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Discipleship

“To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God.” – John 1:12

A few weeks ago our pastor contacted my husband and me regarding a young woman who has just moved into the area and is looking for a church. She doesn’t drive so my husband and I were asked if we would be willing to pick her up for the following service. Of course we said yes without hesitating. She has attended nearly every service with us since.

She is only about four years older than our teen so to us she seems a lot like a kid, though legally, she is an adult. From what we’ve gathered, she’s experienced far more in her young life than she should have had to. That said, she knows what she needs is the Lord and she is hungry to get to know Him better. I’ve been praying that she will experience true healing as only the Lord can give.

There is something about this girl that reminds me of a lost neglected puppy. She seems almost desperate for someone to care for her. She doesn’t appear to have learned the basic characteristics of responsibility, communication, or being accountable for one’s own actions.

She comes across as very unsure of herself. In one moment she has the capability of carrying on intelligent conversation; in the next, she struggles to answer even the most basic questions about herself. When asked where in Connecticut she moved from, she could tell us the town, but not anything about the town or even what other cities are located near it for reference. She eventually said that she wasn’t from there; she is originally from Boston. So trying to make conversation, I asked her what part of Boston she is from. Everyone I have ever known from Boston will quickly tell you they are from Beacon Hill, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Southie, Hyde Park etc. and usually with such pride that when you ask where they are from, they may not even say Boston at all, but will jump right to the neighborhood they hail from. When I asked her this question she looked really confused and told me, “Massachusetts”, as if Massachusetts were a part of Boston instead of the other way around.

In another instance, she seemed really unsure of where we are in comparison to other places. She referred to places south of us as being north etc. She also hasn’t given us the slightest idea of how long she has lived at any of the three places she has mentioned or whether she’s lived anywhere else. She only mustered a feeble, “not very long” in reference to her current residence and gave the same response to the residence just prior to this one. I get the feeling she may have moved around a lot.  I am not sure if she really knows so little about where she is and where she comes from or if she is just evading the questions because she doesn’t want us to know too much about her. She is a sweet girl, but something appears to be lacking in her basic comprehension abilities. My husband and I have decided not to push her, but to let her open up to us as she feels able and comfortable.

Her first service at our church she went right to the altar and cried at His feet. She experienced the amazing infilling of His Spirit. Unfortunately, shortly after that, she experienced a panic attack in our fellowship hall. Thankfully, another sister and I were able to pray with her until she regained a sense of calm.

She readily agreed to come again the following service. It was after that service that she began to expound on some of her health issues both physical and mental. She struggles with anxiety and depression as well as a sense of being invisible to the world around her. She also confided that she has had long time stomach and digestive issues that cause her great discomfort and a fear of food.

During her third service at our church, she asked me to pray for her mother and revealed that her mother is a drug addict. The next service she disclosed that she is living with her sister and that she just met her sister for the first time a couple of months ago. She recently disclosed that she also has a brother that she has just met.

We are unsure exactly why she had to move in with a sister she barely knows, but we suspect her mother’s drug addiction may have something to do with that. It might also be the debilitating anxiety she is constantly under. She sometimes texts me dozens of times in a day asking the same questions over and over and practically begging for some reassurance that she’s doing okay, that she hasn’t lost her salvation, and that God won’t leave her.

My husband and I will be starting a Bible Study with her this week in the hopes of discipling her in her walk with the Lord. The Bible Study is a twelve week course that is designed to give a basic overview of the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Please pray for my husband and me as we embark on this journey with her. It is our prayer that the Lord will anoint us for the task, help us to be sensitive to her needs, and give us the spirit of discernment to best be able to serve her. Most importantly, we are praying for her spiritual development and salvation.

