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.

The Hopeless and Futile Life of St. Barnacle and His Followers!

Saint Barnacle of Galilee is not well known but his legacy lives on throughout the generations, sadly continuing on today. He lived as peer to the Lord’s disciples in fact, he was alongside the fisherman Peter. That is when he first heard the Lord speak. Jesus’ sermons captivated this Barnacle and he soon decided to follow Him. However, Christ’s messages became more and more convicting and difficult to accept. The call to “pick up your cross” greatly interfered with his lifestyle and ambitions. Realizing though that Jesus is the Messiah, Saint Barnacle never really turned away but established a place outside the inner circle, farther from the ‘hem of His garment’ but close enough to hear at least the good messages. When the loaves and fish were multiplied, St. Barnacle and his followers were there towards the back. They missed parts of the sermon but did receive a meal.

When the Lord preached from the boat, St. Barnacle and his followers were the closest – they lodged themselves on the side of Christ’s boat but unfortunately, as barnacles they  were unable to ever leave – ever close, but unable to see Jesus. They could hear His preached word but never His intimate disclosures. When storms came, St. Barnacle and his followers were stuck on the outer side of the boat, unable to enter in and grasp a hold of the Lord. They never knew His peace.  They were distant when the Lord was crucified, and worse, they heard about the resurrection but did not witness it. They learned of the Upper Room but could neither receive nor conceive of the Holy Spirit’s outpour of might and power.

Saint Barnacle, perhaps not a saint at all, died on the side of Jesus’ boat as did many that gathered around him. A few followers however did manage to break away before that boat smashed against a rock. They continue to congregate today on the outskirts of ‘inner church circles’, never really entering in, never allowing Christ to ‘interfere’ with their lives, never really seeing the cross or accepting the call to die to self.

barnacles III

You may go places as a barnacle but never hear the Captain’s call.

Entire churches of barnacles gather today, content to live in the flow of the world,  using pearls of Holy Scripture to bolster and  coach their ambitions and goals.

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their inching ears want to hear.” (II Timothy 4:3)

I pray that we turn from preaching that builds us up.  The Holy Spirit is seeking to dwell within us that we may truly walk as the Body of Christ in this world. His candidates are God’s representatives in this world – those inclined to “pick up their cross” and follow Jesus.

Proximity and familiarity could not save those outside Noah’s ark.

In these last days, noted by Jesus “as the days of Noah”, we are spinning rapidly toward His return as water quickly swirls toward the end of a funnel. Now is the time to consider and affirm our stand before the Lord. Have we truly entered into a life with Him? Are we His sheep that hear His voice?

I challenge myself and friends, resist the clamor of the world as it spins toward judgment. Let us not be bystanders in church, content with a pep talk from scripture. Let us find the flow of the Holy Spirit, where He is working, and pray to enter in. If your church does not preach the full Gospel, including true repentance and coming judgment, pray for your pastor, pray for guidance and depend on the Lord’s leading.

Barnacles never enter in but live in perpetual yet futile proximity and attachment to the boat. The intimacy, power, and presence of God is forever out of their reach….yes, forever.

Our short lives on earth today determine our place in eternity. There is no salvation found in proximity to the Lord.  We can all be stuck like barnacles, powerless in sin, complacency, and confusion.  But the Lord’s will is for us to enter into His life – He waits for us to turn.

I pray oh Lord, scrape us off from the sides of this world and draw us into Your Life, live through us that our lives might be blameless and truly matter for Your Kingdom, through whatever ‘good works you have prepared in advance for us.’ (Ephesians 2:10)


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.

Useless Fire at The End of The Day

Preoccupation with self is blinding....

Preoccupation with self is blinding….

God warns of an unacceptable, contemptible ‘useless fire’ in the temple (Malachi 1:10).  It is a fire which burns an offering unfit for a King, a sacrifice that fails to honor, glorify and worship.      It is a blemished gift, leftover and superficial – without the cost of devotion.    

Burning fire, incense, sacrifices to the Lord were daily devotions in the temple.  These were acts of worship, repentance, and atonement.  In Leviticus 6:8-13, God sets forth this mandate for the priests, thrice commanding:  “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out”.  How is this relevant to us?  Speed forward to Christ. His atoning sacrifice on the cross tore the curtain of the temple from top to bottom (Mark 15:38), the old covenant now replaced with the new covenant, sealed with the blood of Christ, avails His salvation and indwelling Holy Spirit to all who would receive.  The Levitical priesthood abolished, true believers are now called “…a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (I Peter 2:9) Profound to consider, believers in Christ are now the temple of the living God, noted in I Corinthians 3:16 and elsewhere throughout the New Testament.  As God’s priest and temple, the mandate for us remains,

“The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out”.

The perpetual fire is the Holy Spirit – the offering is our self to God, our lives on the altar of God – “here am I Lord, live in me, live through me, I give you my life.”

