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.

 

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!

REMEMBER APRIL 24th AND FIGHT THROUGH THE NIGHT –

a call to all night prayer on behalf of brethren and others suffering today under the same evil sword.

One hundred years ago the Ottoman Empire launched a systematic plan of genocide against the Armenians and other minorities within Turkey.  At least 1.5 million Armenians perished in horrifying ways, hundreds of thousands dying in death marches from Turkey to Syria.  Painful open wounds remain, generation after generation, as Turkey continues to deny these atrocities, employing political influence and futile media campaigns.

The demonic spirit of murder lives on however, as persecution continues to sweep across the Middle East – perhaps until every Believer in Christ and Islamic non-conformist is vanquished or ritualistically tortured and killed.

Every true believer feels anguish and anger.   The call of God is unmistakable and undeniable.  We must access the power of heaven through prayer – fighting demonic attacks with supernatural resources. 

Ordinary prayer rarely breaks through such darkness.   The enemy is disciplined and trained – inspired by and devoted as minions of hell.  To unburden my heart for the brethren, I sought an all night prayer meeting to join with believers crying out to the Lord.  I could not find one (which doesn’t mean there weren’t any).   During my own prayer, I sensed the Lord’s leading – stop looking for one and be one yourself.   

I INVITE ALL TO JOIN IN THIS NIGHT, FRIDAY, APRIL 24, AT ANY GIVEN POINT.  LET US BE INSPIRED BY HEAVEN, DEVOTED TO OUR LORD – THE DELIVERER – UPHOLD THE BRETHREN AND CAUSE DAMAGE TO THE KINGDOM OF DARKNESS. 

Keep the Word of God open and review the battles of the Old Testament, the tumultuous cries and triumphs of the Psalms and the victories in Christ through the New Testament as encouragement.  The Book of Acts demonstrates the presence of God through persecution and suffering and His miraculous interventions through prayer.

I am prayerfully offering the following schedule to bring order to the night and alignment with the burden of Christ for His followers:

9pm to 10pm, (EST):  Prepare to meet with the Lord.    Find a “place of prayer” where we may quiet our spirit and separate from distraction.  Into the battle bring the Word of God and if possible, a tablet, computer or materials available as resources.  Sing the Psalms, access and sing worship to the Lord.   Pray…

  • for ourselves, the unpersecuted, whose battle is often complacency and unbelief.
  • for a heart cleansing, make confession for anything within us that may be a stumbling block
  • for the Lord’s leadership, that His burden will prevail in our heart, that we may join in His battle and share in His victory
  • that the presence of the Lord will be with us and His Word a living inspiration for us as we pray

10pm to 11:30:  Prayer for suffering Christians and others in fiery areas such as Syria, Iraq, Egypt and parts of Africa.  In lieu of visual aids, search ‘persecuted syrian christians’ and others to put faces on our brothers and sisters.  Review Christian news posts to pray for prevailing attacks and crisis.   Pray…

  • even in the very moment for their physical protection.
  • for their provisions, that our Heavenly Father provide even more than they need to share with others. Pray that we may be the means thru which provision is made.
  • for a supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them…that they may be clothed with courage from God and a peace that surpasses all understanding.
  • for supernatural strength to endure torture, that their faith may stand strong as a living testimony of our crucified Christ who overcame death and reigns for all eternity
  • for personal visitation from the Lord, that they may supernaturally know His presence and understand “the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings”.
  • for those in refugee camps. While in a ‘place of refuge’, many suffer traumatic loss of health, home and family.  Depression, PTSD, ongoing grief and deprivation may plague these survivors
  • for the families of those who have been abducted and/or martyred, that their faith may be strengthened and the presence of God overshadows their hardship and sorrow
  • for the Christian leadership amongst the brethren, for the Holy Spirit to greatly indwell them and uphold them supernaturally…”that they may shine like stars” in the midst of depravity

Continue praying for those areas that may have fallen off the daily radar.   Ask the Lord imprint our hearts with the regions within Africa and Asia.  Engine search suffering believers in these areas and advocate for them.

For many under the sword, tonight may be their last night.

11:30pm to 12:30am:   Pray for the young girls and women who have been abducted and sexually assaulted.  Many, such as the victims of Boko Haram, have been forgotten by the world.  Torn from family, Islamic terrorists make daily life a living nightmare of gang rapes, abuse, and forced marriage.   Bought and sold as spoils of war, these young girls often attempt suicide to escape immeasurable anguish.  Pray….

  • for supernatural means of escape, that Almighty God will send warring angels to their side.
  • for deep spiritual and physical healing; that whatever Scripture they know may well up in them for faith to endure
  • for an inner spiritual life, through the Holy Spirit, to rise up and strengthen them with endurance from heaven, that their eyes may focus on eternity
  • for their rapists and abusers, that God Himself would render them impotent, and utterly disable them and even, in defense of these girls, send an Angel of Death upon these hellish brutes 

1:30-2:30amPray for these enemies, our enemies, God’s enemies, including ISIS, Boko Haram, and all affiliates.  Pray…

  • that they are overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, with great heaviness and oppression.
  • for an inescapable and overwhelming shame to come upon them
  • for deep grief to envelope them, that the Holy Spirit will hold up His mirror and reveal God’s view of all their dastardly deeds
  • for God to take away their slumber, that they may be mentally and spiritually hounded, tormented, put to confusion
  • that their eyes may be opened and they fall to their knees with godly sorrow and repentance AND
  • that they may be saved, rising up as beacons and heralds for God, a powerful voice over all against the work of Satan

2:30-3:30amPray for the minorities who do not know the Lord.  Many, including the Kurds, Yazidis, and Muslim sects, suffer the loss of lives, homes, entire villages.  Pray….

  • for their strength and provision. Pray that, as they may interface with true believers and see their living faith, they may be drawn to the truth of Christ.  Pray for them to know the Lord, to receive forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life through Christ.
  • that what the devil orchestrates for death and evil would be turned into glory for God. Pray that the power of God come forth through suffering and confound the enemy, leading more to everlasting life through the Gospel

3:30-4:30am:    Governments, agencies, missionaries, aid workers…..pray for ourselves, all whom the Lord might use to intervene into this suffering.   Pray…

  • for media exposure and global outcry to stir the hearts of the complacent
  • for the leadership of these groups and workers, that they may hear from God
  • for the Body of Christ to arise and awaken, shake off worldly distractions and press on in the Lord
  • for those already serving, that they may be encouraged and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
  • for supernatural doors to open, for God to be glorified as He moves through those who are surrendered to Him and His service.
  • that we become those vessels, useful to God, to serve Him and His Body and bring honor to His name in this world.

4:30-5:00am:     Praise and worship for what the Lord is doing, praising Him before He ‘parts the sea’, before we learn of – if we ever know – His answer to our cries. He is  worthy and faithful.

I pray that, when we meet the Lord and our Brethren, we will rejoice as one body together forever.