You you

You you pic flatHere’s a question for you: are things simple or complicated? If your answer is “Yes”, I think you’re right. Take something as simple as “Who are you?” Is there a simple answer to that? Of course, “I am me.” But then it gets complicated. And a lot of us can really get almost confused at times about this.

I thought about this around 2:30 AM today after waking up for the first time in South Africa. Jet lag often really hits me the most traveling east. And after two nights in a row of trying to sleep on a plane, I was very ready for 9 hours of deep sleep. But it was not to be. My body just didn’t cooperated tonight, as often happens at the beginning of a trip flying east from America.

So was “I” tired? Well, yes and no. “My flesh” was tired but actually my spirit was pretty keyed up. And I was thinking about how that works. One thing I can tell you, I never in any way would I have looked at things this way without having come to the Lord years ago.

Why are you flat“My flesh” and “my spirit”, what kind of talk is that? The answer is, truth be known, there’s you and then there’s You-you. You are a lot more than just you. Don’t believe me? Think about this. King David said in prayer, “Why are you cast down, oh my soul, why are you disquieted within me?”  (Psalm 42:11) Was David getting a little schizoid there? How about this: “My heart and my flesh faileth, but God is the strength of my life and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). Or, one of my favorites , Solomon said “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

So what’s with all this chopping yourself up into little pieces? Your heart, your flesh, your spirit, your mind, your soul, and all that? That’s what I mean, there’s a lot that goes into “You”, under the hood, as they say. There’s actually a lot of moving parts and if I had to tell you which you You-you really is, I’m not sure I could tell you. Of course they are all part of you; for the most part they somewhat intermesh with each other and often can work pretty well together. But not always.

spirit willing flatOne of many examples of this can be found in what Jesus told His disciples on the night He was betrayed, in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said to His disciples who were nodding off to sleep, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation, the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) What an incredibly deep and wise, yet utterly simple way the Lord described that. And that verse could be seen to fit how things are for me tonight or now close to dawn. My flesh is feeling tired right now. But my flesh is a segment of my “me” that currently is working in such a way that my spirit (which I think is closer to the real “me”) is having more dominance over my “me” right now than my flesh is. Got that?

And I’m just so thankful for the light of the truth of God’s Word that illuminates all these kinds of things and has been “a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105) for all my adult life. Of course our flesh, our body and all that it involves is definitely a part of “me” and you as well. But so many folks who don’t know the Lord (or don’t know Him and His Word the way they should) are often not able to make a difference between their flesh and their selves. Or perhaps more dangerously, they’re in the habit of being led about by their flesh more often than their spirit and/or the Spirit of the Lord.

“Oh, I’m tired.” “I can’t right now, I’m hungry.” And on and on it can go. Well, we do need to take care of the needs of the flesh; I’m not advocating some aesthetic appeal to self mortification. On the other hand, if you’re going to do anything for the Lord in this life or almost anything of value at all, you just can’t put “the flesh” first. And some folks have learned you can’t even put “me” first. Jesus surely knew that.

your will be done flatThat same night in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He told His disciples to watch and pray, He also prayed to His Father in heaven, “If You be willing, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.” He knew He was just hours away from His passion, His suffering on the cross of Calvary and the enormity of what was just ahead moved Jesus to pray that prayer to His Father. But Jesus put his own self and even his will aside and stayed in obedience and submission to the will of God, even though basically so much of everything else within Him was moved with the emotions He had as a human of what was about to happen.

Maybe you know all of this already. But perhaps it’s a reminder of how “you” can function a lot better when you don’t let every little moving part of yourself claim to be supreme. “Oh, I’m in love!” “Oh, I’m hungry!” “Oh, I’m angry!” Could be. But if you let any of those things grab the reins of your soul and your life, they can really take you very quickly into some bad decisions if you don’t watch out.

