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A Vision and a Prayer

So, as I have walked through New York City, following a fairly steady route throughout the winter, spring, and summer (between February and August, and less frequently starting in September), there have a few people who have become staple parts to my daily commute. One in particular is a homeless man named Bradley. Sometimes he’s more awake than others, and sometimes his words are more slurred than others, but no matter what kind of day he’s having he is easily one of the most personable people in New York. He might be filthy, but he is always smiling and always cheerful. He talks about his past with fond remembrance rather than bitterness, though he is from another part of the country and it’s been a long time since he’s had contact with any loved ones.

I don’t know exactly what happened in his life and what issues he’s faced that caused his decline from then, when he had a wife and a stepdaughter he still refers to as his princess, until now. We have a game we play, where he gives me a name, I look up its meaning on my phone, and he relates the meaning of the name back to the person they were. I don’t know most of the names he gives me or who these people were in his life, just a few snippets he’s given me.

I do know that the first day I met him I was hoping to pray for him, but before I could even ask he was expounding on how the government was a big conspiracy and how Jesus wasn’t real, His miracles were impossible and the whole Christianity thing was just a made-up story that people get fed today because the governmental powers that be think we’re dumb enough to follow it.

That was the one and only time I’ve seen him agitated. Suffice to say he was not receptive to the idea of prayer. But, That said, he has been heavy on my heart lately. I have been vaguely praying for him as God has led me, and praying into God’s plan for him, but the past few days God has gotten much more specific in how I’m to minister to him. Basically, He told me He wants me to do a bible study with Bradley, and gave me a specific place in the city where he wants this to happen. It’s near where I always see him, and it happens to be on some ground that I claimed for Jesus a few months back (possibly a story for another day, but long story short: God is pretty cool). He also told me in no uncertain terms that Bradley won’t willingly go there with me, and certainly won’t willingly read the bible with me (had God consulted me first, I easily could have told Him this part and spared Him the trouble of sending me the vision, but I digress). That being the case, my next direction was simple: if he won’t come with me, I am to go to him. Sit on the subway floor, by his side. If he won’t do a Bible study with me, I am to read my bible by myself, as I sit next to him. I am to simply talk to him. To seek God for wisdom and discernment on every word that comes out of his mouth. To seek wisdom and discernment over his heart. To let God fill my mouth with the words to minister to those places, and to supply the bible verses as needed. Eventually, there will be more direct bible interaction. God promised this, if I follow His guidance. In short, I am to go low and slow here.

I have never done anything quite like this before. But I’m game if Jesus is. Interestingly, I haven’t actually seen Bradley since this has been revealed to me. Either way, I thank Him for what He’s shown me, and I stand expectant and believing for Him to do a work here. And so today I just ask that you pray into God’s will over this man and my role in his life. That I would hear God clearly throughout and fully lean on Him to guide my steps. That most of all, He would move in this man’s life and do a work in him until he is walking in the fullness of the identity God has for him. Umm…..and also that if I am meant to move on this, I would cross paths with the guy. Or at least be told where he is so I can go find him. The city is huge, and there are lots of places where a homeless man might go when the weather cools – sometimes it would be so nice if directives from on high came with a GPS. Or a major clearing of the NYC smog so I could use the north star like the wise men, but honestly at this point I think dropping a supernatural Bradley-tracking device in my lap is the easier option.  Umm…..and since wherever Bradley is, it’s probably somewhere like the subway floor (where I normally see him – he even makes himself comfy and goes shirtless and shoeless down there) or an alley, prayers for my protection would also be appreciated. Though I have to say, there’s nowhere safer than in God’s arms!

I will keep you posted if, after all this subway-sitting and alley searching, I also need prayers to supernaturally boost the strength of my washing machine.

Meanwhile, thank you all very much, and God bless!

~Rebekah A

A Certain Day

“God again set a certain day, calling it ‘Today’. This He did when a long time later He spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 

day

When it comes to certain things, I am an opportunist. If I hear of someone hiring, I fill out an application. If a friend is in town, I move things around to see them. If i want to go visit someone else, I take steps to make it happen. If there is an opening to something I want, I take it. Most of us do. We seize the opportunity and think nothing of it.

