Hurricanes Strip but Jesus Covers

hurricane upheaval, tree

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”.

 

 

When God Keeps Us Waiting….

The work of God in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for…

Tremendous and miraculous works of God, the testimonies of the saints, and the glory of God’s creation all build and grow our faith…and rightly so!  The stories of ordinary men in the hands of our extraordinary God  bring hope to our challenges and trials.

But rarely does our spiritual focus point to the faithfulness of the spiritual giants while waiting for God to move, to rescue, to answer their prayers.  Who really marvels at Joseph’s patience and endurance while waiting years in a dungeon?  With plenty of days and months for discouragement and unbelief, Joseph retained God’s favor by excelling while waiting.

True faith believes that waiting is never wasted or futile but rather a prescribed time of unexpected service, preparation and testing without which God’s perfect will might not go forward.  

“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
(Phil 2:13)

Simeon waited years, perhaps his whole life, to meet the Savior of the world and was not disappointed as an elderly man, holding God incarnate in his arms.  Did Simeon imagine that those seemingly endless seasons of God’s silence would mark him for eternity in God’s word?

Waiting often tests us and often weeds out unbelief.  Exodus 32 presents the tragic story of people who refused to wait on God….they foolishly created a ‘god’ and missed the greatness of God’s plan for their lives.

The hardest part of faith is the last half hour….Pastor David Wilkerson

Faithful- even if not always perfect- waiting upon God yields much for God’s people, whether they are waiting for urgent deliverance, miraculous healing, an open womb, or the Savior of the world.   And so I pray…

Lord, encourage those of us who are heavy hearted… dog sad

Renew our hearts with anticipation….

dog at window

Keep us steadfast at our assigned post….

Sasha at TSC cropped

no matter how small our post may seem.

Lord, help us to study your great promises and commit to remember:

The Promiser Keeps His promises. 

 

 

Who is God Looking For Now?

“Too bad you missed that prayer meeting – it was so exciting!

I always get a puzzled look from others when I share about the Times Square Church Worldwide prayer meeting.  Prayer meeting? Exciting? The large gathering of multicultural believers, the online fellowships around the world and most importantly, the presence of God make this prayer meeting so exciting.

So encouraging and stirring in fact, I am presenting my notes from Pastor Carter’s message preached during Tuesday’s prayer meeting, 6/20/17:

Thoughts on Faith and Prayer – Who is God Looking For Now?

We are living in a time of immense pain, perhaps unrivaled since the civil war…What type of people is God looking for now?  The kind of people who can push back this pain…In Biblical history when the enemy came in to destroy, God sought for a person or people who would stand in the public place and declare who He is.

Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world…”

In the time of Judges…people rose up but then fell to laziness, complacency, fell into darkness…God raised up a voice – Gideon.  He didn’t believe or see that he was a ‘mighty man of resources’ because he looked to himself, not the power of God that could  be his…we are like that – not knowing the strength we have in God…when God sends you to do something, His word is all you need to get it done – whatever He’s spoken to your heart…

You don’t need a diploma, resume, credentials…just belief in what God will do!

God sent Gideon to be a light on a hill – and God will give us His torch, smash the jars and cause our light to shine.  All we are to do is declare the victory that is in God, not us!  They made a public declaration of who God is and how our victory is in Him…God brought confusion upon the enemies and they turned on themselves…He used a people whose hearts wanted to honor Him…

What does God need from people today?  What kind of people is He looking for??

Gideon mustered a large army…~ 32,000…God said “reduce it”…first, tell all the fearful to GO HOME.  Twenty thousand men went home while 10,000 remained.  Fear says, “God is not able.”  God said, ‘those who are afraid to go public – send them home.  They are not a light on a hill’.  

The worst thing that God can ever tell us:  “I have a battle to win – go home!”

That doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with fear…we are not called to an absence of fear but to overcome fear.

God continued to decrease Gideon’s army…took them by the water…water always represents the Holy Spirit.  Then sent them to a hill – He wanted a people who would venture out, willing to go public.  And He looks today for a people to speak on His behalf to the addicted, the afflicted, the marginalized, radicalized, the broken…This is where the victory is…The devil has done all he can to silence the church.  By God’s grace we’re going to say what God gives us to say…

We are the light that God has set upon this present hill…we must proclaim, ‘It is the power of God that you need in your life – the power of God will heal your home…the power of God to break your addictions…to give you a sound mind…it is the power of God that brings clarity, a future for your children…It is the power of God alone alone that brings healing to a nation…brings unity to every race, every culture, every people…

The church will rise and be counted…like Gideon’s tiny army against a huge army…we must stand and declare to a lost generation that there IS salvation, there IS a Savior, there is a heaven and a hell…and a bridge called ‘the cross’ between the two… 

The church is going to rediscover her identity in these last days, by the grace of Almighty God!

I am willing to stand and be counted among the ‘foolish’…oh, to the Midianites it must have looked like an insane battle plan…300 people against 135,000…what a site! You had to know God was in that!…

And I know that God is with us when we choose to openly declare His name and talk about His victory…with the compassion of God in the center of our being, we call the lost from every place to His wonderful plan of free salvation and the promise of power to live a new life….

Who wants to go?  Who wants to go to the top of the hill?

Whether you are afflicted, addicted, filled with sorrow, whatever your circumstance – you too are invited to come to that hill called Calvary, invited to receive the strength of God, have your sins forgiven, receive divine purpose in your life…you too are called to hold up your torch and say, ‘follow me as I follow Christ! I know where victory is!  I know where love is, where healing is…it’s all at the cross of Christ!’

