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.

View original post 660 more words

Pushpins of Doubt in the Midst of God’s Power

purple pushpin

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

Commemorate Armenian Martyrs – Cry Out For Their Unborn

Armenian Martyrs Day is once again upon us, 4/24/17. Once again crowds will rightfully gather around city centers and government headquarters, continuing demands for complete acknowledgement and justice for the genocide perpetuated upon the Armenians. In 1915, wide scale systematic annihilation began as the Ottoman Turks sought to exterminate the Armenian people. Over 1.5 million Armenians were brutally murdered, some dying slow deaths of starvation and illness during death marches.

Yes, we must remember this great crime against humanity.

However, if we truly care for the Armenian people, their survival and salvation in this world, we would be remiss totally hypocritical to ignore the rampant plight of Armenia’s unborn. (Please see “Armenia – Dying Under Fruitless Religion” posted 4/7/17)

baby at 18 weeks

Every year nearly 25% of unborn Armenian babies are killed and this may not include the gender selective late term illegal abortions.

Before Armenian Martyrs Day, we’re calling an online All Night Prayer Meeting,  Friday April 21st, from 9pm to 5am Saturday morning. I urge all believers to pray for the whole night, part of the evening or even a few minutes. We cannot, under God’s eye, take a stand for those who were martyred while their current generation is under silent yet utter destruction.

Proposed Prayer Schedule – Friday 4/21/17 to Saturday 4/22/18
9pm to 10pm: A time of quieting our hearts before the Lord. Visit the Psalms and actually sing some in praises to God or choose any praise and worship songs toward God.

10pm to 11:30pm: Begin to pray for the Church in Armenia and all those who accept a place of spiritual authority. For many, the scriptures are a dead word, without life or power.

  • Pray for a great move of the Holy Spirit upon spiritual leaders in Armenia, that their hearts may be deeply convicted for the state of their flock. For the sake of Christ and those who are perishing, pray that God take away their false peace!
  • Pray that their hearts are greatly stirred and without rest until they cry out to God and hear the Lord’s direction to lead the men and women under their domain.
  • Pray that the eyes of every priest and deacon are open to the futility of rituals that have no grounding in the word of God and no power to save or heal.
  • I pray for a deep weeping and grief in the hearts of all church leaders – may the Lord mercifully oppress them with the weight and burden of these sins

  “The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord…” (Proverbs 21:1) So even the heart of a priest, “For who is able to resist His will?” (Romans 9:19)

11:30pm to 1:30am: Pray for the women of Armenia. Many of these women are descendants of genocide survivors. Armenian women have lived through the tyranny of communism, have known deprivation from Islamic oppression and blockades. While abortion procedures may have been freely offered, contraception was never taught or available for many years. Many Armenian women have had over 10 abortions. Infertility is extremely high.

  • Cry out to God for pregnant women, pray that the Holy Spirit open their eyes to the developing baby within them. For those who are gladly expectant, I pray that God increase their joy.  I pray that God fan into flames any ember of faith so that these women can call upon the Lord with assurance.
  • I pray that women of faith, those who truly know the Lord, will rise up and seek God’s leadership in mentoring and counseling pregnant women among them. I pray for a God-given burden in their hearts to pray for and reach out to women in crisis.
  • Pray for women who have ‘made up their mind’ and especially those who are pressured and cornered by husbands and in-laws to have an abortion. May the Lord take their false peace and well up a controversy in their hearts.  May they hear the heartbeat within them.  May the Lord quell every fear.
  • Pray for women who have had abortions – pray that God would heal their hearts, that they can know full forgiveness and newness of life through the promises of God.
  • As it is now daytime in Armenia, pray that today is a day without abortions. Let every appointment be canceled, missed, and unattended.  Let today be a day that the Lord guards every womb and let the people take notice and realize supernatural intervention.

1:30am to 2:00am: BREAK, a time of physical refreshment and scriptural reading

2:00am to 3:00am:    Pray for Armenian men.  Armenian men often pressure and propel their wives to have abortions based on gender.  Rather than standing as the protector of the home, many of these men strongly push for death to their unborn daughters.

  • Pray earnestly that God heal their seared conscience, that the Holy Spirit raise up pangs of conviction in their soul.
  • Pray that the Lord magnify their sin before them so they may clearly see it. Let sonograms and pregnancy tests weigh heavy on their hearts as a true life that matters, a life created by God. 
  • Pray that the Lord give them sleepless nights, that the Holy Spirit draw them into repentance, that the cross of Christ be illuminated before them as the only hope to restore their heart and save them.

