Is This Church?

The life of Christ dwelt within the heart of Haig but we missed it for many years.  Haigie was a mentally and physically disabled Armenian man, without family, who lived with the elderly at the Armenian Nursing Home.  Culturally vibrant and lively, this ‘nursing home’ was a beloved Armenian community for Haigie, even though he wasn’t elderly.  Since my husband and I live 200 miles away, our visits were infrequent and our attention was spread over several residents.

After many years there, Haigie was evaluated by the state for placement into a residential group home for the mentally and physically disabled.  Now in his sixties, leaving his aged Armenian community was a crushing blow, many tried to circumvent this move but in the end it was a ‘God move’, a tremendous blessing for us all.

My husband and I began visiting Haigie at the group home, which did not have 80 residents but under 10.  With Haigie our only focus, we grew closer and the Lord soon revealed his living faith in Jesus Christ.  As a brother in the Lord, visits with Haigie became times of scriptural sharing and worship, including Armenian and English hymns.

However, within two years, Haigie’s health begun to fail.

Bob and haigy

For his memorial I wrote, in part,

It was clear that Haigie had a living faith.  We hadn’t realized before, that in his broken body was a vibrant love for God…In spite of longsuffering, he was ready to worship and expressed his love for Jesus Christ.  Haigie was a true believer whose faith greatly encourages us.  It will be a joy to worship the Lord with Haigie one day in God’s Kingdom.

I believe that ‘living faith’ doesn’t die.  

During our last visits with Haigie,  a woman wheeled herself into his bedroom as we were singing.  Mentally and physically disabled and mute, Adrienne somehow communicated to us that she was Armenian and friends with Haigie.  Another Armenian in this residence?  Adrienne joined us and we soon learned that she cared deeply for Haigie, his death would be a great loss to her.

SO following Haigie’s death we continued to visit this group home, Adrienne seemed to cherish this fellowship.  We sang songs and had scriptural reading in the ‘sun room’.  It was different.  But I soon saw the Lord doing a new thing.

One day Linda was in the ‘sun room’, her wheelchair parked by our sitting area as she worked on an art craft.  We hardly knew her but she seemed happy to have us there.  We socialized a bit with Adrienne then we opened up fellowship with singing (accompanied by much needed YouTube songs online!)  and Bible reading.  Although Adrienne is mute, Linda is not and we soon found that she had faith and something to say about it!

We came to know the other residents and the staff as well.

This Christmas our visit moved from the ‘sun room’ to the living room, the common social area.  A group seemed to form around us, including a Jewish resident!  The ball started rolling with Linda’s request for the all popular ‘Jingle Bell Rock’.  We sang out Christmas songs in every pitch and tone that perhaps only the Lord could love.  We even sang a Hanukkah song before sharing God’s word about Christ’s birth.  The story highlight became the shepherds and God’s choice to miraculously announce the Savior to simple folks huddled around sheep.

This is the best part…there was a time of prayer before leaving.  With joined hands and bowed heads I looked up, and saw residence staff come and join in!  

Was this church?  I think so!

 

Lord, speak to the heart of every resident and staff member in that home, water every seed of faith.  Open our eyes to value and seek the childlike faith of Matthew 18:3, humble and dependent upon you.  Press upon our hearts the kind of fellowship You desire, in the places that You ordain to make Yourself known.

I pray for each reader that visits this site, whet their appetite for more of You, Jesus.  Speak to their hearts and encourage them as they walk through each day, no matter how heavy the steps.  I pray for every writer that visits here, anoint them and inspire them with Your Holy Spirit.  Let Your seeds of living truth come to fruition through their work.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

A Ragamuffin in God’s Hall of Fame?

Being slammed with the flu this week availed to me the pleasure of doing nothing, lounging guiltlessly.  Floors need mopping?  Who cares.  Carpets to vacuum?  So what.  Hubby hungry?  Order delivery.  Achy and feverish, I did not have concentration to read but was well able to watch.  I turned to The ‘Pure Flix’ cable subscription – its educational programming includes biographies of godly men and women.

