All that a man possesses is at times not in the hand of God, but in the hand of the Adversary, because God has never withdrawn that authority from Satan. ~ Oswald Chambers, When Disaster Comes
He leads me from Esther to Job in this week of all weeks. Praise the Lord if He has given you eyes to see, and ears to hear His Word through the din. If you do not see, hear, and feel His shaking, then you have not been so blessed. I did have a brother say to me this past Friday, “This isn’t shaking.” I replied, “I’m not talking about physical…yet.” Like I said to a friend I was speaking to yesterday about the same thing as I pulled up to the light at the intersection of 208 and 17K, “Physically, this intersection and the people driving through it looks the same as it did ten or even twenty years ago. Spiritually…emotionally…psychologically…a totally different ballgame.” It’s not about what God is doing. It’s ALL about what Satan is doing, and what we are not doing in response to it. The following passage was from this week’s Prayer & Fast Wednesday invite:
Now is a very good time to re-examine what it means to “dwell in the shelter of the Most High” as it is the qualifier for the protection AND salvation promised us according to His Word in Psalm 91. Are you dwelling in the shelter at this moment in time? Before you answer, allow me to provide you with my favorite Bible heroine who chose His shelter at one of the most critical moments in Biblical History.
Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” ~ Esther 4:15, 16
If you can find the time, I highly recommend this video of Eric Metaxas and Sean Feucht discussing What Would Bonhoeffer Do Today? I found myself in the company of three men on fire for the Lord yesterday. My Christian brother and mentor Rev. Bill Banuchi, who brought a very powerful message on the times we are living in and God’s purpose for every one of us, and two men who had the miraculous experience of being saved from the jaws of certain death. One of them a local pastor, and the other a future pastor. The local pastor’s faith literally healed what his doctors were unable to fix in both his heart and his lungs. And the future pastor walked away from an accident “nobody could have survived” without a scratch. Purpose. Purpose. Purpose.
I think we all know what Bonhoeffer wouldn’t do today. He wouldn’t wait silently in the face of evil for God to fix what God gave him the spirit of courage and purpose for. Interestingly, there arose a difference of opinion within our CLOTH group concerning prayer. One voice says we do not have the power to loose, bind, and rebuke demonic entities or Satan. Only God has that power. The other voice claims we have been given the authority by God to do battle with the enemy in just this way for just this purpose…purpose…purpose. There are more than a few verses in scripture that support “Battle Prayer”. I said to a fellow believer yesterday, I can’t find any scriptural support or justification for the See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil response from way too many church pulpits today. The very same night that the disagreement over prayer came up, God brought The Train to me in a dream…I believe as a warning to some very good men who need to remember what it means to be very good men again. Oh, I almost forgot…The Esther to Job transition. Job does follow Esther in the Bible, but I also think how normally life is the other way around…we suffer before we’re saved. I believe God is telling us, having delivered Haman into our hands, that we are already saved…and now we must prepare to endure tremendous suffering to come out on the right side of things again.
The Train by Chip Murray 8/4/21
This was the day She had waited for Her entire life, or so it seemed. She was finally going to see and experience the city of all cities, New York City. The city She had heard about, read about, and dreamed about…She was going to be walking the very streets She dreamed about with the man of Her dreams in just a little over an hour from now, She thought to herself as She looked away from Her husband to glance anxiously up the tracks from the Ridgewood train station to where the train would be coming from.
He was busy studying the faces of the rest of the crowd on the station platform wondering how many of them were half as blessed as he, to be with the One who made life worth living, and in return had given him a purpose and a calling…as good and faithful servant to the One he said yes to one year ago to the day. Just then the approaching train whistle sounded as everyone gathered themselves to prepare for boarding.
She looked around the car as it was leaving the station, appreciating the styles and pleasantries of the other passengers as they greeted one another, as many if not most of them must have been traveling this route together for years upon years. She could actually feel the gentil comfort of suburbia as She peered out at the passing homes and neighborhoods of Bergen County through the train car window. He was already deep into his read, Prayer Warrior, by Brandon House.
Strangely, as they drew nearer New York City, the passing neighborhoods seemed less cozy and comfortable and appeared more cramped yet somehow distant at the same time. A gradual chill permeated as the same distance seemed to appear on the faces of the passengers as the train car steadily became more filled and eventually packed through the half a dozen or so stops. By now he had put his book down and was busy engaging his fellow passengers, sharing stories about his Wife. How he loved to talk about his Wife. Just before the final stop in Hoboken, a nasty woman in a red dress with a nose ring wearing a pink hat with ears, brushed by their seat, and with an angry glare snapped, “Mind your own business!” at his poor Wife for simply being. Oddly, he continued his conversation with the other passenger as if nothing at all had happened. She, on the other hand, felt something foreign, a shift in their relationship like nothing She’d ever experienced with him before this moment.
