of nature plagued and destroyed the world power of Egypt.  Balaam’s donkey spoke, animals obeyed the call to the ark, and at Christ’s call schools of fish arrived to the disciples’ boat.

“For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine.  If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it.  (Psalm 50:10-12)

Creation declares God’s glory and He reveals it to us through the most minute details as well as the vast and endless universe.  He reveals so that we may acknowledge His awesome power.    God knows us…His will is that we come to know Him.

God’s creation reveals His glory but also His great love and divine providence.  God uses His creation to intervene into the lives of people often as divine appointments, impossible to plan or replicate.  Reigning over creation, His will often supersedes natural order, such as a ravenous bird delivering food…

 Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.”  (I Kings 17:4)

Or perhaps a tiny kitten going forth in the rain.  This five minute video expresses such ‘divine appointment’….

vet saved by kitten

Desperate  soldier saved by kitten

View video here

There are countless true heroic stories of dogs and other animals rescuing, guiding, and ministering to people.  Martha Thompson is one blogger and author with such a story to tell in her book,  Giving Paws, where an unlikely service dog enables her to face the many life challenges of a hidden disability.     

giving paws book

The story is as beautiful as the cover photo

There is no way to schedule such divine appointments nor could we ever arrange to have our deepest needs and hidden grief so touched through them.   These stories and perhaps even our own move us to laugh, cry and marvel.

Looking deeper,  marvel at this – God intervenes in our lives through His creation, gifting us with His mercy and revealing His greatness. As a cherished gift conveys the love of the giver, so even animals given to us can express – even silently preach – the good news of God’s love reaching into our lives.  The Lord ministers, heals, and intervenes into our lives for the divine purpose of drawing us to Himself.

When creation intervenes it is an living invite from our Creator.

Jesus Christ, our Savior, is the One holding dominion over all creatures and creation…

For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.  Colossians 1:16

Our furry friends, designed and often gifted by God, can teach, guide, love, rescue, and befriend…and perhaps they can preach as well!

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”  (Job 12:7-10)

Lord, reveal Yourself to us today through the gifts of Your hand.  Let thanksgiving lead us on a journey to acknowledge You and seek You in all circumstances.  Draw our hearts to look beyond every gift and “fix our eyes on Jesus”, “the Author and Finisher of our faith”.   Amen.

 

What Kind of Grass Are You Eating?

God made King Nebuchadnezzar one of the greatest kings to rule the world.  Unlike Pharaoh of Egypt whom God raised to display His power and awe (Exodus 9:16) and later destroyed in the Red Sea, King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful pagan king with ordained purpose.  God chose and empowered this world ruler to exact judgment upon His chosen people.  He witnessed supernatural power through godly exiles such as Daniel but none of this ‘favor’ changed the king’s heart nor brought him to a saving revelation of God.

He had to be separated – stripped of all position, honor, power and even stripped of sanity.  Although led to eat grass like an animal, King Nebuchadnezzar was covered by God, “drenched with the dew of heaven”.  Appointed suffering and deprivation prepared this king to know God and proclaim God’s glory to the world.  (see Daniel chapter 4)

This is not just a fantastic testimony of a world power, it is a revelation of God’s way.   Our Almighty God still chooses to reveal His power and glory through frail and faulty vessels and most often to do so He separates us, strips us, and deprives us of worldly and fleshly pleasures and positions.   With divine purpose, God can drive us to eat the grass of illness, deprivation, anguish, and ‘dethronements’ of all kinds. 

The ‘dew of heaven’ is evident upon the lives of many believers such as Terri Nida.  While fasting and seeking God’s will, she fainted with a precise fall that would leave her a quadriplegic.  Separated and ‘dethroned’ from her old life, she testifies of God’s divine purpose and sustaining power in her site, Diary of a Quadriplegic.  In her most recent post, To Live Is Christ, (9/29/17) she extols and praises God…

