Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Is This Not the Fast?

I had a wonderful encouragement tonight on Facebook when I received a message from a friend from college. It read, in part: "I have never done this before, but I feel like the Lord is leading me to fast for you the next time you go to the abortion mill to counsel women away from making a terrible decision for themselves and their baby." I see this as one more way that God is providing for our needs in this battle. We truly wrestle not against "flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12)," so having prayer warriors covering us in prayer as we go out is such an encouragement...and need. But what was even more amazing was her reply back after I responded in thanks. She quoted the exact passage that has become very special to me since we've been going out to the mill...Isaiah 58. And, what is even more interesting is that in our Bible study, we've been studying Isaiah this year (I had already "claimed" this passage for my life, so I was excited when I found out we would be studying Isaiah) and just today we studied this passage so close to my heart, Isaiah 58! Read these beautiful verses and ponder their meaning a moment. You may even want to read the entire chapter.

Isaiah 58:6-9
“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
7 “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 “Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

I have such a burden that most Christians in our comfortable American culture don't understand that the way to truly get to God's heart is to simply obey...to go out and actively live our faith by loving our neighbors as ourselves. In fact, fasting has become the newest "thing", it seems...the latest spiritual gimmick. Everyone wants to fast and pray. It seems we think that is the key to revival. But God says differently! He tells us here that we have it backwards! He shows us the hypocrisy of simply following a list of "dos and don'ts" while ignoring His commands to live out our faith (James 1:22; 2:17,24). In a culture that so despises religious hypocrites, it is amazing how those who hate them most are doing the very things they claim to hate! We truly need to start taking the logs out of our own eyes (Matt. 7:3)!

When we go out and love our neighbor in these kinds of tangible ways, like standing in front of the abortion mill and pleading on behalf of the babies, it lights our hearts on fire for Him. Our faith becomes real because we are living it and we suddenly see the genuine importance of putting on the armor of God because we suddenly realize we really are in a battle (Eph. 6:10-20)! I truly believe that if Christians across this country would start going out and living their faith in tangible ways (doing good works) and giving the Gospel while doing it, we would see a revival in this country! I know He has started a revival in my own heart. I pray that He spreads it to the hearts of everyone I come in contact with, and then to the hearts of everyone that they come in contact with, and on and on! If you love Jesus, you simply cannot share that love without it causing a fresh stir in your own heart that is infectious. His love is powerful and overwhelming!

What a blessing this friend's message was to me tonight. I don't think she thought much about it...there was such humility in her words. She was just following God in obedience and speaking in the Holy Spirit. But God is a God of detail and He weaves all of these experiences together to encourage and strengthen us when we need it most! He used her words tonight to stoke the fire of my passion for this ministry and to lift my dampened spirits! What a wonderful God we serve!