Jesus said, “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and loose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36 & 37) I guess it all boils down to the fact that we are, were and will continue to be lost, hopeless nincompoops without, not only the salvation of the Lord, but His continual close guiding of our lives pretty much every moment of every day. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Daniel 11: verses 1 to 35 live class audio

Daniel at desk for D9 blog postWe continued, last Sunday, the Bible study I’ve been doing with friends at an adult Sunday school class on the book of the prophet Daniel. This time we went over perhaps the most difficult but also significant passage in Daniel, chapter 11. I took some time in prayer the night before to really look to the Lord about the class and to try to find the best approach in sharing it. The live class audio on Daniel 11: verses 1 to 35 can be heard here.

D11 picture of angel touching DanielThe three last chapters in Daniel seem to be one continuing event, unlike the other chapters before them. So Daniel 11 picks up the narrative from Daniel 10 of what happened next after Daniel’s incredible experience with an angel or possibly angels who had a real job on their hands in strengthening Daniel sufficiently enough to be able to receive this final mighty revelation in the book.

In prayer the night before the class, the Lord laid it on my heart to start out by stepping back a bit at the beginning in order to try to share with the ones in class what are actually the most important pillars that make up the framework of yet-to-be-fulfilled Bible prophecy. I won’t go into the details here but we started out with the greatest Teacher of them all, the Lord Himself. When asked about His second coming, Jesus gave three very distinct points of importance. Those can be found in Matthew 24:15, 21 and 29-31. I went over these before in the video on Daniel 9:27, how that they could be boiled down to “When…”, “Then…” and “Immediately after…”.

And we saw from Matthew 24 that Jesus clearly and emphatically pointed us back to something in the book of Daniel , telling us “whosoever reads, let him understand”. (Matthew 24:15) And what Jesus was pointing us to is found most clearly in Daniel 11:31, from the chapter we went over on Sunday. Well, if I get into too much detail here, it will become quite a long blog post. But I’ll add the four other pillars of prophecy that I shared with the class on Sunday: Daniel 8:11, Daniel 9:27, II Thessalonians 2:3 & 4 and Revelation 13:5-7.

I’m very aware that for some people this can just be too much. Bible prophecy is not everyone’s cup of tea. I think the Lord has to bring it to someone’s attention and show them the importance of it. Otherwise it can seem tedious and just too difficult to understand. So I’ve really tried in these classes to break it down to bite-sized pieces as much as possible and to continue to aim at those who are new to the subject, rather than the ones who’ve been studying it for years.

Also in working on this Daniel 11 class, I realized again that the best way to present this is in the format I’ve used for the videos on the prophecies of Daniel series. The live class format, like on Sunday, has the advantage of spontaneity and the interaction that goes on between the teacher and the class. But for this chapter, the material is so meaty and yet so significant that I’ve been realizing that Daniel 11 really needs to have a class that is scripted beforehand so that the very best way can be found to present the chapter to the general public.

When I read again the buildup to Daniel chapter 11 that was to been found in Daniel 10, the effort in prayer by Daniel and the effort in the spirit by the angels, as well as the opposition of Satan to this message even getting through, it was even clearer that this is an incredibly important part of the prophetic picture that God has given to us in His Word. And to top it off, Jesus Himself points us to this chapter.

For now, this live class audio hopefully will be a blessing to those who are ready for this rather advanced Bible prophecy class. And this has also been a tug on my heart to try to get the last 3 chapters in Daniel into video classes at some point in, hopefully, the not too distant future. The live class on Daniel 11, verses 1 to 35 can be heard here.

Daniel chapter 10 live class audio

Last Sunday I shared a class on Daniel chapter 10 with an adult Sunday school group I attend in Austin, Texas. I made an audio recording of the class and an edited 35 minute version of it can be heard here. In the class we have been going through the prophets in the Old Testament and they wanted me to do the prophetic chapters in Daniel. We completed the prophetic chapters through Daniel 9 and the Sunday before we watched the video I did in 2014 on Daniel 9:27. As some of you know, Daniel 9:27 is one of the most important verses in the whole book of Daniel and, perhaps it could be said, in the whole Old Testament.

I’ve often shared in my video classes what Jesus said in Matthew 24 when He was asked about His return.Matthew 24 21-a for blog post One of the most pivotal verses in the chapter is Matthew 24:15 where Jesus said, “When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, whoso reads, let him understand.

