The Caravan Keeps Going….

caravan

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.

Walk by the Spirit, Not by Sight

As I approached the mailboxes yesterday afternoon, there was Margarita*, one of my neighbors, opening up her ConEdison bill as I reached for my mail. Although Spanish speaking, she needed no words to express her angst as she tipped the paper toward me so I could read, FINAL DISCONNECT NOTICE. It seemed clear that she hadn’t paid her bill for at least a year. In our heat-included small apartments, gas and electric bills are fairly small. Margarita works, how could she let this happen?

I immediately sensed something was wrong, other than this big debt. Her countenance and affect seemed disoriented and she stumbled over simple questions I asked. So I urged her, “Call them, Margarita, you have to pay something soon, even $50, to prevent this turn off!”. Is she depressed? Having mental health issues? Admittedly we don’t know her that well.

Something was churning within me. Although Bob and I are quick to help neighbors in need, I felt a strong restraint here. My emotional response, moreover Christian response, is to help. But I know our emotions are fleshly and it is the Spirit that applies the scriptural call in every situation. Although we have on occasion helped Margarita, here, I was disturbed and restrained.

We walked up the stairway in silence. She probably expected some financial help and part of me questioned, “what kind of neighbor am I? She’ll be in the dark within a month!” Some people describe a ‘check in their spirit’, but I had a grip in my spirit and had to submit. I prayed and explained the whole situation to Bob, knowing that leadership comes from the husband. He did not sense the Lord’s leading to give. “There’s something wrong here Bob, I can’t pinpoint it but it’s bigger than the ConEdison bill.” I prayed about it and tabled the subject to the next morning.

I was still unsettled in the morning but after praying, I headed down to her apartment. At least I could call ConEd, perhaps make a minimal payment, or clarify her options. I knocked on her door. Then knocked again. Finally I heard a shuffling and she opened the door just a crack, then a bit wider where I could see in full view an altar of witchcraft. The depths of Santeria, beckoning demons with incantations and ritual, contaminate the soul and almost always bring about a mimicry of mental illness.

Margarita now acted paranoid. She gave me the bill, keeping the door cracked, and I said I’d call and try to help. After calling and clarifying I returned with the conclusion: Margarita herself, or her grown son, must call to discuss even a minimal payment, she has until January to do this.

The churning in my heart was relieved, realizing that the Lord was restraining me. Jesus did not always heal everyone, did not always feed everyone, neither did He meet every need but did only His Father’s will. It is not always God’s will to intervene in every way, especially if recipients give the thanks and praise upon a table of witchcraft. I have seen enough Santeria and Espiritismo to know how powerfully it corrupts a person inwardly and outwardly, always bearing ugly fruits.

Perhaps the Lord will lead us to speak the truth to Margarita, but only He can draw our hearts and prepare hers to hear the word. We will continue to pray for her. Will her lights go out? Will she lose her mind? Only God knows but for sure, if she calls upon Him with a repentant and contrite heart, He will come in with true light and deliver her from evil.

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!

In The Fowler’s Snare For Real!

After refreshing fellowship at church and a tasty lunch at home, FedEx rang the bell with Starry’s Chewy package, yay! I headed down the stairway to the lobby and, as is my habit, I glanced out the stairway windows as I went. I did a double-take at the 4th floor window, my heart quickly deflated. The roof of the next building had a large net surrounding a generator and a big pigeon was fighting wildly to get free.

Caught in the fowler’s snare and no way out!!

pidgeon stuck in net

When owner Columbia University evicted our beloved Bodega to install their own deli, nothing seemed right. I marched into the deli, photo in hand, and approached the cashier.

“I need to see the manager. Look here,” I flashed the pic, “there’s a bird caught in your net on the roof. We need to get up there…”

“Oh, the manager’s not around, probably back tomorrow…there’s no way to get to the roof”

“This can’t wait til tomorrow, this bird will die overnight! Someone must be able to get to the roof.” I went to the back and met with the sandwich guy who shook his head and referred me to the stock man. “Sorry, there is no access available to the roof. It has a special lock and no one can open it”.