Though we don’t yet know all the details of her situation, we know that “all things work together for good to them that love Him” (Romans 8:28) and we believe that God “makes all things new” (Revelation 21:5). She has begun a beautiful journey in the Lord and we feel blessed to be given an opportunity to witness it.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

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First Day

Rebekah M. is currently on a Medical Missions trip in Western Europe. She gave me (Rebekah L) permission to post this reflection she wrote chronicling her first day of the clinic on her behalf. Her access to wifi is limited, but we hope to be hearing more about her trip as it progresses!

As I’m winding down from my first day in clinic,  I can’t help but reflect on such a crazy day.  It seems the people of the village think at times that we can offer better than their own system and although they may get better access to us, some have come in methotrexate for their RA, x-rays for their back,  and even problems with their legs after a stroke,  hoping we American doctors can do better.  It is hard to come to a place of recognizing I have nothing to offer.  I had one patient who had no desire to live and the only thing I could offer her was prayer and the promise that God loves her.  With tears in my  eyes,  I told her of how I too had been in a place of wishing I was dead and how God had been my strength.

It is weird both in acknowledging that I had that time in my life but too… To use it to reach out to a patient in which I have nothing else to offer her.  Honestly…  The time in my life still feels so fresh,  the rawness of it still lingers.  I had no plans to kill myself,  just no plans to protect myself from death. In my heart I welcomed it.  I wanted to be dead.  But God gave me a hope and a dream.

Today I did the morning devotional and spoke of meeting our daily appointment with God- a chance to minister to a soul and in doing so live the words of Jesus how in ministering to others,  we are actually ministering to Him. I challenged myself and implored to others in joining me in meeting that appointment.

I think she was one of them and I pray my words reached her.

My final thought from today is from my favorite moment of the day- the Ukrainian counterparts of the team led night worship and it was amazing.  So passionate and full of life,  I loved seeing and hearing God worshiped in a language I didn’t know,  yet I completely understood and joined with in the spirit.

Thank You Jesus for this day. 
Thank You for my appointments with You. 
Thank You for this abundant life.

-Rebekah M.

Battleground

“For we 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.” ~ Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)

As Christians, we stand with Jesus to usher in His plan of love for the world. We stand with Him as His very name inspires a bend in our knees and awe in our hearts. We stand with Him as vessels to be used to heal, to love, to spread peace. We stand with Him simply to rejoice in His presence. We do all this and so much more. And sometimes, we stand with Him in battle.

As Christians, we do have a constant enemy. We don’t need to fear him necessarily (though he’d like us to!) because in the end Jesus is stronger. But we do need to fight him. His name is Satan and his sole aim is to kill, steal and destroy God’s plan. As stewards of this plan, we are automatically at odds with him. And he will use deception, distraction, literally any means he can come up with to keep us from fully doing our Father’s work.

Now, there are 7 main principalities that we fight, with a powerful demon at the head of each one (keep in mind though, they are not as powerful as Jesus and you can defeat them). These principalities are:

1) Spirit of Witchcraft

2) Spirit of Antichrist

3) Spirit of Infirmity

4) Spirit of Death

5) Spirit of Lying

6) Spirit of Mammon (wealth, provisions, socio-economic status, etc)

7) Spirit of Perversion

Right. Well, now that we have identified these principalities of the enemy, fighting them can seem like a daunting task. But luckily, God gives us examples throughout the Bible and a blueprint of what we need to do do defeat Satan and his minions.

Once such example, and it’s a fabulous one, is the book of Esther (which you can read here). Esther’s story at first seems nice enough, with a brave Jewish girl defeating the odds to save her people. But the more you delve into the book, the more you realize: Esther was a spiritual warrior, tried and true, who defeated the enemy and walked in victory to save her people. Here’s the thing: of those 7 principalities I mentioned above, Esther had to battle 6 of them. Six! All at once, too! Here’s the breakdown of what she was up against:

1) Spirit of Witchcraft: witchcraft was a common part of Persian culture in Esther’s time – spells, healers, divination, the works. King Xerxes himself is widely thought to have been a zoroastrian, a religion that used fire and water in its worship. To be fair, zoroastrianism forbade demon worship and consequently witchcraft, but given the use of the elements in its practice, it was a pretty short jump to make and a lot of sects practiced witchcraft anyway. One of King Xerxes’ advisers, Ostanes, was a magi and considered powerful in occult practice.

