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

Victory Over Witchcraft

“But woe to the earth and the sea because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12:12

Every manifestation of demonic power such as Wicca, Santeria, Obeah, Voodoo, Hoodoo or Macumba is subject to the authority of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Many believers assume that they are immune to the supernatural powers invoked by participants in various forms of sorcery. Witchcraft, however, can cause damage in our lives through two separate avenues:

1.  We may open the door to demonic presence through sin. While the Holy Spirit will warn believers again and again, the Christian who neglects these warnings and proceeds into sinful behavior such as adultery, deception, idolatry, greed and other offenses against God will find strategic doors open to demonic influence. How many men or women have fallen to adultery with someone involved with witchcraft?

If Satan is full of fury and with very little time and he is powerful, deceptive, and cunning, won’t he utilize every opportunity and every emissary to entice, trap, engross and destroy? He is not complacent but works “day and night” assessing each saint of God to determine weakness, open wounds, or vulnerable areas for temptation. The Apostle Paul was “aware of Satan’s schemes” but many Christians are not. Alluring participants of witchcraft strategically destroy marriages, homes, and church leadership. To turn from the Lord, to neglect His warnings, and partake in sin opens dark doors that only Christ can shut. True repentance brings restoration but there may be damage and suffering. There is always consequence to sin. Painfully, God can also use enemies to chastise us.

2.   Secondly, the Lord Himself may allow demonic influence to impinge upon our lives. However traumatic and confusing at the time, it is the Lord who is in full control. It is the Lord who measures out the fire and with great purpose. Biblical accounts include the satanic assaults upon Job, the messenger of Satan tormenting Paul and the harassment of Satan upon Jesus in the wilderness. The Word of God is replete with spiritual battles, wars and schemes as dark powers undergird, incite, and target attacks against the people of God. Jesus did not insulate Himself from Satan’s schemes but walked in perfect power to overcome them. At times He allows the devil to touch our lives so we may walk as He did – not in the natural, depending on and engaged with the world – but in the supernatural, depending on God. Demonic attacks should launch us to the Savior’s side, draw us deep into His Word and compel us to trust in His overcoming power. It is God’s will that we spiritually mature through the battle and endure refinement through fire to prepare us as useful vessels for His kingdom.

Many Christians are alive to the world but asleep to the Kingdom of God. Lukewarm and thus useless, God often uses pain to quicken and awaken them, to stand strong against powers and rulers of darkness,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:10)

Ephesians 6:10-18 has sadly become almost cliché. This is not a spiritual mantra, it is powerful war cry against the “Amalekites” the “Philistines” against the wiles of demonic powers that come to ruin us today. Against such the Lord does not give us incantations, spells, or rituals…He gives us His authority!

Satan himself does not need spells, incantations or rituals to inflict personal harm, mental anguish, injury, confusion, fear and anxiety. However, luring and engaging people into witchcraft provides emissaries to broaden and personalize his assaults. The power comes wrapped in pure hatred, knowing that those who partake in his evil will share in his eternal condemnation. Foolishly, man believes he is using powers when in fact the powers are using him.

Every battle and cunning scheme we could possibly face is personified in the Word of God. Our measure of victory lies in this one strategy: total alignment and dependence upon God Almighty. As soldiers train before combat, we too must ground ourselves in God’s Word, “living and active, sharper than any two edged sword” to be armed and shielded when the enemy attacks. Our power, our foothold in the trenches, depends upon the authority we weld and grasp through God’s Word. We must recognize the voice of the Lord and discern His will in the battle.

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor Me.” (Psalm 50:15)

Overcoming strength comes as we determine to shut in with Him and His Word without restraint…search and study the scriptures prayerfully until, like Living Water, they speak into our heart…listen to the Lord’s direction…commit as He leads to ‘late night’ even ‘all night’ prayer. Fast. Pray for partners to join in. Avail ourselves to powerful messages by godly pastors who know victory through fiery trials….determine to praise and worship Him before the victory is revealed.

Christ died to set us free. He ‘disarmed the powers of darkness and made a public spectacle of them’. Brothers and sisters, we are loved by God. God is for us. But anyone who “practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, casts spells, anyone who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead” is detestable to the Lord. (Deuteronomy 18:10-11). Pity the one positioned against Christ’s Body, of whom God declares, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay”.