“No one” can open a roof door? That’s a building violation.

Already late on a Sunday afternoon, I had to act fast, first contacting the main NYC complaint line, 311 to report Animal Abuse in progress. They referred me to NYPD who did actually show up within an hour. I was so hopeful, so sure they would be on that roof. But subsequent follow-up yielded the same response,

“Sorry, we couldn’t get access to the roof, no one is able to open that door.”

“Can’t you break it down? That bird is struggling so hard, he will surely die a slow death!”

“No, sorry, that’s how we get into so much trouble! We referred this case to ASPCA”

The sun was setting and now Mr. Pigeon is well enmeshed into the net, hanging upside down. I tried every possible intervention, even calling PETA. Bob and I prayed for God’s help. Lastly I turned to the neighborhood social media and posted the situation. Now it’s dark. I need not check on the bird again, my mind played its own tormenting video of the net swinging in the wind, pigeon upside down, and then it started raining hard...

With the wind blowing and rain pelting, the night was restless. With all the suffering in the world, why, I asked the Lord, can I not escape this pigeon? The Snare of the Fowler, by Charles Spurgeon, arose in my mind and gripped my heart. It is an excellent message from this great preacher, in which he quotes a song,

“Satan, the fowler, who betrays unguarded souls a thousand ways….”

The devil’s crafted snares are not for unbelievers – they are already subject to him. His cunning allurements, his deceit and secrecy is reserved for the unsuspecting believer…how could a light weight, nearly invisible net be of any harm anyway? Nothing will happen! Just go near and touch it, fly into it if you’d like!

I tossed and turned, wondering, as I viewed this tortured pigeon on the roof below, what must God’s view be like, seeing His people, called by His name, carelessly toying with sin and compromise – an invisible net that will surely disable and destroy. With love and urgency our Father warns us of danger, and yet so often we near the net, touch the net, believe that it is benign before we’re trapped.

It was still dark when I got up. I prayed but partly hoped the bird died quickly overnight to end his suffering. The media posting was growing with responses and suggestions. The care of unmet neighbors was very encouraging. Bob was leaving for work and I called another friend whom I know to be a ‘fighter of good causes.’ But he was sick and could not help so I offered to help him! But he urged me to check on the bird, “use binoculars” see if he’s still alive and call FDNY.

I really did not want to call the Fire Dept. I knelt and earnestly prayed, “Oh Father, send someone to help me! I can’t save this bird without You!”

With binoculars and a heavy heart I headed to the 4th floor window. Agh, looks dead….but as I watched…he’s ALIVE!!!

JUST THEN the building super came up the stairs to continue work on the 4th floor. “Radames!”, I immediately called out to him, especially since I appear to be spying through the window with binoculars! “Radames, come quick and see what I’m seeing!!”

He peered out, “Ohhh…..”

“Radames, that poor bird’s been fighting all night! My only last resort is FDNY! Do you know the store manager? How can we save that bird??”

“Wait here, just wait here…”

Five minutes later he called out, “I’m up here! I’m up on the roof!!!”

W H A T!?!

radames on roof

My ‘super’ super rescued the bird and held him up to me, wonderful!!! I shouted out the window, “Try and bring him down, I’m taking him for a check up, he’s injured!” I had the Wild Bird Fund ready to take him. Alas, as he loosened his grip the bird flew/tumbled down…Radames came back up the stairs.

“Radames! How did you get them to open the roof door!!”

“Those people don’t know anything! I climbed up the roof myself!”

W H A T!?!

I went outside with him to look for the bird, which had landed upon a high window sill. Impossible to get him, might he mend on his own?

But then I saw how he got up the roof….

back alley

He used two 10′ ladders! Up a narrow passage way, totally death defying to me!!!

Now dozens of people are chiming in on the media page, waiting to see the bird’s fate – the shared joyous relief was so uplifting!

The Fowler’s Snare, let us be alert and discerning! It is crafted to look harmless, even inviting, don’t even touch it! Against this powerful foe, in our own strength, we will end up enmeshed and upside down! But our Father sees all things….