Is the Holy Spirit bringing about the glory of God through our ordinary lives or is He a dwindling ember within us?  Our life given to God through daily sacrifice, the sacrifice of our will and our ways, holds the promise of God’s presence as we walk through this world.  

It is a sacrifice because it is difficult and unnatural.

What’s ‘natural’?   Separation from God.  It is natural to live for ourselves – to go where we choose, buy what we want, make our own plans.  Our natural place – at the center, at the helm, to reach and be reached at all times because what we have to say and know is very important.  A wide endless river, the culture of this world, flows to pump up the power of you.   Therein your fire is useless.   Wading in this river, ‘friendship with the world’, is hatred toward God (James 4:4).

Can we ‘unfriend’ the world?

We unfriend the world every time we kneel to pray and every time we open the Bible and our heart to God’s truths.  Through His temple, through our lives, God seeks to display His presence and greatness to the world – there is no higher calling.

The world calls and grooms us with a façade of power, tapping into our deepest instinct – to be our own god.  There are countless venues to converse, express, transmit, display and otherwise magnify ourselves.   At the end of the day though, we are empty – consumed by a useless fire.  The world cries “Have more! Do more! Improve yourself!” but the Lord admonishes, “No, put yourself on the altar – die to yourself – let Me live through you!”

God avails to us life that transcends the world’s empty clamor and façade. Sadly, many are content with powerless and useless fire – decidedly giving nothing of true value to God.   When we put our self on that altar- giving our lives and each day to God – we see the truth:  our temporary life, ebbing away each day, is no comparison to the eternal supernatural life He promises.  Every day is a new day to come to Him, exchange our life for His life, and let the fire of the Holy Spirit shine through our heart.  At the end of all days, a life lived for Jesus Christ will count for all eternity.

The Burning Lamp – A Vessel of Honor

cropped-oil_lamp2.jpgWhen the wedding day finally arrives, the bridegroom  emerges –  from an unknown place at an unknown time –  dressed ornately with festive garments and gold crown.  With carefully chosen attendants, he proceeds to the bride’s father’s house.  Virgins of Israel wait along the path, holding their lit oil lamps, with anticipation for the loud cry, “Behold the Bridegroom Cometh! Go Ye Out to Meet Him!”  As vessels of honor, they meet their Bridegroom with joy and proceed onward – to the bride’s father’s house.    (Bible History Online)

In Matthew 25, Jesus declares that the Kingdom of God will be like those virgins waiting along the wedding path for the bridegroomThe ten virgins in His parable reveal powerful truths for us today.  Five were deemed wise, five are called foolish.  There is no gray area in this revelation of God’s Kingdom.

While worthy of careful personal study, in brief the oil in this parable represents God’s Holy Spirit.  Through the ‘virgins’ or bridesmaids, we see two types of professing ‘believers’.  Note, all ten  prepared and anticipated this Bridegroom, the coming of Christ the King.  They all waited along the appointed path with lamps lit.  Pointed in this story however, five run out of oil before this Bridegroom arrives.   They were unprepared, even knowing that traditionally, the Bridegroom arrives from an unknown place at an unknown time. 

At the midnight cry, the foolish virgins sought the oil of the wise to light their dark lamps.  Not possible, replied the wise, who further advised them to go buy more oil.  Tragically, as the unprepared sought to buy more oil, the Bridegroom arrived. Scrambling to lay hold of more oil, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the five were excluded from the procession and from the glorious wedding feast – the Kingdom of God. 

Wise are those who ‘count the cost’ of following Christ – living with a view of His promised return.  True faith strengthens them to persevere and wait upon the Lord even as darkness falls upon them.  Oil comes from that which is pressed, crushed, and refined.  It is often in times of brokenness and darkness that the Holy Spirit pours oil into our hearts bringing hope and revelation of Christ.  However, have we, for this infilling, set ourselves where Christ may be found?  Do we seek, with anticipation, His ‘arrival’ of deliverance, truth, and light through His Word?   When we fellowship with God through His living Word, He lights the lamp within us.

Friends, in times of darkness, do we have enough of the Word to light our path?  Can we see the coming presence of Christ?  The Lord clearly depicts how the faith and devotion of others cannot light our lamp – we must have our own hearts prepared to see Christ. 

While all may say ‘yes’ to Christ, not all will see Him.  The ‘extra oil of the wise’ is that which is personally obtained through Bible study, prayer, and daily walk with the Lord.   What the Holy Spirit imparts to us is that which will light up our path.  “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  (Psalm 119:105)

The ‘midnight hour’ is crucial – a time of awakenings, victories and defeats.  For many who merely ‘profess’ Christ, it will be a time of dread – in Matthew 25:12  Christ reveals their destiny.  Passive faith is never enough to bring light and life – it has no power at the ‘midnight hour’.   Victory and reward awaits those who set their hearts toward God, those who cherish and hold forth the “oil of joy” – which Christ Himself pours upon those who seek and wait for His Kingdom.

“You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning;  my God turns my darkness into light.”  (Psalm 18:28)