Passing God The Baton

Junctures, crossroads, and detours come in the course of many fiery trials.  Believers, followers of the Lord Jesus, have access to God’s strength, wisdom, and leadership to forge ahead.  However, God can lead even His sheep to what seems to be a dead end.

Previous posts such as  Defeat and Confusion – Lord, Press On!, Waiting on God, Praying for my Enemies, Time to Quit or Go Deeper,   ‘Defeated’ but Refocused and Refreshed describe the ongoing battle in our neighborhood to save Haven Avenue from Columbia University’s plan to close it.  Under the guise of a ‘pedestrian plaza’ they are aggressively forging through our neighborhood to expand their campus.  At the same time outside developers won their conquest to rezone an adjacent neighborhood, with the sure result of gentrification and displacement.

But the defeat of our street, Haven Avenue stung the deepest.  Over the past year, our neighbors strongly rallied together, petitioned, canvassed, and presented to the Community Board not only our opposition but the inevitable hazard and hardship street closure would bring. While we understood ‘backroom deals’, what was most grievous was the forefront of corruption, in our face.  Betrayal and deceit and finally total dismissal of the community – live streamed and undeterred!

Even worse, all this at the behest of ‘an elite institute of higher learning’, one that even quotes Biblical scripture in their mottos.  The expressions of triumph as they defeated us – their neighbors – revealed the lowest of morality.

SO, we conferred as a group and committed to take legal action, an appeal with the State Supreme Court as procedure allows.  I myself poured into this, researching and writing, to present the case pro se.  There were definite grounds to appeal.  I started with such gusto, but found myself trudging through wet cement.  It became evident that,  without an attorney, at $15,000+,  we were surely jumping into a pool of sharks.  Their team of lawyers would happily eat us for lunch.

I have now conceded that it’s over…at least my part.  I believe I’ve come to a dead end. 

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Even deflated and defeated, “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.  With your help, I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”

The Lord answered our prayers for our neighbors – we now know them enough to share our faith and pray for them.  He led us into a battle and girded us to stand and present the truth, exposing shameful and corrupt tactics, calling us to pray – not just for our victory but moreso for the depraved morality of those before us.

I believe we have run as far as we are able under God’s guidance.  Like King Jehoshaphat we cry, “O our God, will you not judge them?  For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”

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The battle is totally in His hands. 

The ‘next step’ is sometimes the hardest….”Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.”

Yes Lord, keep my lamp burning…..

 

‘Defeated’ but Refocused and Refreshed

In Time to Quit or Go Deeper , a looming social and political threat hung over our neighborhood at large.  The same villainous City Councilman who championed Columbia University’s takeover of our street, now spearheaded a major rezoning of the neighborhood at large, opening floodgates of opportunities to big developers and real estate moguls.  Without exception, ‘rezoning’ = ‘gentrification’ in NYC, always resulting in the eventual displacement of thousands.

protest sign

We were, indeed, sold out!

Yesterday, August 8th, I joined a large gathering at City Hall, planning to attend this fateful public vote but found we were all shut out.  Nonetheless we stayed and voiced our opposition on the steps of City Hall.

The City Council was well aware of the residents’ vehement objection to this pervasive plan.  None the less, they voted  43-1 in favor.  Even Councilmen who previously expressed objection changed their vote. 

If pressing in with the Lord, going deeper, results in such a devastating defeat, why bother?  Because the ‘issue at hand’ is usually not God’s focus.  I prayed for my neighbors, whom I hardly knew and found myself alongside them in battle.  Personally, I do not subscribe to the ‘social gospel’ or ‘felt needs gospel’ and never believe, ‘together we can change the world!’  But as our hearts were charged with the issues at hand, the Lord did a work that eluded me for all these years living here.  I came to know and love my neighbors, enabling me to care and truly pray for them.   

Going deeper into fellowship with the Lord, through worship, prayer and His word, will not guarantee any worldly victory.  But a sincere heart, determined to meet with sovereign God, will hear from Him.  All else becomes inconsequential in His presence as His word brings clarity, light, and understanding.  Moreover, as we present ‘our heart’s desires’ to Him,  the Lord may refocus and redirect us to His desires, His focus, and His plan.  He is, after all, our Commanding Officer.

Amid the earthly defeat – and there will be many more and worse in these last days – there is one sign that I will never stop ‘carrying’.  I posted it in my young brother’s hospital room.  Soon, nurses and attendants were taking photos of it to share with those who suffer.

My brother died in that room, but the sign is still here…

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May we, as the Body of Christ, lock arms and go deeper – not into the world but into His presence.

