Back to La Perla! (Pt 4)

There’s progress at La Perla!

La Perla is a ghetto neighborhood in Old San Juan, famous for its danger, drugs, and witchcraft.  But that reputation is fading – God has been tilling the soil and, even with the destruction from Hurricane Maria, there’s life rising up.  Our part began in January this year, posted in When God Moves Into el Barrio (Pt 1)  and progress was posted here, The Pastor of La Perla (el Barrio Pt 2) and here, Progress at La Perla! (Pt 3).

So what’s new?

la perla mural artist

The Goodness Tour landed in La Perla!  Find out about them ( http://www.thegoodnesstour.org/) Here’s the mural artist Benjamin Swatez with Pastor Ivan

la perla mural

Still working on this portrait of hope and light!  Was too vast to capture in one photo!

Pastor Ivan’s workshop, planned for youth to create marketable art and express the Gospel truth outside of church walls, still not completed! 

la perla work crew

This team from Servants for Christ International, worked to help finish the second floor

I thought our trip would include a ribbon cutting!  But Pastor Ivan shared some of the bumps along this road.  Modern day ‘Sanballats’ – like the one who opposed Nehemiah’s wall building, arose to sabotage and steal.  One man, masquerading as a Christian, joined to help yet once he saw the value of the project he produced some kind of paperwork to the town hall, attempting to prove that he himself owned the land.  The scheme failed but halted construction for some time.

With the great drain of professionals and skilled laborers out of Puerto Rico, finding real construction workers is a big challenge.  Many unemployed folks exaggerate or fabricate skills just to get work.  This creates unstable structures and do-overs in the work.

But in all this, Christian groups have stopped by and worked.  There’s been fellowship and camaraderie.  In ways we may not know, with the Lord the process is as valuable as the finished end!  

la perla window work

While there we installed a window (OK, my husband installed it but I passed the tools!)

The beautiful part of the trip was the fellowship with families in La Perla and especially with Pastor Ivan.  Puerto Rico is in trouble.  Residents and businesses are abandoning their property and moving out in droves.  Corrupt government, unemployment, and despair are unraveling the island.  But God is there.  And if anyone is looking, they might just find Him at La Perla!

la perla ravelin

La Perla Ravelin built in the 1700’s by Spain.  A military concept, “defense in depth”, designed to repel attackers from the shore.  May the Lord be their defense, may He push back the darkness, may He bring victory to La Perla!

5 Benefits of Excruciating Trials

In these end times when sin and apostasy abound there is an undeniable deep shaking, the epicenter of which lies in the Body of Christ.  Many are suffering great persecution and loss from the rise of nightmarish demonic enemies.   Others who live in relative safety are greatly shaken by fiery trials allowed or orchestrated by the Lord Himself.  As darkness thickens over this fallen world we can be assured of two things:  The Lord will always have a testimony of Himself in this world to reflect His glory and secondly, as pervasive evil comes to fruition, it will always ultimately serve the purposes of God.  The Lord’s prophetic word unfolds with certainty and eternal victory.

What of these fiery trials?  An entire book would not be sufficient to describe them – they seem tailor made for personal grief, heartache, confusion, physical and mental anguish.  Outside of James, believed to be the half-brother of Jesus, few lay claim to find “pure joy” when facing trials of many kinds (James 1:2).  But, while on the path to victory, many of us can testify to great spiritual benefits that come forth through fiery trials.  Five benefits arose in my heart, even as I continue to wade through the high waters:

  1. The battlefield of fiery trials strips us of frivolities and useless vanity, creating a pointed focus with priorities established by God.  Here we learn that much of our previous fretting and preoccupations were valid to the world but counted for nothing in God’s Kingdom.  When your house is on fire, trinkets hold little value.
  2. The Word of God will actually become “living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword”.  In times of confusion and turmoil we will see this living Word as “a lamp to our feet and light to our path”.   As we seek Him and wait upon Him, the Lord Jesus will speak through His Word as He is the Word.  (John 1:1)
  3. Fiery trials that manifest with supernatural power force us to acknowledge the futility and sin of selfreliance and worldly dependence. Money cannot buy relief, social ‘connections’ become powerless, and no search engine holds the answer.  Cornered without strength or resources, God reveals Himself and begins to unfold His ways, His agenda, His deliverance within the storm.  There is no greater backdrop for God’s divine providence and power than a totally surrendered heart.  Resolving to trust Him is the greatest challenge but comes with great promises.  The Lord will not disappoint.
  4. There is a supernatural peace that “surpasses understanding” when one is solely dependent upon the Holy Spirit. The peace of God is His visitation upon our heart as we cry out to Him.   We can sleep as Jesus slept, in the midst of a raging storm.
  5. As the Lord Himself cried to the Father to let the cup pass, we also cry to the Lord to spare us tragedy, grief, and pain.  Yet it is the fruit of crushing brokenness that prepares us for Kingdom work like nothing else.  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Loss, betrayal, grief and injustice are the personal milestones of spiritual giants, from Genesis to present day.  Excruciating trials are launching pads of great works of God.  Every challenge and obstacle leads us to higher places of faith and usefulness to the Lord.  They are opportunities, even appointments, used by God that hold great eternal reward.

Pastor Zac Poonen sums up the immeasurable value in brokenness:

“If you are really earnest about partaking of the life of Jesus, God will allow a thousand-and-one things to happen to you, in order to deliver you from the love of material things, from seeking the honor of men, from self-pity….if you are thirsting for God’s best, He will deal with you ruthlessly, cutting out the cancers that are ruining you and destroying the idols that corrupt you.  He will allow you to suffer pain, disappointment, loss, shattered hopes, humiliation, unjust criticism, etc. in order to bring you to that place of stability – where you can’t be shaken anymore.”   Zac Poonen, ‘Secrets of Victory’

“A thousand and one things” are really happening to true followers of Christ.  While the devil is “filled with fury, because he knows his time is short”, the Lord stands by us, ready to undergird and lead us through every inward and outward calamity.