 

terri nida“Praise be to God for my wheelchair. I believe through this trial, he is saving my soul. I believe through this trial, he is making me whole. God is making me into the woman I always wanted to be — maybe not externally, but by leaps and bounds internally. All those years I felt sorry for myself and tried to drink my troubles away because I felt so empty inside. I’d rather be sitting in this wheelchair than sitting in a dark apartment drunk on wine. I’d rather be sitting in this wheelchair than mindlessly going to work every day wondering who I am and what is my purpose; always wanting more, more, more from my life. I’d rather be sitting in this wheelchair than living as a lost soul in this world without a relationship with God, stuck in a rut with no way out, wondering why am alive?   Read whole post here:   To Live Is Christ

Through whatever ‘grass’ we are compelled to eat – physical and/or emotional affliction, deprivation, grief, or loss, may we be “drenched with the dew of heaven” –  God’s presence and favor – and find encouragement by trusting in God’s sovereignty over every detail of the appointed affliction.  I pray that the Lord reveal Himself in greater measure, refilling us with the joy of His divine purpose.

Before He answers let us “acknowledge that Heaven rules”.

 

 

God in the Midst of a Jail Cell

200183103-001

The Lord revealed important truths to me as I shared the Gospel with parolees and inmates.  One is eloquently expressed by Charles Spurgeon in “What the Farm Laborers Can Do and What They Cannot Do”  Farm Sermons, The Spurgeon Archives. (great article, can read:  here)

Let us now think of what you cannot do. You cannot, after the seed has left your hand, cause it to put forth life. 

I learned this best when working with Ms. “M”, who was on parole for manslaughter.   Ms. M was very receptive to parole and a positive working relationship was easily established.  She was also very receptive to the Gospel and was grateful to receive a Bible, sermon tapes and church invites.  Home visits were meaningful as her two children were happy to see me.  Ms. M brought her children to special church events however, while she wanted her children to learn of the Bible, she herself remained carnal and unsurrendered.

I became a bit really discouraged, it seemed that two years of counsel and prayer yielded little. In fact, things worsened…Ms. M relapsed into drug use and became non compliant to treatment.  I was very concerned as a violation for a violent felony offender would result in significant jail time, a hardship for a single mother.  After a two years of community living, would she now go back to jail?

Finally, there was no choice.  Arresting her unleashed a torrent of drama, tears, and even anger….then pleading….but the die was cast.

I transported her to Rikers Island, shut her in a holding cell, and lodged the warrant.

Normally a VFO (violent felony offender) would be mandated to minimum one year incarceration however, it seemed that an exception was happening for Ms. M.  In fact, she was released within several weeks, mandated again to a program, and reported to my office.  I was ready for the same-old same-old…..but things had changed.

Her heart erupted as she shared….

When you locked me in that cell I sat on that bench crying, my head in my hands…I was so angry and felt like such a failure…when I opened my eyes I noticed a torn piece of paper on the bench.  It was just a scrap from a Bible tract….on it was half a verse from Acts.  When I read it I broke down and gave my life to the Lord!

I was speechless.  After all the sharing, inviting, godly counsel and admonishments, a half a verse in a jail cell brought her to repentance and surrender!  I could see how the Lord moved on her behalf, expediting her release, returning her home to her children, and revealing to her His faithfulness.  She planted herself in church and opened her life to serving God.

I often share this testimony with others to encourage them (and remind myself!) that we cannot “make anything happen” but God Himself takes action when we are faithful to sow seeds, serve as He calls, and pray for Him to intervene.

I am so grateful when the Lord confounds me!

 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  (I Corinthians 3:7)

plant growing

Only God Can Make It Happen

 

God in the Midst of a Package

for you package

In my recent post, “God in the Midst of Parole”, 8/18/17, I shared the testimony of Ms. G.  This testimony is an ‘addendum’ to that.  After Ms. G entered the residential program,  I prepared a ‘package’ for her with encouraging tapes and a cassette player.  Before reaching her program, I had to make eight home visits. While I never carried anything while making visits (typically I walked through the neighborhood and needed to have hands free) I made an exception this day and carried this package to the eight home visits.

This testimony was submitted to the tape ministry who provided the sermon tapes.

