Fathers – What They Really Need

Father’s Day is somewhat complicated today. Gone is the simple joy of picking out the new tie, cozy slippers, or warm sweater. Our culture of confused gender roles and sexual identities disparages traditional role of fathers. Single parenting and strained marriages often make stressed parents.

So what do fathers really need?

More than ever fathers – our sons, brothers, and husbands – need the undergirding strength of fervent prayer.

My parents, ages 90 and 92, visited the grave of their only son who tragically died years ago.  At 38, my brother Paul was a strong believer, heartbroken to leave his young family but spiritually ready to meet the Lord.  Not so my beloved parents who stand grieving without hope of seeing their son nor eternal life unless they repent and receive salvation.  

Father’s Day is June 19th.  In anticipation, perhaps as a community of readers, writers, and believers can we commit to pray starting Sunday June 12th for fathers and would be fathers – sons, husbands, and brothers?  May they rise up to know the Lord, pursue righteousness, and take authority in their homes as spiritual leaders, lovingingly drawing their family to Christ.  Will you join me?  

The older I get the more I like lists…perhaps you will also make a list of those you will vie for, beseeching our Father in heaven to intervene.  May they find and fulfill the call of God upon their lives and know eternal hope at their jouney’s end.

Let’s give fathers what they really need.  

Amid Powers of Darkness

As families and communities mourn another grievous act of violence, political pundits rally with vehement demands for gun control and, to a lesser degree, a call for expansion of mental health services. A separate post would be needed to address the inadequacy of gun control. Mental health is a vital component, addressing individuals’ emotional suffering and instability but would it really prevent violence?

Martyn Lloyd Jones presented a teaching, undated but prior to his death in 1981, entitled, Not Against Flesh And Blood. To expedite a concise review I will merely post some quotes taken therein. (emphasis in quotes are his)

Chapter 1: The Forces of Evil and the Nations

“Christians are not merely good men and women…they are essentially new people…partakers of the divine nature, the life of God enters into our souls and the Holy Spirit dwells within us.”

“Consequently, anything that happens to Christian men and women immediately becomes a test of who they are and what they believe as Christians.”

“‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of the world, against spiritual wickedness in high places’. And that, according to the Bible, is the ultimate explanation of the whole of human history, both biblical and secular.”

“Why do wars happen at all? The tragedy today is that people do not seek the causes…Nor do wars come about merely for political reasons…These evils are entirely the result of the operation of the devil and principalities and powers…They are all the work of the devil as he operates both upon individuals and upon larger groups.”

“...the devil produces lawlessness”.

“He insinuates thoughts into the mind and we are not aware of it.”

While much of this chapter addresses the evils of war, the principles therein are applicable to individual acts of violence and lawlessness. Martyn Lloyd Jones also outlines ‘The Christian’s Duty’ amid social and national uprises and war,

“Christians are to aid the state and the government that is appointed of God in its task of arresting and subjugating, as far as is possible, the forces of evil.”

However, “…a man or woman who believes that any league, union or organization will banish war has never understood the spiritual teaching of the Bible. They are thinking in terms of flesh and blood, and do not understand human nature. They have no knowledge of the devil and the principalities and powers of evil.”

“Men and women will never introduce an era of peace.”

“Anything is possible from humanity in sin…wars and strife will go on until the arrival of God’s appointed day, the day of the Lord…There is a definite end to history….a day when the Lord Jesus Christ shall come back as the King of kings…And He will destroy every enemy: the devil, the principalities and powers, the very rulers of this darkness, this spiritual wickedness in high places. They will all be finally destroyed.”

In chapter 2 Lloyd Jones discusses ‘The Manifestation of Evil Powers’, including demonology, the activities of evil powers specifically in witchcraft, mesmerism, astrology, and magic. In chapter 3 are warnings for those who partake in any form of spiritualism.

The focus of chapter 4 is Demon Possession. As a medical doctor, Martyn Lloyd Jones outlines the distinctions between a medical condition and demon possession, “In devil possession there is always a failure to conform to any known pattern of symptoms for a disease.” and “…there are certain unusual symptoms which are not found in clinical diseases.” Strange and unusual behavior, including violence, is noted here.

He points to examples of known demon possession, “We are aware today of the fact that one personality can command and control and direct another.”