My prayer is, Pastor Carter declared,

“Wherever You call me to go, whatever You call me to do…may I have the privilge of being an ambassador of Your power…Let me not boast of myself but boast of You, Your cross Your victory…let me be a light in this dark generation…”  

 

Oh Lord, let that be the cry of my heart too!

What about you?

 

http://www.tscnyc.org/webcasts/tuesday-7pm/

or find the message later in sermon queue for Worldwide prayer, http://www.tscnyc.org

Better, join us in Times Square or online, Tuesdays 7pm….

 

Restricting God – Let Me Count the Ways…

Many of us are frequently stirred and humbled by the testimonies of missionaries and servants of God. From Biblical times to present day, men and women proclaim the power of God as He leads them to hidden places of suffering. Surrendered vessels who seem totally insignificant become agents of Most High God, affecting lives for eternity.

And we want that too! Who wouldn’t want their temporary life here to matter in God’s Kingdom? Who, knowing the Lord, wouldn’t want all His purposes and intentions come to fruition? And so we too cry out, perhaps at an altar, perhaps in our private prayer….

“Lord, use me, send me! I want my life to matter, to count…”

isaiah1

THEN our flesh speaks ‘sense’ into our cry,

“BUT Lord…”
….don’t send me any place hot, you know how I hate the heat. I would be miserable
….you know I couldn’t go very far, you know my limits, I have responsibilities…
….don’t send me to blah-blah, I could never eat that food, and the bugs are ginormous. Agh, Lord send someone else there
….send me to truly needy people, not to those blah-blah; they’re always trying to rip off the system
….I would serve in a hospital ministry but the germs… and who really knows if those comatose people can even hear the Gospel?
….prisons are, well, dangerous. I’m too old….I’m too young
….please don’t call me to serve in my own neighborhood,  that’s too boring!
….if I go there, if I do that – wouldn’t I lose everything?

By the time we’re finished we’re no longer stirred…we’re discouraged!

Underneath is unbelief  which doesn’t really restrict God but restricts us from grasping His best for our lives.

American Christianity may have a foundational flaw embedded from our culture of ‘rugged individualism’ and ‘opportunity’ and ‘freedom’. We defend the rights to excel, possess, invest and express.  True Christianity smashes that self-reliant lifestyle. No one naturally wants to die to ‘self’ but when we resist complete surrender, resist the cross of Christ, we risk missing His perfect call upon our lives.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”  Jonah 2:8

I for one am not at the place of total surrender. I want to be though, especially in these last days where prophecy points to the soon return of our Lord. I hope for a deeper burden for the lost, not stoked by fleeting and temporal emotions, but one birthed by the Holy Spirit which defies my emotions and intellect.

Would anyone join me in prayer?

“Lord, thank you for saving me and abiding within me. I believe that, no matter what failures mark my life, no matter how ordinary or limited I perceive my life, You are not limited and You can never fail. I pray for a calling, a heavenly burden that will overshadow and nullify every fear and obstacle. Help me to trust You, Lord. Don’t let me imagine remote and ‘fantastic’ things while missing the ‘woman at the well’. Loosen my grip on the things of this world and help me to walk with a view of eternity. In Jesus name, Amen.”

“God promises not just to save us but to give us a full and meaningful life.”  

“We are called to be a testimony to the world that God is alive.”

(Pastor Carter Conlon, Times Square Church)

 

 

Diving Back Into Life Giving Waters

hot springs in armenia

Hot Springs in Armenia – medicinal but not life giving!

When I was five my mother taught me the 23rd Psalm. She told me to repeat it in bed whenever I had bad dreams. Perhaps ongoing repetitions lulled me back to sleep; I doubt I knew about “shepherds” or how they “maketh me lie down in green pastures”.
Now, many years later, I am finding ongoing treasures in this Psalm, different in life seasons. This week, during a time of emotional heaviness, I read, as if for the first time, the 3rd verse,

“He restores my soul”

Other versions read:

“He refreshes my soul”
“He renews my strength”
“He revives my life”
“He brings back my soul”

I began praying for the Lord to restore and heal my soul and believe in His promise to do it.

Intellectual memorizing and reciting scripture is often the death blow to the life giving power of God’s words. This foundational practice of formal religions effectively squelches the Holy Spirit. The “Lord’s Prayer”, often spoken and sung as one long sentence, grants a feeling of piety but hardly ‘connects’ with the Lord. How many people ‘pray’ that prayer and really expect an answer?

Evangelicals also limit the freedom of the Holy Spirit by endlessly using one verse, John 3:16, as if that alone is all that need be said. But we serve a personal God that reaches every person differently. Jesus never repeated the same words verbatim to everyone He met yet His words were healing, provoking, convicting and powerful – delivered differently, depending on who He was addressing and what was needed to be said!

Any verse can become a ‘mantra’. I’m asking today for a newness in scripture reading, where I’m not predicting the next verse from memory but prayerfully opening my heart to a newness from the Holy Spirit. I want His word to actually be for me…

“…living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit….”

“Lord, shake our hearts in these last days. Let every ‘formula’ in our prayer to and sharing of You fall to the ground. Today as we open Your word, let us see it as “living and active” and personal. Inspire us and refresh us with a personal word for others that they may hunger to know You as well.  Lead us, Lord, to joyously dig beyond the surface….”

“For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 7:17)

“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.  Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.”   (Isaiah 12:2-3)

 

(Springs: “a place where water wells up from an underground, unseen source”)