Love Thy New York Neighbor

The Lord’s famous ‘Good Samaritan’ story often stirs my heart.  Sometimes I wonder, why did He use the term ‘neighbor’ when the needy person in the story did not “live next door or near the person in question”?  Two ‘neighbor’ stories always come to mind, one near and one far….

A few years ago a Mormon couple moved into the apt next door.  They were a bit overly friendly and even baked cookies to leave at everyone’s door.  (But no one I know would eat food left at their door)  Soon after, invites to Mormon services were given and, not surprisingly, the flyers looked very ‘mainstream Christian’.   I wondered, was this ‘loving your neighbor’?

The second story is far away and long ago when my father lived in Aleppo.  As a youth he worked for an Arab in a small shop around a cluster of stores.  One day there was an Islamic uprising against the Jewish community, Jews were beaten and shops were vandalized.  When club wielding, menacing men came to the Jewish shop next to my father, the Arab dashed out and stood in front of the Jewish shop.  He spread his arms wide across the doorway and boomed, “You must kill me first to get to them.  They are my neighbors!”

Born in the rough and tumultuous Middle East, Jesus’ concept of ‘neighbor’ defies most superficial ones of today.

I try to uphold ‘neighborly love’, sometimes incidentally, carrying groceries for elderly, visiting someone sick, getting mail.  Sometimes, it is a commitment of friendship such as with ‘Hilda’ in Juanita’s Joy and Making The Last Seconds Count.  But the truth is, I was hungry for more – more love to flow in and through me.

If God “determined the times set (for men) and the exact places where they should live” it would seem that one’s ‘neighbors’ are assigned as well – whether they are near or not.   While my heart was burdened for the Kurds oppressed and under fire in Syria and I was drawn to the ministries of Kurdistan, the Lord made His will clear…

I was disappointed that my heart was so kindled but not by God.  Shortly after the Kurdistan kibosh though, God opened the door of my neighbor’s life and ushered me in.  Joanna*, a single working parent with a chronic illness, always seemed okay and self-sufficient.  But when her life unraveled through illness and loss and without family or support she was greatly needing an outpour of “oil and wine”.

When the Lord kindles the love, the ‘oil and wine’ begin to flow.   Coming alongside her with childcare, practical resources and emotional support seems supernatural in that it is not ‘taking away’ but ‘adding to’ my life…friendship, pleasures of giving and mentoring, and the joy caring for a cheerful toddler…

Moreover, Joanna spoke of a church life some time ago.  The Holy Spirit is stirring a living faith and I believe she will grasp the Gospel and find the new life promised through our Savior Jesus.

May we always have the faith to thank God when the crossing bar lowers on our path, pausing us, redirecting us or just stopping us from pursuing our own desires.  And may He order our steps and infill our hearts with the “oil and wine” ready to flow toward that “neighbor” along our path!

 

Fruits of Surrendered Aggravation

According to the famous Strongs Bible Concordance, “aggravation” is not in the Bible.  As part of our flesh nature, I’m sure it’s there.  Irritation, agitation, annoyance, anger, aggravation arose up in some beloved saints and others.   Naaman the Syrian traveled far to reach Elisha but, aggravated, left with a demonstrative huff, almost forfeiting his infamous healing.    After receiving God’s call and chastisement, then witnessing the Lord’s mercy upon Nineveh, Jonah is stewing in aggravation by chapter 4.

Was Moses aggravated, when he disobeyed God, striking the Rock?  This fleshly outburst woefully cost him entry into the treasured promised land.

But examples of godly longsuffering patience abound and stand tall upon spiritual pedestals.   Joseph, Daniel, the Apostle Paul…God’s people harassed, provoked, deprived and mocked while faithfully enduring with patience, longsuffering and trust in the Sovereign God.

2018-01-30-14.14.48

The Lord can bring us to a breaking point, revealing what’s in us and lead us to grow. All that He may fill us in greater measure with His Holy Spirit.

Nothing ever ‘just happened’ to Jesus while He walked on this earth, everything was according to our Father’s sovereign will.  This is true for us, Christ’s Body.  Walking with the Lord assures that He oversees, allows, and also orchestrates events – missed buses, lost keys, harassing street people, flat tires, crashed computers, achy backs, irritating relatives, noisy neighbors….everything.

