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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

MOLD BREAKERS

Life-patterns can be anything from biting your nails to lying or cheating. You want to break the cycle but can’t. This force of habit can reach deep into the inner emotions. For instance, responding to a jealous spirit will make you feel miserable. It's pain is continuous like the slow and constant drip from a leaky faucet . You masquerade in the costume of concern or protectionism, but it is a self destructive life-pattern which you need to be free from. For others it can be bitterness of soul which the bible refers to as a ‘root,’ or inner heart condition. 

Once you engage in this business of old life patterns it is like letting the cat out the bag. It scratches and claws all the way. Your attitude will make you feel terrible. Your fingers bleed from that last tear at those already chewed down nails, and there seems to be no end in sight. Your emotions are constantly in an upheaval and are triggered again and again by ill conceived perceptions of what you imagine other people are thinking. For some they spend hours not sleeping because of worry. They nurse fears all night long. Instead of being rested in the morning they are exhausted. Do you think God doesn’t know these things? Of course He does. Not only does He know and understand your situation, He is already at work to break the mold.

Sheba, alias, Ugly, the dog who attached herself to us and our wonderful German Shepherd, is intrinsically incorrigible. She is after all the neighborhood stray. The reject, so ugly even her mother abandoned her. Completely beaten down in spirit she would crawl on her belly to try and get into the house. Now she stubbornly does everything she can to get out. If you are curious at all, you would be asking the question, “Why?” Well as the saying goes, ‘curiosity killed the cat; but satisfaction brought it back.’ So let me explain this ongoing saga which is revealing many of the stubborn secrets of the heart.

God spoke to me to embrace this flea bitten taxi of a dog as mentioned in a previous blog. Sheba now eats a constant meal from our table and has a permanent home with us. Life should be perfect for her now, right! Wrong! She still loves to stray and eat garbage even after a healthy hearty meal. A life-pattern forced upon her from birth no doubt.

We decided recently she needed a bath. After all, is that not what we need when we come to Christ? A bath! So into the bath Sheba went. The water turned instantly into a murky muddy pond. Goodness, she was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Amazingly, all her real colors were revealed in that moment. For her, this must have been the very first bath in her life. You would imagine she would be filled with gratitude by all of our loving care. But no! All she could think of was how do I get out of this place. So it is with us when light is shined upon our somewhat unwelcoming heart attitudes.  How do we escape. Do not get disappointed or discouraged at this point when after receivig a cleansing from Christ, your true old nature is seen for what it really is - Ugly! God is not finished with us yet. We are all a work in progress.

We discovered, at least for now, Sheba still prefers the dirt of the world to the cleanliness of a new home. To keep her from wandering we placed her inside a fenced area, in what she now, unfortunately, considers it ‘a gated community.’ We are helping to break the mold of her straying, running wild and doing her own thing. These strongholds are deeply impressed and ingrained reactions in her life. Call it anything you like, but little by little we are with love and guidance chipping away at her instinctive self-preservation. We are allowing her to form a new reliance and dependance with her adopted owners. Does any of this sound familiar?
The key is not sternness or control. It is  forming a bond with her through love and constant feeding of quality food. Slowly Sheba is coming around to the fact she can trust humans, that someone has her back and will be there for her. This is not a one day process. She claws and whines to be loose. Let her out to do her business and she is gone like a shot. Back into the forest, back to the old haunts of garbage digging. Our natural inclination is to let her go, give up on her. Like a cracked record (this statement is understood by anyone 50 years or older) we keep rehersing the statement, “Why can’t she be just like ‘Buster’ who was raised in the house of rightousness?” But Sheba is unique. She is her own person and no sooner do we think those awful thoughts when around the corner she appears wagging her tail coming home again. Asking us to love her, to accept her as she is. Oh! That prodigal child. :)

Read between the lines. God is speaking to someone today. He (God) is causing you to rethink your self-reliance. He has been feeding you, cleansing you, creating a bond through love to help you abandon yourself into His loving arms. Biting your nails only hurts you and does not bring about any lasting change. Jealousies, anger, bitterness, all of these are real foes of inner peace.  They are at best a broken reed, which when leaned upon pierce your hand.