The Lord really used this package!  Parolees whom I visited all asked, “Is that for me?”  When I said “no” they responded, “Oh…I thought you were bringing me tapes.”  The Lord really lifted my heart, seeing these rough and often troubled ex-felons actually disappointed that a package of Christian tapes is not for them.  But I always carry tapes in my safari vest to give out…

This ‘package’ became an object of testimony.  One visit that morning was a ‘pre-release’ visit, to meet with family members before the inmate is released.   This inmate’s mother, ‘Ms. B’  was very receptive to me and we discussed her son’s release and the home in general.  Unexpectedly, this mother opened up and began to speak of her troubles, hardships, and fears.

Her (soon to be released) son had been in and out of prison, never did well, then got syphilis which spread to his brain.   Her grown daughter is also in and out of prison and was recently released and has AIDS.  Ms. B is raising her daughter’s children whom I met in the home.  Ms. B is gainfully employed downtown near Ground Zero and expressed the recurring turmoil and fear she has since the terrorist attacks.

Finally she said, “I never share my troubles like this!  I’m sorry to take your time and bother you”.  (Actually, I cherish this trust and opportunity).  I gently suggested that she might come to church.  That invite opened the door to minister the Gospel.  I asked her where her daughter was living.  She said, “Such and such shelter program.”  (Which is adjacent to the residential program where I am taking the package!)

I said, “Ms. B, see this package?  I’m taking it to the residential program next to your daughter’s shelter. ”  The door opened to share Ms. G’s testimony,  how the Lord moved in her life, bringing about change and giving her real hope.  Ms. B was so encouraged.  I gave her some tapes from my pocket and she asked what our church believes.  Her countenance lifted, “Please, make sure you write down the address!”

 

Yes, God was in the midst of that package but only because He abided in my heart.  I believe it is the Lord’s presence and our zeal to share Him that can make anything special in our hand…especially when it’s gifted to others.

Unlike our culture, the Lord never needs or seeks the wealth, resources, the natural talents of people or fancy technology to reveal Himself.  Sovereign God of the universe seems to choose ordinary things like a shepherd staff, rounded stones, a basket with fish and bread, even dirt mixed with spit….His spit.

I want an expectant and zealous heart, knowing that the Holy Spirit moves through what seems ordinary, small and humble.

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  (Romans 12:11)

“Lord, I pray for a renewed zeal for You and for the lost.  Help us to see that wherever You place us and whatever You give us has potential for eternal value.  Incline our hearts toward Your will and weigh our hearts with desire to fulfill it.  Amen.”

 

God in the Midst of the Ashes

Security Ministries in large urban churches address everything from intentional service disturbances and criminal activities to the behavior of broken and lost sheep.  I have served in this ministry for 20 years now.  In many venues of security, ‘nothing usually happens’.  However, for the expectant heart, something might surely happen.  As a Parole Officer, I had an expectant heart so when in 2013 the church produced The Cross and the Switchblade from Pastor David Wilkerson’s book, I invited many parolees and their families.  Several parolees did attend and were encouraged but I might add that many more were encouraged just to be invited somewhere!

Here is a testimony that I shared with one of the pastors on the last night of the production:

Although we had to shut the doors by 7 pm, turning away about 100 people, at 7:30 there were still determined folks in the foyer of the rotunda trying to get in any way possible.  We tried to squeeze people in every area of the church, the annex, the lower rotunda and the fourth floor but we reached the limit.

One young woman approached me with a passionate plea.  “Please, there must be one more space for us.  This young man, (she motioned behind her) must hear from the Lord!  This play was meant for him!”

I looked at the young man behind her, leaning against the wall, slightly swaying with anxiety and chewing gum ferociously.  He looked rough and  nervous and I thought, ‘he’s been in jail.’  I had to reply though, “I believe you!  But I am SO sorry, there is not one seat left…there are fire codes…blah, blah”  However, when I turned to address other folks, I felt drawn back to her.  It was as if the Lord had a spotlight on these two.

“Please”, she pleaded, “He must see this play!  He was meant to be here!”

I really felt the Lord moving.  “Look.  If the Lord really wants him here, there will be a spot for you both.  Come with me.”