2) Spirit of Antichrist: In the book of Esther, Haman (favored by the king) makes all bow down to him to show respect. We bow as a form of worship, making this requirement full-blown idolatry. This, we can surmise, is why Mordecai refused to do so.

3) Spirit of Death: In retaliation against Mordecai, Haman’s wife and then Haman himself wanted to impale him. This escalated until Haman convinced the king to issue a decree to wipe out the entire Jewish population of Persia.

4) Spirit of Lying: This one is subtle. Still, we see a general attitude of mistrust and deception occurring in Persia: for starters, Esther did have to hide her identity, for her safety. We see false loyalties among the palace guards and a plot to overthrow King Xerxes. We see Xerxes’ notorious and borderline paranoid rage, and we see Haman overreacting to Mordecai’s slight.

5) Spirit of Mammon: Hamon wanted to not just kill the Jews, but plunder them. Take all their wealth so that no Jew anywhere would be able to recover it and recirculate it within their faith. Conversely, when the Jews retaliated they (for various reasons) refused to plunder.

6) Spirit of Perversion: This one was all over the place in the book of Esther. Queen Vashti was initially deposed due to not wanting to parade herself unveiled in front of a bunch of drunk men – 7 days drunk, to be exact. At a time when men and women were dining separately at separate banquets, the king’s request that she do this was nothing short of degrading. I applaud her for refusing, but ultimately it cost her the throne. Esther was chosen to be the new queen because of her beauty and virginity – a sort of ‘virgin pageant’. During her preparation for this she lived in a harem with the other maidens. After a night with the king they would then return but live in a different part of the harem – a part for concubines. Read between the lines here: the king of Persia, Esther’s eventual husband, had a different virgin every night. Once Esther was chosen, the king was unfaithful as a husband and even held a second ‘virgin pageant.’ So yes, I think it’s safe to say the spirit of perversion was alive and well in Persia during Esther’s time.

Knowing what she was up against, with 6 major principalities swirling around her, let’s look at what happened for her to fight them:

-First of all, Esther’s title of queen gave her no true power. Remember how easily Queen Vashti was deposed in the beginning. Esther was only chosen for the position because of her beauty – which is a superficial trait, but it’s also one that’s god-given – she was created for such a time as this, and if that meant she needed to be made pretty, well, that’s how God made her.

-Second, Esther was a non-practicing Jew. Think about that. She was hiding her identity from her husband – hiding in her own home. So she wasn’t partaking in the festivals, prayers, and was probably not following any of the dietary restrictions that the Jewish people normally follow. In short, she was doing nothing special to earn God’s favor – that just shows how merciful and faithful He is to those who petition in and stand for His will!

-What she did do, when she heard about Haman’s plot to wipe out her entire population, was to pray and fast for 3 days. She called for all the Jews in Persia to do the same thing. Now at first glance, she was fasting to prepare herself for the task at hand. And she was doing that. But if it was a matter of getting her heart right, maybe after a time of being distant from Him due to hiding who she really was, if that was all it was her time of prayer would have been between her and God. But it wasn’t. She called every Jew in Persia to fast and pray. We know that she had 6 principalities to fight. We know that the fate of her people was at stake. And we know that in Mark 9, Jesus heals someone possessed by demons. When His disciples ask why they couldn’t heal him in that, Jesus answered “that kind only comes out by prayer and fasting”. One more time: prayer and fasting casts out demons. It’s a big, big weapon we use. What was Esther doing? Praying and fasting. What were all the Jews in Persia doing? Praying and fasting. This wasn’t just a time of getting Esther’s focus together – this was a battleground. She was clearing the way, casting out these demons and making a way for God’s will to be done. She may have been in hiding up to this point, but He created her for such a time as this, and when push came to shove, she stood with Him strongly to bring His plan – the saving of the Jewish people – to fruition.