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Mounting Spiritual Battle

Today was a heavy day. I feel beaten down in my spirit for no particular reason. It is not that today's spiritual battle was so highly unusual or uniquely intense. Intense, yes. Unique, yes in the sense that they all are. But today was nothing that should throw my spirit down in the "body slam" that it has. It was just another untypically typical day down at the abortion mill, standing on the sidewalk offering hope, love, and judgement (yes, God speaks of that, too) to the women, and fighting on behalf of those "being led away to slaughter". But I believe what made today different was the spiritual warfare that is happening on a broader scale now in our nation, due to the horrific case of Kermitt Gosnell. And Satan's attacks are ramping up. It is a sign that he is feeling the threat to his vile kingdom. I ask that all Christians keep the sidewalk counsellors/missionaries in their prayers! I have spoken to others who are feeling equally beaten down. And I have heard that the tactic that the mainstream news will take is to claim that pro-life missionaries ("protesters" as they like to call us) are what is driving these women into such "houses of horror". Can you imagine anything so absurd and illogical? But now that they feel the pressure to actually cover the story of this mass murderer, they must spin it in a way that does not disparage their sacred cow.
Sadly, we did not have any confirmed saves today at the mill, though some did witness a woman crying for over 30 minutes and then leaving with her assumed boyfriend, who waved as they left. Believing in faith that this was a save is a comfort to this worn-out heart of mine. And I was also thankful today for the lack of rain! It blew over and left us with a sunny, breezy morning. Perfect outdoor weather! I was also blessed to have a great team today, despite Lisa and her family being sick and unable to come. A sidewalk preacher, Jesse Boyd, and his daughter came, along with a Daniel and Courtney Parks (?) who are regulars on Saturdays. We also had a new face out, as well as several others I had not yet met. It was especially encouraging to have strong men there to speak truth boldly. Sometimes the boldness seemed to me to cross a line and there was a time of intense back and forth between one man on our team and Lazarus (the bouncer who desperately needs to "rise from the dead"), but I know we were all praying for God to work through even that situation and I truly believe He did. And I am learning that even when we judge actions, we still do not fully know a heart and we must always give the benefit of the doubt while seeking to learn from both the positive and the negative interactions. Love can be the motivation for the too-extreme actions of both mercy and justice. I later saw it in reverse as another sidewalk counsellor (a lady this time) was far too understanding with a man who was claiming not all murder by abortion is wrong. All of us should be working to find that balance between mercy and justice, as God is a God of both mercy and justice and we seek to emulate Him, as He commands us to. But in our culture we tend to excuse the love that leans too heavily on the side of mercy...perhaps because our love for God and hatred for sin is just not strong enough. We have a serious problem understanding...or even wanting to understand...the incomprehensible holiness and righteousness of God!
One way that God used those "moments of raw humanity" today was to pull a man named Shamari outside to discuss abortion with us, as he felt we were being too judgemental. Poor, deceived Shamari talked in circles, obviously struggling with the Truth and not wanting to allow his conscience (or us) to "win" the argument. He was polite and kind, but so, so blinded! Caryn and I talked with him and finally had to leave the Holy Spirit to deal with him. But when I asked him to read Matthew 25 about the final judgement, he actually agreed and it was the first time he allowed me to speak freely and didn't interrupt with "reasoning". I felt the Holy Spirit was dealing with him strongly in that moment, so pray that the work is completed in his heart and that he will not continue to harden himself to the plain, simple truth.
Caryn shared with me her own heartbreak of today...a couple there to abort their baby due to doctor's "orders". She prayed with them and pleaded on behalf of the baby, but the father was apathetic and they were already convinced of the decision. After counselling them fruitlessly, she had to turn away and weep. How much will God hold these doctors accountable who tell these trusting women that their lives are in danger if they do not kill their own child! I do not believe that the circumstances are even usually as dire as they claim. However, even in such a case, who are doctors to "play God" and decide that the mother's life is more important than her helpless child's? Do any of us have the knowledge of God to be able to see His plans (Jeremiah 29:11)? Is it up to us to take on His role and decide who lives and who dies?
Another atrocity was the car that pulled in with their "Jesus fish" and cross firmly affixed to their trunk. When their hypocrisy was pointed out, they responded with obscene gestures and cursing. Despicable! These are the religious hypocrites Jesus condemned (Matthew 23)! They go to church on Sunday and sing lies of false praise to the idol-god made in their own image and then pull in the parking lot the next week to murder their innocent child! Their prayers are an abomination (Proverbs 28:9)! But, sadly, they are the rotten fruit of pastors that preach an "easy" gospel...a false "pray this prayer and you've got your golden ticket to heaven" gospel, which is contrary to what Jesus taught (Matthew 16:24-25). Every time they speak the precious name of my Savior, Jesus, they use His name in vain and break the third commandment because of the wicked testimony of their lives. May they repent and accept God's radical grace before it is too late for them!
Sadder still was the lady who came into the mobile ultrasound RV and saw her tiny twins on the monitor, but was apparently unmoved. Her car was seen back in the parking lot a few minutes later and she proceeded with her scheduled murder. Seeing her own flesh and blood on that screen did nothing to change her heart. Or perhaps it was pressure from her grandmother, who was also present, as many young women are told they have no choice and are horribly pressured into this horrific decision. It is sometimes hard to know the whole story, but we see the choice of murder and we grieve for the baby who had no choice whatsoever in the matter!
We left with heavy hearts, heavier than what is normal for all of us. Even my children felt the extra weight of the battle today. Again, I ask that you keep all of the sidewalk missionaries in your prayers in a special way over the next few weeks. We are under spiritual attack, as I believe the Gosnell case is a powerful testimony against abortion and gives support to the work we are doing. I believe this case could be a major spark in lighting a fire in the hearts of Christians across the country to put an end to the atrocity of abortion! Pray for faith to believe this can happen and then follow God's command to "rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter" (Proverbs 24:11).