We are in those “terrible times” described in II Timothy 3, the ‘last days’ before Christ’s return as Judge. Ruthless and heartless, treacherous and brutal, men will seek outlets of power in their rebellion to God. They find that source through witchcraft in its many forms, mainstreamed through culture, religion, and entertainment. It appeals to man’s most deadly lust – the prideful lust for power and control.

We are not immune to demonic assaults but we must resolve to trust our Lord as Defender and Commander over the battle. As we surrender to Jesus Christ, He girds us in His living Word and reveals more of Himself and His power, enabling us as His witnesses in this dark world.

“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 48:23)

 

isaiah 46b

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  Jesus Christ

 

(Do not be alone in your struggle. Reach out to believers even join in prayer meetings online such as http://www.tscnyc.org Tuesday nights, 7pm, EST. Submit prayer requests online or through text message.)

ANTICIPATING FREEDOM

And one thing more:  Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.”   Philemon 1:22

paul_in_prison

While admittedly an “old man” and prisoner in Rome (~59-61 AD) Paul wrote to Philemon, a wealthy believer in the city of Colossae, a brief letter through which come timeless truths.  Paul commends Philemon’s love and encouragement to other saints, his ministry of refreshment, and notably from this, Paul moves into his central purpose for writing – his accolades and advocacy for Philemon’s fugitive slave Onesimus.

The unwritten truths of this epistle are as significant as Paul’s actual message.  ‘Old man Paul’, writing from chains, never waivers from his faithful service to the Lord – extoling, encourageing, and instructing as from a pulpit.  Assured of God’s sovereignty, Paul knew that neither his freedom nor his chains were determined by Roman decree and power.   Hence he could request, with full expectation, that his Christian brother Philemon prepare a guest room for him.  Anticipating freedom, Paul plans lodging with his wealthy friend, over 900 miles away.

Isn’t faith rooted in anticipation?  What are we anticipating about God in times of darkness, oppression and trial?  Could we, while seeking relief and freedom from some oppression – while in our own chains – reach out to others in service to God?   Are we standing on the anticipation of freedom, the certainty of God’s deliverance?

Christians are the only ones with the right to sing their victory song while still in the battle.  That is the essence of faith in a sovereign and worthy God.  We can sing the victory song before the Red sea parts, before our answer comes.  We are authorized and justified to walk towards those fearful waters before knowing God’s plan.  Pastor David Wilkerson expounded these truths in his message, ‘Right Song, Wrong Side’, 11/15/09, declaring, “Anybody can praise the Lord when the victory comes…anyone can dance when their prayers are answered”.  But how do we live in this anticipated freedom, the deep conviction that God will deliver?

None of us are currently chained by Roman soldiers – but our trials and battles may seem just as binding and oppressive.   The painful entanglement of sin, the hounding of false guilt, fear and anxiety, or spiritual and emotional harassment begin to chain our hearts and mind.  When the devil magnifies loneliness, failure and loss – you are descending into that cell.  

And yet, while there, how can we call out and say, “Prepare a room for me, I’m coming out”?

Paul wrote in I Corinthians 10:13: “And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.   But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”   “A way out” when we are tempted?  Aren’t we looking for “a way out” from darkness, “a way out” of oppressive trial and tribulation?!

But the temptation, even idolatry, is right there, in the place between the chains and freedom.   It is there where we are tempted to lose faith, tempted to complain, endlessly ruminate and ultimately slander God.  We are tempted to idolatry when we see the trial as bigger than God.

The Apostle Paul believed the Word written through him in I Corinthians 10:13.  Without a ‘writ of habeas corpus’ he fully believed in the Lord’s power to free him.  Not chained to discouragement, fear, or unbelief,  Paul was free to trust God and hear from Him while in the place of bondage.  From intimacy with the Lord he could say with authority, “Prepare a guest room for me”…I’m coming home.

