Introducing….Starry!

As in Starry Night of course.

It was a blustery cold January, just two months ago, when Bob mentioned a kitten around his work facility in the Bronx. The babe’s mother was nearby, frozen to death. This little one kept pawing at Bob’s ankles, even climbed up his pant leg -easily winning him over. Bob and his co-worker decided, “This will be our office mascot, we’ll take him in and care for him!” After two days, that commitment was inadequate. The hurdle at home was, admittedly, me.

For two years since Maggie died, ( Maggie and the Gospel Truth) her 1/2 feral Becky notably grieved and then became increasingly malcontent. Our vet did not recommend getting another cat as Becky (now over 17 years old), never liked anyone except Maggie and was very antisocial. Every night for the past two years, Becky would wake up between 2 and 3am yelling and crying for me to sleep with her. She never liked Bob!

After two years of poor sleep, I insisted about 100 times, “We’re never getting another cat. Becky is the last one, don’t even think of it!”

One hundred proclamations dissolved within 5 minutes of meeting Starry.

He was first named ‘Star’ after the facility name, ‘Starhill’. “But”, I said, “animal studies find that they like and answer to names that end in vowel sounds like eeee….that’s it, STARRY. Like Starry Night!”

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Dreamy Starry Night!

Starry stirred up love everywhere, a real cuddle master! Everyone wanted him, “Can we share custody?” “NO!”

The odd bend in his tail, flopping down like a broken branch, only endeared us more until one day…..it fell off!! And he was playing with it like a toy!

Away from home, we brought him to Urgent Vet Clinic where it was found his tail had suffered damage most likely from frostbite. This led to his first operation….a partial tail-ectomy! What a trooper!

That did not stop him at all…

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Simon Pierce bowl, very comfortable!

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“Here I am, someone call me?”

After five weeks at my parents house, time to head to the city…and prepare for operation #2!  Starry is no less of a boy for it but you know…

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“Grrr…the lion sleeps tonight!”

How did things go with baby Starry and crabby Becky?  Starry loved Becky right away, was anxious to play!  Becky surprised us all…after a time of growling, paw swiping, and hissing there was blissful tolerance!  Who knows, it may even lead to friendship!

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Ahh, blissful tolerance!

The Lord melted all my proclamations in 5 minutes and perked up our hearts in many ways.  

“I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are Mine.” 

Yes Lord, and You surely know those out in the Bronx streets and they are Yours.   Thank You for calling Starry Night and giving him to us!

God’s Appointed Leader

There is a great American divide arising. Democrats, Republicans and all those falling into such camps are arming themselves with as much clout, money, and free flowing power to manipulate prevailing culture. The fortitude of this divide will surely unravel the nation. Predicted, if not premeditated, calamities are coming to fruition. The elected leader of a world power came to office as a weak, infirm, elderly man. Personal security cannot hide President Biden’s frailty…

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This is no indictment against frail elderly.  They should be esteemed and cared for in every way, not propped up for political puppetry.  After only three months we are seeing the façade crumbling.  What and who will rise up to the forefront will inflame national division and stir implosion.

If God appoints leaders, and He does, and God appointed Joe Biden, what is God’s call to His body in the USA?  Why is God exposing our national weakness, frailty, and utter folly?  

The greatest interest of Almighty God is His people on the earth.  Through them He determines to be glorified and exalted.  Towards this the Lord can orchestrate events and circumstances to separate His people from this world.  Perhaps it is not hard for believers who live under Communism, Islam, or dictatorship to ‘separate themselves from the world’.  But Christian Americans have interwoven themselves through church, civic duties, and charitable initiatives to their nation.  Our light however, is not casting out the darkness, the darkness is dimming our light.  

Dare we read the scriptures in this manner….

Do not love the United States or anything in the United States.  If anyone love the United States, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the United States – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – come not from the Father but from the United States.  The United States and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.  (I John 2:15 & 16, modified)

Is the USA in the world or isn’t it?

The devil is happy to see the people of God clamoring after a man made constitution, vying for their rights in a condemned world, and diluting their faith with ‘right minded’ unbelievers. That is no threat at all to the powers of darkness! But let the body of Christ fully trust in God’s unchanging word and separate themselves unto God. Then will we, individually and together, be enlivened by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel to both sides of the American divide.

