The Gospel Proclaimed From a Distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I Could Not Help Him Die

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

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

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

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A year later they would be fatherless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hidden Gems on Prayer

 

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

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

 Prayer 

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

* prayer is to “accomplish His will” 

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

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

Why God creates man?? (page 6)

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

I John 5:14

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page 19

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

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

**Spiritual Warfare**

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Believers in the Day of Corona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Love Thy New York Neighbor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

OK, I’m Not Going to Iraqi Kurdistan

The Kurds hold a special place in my heart, but not just culturally, as many of them rescued and aided perishing Armenians during the Armenian Genocide by the Turks.  In recent years their courage and diligence in fighting diabolical ISIS impressed my soul and led me to pray consistently for their salvation.  While they long for a country of their own, I pray even more that they will “long for a better country – a heavenly one” the eternal Kingdom of God.

Aligning with them in Washington D.C. “Turkey Guilty of Genocide!” enlarged my heart.  We supported the mission work in Syria through Frontier Alliance International (https://www.faimission.org/) but that didn’t seem enough.  I learned in October of their planned trip to Iraqi Kurdistan, “that’s for me!” my heart exclaimed.  It would be difficult and expensive for Bob and I to go but if God is calling us it will be fine and affordable.

But was God calling us or was my heart convincing me?  Strong emotions can shroud spiritual direction.  Did I sense a ‘check in my soul’ because it would give my elderly mother a giant anxiety attack or because it was not God’s will?  Bob and I prayed during the month of November.

I believe in the headship of the husband and tried not to influence him too much, “You may not know this Bob, but Erbil is actually a tourist destination….a lot of people go there!”  When I do sense the Lord leading, nothing can stop me, my heart is fixed and there is a glad expectation.  I did not sense this but believed it would come.  I had the itinerary and suitcase mentally packed but seemed to wait at a starting gate where the ‘starter pistol’ never blasted.  Bob prayed but kept reporting, “I don’t sense the Lord leading us…”

Unraveling my emotional fervor, I submitted to the ‘check’ in my own heart and unpacked my mental suitcase.

Within weeks of this decision, General Soleimani was killed in Iraq and all Americans were called home. Missiles hit the Kurdistan capital of Erbil, blowing up any remaining itinerary in my heart.

If God wasn’t calling me to Iraqi Kurdistan, did He have another call for me?  When we realize what God is not doing, perhaps our focus can turn to what He is actually doing.   My fellowship with young women, as mentioned in Fruits of Surrendered Aggravation has deepened with meaningful ways to serve, including personal and spiritual counsel, childcare, Bible study and practical resources.

God knows I would go to Kurdistan but He never waved me on.  Instead I stand local, engaging and mentoring younger women as the Lord leads.  God’s will may not seem like the ‘fantastic’ choice but His call is supernatural – never ordinary.   When He calls He leads and He fills to overflow upon others, and that is the high call worth it all.

 

Fruits of Surrendered Aggravation

According to the famous Strongs Bible Concordance, “aggravation” is not in the Bible.  As part of our flesh nature, I’m sure it’s there.  Irritation, agitation, annoyance, anger, aggravation arose up in some beloved saints and others.   Naaman the Syrian traveled far to reach Elisha but, aggravated, left with a demonstrative huff, almost forfeiting his infamous healing.    After receiving God’s call and chastisement, then witnessing the Lord’s mercy upon Nineveh, Jonah is stewing in aggravation by chapter 4.

Was Moses aggravated, when he disobeyed God, striking the Rock?  This fleshly outburst woefully cost him entry into the treasured promised land.

But examples of godly longsuffering patience abound and stand tall upon spiritual pedestals.   Joseph, Daniel, the Apostle Paul…God’s people harassed, provoked, deprived and mocked while faithfully enduring with patience, longsuffering and trust in the Sovereign God.

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The Lord can bring us to a breaking point, revealing what’s in us and lead us to grow. All that He may fill us in greater measure with His Holy Spirit.

Nothing ever ‘just happened’ to Jesus while He walked on this earth, everything was according to our Father’s sovereign will.  This is true for us, Christ’s Body.  Walking with the Lord assures that He oversees, allows, and also orchestrates events – missed buses, lost keys, harassing street people, flat tires, crashed computers, achy backs, irritating relatives, noisy neighbors….everything.

After Revelation through Total Aggravation a number of annoyances finally led to the ‘aggravation jacket’.  That comes about when you are already irritated, annoyed, late, carrying too many things and your nearly new winter jacket zipper gets jammed while in an elevator.  Pull, tug, twist, pull, tug then YANK – just rend the jacket open and let the zipper slider fly off!  That very second I was humbled…again.

I stopped by my dry cleaners and spoke with the tailor.  Tsk, tsk….no, this can’t be fixed.  This zipper is too difficult to remove and replace.  You need a new jacket!  Well, I resolved, I am not getting a new jacket.  If I have to chain link this one closed, I will wear this ‘aggravation jacket’ and let the chill remind me of patience and longsuffering.

I believe there are fruits already from repentance.  Just this week….

1.  Church for us is an all day event, 8am to 5pm, as we attend service and serve in ministry.  This past Sunday we opted to keep our parking space, leave our car and take the train.  On the way home we went to the MTA station and found it was closed for repairs.  Instead of walking 8 blocks to the next station, we decided to take a cab.  At first the driver seemed oddly boisterous but it wasn’t until he went the wrong way and slurred his words did we realize he was drunk.  We had to get out ASAP, which meant pulling over on the parkway.

We had to walk from the parkway to the nearest train station, many blocks away which included creepy deserted streets.  Blustery cold and tired, I was not even aggravated!!!

2.  Two days later I am at the post office, a Christmas gift I ordered 4 weeks ago finally arrived.  Consistently voted the worst post office in the USA, this place is a shoo-in for aggravation.  The package window was closed, a different one opened, there was one line but should have been two.  I helped an elderly woman who was confused, pointing her to the correct window.

As this octogenarian pushed an envelope through the thick Plexiglas opening a huge man came out of the wrong line and began ranting profanities, actually directed to me.  “HEY, I was f****g here before her!  You didn’t *** see me?!?  That’s right!  I was….”  He then took on the whole post office.  By the time poor granny got her postage, this Philistine was challenging the clerk and calling him out to “beat the *** out of him”.

WELL, after all that, they couldn’t find my package!  AND, I was genuinely pleasant, not even aggravated!

The Lord truly is answering my prayers to serve Him and fulfill those ‘good works which God prepared in advance’ for me to do.  While I continue fellowship with Rhonda* Can God Use a Feral Cat? the Lord has brought other young believers and new ministry members to me to mentor.   One I meet regularly for coffee or lunch while another recently added after a long conversation, “you’re like a mother to me!”  Ha, I keep forgetting how old I am!

A sister approached me on Sunday, “I was wondering if you had some time, could I talk to you about something?”  Of course!

Just recently I invited a neighbor to a Christmas concert.  When I called to confirm she cried, “I am in the biggest sh**storm of my life!”  A working single mom, with chronic illness and no local relatives, God opened the door for me to share resources and commit to daily morning babysitting her two year old.  (I knew there was a reason I joined the gym last year!)

The Lord mercifully hammers out my fleshly flaws as they would dishonor Him and hinder the Holy Spirit.  He prepares us not only to serve Him here, but ultimately to be with Him forever.

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The Lord breaks us, convicts us, renews and infills us, that we may shine and stand as the Body of Christ in this dark world