Thank You Lord, our Deliverer and Rescuer! “… Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare….”

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.

Yes, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” But…

Coming out of our basement laundry room last week, a baby sparrow sped by me, running in fear with his wing dragging on the pavement. “Poor thing!”, I thought, but as I climbed the stairs my heart recited that song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and, I wondered, as “He watches over me”, what does the Lord want me to do about this sparrow apparently in His view?

I plopped down my laundry and realized, I could not leave that injured bird there, unable to fly, amid possible rat attacks and other terrors. I contacted the Wild Bird Fund downtown, known for their devoted care for injured birds of all kinds. “Try and catch him and bring him to us!” Ok, I thought, how hard can that be?

I returned to the trash area where my super was putzing around. “Hey,” I said with gloved hands, “I’m just looking for a little injured bird…” He immediately engaged in this search and within seconds we were chasing the poor thing in and out of every corner and cranny. “Got him!” I announced with delight. I had never held a bird and he was precious!

Time for me to scurry down to the Wild Bird Fund!

I contacted them in a day, two days…surely the baby bird would soon fly to Central Park! Finally, this week, I received the report…

I am very sorry to tell you that the house sparrow you brought to us was too injured to recover. The main problem was to do with his wing, as you suspected; his left radius and ulna were nearly severed, his humerus was very swollen, and his right elbow was fractured. While we can treat some wing injuries, these ones were not survivable. Fractures in birds that are close to the joint, such as the elbow, do not heal well. As the bone calluses, it fuses the bone and the joint together, leading to permanent paralysis, so that the bird is unable to move his wing. This means he could never fly again, and in turn could never return to the wild. Because his prognosis was extremely poor, we made the decision to humanely euthanize him and prevent further suffering.
I know this is not the outcome you were hoping for, but please know that by bringing him to us, you saved him from a great deal of future distress and discomfort. In cases like this, the kindest and most humane thing we can do is allow the bird to pass in peace and without pain.” 

What? That tiny bird had all that?

You’re right, Care Team, that was not the outcome I was hoping for! Lord, Your eye was upon him, You put this baby in my hand and…why?

I thought of the greater ‘whys’ charged up to heaven, filled with grief from untimely death and loss. Brethren who seem to be at the peak of their ministry, raising their family, a joy to parents…dreams crushed. My brother’s death was such a loss, leading me to question and challenge God. One of our beloved pastors often tells of the grievous late night knock, “We’re sorry to inform you…there was an accident…” Burying their only daughter, he cried out, “Why!”

God is not fragile. He can take our anguish and anger – the honest cry from His children and, moreover, He will answer that cry.

I couldn’t possibly see the sparrow’s pervasive injuries uncovered by diligent diagnostic care and medical equipment. Neither can I see into the spiritual realm of God’s view and providence. He is undoubtedly sovereign and certainly owns us, we belong to Him. Then why untimely death of His beloveds? Why, when the ‘outcome is not what we hoped for’ but what we actually dreaded most?

At 38 yrs old, a husband and a father to two toddlers, my brother Paul was at the peak of his faith. He bravely suffered through harrowing medical treatments and admitted towards the end, “I have no regrets. Having cancer brought me closer to the Lord in so many ways – I would not have known Him so deeply without it.” Paul’s faith was a testimony to doctors and patients in oncology – and to us as well.

“I know full well that my life is in the hands of the Lord. He has the keys to the car, and I am going along for His ride…” Paul Stepanian

Pastor Ben Crandall shared similarly from the pulpit, “At 25, my daughter was full of faith, had her whole life ahead of her. I cried out over her grave, why, why did You take her from us!” The pastor shared what he later received from the Lord, ‘I saw her spiritual future and took her before she fell’.