The enemy will hone into our secret fears, personal failures and overwhelming trials and magnify them with supernatural craft.  There is great temptation to agree with what we see…there’s no way out!  This is a disaster! I’ll never make it, I can’t even get out of bed!  The Lord Himself is the “way out” and our place, as part of His Body, is to step out and turn toward Him.   Pharaoh would have laughed if the Israelites sang before the Red Sea, sandwiched between the water and the world’s most powerful army.  But that is the faith that most pleases God: Praising Him before He moves, worshipping Him before the victory.

If we have succumbed to despair, even accused and slandered the Lord, now is the time to reconcile and repent.  The Lord can put us in ‘prison’ to expose our hearts and humble us to be of greater use in His Kingdom.  Therein is the challenge of faith, the call to claim the sovereignty of God:  Decide to believe a victorious Psalm, praise Him and worship Him even when your heart seems the heaviest.   Sing Exodus chapter 15 before the sea parts, before your deliverance comes, taking that spiritual step toward Him…reaching out to the hand that holds the key to every chain.

"In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free." Psalm 118:5

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.” Psalm 118:5

 

THE GOD OF BROKEN PIECES

"I have become broken pottery..." Psalm 31:12

“I have become like broken pottery…” Psalm 31:12

From broken and useless….to sharp and piercing.

There is a brokenness common to man – the cumulative destruction of sin. Within our very nature is the propensity, “our own evil desire” to be dragged away, enticed and enthralled. An alluring storefront to every dark behavior beckons us in. James chapter 1:13-15 describes this entrapment and the end result…smashed lives, broken families, despair that leads to death.

There is, however, a brokenness common to the believer – even as one strives to walk in God’s favor and light. They have not availed themselves to darkness but avail themselves to God – offering their lives as His temple in which He may dwell. Where He dwells, however,  He must govern and reign. Every aspect of our life then falls under God’s authority.   He will build up, demolish, give and take away whatever is necessary to make our temporary lives useful for His eternal kingdom.

There is a great truth, however, for both the repentant sinner and faithful believer – God can greatly use life’s broken pieces for His glory – confounding the powers of darkness and forging ahead with His Kingdom.

When man is striving for excellence in this world, he builds himself up, educates, trains, and produces – networking his skills and accomplishments – for accolades and gain. When God is working His excellence in a man, He unravels, crushes, and separates – clearing out the ‘temple’ for His supernatural presence. There is often pain, loss, confusion and disappointment. As a “living sacrifice unto the Lord” our ‘personal kingdoms’ – careers, family life, possessions – become God’s domain.

Yes, He is our loving heavenly Father….but He is also a Man of War, a Consuming Fire, and Righteous Judge. We are not just His sheep, but solders trained by Him for battle – the spoils of which have eternal value.the souls of men.

When our lives are ‘cracked’, we often glue the pieces and move on. When our lives are smashed, there is an undoing that God and only God can redeem as He may well be the hammer that shattered our ‘kingdom’.

In Genesis 39, Joseph, left for dead by his brothers, rises up with the favor and prosperity from God within Pharaoh’s kingdom. His life is governed by God and yet, with divine purpose, slander and false accusation puts this favored and faithful youth in prison. “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor….” The Lord took his position, social status and esteem and smashed them, unraveling Joseph’s life to prepare him for greater use.

Whatever is built in our lives with fleshly foundation or human striving – places of confidence and security – are subject to the Lord’s demolition. Even in areas where God has promoted and excelled our position, our ministry, our status – His wrecking ball will likely swing to break, wound, and undo that He may rebuild, heal and create – forging us ahead with supernatural understanding and matured faith.

Can we trust Him at the juncture of brokenness? Can we declare as the Psalmist in 119:71, “It was good for me to be afflicted…”? It is not enough to mechanically recite Romans 8:28. The Lord is seeking the trust of those who stand at the precipice of loss and despair, waiting to lead us forward by His hand and by His Word onto paths unmarked.

The steps of faith here are the heaviest. It may only be sheer will that points us to the Word and compels us to pray. Worship here is the sacrifice of praise. But this is the juncture of miracles, this is the juncture of supernatural. It is here where the Lord takes the broken pieces and magnifies Himself and His power. When Jesus broke the five loaves in Mark 6 they fed over five thousand people, yielding 12 basketfuls of broken pieces. Without the hand of God, this bread would have remained five simple loaves, baked by locals and eaten without acclaim.