Stop for one moment, reflect on God’s goodness. Take time today to smell the roses. Think of all the blessings in your life, these are the real mold breakers. God is leading you to trust Him. He has a great track record of success. Chew a nail today if you wish, but when you do, with each nibble, count His many blessings. You will find God has been taking care of you all along. He is breaking the mold of old life-patterns of thinking and acting in your life. He is literally casting the mountain of your woes into the sea. He is doing all this by simply loving and blessing you.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
(Romans 12:1-2, from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)





Sunday, May 22, 2011

AN ANOINTING FOR THE MUNDANE

It’s a crisp morning and the orange hues are already streaking across the European sky. It’s 4:15am and we awaken to the sound of early birds tweeting for anyone who cared to listen. (We are suffering from Jet lag)  It is beautiful outside. I take my dog out so he can sniff the scent of all the night’s marauding stray animals. As he runs around, as if he’s chasing rabbits, I often wonder what goes through his head when he inhales all those strange odors. “Ah, that’s the dog from up the road; he’s so skinny he’s not a threat to me. Or, that’s the Heinz 57 breed; he’s definitely no danger to my territory.” After a few minutes I bring him back inside and make coffee for Noline and myself. We sit on the bed and have a short discussion of today’s activities. I decide first off to blog while it’s still cool. You know the old colloquialism; “Red sky at night is a shepherd’s delight, red sky in the morning is a shepherds warning.” Meaning, it will be cool in the evening and morning but really hot by midday. So I take advantage of the cool morning. Welcome to Ukraine!

We arrived back yesterday from the whirlwind trip to New York, London, Stoke on Trent, Liverpool and Norwich. I spoke to an executive board and at two leaders’ meetings. But now our internal timetable is horribly messed up. We want to sleep when we should be awake and are awake when we should be sleeping. But this is the mundane of life for which there is an anointing to get things accomplished.

This morning I have a plethora of thoughts running through my mind. There is a fence to purchase and install so my dog does not dig up the neighbors garden. There’s a closet to build so my wife doesn’t kill me as we are still living out of boxes a year plus after leaving NYC. Then there are ministry trips to arrange and leaders to call; I have to get my car serviced, do registration so we can stay in the country and go to the American Embassy to have a form stamped and signed. Believe me; we need an anointing for the mundane!

As I write this I think of the millions of moms who are not in the work force outside their homes. Many could go as attaché’s to foreign countries with the training they have had. They constantly avert near World War three episodes with children who refuse to listen. They could easily handle top executive positions, since they are so qualified in multitasking; laundry, cooking, cleaning with the constant barrage of; “mom where’s my shirt? Or mom, where’s my lunch box.” They deal with the same myriad of issues as you and I and yet may suffer with thoughts of, “I’m so unspiritual.” So for all you stay at home moms and dads, there is an anointing for the mundane.

You can tap into this anointing today. Realize God sees you as spiritual because His Son is resident in your heart. Spirituality is not deemed by what you do or don’t do, it is reckoned by who you have in your life. Remember, “God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning.”
(Lam 3:22-23, from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