After Revelation through Total Aggravation a number of annoyances finally led to the ‘aggravation jacket’.  That comes about when you are already irritated, annoyed, late, carrying too many things and your nearly new winter jacket zipper gets jammed while in an elevator.  Pull, tug, twist, pull, tug then YANK – just rend the jacket open and let the zipper slider fly off!  That very second I was humbled…again.

I stopped by my dry cleaners and spoke with the tailor.  Tsk, tsk….no, this can’t be fixed.  This zipper is too difficult to remove and replace.  You need a new jacket!  Well, I resolved, I am not getting a new jacket.  If I have to chain link this one closed, I will wear this ‘aggravation jacket’ and let the chill remind me of patience and longsuffering.

I believe there are fruits already from repentance.  Just this week….

1.  Church for us is an all day event, 8am to 5pm, as we attend service and serve in ministry.  This past Sunday we opted to keep our parking space, leave our car and take the train.  On the way home we went to the MTA station and found it was closed for repairs.  Instead of walking 8 blocks to the next station, we decided to take a cab.  At first the driver seemed oddly boisterous but it wasn’t until he went the wrong way and slurred his words did we realize he was drunk.  We had to get out ASAP, which meant pulling over on the parkway.

We had to walk from the parkway to the nearest train station, many blocks away which included creepy deserted streets.  Blustery cold and tired, I was not even aggravated!!!

2.  Two days later I am at the post office, a Christmas gift I ordered 4 weeks ago finally arrived.  Consistently voted the worst post office in the USA, this place is a shoo-in for aggravation.  The package window was closed, a different one opened, there was one line but should have been two.  I helped an elderly woman who was confused, pointing her to the correct window.

As this octogenarian pushed an envelope through the thick Plexiglas opening a huge man came out of the wrong line and began ranting profanities, actually directed to me.  “HEY, I was f****g here before her!  You didn’t *** see me?!?  That’s right!  I was….”  He then took on the whole post office.  By the time poor granny got her postage, this Philistine was challenging the clerk and calling him out to “beat the *** out of him”.

WELL, after all that, they couldn’t find my package!  AND, I was genuinely pleasant, not even aggravated!

The Lord truly is answering my prayers to serve Him and fulfill those ‘good works which God prepared in advance’ for me to do.  While I continue fellowship with Rhonda* Can God Use a Feral Cat? the Lord has brought other young believers and new ministry members to me to mentor.   One I meet regularly for coffee or lunch while another recently added after a long conversation, “you’re like a mother to me!”  Ha, I keep forgetting how old I am!

A sister approached me on Sunday, “I was wondering if you had some time, could I talk to you about something?”  Of course!

Just recently I invited a neighbor to a Christmas concert.  When I called to confirm she cried, “I am in the biggest sh**storm of my life!”  A working single mom, with chronic illness and no local relatives, God opened the door for me to share resources and commit to daily morning babysitting her two year old.  (I knew there was a reason I joined the gym last year!)

The Lord mercifully hammers out my fleshly flaws as they would dishonor Him and hinder the Holy Spirit.  He prepares us not only to serve Him here, but ultimately to be with Him forever.

oil lamps

The Lord breaks us, convicts us, renews and infills us, that we may shine and stand as the Body of Christ in this dark world 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Israel

We recently returned from a robust trip to Israel.  While our itinerary was jam packed, certainly every site we saw is a well tracked path.  So, I will not post pics of Masada, Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea or even the Armenian Quarter  (ok, maybe one)…

20190619_123037                        20190608_171643

Yousef*, our Arab Christian tour guide, expounded a depth of spiritual and historical knowledge as a native with 20 years experience leading Americans through Israel and Palestine.  He introduced himself as a “true believer in Jesus Christ” and often taught scriptural truths as related to various historical sites. It was obvious that he had a love for all the people we encountered – Jews, Muslims, Bedouins, and Druze – rich or poor.

It is not only what Yousef shared of Israel that still stirs my heart but what he revealed about us.

Yousef challenged the group at every Christian/religious site, “Can anyone describe what happened here?” “How was this place significant to Jesus Christ?” “Who was Herod the Great?…”  Either most of the group was shy or had little Biblical foundation.  While traveling at great cost and distance to see religious sites, most of the group was either unwilling or unable to converse in Biblical truths.

Yousef shared his experience during the tumultuous ‘Second Intifada’, 2000-2005, a time of violent uprising between Palestinians and Israelis.  He left Israel during that time, traveling to USA to possibly relocate to relative’s homes.  Job opportunities were sparse for him but what he recalls to us is this:  “I visited their church and was sure they would be focused with concern and prayer for the crisis in Israel.  When I came to the meeting however, they were all talking about which pizza had the best cheese.”  I felt a collective inner shame for the sated Body of Christ, isolated and disinterested in the suffering of distant brethren.

