Anchoring Up Against Anxiety

I am perhaps one of the few conservative believers that does not broad stroke anxiety as a “sin”.  Anxiety is not synonymous with unbelief.  I have actually begun a book on this subject (which may or may not get finished!).  The crux of the issue – is anxiety a ‘punishable’ offense such as adultery or stealing?  Would a parent ever punish or chastise a child for worrying or having an anxiety attack?

The truth is, God almighty urges us not to worry or be anxious because, all knowing and completely sovereign, He has everything under control.  He urges us for our good, our inner peace and well being, not because He will punish us.  

Anxiety and worry may cause us to miss out on God’s best but the journey to His perfect peace can open up His word and deliver healing and victory on the way.  While therapeutic interventions can bring relief and understanding, only God’s word as He reveals and unveils it to our hearts can bring deliverance and spiritual healing.

“Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors”   Psalm 119:24

Anxiety, often trauma based, can become an emotional default and grow into free-floating distress.  But, unlike sin, God can use this condition to reveal spiritual truths and step by step lead us to higher ground.  The Lord calls us to grasp a hold of Him, ‘partner up’, and let Him walk us through this miry clay.  No matter how far the distance, step by step He will lead us to that solid ground, to those ‘green pastures and still waters’.  

Unhurried prayer and meditation upon scripture leads us…

“Your word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.”  (Psalm 119:105)

For the believer, an ’emotional default to anxiety’ in our thinking can occur when trauma or a series of crisis wounds our mind and soul and damages our faith.  The frailties of  our heart and the wiles of the enemy can rout everything into a fearful framework of anticipated harm, failure, deception, and betrayal.

I pray that, day by day – even hour by hour – incrementally -we can begin a process of re-anchoring.  As one injured and disabled may rehab slowly to walk, let our hearts and minds rehab daily toward living hope, confidence and courage.  I would not discourage anyone from helpful medical or therapeutic interventions.  But through prayer and God’s revealed living word, I pray that our thinking increasingly climbs up the chain onto the sure anchor….

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.  (Hebrews 6:19)

and into the secure and glorious place of our Lord’s presence.

Only the Holy Spirit can dislodge our dark anxious thinking, anchored in the depths…and begin to ANCHOR UP our minds and hearts toward heaven where the Lord can heal us with His presence and truths.  There, “the truth will set us free”. 

Our Heavenly Father is not judging but inviting.  May the Lord speak to our hearts and uplift us closer to Him today.

 

In God’s Fiery Classroom

If God is going to use you, you will find yourself in the classroom of isolation, confusion, and despair – there’s no way to escape that place.  Pastor David Wilkerson

While those are the words of Pastor Dave, (1931-2011)  they could easily been said by any godly person, from Genesis to today.  When the Lord loosens the protective hedge about us and allows – perhaps even orchestrates – crushing circumstances He does so with great purpose and eternal value.

As with any classroom, two factors matter greatly:

How prepared are we for this class?  When times are calm, prosperous, healthy, and harmonious – are we pressing in, preparing for eventual storms and tests of faith?

Secondly, in which direction are we facing in this classroom – towards the Great Teacher, fixing our eyes upon Jesus – or are we gazing out the window towards the world and its remedies and ways?

Pastor Dave always said, “Don’t waste your afflictions!”

I cringe with amazement as I remember all the sorrows, trials, deep waters, flaming fires and powerful afflictions. And usually when afflictions came, they came not just one at a time, but in bundles. Many times I thought, “There’s no way I can make it through this.”

Even the memories of afflictions are painful — memories of slander, chastenings of the Lord, ministry trials, personal buffetings, family problems, bodily pains and aches. Yet, as I recall those years of suffering, I can say with assurance, “God’s word is true! He brought me out of every affliction that came upon me. I praise him!”  (devotional article found  here  )

While the devil and carnal religion would lull us with false securities, God’s word warns us of “terrible times” in these last days.  Those clinging to His word will endure fiery trials and even anguish, knowing that ‘nobody threshing the wheat forever’ (Isaiah 28:28)

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Even while separated from the world and “praying towards Jerusalem”, Daniel’s enemies lined up at the door….

 

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but he was prepared for the fiery classrooms that followed.  (Daniel 6)

 

“Encourage us Father, as we study the profound examples of Your faithfulness through the lives ‘ordinary people’. Reveal more of Yourself and living truths in our classroom of affliction so that “when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold”.   And  Lord, if we falter or stumble  at times in this painful classroom, shield us against the devil’s snare of guilt and condemnation.  Amen.”  