And He went on to say in verse 21 that “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world”. But what exactly is Jesus referring to there in Matthew 24 that we should read in the book of Daniel? It seems this is not too often spoken about or pursued, even though the Lord put so much emphasis on it.

The video on Daniel 9:27 explains about this a good deal. But specifically, the clearest verse on this is found in Daniel 11. And as we found in our class on Daniel 10 last Sunday, the last 3 chapters in Daniel, 10, 11 & 12, seem to be all one event, unlike the first 9 chapters. The narrative flows from one chapter to the next in these last three. It seems that since it was all so much longer than the other narratives, the people back in the 1600’s or 1500’s who divided the Bible up into chapters and verses made this section into 3 chapters.

Actually, this is not specifically a prophetic chapter. But Daniel chapter 10 sets the stage for the archangel Michael’s message to Daniel in chapters 11 and 12. And it contains one of the most amazing glimpses in the Bible into the spiritual world and the battles going on there between the angels of God and the demons of hell.

Daniel tells us that he had been fasting for 21 days. In the class we took note of the fact that almost certainly Daniel was well into his 80’s by this time. Michael the archangelThen appeared to him an angel in all his glory to speak to him and bring a message to him about the future. It doesn’t say definitively who this angel is but my thought has always been that this was Gabriel, as he was the angel coming to Daniel in earlier chapters.

But then the angel explains that he had been hindered in answering Daniel’s prayer because “the prince of Persia withstood me 21 days. But then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” (Daniel 10:13) What an incredible flash of revelation into the behind-the-scenes workings of the spiritual world. A demon prince had fought against this angel getting his message through to Daniel until Michael, the archangel, came and intervened to turn the tide to the favor of the Lord’s will and His servant, Daniel.

It’s just an incredible chapter and vividly visual. Hopefully someday I can make a video of this one and continue the prophecies of Daniel video series. Meanwhile, here’s the link to the 35 minute audio of the class we had on Daniel 10 last Sunday. I hope it’s a blessing to you.

Your friend, Mark

“Neither have I desired the woeful day”

the woeful day flatThe prophet Jeremiah knew he would see the day when it was all going to happen. He wasn’t prophesying something for the centuries to come; he knew this was it. God was about to bring His powerful judgments on backslidden Israel. And Jeremiah suffered terribly for the message of judgment and doom he gave to the people of Israel. If anyone could have looked with glee at the day of God’s impending judgment and by-in-large destruction upon Israel, it was Jeremiah.

But did he? Jeremiah spoke in prayer to God, “Neither have I desired the woeful day.” (Jeremiah 17:16) Jeremiah had the maturity and Godliness to not wish for and look forward to the horrific judgement that was about to fall upon his people by their God. And, frankly, it should be the same for those of us today. But I wonder if it is?

I’ve believed since I was in my 20’s that some kind of judgment would be coming from God, not only on my country but on the countries of the North and West which were founded in a strong Christianity but have progressively fallen away from that, for decades and even centuries. At times over the years I’ve looked forward to the judgments of God being poured out on some societies and nations whose cup of iniquity must be truly full by now.

But also, in living in many lands, as well as reading history, I’ve come to see that it’s a very sobering thing to actually be where the judgments of God, the horrors of war or natural disasters are being experienced at the moment. In the 1300’s, a time when there was a falling away from the Godliness of earlier centuries, the Black Plague struck Europe and 1/3 to 1/2 of the population died.

That might be hard to comprehend but 11 years ago I worked as an aid worker and trauma counselor in a city that had just experienced that. An Indonesian city of 450,000 had lost one third of its population in one hour of gigantic tsunami waves.

body bagsWhat was it like? Every day we’d see many teams of young men who’d been given plastic bags, boots and gloves. Their assignment was to go into the large buildings downtown that were on their list to bring out the dead. All day they stacked bags, with bodies inside, out on the street in front of the buildings all over the city.

dumping bodiesAt 5 PM large trucks came by and they threw the bags up into the trucks which took them out to a huge mass grave near the airport. That particular mass grave ended up holding 55,000 bags. There were many teams like this; they started again the next day and this went on for 3 weeks. That’s the kind of reality that can come with the horrors of war, the judgments of God or even natural disasters. I spent 5 weeks there during that time, working daily in refugee camps and I never could have made it without the mighty grace of God sustaining me for what was needed to be done.