Over 50 years ago Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote,

“…today – in an age of moral declension, in an age of godlessness, in an age of excesses, in an age when people no longer believe in God…When education becomes purely secular and denies the Bible entirely and denies God…though people become sophisticated and have a knowledge of a kind, it is not sufficient to withstand the onslaught of these evil powers.”

Fifty years later, these truths are personified by a plethora of demonic influences within our schools, media, entertainment – nearly every cultural outlet. Allurements all to self-gratification, self-glorification, and every evil thought to fuel and ignite behavior.

Social initiatives and new laws will not curb the ongoing violence in our streets and schools, that’s like fighting a fire breathing dragon with a toothpick.

There is nothing in our purview powerful enough to address increasing wanton violence. As believers, our strength comes from separation, shutting in with the Lord through prayer and His living word. Only through the Holy Spirit can we gain understanding and the unction to minister in our communities amid the powers of darkness.

Making The Last Lap The Best

Healthcare-Elective-Care-Hero

Although I haven’t met them, I feel a close kinship with several WP writers. I often imagine joyfully meeting them in heaven, “Hey! It’s you!”. David Ettinger is one such writer. I’ve read his articles in Zion’s Fire for many years and enjoy his blog, http://ettingerwriting.wordpress. I commented today on his blog about aging and he encouraged me to turn the comment into a post!

At 64, like David, I’m included in the huge population of aging baby-boomers. Sometimes I have to remind myself, “Move on, you’re too old for those jeans!” or, “That’s for younger folks, act your age!” Mostly I need no reminding. I catch my reflection off guard or wonder, what’s the word I’m looking for…

But as believers we stand apart from the vast number of ‘baby-boomers’ and need not clamor over every new study on failing health, mental decline, or worry over aging alone in the world. Yes, take care of our vessel with healthy foods, good exercise and intellectual challenges. But our greatest hope and trust is not in a ‘good lifestyle’ but in a good and faithful God.

Years ago, the Lord taught me the precision of the sword, the word of God, that “…penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit…” My husband Bob grew up in the projects of Brooklyn, his neighbor, Donia Marie, was a strong believer. Her husband abandoned her and their children but her faith did not waiver – she shared the Gospel with the families around her and often invited them to church. When the youths, such as Bob, joined gangs, Donia Marie continued to pray and show them God’s love.

Her diligent prayers yielded much fruit. Several youths, such as Bob, became a true believers years later, always remembering their neighbor’s faithful witness. In 2006 her family called from out of state, sharing that Donia Marie suffered from Alzheimer’s. We went out to visit. This dear sister could not remember Bob, nor did she recognize her own daughter, but she recited scriptures, remembered the precious Gospel, and sang songs of praise while we were there. Her mind may have failed but her spirit and the life of God within her, was alive. Although she died in 2007, her testimony and love are still spoken of today. This encouraged me in many ways, realizing that mental health does not preclude spiritual health, and the purposes of God are not thwarted by our diminished capacities.

The Lord equips us for every season of our life, whether we are weakening from illness, aging or injury. Unlike the world’s challenges, ‘Fight your weakness! Reverse aging! Five Steps to Live Longer!’ our Lord declares, ‘When you are weak, then you are strong!’

Zac Poonen makes this point often in his Bible teaching, succinctly expounding, from Genesis to Revelation, how God waits for our own strength and flesh to reach ZERO for Him to move in with His strength, His purposes, and His divine power.

“All the trying circumstances, frustrations and disappointments, heartaches, etc that we go through are meant by God to bring the strength of our self down to zero”. (https://www.cfcindia.com/wftw/the-new-wine-in-new-wineskins) I highly recommend his books such as New Wine.

Brother Zac cites this truth with the spiritual giants of scripture who, at their weakest point, their ‘final years’, their point of greatest lacking – God said, ‘Now you’re ready to serve!’ When our ‘self-strength’ is gone, the Holy Spirit can move through our brokenness for God’s glory.

Paul Washer also edifies my faith, teaching ‘God is Creating Weakness in Our Life’. Pointing to our precious forerunner, Jesus, Pastor Paul cites Isaiah’s prophetic word, “Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My chosen One in whom I delight…” God upheld Jesus, Paul Washer expounds, upon how much more must He uphold us!