Our tour ended with an exhortation and plea,  “When you go home, open your Bibles, read them!  Let all that you’ve seen bring the words to life.”  Referring back to his time in the United States Yousef opened his heart, “I left the States in 2005 – I missed the dirty, noisy streets of Jerusalem!  I love this country and had to return….but now I regret it.  There’s an undeniable stirring, an certain unrest and hostility.  I tell you for sure, it is not ‘if’ war breaks out here, but ‘when’.”

As elsewhere in the Middle East, particularly Syria, the Christian population is suffering and shrinking.  Once 20% in Palestine, now Christians are 1%, fewer than 10,000.  Many may be ‘nominal’ Christians but even still my heart was burdened.  With the nonstop traffic of tour buses from all over, I wonder how many of these sojourning Christians will seek and receive a burden for these brethren?  Multitudes flock to religious icons and shrines, but how many will align with the burden of Christ’s heart for His people?

If we will “open our Bibles and read them” we too will see, it is not ‘if’ but ‘when’.  If we take our salvation with certainty, we must take the prophecies of scripture with like conviction in our hearts.  A celebrated authority will arise, the charismatic Antichrist.  Betrayal, violence, and chaos are destined for Israel.  Yes, God Himself with be their victory and triumph, but what is our role as Christ’s Body in the world?

I loved every bit of Israel and my visits to Palestine.  I want though, more than any itinerary and tour, to realize what the Holy Spirit is showing me – Lord, align and press in my heart your truths and views of this great land.

Go to Israel while you can.  See everything, there’s so much!  But let the Holy Spirit be your inner tour guide and open your spiritual eyes with heaven’s view!

(*not his real name)

 

Remember the Darkness But Stand in the Light

Cattle Car

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.

map of transports to auschwitz

Transport strategy to rout European Jews to Auschwitz

list of jews in world

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 arrested after kristallnacht

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?

gas-chamber-auschwitz.jpg

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. 

hitler quote

 

“…you despicable reprobate.”

This is a partial quote from a comment I made on a social media page under a photo of a triumphant hunter gloating over a killed magnificent elephant.   Wanton animal cruelty and desecration of God’s creation provoke intense emotions (in me anyway) however, even as I wrote that comment I sensed it was my flesh arising, not the Spirit of God within.

While this was still stirring in my heart, I read today David Ettinger’s post, The Gold Standard of Christian Behavior .  His focus points to the angry and provocative political comments posted by many believers in social media.  Through scriptural reference David rightly contends that it is unbiblical and ungodly, challenging readers:

“What possible good does such behavior accomplish in sharing the love of Christ with a lost and dying world? …Does posting hateful political messages…do anything for the cause of Christ?  Would an unbeliever really want to hear what you would have to say about Jesus?”

What would I say if I passed by such a ‘hunter’?  Can I, at all, change my focus from his prideful killing and imagine his eternal fate before the Creator?  Or, more to the point, can I look at my own past sinful deeds and call myself a ‘despicable reprobate’?

There are so many reasons to justify emotional fervor but only one reason for believers to resist – the word of God calls us much higher.  Investing our heart into political, social, environmental, animal welfare causes etc will always lead us into a fleshly battle where we’re fighting those lost in darkness.  It’s no threat at all to the works of Satan and sadly, no gain at all for the Kingdom of God!

Is there any place for righteous anger?

In Living As Jesus Lived, Zac Poonen presents the divine attributes of Jesus as our only standard – His purpose, His holiness, His power, His love.  In Christ’s holiness is also “His zeal for the purity of God’s house.”     Brother Zac further expounds:

“The Bible commands us to be angry without sinning. (Eph 4:26).  When the Roman soldiers beat Jesus and whipped Him in Pilate’s hall, He patiently bore it all.  He was never once angry where it concerned His own person.  Such anger would have been sin.  But where it concerned the purity of God’s house, it was different.  There, to refrain from anger would have been sin.”  (emphasis Zac Poonen)

The  apostle Paul expressed such zeal as he founded the first churches:

“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.  “Expel the wicked man from among you”.”    (I Corinthians 5:11-12)

To our discredit, much of our ‘righteousness’ as believers comes from judging unbelievers – we’re not as bad as those ‘despicable reprobates’.  But our claim to follow Christ mandates aspiring to a higher, separated standard.  Judging those in the world, who live in darkness, ‘captivated by sin’ is futile and ungodly.  But upholding God’s standards within the Body of Christ is mandated – we are His ‘ambassadors’, representing a holy God before a dark world.