Yet when it comes to seizing the opportunity for Jesus Christ, we balk. We don’t assert ourselves.  When I was first developing a relationship with Jesus, and I had questions, I would ask Christian friends. You know the kind: “why do bad things happen to good people?” “How can Jesus be man and God at the same time?” And so on. You would not believe how vague the answers were. Across the board. I even asked pastors at times (I bounced around to different churches trying to answer this stuff), and the most answer I got was “look in the Bible.”. Well, today that would be helpful to me. But back then? Do you have any idea how many pages are in that Book? Or how small the type is? Or how many chapters and books and verses there are? If you have never picked it up in your life, do you have any idea how hard it is to start? I mean…..they could’ve named a verse to start with, at least.  This was across the board, and it was when I was coming to them with direct questions. It was so disheartening and frustrating – God is not supposed to be hard to find! I later found out that they weren’t sure how I’d take the answers – in short, I was too ‘new’ to answer. I love my friends, and we freely talk about all things Christian now….but something tells me when it comes to reaching out to people, spreading the Gospel and simply sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and salvation, God had a slightly more proactive approach in mind.

Yet, I’m not sure I’m much different. I talk about Jesus freely among my Christian friends. I stop to give coffee or change to the homeless. I stop to make casual conversation with them. But I don’t evangelize with them much. I want to. It’s on my heart. But I wait for God to open the door….wider. And TO A POINT, this is good. You don’t want to evangelize and witness outside of God’s will. I’m not advocating AT ALL.

It’s just that I don’t search for the opportunity to talk about Jesus the way I search for opportunities with other things. And it’s not just me; I’ve noticed this trend in people in general. We will try to squeeze through an opening the size of a keyhole for a person we miss or a new potential relationship. But when it comes to being a simple witness, to love on others in a deeper way, we wait to get hit with a Holy Spirit 2-by-4 before we jump in. And that’s a bad ratio. When the world needs a keyhole to entice us (even when the world involves Christian friends and Christian relationships), but Jesus Himself needs a 2-by-4…..it’s just a bad ratio.

And so I implore you today: don’t wait for the 2-by-4.  Sure, sure. We don’t want to impose. It’s uncomfortable. The person you’re talking to isn’t a believer. We don’t want to force our beliefs on someone else. It’s not our place. There will ALWAYS be an excuse not to go deeper. But at its core and essence, God is love. You don’t have to preach (unless God puts it on your heart to do so). You just have to love on someone, beyond the usual superficial way. It’s time, as a body, to look for the spiritual keyhole too, check in with God, and try to squeeze through.

I was listening to an interview with Heidi Baker (she runs Iris Ministries with her husband), and they have started a movement called Stop for the One (you can find the site here). It involves stopping for the One who is the One…..and then stopping for the one He puts in front of you. Their challenge is to every believer out there: to stop for one person per day. Help the elderly woman across the street. Help somebody in a parking lot. Stop for a homeless person. Stop and actually love them, with the deep love that God has for them. When you walk away from them, they should feel loved in a deeper way than they did before. Because God loves them in a deeper way than they felt before.

And today I issue the same challenge to you.  Be an opportunist for Christ. Stop for somebody every day. Go out of your way to love. Today. God set a certain day, and He called it today.

If you want to see the interview, here it is:

Stop For The One

Make a point to stop today, and be blessed!

~Rebekah A

His Incredible Timing, His Unrelenting Love

I have a friend who is pretty much a full-time missionary, dividing her time between Haiti and Brazil. In Brazil she goes to places so poor that children are routinely fed warm water with salt as a meal. In Haiti she works in orphanages and teaches English. And so much more. I recently got permission to share with you readers her various testimonies, stories, and updates. This particular testimony made me cry when I watched it – so all you weepers out there might want to make a grab for the tissues now. It’s of a woman in a brothel and is one of many. God moves in dark places. He is there. When the bottom is falling out of our worlds, He has a place for us to land. To be held. To be loved. He is unrelenting in His love, it never lets up, and His desire to hold us close and abide with us is unending.

Be encouraged by this today, and God bless!

