Another Sparrow Falls to the Ground…

I set out early this morning as the temperature is expected to rise above 90°.  Five blocks to the bank, 10 to the grocery store, I prayed as I walked, discussing with the Lord the useless anxiety that often overshadows me.  I meditated upon Jesus’ oft admonishment, “Do not be afraid” (or anxious!) and His reference to the sparrows, “…not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.”  I started to wonder, where are these fallen sparrows, I never see them.  Where do they go to die?  I concluded that, like many suffering animals, they sequester to die alone.  But according to our Lord, our Father knows exactly where each one is, none even fall “apart from His will”.   

Returning from FoodTown I passed my street, pushing myself to go farther to the vegetable stand.  Carrying three bags and toting a stuffed backpack, I pressed on for iceberg lettuce.  Then I saw him on the sidewalk.  A tiny sparrow, not moving as I neared him.  Not budging when a blaring ambulance sped by.  Something’s wrong!

I stooped down to pet it, it did not move or flinch.  Not good.  He had no resistance as I picked him up.  People paused to look as I quickly pondered: What should I do?… I can’t leave him here…I’m carrying too much to bring him anywhere….

Just then a chubby, affable Hispanic women stopped and stooped down with me.  She scooped up the bird and concluded as I did that the poor babe was somehow injured.  She held him so naturally and calmly, like she did it everyday!  

“I’ll take him home and care for him…”

“You will?!?  Thank you!  I couldn’t leave him here…”

She smiled and stroked the bird gently, “I was raised on a farm, I used to take care of baby chicks…”

Wow, did God bring the right person down this sidewalk!

I should have asked her name.  I shared with her about The Bird Fund, a free bird clinic on Columbus Avenue.  She took the info and said, “I’m sure my daughter can bring him there.”

As we walked together for two blocks.  I thought she lived nearby but went to the bus stop, “I live in the Bronx” she said.  And she’s carrying a baby bird in her hand all the way? 

So, according to the Lord, our Father saw that sparrow fall, it was His will.  For sure that babe had anxiety, unable to fly or move on a busy city sidewalk.  He didn’t know what we should all know, our Father has everything under control.  

“I was raised on a farm….cared for chicks…I’ll take him home”

“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”. 

Making The Last Lap The Best

Healthcare-Elective-Care-Hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY RUSSIA IS NOT THE ENEMY — The Scripture Library

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

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

WHY RUSSIA IS NOT THE ENEMY — The Scripture Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.