“Jesus didn’t spend lengths of time in prayer because He was so spiritual or to show devotion; He was praying because He needed prayer, He needed to draw upon the Father’s strength…”

“Our problem is never that we’re too weak! God is constantly working weakness in us. We don’t even know how weak we are!”

Only believers can claim the certainty of ‘strength’ and ‘purpose’ as our natural lives decline and weaken. If we’re still here, still in the race, God’s purposes for us in this world remain: preparing us for His Kingdom, conforming us to the image of Christ, reaching out with the Gospel and declaring the coming of the King.

I pray to grasp ahold of these truths, to walk closer with the Lord – our forerunner in this race – and make the last lap the best lap before I meet Him face to face!

NYPD: Missing Man Formation

Almost everyone grieves the loss of these two outstanding young men, dedicated to public service, ambushed and killed by a treacherous reprobate. To honor their service and sacrifice, I would encourage those who missed the services to view the funerals online for Detectives Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, promoted posthumously.

Prior to my retirement from State Parole, I covered the Harlem precincts, including the 32 precinct, for nearly 30 years. We often worked alongside NYPD during investigations, executing warrants and making arrests. On my own, I averaged about 20 homevisits a week in Harlem, checking on curfews, parolee status, community and family complaints, and general assistance to releasees. That’s about 1,000 home visits a year. While there were some hairy moments, I was never afraid, never wanted to leave the Harlem community for ‘easier’ precincts or positions.

That was then.

Just a week before these shootings I wondered, How to Live in a Reprobate City, noting the dilution of criminal offenses by newly elected D.A. Bragg. The deaths of Detectives Rivera and Mora now mark the fourth and fifth shootings of NYPD officers in January alone seem a grim launch into 2022.

We don’t have a ‘gun problem’, as some politicians would sum it. We have a serious violence problem, morality problem, and sin problem which is reaping the dark and tragic fruits of lawlessness.

As Detective’s Mora’s casket left St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the skies held a traditional sad tribute – a Missing Man Formation. In honor of a lost one of valor, planes or helicopters fly overhead in formation, then one will depart.

Today, helicopters flew in Missing Man Formation to honor Det Wilbert Mora,

Mora missing man formation

While both Detectives Rivera and Mora are a tremendous loss to our community, there is, I fear, one even greater.

The incremental annihilation of God’s laws, God’s ways, and God’s decrees is leaving us to the destructive ways of human nature. We have boldly rejected God and elect men and women to establish this anarchy.

There is a colossal Missing Man Formation flying overhead everyday. His absence and departure, His abandonment in judgment, will culminate into the worst lament of mankind.

May we, who know God, seek Him everyday, call upon Him everyday, walk with Him everyday and however He wills, may we boldly represent God and His salvation through Jesus Christ alone. He may be a ‘Missing Man’ to those around us – let us be a light that He may be seen.

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!

Lord, Raise Up Nathans!

The greatest cultural tragedy of our time is not political corruption, immigration crisis, abortion fervor or economic downfalls. From heaven’s view, church apostasy, carnality and compromise are what grieves God’s heart.

Does a church, a group of believers, start out apostate? Do they first gather together as a kernel of faith with compromise in their hearts? Nearly every overgrown church and ministry once began with a group of sincere believers, perhaps in someone’s home, even gathering to worship in a garage. Leadership emerges, spiritual momentum grows, and bigger venues are sought – all with prayer and longing for God’s Kingdom.

So what happens? How do sincere believers morph into a mega-church and become apostate and worldly? How do esteemed pastors, whom I have learned from in the past, swerve into compromise, questioning or diluting the Biblical tenets such as creation, truths of the end times, and the established protocols for God’s people? How do they pivot away from holiness and aspire to worldly success and acclaim?

Nearly always, the light of Christ exponentially dims as the church grows with wealth, popularity and cultural/political influence. Knowingly or not, the worldly design of success, wealth, celebrity status and world status slowly takes root – opposite to God’s design of growing deeper in humility, sacrifice, and separation from the world.

One central fault of design predicating compromise is the utter esteem of one leader, rather than a plural leadership of elders as described by Paul. It is often a predictable pattern now, always bringing disillusionment and, at its fruition, painful heartbreak with ministries implode.