How can we refrain from judging ‘despicable reprobates’ in the world?  How can we have the boldness to uphold God’s standards in the church?  Only God can ignite a grief in our heart for the lost and unlovable.  And only the Lord can raise up a godly zeal and impassion us toward holiness in the Body that claims to be His in this world.

Help me Lord, to walk in your ways!

Addendum:  I’ve received some verbal comments from some who are familiar with these ‘trophy hunters’.  They rightfully assert that the acts desecrating God’s creation is ‘despicable’.   I agree.  And, I would add, we are never called to redefine or diminish sin.  But, I clarified, when we judge the sinner, there’s no room to warn him that “the wages of sin is death”.   We can preach the Gospel and call people to repent, pray that the Holy Spirit brings them to “godly sorrow that leads to repentance”, but the gavel at the end belongs to the Judge.

 

 

‘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…

faith-is-sign.jpg

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……

 

Defeat and Confusion – Lord, Press On!

This is my fifth article reporting God’s answer to our prayers for our neighbors.  First was,  I Prayed For My Neighbors, Look What Happened  then, I Prayed For My Neighbors….Part II    thirdly, When God Allows Defeat  and fourth – When God Allows Defeat…and Confusion.   Yes, our hopes were totally deflated on June 26th, when enough of our neighborhood representatives betrayed us and stood by Columbia University to expand their campus.  The large community opposition – working folks, seniors, single parents and youths, shuffled out of the forum, battle worn.

While CU calls it a ‘pedestrian plaza for the community’ (even though the community doesn’t want it) their reputation of trampling into neighborhoods and seizing land goes before them.  Shutting down part of our street, gnarling traffic, adding to our parking crisis – enlarging their ‘footprint’ –  is not good for us, it’s good for them!   Their actual plan was uncovered,

 

Columbia's real plaza plan

This is their private rendition of our street.  Notice, no cars…and no residents!  But the Lord, “catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away.”  (Job 5:13)

Our core group kept digging, finding more devious political connections and power exerted by Columbia University.  My husband and I kept praying.  Was this over?

Two days after the June 26th defeat, I was doing my laundry in the basement, lamenting a bit until a fire got in my bones, “Hey, maybe we did lose, but I’m writing to the newspapers!” Folding the last sock, I dashed up to my computer and tapped out this letter:

Dear Editor,

Columbia University once again triumphed over the residents of NYC. After demolishing apartment buildings and evicting small businesses on Haven Avenue, this week they claimed victory in their fight to close blocks of our street. Their campus expansion, described in their Columbia Medicine Journal, morphed into a ‘pedestrian plaza’ to somehow make it palatable.

The residents in this Washington Heights neighborhood are not fooled. They fought Columbia’s self-enlarging plan in Nov and Dec last year. Due to public outrage and the detriment of street closure, the Community Board voted against it in December 2017. However, in May and June this year, somehow this plan mysteriously appeared for another vote.

That Columbia paid for their own ‘traffic study’ is the fox pointing to his tail, “Here is my witness”!

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, a lame duck beholden to Columbia, strongly championed this campus expansion and did so right in front of his outraged constituents. Paid lobbyists circulated through these meetings to secure the final vote. The public was essentially disavowed.

We invite anyone to see how closing blocks of Haven Avenue for “students to sit and have a cup of coffee” is a traffic and parking nightmare in this congested medical and residential neighborhood.

Shame on you Councilman Rodriguez for betraying your community! Shame on the many Community Board members who turned their face from their neighbors!  Shame on you, Columbia, my alma mater, and all your mega donors who compete to get their names on your conquests!

Well, that went out to all the NYC papers.  Even defeated and deflated, I sensed a real unction to somehow go forward. Within one day I heard from a large community newspaper – they contacted our core group and sent a reporter out!

On July 1st the NY Daily News printed an edited version of my letter.  On July 11th The Manhattan Times printed a 3 page article with photos!  At first this was fabulous until we took a closer look….no mention of community betrayal or Columbia’s conquests – no mention of the big picture plan that would consume more of our neighborhood.  It was a ‘safe’ article, stepping on no one’s toes…

THEN this week one in our group got a call from the New York Times!  After interviewing us by phone,  the reporter and photographer came up to Haven Avenue for full scale walking/talking tour.   He gave us over two hours of attention – seemingly familiar with Columbia’s West Harlem takeover several years ago.