-Ultimately, God prevailed – He is stronger than these principalities and always will be! And we see His victory in the way that Xerxes extended favor to her both times that she approached him – even though her entrance to the throne room could have easily meant her death. We see His victory in how Xerxes not only agreed to listen to her but to dine with her, twice. Finally, we see His victory in Xerxes’ issuing a second decree which allowed the Jews to defend themselves and ultimately saved them. Everything Esther did after her time of prayer and fasting was met with favor – there was no more hiding, no more enemies in the way of God’s will. What a powerful God we serve!

My apologies for the super-long post. But it’s an important topic. And an important message: we were created for such a time as this. As this. You might be feeling on top of the world today – God has a destiny, a plan, and a task for you. You might be feeling like you’re under attack at this very moment – God has a destiny, a plan and a task for you. Stand with Him and you will prevail – “for if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

I invite you today to be intentional in seeking out Jesus’ plan for you. Join Him in intercession and ushering in His plan. Step onto the battleground with Him. Victory awaits – so claim it!

God bless!

Rebekah A

Learning to Love like Jesus

LI have this little problem. I love hard. I love deep. I love people too much. Rather, I love people too selfishly; with too many expectations. I get frustrated when people don’t love me the way that I love them. I find myself feeling disappointed when I don’t receive love back the way that I give it out. Even when people actually love me better than I love them, I have trouble recognizing it when it comes in a form that is unfamiliar to me. In my disappointment I have often told myself that the solution is to love them less. If I didn’t love them so much, it wouldn’t hurt so much when things don’t happen the way I think they should. I have tried countless times to love people less and I fail miserably at it. Why would I try to love someone less? Because the more neutral your feelings toward someone, the less the things they do (or don’t do) affect you. I’m tired of feeling hurt and disappointed. I am tired of hoping things will be different and finding they never are. I’m tired of feeling like I love people so much and they don’t love me back. It’s a lie from the enemy; People do love me. I’m just not that good at recognizing it.

Thank God Jesus is not like me! The truth is that I don’t need to learn to love less; I need to learn to love differently. I need to love with a pure love. A love that doesn’t ask for anything in return. A love without expectation. When the people didn’t love Jesus the way He loved them, did He give up on them or walk away? Did He try to love them less so that it wouldn’t hurt so much if they didn’t love Him back? No, He loves unconditionally. He loved us so deeply that He hung on a cross and died for us. That’s the kind of love I need. I need to learn to love more, not less. I need to learn to consistently be compassionate, turn the other cheek, and forgive. I need to learn to love like Jesus.

Lord, teach me to love like you love. Teach me how to see people the way that you do. Teach me not to view things from my selfish perspective, but to always see them through the mercy and love of the Lord. Teach me to love like Jesus.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

For Arthur

When I was a new Christian I had a co-worker who was the bane of my existence. He was rude, cruel, and crotchety. He bullied other employees mercilessly. After witnessing his abusive behavior for months I had learned to avoid him. One day I watched him hurl insults as he suddenly cut the power on a piece of heavy equipment another co-worker was using. This caused the huge machine to stop short so that the man using it fell forward into it, twisting his body and resulting in what must have been a very painful fall.

I felt my righteous indignation rise up. I lost my Christian cool. In defense of the injured employee I lashed out uncharacteristically and swore at the tyrant, calling him a name that I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking. I will never forget the look of shock on his face. Had another person said it, he probably would have just responded with an equally abusive retort, but coming from me, he was literally stopped in his tracks. He never expected the timid, quiet, little Christian girl to say something so insolent.

I instantly regretted it, but I could not take back my words. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I had not acted as a Christian should. For days after that, I became his target. Where previously he would hand me his paperwork at the end of the day, he started coming in and literally throwing the stack of paper on my desk with such force that it would scatter across the desk and onto the floor. He said, “You called me it, so I guess that’s what I’ll be.” He took every opportunity to belittle me in front of others and to point out my hypocrisy. I felt awful. I thought I had ruined my Christian witness with this man and with all my other co-workers. In a moment of weakness I had destroyed my opportunity to show them Christ.