Still praying for my neighbors……

 

Time to Quit or Go Deeper

Many of you know that, after several months of praying for our neighbors, a battle arose in which we actually came to know our neighbors, care sincerely for them, and join along side them.  In the past posts, the saga of Columbia University’s take over of Haven Avenue covered our victory and subsequent defeat.  In Defeat and Confusion – Lord, Press On!  I described hope arising with in a New York Times reporter who interviewed us extensively.  We prayed for a ‘Watergate breakthrough’…. That was four weeks ago!  The reporter told us last week that it’s coming a-n-y day now.

As Columbia gets set to launch their campus expansion, another development arose, championed by the same Councilman, Ydanis Rodriguez!  After selling out the residents of Haven Avenue,  he spearheaded a major plan by outside developers to rezone Inwood, the northern part of our neighborhood.  This plan would open the gates to commercial and luxury development, zoning out much of the affordable housing and small businesses.

I will not post details or sources, but there is a lot of money shuffling under the table.

I am all for renewal and upgrade but in NYC, rezoning results in gentrification and displacement of working class families.  The Councilman in Williamsburg, for example, pointed out that rezoning displaced 30,000 Hispanics from his catchment area.  Inwood is 71% Hispanic.

I totally understand that, as this world spins into the last days and coming judgment, these issues may count for nothing.  Admittedly, we are not facing famine, human trafficking, or persecution.  But the Lord doesn’t require desperate and dire need to care and intervene.  When He fed over 5,000, described in Matthew 14, they weren’t starving to death.  They weren’t even asking Him for food!  But Jesus had compassion for their present need.

Will blocks of Haven Avenue soon close and morph into a campus?  Will the ax fall on Inwood, final vote for rezoning on Wednesday, August 8th?  It certainly looks that way!

It’s time to either quit or go deeper.  

bob and protest sign  

There is a protest march this evening in Inwood, calling for the City Council to vote against the rezoning.  Rodriguez, a lame duck in his current office, refuses the outcry of his constituents.  The grapevine describes his sites upon the office of Public Advocate.  Laugh/cry moment here!

How does a believer go deeper when the battle seems lost? 

The only way to go deeper into the battle is shutting in with the Lord.  While the world turns with backroom deals, the Kingdom of God advances through faith.  Going deeper will test you and cost you.

My neighbors will be marching this evening…it just so happens my husband and I cannot make it.  But even better, we can forge ahead with all night prayer.  I believe prayer deserves appointment and schedule, as though one were meeting with a president, a prime minister, a King!

I do not sense a call to quit but to go deeper, not only for the speck on earth called Haven Avenue and Inwood, but for my neighbors to see the Lord.   May the Lord alone be exalted even as all other hope and options flush away.

It is not shocking to find a corrupt politician or greedy opportunists.  But if the Lord puts them before you, He may be drawing you to cry out for their souls, that they come to godly sorrow and repentance. 

By the time many of you read this, my all night prayer meeting will be over.  While it may end up with only me and the Holy Spirit, I invite anyone online to join in and ask the Lord to intervene.

If your heart is burdened, if heaven seems silent, if the battle seems totally lost – even worsening – commit to go deeper.  As always, with the Lord the thing at hand is not always His focus.  He can churn a storm to bring out one Jonah.

Let’s see what the Lord will do….

 

The Pastor of La Perla (el Barrio Pt 2)

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Pastor Ivan, before La Perla, with a call upon his heart…

 

If the Lord is seeking a soldier that will stand his post, a shepherd who will stand with the sheep – however few remain,  and a beacon that will bear light through the storm… He found a Pastor in La Perla.

Six years ago, God called Pastor Ivan out from a vibrant NYC ministry into a neighborhood in Puerto Rico described for years as “decrepit” and “dangerous”.  Please see:  When God Moves Into el Barrio (Pt 1)   Over the course of 40 years many ministries and churches have staked a claim in La Perla, perhaps hoping to be the shining vessel through whom God will bring deliverance.  But they did not last.   God is not looking for our enthusiasm, He’s seeking steadfastness….

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the  work of the Lord, since you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  ( I Corin 15:58)

Although working alone in La Perla, the presence of God never left.  A remnant of believers arose and Pastor Ivan opened Iglesia La Perla.

But when the eye of the storm swept through Puerto Rico, many in La Perla fled.  The small flock of believers dwindled,  leaving behind those who would live without water, electricity or food supply for two months. 

“Not having electricity and water for 2 months was not easy.  And going out each day seeing where to get something to eat was not easy.”  Pastor Ivan

How many American pastors are praying for running water?  A light?  Even a sure meal…for two months? 

