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

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.  


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.”


Two simple words within a New Testament verse, regardless of translation, are perplexing and even oppressive to many, including or especially me:  “pure joy”.

We are so admonished,

“Consider it pure joy my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  (James 1:2)

According to James, while waiting in a detox unit for your loved one, standing by a grave site, while holding an unsurmountable financial debt, when sitting in the oncology office, when threatened by eviction, persecution, and surprised by deception and betrayal…..Consider it pure joy.

This is a high bar in Christian living which I have yet to reach.   But an open heart before the Lord can receive understanding and discernment.  The Holy Spirit often teaches spiritual truths as they are mirrored through the physical realm of our world.   Enter the Navy SEALs….

navy seals on shore

Grueling training prepares for triumph and victory

Navy Seal Eric Greitens describes,
But “frontline” isn’t just a military term. You have a frontline in your life now. In fact, everyone has a place where they encounter fear, where they struggle, suffer and face hardship. We all have battles to fight. “As Navy SEALs, we understood the word “frontline” to mean the place where we met the enemy. The frontline was where battles were fought and fates decided. The frontline was a place of fear, struggle and suffering. It was also a place where victories were won, where friendships of a lifetime were forged in hardship. It was a place where we lived with a sense of purpose.

And it’s often in those battles that we are most alive: It’s on the frontlines of our lives that we earn wisdom, create joy, forge friendships, discover happiness, find love and do purposeful work. If you want to win any meaningful kind of victory, you’ll have to fight for it.     (“Your Own Front Line: A Navy SEAL’s Guide to Building Resistance”, New York Observer, 3/3/15)

Without Scriptural quotes, Mr. Greitens’ article portrays great Biblical truths.  We are living in the frontlines of history, the end times, where battles have eternal significance.  “…be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus….Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his Commanding Officer”.  (II Timothy 2:1-4)

We have ‘fears, struggles and suffering’ and Paul forewarns that we will in II Timothy 3…

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.”

The life of a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ, exists within two absolute mandates:  live as sharp as a serpent, yet gentle as a dove…live as obedient and humble sheep, yet fight as strong and militant soldiers.  The great challenge in all this is none of it comes natural.  We must immerse ourselves in the training of the Word, receive our instructions through fellowship with the Lord in prayer, and apply this training to our ‘frontline’.

Many of us are content to live as sheep, led and fed by our Good Shepherd and find it impossible to conceive of ‘pure joy’ in oppressive trials.  I believe the ‘pure joy’ is not in the fire itself but the sights through which we can see the end.

With sights fixed on Jesus, we can see joy beyond the battlefield.

With sights fixed on Jesus, we can see joy beyond the battlefield.

Like the courageous and admirable Navy SEALs, we are called to endure and persevere with great purpose.  Unlike the military though, the Lord seems to choose the weakest and most unlikely to succeed.  The unfailing strategy is this:  the battle is not ours but the Lord’s, we are merely a vessel through whom He gains the victory.

Navy SEALs are uniquely trained, they are the elite of armed forces.  Clothed with valor and fired up, they greatly deserve honor for service and sacrifice.  Commitment to grueling and demanding training yields them glory on the battlefield and, given rare glimpses, the world marvels at their victories.  How much can we glean from this ‘type and  shadow’ of God’s Kingdom?   

We are left on this earth to glorify Jesus Christ.  That is our mission on the frontlines and with it come the certainty of great reward, eternal reward.  This battleground is trod upon for thousands of years, with great victories won by spiritual giants – both the prominently known and honored as well as the obscure who secretly battle in the prayer closet.  Unlike the Navy SEALs, our training manual has not changed, is not updated, and remains a living power in itself.   Unlike any worldly military, our surrendered lives are sovereignly governed through every battle, trial, and grief – each is appointed and measured out with supernatural foresight and design. 

Almighty God does not change, He will be high and lifted up and glorified in this dark world.  As His surrendered and willing soldiers, we may be crushed in grueling training in preparation for this call.  In fact, there is no other way.

Crushed for His glory, there remains the high bar of faith, to “Consider it pure joy”.   A supernatural joy that cannot compare in the physical realm, it can only be birthed in the “renewed mind,” one that is “prepared for action”.  It requires thorough and ongoing study of our manual, the Holy Bible, fellowship with our God and valuable refreshment through fellowship with other believers.

As we battle on the frontlines of these last days,these ‘terrible times’  I pray we separate from worldly distractions and entanglements,  focus our sights on Him, on His glory, and somehow on this side of eternity, consider it pure joy.


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.



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.