That was yesterday. 

My heart recalled Pastor Dave Wilkerson’s preaching on ‘death of a promise’.   He taught that, when God promises or plans something, He often ‘puts it to death’ – eliminating the possibility of man claiming victory.  Abraham’s promise of a son was ‘put to death’ as they were incapable of bearing children – God alone brought it to pass.  Moses’ 40 year exile,  Joseph in prison…all circumstances of ‘defeat’ awaiting the hand of God.

Is the Lord moving here, rising up to confound the unbelievers – and believers as well?  I  steadfastly pray for those who betrayed and disavowed us – may the Lord quicken their conscience and convict their hearts – take away their false peace – and lead them to repentance!

Praying that the Lord be high and exalted, may our neighbors see that He is living hope, even when all seems lost.  May our group truly say, “only God could have done this!”, and acknowledge Him.

There is a truth, not quite a Bible verse, but demonstrated throughout scriptures, which I keep pressed in my heart.  Of the Lord,

“He takes personally every act of dishonor as well as every act of kindness done to His disciples.”   (from Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn)

 This should grant us great assurance – and pity for our enemies.

Please pray for a New York Times article!  Thank you!

 

When God Allows Defeat…and Confusion

Will this be the last of these articles, I Prayed For My Neighbors, Look What HappenedI Prayed For My Neighbors….Part II  and When God Allows Defeat ?

After a lengthy time of praying for our neighbors, my husband and I stepped into a neighborhood battle as Columbia University fought to close down blocks of our street for their campus expansion.  United with neighbors, whom we had never before met, we fought to keep our street open and, in December 2017, we won!

However, with unlimited wealth and political power, somehow CU’s plan resurfaced for another Community Board vote.  This time, the public was disallowed to speak.  Moreover, ‘temporary changes’ were made to this subcommittee….On June 4th this subcommittee approved CU’s plan.  On June 26th, it would be voted on by the whole Community Board.   Scan0082

My husband and I once again worked diligently with our neighbors to organize and reach out to the neighborhood and Community Board members.  We were able to share our faith and, honestly, I truly hoped that a victory would be opportunity to openly praise God!  At one point, we learned that a high appointed city official is a brother in the Lord.  He assisted and encouraged us greatly.   When this became known within our group, the leader said, “Although you and I don’t share the same faith, I have to agree, this is a divine appointment!”

We were ready to exalt the Lord upon our victory on June 26th!

On that date, I gave a presentation to the Board and before community members, as did several others, highlighting again the indisputable issues against closing our street.   However, in the end, our city Councilman rose up and championed the plan of CU.  I did not know that this councilman appoints half of these Board members and determines their ongoing service!  CU lobbyists also circulated to ensure votes.

No matter!  If God intervenes, victory is ours!

But we lost.  Our elected official betrayed his constituents…as a ‘lame duck’ he is undoubted beholden to CU for some position.  Not all, but enough Community Board members turned their face away and approved CU’s plan.

Defeat….and confusion.

Entering this battle was not an impulsive act, we prayed and continued to pray throughout the process.  While we are not called to ‘fight the world’, we are called to love our neighbor.  Truthfully, we never knew these neighbors, only working alongside them did we come to have love for them.

Defeated?  “Defeated” was prematurely written over Joseph’s prison cell, Daniel’s lion’s den, over all of Paul’s life threatening attacks…..“Defeated” could have been posted over Christ’s tomb!  But GOD holds the victory for His people for His glory – how He chooses to establish that victory is His divine providence.

Confused?  God does allow confusion and upheaval….disappointments and loss.  None of us are exempt, even beloved spiritual hero John the Baptist asked Jesus from his cell,  “Are you the One who was to come…?”  Confusion brought me to my knees,  crying out to the Lord, for His supernatural peace and clarity.

I deeply lamented after that vote – but not for my street!  To literally witness bold betrayal of officials and grassroots representatives dismissing their oaths to serve – caused me to weep.  Many of them gathered around CU executives with smiles….as the residents put away their signs and hung their heads.  So shameful! When did their conscience drop dead?

Our group leader came up to me and my husband, “One good thing came out of this – I came to know you!”

Some are already rising up to pursue opposition to the Board’s vote.  There are ways, but my husband and I agree – we will not continue without God’s leading.  If there is no eternal value within this work, “Lord, count me out”.