 

Only God Can Stop the Bleeding

The testimony of the ‘woman with the issue of blood’ must be so significant to the Lord that it was included in three Gospels, Matthew 9:20, Mark 5:25, and Luke 8:43.  Familiar to most believers, the woman here suffered with bleeding for 12 years.  She had spent all she had on doctors to no avail and, understood within the Jewish Law, she also suffered isolation from the community, from family and/or spouse, and emotional trauma if not constant hopelessness.

In short, 12 years of bleeding no doubt sapped her strength, ruined her relationships, and depleted her resources.  For her, ‘joie de vivre’ was unreachable at any cost.

Perhaps God had His eye on her all along.  Perhaps twelve years would not seem long to her if she knew the wait would lead to a glorious personal encounter with God, an eternal place in His living word, and a source of encouragement for many generations to follow.

Are there women suffering like this today?  Are they isolated, depleted of resources and robbed of hope to live?   Yes, but more than women.  In these last days, there are deep afflictions in the souls of men, women and children that are surely bleeding the life from within.  The ‘terrible times of the last days’, liken to the ‘days of Noah’ and ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ are days where man revels in lawlessness and sin which results in deep affliction to himself and those nearest.  

Whether afflicted through physical debilitation or emotional trauma, torments of anxiety, depression, guilt, hopelessness, and despair can absolutely leave us deplete of resources, isolated from many, and weakened in every way.   Many are living with a bleeding soul, unable to find true healing and deliverance.

What happened to the ‘hem of His garment’?  Is it now unreachable?  Isn’t He “the same, yesterday, today and forever”?

God is in no way a formula God.   While He does not change, His ways and interventions are never the same.  We will not find another burning bush and the hem of His garment is gone.

God still heals, instantaneously and incrementally.  But we are not 1st century believers, walking with God incarnate as He manifests His glory with powerful words and miracles.  Preachers are still passionately crying out, “Reach out! Touch the hem of His garment! Have faith and you will be healed!”

What they are not preaching is I Peter 1:6,

“….for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even thought refined by fire- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Our faith is not refined, nor does it foundationally grow, through instantaneous miracles.  Although we would much rather have miraculous healings and provisions, the Lord’s purpose for suffering in our lives in far greater.  Firstly, He is not preparing us to live well in this world but rather, to serve well in this world.  To truly serve our Master we must become more like Him; it is suffering that conforms us to His image.  But suffering does more than that.

Yes, our inner bleeding and brokenness may rob us of strength, our resources, and isolate us from those who cannot relate.  But in this state of depletion God moves in with more than the hem of His garment.  Waiting upon Him, shutting in with Him, and believing like the bleeding woman that we will receive, opens an awaited intimacy with our Lord.

The Bible never presents suffering as a surprise or dilemma to God.  For God’s people, trials and calamities are ‘appointed’.  No longer can we touch ‘the hem of His garment’ but He’s given us a greater gift, the Holy Spirit, our Counselor, Comforter, and Guide.

Why is this greater than touching His hem?  He is preparing us as His beloved Bride to dwell with Him forever.  It is pointedly said,

The believer’s life on earth is his only arena for change and fruitfulness…the nature of eternity is changeless.  Therefore, the time to become like Jesus, being conformed to His likeness, is during this earthly Christian experience of trial and faith…”

When God allows all options, remedies, and hopes to fail believe that He is sharpening our focus on Him alone.  Whatever it takes, shut in with the Lord and hear from Him through prayer and His word.  When this temporal world begins to dim and the  Holy Spirit pours into our hearts,  we will hear God’s call to us.  He will walk us through to healing, revealing Himself at every juncture. 

But infinitely greater  – He is preparing us to be with Him forever.

 

Ever Find Yourself in Patmos?

Genesis and Revelation are the critical bookends to God’s living word.  In Revelation,  the Apostle John receives from Jesus prophetic visions of apocalyptic events that continue to stun believers with a deeper fear and awe of God.

Little, however, is described about the godly vessel chosen to reveal these awesome truths.  As an elderly man of God, John shared with believers,

I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus.  Rev 1:9

“Exiled” and “suffering” may not fully depict John’s life on Patmos but does, even vaguely, open our minds to his hardship.  It is commonly known that Patmos was a small barren island, treeless and stark, used by Rome as a site to banish exiles.  According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, Patmos means “my killing“.  Greek scholar Alexander Cruden defines Patmos as “I am squeezed to pieces.”

