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….”

Days of Noah? Days of Sodom?

There are less than 100 days left until the US presidential election.  This is of great concern to nearly everyone, regardless of party affiliation.  But should those days preoccupy the hearts and minds of Christ’s Body?  Every heart, including mine, longs for safety and normalcy, but is safety really ‘normal’ in a fallen dark world?

Under the guise of ‘free love’ and ‘peace’, the sexual revolution of the 1960’s swung open the gates of fornication, homosexuality, and promiscuity, leading to a harvest of broken families, infidelities, abortions, and single parent homes.  More than ‘normalized’, we have pridefully displayed our sexual deviances with boisterous parades and youth indoctrinations.  Yet, as in the ‘days of Lot’ in Sodom, we are “eating and drinking, selling and planting…” living our lives normally but oblivious to the ominous judgment looming overhead.

Now, under the guise of ‘peaceful protest’ and ‘racial equality’ we have, increasingly, a “world filled with violence”.  Might God determine of us as with Noah’s violent generation,  “…that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”?  Ongoing wanton and pointless rioting with ‘leaders’ nodding with tacit approval, swings open the gates of man’s lust for violence – gates not easily or even possible to close.

And yet Jesus said that in the ‘Days of Noah’ as with Sodom, “People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage…” – all good things, even things ordained by God but with one caveat:  They were so intertwined with the world, they were oblivious to the warnings of sure and horrific judgment.   

Perhaps most American believers, like myself, are not tempted to be promiscuous or violent but the temptation to enter into political forays is almost irresistible.  Like ‘eating and drinking and marrying’, it seems normal, if not good and necessary, to champion the cause of what is right, lawful, and moral.

But, I believe, the challenge for the godly in these days is this:  Will we view our world through the platform of Republican/Democrat or through the lens of God’s unchanging word?  Are our hearts gripped with urgency to restore a prosperous and ‘normal’ society or are we gripped with an urgency, as Noah had, to preach the Gospel and warn of sure and horrific judgment?

We have saturated our culture with a shallow and benign “God is love”, “Jesus loves you” message that served only to squelch the fear of God that we so desperately need.

Less than 100 days left for election?  That’s 100 days to commit to God’s word, to dive into end times scriptures that Jesus, who does love you, proclaimed to warn and prepare whomever will heed, that He is returning as Judge as the world ripens for God’s wrath.

Don’t resist but dive into scriptural study of end time prophecies and, I urge myself, commit again to studying Revelation.  Read and re-read, call upon the Holy Spirit – our Teacher and Counselor.  Refer to reliable commentaries.  As beloved Pastor Ben Crandall always exhorted, “Get into this Book and get this Book into you!”

We don’t know who will win elections but omnipotent and sovereign God proclaims the truth of what is happening and what will surely happen.  For the prayful and hungry heart, He will reveal these truths and root them deep enough for us to bear fruit as His ambassadors.  With convicted hearts, not campaign flags, we’ll proclaim the next big event – Christ’s return as Judge and the outpour of God’s wrath upon a rebellious, unbelieving world.

Help us Lord, to resist the pull to ‘normalize’ our tumultuous world.  Give our hearts a hunger and understanding of Your word – let it sink in and overflow to those around us that we may fulfill Your call upon us in this world.

 

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.*

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

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.

 

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.

2018-01-30-14.14.48

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.

oil lamps

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 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation through Total Aggravation

When Jesus Walks Through the DMV  taught me that God is sovereign over all – believers need not disdain any bureaucracy or authority.   Obviously,  He was preparing me for an agency even more despised, the IRS, who contacted me just before Thanksgiving.  ‘We are auditing your taxes’, was the message in brief, and almost forgetting the lessons learned through the DMV I began to battle,

IRS sign

Why? We’ve done nothing wrong.  We’ve worked and paid taxes all our life!

But underneath this fleshly response, my heart acknowledged, perhaps the Lord, who owns my life, has a godly reason for bringing me to the IRS. 

“We need certain documents” they claimed and the agent I contacted added, “you can bring an attorney.”  An attorney?  Why would I need an attorney?  “Oh, no reason, I’m just stating your rights…”  Rights?  What’s next, Miranda?  I took the earliest available appointment, confident that those documents were easily obtained and this matter would be resolved.  In fact, I mused, this might be an open door to share the Gospel with an IRS agent…who knows God’s purpose!

“We can fax them to you within an hour” the company claimed.  I have no fax but thankfully, my sister in MA did and I was there to cook a big Thanksgiving dinner.  An hourI can spare an hour…just sit by the fax machine and all is well.  After this I’ll review my returns and be all set….hour goes by, hour and half….”It’s on it’s way!” they insisted.   I haven’t used fax in a long time but I do recall that the process is fairly instantaneous.   After two hours and huffy conversation with a supervisor who claimed, “It’s been sent” I quit.  Agh, I didn’t have two hours to waste!   

I let steam rise within, even as my heart recalled Watchman Nee’s teaching on Satan’s ‘bestirring of the saints’…

“Stop crying, and you will come into victory.  Do remember that Satan wants you to be stirred up…Satan does not seek for an explosion of your temper; he merely wants you to be agitated.  And thus will he win….Victory is when you are not stirred up…Victory means you pay no attention…Your calmness, aloofness and carelessness are rightfully called a letting go….If you let go, God will take over.”  (excerpt from The Life That Wins)

My sister commandeered the turkeys and all went well.   Bob and I planned to leave MA on Saturday to avoid Sunday holiday traffic so we packed the trunk, Becky the cat and kissed my parents bye.  “I wish you could stay longer…” my 89 year old mother said sadly as we hugged.  Watching her wave from the door as we drove away weighed heavy on my heart.