So I now say, like Jeremiah, “Neither have I desired the woeful day.” But sadly, it does seem like some believers in God here look forward to some kind of showdown with the government of the United States. Or they look forward to the fall of America. They talk about taking a militant stand against the government like it was the will of God to participate in armed conflict and that this would be the high calling of God for them and other Christians. Some really look forward to this, they “desire the woeful day.”

citizenship-in-heavenThis deeply saddens me. And I’m not just going on hearsay; I’ve been in Christian gatherings where the details and specifics of this have been discussed. I did express my sentiments that what was being talked about does not reflect Biblical Christianity and that I strongly believe that approach to be anathema to the high calling of God.

gun & Bible pictureSome think that in taking up weapons against the United States government they are defending themselves against the very forces of the Antichrist spoken of in Revelation and Daniel. This is the pitiful result of a politicized twisting of Scriptures to fit a secular political agenda and it’s amazing that so many Christians have bought in to this. I too believe in a final Antichrist and a final endtime government that he will head. But I don’t believe the present government of the United States is the final fulfillment of what Daniel and Revelation speak of.

Our job, the job of fervent and dedicated Christians of these times is to stand up as some of God’s greatest witnesses, to explain to people everywhere what is happening and what is to come.behold these Christians flat It’s not our job to overthrow our government, any more that it was the job of Peter, James and John to try to overthrow either the Roman empire of their day or the hellish Pharisaical religious system that held the Jews in its power. It was love, truth, light, miracles and the acts and witness of heaven that overthrew both the religious system of the Jews and ultimately even the secular system of the Romans. “Not by might or by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6)

If you’re being influenced to turn your attention and your hatred against our modern government and it’s failing political ploys, I sympathize with you. It’s pitiful how things are now. But our job is not to take up arms against the government or even to spend precious time fretting, fuming and hyperventilating about it all.

Our job is to give this tired old world the answer we know we have:stands at the door flat the Son of God and the judgments of God which will be poured out on this world, leading up to the worst time the world has ever known, just before the return of the Lord. If you have fallen prey to the haters, the “Christian militants” and to those who gleefully look forward to destructions to come, I suggest you powerfully pray and ask the Lord to cleanse your heart and to use you to His highest and best purpose. “Herein is my father glorified that ye bear much fruit, so shall you be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

I know God’s judgments will come on this world and nation, perhaps soon. But I don’t look forward to it. All the present conditions that so many hate in society today may someday be looked back on with longing for the relative stability of these times. The future soon to come may be unsolvable continuing chaos, leading to a hardcore martial law which will be embraced by multitudes in those times. Jeremiah prophesied of the deserved judgments of God that were imminent. But he didn’t desire the woeful day.

Walk in Newness of Life

which sins flatA few days ago I got a note from a dear Christian man in India. He wrote to ask me, “Pastor, Jesus has said, “All those who do not repent will perish”. So which are the sins we have to repent for? Should we repent for breaking the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament or should we repent of sins mentioned in the New Testament?” Doubtless it’s a sincere question he asked there, although it’s also one of those huge debate points that Christians have struggled with for centuries.

I don’t have the theological training of many years in a seminary. But I do have the experience of having “passed from death unto life” (John 5:24) through the Lord’s work of bringing me from entrenched atheism, through a series of spiritual breakings, to where I received Jesus as my Lord and savior. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” (John 1:12) By His Grace, I did that. I received Jesus and His coming into my soul, heart and life gave me power to overcome the sins that had overcome me till that time. I was “born again” (John 3:3), a “new creature in Christ Jesus” (II Corinthians 5:17).

But how does this relate or connect to what this friend wrote and asked me about? At the beginning of my new life in the Lord, I was receiving a good amount of shepherding and spiritual feeding from some young Christians who’d also recently come to the Lord, as well asreview verses flat some others who’d been raised Christians. Daily I was immersed in the Word of God through Bible studies and memorizing verses and I truly was filled with immense joy at the new life I’d received and been born into.