This chosen beloved man of God personally walked with the Lord, powerfully expounded the life of Jesus Christ for the world to embrace, and established churches that impacted the world.  He witnessed the power of God through his life and through the lives of the other apostles.  However, while embracing his ministry and pursuing the kingdom of God, John is banished into a barren place of suffering….with God in full control.

There is only one beloved Apostle John.

However, many believers even today find themselves unexpectedly on Patmos.   The ‘Unexpected’ magnifies the pain…if one could plan, who wouldn’t pack provisions for a barren place?

It is true that God can strip your life at it’s very peak.  I know, for example, a sister who left a wonderful career for the sake of her spouse only to learn weeks later of his adulterous affair and secret life.  She was heading toward Patmos when shortly thereafter the ministry she loved, with whom she traveled and evangelized imploded by exposed corruption, scattering precious sheep in utter despair….At the same time, God set her in the position of caring for that unfaithful spouse during illness and injury while yet revealing other depths of betrayal.  Then she went nearly bald.  (ok, c’est moi)

When totally alone in despair, stripped of all that ‘made us’ who we are, when gone are the very things, even godly things, that brought pleasure, fulfillment,  and security….

You are here

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Patmos – Barron places threaten faith and foundation

Most assuredly the apostle John stood strong on Patmos, continuing to live the strong spiritual foundation that he set forth to the churches….urging them to live like Christ, standing strong in adversity,  separated from the things of this world,

“Do not love the world or anything in the world…The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”   I John 2:15-17

 

John knew that the purposes and plans of God are not at all deterred by circumstance, in fact the apostles knew that God worked their sufferings and adversities to promote the Gospel.  John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”.  Banishment from the places and people he loved did not interrupt his worship or intimacy with the Lord Jesus. Moreover, we have every reason to believe that John’s exile brought him into a deeper relationship with God, ultimately preparing him to receive the greatest revelation of Christ’s awesome return.

The barren place of Patmos gave birth to the fearsome final word of God, the merciful warning of coming judgement.  

I don’t know anyone like the apostle John but I do know brethren in a state of Patmos, a place of “my killing”….where life seems “…squeezed to pieces.”  Unexpected upheavals and unraveling, reversals and losses all shake the pillars of life and expose the only sure foundation found in Christ.

He is our Head and is in control.   If you are His follower, no one can take you to Patmos except by His will.  God is not finished with you, He has a plan and purpose in the places of Patmos…that could only come to fruition through that barren place.  

“Lord, walk us through the places of Patmos.  Let all that was lost fade away next to the reality of You.  Renew our minds through Your powerful living word.  I pray that we see purpose in the ‘barren places’ – let them be places of spiritual and supernatural life.  Plant in us a living hope that the promises of You, sovereign God, can never fail.”

I think there’s a song for us on Patmos….

 

Soldier of the Cross

Soldier of the Cross is re-blogged from Diary of a Quadriplegic, written by Terri Nida.

Diary of a Quadriplegic

As expected, I’ve had another traumatic hospital experience that’s prompted me to write this blog post. I wish that I wrote my best blog posts during times when I’m on the upswing in my faith and filled with overwhelming hope and good news; but if I’ve learned anything over the last four years as a quadriplegic, the hardest times have been the most fruitful times in terms of my spiritual growth.

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Pushpins of Doubt in the Midst of God’s Power

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From a pushpin of doubt faith slowly seeps out….

In 2005, a missionary couple came to Times Square Church to testify and present the Lord’s great work within a restricted Islamic country. At that point I had probably heard about 1000 sermons from the TSC pulpit but few are as vividly memorable as the testimony of Mr. and Mrs. E. They were called to that country in 1994. While in the center of town one day, an insistent woman led Mrs. E out to a remote area. There Mrs. E eyed a large dilapidated warehouse. What importance could that have?

It was winter when she entered this foreboding building and with its broken windows and damaged walls it was just as cold inside as out. With the language barrier it was hard to understand why she was urged there until the local woman opened one of the storehouse doors.

This was that country’s ‘facility’ for mentally and physically disabled children where they slowly died daily of deprivation and abandonment. There were no bathrooms in this ‘facility’. Most of these children were unclad, laid upon bare wooden bed frames, at death’s door with infections, starvation, and emotional anguish.

The projected overhead photos were heartbreaking. Never before and never since have I witnessed such weeping break out at Times Square Church. Mrs. E continued the story. Although she made daily attempts to minister to these children, bringing food and praying for them, the futility overwhelmed her. Until the Lord moved once again on behalf of those abandoned and languishing children.