SAYING GOODBYE TO DAVID WILKERSON

The sun had almost set over the huge agricultural expanse of Ukraine. We were on the overnight train cutting through the heartland heading back to Ivano Frankievsk, back to revival meetings. Noline was with me on this trip. There hung over us a pall of sadness, as we contemplated not being there at the memorial service of a friend and father to so many. We were sad not to have the chance to link arm in arm with thousands of others who felt the same way. Now, not even the romantic ‘clickity-clack’ of the old lumbering train could soothe the heaviness we felt. It was sorrow upon sorrow. We were finding it so difficult to try and wrap our head around the fact that Bro. Dave was gone.
Mercy however, can come in a small package. In our case it was the Blackberry. Thank the Lord for modernity and the love hate relationship that comes with it. We call it the technological revolution. We love it when it works and hate it when it doesn’t. Today, we loved it. From thousands of miles away that little black innovation called a cellular telephone beeped three times letting me know it had just received a text message. Having gone from 500 messages a month, to virtually none, my immediate reaction was to reach into my jacket pocket and retrieve my phone.
Starved from communication with friends and family abroad, we both with bated breath, eagerly scanned the screen to see who had just texted us. It was a loyal friend in NYC stating she was about to call. It is amazing, almost miraculous, how we can connect with one another from thousands of miles away. The melancholy mood, which had previously pervaded our compartment, had lifted and an air of expectancy now made a shining light in the settling dusk. It seemed an eternity for the familiar vibration and ring tone to activate, signalling a call was coming through. You may ask why all the details? Just get to the point. I can’t! When you are feeling cut off and out of touch with what is happening on the other side of the Atlantic, details count. They become your life.
Our friend had been moved upon and touched by the Holy Spirit, giving evidence the body of Christ was alive and well. She was purchasing tickets for us to travel to NYC so we could attend the planned memorial service. So much for: ‘God is dead. God remains dead,’ spoken by Atheist, Friedrich Nietzsche. Who also said, ‘I find it necessary to wash my hands after I have come into contact with religious people.’ Wash my hands of God’s people? Never! I wanted to take my hands and hug her in deep gratitude.
Flying into La Guardia, our emotions were in an upheaval. We are complex creatures at best. We simultaneously express sorrow of heart and nervous excitement, one betraying the other as circumstances in life change. Once in the city, we were greeted (not personally) with human placards declaring judgment and the end of the world on the 21st. We sighed with relief. New York thankfully had not changed. We were home.
On Saturday, we walked down the familiar streets to Times Square Church for the memorial service. We were overwhelmingly swamped by many of our friends from the past 12 years. This was our time to say our goodbye to David Wilkerson. Because of this one man we had the privilege of befriending hundreds of people. It all seemed a continual contradiction of sentiment. Yet, Jesus gives us His example of the same feelings. After the death of John the Baptist, He immediately called His disciples away into the wilderness to spend some time alone. Obviously, this was a grieving moment for the Lord who considered John one of the greatest prophets. Yet no sooner had He made His way into a solitary place He was inundated by the multitudes. Jesus did not pretend there was no sorrow; He just allowed both grief and compassion to flow concurrently from Him. In a small measure we too were doing the same.
The service was awesome, anointed, honest, compassionate and challenging; a meeting which was indelibly imprinted on our hearts. It will be remembered with deep appreciation.  Brother Dave was duly honored by all; musicians, speakers and congregation alike. While standing in the closing worship I thanked the Lord for the 12 years He gave me to be a part of this church. I also thanked David Wilkerson for loving and accepting us and being an example of a true man of God. I said my farewells. I knew I could now leave for the work God has entrusted me with. We head back to Ukraine with joy to continue to fulfill the mandate given by the Lord.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A VISIT TO THE LOCAL LANDFILL – THE GARBAGE DUMP!

It’s a picture perfect spring day. Not a cascading cloud in the sky. The warm rays of the early sun are beckoning you to sit and bask a while and take in all of God’s beauty. The streaking sunbeams were hitting perfectly and magnificently on the new young leaves growing and contrasting on the old knotty trees who gave them life. This sunlight produced a breathtaking transparency of thalo yellow green to the foliage generating an aura of an idyllic world made up of peace and harmony.
So why were we not taking full advantage of this exquisiteness while sipping mugs of piping hot instant coffee mixed with condensed milk? People everywhere are paying top dollar to be vacationing in such beauty; especially if the country was called France, Italy or the romantic get-away island of Gozo, just off the coast of Malta. If you remember, Malta was where the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked nearly two thousand years ago.

Instead, there is no peace, but a sick gut feeling of loss. Noline and I are up and out of the house early today on a mission to the village landfill. Here we were on this faultless morning, scratching through the tons of garbage bags and it’s not even 6:45am. So what in the world were we doing there and why have we donned clinical rubber gloves and gotten down on bended knees sifting through the trash? The reason is simple. We are heading off to New York City in a couple of days.