Pray for men, women and families that the event of pregnancy become a turning point towards God, that the Lord interrupt any dark plan and turn it around for life and salvation.

3:00am to 4:00am:  Pray for doctors and others in the medical field who perform abortions.

  • Pray that the Holy Spirit take away their false peace and replace it with deep inner turmoil at the thought of killing the unborn.
  • Let the 6th Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Murder” resound in their hearts and minds
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit weigh upon them heavily with the grief and burden of Christ’s heart for life
  • Pray for doctors and medical personnel to come to true repentance, even for the thousands of lives they each may have terminated, and let the true forgiveness and peace of God reign in their hearts and souls

4:00am to 5:00am:  Take time to rest in the Lord, let us begin to thank Him for what He is already doing.  Let us take confidence in His supernatural work, accomplishing in a short time what man could never do in a lifetime.

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power to prevail”

James 5:16

 

 

 

Armenia – Dying Under Fruitless Religion

Armenians worldwide have common cultural and historical bonds, unifying them to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Although there were previous onslaughts prior to 1915, the scale of that annihilation marked the souls of subsequent generations seeking justice. I am with them. Notably, the 100th year commemoration, 2015, brought needed attention to the atrocities still denied by the Turkish government.

However, how can we as a people and moreover the established Armenian Apostolic Church, rightfully demand justice when we are neglecting the desecration of our people within? Nobody is killing more Armenians today than Armenians themselves.

The median number of abortions for women over 40 is eight, and some women have as many as 20 abortions in a lifetime.” (12/20/2011, lifesitenews.com) Even worse, with the availability of abortion pills, costing less than $1, women might remember medical abortions but many cannot remember how many times they have had drug induced abortions. Gender selection is the compelling, deciding factor in many of these abortions. So compelling and highly pressured, these women are opting for late term illegal abortions.

The Armenian government did respond to international pressure and warnings from United Nations (UNPF) as Armenia is facing a demographic crisis. Gender selection abortions became ‘outlawed’. However, legislating morality is one of man’s greatest futilities.

“Pregnancy in Armenia: Let’s Hope It’s Not a Girl” (Armenian Mirror Spectator, 1/14/17) exposes the plight of Armenian women and their unborn children, often succumbing to “strong pressure from husband or family to have a male child. Sometimes it is the husband who makes the decision for his wife, often resorting to psychological pressure.”

This is a sickening reality –  the husband, protector of the wife and home, compels his wife to kill their unborn child!  Yet God established marriage and His high standards liken it to His great love and sacrifice for us…

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy….” (Ephesians 5:25)

The only hope for Armenians and anyone else is in turning to the living God, being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Only the Lord can quicken our conscience to see clearly what we are doing and bring the due grief to lead us to repent.

According to the Armenian Census 2011, 94% percent of the population in Armenia claims (nominally) to be Christian while 92.7 % belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church.  A church has access to nearly 93% of a population that is imploding from abortions?   Many consider this establishment powerful** but are they at all powerful in God’s eyes?

If the Armenian priests saw a glimpse of God’s view and heart for the people, they would fall prostrate on the floor weeping not only for the people but for themselves. God holds religious authority to a fearful standard.

armenian priests

Blessing of Bread, Water, and Salt at Izmirlyan Medical Center

Which ‘apostles’ is the Armenian Apostolic Church modeling?  Ornate garments and fancy rituals, having not the slightest resemblance to Jesus nor His Apostles, cannot possibly bring about change whatsoever. In fact, during these hospital ‘blessings’ one can be sure that abortions are taking place!

If Armenians identify with Christ at all, it’s time to repent. It’s time to cry out to God for a new beginning, seeking the mind of Christ through the scriptures and surrendering our life and our will to our Savior.

“Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” (I John 1:6)

Thank God, Jesus did not sequester Himself in grand buildings and pious robes, but came and lived amongst us, touching and changing hearts, calling those whose lives were bankrupt and shipwrecked. Although He is sovereign King,  Jesus rejected all accolades, position and honor of this world.

Etchmiadzin Cathedral

It’s time to break out of Etchmiadzin and reach the people for Christ

Not ornate in the least, the Son of God wept for the people, drawing them to Himself,

“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest…” (Matt 11:28)

Armenia’s dire moral crisis will not resolved by a better government or financial assistance programs. Church rituals and incantations may be emotionally appeasing but are utterly powerless to bring about change in the heart of man. Even worse, the façade of religion gives hollow hope to women who are oppressed by this dark abortion culture.

I pray that a true Church rises up to be the Body of Christ, following Jesus and His Apostles’ teachings, preaching a Gospel that convicts of sin and brings healing.  Spiritual decay and darkness is killing Armenia.   Are there spiritual leaders who are willing to lay aside prestigious garments, roll up their sleeves, and open their hearts to the burden of Christ?