Around that same time, the pastors of TSC were preparing for a pastor’s conference in that country. Coincidentally, one pastor’s son met Mrs. E in the center of town one day and, through that ‘chance meeting’ the Lord’s purposes forged ahead. We didn’t hear about the ‘pastors conference’ but God moved the pastors of TSC to embrace and adopt that abandoned place of death.

I have never seen a transformation such as the one presented.

Buildings were gutted and rebuilt. Therapeutic hydraulic pools were installed, plumbing and cooking facilities came to life. They no longer needed the ‘guards’ who tossed moldy food to dying children. The E couple was able to add Christian workers to minister and heal; over time the Lord brought 76 brethren to love on these children, bringing many to a saving knowledge of God.

The overhead photos of true life and restoration brought another outbreak of tears!

Although I cried the tears of grief then utter joy, one thing troubled me like a pushpin in my faith. When Mr. E  first described their call to missionary work in August 1976 he said….

They were young and in love, engaged to be married, and ready to serve the Lord on the mission field. As part of a youth group, they had a brief stay in NY before flying out to various countries as the Lord had led. During that brief stay, Mr. E shared, his betrothed set out with another sister in the Lord to hand out tracts and minister in the area. They did not return that day. Instead, the police came to the Christian center to report that the girls were hospitalized. They had been abducted from the street, gang raped and tortured then dumped out of a van.

Of course, the girls’ parents urged them to return home, to recover and heal. But, as Mr. E continued, his fiancé left for the airport after her medical discharge. Sometime later they were married and worked together on the mission field – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and later in Central Asia where they stayed for many years.

As a crime victim counselor and later a parole officer for many years I saw the personal devastation of sex offenses. Some ‘rape survivors’ never fully recover. While I marveled at the Lord’s hand working through this couple, ‘a pushpin of doubt’ lingered and needled….”gang raped and tortured” on her way to serving God? Having been violated, traumatized, and dumped like refuge on the road, how could this young woman share the faithfulness of God just days later? Was He faithful?

Twelve years later I don’t have all the answers but perhaps gained some understanding on the sovereignty of God. It’s not possible to accept that God is ‘in charge’ of the wonderful ‘coincidences’ of the Christian walk – where impossible plans come to fruition –  but then reject His omnipotence over tragedies, violations, betrayals and sicknesses. The painful truth is that God uses suffering, not prosperity, to prepare and launch His vessels into the world.

I don’t think Mrs. E would object if I supposed that, without the horrifying attack set upon her, she would not have been the same broken and surrendered servant standing before Times Square Church. It must have been supernatural healing and restoration that empowered her to rise up from gross abuse to selfless service unto the Lord. Perhaps in that, the Lord proved Himself stronger than any force of wicked darkness.

The answers to ‘why’ in pain and suffering may remain still a mystery but grow more insignificant against the living and eternal fruits born through surrendered vessels.

And a pushpin pushed out, falling to the ground…..

 

“You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath Your wild and stormy waves…But You, O Lord, snatched me from the jaws of death!”  Jonah 2 excerpts

Can God Bless an Unhappy Marriage?

When I was a parole officer I had a certain partner for many years. He was a bit older and married for several years while I was seeking a mate. One day he said of marriage, “There are days that you really hate that person you married.” ‘Agh!’ I thought, ‘what kind of marriage does he have?’

That was probably 30 years ago.

Paul’s prophetic warning in II Timothy 3, “There will be terrible times in the last days” also depicts therein the state of marriage. While the world is bombarded with immorality and apostasy, Christian marriages are a prized target because our life and marriage should be a light that honors God. The shock, betrayal and anguish caused by discovered adultery, pornography and deception is doubled by the confusing questions, “Didn’t I marry a Christian?” “How did God allow this to happen?” “How could he/she do such things – where was the Holy Spirit?” and…

“What should I do? What would God have me do?” “Is God finished here?”

(If someone is in an abusive marriage there should be no question about leaving, only prayer for strength to leave. Nearly every large precinct has a ‘domestic abuse officer’ – call them. Believe me, many people find God in jail and so can your spouse.)

However, most marriages are not dying from abuse, they are either a) suffering deeply from the pummeling anguish of betrayal and/or b) slowly dying from erosion, drifting, and indifference. The questions however, remain the same.

Many Christians consider adultery to be the doctrinal ‘ticket out’ of a broken marriage. This may be the right choice if the offending spouse wants to leave. However, in many cases, the situation is complicated with remorse and some level of repentance making decisions deeply troubling. The ‘open door’ to flee marriage is an option, not a mandate, neither does it signify God’s specific will. Consider Paul and Silas captive in a harsh dungeon, Acts 16. After being humiliated, beaten and chained, the prison gates miraculously spring open! They were well able gain freedom through this ‘open door’ but their freedom would have foregone the higher will of God to save the jailer and his family. The jailer, destined for suicide, was instead saved and salvation brought to his whole family.