Pastor Ivan likened Hurricane Maria to “a bomb” hitting the island, “apocalyptic”.   I pressed him to share his feelings and challenges during that time…

“You try to understand your place as a Christian in the newly devastated world…I had the opportunity to go back to New York, many friends and family members were telling me to go back and it was tempting but I didn’t.  Even though my mind and flesh wanted to leave I knew I needed to stay and be there for others…. Like Jesus said, leave everything behind and follow Me…Learning to live a day at a time was challenging, but isn’t that what Jesus taught us?  To let go of everything and rely on Him.”   Pastor Ivan

The Lord strengthened Pastor Ivan and, at the right time, brought a mission team to encourage, provide and share in God’s plan.  Renovations for Iglesia  La Perla and plans for a youth workshop and Bible study building are already underway!

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Pastor Ivan – a shepherd with a calling and vision…and a truck with lumber!

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Le Perla by the sea…God rebuilding upon what Maria blew away…

There is an active work of God moving throughout this world and our call is to join in.

Please join in the Lord’s work here through focused prayer.

  • Pray for Pastor Ivan, that the Lord encourage him and minister to him through His word
  • Pray for the Youth Workshop, that the Lord’s design and plans prevail and bear fruit
  •  Pray for the souls of La Perla and for others to find deliverance and salvation, entering into the freedom and promises of God.  May Iglesia La Perla grow and be a shining star to exalt the glory of God.

What God is doing here He can do in your life, in your home, in your community – no matter how devastated.  Pray for God to raise up leadership, stand together on God’s word and be steadfast.  Let’s see what the Lord will do!

Hurricanes Strip but Jesus Covers

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Upheavals expose the futility of man and often prepare the ground for seeds of true life.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.  Hebrews 4:13

While tucked away under prevailing current events, the devastation of Hurricane Maria continues to impact the communities of Puerto Rico.  Reconstruction is slow, 40% of the island remains without power and the hearts of the people, especially in remote areas,  grow heavier with the passing days.

Maria whipped through an already failed economy with 45% of residents living at the poverty level before she struck.  While the island fades from the media the darkness grows deeper as murder rates soar and suicides increase.  Failing government flounders.  Massive sick-outs by overwhelmed law enforcement agents, unpaid due wages,  exacerbate crime rate and fear.

Storms expose the condition of our hearts, our homes, and our community.  When governments fail and hopelessness abounds it may well become fertile and tilled ground for the Body of Christ.  My husband saw this when working on the island as part of a mission team.  While planning to provide some reconstruction and repair, the team soon found that the greatest need and longing is restoration of the heart and soul.

The Lord moves His Body in place to answer the cries of brokenness.

While in a devastated area, going door to door with care packages and the love of God,  team members Chris, who also directs security at our church and Sarah, a psychiatric nurse worked together with a local pastor and shared this testimony…

At one point in our canvassing we found no one home but the way led to a park where we saw a woman, sitting alone, underneath a tree.  We approached her to ask about her needs, how we might help in any way.  The woman was obviously downcast and heavy hearted. 

“I’ve been praying for days, asking for God’s direction, what I should do” she shared. “Ten years ago I lived in New York City, I used to go to Times Square Church.  My husband lives in New York City but I don’t know what to do.  My mother lives here….I’m praying for direction, I’m asking God for a sign…”

Chris said, “We’re here from Times Square Church.” 

“Oh my God!” she exclaimed and looked up directly at Chris.  At 6’5″ with  memorable looks and physique, she added with amazement,  “I remember you, I used to see you at the front of the church!”  (a security post!)   

An emotional dam burst forth and this woman shared her brokenness and deep fears.  The team counseled her, ministered to her and prayed with her.  No provisions would ever compare to the ‘care package’ delivered by God – the Body of Christ whom she knew from a church she loved, finding her in a remote corner of an island, praying alone underneath a tree.   

There were many such testimonies, even from that same day.  My husband’s team found a woman who readily answered their call.  Inwardly desperate,  she is literally dying and described to the team her terminal condition and prognosis – less than three weeks to live.  Broken, she described her ‘backslidden’ condition, having known the Lord but turned away from Him.  Would He receive her again?  Could she be assured of eternal life?

My husband knows very well the downfall and despair from turning away from the Lord and also knows the true renewal and assurance awaiting those who repent.  He and the brother with him ministered to this woman, praying for her and with her, leading her to the assurance of eternal life.

God’s purpose in the storm, whether it is a personal trauma or natural catastrophe, may be to expose the roots of our condition and cause us to seek Him in a deeper way.  If we, as the Body of Christ, offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice” unto the Lord, He may maneuver us toward those broken people who are crying out for Him.

Please continue to pray for Puerto Rico, the work of God continues…

Well, IS a Minute a Long Time?