~Rebekah A

When God Searches

“The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they afflict the poor and needy, and oppress the resident alien without justice. Thus I have searched among them for someone who could build a wall or stand in the breach before me to keep me from destroying the land; but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out my fury upon them; with my fiery wrath I have consumed them; I have brought down their conduct upon their heads.” ~ Ezekiel 22:29-31

I was reading Ezekiel yesterday and this passage really stuck out at me. First of all, look at the list of sins in the first sentence. That sentence could have been written about biblical times, it could have been written a century ago, and it could easily be written about today. Easily. We see such things happening all around us. Then there’s the part that ultimately God has no choice but to pour out His wrath. Ultimately, He is too righteous to let such conduct slide, and His judgement results in action. But notice how that action was a last resort. He didn’t jump straight from observance to wrath; His fury was poured out when He was given no other option.

What was His first choice? Us. The middle sentence says that He searched for someone to step in, to stand in the breach and petition for mercy. God was searching for an intercessor.

That’s such a cool concept to me. God searches for intercessors. Many Christians think that intercession is us petitioning God to move against the forces of evil. That we seek Him hoping He’ll hear and see fit to answer. That it’s us being God’s hands and feet and voice and engaging in spiritual warfare. What so many forget is that God sees the brokenness way before we do. He sees the brokenness, sees the underlying cause of it, sees all possible end results of it. He sees it and wants to fix it, with the love and mercy He has towards us all. We might petition God when we intercede, but He petitions us first. He petitions us by putting the burden on our hearts. And then He waits, hoping, for someone to act on it – to stand in the gap and cry out to Him. To be the voice that opens the door for His mercy. To come before Him with the mustard seed of faith that He is bigger than any situation, so that He can move mountains.

It brings a whole new level to keeping God in our every moment, our every encounter. We never know when we are being asked to stand for someone we’ve just interacted with casually. If our hearts are closed to those we pass, we won’t be able to receive God’s petition.

And so I ask: Has God petitioned you today? Is He petitioning you now? So many people think that spiritual warfare is extreme. It’s radical. It’s intense. It’s something they’d rather not touch. In truth, though, it’s just what God is searching for.

And of course, if you want prayer over some of your petitions or just to say hi, feel free to email me at being.rebekah.a@gmail.com. God bless!

~Rebekah A

If Ye Be Christ’s

I am currently in Taiwan, but I’m going to share my exciting story of what God did the other day when I was still in China! God is so amazing!! It was so hard to restrain myself from writing about it, but because of the way woman reacted, I felt it best to be a little cautious and not share what happened until I left. I was probably just being paranoid, but you hear all these stories of the Communist Party reading outgoing emails and blog posts so I decided not to take any chances.

Anyway, from the moment I stepped off the plane in the Philippines I had not had a minute to myself. Literally every moment has been spent with my co-workers or my host family, or my students, or the villagers. For an introvert who lives by themselves and is used to a lot of alone time, it’s a little difficult to always be “on”. I needed a few minutes to clear my head and unwind so when we finally got some downtime, I decided to take a walk. On my way out the door, something told me to grab my bag. I realize now that it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

I had intended on pretty much just walking a straight line so that I wouldn’t get lost, but when I got to a fork  in the road I heard a voice tell me to go left. It was not a literal voice that I heard with my ear. I just heard it like a thought in my head, but it was the voice of my Chinese teacher (from my dreams)! Immediately, I remembered the lessons where he coached me to move left, or move right, or step back etc. without hesitation. Obedience. So I went left. I walked a ways further, and again I felt a prompting to take another left. So I did. Then I felt to just walk straight for awhile.

