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.

Heartbreak in the Heights

We happen to live in Washington Heights, venue for the popular movie, “In The Heights”. I moved here 40 years ago as a student in the 80’s. It was, at the time, the cocaine capital of the east coast and the Marielitos prevailed in vicious crime sprees. Two blocks over from my building is Armory which, at that time, sheltered 800 homeless men who often spilled out onto building doorsteps. None of this bothered me in fact, it was a renters delight at the time and perfect venue for a social work student.

While I have never seen Dominicans singing and dancing in the street, I have a love for my neighbors and community and appreciate enduring with them over the years. My husband and I remained active in our downtown church for over 20 years, but also hoped to find a church in the neighborhood. While the Lord graciously opened a small Bible study in our home for a year, my heart yearns for more, to worship and share the Gospel within the community. Is it just me or the Lord charging my heart?

We learned of a church gathering in the park just 3 blocks from us. Their website had some solid foundational tenets although with some contemporary ‘buzz words’, but we were open to whatever the Lord would show us, outside in a park on a summer morning. I love the idea of praising God, in English and Spanish, out in the park – may others hear and hearts stir!

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Everyone was kind and welcoming. After a time of praise, the pastor spoke with a simple message from John chapter 3, ok. It was good to be with neighborhood folks, most I have never met. However, after the service we met with the pastor to flesh out the beliefs, mission, and teachings of the church. He was excited about youth outreaches, invites to athletics and games and gauging the needs of the community. From there he spoke with vigor of his Genesis Bible study, expounding on things that most people, including myself, don’t know and never heard of…”the first tabernacle was really in the Garden of Eden…..” He quoted a central author in this discovery whose name he mentioned several times but I can’t remember.

He explained at length how violations of “Social Justice” is the central issue behind of Israelites’ exile, founding the church mission of social justice. We could barely wedgeway into his mount of scriptural justifications – my head couldn’t digest his perspectives. Back to Genesis I honed in to ask point blank, “Do you believe in the Biblical account of creation, that God made all in six days?”

A two second hesitation here is all I need but he fueled up more fervor to explain how he was ‘freed’ from the conventional Biblical account through elaborate studies in sophisticated theology, history, and Egyptian culture. I will not even elude to at or hint at what he shared; unraveling the supernatural demonstrations of God’s power and His magnificence is just devilish.

At the end I restated, “I believe in the Bible’s account, it is the foremost introduction to God’s greatness and awesomeness. To diminish that, questions all of His supernatural power and the miracles throughout the Bible…”

As though speaking down to the ‘unenlightened’ he replied, “Yeah, my father still believes that” (I immediately thought, does he have a church? Where is it?) he added, “…and about 30-40% of our attendees at the church still believe that” (Until, I thought, they take your Genesis course and the truth is scrubbed out of their hearts!)

We left with my head swirling with ‘deep’ religious explanations I had never imagined but, moreover, I was heartbroken for the lack of holiness, brokeness for the lost and a fear of God.

God can surely call us to a place that is imperfect, incomplete – even chaotic. But never where truth is disdained and error is taught with fervor. Not sure how long we’ll still be in the Heights but my heart is still searching for God’s presence here and perhaps some sheep to join in worship, who love God and His precious unchanging word, and have a heart for the lost.

I will “keep on asking, seeking, and knocking”, praying for the Lord to order the steps of my feet and my heart. May He lead us to where He is working that we may co-labor with Him in the fields for the harvest.