Long ago I jotted this quote in my Bible,

“The believer’s life on earth is his only arena for change and fruitfulness…the nature of eternity is changeless. Therefore, the time to become like Jesus, being conformed to His likeness, is during this earthly Christian experience of trial and faith.” “You and I will never be any closer to Christ, throughout eternity, than we are when He comes. That’s the point of Judgment.” (Dr. Lovett)

The nature of eternity is changeless…” We see untimely death as missing 30, 40 or 50 years of life – God sees our lives entering into eternity in the likeness His Son – enjoying His close presence forever.

God does not spell out everything like the Wild Bird Fund. But our faith need be strong enough to stand upon His word and His sovereignty and trust Him when ‘the outcome is not what we hoped for’. Those devoted to my little sparrow assured –

I know this is not the outcome you were hoping for, but please know that by bringing him to us, you saved him from a great deal of future distress and discomfort

Doctors determine outcomes through X-rays, CAT scans and tests. God sees through everything, and into eternity.

His eye was on the sparrow. But more than ‘His eye’ is upon us – His life is within us and He orders our steps as a sovereign Father in heaven. Whether our ‘wing is broken’ or our heart is broken or ‘the outcome is not what we hoped for’, we can trust the Lord to walk us through, and with a view of eternity.

Lunching in Bollywood – Again!

Admittedly, I really enjoy my Bollywood lunch breaks in fact, I actually find myself in conversations doing the head ‘bobble’. While it may take a week to finish a film, I have two that I must share, both produced by Aamir Kahn, both starring an endearing teen actress, Zaira Wasim.

In 2017, ‘The Secret Superstar’ casts Zaira as a talented young school girl, Insia, who sings her own songs and plays the guitar. Aamir Kahn often presents pressing social issues into story plots and here we find domestic violence and female oppression. Under her father’s rule, Insia secretly creates and performs online. I won’t tell you the rest, it is an uplifting family movie which you may want to see. “Nachdi Phira” is a beautiful love song that Insia sings. It’s hardly possible not to like this song!

The year before “Secret Superstar”, 2016, Kahn starred Zaira Wasim in his blockbuster film, ‘Dangal’. The movie dramatically portrays the real life of Mahavir Singh Phogat, an aspiring wrestler whose life lost all joy after abandoning athletics, never reaching his highest goal – the Olympics. Resigned to live a hard working life supporting his wife and two daughters, one day everything changes – determination grips his heart to train his daughters for greatness. Kahn captures the cultural beauty of family commitments, village life, and the challenges of confronting social barriers. ‘Dangal’ ranks in the top 20 of India’s highest grossing films – it is surprisingly engaging, amusing, and suspenseful. Not one boring moment! I will not tell you what happens!

dangal girls training

What really impressed me….

I was intrigued by this award winning teen Zaira Wasim and looked at her real life situation. What I found really surprised me. At the pinnacle of success in 2019, at only 18 years old, she announced a total resignation from acting and entertainment. She pleaded with fans to remove all photos and videos of her, dismantled social media accounts, and scrubbed what was not copyrighted from the internet. Zaira shared her heart and elaborated to those who loved and followed her, in part:

“5 years ago I made a decision that changed my life forever. As I stepped into Bollywood, it opened doors of massive popularity for me…though I may fit here perfectly, I do not belong here.…This field indeed brought a lot of love, support, and applaud my way, but…” Zaira describes how fame and accolades derailed her faith and devotion to Allah and added, “I silently and unconsciously transitioned out of imaan” (her inner peace).

“I continued to put myself in a vulnerable position where it was always so easy to succumb to the environment that damaged my peace, imaan and my relationship with Allah…”

“My sincere advice to everyone is that no amount of success, fame, authority or wealth is worth trading or losing your peace or the light of your ‘imaan’…Success is the accomplishment of the purpose of our creation. We have forgotten the purpose we were created for as we ignorantly continue to pass through our lives; deceiving our consciences…”

zaira pose III

“Though I may fit here perfectly, I don’t belong here…”

I immediately wondered, how many Christians would give up wealth, popularity, and notoriety for their faith? How many Christian leaders secretly covet the spotlight and accolades of their venue and beyond? Do we boast about having a ‘Grammy Award winning’ choir? Doesn’t every mega church now thrive on celebritieson talented, famed, ‘worship performances’?