Yes, Armenians deserve justice for the grievous genocide of 1.5 million innocent lives, Armenians who were systematically annihilated by the Turkish government.  But can we neglect the not-so-secret slaughter going on in Armenia today amidst a pervasive yet fruitless religion?

genocide gathering

Outcry for Armenians cannot end here.  (photo: Reuters/Kevork Djansezian)

**I attended a presentation at the United Nations, 3/18/17, which focused on the subject of abortion and gender inequality in Armenia.  See The Burning Lamp, When Good Works End in Spiritual Ashes

This Should Encourage Us Greatly

Of the many things that I am not, a race runner would near the top. Out of total necessity I have, as a Parole Officer, run after absconders and now occasionally chase after city buses. However, more than once people have commented, “Have you ever seen yourself run? It’s so funny.”

Perhaps since I am no runner I can appreciate the difficulty in committing to an obstacle course, marathon, or triathlon. And, perhaps non-starters can imagine the deep despair upon a runner who is somehow disqualified or injured – unable to compete and finish the race. Likened to this, there are several scriptural references to “running the race”, our journey of faith through this world. Many are the Apostle Paul’s admonishments to run, “compete according to the rules” (II Timothy 2:5) to “finish the race” (Acts 20:24) not to “run in vain” (Galatians 2:2) but run for the “crown that lasts forever” (I Corinthians 9:24-25).

By far, the ‘triathlon’ of faith, hope, and love is the most difficult race any of us can run. While those training for a physical race hope to run in the peak of health, we who run this race of faith can only succeed in as far as we die to self.  We may be surprised by temptation and grieved at encounters of disappointment, tragedy, pain and even martyrdom. But the Lord assures us that victory is surely ours, He has run the race ahead of us and will be alongside of us the whole way.

Hebrews 12:1 declares that we are “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” and we are admonished to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” so that we may,

“…run with perseverance the race marked out for us”.

A runner must be confident of the race marked out before him, that the course is certainly mapped out,  that he, in no way,  runs blindly on an unmarked, uncharted, haphazard course.   Likewise, we must be secure that our spiritual race is “set”, “marked out”, and designed by a Sovereign God, a Heavenly Father who loves us. We must believe that God loves us as much as He loves Jesus, and with this trust proceed through difficult, at times confusing, and often painful times.   Why difficult, confusing and painful? It is the pathway of the cross.

difficult path.jpg

We don’t know what lies ahead but God does…He has it marked out to heaven. 

Tomorrow is known by God alone but the devil seeks to discourage us at every turn and harass us at every unknown corner…

“You will never make it!”
“That thing/person/circumstance will plague you the rest of your life!”
“You’ve failed too many times. You’re not even saved!”
“Look at what’s happening! Do you really believe that God loves you?”

Satan will ‘enlarge’ our perceived enemies, distort circumstances, and even misquote scripture to lead you into ‘quick sand’.  The devil’s lies have not changed neither has his treacherous aim to “steal, kill and destroy.” Moreover, the darkness grows thicker in these last days as man is given over to all kinds of debauchery and increasingly ‘Christians’ succumb and fall into apostasy. The path of our race can seem totally encumbered with heaviness, doubt, and fear…and loneliness.

Much anxiety comes from mapping out our own course, figuring out which way to go, even devising a contingency plan “just in case”. I pray we resist fleshly inclinations and set our minds upon…

The ‘cloud of witnesses’: Read and meditate upon the Biblical heroes who, in themselves were of no repute or strong standing but through faith made an eternal mark in God’s Kingdom. Consider the testimonies of many humble missionaries, pastors and martyrs who fulfilled their callings, finished their race, by living a supernatural life through the promises of God.

The living Word of God: We need to study more than ever and learn to meditate upon the truths to allow God’s Word to be pressed in and rooted in our hearts. Once rooted, I pray we call upon those truths to combat the lies of demons, the fears within us, and the seemingly unsurpassable obstacles laid upon our path. We must know this “two edged sword” in order to wield it and gain the victory.

The Holy Spirit: Jesus sends us the Counselor, the Spirit of truth and states that, “you know Him for He lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16&17) The indwelling Holy Spirit of God makes us Christ’s Body in this world, enabling God to work in us and through us as we obey His Word and surrender to His leadership.