Amy Carmichael,  Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Florence Nightingale are worthy to esteem and study.  They lived sacrificial lives, walking with a burden from God.  They were divinely appointed to their call and were relentless in fulfilling God’s purpose in spite of severe opposition and tremendous suffering.  Their focused hearts precluded worldly and temporal distractions.  They did not marry nor did they value any possession.  They were people broken by God, vessels through whom He poured out His love.  

The biography of Rich Mullins is quite different.  He was a gifted songwriter, singer and musician however it is doubtful that many would include him in the same ‘hall of fame’.  His songs touched lives deeply, often moving them towards the Lord.  Mullins’ connected with people’s despair and struggles.  When my brother was terminally ill, he found much comfort and encouragement in Rich Mullins songs.

Mullins, however, was not the pinnacle of holiness.  His biography, Ragamuffin, produced by his brother David,  portrays a deeply troubled inner life, stemming from an emotionally abusive father.  Mullins had a relentless quest to know God and apprehend His love, his music was an expression of that search for and worship of God.

When discovered and launched into the world of ‘Christian entertainment’ his success led to a growing discontentment.  Christian ‘entertainment’, ‘prosperity’ and ‘celebrity status’ were hollow goals that Mullins rejected as antithetical to the Savior he sought.  Inner turmoil and battles with depression and alcoholism were constants in Mullins’ life, a well loved but alienated man.

The shallowness of American Christianity weighed heavy upon Rich.   Although financially successful, he arranged a very modest income of approximately $20,000 for himself,  allotting the rest to specific charities such as Compassion International.  He finally drew away from ‘Christian entertainment’ and moved to the Navajo Indian Reservation to teach music to their youth.

So why might this emotionally tormented, depressed – sometimes disheveled and irreverent – Christian musician be included in a Believers Hall of Fame?  Becausein spite of being an “emotionally tormented, depressed” and “alienated” Christian, he never gave up his quest to know the love of God.  He battled alcoholism and loneliness but never squelched his gift to exalt the Lord.  Mullins continued to praise and worship until his death in 1997.

Rich Mullins had a word for the suicidal, the downcast, and alienated who desperately needed the Lord.  Perhaps it takes great inner resolve, even courage, to exalt and praise the Lord when your heart is crushed and your mind oppressed.  A broken man, Rich Mullins gave his life to the Lord and continues to minister to us through music and song.

“If I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, whom I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way I can do that is to identify with the poor.  Christianity is about learning to love as Jesus loved.  Jesus loved the poor.  And Jesus loved the broken.”    (Rich Mullins)

 

 

“God takes the junk of our lives and makes the greatest art out of it.”  (Rich Mullins)

Inviting Jesus Makes the Difference

But I am going to the Mets game at Citi Field on Saturday. Be it corny or weird, I am inviting Jesus to go with me, not just to be with me but as a guest that I might honor.

That excerpt came from my post before the game, Jesus on the Guest List, 8/3/17.

There may well be a difference between asking the Lord to be with you and inviting the Lord to be your honored guest.  “Be with me Lord” usually initiates a prayer for favor, help, courage, provision or resources.  “Come with me, Lord, let me honor You as my guest”  creates a different priority of honoring Jesus.

I prayed before going to the game, asking the Lord to open my eyes to any encounter where I might honor Him and touch others for Him.  I imagined bumping into someone who needed the Lord and sharing the Gospel.  And oddly, I added, “show us what to do with the money we’ve saved.”

Once we reached Citi Field we joined the pregame worship outside the stadium.  As families ‘tail-gated’ and played catch, the Times Square Church band played songs of praise.  “Here Lord I will honor You by praising Your name for all to hear.  May You be high and exalted!” 

During this time I happened to stand near a Filipino family, a young couple with small children.  Unlike everyone else, they did not wear Mets T-shirts, Faith Day shirts, or any other baseball day attire.  The entire family wore bright yellow T-shirts with  #CareforCandize; when I asked, the mother shared about their six year old niece suffering  from cancer in the Philippines, lacking affordable health care.  While the band played on and everyone sang praises, this woman held her toddler and shared the story of Candize.  While I knew the grief of watching a loved one suffer and die, I did not know the great burden of unreachable medical help.