I confided to a friend what was going on. She agreed with me that his behavior was out of control and that management should have stepped in to curb his antics long before that, but she also didn’t let me off the hook. She told me to stop feeling guilty for the way I reacted. No, it wasn’t the right reaction, but the past was past. If you’ve repented, you need to move on. You won’t help the situation by wallowing in shame. Then she reminded me that it’s easy to love people who are nice to us; it’s very difficult to love people who are unkind. She told me he was the perfect opportunity to practice my Christian love. He was an opportunity to practice turning the other cheek. He was an opportunity to learn to be a better Christian. He was not an obstacle. He was an opportunity.

I took her words to heart. From that day forward I did everything I could to show him godly love. I refused to react to his negativity and hurtful behavior. I went out of my way to make his job easier. I made it a point to ask how his day was going. I inquired after his wife and kids, his hobbies, his frustrations. I prayed for him constantly. He began to soften up. Instead of eating alone at lunch, he started to join me and another co-worker. His anger subsided. He not only treated me better, but he treated everyone better. He started talking about his life; his hopes and disappointments. He showed an interest in my well-being and after a while he was not only accepting my efforts, but reciprocating them. In fact, I have yet to see someone, anyone, make such a complete turn-around in behavior that I witnessed in Arthur. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I genuinely came to think of him as my friend.

I began to share Christ with him. I continued to pray for him. I told him he needed the Lord. He said, “I know, but I’m going to wait until right before I die.” I said, “The trouble with that is that no one knows how long they have.”

What neither of us knew that day was that within a few short months, my friend Arthur, would be dead. He was 36.

Truly no one knows how long they have. In fact, the day I had this conversation with Arthur was the last day he ever worked. I remember asking him that day if he was feeling alright because he just didn’t look right. He confided in me that he hadn’t been feeling well lately. The following day he called in sick saying he had the flu. He was out all the next week too. Shortly after that he was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

I had many conversations over the following weeks with both him and his wife during this time. I was as much of a support to them as I could be. I kept praying. I believed God fully for his healing. But this time, healing didn’t come.

His wife told me how much she appreciated my friendship. She told me that Arthur hated his job before I befriended him. Having a friend changed his whole outlook, she said. She would call me on the phone and cry about how difficult it was to deal with the whole situation and my heart just broke for her.

Ultimately, I think my friend died without knowing the Lord, but I am not the judge. I cried and prayed for months feeling I had failed him. But in the end, I know that he heard the gospel. What he chose to do with it was up to him.

I look back on him with fondness. He taught me one of the most powerful lessons I have learned in Christianity. He taught me to love even when someone is unlovable. He taught me that an angry and volatile exterior is often a cover for a vulnerable person who just needs a little compassion. He showed me that sometimes gaining a friend only takes being a friend.

Happy Birthday, Arthur.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

Singles Awareness Day?

I hear this a lot. “Happy Singles Awareness Day!” It’s a cynical badge of honor, the anti-holiday on this seemingly sappy day devoted to lovers and all of the things you can buy them.

But here’s the thing. If you know Jesus, you are not single. I don’t care if you’re married, engaged, figuring things out via OK Cupid, or saving yourself for George Clooney. You’re not single. I’ll even say it again. You, dear married/engaged/dating/saving-yourself reader, are not single. Why? Because we, collectively, we the church, are the Bride of Christ. We have a lover, who is wooing our souls, our hearts, and our spirits every day. And His love is perfect. He knows our desires, our loves, our needs. He knows our wants, and He blesses us abundantly with them. He is ready to spend time with us, laugh with us, cry with us, even joke with us. God is Love, and therefore He is the ultimate Lover. With Him in our lives…..no. You are not single, and your heart is not lonely or closed off. If it is, get on your knees and seek Him out, because something is wrong. No bride should be lonely in the presence of the Groom.  If you are, that’s a problem. But there is a solution and it’s an easy one. Just spend time with Him and let Him fill you up. Simple as that (and then you can get back to your regularly scheduled Clooney Quest).

