Walk by the Spirit, Not by Sight

As I approached the mailboxes yesterday afternoon, there was Margarita*, one of my neighbors, opening up her ConEdison bill as I reached for my mail. Although Spanish speaking, she needed no words to express her angst as she tipped the paper toward me so I could read, FINAL DISCONNECT NOTICE. It seemed clear that she hadn’t paid her bill for at least a year. In our heat-included small apartments, gas and electric bills are fairly small. Margarita works, how could she let this happen?

I immediately sensed something was wrong, other than this big debt. Her countenance and affect seemed disoriented and she stumbled over simple questions I asked. So I urged her, “Call them, Margarita, you have to pay something soon, even $50, to prevent this turn off!”. Is she depressed? Having mental health issues? Admittedly we don’t know her that well.

Something was churning within me. Although Bob and I are quick to help neighbors in need, I felt a strong restraint here. My emotional response, moreover Christian response, is to help. But I know our emotions are fleshly and it is the Spirit that applies the scriptural call in every situation. Although we have on occasion helped Margarita, here, I was disturbed and restrained.

We walked up the stairway in silence. She probably expected some financial help and part of me questioned, “what kind of neighbor am I? She’ll be in the dark within a month!” Some people describe a ‘check in their spirit’, but I had a grip in my spirit and had to submit. I prayed and explained the whole situation to Bob, knowing that leadership comes from the husband. He did not sense the Lord’s leading to give. “There’s something wrong here Bob, I can’t pinpoint it but it’s bigger than the ConEdison bill.” I prayed about it and tabled the subject to the next morning.

I was still unsettled in the morning but after praying, I headed down to her apartment. At least I could call ConEd, perhaps make a minimal payment, or clarify her options. I knocked on her door. Then knocked again. Finally I heard a shuffling and she opened the door just a crack, then a bit wider where I could see in full view an altar of witchcraft. The depths of Santeria, beckoning demons with incantations and ritual, contaminate the soul and almost always bring about a mimicry of mental illness.

Margarita now acted paranoid. She gave me the bill, keeping the door cracked, and I said I’d call and try to help. After calling and clarifying I returned with the conclusion: Margarita herself, or her grown son, must call to discuss even a minimal payment, she has until January to do this.

The churning in my heart was relieved, realizing that the Lord was restraining me. Jesus did not always heal everyone, did not always feed everyone, neither did He meet every need but did only His Father’s will. It is not always God’s will to intervene in every way, especially if recipients give the thanks and praise upon a table of witchcraft. I have seen enough Santeria and Espiritismo to know how powerfully it corrupts a person inwardly and outwardly, always bearing ugly fruits.

Perhaps the Lord will lead us to speak the truth to Margarita, but only He can draw our hearts and prepare hers to hear the word. We will continue to pray for her. Will her lights go out? Will she lose her mind? Only God knows but for sure, if she calls upon Him with a repentant and contrite heart, He will come in with true light and deliver her from evil.

Thou Shalt Not Grow Old

(the new criminals)

Alas, they missed the memo…

“Where there is hope there can be faith, where there is faith miracles can occur”.  This is not a scriptural quote but words of encouragement offered by Hope in a Jar, an anti-aging skin cream.   Cosmetic proverbs and youth adages are more memorable now than scriptural quotes.   Modern day testimonies do not boast of the supernatural but rather strides in fighting the natural, “…women told us their skin looked 730 days younger!”, “anti-aging transformation –  younger looking skin from 1st contact!”.   Youthfulness is the new godliness with its own set of sought after miraculous outcomes.  It is a shame to go gray, worse to go bald – to sag and wrinkle denotes failure.  In all that our culture exalts ,the preservation of youth and the ‘religion’ of self importance is the intrinsic command, Thou Shalt Not Grow Old.   Assuredly our prevailing and persuasive culture rises up in defiance  to God’s wisdom and Living Word.

“The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old”  (Proverbs 20:29)

God is not anti-age, He is pro-eternal.  While His good creation holds wonderful things that bring health and healing, extending youth is not a priority.  In fact, the aged are esteemed before the Lord, they are to be honored,

“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.”  (Leviticus 19:32)

There is no miracle in the Bible where wrinkles disappear.  That would be so far beneath the awesome power and character of God.   The miraculous intervention of God for the aged is this:  God has indwelled elderly men and moved through them – making their frail bodies powerful vessels for His honor and glory in the world.  The Lord has confounded the world and its superficial glories with His Spirit in the lives of those surrendered to Him.    At age 80, an old shepherd of flocks, Moses was called by God,

“I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

The Lord did not call Moses in the strength of his youth as he resided in the palace of Pharaoh, the epicenter of world power.  God waited until Moses was emptied of all youthful strength and bravado, all worldly resources and influences – indeed, void of inner ability that would rob God of all victorious glory.  “When I am weak, then I am strong” declared the apostle Paul (II Corinthians 12:10).  When I am weak, and dependent on the Lord for His indwelling strength and power, then I am strong – stronger than any man who depends on the power of flesh.  

The world culture continually exalts our temporal and physical life through sexuality, materialism and youthfulness –   while squelching our spiritual life into dormancy.   Jesus proclaimed the opposite as truth for life,

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.”  (John 6:63)

Looking young is not wrong, but the quest for youth will yield what counts for nothing.  In striving against old age we may miss the greatest renewal of life available to mankind, not in anti-aging,  but found only in being born again.  When we come to Christ, in repentance and surrender, His Spirit gives our spirit life, springing forth a miraculous newness.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  (II Corinthians 5:17)

Through sensual displays and celebrity ideals, this  world calls us to strive and hope for the temporal –  that which counts for nothing.  A glittering facade can blind us from the Light of the World, from Whom we receive the gift of eternal life.

Thou Shalt Grow Old, and our flesh turned back to dust.  Let us not settle for “looking 760 days younger” but turn to Jesus Christ, through whom our weakness becomes strength and our death – victory.