As we entered the rotunda, heading toward the sanctuary, the young man went ahead of the woman.  She quietly shared with me, “He just did 13 years in prison for setting a fire.”

I asked, “Is he on parole?”  She said yes.  I shared that I am a parole officer and was so glad that they had come.  Then I asked, “Are you a relative of his?”

With a slightly pained look she said, “Ah, no….It was my father that was burned in the fire he set.”

I planted them in the back of the sanctuary, she was so grateful.  He did not say a word. 

I really sensed the Lord’s burden to pray for this young man.  When I resumed my lobby post, everything was quiet and peaceful.  I was able to quietly cry out to God while on duty.  Occasionally I peered into the sanctuary (parole officer that I am) to see how things were.  This young man seemed more relaxed, totally riveted by the play.

At the end of the play, when the actor comes out for the final narration, the whole church was silent and attentive.  I watched through the glass door.  While not a soul stirred, this young man slowly started walking down the aisle.  As the actor cried out to the audience with passion, this young man continued a lone walk to the stage, no one stopped him  It was as if chains were falling from him and he was surrendering.

The play ended with an altar call and both the young woman and man came up to me full of joy.  The woman hugged and kissed me.  Pastor, this young man was truly changed.  There was a peace over him and he had real joy.  He hugged and kissed me also.  I asked his name and told him mine and said, “Please come back!  Please make this church your home!”

I do not know what happened to these folks after this night but I do know that the Lord had them on a journey toward Him.  I am so grateful that He allowed me to peek in at the work of His hand, touching the lives of broken people.

My ‘joie de vivre’ was parole, where God put a love and burden in my heart, an assurance that He assigned my cases, and an expectation of His presence in the midst.

I am no longer at Parole but a place in life which seems to me more like barren Patmos.  For more on that click here:   (Ever Find Yourself in Patmos?) But even Patmos has divine purpose.

And the Lord is here as well….I anticipate a post, ‘Testimonies From Patmos’.  🙂

“Lord, thank you for Your faithfulness through all the seasons of our lives.  You remain the same even if the season painfully changes.  Help us Heavenly Father to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Incline our hearts toward You. I sincerely pray that You renew our passion and grant us that burdening love that compels us to share Your Gospel with great expectation.”

Amen.

 

God in the Midst of Parole

During my years as a parole officer, the Lord opened many doors to share the Gospel with parolees, their family members, and others in the community. It was such an exciting part of my work. I journaled a few of the many testimonies to share with a ministry at my church. They still move me and encourage me, even now as I wait upon the Lord.

Perhaps one will encourage you…

‘Last year I received the case of Ms. G, a female with a long history of violence, prostitution, and drugs. I prayed but initially found no open door to share the Gospel – in fact, I saw the door quite closed. As a lesbian, she was living with her female partner who was Muslim. Within weeks of her release to Parole she proudly presented a marriage certificate from the Domestic Partnership Office of City Hall. Ms. G was so happy but my heart sank – she seemed so unreachable. I kept praying, often adding, “…Lord, I have no idea how you can reach her.”

Shortly thereafter her life began to unravel. She became difficult to find and unstable. In her last office report it was apparent that her life was undone….there was violence in her home, relapse into drugs, and total despair. I hardly recognized her, she looked like a wild woman. Before I could intervene with any real help, she absconded.

Ms. G was soon arrested on drug charges. With a warrant and violation charges, I planned to see her at Rikers Island the next day. That was the day I committed to the Lord to wake up early for devotions and prayer. At 4:30am I prayed for Ms. G and truly believed in my heart that the Lord was going to do something.

I always liked to have encouraging things to share when an opportunity arises…a booklet, tape, or small New Testament. But while on the train I realized that I had nothing special to share with Ms. G, should she be receptive. I sat back and began reading my Billy Graham magazine, ‘DECISION’. The first article explained salvation, how to be born again. The second article was about obedience to the Lord. The third article was a powerful testimony about a lesbian prostitute who became a Christian. The Holy Spirit washed over me with confidence that this was for Ms. G.   I was so excited I could hardly wait to get to Rikers Island!