Have entanglements of sin caused brokenness and despair? Or has God, in His faithfulness, brought about loss and suffering to propel our faith for greater use? There is only one recourse for deliverance, one position for victory: Defer to His sovereignty, offer up to Him the broken pieces of our life, and trust Him for His presence and favor. He is not a god that glues things together, but a God who heals and rebuilds that which was broken, with supernatural design and purpose.

What will God make from your broken pieces?

What will God make from your broken pieces?

 

Do Real Christians Have ANXIETY ATTACKS?

dizzy image

Or get depressed…..enough to want to die??

A wrong understanding toward these questions stunts the spiritual growth of some and truly damages the spiritual life and fellowship of others. Wrong understanding, often a spiritual haughtiness, can lead brethren – even church bodies – to assess the afflicted as faith deficient. ‘Caring spiritual folks’ shoot pellets of scripture, even sing songs and deliver sermons to convince the depressed soul they need not and should not suffer. ‘Only believe’ invalidates the place of total anguish and despair that true brethren often suffer.

Yes, true brethren often suffer.

We can firstly acknowledge here that sin will reap a harvest of destruction in the life of a believer and the discipline and chastisement of the Lord will be painful and costly. There is no doubt that sin will bring despair, guilt, loss, and emotional turmoil. However, we must also acknowledge that a God led life, one which seeks the Lord with a heart to obey, can be afflicted with great emotional suffering – overwhelming sorrow, weighty depression, attacks of anxiety.

Yes, a God led life…afflicted with overwhelming sorrow, weighty depression, attacks of anxiety.

With sin we are ‘reaping what we sow’. However, when suffering comes upon those who strive toward godliness all can be shaken but one immovable anchor: the promise that all turmoil, strife, and despair are held under the design of a sovereign God who can weave great eternal purpose into every pang of pain.

Spiritual giants such as Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, are few of the many anointed who battled with deep inner pain. Great preachers, expositors, and missionaries often quietly suffer the weight of reoccurring depression, anxiety and despair. The question is not why, but why not?? They carry a cross – following in the shadow of a suffering Savior – who suffered great physical, emotional and spiritual pain on His way to victory. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”. (Jesus, Matt 26:38, Mark 14:34) God Incarnate feeling overwhelmed…to the point of death.

The great prophet Elijah, in a time of deep discouragement and despair, “…prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough’, he said, ‘Take my life.’” (I Kings 19:4) God’s Word reveals to us the emotional oppression and anguish of godly men, testifying of His sovereign power and ultimate victory over EVERY affliction, ailment, and onslaught over His Body. Ultimate victory does not negate the interim, longsuffering afflictions and attacks upon our body, mind, and soul while in this fallen world. We may be crushed and 100% of us will die one day. But there is an intimacy that is birthed when we hold tight to the Lord when darkness comes with inner threshing.

Depression and anxiety are not the fruits of faith deficiency – they can actually be the ground upon which spiritual fruits grow for God’s glory. Whether the He takes us through the storm or quells the thrashing waves altogether, the Lord Himself aligns with our pain, revealing Himself through itnever forsaking us in it.

Our frail, temporal bodies – prone to sickness, injury, mental anguish, dwell in a fallen world, wrought with powers of darkness that war against us. Those who venture, with faith, deep into the battle may fall under greatest attack. The apostle Paul solemnly warns, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days”. (II Timothy 3:1) We are assuredly in the ‘last days’ and they are indeed ‘terrible’. Those acquainted with despair and those serving in the trenches receive this truth and wisely gain a life view focused on eternity, a view with great value in this temporal, condemned world.

We, as believers, can be ‘down for the count’ and, while there, experience further alienating pain and confusion as modern Christendom makes a ‘faith deficiency’ diagnosis; disavowing possible medical or other interventions. The place of pain is not a place of defeat or waste, but a place of opportunity, of separation, even assigned place of intimacy with the Lord.

Even the weakest heartcry keeps us afloat

WATERS OF AFFLICTION WILL NOT OVERCOME US

Believers have anxiety attacks, bouts of depression and despair but unlike the world, our endurance through the darkness can yield supernatural reward and promise.   As  painful tilling of rocky ground, the Lord can enlarge our hearts for Him, humble us to raise us higher and refine us for His eternal glory.