The pattern seems thus: a gifted leader becomes the central focus of church success and so to maintain the ‘church success’ of popularity, wealth, public image and proliferation, the inner circle spins or covers up indiscretions and sin. They surround themselves with ‘yes men’ just as the world would.

Q: Where would David have ended up without Nathan? Without the conviction of Nathan, who bravely rebuked this king, David would have fallen into the worst judgment known to man – God would have turned him over to his sin. Without conviction, without godly sorrow, comes hardness of heart and justification of sin. A ‘Nathan’ is a great gift from God – unafraid to convict of sin and compromise (personal notes from my Bible, source unknown)

It is deeply painful to love and serve in a profound ministry and watch it implode however, hindsight reveals that God leaks and uncovers sin and opens the eyes of those who will see. “Leakage” is a concept in law enforcement investigations – referring to leads and clues from criminal behavior that can reveal the truth. There is leakage pulpits as well.

When ‘Nathans’ rise up too late, their voice is diminished and they are often expelled from the circle of influence as there is so much to lose. And the church will then spin a story about why they left.

Although several ministries come to mind, and I rarely mention names, I will say that the ‘cover-up’ in John MacArthur’s church regarding his COVID illness and others in the church is very telling. It is leakage for any who care to see. Other leakage would be his assertion that ‘those who take the mark of the beast can still be saved’ – utterly contrary to scripture. While he rightly points out apostate doctrines and erroneous leaders, he wrongly often ridicules them, leading his congregation to laugh when they should really be crying.

Where are the Nathans to rise up, when leaders’ hearts are still tender and fearfully bent toward God?

As part of Christ’s body, we are all called to more than being fed God’s word. He installs gifts in each of us, that we may rise up and live out scripture – the “living and active, sharper than any two edged sword” word of God. Do we believe it is, ‘God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking and correcting’?

‘Nathans’ may fail to rise up, squelching the conviction in their heart. Or, they may be expelled from the church when they do. But without scriptural and godly rebuke, roots of compromise and carnality will seep into every aspect of the church or ministry and the end result, even if the ministry stands, will be Ichabod.

“You are the man!” Words of conviction yet of great love, as God chastises those He loves, those He calls His own.

Oh Lord, stir our hearts with Your purposes, and raise up the hearts of Nathans in your congregations, rebuke us, humble us. Let us aspire to holiness, not success, that others may see the Lord.

Lunching in Bollywood – Again!

Admittedly, I really enjoy my Bollywood lunch breaks in fact, I actually find myself in conversations doing the head ‘bobble’. While it may take a week to finish a film, I have two that I must share, both produced by Aamir Kahn, both starring an endearing teen actress, Zaira Wasim.

In 2017, ‘The Secret Superstar’ casts Zaira as a talented young school girl, Insia, who sings her own songs and plays the guitar. Aamir Kahn often presents pressing social issues into story plots and here we find domestic violence and female oppression. Under her father’s rule, Insia secretly creates and performs online. I won’t tell you the rest, it is an uplifting family movie which you may want to see. “Nachdi Phira” is a beautiful love song that Insia sings. It’s hardly possible not to like this song!

The year before “Secret Superstar”, 2016, Kahn starred Zaira Wasim in his blockbuster film, ‘Dangal’. The movie dramatically portrays the real life of Mahavir Singh Phogat, an aspiring wrestler whose life lost all joy after abandoning athletics, never reaching his highest goal – the Olympics. Resigned to live a hard working life supporting his wife and two daughters, one day everything changes – determination grips his heart to train his daughters for greatness. Kahn captures the cultural beauty of family commitments, village life, and the challenges of confronting social barriers. ‘Dangal’ ranks in the top 20 of India’s highest grossing films – it is surprisingly engaging, amusing, and suspenseful. Not one boring moment! I will not tell you what happens!

dangal girls training

What really impressed me….

I was intrigued by this award winning teen Zaira Wasim and looked at her real life situation. What I found really surprised me. At the pinnacle of success in 2019, at only 18 years old, she announced a total resignation from acting and entertainment. She pleaded with fans to remove all photos and videos of her, dismantled social media accounts, and scrubbed what was not copyrighted from the internet. Zaira shared her heart and elaborated to those who loved and followed her, in part:

“5 years ago I made a decision that changed my life forever. As I stepped into Bollywood, it opened doors of massive popularity for me…though I may fit here perfectly, I do not belong here.…This field indeed brought a lot of love, support, and applaud my way, but…” Zaira describes how fame and accolades derailed her faith and devotion to Allah and added, “I silently and unconsciously transitioned out of imaan” (her inner peace).

