This past Sunday I had a family event to attend at 4pm, giving me plenty of time to drive 40 miles to see Johnny Berberian play at a huge Armenian picnic. He is one of the few “Udi’s” or Oud Extraordinaires in the world. Ninety degrees or 100, I was ready for a Halla!
The band started with a Tamzara…
I ate my last shish kebab and dashed to the band to see who would start the line dance. I taped the music while waiting…waiting…but not one of the 800 folks there dropped their forks! Okay, the Tamzara is a very difficult dance but the next one was easier and just as invigorating! I urged my relatives to come join in. Everyone balked. Ok, they’re over 75 and 80 but still, it’s Johnny Berberian!
So I rushed over to the band and, for the first time ever, I began dancing alone! A one woman dance line and I was so happy! Yet, within one minute others joined me…
There I am in the green dress, leading a growing line – away we go!
There is hardly anything more exhilarating for me. Not only since childhood but more so now when I realize that, in spite of genocide, deportations, landlocked strangleholds, earthquakes and recent unprovoked war, we Armenians are still here. God did not allow us to be exterminated. Although often crushed, a true and growing remnant of faith is thriving. Reasons to celebrate, reasons to dance!
I realized another thing as I dashed to dance alone. My joy arose and, even if no one joined me, it would not be squelched. This need be true for believers in the coming days when complacency and apostasy run rampant. When our heart is stirred, when we are burdened and sense God’s call to pray, perhaps no one will join in. When worship arises in our heart, refuse to suppress it, even if we’re the only one raising our hands and voice. Might I be the only one to pray at a family dinner, giving thanks to the Lord?
I say, if need be, be the only one! Encourage others with exuberance worthy of the Lord. Pray that they are stirred and go alone, perhaps others one by one will join in the line….
If God stirs your heart to have a prayer meeting, reach out to others, call them in, but if you’re the only one, believe this – you’re not the only one. The Holy Spirit is there and the Lord will honor your faithfulness.
(I’m having a prayer meeting tomorrow night…not sure who will join in – perhaps you’ll see in my next post what the Lord has in store!)
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 designof 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.
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?”
“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.
Actual cattle car used to transport unsuspecting Jews to Auschwitz – Freedom Tower looms above.
There is a profound exhibit at The Museum of Jewish Heritage commemorating those who perished during Jewish Holocaust, particularly at Auschwitz. I highly recommend a lengthy visit there to anyone visiting NYC.
I take a personal interest in the Holocaust as it sequentially follows the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide, 1915 to 1922. In fact, Hitler famously boasted,
“Our strength consists in our speed and our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter – with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It’s a matter of indifference to me what a weak Western European civilization will say about me….. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who,after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” August 22, 1939, excerpt from Hitler’s orders to Wehrmacht commanders, a week prior to Nazi invasion of Poland.
Premeditated, systematic and diabolical, the Ottomans’ plan proved a formidable forerunner for the Nazis.
Transport strategy to rout European Jews to Auschwitz
tally of Jews in Europe, summed for extermination
While Armenians, Jews, and other victims may cry, “Never again!”, we as believers understand that, even as our brethren are persecuted and suffer today, global persecution and annihilation is on the sure horizon.
The power of social engineering, scapegoating, and ostracizing was blatant in Germany, permeating the culture through education, media, and government. Wickedness was ripe in the hearts of Germans when a Jewish teenager avenged the deportation of his parents by killing a German diplomat. Kristallnacht – ‘the Night of Broken Glass’- was the horrific response. Fermented anti-Semitism exploded with violent destruction of Jewish stores, homes, schools, and synagogues. From one youth’s crime came the arrest of 30,000 Jewish men who were then sent to concentration camps, solely for being Jewish. While this unleashed the holocaust, Nazi Germany was strategically and socially prepared.
Thousands of Jewish men arrested during Kristallnacht.
Those fortunate to visit this engrossing exhibit will see filmed testimonies, rare artifacts, Auschwitz reconstructions, military charts, photos and more. Juxtaposed against cruel and relentless suffering and death was the phenomena of overwhelming German passion and devotion to Hitler. Moreover, civilians and businesses were complicit in the murder of thousands systematically killed every day – none of the concentration camps, death chambers, and crematories could have functioned without architects, engineers, suppliers, builders, and transport experts.
Two grievous realities became evident at this exhibit. Despots like Talaat Pasha and Adolph Hitler are satanically inspired, if not indwelt. Secondly, evident in the filmed interviews and testimonies, is the heartbreaking reality that nearly all the Jews marked for destruction did not believe it or perceive it until they actually arrived and faced it.
We must commemorate and honor those who suffered and perished and uphold the memory of brave heroes that stood up and risked all on their behalf. But as believers in Jesus Christ and the living word of God, we must remember one more thing: tribulation, persecution and death await those saints who live as the Anti-Christ arises.
We may not believe it, we may not perceive it, but unwarranted hatred for Christians is fermenting. While our brethren in Islamic areas suffer daily, our plight is stirring in the undercurrents of social engineering, political posturing, and educational indoctrination. This world power, the Anti Christ, will be “…given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.”
Unlike Hitler, who basked in the adoration of Nazi Germany, the Anti Christ will be adored throughout the world, “…every tribe, people, language, and nation. All inhabitant of the earth will worship the beast..” Unimaginable?
The world watched as Christians and Jews were annihilated and the apathy continues today. But we, as believers, cannot afford to be complacent, scripturally ignorant, or enrapt with the world. This world is fermenting and cultivating an anti-Christ spirit that will ripen like ‘Kristallnacht’ – may we stand today and on that day in a way that honors our Lord.