Crushed in the Wilderness

Christ makes the futile wilderness fruitful

Christ makes the futile wilderness fruitful

For many, the epic ‘Ten Commandments’ depicts the story of God’s people oppressed as slaves by Pharaoh in Egypt. More powerful and graphic than the movie however, the book of Exodus recounts in detail God’s triumph over the contesting powers of darkness. The infamous climax to this spiritual battle shows utter defeat for the slave masters and a glorious exodus – mass departure – freedom for the people of God. These chosen people of God were delivered from their oppressors and marked for a victorious entry into the Promised Land. The Israelites witnessed the miraculous and awesome display of God’s power and deliverance yet the journey towards God’s promise exposed their faithlessness and rebellion. Malcontent and fear slanders the faithfulness of God as the Israelites cower before their enemies.

“We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are….If only we had died in Egypt! Or in the desert…We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (from Numbers 13 & 14)

Back to captivity?

God Himself led them into a desert and decreed that none of them would enter the land promised to them. “In this desert your bodies will fall-every one of you twenty years and older…who has grumbled against me”. (Numbers 14:29) The Lord provided their necessities as they wandered through the wilderness for 40 years however, they lived without destination, without inspiration, without the victory that comes from believing God.

In Deuteronomy 8, Moses expounds the Lord’s purpose for them in this wilderness; to humble them, to test them – reveal their hearts – and cause them to hunger after God. Further, God led them “…to teach them that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”. Forty years, traveling 240 miles to nowhere, living under the chastisement of God, they knew that futile land would also be their grave.

In our lives, the desert place within us can be one of emptiness and detachment; transitional times without sign posts. Uncertainty marks the wilderness. Disappointment, failure and downfall – even success – can rob our sure footing and confidence. Many seek meaning and resolution through encouragement of friends, family, professionals, self-help. However, when we can see that it is GOD who leads us into the wilderness with divine purpose, the desert becomes a place of great fruitfulness – even victory – as we see our living Lord before us.

 “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1-2)

The Son of God was led by the Spirit, as were the Israelites, into the wilderness yet the Lord demonstrates that this desolate place of battle, struggle, and solitude becomes a place of victory and growth as God grooms and prepares us for His service.

You will know you’re in the desert when you get there. ‘Self’, your own strength, deflates and all that seemed sure and predictable slowly unravels. Plans and expectations seem to lose life and fall to the ground. If you knew the presence of God and  the flow of the Holy Spirit – you now  sense a shut down, stagnant in…

a boat with no current.

…a boat with no current.

Gusto and joy ebb away as the ‘sure’ callings of God in our life come to a halt. Like the Israelites, God leads us into the desert to humble us, to test and reveal our hearts, causing us to see the futility of our own fleshly efforts.  Here the Lord may point to unconfessed sin in our life or even our self reliance –all that compromises His preeminent call and lordship over our lives. Pride is damaged as lofty goals dry up in the desert.

We may or may not be fasting as Christ did in the wilderness but God will cause us to hunger after Him. God’s call to wait upon Him with humility and patience challenges our natural strive for immediacy. Yet when God Himself deflates us, detours our course and stops the flow He does so with great purpose. Separating us is a call to intimacy unlike any other. The refining and crushing of the desert is unique.

When, after 40 days, Jesus was led out of the wilderness he “…returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit…” (Luke 4:14)  While the Israelites had failed, Christ triumphed, setting a pattern of victory that we can follow.

Where God leads us He awaits us. When the Lord tests us, humbles us, and reveals our hearts in a place of barrenness, I pray that we seek Him there, trust Him there. By sovereign design He will teach us and refill us, leading us out of the wilderness with less of us and more of Him.