After a bit, I walked by a woman sitting on a bench. She called out to me, “Mei guo ren, mei guo ren” (American, American). I just ignored her because this has happened several times simply because people are surprised to see Westerners. But then she called out in English saying, “Miss?” I stopped. She spoke in a very thick accent so I had to strain to understand, but she said, “Miss, you are missionary or you are here for company?” I was surprised by the question, but just said, “I’m here with my company.” She looked really disappointed and just said, “oh, okay.” I started to walk away, but something about the disappointment in her voice stopped me. I turned  back and asked why she wanted to know. She said, “Your God told me to come to wait on the bench until the missionary come.” At this I was taken aback. The Spirit had also prompted me to go there by taking those left turns. I sat next to her on the bench. I figured she must have some Christian understanding because she used the word missionary. She also seemed to associate this word with Americans since she called out to me. And she said “Your God”. This woman didn’t know anything about me so to say “Your God” was interesting to me. It’s exactly the way that my ex-boyfriend used to refer to God before he came to know Him for himself. I asked her if there was something she wanted to know. She said, “Yes, did American take their God from Jewish God? There was a man Abraham. And Jewish God promise him a lot of children and promise him he inherit what God have, right? Why Americans think they can have this God when they not from Abraham. Doesn’t the Jewish God make this promise to Abraham’s family?” I realized this was a very important question because she wasn’t really asking me about Americans. She wanted to understand how the rights and privileges of a child of God got extended to gentiles. Somehow, somewhere she had some teaching, but it was incomplete. She was longing to be part of God’s family, but if Americans didn’t really have a right to this God, then logically she wouldn’t either.

I had a bible in my bag. I wanted to take it out and show her some things, but teaching the bible outside the government sanctioned Three Self Church is illegal. Granted, persecution is nothing like it used to be, but an American will be arrested (and likely deported) if they bring their bible out and publicly start sharing it. It is fine to bring your bible into the country for personal reasons, but you can’t share it with others. But then I had an idea! I pulled out my phone. I have an offline version of the Bible in English and Chinese on my phone. If someone were to see her looking at a phone, they wouldn’t think anything of it. I started scrolling through Galatians. I knew what I was looking for was in that book, but I wasn’t sure what the exact verse was. Finally, I found it. Galatians 3:29, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” I read it in English and then switched it to the Chinese to let her read it for herself. I apologized that I only had a version with traditional characters. She excitedly told me that she knows how to read traditional Chinese.  I explained, “If you belong to Christ –to Jesus, then God sees you as a descendant of Abraham and you get all the same privileges and blessings. Anyone; American, French, Korean, Chinese, anyone can be a seed of Abraham. They just have to belong to Christ. I told her that belonging to Jesus is where the real blessing lies. “The point is not to belong to Abraham, it’s to belong to Jesus because He is the only who can save us.” I asked her if she belonged to Jesus. She looked around nervously and began almost to whisper. She said she had started going to a church in a friend’s house. She continued looking around nervously. She said the problem is that they only have a small portion of the bible and the part they have talks about Abraham and so she thought maybe we stole the Jewish God. She said, “I know they sell bibles in the city, but they are government bibles and people here can’t afford to go to the city and buy them anyway so we just read about Abraham over and over.”

Suddenly I knew why I was there! When my ex-boyfriend sent me my Chinese/English bible, he actually sent me two bibles. One is the Chinese/English parallel and the second one was a Chinese/Pinyin parallel bible. He thought that would be helpful to me because I could see how the characters were pronounced if I came across one I had never seen. The trouble is that knowing how to pronounce a character does absolutely no good if you don’t know what the character means. Therefore, since that bible didn’t have any English, it wasn’t of much use to me. My Chinese is not nearly good enough to not have an English translation so I never use that bible.  When I was packing for this trip, on a whim I threw that Bible (along with my regular bible) in my bag. I thought I might have an opportunity to witness to someone in Taiwan and then we’d both have a Bible to look at. It didn’t occur to me that this would happen in China because of the Traditional characters. But actually a Chinese/pinyin Bible is perfect for someone in China because in China they learn pinyin in school. If she came across a traditional character that she didn’t know, she could look at the pinyin, and through context would probably be able to figure out what simplified character it represented.

I hesitatingly told the woman I had something for her.  As I was reaching in my bag, she said, “no no, you don’t need to give me anything”, but when I pulled out the Bible and handed it to her, her eyes got wide. She snatched it and hid it under her shirt. Then she looked around to make sure no one was watching and pulled it back out. She held it to her face. She kissed it! Then she clutched it tightly to her chest holding it in her arms. She quickly hid it under her shirt again. With tears in her eyes she said, “oh meiguoren, I knew you’d come.” We talked for just a few more minutes. I briefly told her about the book of Acts and that she should be baptized in Jesus name. She said she’d study the whole bible and share it with the church.