According to the late Art Katz, from his book Apostolic Foundations, “…there is something about the nature of nationhood that encourages patriotism, which is an idolatrous preoccupation with one’s nation.”

Satan loves patriotism. It justifies a defendable self-righteousness and deceives even matured Christians. Gaining the attention of ‘important people’ in ‘high position’ is an irresistible allurement to Christian leadership. And still, Satan is happy, for neither Jesus nor His apostles ever jockeyed up the social or political ladder. Every rung on that ladder requires compromise and with each step we lose God’s presence until we reach ICHOBAD.

Through our nation’s division and discord, God is exposing the idolatry of patriotism. Rallying to maintain prosperity, moral ideals, and our constitutional rights makes it impossible to “pick up our cross and follow Christ”. The crucial message of the Gospel becomes little more than a generic message of God’s love instead of proclaiming Christ’s return as Judge and King and calling for repentance.

We are a nation now led by folly, frailty and a crumbling façade. Reprobate minds will lead us further into darkness. May this grip our hearts toward God, may we wait upon Him daily. He may not lead us into powerful political arenas or exciting rallies but to the ordinary, the broken, and those who hunger as the Good Shepherd seeks out His lost sheep.

“Direct my footsteps according to Your word; let no sin rule over me.” Psalm 119:133

Armed for a Higher Battle

Heated battles in Washington spark flames in the hearts of many believers, including me. It takes daily discipline in God’s word and in prayer to rein in the fervor. I first worked on a political campaign as a teen – and that senator is still in office! Most tantalizing for believers though, are the esteemed ‘Biblical’ values touted in this arena. It is a snare however, drawing us in ecumenically with others to fight a worldly battle that holds no eternal victory.

“Surely the nations are a drop in the bucket…Before Him all the nations are as nothing…” Isaiah 40:15

“Be careful”, I warn myself, “not to invest your heart into something that is nothing.”

It is of utmost importance for us as believers to know where we’re placed in in the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:18), His gifts and callings. We’re not honing our skills and sharpening weapons for worldly battles but spiritual battles – those that hammer the forces of darkness while honoring and glorifying our sovereign God.

“Preserving our way of life” is no threat to Satan or any demon. Jesus didn’t come to live a good life and He never said we were either. We are called, as the Body of Christ, to display the “manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms”. Ephesians 3:10 may specifically relate to the profound working of God, making Jew and Gentile ‘one man’ in Christ as Paul proclaims through the chapter. However, the ‘manifold wisdom’ – complex, intricate, multifaceted wisdom – speaks of our mandate as ‘church’, to confound and triumph over “rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

National politics fall far beneath such conquests. According to God, they “…are regarded as dust on the scales”.

Worldly battles ignite our flesh but spiritual battles mandate death to the flesh, gaining ‘strength through separation’, in the prayer closet and shut away into God’s word. Those who ‘pick up their cross’ will become increasingly broken yet stronger and geared up for battle.

What is God’s call? Perhaps we can see that His call is not for us to be dependent upon church buildings, organizations, denominations, or activities. As A.W. Tozer once said, many churches gather together for fellowship unlike the ‘local lodges’ after their ‘coffee hour’. The Lord, however, seems to invest His call to those most dependent upon Him. His commission doesn’t come with accolades but the burdening of our heart from His heart, that inevitably leads us to minister and serve.

The world doesn’t care about spiritual battles or victories. Who cares or even knows when a drug addict finds deliverance through the Holy Spirit? Or when the loneliest souls reconcile to their Father in heaven and join in His family? When elderly meet God through His Body, when the proud are convicted of sin, when the sinner cries out, “how could I have lived like that? Rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world in the heavenly realm take notice when they suffer loss and defeat through the lives of ordinary mortals who serve at the behest and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Like most people, I have definite social and political inclination. Still living in NYC part of the time, I have strong feelings which can be impassioned through the media and the willful direction of my heart. But I don’t want to champion candidates or legislation – I don’t want to fight for that drop in the bucket….

I want to be useful to God’s Kingdom, commissioned by Him that He might work through me. No matter how small the assignment may seem, there is no greater honor in all this world.

Press on brothers and sisters!

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!