Our race is marked out – every runner and contender should find great security in that. God is in full control of the course and every event encountered. Like the cloud of witnesses, we may run into grief and confusion. Like godly men and women from Genesis to present day, we may be slandered, wrongly punished, misunderstood and betrayed. But like our forefathers and brethren before us, we must commit to press on, delving deeper into God’s Word and declaring it inwardly and outwardly. To ‘carry our cross daily’ means to decidedly surrender to the Lord and trust His leadership through the race He has preordained for us…

“The steps of a righteous man are ordered by God.” (Psalm 37:23)

Weren’t the Apostles Heartbroken?

The first brutal execution found in the Gospel is the death of John the Baptist. Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe the circumstances of his death and how his body was laid to rest. Jesus Himself set out to a place of solitude. Later in Acts 6-8 the powerful testimony of Stephen and his convicting oration to religious leaders leads to their subsequent violent uprising against him. After stoning Stephen,

“Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.” Acts 8:2

As the Body of Christ gained ground with leadership newly rooted through Holy Spirit authority, how would the disciples respond to the traumatic murder of Stephen? The Bible does not say ‘their faith was greatly shaken’, or that disciples took any leave to heal. In fact, two verses after burying Stephen, the persecuted believers “preached the word of God wherever they went.”

The disciples’ resilience seems personified in Acts 12, a chapter often cited and preached for Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison. However verse 2 is rarely expounded upon, rarely found in meditations. “He (King Herod) had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.” Partners before their call to Christ, these brothers became even closer as they were in Christ’s inner circle –  James and John were two of the three who witnessed great supernatural works of the Savior.

No mourning or burial mentioned here. In fact, the focus immediately turns to Peter in prison, “the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” What happened to heartbreak, grief, even confusion after wanton violence? As the purposes of God’s Word go forth to shake the world, the sufferings and eventual deaths of the Apostles seem obscured and veiled. We as believers deeply feel heartache and loss in our lives…didn’t they?

I believe that, from their call out of worldly living into the life of Christ, the Apostles and disciples walked under supernatural leadership of the Holy Spirit. Endowed with the Great Commission, they had to rise above and work past every fiery trial and grief. They did so, perhaps in these ways…

1. Their walk with the Son of God established disciplines of prayer, faith, and perseverance. The critical inner breaking through Christ’s crucifixion perhaps changed any fleshly ambitions toward God’s Kingdom while the resurrection may have deeply changed their innate fearful finality of death.

2. Their expectations of life in this world were increasingly and totally adjusted – forever. Accomplishments, possessions, and other rooted attachments – including familial relationships – no longer gripped their heart. They “loved not their lives even unto death”. Their expectation to suffer prepared their hearts for calamity.

3. Their hearts were singularly devoted to the person of Christ. The Lord’s ordained mission upon their lives rooted them with a fixed focus on propelling the Gospel truth from Jerusalem to the outer parts of the world. Their sights were solely focused on eternity. With honesty they could declare, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Were they heartbroken?  The Apostles lived through personal tragedies, torture, and betrayals.  Yes, heartbroken and grieved but with ‘eyes fixed upon Jesus’.   And, we’re called to live like them.

Our lives increasingly transform in Christ as we turn from the world and fleshly living and renew our thinking through the Bible.  Victory over sin and worldly ambition is evidenced by testimonies of ‘profound transformations’ to the quiet rebirth of those who repent and believe. However, continual walk and growth in the Holy Spirit avails us to deeper strengths. Like the early disciples, godly missionaries like Elizabeth Elliott and Gladys Staines exemplified persevering faith as they continued serving God after their loved ones were brutally killed by those they went to serve. (Dr. Graham Staines and his wife were missionaries to lepers in India. He and his two young sons were burned alive in their car by radicals.)

the staines car

“It is Jesus who is the source of every consolation and support.  God gives us the strength to be able to carry our cross and to live in His will.  Our life and our work here on earth has to go on according to His holy will.”  Gladys Staines  (Asia News 1/20/09)

Many of us believers still grapple with the snare of worldly entanglements. Others, having fully seen the futility of this world, are battling for victory over fleshly inner sin. However, an intimate circle of believers in this world must arise, a remnant who have been inwardly broken and determined to forge ahead.  A remnant determined to honor God. .

I am not yet in that spiritual ‘inner circle’ of selflessness and resiliency. But I want to grow in that direction to become a viable vessel of God, able to fulfill His call and the ‘good works prepared’ for me. If believers, especially in ‘free countries’ begin to accept suffering in our walk with the Lord, our expectation to suffer will change our priorities, values and thinking.

In these end days, our victory depends on God as the source of counsel, healing and wisdom. To survive fiery trials and serve our King, and to keep us from falling, we must learn how to pray and study His word so that He may lead us through every heartache step by step. Only through the power of God’s word and the Holy Spirit can our minds be healed and renewed. Our short days on this earth must matter for His eternal Kingdom. Through Christ in us is this possible….