She told me how when she was a kid her grandmother had forced her to learn the traditional version of every simplified character she learned in school. She’d spend hours writing out the simplified characters and then her grandmother would make her spend hours more writing out the same characters in traditional form. She said she had resented it at the time, but now she knew it was all worth it. Then she admonished me not to tell anyone in China that I had given her the Bible. She was quite nervous the whole time which made me pretty nervous too, but I was sure that God was in it!

Now that I’m safely in Taiwan I felt to share this amazing testimony. We seriously have no idea what a privilege it is to have Bibles so readily available to us. Watching the way this woman held the Word of God was a reminder to me of how precious the Word of God truly is! Pray for this woman and her church!

A Dry and Thirsty Land

“Declare His glory among the nations; His wonders among all peoples” -1 Chronicles 16:24

chinese lantern

Every once in awhile we are given the opportunity to get away from our usual surroundings and remember just how blessed we are. It is sometimes challenging to be a Christian in our society because the United States is becoming less and less tolerant of Christianity as time goes on. Despite this, it is still overwhelmingly a Christian nation. It may not seem that way because so few actually serve our Lord (even when they profess to), but we are constantly surrounded by Christian influence. Being in China I am very aware of this lack of influence here.

It has woken up a sense of urgency in me that I haven’t felt since my ex and his friends were in the US for their graduate degrees. Something in me is very aware of the fact that the Lord is coming soon and there are so many who still don’t know Him. In America almost everyone has heard of Jesus even if they choose not to follow Him. But here in China, although Christianity is rapidly spreading, there are still countless people who have never even heard of Jesus.

In Shanghai when I’ve told people I am a Christian, many nod knowingly. Perhaps they don’t understand much about it, but at least they’ve heard of it. They’ve seen the big church in the city center and they’ve watched Christian weddings in Western movies. However, just a few miles outside the city and most people here have no idea what I’m talking about. They have no idea who Jesus is or what He has done for us! They have no idea that there is a way out of their hopelessness. They have no idea that forgiveness of sins available to them and they have no idea that LOVE came down and became our sacrifice so that we could live life eternal with Him.

My very soul cries out for these people! Lord, give me the words! Somehow Lord, that You would make me salt and light. That you would make me an ambassador for You to these souls. Teach me, Jesus. Reveal Yourself to them. Pour Yourself into them. Let Your living water flow in this dry and thirsty land! Open the doors. Open the doors. Open the doors.

In His Love,

Rebekah L

Reaching for Souls

“You have one business on Earth – to save souls.” — John Wesley

This past Sunday evening, my god-father had the opportunity to preach to a few Chinese immigrants. A pastor and pastor’s wife in our church district have been reaching out to these young men for a while now, but their English is extremely limited and the pastors don’t speak any Chinese so communication is difficult. Since my god-parents are pretty much the only Chinese speaking people in our little district, they were the logical choice to help assist in this endeavor.  I so appreciate the fact that they have a heart for God and are eager to serve in whatever capacity they can. They were more than willing to make the long drive for the sake of a few souls in need of the Lord.

The young men came to the church with trays and trays of food! So typical for Chinese to not come empty handed! 🙂 We were all blessed with dinner after it was over because of their generosity.

My god-father was able to share his testimony with them and my god-mother sang a Chinese worship song. We had planned to have several Chinese worship songs, but technical difficulties and time restraints prevented that. Never the less, there was a mighty move of God!

There were also quite a few Americans in attendance at this service.  Even though they couldn’t understand most of what was being said, their hearts were stirred by what they were witnessing. Their pastor and pastor’s wife were the ones who reached out to these young men even though they know nothing of the language or the culture. It was a powerful statement to the church not to be afraid to reach out to people you don’t know. Be available for Christ and He will use you! If you have a heart to serve, God will send people your way. If you can’t communicate with them, God has a plan for that! If you don’t know their culture, God knows how to handle it!

If the Lord is willing, there is a plan to have another Chinese service again soon. Say a prayer that these young men will come again and bring their friends and loved ones. The pastor’s wife also plans to invite a few other Chinese people that she’s been reaching out to to come to the next one. There is a growing Chinese community where they live and I believe that God wants to see them saved!

Don’t write people off just because you don’t know how to reach them. Keep a Christian spirit, be friendly and believe God for the rest. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Keep believing Christ for new souls and keep reaching, keep reaching, keep reaching!!