I arrived at the facility and waited a long while…but so full of anticipation knowing with confidence that the Lord is working. Finally correction officers brought Ms. G to the Counsel Room, a tiny room where thick glass separates the inmate from the P.O. I took the violation papers and magazine out of my brief case. Ms. G still had that wild look and when she realized I had a warrant she lashed out with fury…

She was demanding and angry, blaming me for her failures and woes. My heart sank, I thought, ‘Lord, how could I have been so wrong?…No, I’m not wrong! I know what You spoke to my heart!’ After her tirade, I delivered some forceful pointed truth to Ms. G about her destructive behaviors and bad decisions. At the end I added, “…and don’t lie about no one helping you! Didn’t I do such – and – such…” I slowly began putting the magazine back in my bag but for some odd reason I blurted out, “…and on top of that, I brought you this magazine!”

Her face froze, as though I had said, “…a million dollars!” She became so deflated and meek, “You brought me a magazine?” Something happened inwardly, the Holy Spirit was moving. I pulled out the Decision Magazine and began to cautiously minister to her. ‘Well, I don’t know if you believe in God…’ She cut me off, “Yes! Yes I do! I was praying all day yesterday for God to get me out of jail!” I slipped the magazine under the plexiglass opening. ‘This is one of Billy Graham’s magazines…’ Ms. G blurted, “I know Billy Graham!”

Everything I shared seemed to touch a hunger in her. I was so amazed. I asked her if she believed in Jesus. “Yes I do! But I don’t know how to pray or what to do…I need SO MUCH HELP!” For the next hour she shared with me all her brokenness and despair. Ms. G said she was in the Rikers Island infirmary because she had a heart attack from cocaine abuse. I encouraged her that the Lord was able to heal her, that He loved her and could give her a new life…wash away the old. I spoke about being born again, surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ. Ms. G exclaimed, “That’s what I want! How can I do that? How can I be born again?”

Just then, at that exact moment…the door swung open to the counsel room. A cheerful female Correction Officer asked with joy, “Did I hear someone wants to make a decision of Jesus Christ? Praise God! I’m a Christian too!!” By this time, all my hair is standing on end.

The magazine and the Christian C.O. proved to be a great encouragement to Ms. G. Her parole was violated, she was sent upstate for a brief period, and mandated to a treatment program.

Upon her release she returned to my office but I hardly recognized her. She was dressed with modesty and had an inner calm. I had never seen such a transformation. Ms. G was so eager to tell me – to testify – all that the Lord was doing. During her 4 month incarceration, the Lord had godly C.O’s around her and she attended the prison church. She learned about worship, prayer, and scripture. The C.O. assigned to her (by the State and by God) brought her into Bible study and foundational truths.

“The first place she brought me,” Ms. G explained, “was to Leviticus. I didn’t know homosexuality was so horrible to God. I had so much to repent…” I was truly amazed with her expressed love for the Lord and her knowledge of scripture as a new believer. Ms. G was full of joy describing how she was baptized while at the prison.

I visited Ms. G at the residential program some days later. She had given her testimony to the groups there, speaking strongly about the power of sin to destroy and the power of Jesus to save. She wrote a song, ‘Jesus Gets You Out’, it was wonderful!’

That was the end of the journal entry. I know Ms. G was transferred off my caseload as the program was out of my assigned area….that was several years and hundreds of cases ago.  It was a season of open doors during the early years of my walk with the Lord.

When eligible for retirement, a personal matter arose in my home and the Lord made the decision clear. It was, however, a deep loss for me. People thought I was crazy when I said, “I really love my job!”  A season of brokenness followed with unexpected loss, betrayal, and disappointment.  Crushed By God came forth from this season.

Whatever the season, may we move forward, press on, keep the faith….

“Lord, thank you for all Your faithfulness throughout every season. Help us to be faithful, regardless of our assigned station or place that we may fulfill the call to,

“Do your best to present yourself  to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  (II Tim 2:15)

Lord, I pray for all those who have heard the Gospel through our lives, no matter how small the seed.  Water every seed, fan every ember and encourage us in our daily walk.  Open our eyes Lord to every appointed encounter.  In Jesus name, Amen.”