As far as which sins I was thinking about and aware of, either the ones mentioned in the Old Testament or the ones in the New Testament, I think the best way to describe it is that I wasn’t thinking a whole lot about either. I was very aware of sin and how my sins before my salvation experience had nearly taken my life. But once I came to the Lord, it’s like the verse, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b) Or like the verse where it says to “walk in newness of life”.  (Romans 6:4)

I wasn’t as focused on what I shouldn’t be doing and what I should be repenting of because I was much more aware of what the Lord was now showing me in His Word and all “do’s”, rather than the “don’ts”.

I was aware of the presence of the Lord through the Holy Ghost. I very much wanted to serve the Lord and obey His admonitions in the New Testament as well as the lessons and guidance found in the Old Testament. Maybe it’s like the verse “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.” (Luke 24:47)

In my coming to Him, laying my all on the altar of His service and calling, I was not just repenting of individual specific nameable sins; I was repenting of being a hopeless lost rebellious sinner. And with that repentance, He granted “remission of sins”. I wasn’t thinking about my sins anymore because I had been “delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of His Dear Son.” (Colossians 1:13)

So in my case, I was almost totally focused on trying to live the admonitions Jesus gave to His disciples. He told them to “feed His sheep” (John 21:16). He told them to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). He told them to “go and teach all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)  And most of all He told them to “love God and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22:37-39)

God will reveal-flattenedThis subject in some ways reminds me of what I very seriously went through in the first year of my Christian experience. I was intensely concerned that I didn’t miss anything the Lord wanted to show me or wanted me to do. That’s of course a good thing to be concerned about. But it my case, it got to be so much that it was a hindrance to God’s will in my life and He had to show me His view on the matter. It really changed my life. I wrote about this in “God Will Reveal”.

God wanted me to get going in newness of life, under the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit to be an ambassador for Him in this present evil world. If my focus had been on my still sinful “old man” instead of the “new man”, I would have been missing His highest and best.  This is what Paul said in Ephesians 4:22-24. “That you put off concerning the former life, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind. And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

As a saved child of God, my focus is on letting the Lord in me have His way in my life so that His Spirit can move me and guide me daily in service for Him. It’s like moving from a defensive warfare, constantly aware of our sins and which one is going to get us next, into an offensive warfare where we are alive and activated by Him to be positive witnesses for Him in this world.

Specifically, the guidelines of the Old Testament are very real and precious to me. But it’s clear from the New Testament that the binding nature of the Old Testament law is not operative for those who are saved in the Lord. “You are become dead to the law by the body of Christ”  (Romans 7:4), Acts 10 and 11 are also good chapters about that.

path aheadBut the main thing I feel that’s the answer to this friend’s question is that our awareness as born again believers shifts from a concentration on our sins to a concentration on the Lord Himself, His power, His Word, His will, His daily directions to us as we go forth with Him to win this world back to its rightful King. “You will hear a voice behind you saying ‘this is the way, walk ye in it”, when you turn to the right hand or the left.”  (Isaiah 30:21)

The Last shall be First

the first shall be last flatSometimes life is kind of funny, amazing and strange; you know what I mean? It’s like where Jesus said “Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 19:30) You think you’re on top and have arrived and then, oops! It all turns to ashes and it seems you’re left with nothing. Or maybe you think you see that in someone else’s life. “Boy, they’re ruined now. What a failure they are; I knew it all along.” It’s easy to think that about ourselves or others.

If I can get away with quoting a little Bob Dylan here in perhaps his most famous song, he sang “The slow one now will later be fast” and he went on to sing, “And don’t start talking while the wheel’s still in spin, for the times they are a changin’.” So often we think it’s “the end” (our end or someone else’s end) when it turns out to be just “a bend in the road.”

About 15 years ago I’d pretty much lost faith in myself and was at a real low point in my life. I felt like all I was good for was moving boxes, sweeping sidewalks and driving a truck. It’s sometimes hard to have faith in yourself or the Lord being able to use you when others see little or nothing in you or have much faith in you. That was part of it. But also my life in many ways just seemed to be losing its meaning and purpose. So I moved back to my home country after living many years abroad as a missionary. I got a secular job and began puttering around, just trying to get along.

same day born flatThen, during that time, happened one of the most unusual and bizarre things that ever happened to me in my life. It occurred in the middle of a Thursday night get together with some Christian friends I’d begun meeting with. I wrote about this in “Strange, Very Strange. But True.” A Las Vegas gambler would probably give odds on what happened there that night at something like around 10 million to one, if that.