 

Inside Israel

We recently returned from a robust trip to Israel.  While our itinerary was jam packed, certainly every site we saw is a well tracked path.  So, I will not post pics of Masada, Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea or even the Armenian Quarter  (ok, maybe one)…

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Yousef*, our Arab Christian tour guide, expounded a depth of spiritual and historical knowledge as a native with 20 years experience leading Americans through Israel and Palestine.  He introduced himself as a “true believer in Jesus Christ” and often taught scriptural truths as related to various historical sites. It was obvious that he had a love for all the people we encountered – Jews, Muslims, Bedouins, and Druze – rich or poor.

It is not only what Yousef shared of Israel that still stirs my heart but what he revealed about us.

Yousef challenged the group at every Christian/religious site, “Can anyone describe what happened here?” “How was this place significant to Jesus Christ?” “Who was Herod the Great?…”  Either most of the group was shy or had little Biblical foundation.  While traveling at great cost and distance to see religious sites, most of the group was either unwilling or unable to converse in Biblical truths.

Yousef shared his experience during the tumultuous ‘Second Intifada’, 2000-2005, a time of violent uprising between Palestinians and Israelis.  He left Israel during that time, traveling to USA to possibly relocate to relative’s homes.  Job opportunities were sparse for him but what he recalls to us is this:  “I visited their church and was sure they would be focused with concern and prayer for the crisis in Israel.  When I came to the meeting however, they were all talking about which pizza had the best cheese.”  I felt a collective inner shame for the sated Body of Christ, isolated and disinterested in the suffering of distant brethren.

Our tour ended with an exhortation and plea,  “When you go home, open your Bibles, read them!  Let all that you’ve seen bring the words to life.”  Referring back to his time in the United States Yousef opened his heart, “I left the States in 2005 – I missed the dirty, noisy streets of Jerusalem!  I love this country and had to return….but now I regret it.  There’s an undeniable stirring, an certain unrest and hostility.  I tell you for sure, it is not ‘if’ war breaks out here, but ‘when’.”

As elsewhere in the Middle East, particularly Syria, the Christian population is suffering and shrinking.  Once 20% in Palestine, now Christians are 1%, fewer than 10,000.  Many may be ‘nominal’ Christians but even still my heart was burdened.  With the nonstop traffic of tour buses from all over, I wonder how many of these sojourning Christians will seek and receive a burden for these brethren?  Multitudes flock to religious icons and shrines, but how many will align with the burden of Christ’s heart for His people?

If we will “open our Bibles and read them” we too will see, it is not ‘if’ but ‘when’.  If we take our salvation with certainty, we must take the prophecies of scripture with like conviction in our hearts.  A celebrated authority will arise, the charismatic Antichrist.  Betrayal, violence, and chaos are destined for Israel.  Yes, God Himself with be their victory and triumph, but what is our role as Christ’s Body in the world?

I loved every bit of Israel and my visits to Palestine.  I want though, more than any itinerary and tour, to realize what the Holy Spirit is showing me – Lord, align and press in my heart your truths and views of this great land.

Go to Israel while you can.  See everything, there’s so much!  But let the Holy Spirit be your inner tour guide and open your spiritual eyes with heaven’s view!

(*not his real name)

 

God in the Midst of a Jail Cell

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The Lord revealed important truths to me as I shared the Gospel with parolees and inmates.  One is eloquently expressed by Charles Spurgeon in “What the Farm Laborers Can Do and What They Cannot Do”  Farm Sermons, The Spurgeon Archives. (great article, can read:  here)

Let us now think of what you cannot do. You cannot, after the seed has left your hand, cause it to put forth life. 

I learned this best when working with Ms. “M”, who was on parole for manslaughter.   Ms. M was very receptive to parole and a positive working relationship was easily established.  She was also very receptive to the Gospel and was grateful to receive a Bible, sermon tapes and church invites.  Home visits were meaningful as her two children were happy to see me.  Ms. M brought her children to special church events however, while she wanted her children to learn of the Bible, she herself remained carnal and unsurrendered.

I became a bit really discouraged, it seemed that two years of counsel and prayer yielded little. In fact, things worsened…Ms. M relapsed into drug use and became non compliant to treatment.  I was very concerned as a violation for a violent felony offender would result in significant jail time, a hardship for a single mother.  After a two years of community living, would she now go back to jail?

Finally, there was no choice.  Arresting her unleashed a torrent of drama, tears, and even anger….then pleading….but the die was cast.