“Lord, lead us. Teach us to open our grief and confusion to You and trust you completely.  Speak to our hearts as You heal us and walk us through calamity, teaching us through Your word.   Show us how to be vessels for your Holy Spirit in this world. Build our character through suffering and a testimony through our trials so we will have it as a treasure more precious than gold to honor you. Thank you Lord.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

What Should We Do When God Disappoints?

God “disappoints”, someone, somewhere every day. Amidst crushing crisis, upon the cliffs of death and darkness, we fan the embers of faith to believe God will show up and rescue us from the very thing we dread. We pray, plead and willingly beg but our tears only water grass at the gravesite. What will we do when God is silent, when He closes the door, when our dreams are swept away…is God pushing the broom?

Those who don’t know the Lord test Him in their place of despair, “If you are God, show yourself to me and others here in this hospital room and we will believe!” Although the Lord rebuked the devil, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” He doesn’t condemn us in our desperation. But neither our desperation, nor nights of anguish and millions of tears can assure that God will miraculously move. Prayer cannot change the will of God, but can supernaturally open to us the revelation of what His will is and align us with His presence and sovereignty.

Prayer doesn’t make God answer, it aligns us with the answer He already has.

If you have never entered into a living faith, never truly repented and surrendered to the Lord, but rise up in your ‘911’ and call upon Him, what will you do when you are disappointed? Most people will walk further away from any semblance of faith when the ‘God option’ fails in their time of need. What will YOU do? Or, brother and sister in the Lord, what happens when we are walking right before God and He leads us onto a path of brokenness, pain and deep disappointment, what will we do when our prayers seem answered with worse calamity?

The juncture of devastating disappointment is a critical one and yet can be the most life giving crossroad of our faith. This is painfully true. Crushing disappointment is not a time to test God, it is the time He tests us. How can we survive this? How can our faith thrive through this?

Do not judge God by your circumstances, do not give up in prayer, call upon Him to enter into your despair and compel yourself to do this:

Abandon every “if-then” condition set upon God.

Make a commitment, even with a speck of faith, to prayerfully read the Bible every day. “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” emotional pain separates us from worldly clamor and avails to us a door for the Lord to minister and speak.  Commit to that daily appointment with the Lord, He already awaits.

Did we seek God only to receive miracle or do we truly desire supernatural life?

Faith is the engine that moves and aligns us to God, positioning us to hear from Him, leading us into His presence. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of God.” Meditate upon the Psalms, enter into the disappointments, the deep losses, the grief of God’s people and begin to believe that their found healing and victory is also for you.

out of pit and sold as slave

Betrayals and disappointments tested and built Joseph’s faith,  preparing him to trust and serve  Sovereign God (Genesis 37-50)

 

Press on past the voice of the enemy, Satan, as onslaughts come to fuel grief and doubts, “What good did praying bring?” “What kind of God is this anyway who lets your loved one suffer and die?” “What was God doing while your husband cheated? While your home, your plans, your dreams, crumbled to the ground?” Your faith is the target of the devil’s biggest lies: “God was doing nothing all this time! He doesn’t love you! His word is not true!”  Resolve to reject every lie and accusation against the Lord, especially those hidden within your own heart.

Holy Scripture, originally written without punctuation, renders two understandings of Isaiah 59:19 as scholars vary a tiny comma…

“When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

“When the enemy comes in, like a flood the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

I pray that the Holy Spirit comes in, like a flood of Living Water, overwhelming the wiles of the enemy and refreshing us with the Word of God.

It is natural to hope upon the miracles of healing, the abundance created by five loaves and two fish, the raising of the dead and sight to the blind, but these are temporal, not eternal ‘measuring points’ of God’s faithfulness. Jesus established His divinity through such miracles but that He did not come to perform miracles. He came to save us from our sins. Far fewer people are crying out for and rejoicing in this miracle although this is the one He came to fulfill, the one that will NEVER disappoint, the one that leads to eternal life. From that unbroken and eternal promise, He calls us to follow Him on a narrow path carrying our cross.

When the dust settles might we ask, are we in right relationship to God through repentance? Are we committed to following Him on a path of self-denial?  Have we invested our heart to a popular ‘easy-believism’ or are we given to the whole counsel of God?