Back then I didn’t even know why it happened but I guess I just felt that the Lord was ringing His bell in my life, letting me know He was still around and could do some impossible things when it fit His plan. And during that time was when the first beginnings of the video ministry with the Prophecies of Daniel started for me. I was sharing Bible classes with those folks and some others and a number of people told me, “You should video this.” So that time, when it really was like the end for me, was actually the beginning place of this video ministry which has been a real personal blessing and encouragement to me.

Im so great flatI was thinking this morning about how things like that work, how it seems at some points that some people are really way out in front, amazingly used of the Lord, full of the Holy Ghost and then some time later something seems to have happened. It’s like they’ve crashed, stumbled, fallen or laid down their crown. But sometimes it’s just that, like trees, we go through winters.

Even fruitful trees have times when they look dead. But they aren’t. However, for us humans, it can look like the end. King David knew about this. He said, “And in my prosperity I said ‘I shall never be moved.’ Lord, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong. You did withdraw your hand and I was troubled.” (Psalm 30:6 & 7)

In fact, because of his sins, God let David basically lose his kingdom and have to flee for his life with a small band of followers, being cursed by former friends along the road as he went. But David got his heart right with the Lord and kept holding on to his faith until the Lord restored him to his throne.

We all go through seasons, like the famous chapter in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3, says and which was immortalized by the popular song by The Byrds from the 1960’s:

four seasonsThere are just these cycles of life: birth, life, death and resurrection which in some ways can happen more than a few times within our lives here on earth. I think the lesson for me this morning is that this has happened in my life a good number of times. But I also need to remember that this can and does happen in the lives of others, even ones I have (Lord help and forgive me) somewhat given up on.

Some folks seem to have fallen so far and stayed there so long but that really doesn’t have to be “the end”. God is still the God of miracles and He can still “deliver from the lowest hell.” (Psalm 86:13) Sometimes the Lord lets things or people and their hearts get to be really pretty bad so that they’ll see it themselves and come to where they feel a desperate need for God. That’s what happened to me.

The first shall be last and the last first.” (Matthew 19:30) It’s not the end, just a bend in the road. “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20) and He delights in taking complete failures, twisted wasted lives and bringing them into His kingdom of light through His unimaginable, miraculous, loving touch. So, don’t give up on yourself or others. He hasn’t.

“Don’t ever ask again.”

Dont ever ask again-flattenedI was 20 years old, kneeling on the floor of my apartment in the dark at 3 AM, overwhelmed with emotion. As I wrote about in “The Radio Miracle, I’d just had a completely amazing answer to prayer, in response to my utter desperation to try to find out if God was really there. Out of nowhere my clock radio had come on and at that moment the song on the radio was saying,

“Lift up your fellow man, lend him a helping hand, Put a little love in your heart.”

Put-a-little-love-in-your-heartThe song instead could have been, “Sympathy For The Devil”, a hit song at that time. But it wasn’t. I really knew it was an answer from “outer space”, from another realm I hardly knew existed. It was an answer from God. So there on my knees I was saying, “Thank you God, thank you God.”

But then I heard a voice. Was it the voice of my mind or was it the voice of the devil?  I’d been on the devil’s frequency so long that it was almost like they’d intertwined. But clearly the thought was,devil

“That was just a coincidence. Your radio just happened to come on right then and it just happened that that song was on right then. Just happenstance.”

God pictureBut then, immediately there was another voice. I knew it wasn’t my voice or my thoughts. And that changed my life. The Voice said,

“Don’t ever ask again.” 

I wish I could let you hear how that voice sounded. Because those words themselves can sound hard or harsh. But they really, really weren’t. The voice was kind, warm, friendly and almost pleading. It was rather like I’d been in elementary school and had failed 1st grade twice.