 

stopwatch IIMiss Chafe, my 4th grade teacher, always gave an easy ‘bonus question’ at the end of every test, something impossible to get wrong.  To this day I remember this one, “Is a minute a long time?”  Who wouldn’t say ‘no’?…but the class was divided!

Well, is a minute a long time?

Unfortunately, our culture so highly values immediacy that any downtime or ‘waiting’ is seen as wasteful loss…inefficient and unacceptable.  Mental pop-ups condition us to cyber-check and multitask.  We wouldn’t dream of waiting a minute to hear from Google or any of the ‘answer gizmos’ of our day.   Fastest car, quickest download… instant camera and telegram = instagram.  

But God’s best – His strength, His revelation, His indwelling – only come to those who wait!

I remembered Miss Chafe’s question while praying.  Do I get up upon my last request and start my day?  Can I linger on, for one minute, and wait for the Lord to speak to me?  Can I pause, even a minute, during prayer time to allow the Holy Spirit to align my prayers with God’s will?

Can I meditate upon a verse for 60 seconds, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring it to life in my heart?

God awaits us and often draws us in through fiery trials, unmet needs, and challenging griefs.  But ‘suffering’ is not the designated time to wait upon God.  The Bible calls that designated time ‘Today’. 

Take the ‘minute challenge’ but with reverent trepidation…who brings a stop watch when meeting with a King?  Sixty seconds exposes what’s in our hearts, the importance of our agendas and priorities.

Could taking a minute before praying make all the difference?

“Once you are sure that you are talking to the One who loves you intensely and the One who has all power to do anything in this universe, i.e. once we see the greatness of God, the greatness of His power, and the greatness of His love, then we are ready to pray.”   Zac Poonen

Oh Lord, let one minute turn into two, into three…let us lose track of time in Your presence.   Lord, let us linger not for just ‘an answer’…but to to know You and fellowship with you.  What burdens Your heart?  “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening…”

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“You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning…”

 

What Kind of Grass Are You Eating?

God made King Nebuchadnezzar one of the greatest kings to rule the world.  Unlike Pharaoh of Egypt whom God raised to display His power and awe (Exodus 9:16) and later destroyed in the Red Sea, King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful pagan king with ordained purpose.  God chose and empowered this world ruler to exact judgment upon His chosen people.  He witnessed supernatural power through godly exiles such as Daniel but none of this ‘favor’ changed the king’s heart nor brought him to a saving revelation of God.

He had to be separated – stripped of all position, honor, power and even stripped of sanity.  Although led to eat grass like an animal, King Nebuchadnezzar was covered by God, “drenched with the dew of heaven”.  Appointed suffering and deprivation prepared this king to know God and proclaim God’s glory to the world.  (see Daniel chapter 4)

This is not just a fantastic testimony of a world power, it is a revelation of God’s way.   Our Almighty God still chooses to reveal His power and glory through frail and faulty vessels and most often to do so He separates us, strips us, and deprives us of worldly and fleshly pleasures and positions.   With divine purpose, God can drive us to eat the grass of illness, deprivation, anguish, and ‘dethronements’ of all kinds. 

The ‘dew of heaven’ is evident upon the lives of many believers such as Terri Nida.  While fasting and seeking God’s will, she fainted with a precise fall that would leave her a quadriplegic.  Separated and ‘dethroned’ from her old life, she testifies of God’s divine purpose and sustaining power in her site, Diary of a Quadriplegic.  In her most recent post, To Live Is Christ, (9/29/17) she extols and praises God…

 

terri nida“Praise be to God for my wheelchair. I believe through this trial, he is saving my soul. I believe through this trial, he is making me whole. God is making me into the woman I always wanted to be — maybe not externally, but by leaps and bounds internally. All those years I felt sorry for myself and tried to drink my troubles away because I felt so empty inside. I’d rather be sitting in this wheelchair than sitting in a dark apartment drunk on wine. I’d rather be sitting in this wheelchair than mindlessly going to work every day wondering who I am and what is my purpose; always wanting more, more, more from my life. I’d rather be sitting in this wheelchair than living as a lost soul in this world without a relationship with God, stuck in a rut with no way out, wondering why am alive?   Read whole post here:   To Live Is Christ

Through whatever ‘grass’ we are compelled to eat – physical and/or emotional affliction, deprivation, grief, or loss, may we be “drenched with the dew of heaven” –  God’s presence and favor – and find encouragement by trusting in God’s sovereignty over every detail of the appointed affliction.  I pray that the Lord reveal Himself in greater measure, refilling us with the joy of His divine purpose.

Before He answers let us “acknowledge that Heaven rules”.