“It needs to be said that a world of confusion results from trying to believe without obeying! A mere passive surrender may be no surrender at all. Any real submission to the will of God must include willingness to take orders from Him from that time on.” A.W. Tozer

Does God heal? Does He miraculously provide and restore? The Lord is well able and does supernaturally intervene into the crisis of man. However, His purpose is higher than prolonging life and fulfilling hopes; it is for an abundant and eternal life led by God. A God led life. May our spiritual eyes open as we consider, from Genesis to Revelation, the disappointments, losses, betrayals and calamities of the saints AND the faithfulness of God to move upon them. The Lord  wastes not one tear nor one moment of suffering for those given to Him.  In His hand ‘He works it all together for good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose’.

I pray for those now at critical junctures of faith, may they decide to take all doubts, anger and grief to God and compel themselves to search His Word.

“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:23

The Miracle We All Need

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.” (Matt 14:25)

For most of us landlubbers, the thought of walking on water – as miraculous as it is – may not seem to be the most sought after experience. Surely we would aspire to have ‘healing hands’ to relieve the suffering of ailments and disease. Who wouldn’t want, even once, the miraculous power to multiply food and feed thousands of hungry folks?

In his teaching series, “All That Jesus Taught” Zac Poonen, overseer of Christian Fellowship Church in Bangalore, explores the teaching of Christ through the four Gospels. Beyond what the Lord said, there is great lessons to savor in what He did. Brother Zac aptly demonstrates that “every miracle is a parable” and as such there are unseen depths to discover. In this passage, expounds Brother Zac, Jesus compelled His disciples to get into the boat and sail onward to the other side, evident from the wordage that the disciples were reluctant – they really didn’t want to go. Did they have weather indications? Were they exhausted from the day’s events? In any case, “Jesus made the disciples get into the boat”. At the fourth watch, between 3 and 6am, after a time of sequestered prayer with His Father, Jesus walked out to their boat as they struggled and strained through the storm.

‘Walking on the water’ proclaimed Jesus’ power over the laws of nature. More than that however, it is a powerful pictorial of Christ’s power over man’s sinful nature. While we are powerless over the law of sin which reins over us, Jesus demonstrates that He overcomes the laws of nature and we also, as His followers can overcome. “The law of gravity is like the law of sin” expounds Brother Zac, “it pulls us down in every way, every moment”.

There is much more though. Jesus didn’t just appear at their boat, He walked a considerable distance from the shore, on the water in the dark through the storm.  We must believe that where the Lord sends us – where He assigns us – He also comes to us with enabling power. Moreover,  He has the authority to defy the storm and the darkness, bestowing that authority upon His followers that we may also ‘walk upon the storm’ and see our way through the darkness.

He bids us, “Come”, walk the distance with Me through storms of anxiety and fear – when tribulations, betrayals, and tragedies threaten to overturn and destroy your life. If your life is in His hands, He may well have put you in that ‘boat’ and if so – He will without doubt be there to walk you over every upheaval. (However, if you put yourself in a boat, set yourself assail outside the will of God, you may find yourself rowing alone with increasing futility until you repent and turn around)

Two types of believers are in this boat. While all are ‘terrified’, one moves forward with boldness toward Christ while the others remain in the boat. We are no different. There are times we move boldly toward the Lord and His high call and other times we stay firmly planted in the boat, waiting out the storm. But note: Jesus brought all the disciples safely to the other side.

If we are obedient, allowing Jesus to compel us where we may not want to go, we will see His power and presence revealed in greater measure. Half steppers and carnal Christians miss the supernatural. The appointed storm is Christ’s classroom and He is in full control. His call has not changed, “Come” and “Follow me”. Some of us in that storm rowing and rowing, tossing and turning, already at the fourth watch, have lost sight of Jesus, “It’s too dark… I can’t see my way through this!” “When will this ever end?” 

Our Savior however, never loses sight of us.  

bed-girl-water-Favim.com-199099

Sometimes the inner storm is worse than outer weather – bring the Word into your boat and let Christ lead you out…

The supernatural power to walk upon the waters in the storm comes forth through the power of His Word as He speaks it to us. Peter walked with God incarnate, we have His living Word in entirety. While our flesh wants to keep rowing, keep crying, or just give up, the Lord’s simple call is “Come”. It is imperative to hear the Lord’s supernatural call, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow Me.”