“I continued to put myself in a vulnerable position where it was always so easy to succumb to the environment that damaged my peace, imaan and my relationship with Allah…”

“My sincere advice to everyone is that no amount of success, fame, authority or wealth is worth trading or losing your peace or the light of your ‘imaan’…Success is the accomplishment of the purpose of our creation. We have forgotten the purpose we were created for as we ignorantly continue to pass through our lives; deceiving our consciences…”

zaira pose III

“Though I may fit here perfectly, I don’t belong here…”

I immediately wondered, how many Christians would give up wealth, popularity, and notoriety for their faith? How many Christian leaders secretly covet the spotlight and accolades of their venue and beyond? Do we boast about having a ‘Grammy Award winning’ choir? Doesn’t every mega church now thrive on celebritieson talented, famed, ‘worship performances’?

I had to search my own heart, do I turn away from everything that would interfere or diminish my relationship with my Savior? Am I willing to follow Him, away from everything in this world, to obey His call and declare to unbelievers that Jesus is worth forsaking all? How much do we care about others’ opinions and approval?

We too may “fit here perfectly” but we don’t belong here. I pray that we, as God’s people, can uproot and guard our hearts from this world. Only separated can we hope to be a beacon that lights the way for others to enter into God’s Kingdom.

I am moved by this young now former actress. Her conscience was pressed and her heart ached to be right before ‘Allah’. She guarded her faith and ‘relationship’ with ‘God’. I pray her diligence takes her further, compels her toward deep and living truths, and leads her to her only Savior, Jesus Christ, who alone is worthy to forsake all.

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.

Signs of The Times and The Suburbs

The implosion of major US cities is no secret.  Even as steadfast New Yorkers, we prayed about leaving, considering a condo in the country for a real change.  However, while visiting my parents, my elderly dad offered, “Why not move in with us?”  As my 90 year old mother slowly passed by with her walker, the country real estate postings in my mind went ‘poof’.  Grateful to enjoy and honor my parents in their senior days, we are for the most part, in suburbia.

For me, ‘suburbia’ tries hard through landscape to look ‘country’ and tries hard through programs to be ‘cultural’ but it misses the urban and rural essence somewhat.  Nonetheless, aside from occasional days back in NYC, I am here to serve the Lord however He assigns.

Part of my personal routine here is an early morning worship walk around the neighborhood where I free myself to sing to the Lord, add some dance steps to my walk, and pray.  Seeing occasional rabbits hop by or chipmunks scurry adds to my joy.

What takes away my joy is the boisterous signs that seem to declare a self-righteousness that, at times, pointedly disavows God.

20200804_065602One popular sign asserts the gamut of humanistic values on evolution, gender equality, immigration, and, in rainbow colors, sexual affirmations.

WE BELIEVE…..and believe so strongly that we want to post all this on our front lawns!

There are ‘minority’ families in the neighborhood, black and Indian.  Notably, none of them have any such signs, an ongoing reminder of what our black friends in Harlem reported months ago, “Yeah, Black Lives Matter marched through Harlem…but they were ALL WHITE PEOPLE!”

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According to The Acton Institute, BLM champions: Reparations through racial socialism, Defunding the Police, Dismantling the family, Global overthrow of Capitalism, Reparations for drug dealers and the legalization of drugs and prostitution….

Hello neighbors, is that what you really believe?  If any ONE of these things happened on your pristine street you would dial 911 and fast….

In a culture nearly scrubbed of God, people are hungry for ‘righteousness’ and some kind of zeal to stir their hearts.  So needy for meaningful passion they will follow and ride a Trojan horse even to their own detriment…

What can a believer do during daily walk-worship?  Pray for my neighbors and believe that Jesus Christ, our Head, moves His Body around with eternal purpose.  If I had my own home, I would put my own sign….

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I’m no graphic artist but it’s a start…

May the Lord inspire and encourage you as you press on for His glory!