All I know is this:  We prayed for our neighbors – even though we hardly knew them!  God engaged us in a battle, we came to know them and develop a true concern and love.

God allows “defeat” – but that’s never His last word!  He allows “confusion” – to draw us nearer to His heart, to receive His peace, His clarity. 

May the Lord encourage us all in these last days, to walk in His shadow and keep the faith – no matter how defeated and confusing our circumstance seems.

“When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them….For the Lord your God is the One who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”  Deuteronomy 20:1-4 excerpt

 

Scan0084

When God Allows Defeat

I Prayed For My Neighbors, Look What Happened  and I Prayed For My Neighbors….Part II  describe how, after months of praying for my neighbors and our community, my husband and I were drawn into a calamity.  Columbia University, the largest private land owner in NYC, was pushing a plan to close down part of our street to expand their campus.  After demolishing apartment buildings across the street and erecting a huge conference center….

CU conference center

This gargantuan building looms over our small residential street!

…they want to expand their campus onto our street!

Although they are confident and shovel ready, CU could not proceed with campus expansion unless they obtained approval by the governing Community Board.

With Columbia’s ongoing pattern of displacing residents and shutting small businesses, our community was alarmed and, as we drew together, Bob and I came to know and more personally care about them.  We spoke out in public gatherings and united.

We won on 12/4/17, when the Community Board voted against CU.

But over the past 3 months, Board members changed and ‘temporary appointees’ strategically put in – suddenly CU pushed back on their agenda although they had no justification to appeal the last decision!

Once again, we canvassed and met with residents…petitions, signs, flyers…nothing left undone.  We prayed, especially to assure that we were in God’s will.   If “the nations are a drop in the bucket” to God,  could our little street have any significance to Him?  Is there anything of eternal value knitted into this issue?

Bob said, “I keep going back to Proverbs 31:8, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves..”  The NLT states, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”

 

Columbia had a small cluster of executives…but in their midst was our City Councilman!

The entire community was prepared to speak, many had done research on vital traffic issues that would preclude CU’s plan.  There were strong procedural objections from community representatives.  Many, if not most, came to express their outrage of CU’s ongoing neighborhood take over.

While public input is protocol, the ‘interim’ chairperson said, “You are all welcome to stay but will not be acknowledged to speak.  We are voting on this issue without public input.”   BAMBOOZLED!!

The uproar and outcry could not be stopped.  Almost unbelievably, an elderly Hispanic man came up to my husband and asked, “Sir, could you speak for me?  I cannot speak for myself.”!  

Bob did speak and, while I truly seek to obey scripture (Submit to governing authorities), a deep lament welled up in me.  I did not speak on the material I had planned, but stood up and cried out,

“You’re betraying us!  You’re supposed to represent us!! You will nullify yourselves in this community – No one will trust you!!” 

They turned their faces from the public and voted, majority in favor of Columbia.

The cluster of executives walked away happy, in the company of our City Councilman!  The final step is approval by the General Board – CU does not look worried.

Should we press on to the General Board?  Are we totally defeated?

The only question that need be answered is this:  what is God’s will?  The Lord can lead us into what seems unwinnable – and we might be defeated!  But God is never defeated, never.  With Sovereign God, the ‘thing at hand’ isn’t always His focus.

Although pointing to our spiritual battles, this excerpt from Anchored in the Cross challenges us to endure in the battle….

“Great victories come from great warriors!  Great warriors are made from greatness of character!….Territory is always vital in war.  It’s a battle of turf and who will occupy the ground.  Has the enemy attempted to enter your home, children, family?…We must stand and defend the territory God has given us and not allow the enemy to overtake it…..

What does it require inside you in order to stand relentlessly?…God uses people in your life to build character that will make you a fighter for the Kingdom of God…

Outnumbered?…with God with you, you’re never outnumbered and have no need to retreat….It not only takes boldness to stand, but faith as well.  Numbers are irrelevant when God is with you.

Anchored in the Cross May 25th

We prayed for our neighbors,  met them and came alongside them into the battle.  I believe that boldness is strengthening my heart, enabling me to speak to strangers and in public forums with conviction.  If God is “training my hand for war; my fingers for battle” then I believe those skills will be used for God’s Kingdom.

Speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves?  Training my hands for war?  Go on to the General Board meeting?  Only God knows.  I pray that He will order our steps.  No matter what, His purposes will not be defeated, in His shadow we will  find victory.     

 

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)