For the Bride, for us blessed enough to know our one true Groom and savior, every day is Valentine’s Day. We can walk through the world, wherever He sends us, and watch Him move and love on people all year long. The love never stops. All we have to do is be open to it.

I ask you all to send some love on your Groom today. Lavish your love on Him, even if it feels silly. He will do all that and more in return. And stand with Him in His quest to love the world, for there are many lonely hearts in the world who don’t have a Groom and don’t have hope. They come in all forms – they are married to someone on earth, they are engaged, they are dating, they are saving themselves for Scarlett Johansson. They are lonely regardless, because they are focusing on the wrong relationship. The only one that counts is already right in front and probably pounding on the door of their hearts.

I ask you all to not get confused with this holiday. Don’t focus on the wrong relationship (no, that doesn’t mean ignore your wife. But don’t ignore Jesus either!) and don’t get cynical over the materialism of the day. (That means YOU, you singles-awareness-day people – don’t you do it!). Focus on the fact that this is a day dedicated to love, and you are a beautiful and radiant lover of Jesus. You are a Bride, and bursting with all the radiance that comes with the big day. Revisit what love is, what it looks like and how it sounds. Then go spread it. See, if you don’t have a spouse/significant other/family of your own, Jesus is probably waiting for you to stop your wallowing and open your eyes to the lonely hearts that you DO have in your life. The ones who need you to show them, even in passing and even if they don’t say so, what love is. And He is waiting for you to join Him and pour it out.

Forget about Singles Awareness Day. In Him, there is no such thing.

God bless!

~Rebekah A

Moving In The Moment

I feel like I’m drifting. I still haven’t seen Bradley. And yes, I’ve looked. And yes, I’ve listened. I hope he’s ok! It is funny to me that as soon as I get some direction on what to do next with this guy, I can’t find him anywhere. But I’ll keep looking. I’m in the city again tonight, at his favorite subway stop. I’ll go in a little early I think, just in CASE he’s sitting down there and I can spend some time with him. Maybe I can even nail him down to a “same time tomorrow?” I wish!

Somehow, though, I don’t think so. I think this will quickly turn into a lesson in seizing every opportunity and loving on people in every moment. I tend to love/speak vaguely the first time, then go back home to process and weigh it with God, and get direction on what to do next. With the homeless population that is so frequently on my heart, that’s not really always an option. I need to get my heart to a place that is seeking God in the moment, or ahead of time really, and pouring out His love in that same moment. God doesn’t need more than one moment to touch a heart, and who knows if I’ll get a chance for two?

I partly walk in this already, at least the seeking Him in advance part, but not enough. I need to trust Him that He is bigger than the moment, bigger than any person in front of me or situation that my mind needs to process later, and big enough to use even the slimmest of chances that come my way. That trust of Him is what will take these mini “missions” trips (into Manhattan. From Queens. I did say mini, did I not? But they are missions nonetheless – not every lost soul is in a third-world country) from a desperate sales pitch to an outpouring of love that is calm and peaceful and straight to the heart of the other person (who will hopefully be Bradley).

I’ve realized that ultimately I’ve had it backwards. I’ve been going into the city and bringing Jesus with me, looking for this man so *I* can do what I should. It should be the other way around. Jesus should be the one bringing me into the city, so I can be a tool as He goes about His business. Your piece of pottery doesn’t bring you along for the ride, does it? You bring it. I shouldn’t be ahead of Him and hoping He catches up in time for these encounters to be effective. I should be following Him there in the first place, to be used however He sees fit.

So I’m trying. I am learning to lean just a little bit deeper and to let Jesus bring me with Him – not the other way around.

God bless!

~Rebekah A