I assuaged my sadness with the ‘traffic rationale’, yet after 20 miles cars started piling up.  “Just a slow patch” I tried to believe while fighting the temptation to go back home to mom.  Meanwhile,  Feral Becky in the back began her wailing marathon, “WAH! WAH! WAH!”

Why was every car in the universe traveling my way?  After 3 hours, agitation began to churn.  My husband offered, “Want me to drive?”  No.  “Want to listen to some music?”  No.  “Want to hear a sermon message?” No.

After 5 hours I was stewing,  nothing could interfere with this rising tide of angst within me….the IRS, my aging parents – unreconciled with God…my aching back…regrets and disappointments erupted – and why did the door close on that mission trip, my heart was so set to go…”WAH! WAH!”

As I succumbed to discouragement,  guilt also churned as I know full well murmuring and complaining is an offensive to God.  I could have cauterized it with an ‘about-face’ to the Lord but no…I chose to wallow as I drove until –

BOOF!

How can your tire blow out while doing 15 mph on the parkway? (Ok, there was a slight swerve, dip and bump) With no shoulder we hobbled through traffic to a grassy area.  The ‘encouraging husband’ was now more than ‘bestirred’ himself!  However for me, the blowout was a slap in the face from God, shutting down the spew of unfaithful brooding and bringing me into the peace from repentance.

In the cold wind we were a site for rubber-neckers as Bob threw luggage and stuff from the trunk to get to the ‘donut’.   I prayed for Bob as he struggled in the cold wind.  We agreed – only God enabled him to complete that task!

Through 2 more hours of traffic, Becky wailing, and my back was aching I was fine, my heart was reset, depending on the Lord, grateful for His discipline and believing Him to bring us home safe, ‘donut’ and all.

Of course I know Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining…shine like stars in the universe…” But I also know I Corinthians 10:10 as Paul admonished believers and referred to the Israelites, “And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel.”

Unsurrendered heartache, discouragement, and disappointment are launching pads for total aggravation.  But God in His faithfulness uses ‘total aggravation’ to reveal our weakness and immaturity as well as underlying issues so we may repent, grow and ‘reset’ to press forward.  He is refining us, not only for eternity, but for here and now,

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  (Ephesians 2:10)

Oh Lord, let me hear and know Your calling and rise up in faith to fulfill those ‘good works’ that You prepared in advance for me to do!

“Turkey Guilty of Genocide!”

As an Armenian I must have heard that cry “1.5 million” times and yet it has never lost its piercing anguish.  I had to join alongside the Kurds with other Armenians, Greeks, and Syrians yesterday at the White House as President Trump met with Turkish President Talaat Pasha Erdogan.

 

Why cry out?  Doesn’t President Trump know he’s meeting with a despot?  Will gathering together bring about any real change?  Compelled to go, these sad questions loomed in my heart.  Those are irrelevant questions for a believer.  The follower of Christ need only resolve:  what is God doing?  how is He leading my heart, my life?  is this emotion within or truly a burdening from the heart of God?

When we are born again and indwelled with the Holy Spirit, the resources of our lives – even brokenness, anguish, and grief – are not wasted but serve the Kingdom of God.  It is by design, not ‘coincidence’ that my surviving relatives of the Armenian Genocide testified of Kurds saving lives. It is not coincidence that my grandparents survived Turkish death march into Syria and settled there,  living in Der Zor then moving to Aleppo.

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A stone memorial in Der Zor, built by my grandfather Antranig Stepanian with a relative and caring Arab man

(My grandfather was a truck driver and, during one of his trips he discovered a massive site of death in Der Zor where thousands of Armenians perished, left unburied. He and others collected as many bones as they could, transporting then on his truck, to be buried at a location upon which a large Armenian Church and memorial were built)

Just this week an Armenian priest and his elderly father were killed by ISIS – they were on their way to Der Zor to repair the memorial honoring those who perished.

Whether the world knows or cares to know, Turkish military is trampling the Kurds, Armenians, Arab and Yazidis in a conquest of ethnic cleansing toward the ultimate goal to revive the Ottoman Empire.  Erdogan’s mission to revive Ottoman Empire  is not a kept secret.  That Erdogan claimed in his meeting with Trump that he would protect Christians and rebuild churches defies reality.  The reality is, Christianity in Turkey suffers a bloody downward spiral – from 20-25 percent in 1914 to presently 0.2 percent – near extinction!   Erdogan is cited often for his role, such as Turkey Turns on its Christians  and  Persecution of Christians close to genocide.   Pastor Andrew Brunson’s testimony still resounds.

Since Turkey incarcerates more journalists than any country in the world, who there will report governmental oppression, even crimes against humanity?

On the Greyhound bus back to NYC I lamented, “What’s the point and purpose delving into this legacy of suffering?  Why go to Washington or anywhere else when rulers of this dark world don’t relent?”

I had shared of myself with Soma from Kurdistan…

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“We are cousins” she said as she lovingly hugged me.

Yes I believe in the call to “Speak up” and “Rescue” those in grievous suffering and even facing death, Proverbs 24:11 and 31:8.  But our personal call to live out the Scriptures comes from the Holy Spirit within.  He opens our eyes, stirs our hearts with a brokenness and love that burdens us to act.   

Yes dear Soma, as Armenians and Kurds we are ‘cousins’ but my heart so much more hopes that we would be ‘sisters’ – in Christ.   My heart is stirred Lord, for the Kurds.  Thank you for bringing me alongside themLet me join in Your work amongst the Kurds, not that they may finally establish a country of their own but that they may establish a place in Your Kingdom forever.   Amen.