You could be asking, “Is there a correlation here?” Actually, no! “Well,” you may be saying, “you are waxing extremely poetic and you have used more adjectives, in these few sentences, than a novice writer would have done. You are either working really hard to try to impress us to  keep reading your blog, or you are going to make a point out of  this. But for right now you are not making any sense at all.” You would probably be right on both accounts. I love to keep you reading, and yes I will make a point of my Rhodetrek (pun intented) to keep us all real.

Here’s the scoop. Having trained as a hygienist, I have spent hours cleaning the teeth of men, women and children as part of our mission mandate. Noline also requested a polishing before heading to the ‘Big Apple,’ hence the immediate problem. After the last patient, I, being 58 years old, tossed out the head of my new 2011, state of the art, prophy handheld polisher. This was a catastrophe. Without it, the polisher is useless. We had to leave instantly before they bulldozered that small stainless steel gadget into the ground forever.

So there we were, with the regular crew of dumpster dogs eyeing us out suspiciously, as if we were the intruders into their kitchen of tossed out scraps. After all we were on their turf looking for that piece of metal no bigger than a small person's thumb.

Under our breath was the distinct sound of prayer to a God who knows all things and whose all seeing eye knew exactly where this precious object was. Miraculously, after a half hour of digging, my beautiful wife, who radiated a conqueror's triumphant smile over her defeated foe said, “Is this it?” There it was, lifted up high in her hand like the torch of Lady Liberty for all the world to see. My prophy head, glistening in the rich ultra violet rays of the glorious sun, as if to say, "you found me!" Oh, I could have kissed her right there and then, but with our canine audience still warily watching our every move I opted for the Christianize, “thank you Jesus!” Don’t get me wrong, I am not ashamed to kiss my wife anywhere. But this was answered prayer for sure. He did show us, and it was my wife He used to dig it up and not me. I love it. I love it when God chooses the weaker vessel to show His glory.

Please don’t malign me or to use the popular verbage, marginalize me, for what may look like a spiritual capitalizing of this not so typical human experience. But are you willing to allow the Lord to sift through the mountain of learned Christian behavior and language to reach your heart, so you can obey His voice. We have an extravaganza of preached sermons on how to hear the voice of God. It makes for a great preach and an even greater altar call; but in the long run very few take time in His presence. They don’t sit long enough for God to work in and through them. Lastly, I committed today, no matter how insignificant they are, to go to the refuse of society, to find those who are considered nothing, but who are really treasures in the hand of God.

Have a really great day.
  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

PASTOR DAVE'S MEMORIAL

It is a gray day in Ukraine! Wet, chilly and miserable. A melancholy day for sure; we call them puzzle days. A hot cup of coffee, a 5000 piece puzzle and a wind driven drizzle all add to the ambiance of the moment. I don’t mind it right now as it perfectly reflects my present emotions. Being still in a state of denial at the loss of our friend, co-laborer, pastor and leader; it’s these kinds of days which give you the reflective insight needed to put all the pieces together. It takes time, do not rush or try and force pieces into the wrong places.

During this season of sorrow give place to the Holy Spirit’s wooing. Find comfort and consolation in His warmth. Find time to sit and reflect, talk, reminisce. As chicken soup is good when symptomatically you’re physically out of sorts. This too in sorrow is an opportunity to remember and embrace the times we had with a man we all respected and loved.  

On the 14th we are heading back to NYC and Times Square Church to say our earthly goodbye’s to David Wilkerson. I thank God thousands were impacted by his ministry in one way or another. We are all dealing with the raw emotions at his sudden death. But I am finding certain gem like qualities about him that are making their way to the top during these gray days. There will no doubt be many good and wonderful things said about him. But if I never get the chance to say publicly the things I deeply feel and which are important for other to know, I will at least be able to communicate them in writing. These are my recollections, but as I look more closely at the reflections I see hundreds of other faces. Faces of you all as you too attest to having the same love and affections.