Where Jesus walks is not ordinary ground. It is not a smooth way but hard and narrow. The weather conditions may be terrifying. Those in Christ ALL get to the other side, some stumbling out of the boat clutching oars, others walking behind the Lord with victorious testimony drawing others. While I may prefer to “stay in the boat” with covers pulled up over my head, I pray for the boldness to step out and trust in God’s promises…

“Lord, I pray for all of us who need clear direction and light – help us to see a way out after we’ve rowed and rowed, tossed and turned. Lead us into Your powerful, living Word and open our hearts to the truth. Push back the harassment of anxious and fearful thoughts – bits of truth entangled with threats and lies. I pray for boldness in these last days, raise us above the crossfire and breathe your peace upon us. As we open Your Word, give us patience to seek You and hear from You. Lead us to that higher ground where we may walk on the water, supernaturally above all fear, anxiety, wounds and loss. Order our steps… lead us through to the other side. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Crushed By Sin – Revived By God

“…each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away…”

James 1:14

Live-Fishing-Worms-as-Bait

Looks good!  But he soon he’ll be dragged away, scaled and fried.

Believers are living in perilous times – not because Kim Jong-un has nuclear weaponry nor due to the threat of ISIS or economic downfall.  On the contrary, those of us who have provisions and comfort, security and opportunity are in greatest danger, the greatest danger of leaning on our own strength, our own understanding, our own righteousness.  Who worries about being the ‘virgin without oil’, shut out forever from the Lord’s Kingdom?  (Matt. 25)  Who worries about ‘burying their talent’, after all, they haven’t lost it – or have they lost it forever?

The complacent Christian, the lukewarm, lives in the most perilous place.  Like a car in neutral, the complacent will roll down the easy path without strain or suffering, guided by laws of nature not the Holy Spirit.  As love for God and the fear of God begin to wane, ‘self’ takes the driver seat and increasingly, alluring roads seem to open up.  Many live disconnected from the Headship of Christ and even unknowingly may head into a great apostasy.   Having lost spiritual discernment, many ‘change sides’ – from the Kingdom of God into the kingdom of darkness. The greatest persecution toward believers one day may not come from pagans but from carnal ‘Christians’ who are and invested in the world culture.

“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other….Because of the increase of wickedness the love of mos twill grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  (Matt 24:10-12, emphasis added)

The Lord cares greatly about His Body as these end days funnel rapidly toward His Judgment.  Many Christians are “dragged away and enticed” – individuals, families, even entire churches are rolling on neutral – guided solely by natural inclination.  The Lord Himself makes an appeal, for many a ‘last call’, to turn back to true faith, a life dependent and surrendered to Him.  This is a crucial spiritual battle!  Satan has a vested eternal interest in drawing Christians into complacency and sin, comforting and rewarding many along the way to their destination as a trophy in hell. 

The Lord, however, does not comfort or enable us in our sin.  He will call and call, warn and warn.  Some rebellious may die in their sin.  However, many others are on a precipice of repentance and, out of love and for the sake of His Kingdom, He will crush them in their sin.

The Word of God declares, “The wages of sin is death” but God, in His love and providence, will for many put that paycheck on hold with a refining fire of His own design.  As “a consuming fire”, those resistant to the Holy Spirit will find themselves in a furnace of chastisement.  Hebrews 12 speaks of the Lord’s discipline for those He loves, “He rebukes…He scourges everyone He accepts as a son”.  For those who refuse to receive conviction, He may begin to painfully ‘take away’from our life – employment, health, freedom, peace, family life.   If we remain stubborn and yet He calls, He may open to us the spiritual realm, exposing the demonic roots of that which you craved, pornography, drugs, adultery, greedy gain, and all forms of witchcraft.  Spiritual torment finds no relief from psychiatrists, doctors, or prescriptions but serves as the fire that drives a rebellious Christian into the Word of God and prayer.  Once exposed for its darkness and evil, there is no more allurement, no more enticement, no pleasure found in that which dragged us away.

Being crushed in sin is the most painful course to redemption and restoration.  Your spiritual eye will finally open to the ruin caused by reckless and selfish actions.  There is always consequence and cost to sin: damage to yourself, perhaps to your marriage, your family and your standing in the community.  Worst of all, if you are a Christian,  you bring dishonor to the Lord’s name.   But there is still good news.

You are crushed and not abandoned because God has not disowned you.  He is not finished with you.  You may have let the powers of darkness reign for a time in your life but the Lord intervened and drew a sovereign line, “this far and no farther!”  You may painfully reap what you sow but unlike the devil who steals, kills, and destroys, the Lord crushes to recreate and restore with great purpose, using our failures and brokenness for His glory.

Wherever we find ourselves, let us resolve to never give up.  No matter how much is lost to sin, even years of time, we can rejoice that time cannot limit our sovereign God.  An eighty year old man surrendered to God is valuable, with more power than a Sumo wrestler.  The Lord can surely foil the devil’s plan and open new doors to those who repent and surrender.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I’m  doing a new thing!”  (Isaiah 43:18)

Let us pray….