 

“…Yet Not One Was Healed Except Naaman the Syrian”

naaman-healedFor most, it is not hard to believe that God can heal our sicknesses and pain. That the creator can reach into our fragile and temporal bodies and cleanse us of all illness is a foundational tenet of all religions, a power ascribed, with hope, to all gods. Jesus Christ, however, is the only God who became flesh, dwelt among us, and displayed His sovereign divinity – walking in the supernatural, touching the lives of those around Him. Healing the sick, miraculously feeding thousands, even reviving the dead characterized the power of God. Upon His ascension, Christ’s followers, endowed with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the glory and presence of God as they walked in the same supernatural power. More than healing, they experienced the sustaining power of God through violent persecution, rejection, and martyrdom …supernatural endurance.

Those who walk with the Lord inevitably see the living Holy Spirit move in their own lives as God makes His presence known – giving life to His Word and delivering them from the futility of sin. But the onslaught of cancers and medical calamities brings a desperate cry from believers and unbelievers alike for healing, a miraculous intervention of God. Some wonder, has God lost His power to heal? Has His power – or even worse, His love for us – diminished? Why do our cries, our pleas, even our begging for healing seem unanswered? Understanding, in part, maybe found through another question. Is the power of God going forth elsewhere? Why there and not here?

A glimpse into the world of missions finds the outpouring of God upon the people in places such as India. Entrenched in the spiritual darkness of millions of gods and power of witchcraft, many- who never heard the name of Jesus- find the truth and light of Christ as He heals incurable diseases, cancers, and afflictions. Families and entire villages enter into a living faith in Christ through His supernatural touch upon their lives. Their devotion to ‘millions of gods’ becomes a worship of one true Savior. Step into their world, the world of converted Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and see a body of believers who will live for Christ and speak His truth at great cost- rejection, persecution, even their own lives.

Humility brings forth living truth. While the Lord owes us no explanation nor are we deserving of His beneficence, there stands in His Word truths upon which our faith can take root and grow. “No” is an answer that will reveal the state of our heart and gauge our faith, provoking us to forge ahead in pride or humble us before God.

“And there were many in Israel with leprosy, yet not one was healed – only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:27)

Referring to the historical account in II Kings 5 where God, in sovereign power and deliberate appointment, passed by His own people, the Israelites, and supernaturally healed and delivered a foreigner. Christ delivered this scathing rebuke to those before Him in the synagogue, posing an ominous crossroad of faith to these listeners. In this passage of scripture God in the flesh stands before His chosen people declaring ‘miracles passed you by but were bestowed upon foreigners who knew Me not’. Israel suffered in a state of rebellious disregard for God’s Word. They had rejected the prophets sent by God and would they now reject God’s Son. In verse 29, following Christ’s rebuke, rather than repenting, the congregants were enraged,

“They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him off the cliff.”

Rebuke provokes the heart toward repentance or pride. The cry of a prideful heart, however desperate, will call upon God as servant – challenging God to prove Himself, discarding Him when He declines.

God speaks through healing and miracles. Not public service acts, His work in us is deliberate, for His purpose and glory. It is work with a view of eternity – that which brings reconciliation and salvation – that man might dwell with Him forever.

Assuredly God speaks through illness, pain and suffering. “Pain is God’s megaphone” calling many into a living faith and presence of God only possible through suffering. In a culture entrenched with the love of self, preservation of self, promotion of self – the worship of self – pain, suffering, incarceration, and even anguish are often used by God to separate us from the flow of the world and draw us unto Himself. “No” is the beginning of God’s answer into our lives if we are faithful enough to wait on Him through our pain. For the surrendered heart, His work in the storm, through the pain, and during the grief is powerful and intimate.

The move of God upon our lives, His answer to our prayer – be it ‘yes’ or ‘no’- is a call. It is a call into His presence and a call to glorify Him in this dark world. Physical healing is temporary – all will eventually die. The most neglected miracle is that almighty God humbled Himself and in love, stooping low enough to speak to man at all.

Are we hungry for His call upon our lives or is our prayer and cry to Him conditional, based on the right answer at the right time?
Like Israel, our society has rejected the ways of God and would indeed throw Him off a cliff. If ‘God exalts the humble but opposes the proud’ we must choose our camp carefully with deliberation. Is God still healing? Is He willing to heal? Yes and yes. If our cry is to know Him, to live in His shadow and walk in His Spirit we will always receive answer to prayer – an answer that upholds the promises of God in our life, speaks personally to our heart, and sends forth His glory through our life into this world.