This man, whom we called Bro. Dave; slight in stature, mighty in God, had the most unique way of making you feel the most important person on earth. I know he had friends and acquaintances in high places, but never once did I feel belittled in his company. In fact quite the opposite; he went out of his way to introduce me to those men and women of notoriety as though I were one of them. I am sure this is exactly the way sinners felt with Jesus. Nobody was despised in His presence. You considered it an honor to know Him as your friend. It was this quality of Christ in Bro. Dave that I will try to emulate wherever I go.

We will all cherish certain moments we had with him, whether up close or in a crowded auditorium. I consider it a wonderful privilege having had countless moments with him and Sis. Gwen. Some of them so very personal that they are talked about by only Noline and I. They will be cherished as long as life permits.

Do not be too quick “to get over the loss.” Life is too short and it cannot be all a mountain top experience. Grieving the loss of a loved one is good and must not be denied. It deepens you. After all grief is God’s gift to mankind in order to healthily deal with loss. There are a few emotions with which we all deal with in life. At some point or another you experience them all. This one called grief is the God given way we cope with sudden loss. 

It is in these moments, valley’s if you like, where we have a chance to settle our deepest thoughts. Like the Psalmist David said in the 23rd Psalm and which were the contents of Pastor Dave’s last recorded written words. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.” Take your time to grieve. While some may unintentionally rush you through the process, to get you to the other side of bright sunshine and beautiful colors, remember it is in the valley where the lily grows. Don’t trample the exquisite in unnecessary haste. Don’t risk dysfunction later on. The quiet satisfaction of a puzzle piece well placed after a long search is priceless. Take a moment right now, say a prayer for the family, reflect on the honor of knowing David Wilkerson, and if a tear should fall; let it.

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Ps 42:11 KJV).

REVIVAL CONTINUES


At the news of Bro. Dave’s death last week I headed home from the revival meetings in Western Ukraine to be with Noline. At that point I had no heart to try and preach an enthusiastic message. We were both grief stricken, feeling out of touch and out of range from everything in the USA.

We did the next best thing and that was to pray for the family and friends of Pastor Dave. It was then in that soothing presence of the Lord Noline spoke almost authoritatively; “If you could speak to Bro. Dave right right now, he would say, ‘Neil, they need you in Western Ukraine, go back and preach Christ.’” I prayed and said, “Lord, I want at least one genuine repentant soul for Bro. Dave.”


I got up and made immediate arrangements to head back to Ivano Frankievsk, back to the revival meetings. Noline joined me on this trip. We walked to the center of our town last Saturday, caught a small bus called a “marshootka” to the subway outside of Kiev and headed to the train station for the overnight trip. We were picked up in the morning and taken to a service I was already scheduled to preach at.

That evening we had our once a month revival meeting; the house was packed. The glory of God came down and we all felt His presence in the worship. After preaching I told them I knew there was at least one person here who needed to accept Jesus Christ into their life. Please, unashamedly put your hand straight up and we will pray for you tonight.                                                                                                                      Revival Continues

Not one hand went up! There were four and many others needing a touch from Jesus. Thank you Lord; I personally wanted to pray for each one of them and invited them to the stage. They wept their way to salvation. The next day one of the young ladies who prayed came to visit and we had the privilege of simply explaining the New Covenant to her. How she could go to God 24/7 in prayer. She was ecstatic on what Christ had done and in a month she wants to be baptized.

These young people are for you Bro. Dave. Your heart and passion for the lost and the young people lives on. Your impartation of love for the souls of men and women has been embraced. Revival continues.
 

 Making our way to a country church in the mountains of Western Ukraine. We travelled 2 hours to get there. We are smiling because the only restroom facility was an old fashioned 'out-house.' Difficult, but managable. There are five of the nine pastors working with us in this photo who came to support the meeting. God has broken down denominational walls and these men and women are freely fellowshipping with each other. Another miracle.

 For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Cor 6:16 KJV)