By the time they were underground, in a different world, the welcome distractions of the subway artists and musicians slowly replaced the red flag that had gone up in Her mind. She found herself smiling again…thinking of an old song lyric…something about the words of prophets written on subway walls and tenement halls, and She wondered if She would be fortunate enough to see them. She thought about Her earliest memory of knowing the look of seeing…wondering if he who loved to look at Her could really see Her. She had never wondered that before now. The sound of the train conductor announcing the next stop brought Her back to the present moment. He was still chatting it up…with a different passenger this time…talking about How She saved him. She grew nervous as a dark-eyed straphanger flirted at Her with every expression but physical from the other side of the car. After a minute or two, She tried to nudge Her husband to make him aware…as if he could not see what everyone else on the car could see by now. She breathed a sigh of relief when they came to a stop and the dark-eyed stranger left the train, with a departing victory smirk on his face…a smirk that lingered. Only now there were no pleasant distractions to replace it. The underground darkness grew heavier…as he bantered on about his discipleship as Her husband to yet another new rider…as another song lyric popped into Her head, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”
…and right on cue the dark-eyed stranger was replaced with half a dozen or so brazen young Latino men wearing gang colors and tattoos (including MS-13) covering every square inch of their mostly visible bodies. They swaggered aboard as if to say, “We own this train and every soul on it.” Her husband who had increased his audience size to nearly everyone in the car, appeared completely aloof to and unaware of the new arrivals as he held his flock spell-bound with book, chapter, and verse on the life of the Wife he adored and loved to talk about…as the wolf-pack circled, centering their steel-eyed focus on Her. Fear began to grip Her as She realized her husband was in another world. Just then a lone white man in a red plaid shirt and jeans boarded the train as if in answer to Her prayer. He discerned the heat and source of the moment before his body was through the door. The circling wolves sensed fearlessness and trouble in his eyes and instantly backed down seeking their own cover. The entire train sensed the shift and diverted their attention away from the husband and toward the man.
Feeling completely lost and abandoned, She struggled to process what had just happened. She wrestled with the conflict between being duty-bound to Her husband, and wanting to run to the man who seemed to understand Her danger and was there to protect Her as well as the other passengers. That’s when the husband, losing his audience, and noticing a change in his Wife, sensed a greater threat from the man than the gang he never even seemed to see, called for the conductor to have security remove the man from the train. He was somehow able to convince the conductor, security, and most of the other passengers that there was something troubling about the man…an unnecessary masculine energy…a look…like one of those January 6th “insurrectionist”-white-supremist types that have been all over the news. And just like that, he was off the train as fast as he had boarded.
Within minutes of leaving the last station, the train entered into a dark stretch of tunnel that threw train and passengers into total darkness as the interior lights went out. She could not see her own hand in front of her face as her heart began to beat faster. Seconds turned into minutes, and minutes seemed like hours. And just as she was getting ready to call out to her husband, a hand went over her mouth as she felt more hands clawing, groping, and dragging her out of her seat to what had to be the back of the train. She could feel and hear the ripping of fabric as she was being stripped naked and forced to the floor of the train car. Desperate for help and not knowing what else to do, she bit hard into the hand that was covering her mouth. She heard the wolf scream out in pain as she drew enough air into her lungs, and let out a blood-curdling scream, JEEESSSUSSS!!!!!
Pastor Locke sat straight up, his heart leaping out of his chest as if he’d been hit with a cattle prod. He was drenched with sweat, jolted out of the worst nightmare of his entire life, and he’d suffered his share of bad dreams and nightmares. But this one shook him to his core. He got up to grab a pen and notepad. He knew he needed to write down as much of the dream as he could remember before it evaporated as most dreams do. He absolutely knew in his still pounding heart that God was trying to tell him something. And he made a promise to himself on the spot, he was going to do everything possible to figure out what it was, even if it took him the rest of his life. The few minutes it took for him to write it all down, lowered his heart rate, and made him feel just sleepy enough as he looked at the clock to see he still had four more hours before his alarm would sound. He turned out the bedside lamp, laid his head down, and just as he drifted off, an old hymn he hadn’t heard since he was a boy lullabied him to sleep, Onward Christian Soldier, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before…