I transported her to Rikers Island, shut her in a holding cell, and lodged the warrant.

Normally a VFO (violent felony offender) would be mandated to minimum one year incarceration however, it seemed that an exception was happening for Ms. M.  In fact, she was released within several weeks, mandated again to a program, and reported to my office.  I was ready for the same-old same-old…..but things had changed.

Her heart erupted as she shared….

When you locked me in that cell I sat on that bench crying, my head in my hands…I was so angry and felt like such a failure…when I opened my eyes I noticed a torn piece of paper on the bench.  It was just a scrap from a Bible tract….on it was half a verse from Acts.  When I read it I broke down and gave my life to the Lord!

I was speechless.  After all the sharing, inviting, godly counsel and admonishments, a half a verse in a jail cell brought her to repentance and surrender!  I could see how the Lord moved on her behalf, expediting her release, returning her home to her children, and revealing to her His faithfulness.  She planted herself in church and opened her life to serving God.

I often share this testimony with others to encourage them (and remind myself!) that we cannot “make anything happen” but God Himself takes action when we are faithful to sow seeds, serve as He calls, and pray for Him to intervene.

I am so grateful when the Lord confounds me!

 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  (I Corinthians 3:7)

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Only God Can Make It Happen

 

God in the Midst of a Package

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In my recent post, “God in the Midst of Parole”, 8/18/17, I shared the testimony of Ms. G.  This testimony is an ‘addendum’ to that.  After Ms. G entered the residential program,  I prepared a ‘package’ for her with encouraging tapes and a cassette player.  Before reaching her program, I had to make eight home visits. While I never carried anything while making visits (typically I walked through the neighborhood and needed to have hands free) I made an exception this day and carried this package to the eight home visits.

This testimony was submitted to the tape ministry who provided the sermon tapes.

The Lord really used this package!  Parolees whom I visited all asked, “Is that for me?”  When I said “no” they responded, “Oh…I thought you were bringing me tapes.”  The Lord really lifted my heart, seeing these rough and often troubled ex-felons actually disappointed that a package of Christian tapes is not for them.  But I always carry tapes in my safari vest to give out…

This ‘package’ became an object of testimony.  One visit that morning was a ‘pre-release’ visit, to meet with family members before the inmate is released.   This inmate’s mother, ‘Ms. B’  was very receptive to me and we discussed her son’s release and the home in general.  Unexpectedly, this mother opened up and began to speak of her troubles, hardships, and fears.

Her (soon to be released) son had been in and out of prison, never did well, then got syphilis which spread to his brain.   Her grown daughter is also in and out of prison and was recently released and has AIDS.  Ms. B is raising her daughter’s children whom I met in the home.  Ms. B is gainfully employed downtown near Ground Zero and expressed the recurring turmoil and fear she has since the terrorist attacks.

Finally she said, “I never share my troubles like this!  I’m sorry to take your time and bother you”.  (Actually, I cherish this trust and opportunity).  I gently suggested that she might come to church.  That invite opened the door to minister the Gospel.  I asked her where her daughter was living.  She said, “Such and such shelter program.”  (Which is adjacent to the residential program where I am taking the package!)

I said, “Ms. B, see this package?  I’m taking it to the residential program next to your daughter’s shelter. ”  The door opened to share Ms. G’s testimony,  how the Lord moved in her life, bringing about change and giving her real hope.  Ms. B was so encouraged.  I gave her some tapes from my pocket and she asked what our church believes.  Her countenance lifted, “Please, make sure you write down the address!”

 

Yes, God was in the midst of that package but only because He abided in my heart.  I believe it is the Lord’s presence and our zeal to share Him that can make anything special in our hand…especially when it’s gifted to others.

Unlike our culture, the Lord never needs or seeks the wealth, resources, the natural talents of people or fancy technology to reveal Himself.  Sovereign God of the universe seems to choose ordinary things like a shepherd staff, rounded stones, a basket with fish and bread, even dirt mixed with spit….His spit.

I want an expectant and zealous heart, knowing that the Holy Spirit moves through what seems ordinary, small and humble.

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  (Romans 12:11)

“Lord, I pray for a renewed zeal for You and for the lost.  Help us to see that wherever You place us and whatever You give us has potential for eternal value.  Incline our hearts toward Your will and weigh our hearts with desire to fulfill it.  Amen.”