The benefits, the eternal rewards of service, even the ‘pure joy’ await us in every trial once we pour ourselves out to the Lord and resolve to stand behind Him.  No matter how dark the circumstance, His love for us has not waned, His sovereign power never diminished.   The Lord stands at the edge of our Red Sea, ready for us to enter into intimate fellowship and His divine presence – His outpouring in us through committed time of prayer. 

“I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered..Hold on..” (Prov 4:11-13)  (AP Photo/David Duprey)

Satan would rob us of victory by magnifying the circumstance and disastrous outcomes.  Let us magnify the Lord, eat and drink of His living Word and He, our Deliverer will “broaden the path” beneath us so we will not fail, we will not fall. 

RISE UP AND GO FORTH

From threshing, to rising, to the offering of bread…
(c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Grain is crushed for bread, but one does not thresh it forever…” (Isaiah 28:28)

While suffering, even threshing and crushing, comes equally to the lives of believers and unbelievers, those who follow Christ have great assurance through their trials, a two prong anchor: your suffering has purpose and its intensity and duration is divinely measured. It does not seem so under the weight of grief and loss, moreover, this assurance itself does not lift the darkness of torment, depression or fear. Truth is an anchor onto which we must fasten ourselves –  it does not stop the storm but sustains us to the end of it.

“Crushed for bread” is a Christian truism rarely preached in the western world. It does not fit well into much of the gospel entertainment and prosperity that prevails in many church circles. When the Lord allows, designs and orchestrates, threshing and crushing in our lives it assaults our fleshly thinking, our human comforts, our health and sense of security – sometimes all at the same time. It does not seem loving nor merciful. In fact, it may cause the deepest questions of ‘love’, ‘mercy’ and ‘God’ to arise in our soul. Yet Lord stands by the cries of anguish and even accusation – He will prove faithful if we decidedly hold fast to the anchor.

But why the fire? Why the pummeling pain of betrayal, disappointment, and confusion? Why the shaken ground, the void of peace – why indeed!

Like grain, we are shaken to remove chaff, threshed to make bread. Challenging our comfort, even all we have built as security and surety in our lives, as threshed wheat we are mixed for kneading and shaping – which leads us into a fiery furnace! While we desperately seek to dull the pain, find any exit, or extinguish the fire the Lord’s purpose remains – to reveal Himself to us in the furnace. The threshing floor and fiery furnace are painful places where divine opportunity is ever present: we can walk by faith in the strength of the Holy Spirit, surrender and defer to the Lord’s leading, and depend on Him to deliver us. If the Christian life is indeed supernatural, the Lord will shake all our natural strengths and prove them deficient.

But how do we survive through, even rise up and come forth from these trials?

Be honest with God. Forget the brave veneers, scriptural and religious clichés, and reverent formalities. Let go. “I can’t take this! ….Help me, Lord, I am sinking!…I’m not going to make it through…” Unburden your heart with expectancy and start the journey through the fire. Share your burden with brethren and spiritual authority, an elder or pastor. Consider support of godly counsel and intervention. Central to deliverance though – learn to shut in with God, unhurried and undistracted.

Study the sovereignty of God. Immerse yourself prayerfully in the Word of God and the testimonies of the ordinary men and women who fell prey to evil men, suffered great loss, were wrongly accused, deeply betrayed, tormented, grieved, anguished…yet found their pain and darkness counted greatly in the Kingdom of God. Beckon the Holy Spirit to speak through the Word to your heart, write down the very scriptures that challenge your fears, your doubts, your grief, and overwhelming powerlessness. Memorize them and decidedly dare to stand upon them in faith, they are your protective shield and winning sword. (Ephesians 6:16,17)

Decide to worship. “The sacrifice of praise” becomes a deep and meaningful as we willfully worship God even as our hearts fail from brokenness and fear. It is costly praise, valued by the Lord, a worship that declares, “Yes, I am miserable/in pain/fearful and anxious/crushed and heartbroken…but you are still God, sovereign over all and worthy of worship.” Powerful tactics of Satan, magnifying points of anguish and highlighting every possible disastrous outcome, begin to wane as we magnify the Lord and shift our thinking toward His promises of victory. Read aloud, even sing the Psalms as a battle cry.  A pastor once admonished, instead of “Set me free and I’ll worship you” resolve to “worship Him and He’ll set you free”.

Seek God’s Purpose. What is He threshing, separating, out of your life…what is He kneading into your life? What of Himself does He choose to reveal? Keep asking, keep seeking – believe that the Lord will draw near to us as we draw near to Him, “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”. What is His purpose for your suffering? As Pastor David Wilkerson often preached, “Don’t waste your afflictions!” Our suffering can produce valuable assets to the Kingdom of God, preparing our vessels for God’s Spirit to flow through and reach others who may be floundering in a dark miry pit.

Broken to be shared

Broken to be shared

Wheat must be threshed for flour, kneaded and molded for the fire and, finally, broken to be shared. When hardship and turmoil come, when emotional trauma strikes and pierces with multilayer pain, let us grasp the ‘two prong anchor’ and build on this foundational promise. Let us cry out to the Lord, seek godly avenues of wisdom and support. Decidedly worship, let your spirit gain strength as the Lord inhabits your praise. Above all, do not give up. Let us resolve that, even before threshing comes, we will stand and press on with the certainty that sovereign God will produce in us that which has eternal value.