“Lord, I pray that you expose any crooked way in us, even this moment.  Let not the Holy Spirit warn or convict even twice.  I pray for those who are suffering now in a fiery furnace of chastisement – let them see Your love therein and Your hand alone on the thermostat with divine purpose.  Encourage them as ‘no one threshes the wheat forever’ and speak to their hearts with assurance that they will come out with Your strength and calling.  Do a new thing in us Lord!  Use us and let our lives count for Your Kingdom.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

 

 

 

 

 

THE POWER IN SORROW

In this world, particularly western societies, we have embraced a culture that defines and exalts ‘happiness’ and all its ‘expressions’.  Every media venue bombards viewers and listeners with idealistic scenarios of fulfillment, contentment and success – and all without God.  ‘Happiness’ is a highly marketable commodity in a dark and sinful world, proffered through acquiring possessions, using legal and illegal drugs, planning fun filled vacations and experiencing alternative life styles.

Why all these sensory distractions? Why the bombardment of pleasures and happiness, at any cost?  The devil will always present sensory pleasures as relief to man’s needs and pain, yet with underlying evil motives.  Firstly, the quest for pleasure and avoidance of all grief  blinds us to our sin, our mortality, and our separation from God.  Secondly,

Satan knows that that the Creator of the World is a ‘Man of sorrows’ and man’s anguish and grief may lead him to this Savior.  In emptiness and pain, man may find Christ, and in Him new life, fellowship and a door to the power and victory He holds.

What power?  What victory?

Heaviness, despair, and grief visit every believer, every follower of Jesus. We have a formidable enemy, a roaring lion, who seeks to rip us to shreds.  Many days seem that the devil has done this and more, trampling upon a heart already broken.  Only a true cry is needed however for wounded, even dying, sheep.  The Shepherd will come, He will bring healing salve and even more.  He will prepare us through the suffering to serve Him and His Body.

Right relationship with the Lord will deliver and heal and from this healing comes power, as He leads us with eternal purpose.   It is the way of our ‘Commander in Chief’, Jesus Christ, whose path of suffering, betrayal, sorrow and great burden brought the Kingdom of God into our hearts with great promise.   In His shadow, our sorrows are formidable points of power for us individually and collectively as the Body of Christ. The promises of God become fresh and alive.  A salve to open wounds, He is “close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Nearly every Psalm expounds the faithfulness of God to get us through darkness and with divine purpose,

“I will take refuge in Your wings until the disaster has passed.  I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills His purpose for me.”  (Ps 57:2)

What purpose?

The power in the blood of Christ flows through suffering.  Surrendered to Him, sorrow separates us from this pleasure driven world and aligns us with the purposes of God through the Holy Spirit.  The broken vessel, surrendered to the Lord, gets the infilling.  The infilling of God comes with both purpose and burden – and a call upon our hearts to respond.

Surrendered suffering opens our hearts to the burden of Christ for His Body and this lost world.

Sorrow tenderizes and enlarges our hearts for action, to “mourn with those who mourn”, and act for those who are suffering “as if you yourselves were suffering.”  It is a burden laid upon our heart and spirit by the Lord, leading us to fight, serve, and minister.  He may call us to ‘go’, to reach out in various ways, and give with sacrifice.  The Lord’s burden for His suffering Body may lead us to fast, call us into all night prayer, and join in with like prepared vessels.

THERE IS SUFFERING ON THE WHEEL BUT GREAT REWARD IN THE POTTER'S HAND.

THERE IS SUFFERING ON THE WHEEL BUT GREAT REWARD IN THE POTTER’S HAND.

The burden of the Lord is an honored gift. The sharing of His heart is separate and unmatchable to anything in this world.  The burden of God launches His Holy Spirit through the lives of surrendered men and women. 

Sorrow opens a door of fellowship, communion, with the Lord and with His Body.  It is a training ground from which we can, like Aaron and Hur for Moses, “hold up the hands” of our brethren in the battle.  There is no power in self appointment.  Only that which is commissioned by the Lord will have His promised presence and victory.

The Body of Christ is suffering greatly.  There are cries of anguish heard only by God.  We must avail ourselves as vessels to God, ready to be His ears, His hands, His salve, and the means of His provisions as He leads.  If you have been, or are currently enrolled, in the Holy Spirit School of Suffering you are being trained for compassion, being broken for greater strength to serve.  No calling here is insignificant and no calling is too high to reach.  We will be enabled and prepared through He who leads.

To receive the Lord’s burden and co-labor with Him in this world will magnify our joy at His return.    We will share the victory of His coming Kingdom and reign with Him for eternity.

Amen.