“Are you raising donations to help?” I asked and just as she shared the fund my husband called out, “C’mon, it’s time to go get our seats!”

With all the distractions of crowds, cheers, and junk food, I could not forget the family with the bright yellow shirts.  They came to honor God yet their suffering loved one, so far away, could not be forgotten.

The Mets are not having a good season and this game reflected it. They lost.

The great victory through, took place after the game where stands and platforms were immediately erected and a worship service commenced.  Jesus was the honored guest, as songs of thanksgiving and worship filled the stadium and the jumbo-trons.  Christ loving Mets players testified of their faith and walk with the Lord before Pastor Carter Conlon preached a message of salvation and hope.  Many attendees came to Christ and received salvation and the promise of eternal life.

faith day II

 

I believe the Lord was honored.    But what about…

Later that night I shared with my husband about Candize’s cancer, her pictures and family story.   When I asked, “What should we give?”  he responded with the same amount I had in my heart.

I knew my ‘Guest’ was honored when we ministered to Him…

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  
Matthew 25:40

 

Worshiping in the Boat

Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’.” Matthew 14:33

In this passage, Jesus had walked upon the water as the disciples in the boat fought a raging storm in the dark. Jesus walked on water? Reigned with power and authority over the forces of ‘nature’? Certainly, yes He did.

But the disciples ‘worshiped on the boat’ – without strobe lights, fog machines, tuned instruments or perfected choir? How is that possible?

Jesus said,

But the time is coming–indeed it’s here now–when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

God almighty is seeking, looking for, those who will worship in spirit and in truth?   I want Him to find what He’s looking for in me!

I want the boat worship. I want to receive Jesus, acknowledging His power and authority, and meditate on His divine accomplishment on the cross. I want to be led into worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth.

“Christians are guilty of telling more lies to God on Sundays than on any other day….Because it is on Sundays that they sing so many hymns such as, “All to Jesus I surrender”… excerpt, Zac Poonen,  God-Centred Prayer

Human talent, resource, and technology has made ‘worship’ a business…

Christian-worship-or-performance--770x300

Are we attempting to ‘conjure up’ the presence of God?

Many church goers are satisfied with entertaining ‘performance worship’. The emotional appeasement is uplifting, encouraging and even medicinal. But is that anything like the worship in the boat?

But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 1 Corinthians 11:31

I am searching my own heart, asking…

1. Would I sincerely take the words of the songs I am singing and speak them during prayer time to the Lord? Do I have a prayer time to meet with the Lord?

2. Is the music and song or the ‘atmosphere’ engaging my flesh with rhythm and tempo or are songs drawing me into scriptural truths?

3. Am I engaging in something contrived and artificial?

4. Is worship (adornment, deep honor and reverence) already in my heart before I gather with others or is the gathering working up a group cheer for God?

5. Can I sing the songs, even sing the Psalms, during dark storms –  when my circumstances have horribly changed  – with assurance that God has not changed?

There is value in presenting God our best praise and thanksgiving, especially that unbelievers may see that our God is worthy of all exuberant praise.  But lowly fishermen did not rehearse worship to get it right or impress in any way. The presence of God brought them to their knees, their hearts prostrate, filled with awe.

If Jesus walked into our home during our prayer time (or anytime) we would not pull out a guitar, flash vibrant lights nor would we sway and bop. We would fall to our knees with the weight of our nothingness next to His sovereignty. We would worship.

“Lord in heaven, I do want to worship You in spirit and in truth. Help me to understand what that simply means. Help me to wait on You, even if I must stroke the oars through a dark storm. Give us all a true anticipation of Your presence and prepare our hearts to bow down to You. More than anything Father, I want You to find what You’re looking for in me. In Jesus name, amen”.

May the Lord personally bless you!