While no one should consider staying in an abusive or harmful manipulative marriage, there are many truths to consider when the turmoil of your relationship crushes you with disappointment, emotional pain, and loneliness.

1. God established marriage and He is for it. For those whose lives are in Christ, our Heavenly Father stands to defend His daughters and sons and will pay back those who afflict them. If the offender is a backslidden Christian, believe in God’s ominous chastisement – it is inevitable.
2. God hates divorce, as stated in Malachi 2:16, which does not mean it is always avoidable but woe to he or she that irreparably damages what God has established. Adulterers, abandoners, and abusers will be held accountable.
3. Satan loves divorce, it is highly valuable to destroying a home and family with lasting consequence on future generations. In divorce Satan can “steal, kill, and destroy” all at once. His schemes orchestrate opportunities for a spouse to fulfill the lusts of his/her heart. Or, like a barrage of termites, devilish thoughts target our hearts, eating away marital foundations, while embellishing every suspicion and inflaming every wound to build an accusatory case against our spouse.
4. God foresaw your marital unhappiness, even misery. Only the Holy Spirit can reach those depths of emotional pain and He awaits our cry. Committed into His hand, He will intervene, He will make His word alive with healing and He will weave our pain into the “all things” that “work together for good”.

Whether our relationship is blown apart or dies slowly the turning point will always be when one or both parties get alone with God and determine to hear from Him. No one can  hijack God’s plan for our life if we remain faithful. While the entire world fixates on personal ‘happiness’, ‘self-gratification’, and ‘self-fulfillment’ God is calling us into a separated walk with Him. “That which is highly esteemed by man is despicable in God’s eyes”. When the world, our friends, our family and even church members say “leave and move on with your life” the Lord may be saying “stay and stand in your faith”, that He may unfold His plans for our life and marriage.

Wise counsel is important and marital counseling may help but no intervention can compare with the true believer hearing from our Heavenly Father. The Lord alone responds to our hearts with promise – when He calls us to stay, He is staying with us, maintaining divine purpose in our life. ‘Divine purpose’ is nothing like worldly esteem or prestige…it is found in the inner suffering that leads to God’s glory and His eternal Kingdom. It is through suffering that we can be “conformed to the image of His Son” who suffered greatly and taught us to carry our cross and die to self will. Marital suffering hammers out the ‘self will’ with painful precision but more than that, it avails us to a deeper and more intimate walk with the Lord.

It is not easily said but God does bless the unhappy and difficult marriage when one or both therein are surrendered to Him. He stands by His sons and daughters who have been downcast and betrayed and upholds those who have been damaged by sinful and offensive decisions. But more importantly, God unveils the darkness in our midst and even in our own hearts and, in doing so, does the most critical work of sanctifying us.

I pray that, in this brief space, we can consider the complexity of marital discord for the believer. Marriage for some believers cannot be saved and they remain blameless. No one should remain in any relationship that is physically or emotionally abusive. However, most issues rooted in selfishness, carnal living, unfaithfulness to God and/or spouse, and neglect lead to increasing ‘love-less-ness’ and resentment. These are often the fruits of devilish whittling and needling, “the schemes of the devil”, targeting our own fleshly inclinations for our destruction.

We have authority in Christ to take a stand in our home and marriage and, in these end times, we dare not waste any more time lamenting of the past, ruminating over offenses, or feeding suspicion and accusations. If we’ve grown to ‘hate’ our spouse, don’t avoid prayer – take it to prayer, pour out honestly to God who already knows our inner battles and pain….

“Lord, I confess to you every dark and painful thought and inclination of my heart – come into my heart with the flashlight of your word and lead me to your living hope! Don’t let me be governed by feelings but lead me in the power of the Holy Spirit! Speak to my heart, speak to my husband/wife’s heart. Bring conviction where there is sin and rebellion. Incline our hearts toward Your will for our life and marriage. Grant me wisdom and discernment to hold fast to truth and dispel the lies of the devil and the deception of my own heart. Help me to trust You for the invisible work in my spouse and help me to be humble to see the darkness of my own heart. I pray for supernatural renewal. May we fix our eyes on You, Jesus, to honor you as we await your coming Kingdom.”

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Satan patiently prepares a household, inflaming our flesh for breakdown and divorce – STRIKE!