I had to search my own heart, do I turn away from everything that would interfere or diminish my relationship with my Savior? Am I willing to follow Him, away from everything in this world, to obey His call and declare to unbelievers that Jesus is worth forsaking all? How much do we care about others’ opinions and approval?

We too may “fit here perfectly” but we don’t belong here. I pray that we, as God’s people, can uproot and guard our hearts from this world. Only separated can we hope to be a beacon that lights the way for others to enter into God’s Kingdom.

I am moved by this young now former actress. Her conscience was pressed and her heart ached to be right before ‘Allah’. She guarded her faith and ‘relationship’ with ‘God’. I pray her diligence takes her further, compels her toward deep and living truths, and leads her to her only Savior, Jesus Christ, who alone is worthy to forsake all.

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.

Lunching in Bollywood

Pastor David Wilkerson often spoke of God’s move upon him to rid his home of television. He considered it the turning point of his spiritual life. Similarly, Joseph Allen Ramirez, blogger of Complicated Politics (https://complicatedpoliticsblog.wordpress.com/) recently posted on May 7th a 10 year anniversary of being TV free. I applaud and esteem such believers who choose to “guard their heart” from useless worldly programs that most often offend God.

However, as a retiree, I often schedule an hour lunch break and watch an hour of a movie while eating. A love toward India grew through years in a ministry and my travel there. The ministry has since tragically imploded. Although these films, produced by Aamir Kahn are not Christian, they stir my heart with love and prayer for India. Aamir Kahn is perhaps the most celebrated actor/producer in India today, his movies capture the culture, faith, hardships, and social ills of the Indian people. Music and dance are often woven in seamlessly within a meaty story plot.

laagan pic

Kahn’s first release as a producer was Lagaan in 2001, a highly acclaimed, widely popular film which was nominated for an Academy Award. It is set within a rural Indian village, late 1800’s, with the oppression of British rule. While the story is lodged around a high stakes Cricket game, it is surprisingly enthralling.

What impressed me….

Faith brings light and life to the despair of these villagers and, in one moving scene, they cry out to their adorned Hindu god. It is striking to see hundreds of villagers gather, tearfully bowed, with open arms to heaven singing:

“Oh god, Oh saviorWe have no one but you

Ease our troubles lord, we have no one but you

you alone are our sole support, you alone are our guardian,

you have filled the moon with light, the sun shines only because of you…

Oh lord, if not you, who would preserve this life?

Oh savior, we have no one but you

If you would hear us, Oh lord we make this plea

grant the suffering courage, to the weak grant your protection so they may live in peace

you are the lord of the universe, listen to this plea, when the path is dark, give us the boon of light

Oh savior, we have no one but you…”

The solemn prayer and worshipful outpour really impressed me. Yes, Hindu temples are ominous and idolatrous. But the question to my own heart is, does my reverence and worship of the One true God exceed the worship of idols?

Jesus warned that our “righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law”. Shouldn’t our worship and reverence exceed that given to idols? Does it?

The weakest part of American Christianity is its most celebrated – worldly ‘worship’, levity and lightness, and utter familiarity with God. The lost religious world, seeing Christianity through that lens, now rejects the marketing of God and the well funded entourages that work the crowd.

Yes, this song is part of a movie, but also a believable representation. Hindu gods are revered and worshiped with sacrifices and adulation. Do they know that Christians are called to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices”? Do we ever appear to “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling”?

Many love to sing, “I am a Friend of God!” but how often do we exalt Him as a “consuming fire” who “lives in unapproachable light”? The Apostle John, probably Jesus’ closest ‘friend’, “fell at His feet as though dead”.

Perhaps our hearts will stir to pray for our Indian brethren, that their light will cast the truth upon the hearts around them. May the Lord water every seed planted there.

Let not “the rocks cry out” nor idols receive the hearts of man. I admonish myself, knowing that “…the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God”, and pray that my worship of the one true God, our only Savior, grow in holiness worthy for a coming Judge and King.

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