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

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.

Great – But Left Alone to Die

Old prison windowHis was no ordinary conception, born to parents past child bearing age.  John the Baptist was the fulfillment of great prophecy – bridging the Old Testament with the New – in the ‘spirit of Elijah’.  Endowed with the Holy Spirit in the womb, he consecrated his life to one mission:  ushering into the world the incarnation of God on earth.  John’s calling exceeded the realm of priesthood.  He would not sit before the scribes or teachers of the Torah.  He became John the Baptist through years of sequestered fellowship with God.   When he “grew and became strong in the spirit” he was drawn to the desert in preparation for his high calling.  This meant total separation from the world, from all that would distract, all that would influence and indeed – even that which would bring natural comfort – home, family and friends.

Prevailing culture and social protocols had no power to restrain John’s convicting preaching.  This great herald emerged with divine anointing, baptizing an estimated 300,000 in Judea.  His anointed ministry was fulfilled at the sight of Christ, “Behold!  The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!.”  With words endowed by the Holy Spirit, this was the peak of John’s life and perhaps the beginning of the end to his profound ministry.  He would not serve alongside Christ in His mission, nor would he continue his preaching and baptizing.  “He must increase, I must decrease” was his prophetic declaration. This powerful, godly man was arrested by Herod the tetrarch.  Imprisoned in the remote fortress of Macherus, John was again separated from all and – at the whim of a dancing girl – was beheaded. Disciples went and claimed the headless body of this beloved prophet of God and buried him.

In Luke 7, Jesus declared John to be a prophet, even “more than a prophet…among those born to women, there is no one greater than John”.  The Lord’s ministry was well founded as John languished in a cold stone cell. ‘No one greater’, Jesus proclaimed of his anointed cousin, but did nothing to rescue John.  All knowing and all powerful, Jesus Christ knew of the darkness that overshadowed John and the debauchery that would lead to executing this holy man.  It was well within the Lord’s power to dispatch powerful angels, to release John and even strike Herod dead.  What was Jesus doing as John – held in highest esteem by Jesus – was led to his gruesome death?

In Isaiah 53, an infamous prophecy of the coming Christ, Jesus is called “a man of sorrows”.  Is there not great  sorrow in knowing that your beloved kin, acclaimed even in heavenly places, is suffering and will die at the hands of reprobates – and you could but don’t intercede and rescue? 

In God’s sovereignty, evil men do not prevail.

John had a singular high calling, yet it was far second, an underpinning, to the mission and passion of Christ on earth.  Leaving the grandeur and majesty of heaven, Jesus came to be despised, rejected, oppressed.  While He displayed supernatural power in compassion – healing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead – the Son of God came not to extend His power to intercept or overthrow worldly kings and kingdoms.  The Son of God refrained from rising up against Herod, an act which would change the course of His mission,  the pathway of the cross.   Rather than establish Himself as ‘hero’, saving a man from wicked men in this world, Jesus maintained His singular focus – saving mankind from damnation for all eternity.  As Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness with places of power and position in this world – regardless of outward appearance  here –  again the Lord prevails.   He would allow no temporal victory in a condemned world to undermine His victory over death for all eternity.

This “Man of sorrows” had the anguish of foreknowledge here and would deeply grieve the death of His beloved prophet, servant, and cousin who would be left alone to die.   More than foreknowledge however, Christ divinely knows – even if we don’t – that for those surrendered to Him,  suffering and death are servants to the purposes of God.

Great – and none greater – was John the Baptist.   His divine mission complete, the sword could not rob him.  “Alone” was John’s place of communion and strength in God.  In the desert or a prison cell, John knew intimate heavenly fellowship that would strengthen and encourage, buffering all torment and fear.  The one who prepared the way for  God into the world would himself be ushered from this world to great reception and reward in the presence of almighty God.

 

Crushed By God

“Why? Why, why, why!!?” cried my anguished heart toward God, “What kind of God are you??!!” “How could you let this happen!!!!”

After a personal acceptance of God, trauma and suffering can be the most fiery trial of faith. At this cross road, many become embittered and cold toward their Maker. Their faith, once alive – now dries up like a dead leaf.
Be assured of two things at this juncture – God can handle our anger, our accusation and disbelief. He will not take on our challenge – the powerless clay rising up against the potter. As He Himself entered into every realm of suffering and temptation, He does not judge our anguish before Him. But He waits.
You may be at this juncture, have crossed this point, or perhaps will face a time of crisis in life and in your faith. When in the fire, we cannot see clearly nor can we think or meditate when the flames rise up around us. But no fire burns forever. When we step forth from it, still smoldering and weak, will we turn our back against God or will we ask – with heartfelt quest, “What kind of a God are you?”
He is waiting for this because He is ready to answer. He holds the powerful salve for our heart which alone can reach the inner recesses of sorrow and bitterness. Only God can prepare us to hear from Him. The Lord does not waste any of our afflictions, our pain, our loss – through the fire comes a powerful presence and revelation of God. We must go from the faith that God exists to the faith that He is sovereign.
For the Christian, surrender brings victory. Affliction and grief are not random nor has calamity occurred outside of God’s providence. These are challenging milestones of faith – battles with great reward. Only in the sovereignty of God can we begin to accept and see divine purpose. And only in deliberate seeking can we glimpse beyond the natural, towards eternity, where glory comes from being crushed by God.