It was like the voice of a kind, concerned father telling me that I really needed to get a grip and to get the victory in this, to get over the hump and to learn this lesson that was evidently so hard for me. What was the lesson? Unbelief.

I just over and over would default to doubt and not accept that the spiritual world was real, had worked in my life and made itself manifest on many occasions. I’d been in the grip of unbelief,UpAgainstTheWall_02-reworked even though God had really done a lot to show me that the world of His Spirit is real. If you want just one example of that among many, you can read about how God supernaturally warned me moments before the police raided my apartment about a year before what I’m talking about here. I wrote about that in “Up Against the Wall!

God was lovingly charging me and instructing me to not keep asking if it was all real. It was. And this was it; it was time to accept that His explanation for things, His way of seeing things, was the real one and the more powerful one, the truest explanation of the world I lived in. I was of course really shocked to hear those words. But also it sunk so deep in my heart that I really shouldn’t keep defaulting to my doubts which had been so entrenched in my heart for so many years.

The Bible talks about “besetting sins” (Hebrews 12:2). My besetting sin had been unbelief. And God wanted me to come to where I accepted what He’d been showing me and to repent of my doubting, to stop doubting and to come firmly down on the side of belief in Him and all that He has done and said.

Happily for me, that experience and those words changed my life. I made a real commitment right then to turn away from the reflex to doubt that had gripped me for so long. It was something I had to do. I had to resist those thoughts and recognize that it just wasn’t true. What was true was that there is a God, there is a spiritual world, and there is a devil. I had to adjust my life to these new realities that I’d discovered. It was a huge and total break with the life I’d had till that time.

As it says so clearly and so many times in the Bible, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him. For he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) If you know much about God’s Word, you know how much importance He attaches to simply believing Him. All the way back 4000 years ago, “Abraham believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

“Good works” are important. Helping the poor, loving your neighbor, not being selfish. But the rock bottom essential in our spiritual lives comes down to belief in God, acknowledging that He is real, He is there, not just in our minds, not just as a concept but as a real Essence and Being, a Spirit that we can’t really understand and can’t see but whose spiritual world and working is all around us.

Thankfully I can say that I don’t think I’ve had that problem any more since that time. I haven’t battled doubt about the existence of God and the spiritual world. And that acceptance of faith and heeding His personal commandment to me to not doubt has been part of the foundation stone of the wonderful, incredible life of service for God that I’ve experienced since that time.


fight distractions flatI was trying to have my morning prayer time, something I often do by going out somewhere in nature.  But this morning, as has happened at other times, it was a real battle to focus on prayer and not to be distracted.

I’ve recently moved and now am able to go out in a secluded wooded area, away from the bustle of the city. You would think that would be a great place to pray and I suppose it is. So the problem isn’t with the surroundings, it’s me. I seem to get easily distracted. “Oh, look at that butterfly! Those trees need pruning. The clouds are nice today.” Just on and on it goes. Repeatedly I have to snap out of it and turn my attention back to why I came out there: to pray and “pour out my heart before Him.” (Psalm 62:8)

lead and guide me flatMaybe my problem is that things are more or less going OK right now, that I’m not face to face with some ominous crisis. That may be a part of it. Sometimes situations you’re facing can drive you to desperate prayer. But what about when you need to do today what you did yesterday and will be doing for probably a few more weeks and months? Well, we still need to pray. We still need to “in all our ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:6) We need to “commit our way unto the Lord, trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5)

It’s just so easy to lapse into lethargy and it can often begin with our prayer life. Jesus said to His disciples at perhaps the most desperate hour of His life, “Can you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) But they were asleep in the garden of Gethsemane while it says of the Lord in prayer, “and being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat was it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)

Maybe we don’t “feel” like praying, maybe we’re tempted to think of it as drudgery or some kind of daily ritual we’re called to. But this can all be so much clearer if we shine the light of the Word on it. When I was going out to pray this morning, a verse came to me that I’d reviewed earlier. “Through desire, a man having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddeth with all wisdom.” (Proverbs 18:1) I’ve heard folks say that verse is talking about something bad, separation from God and going after evil wisdom. But it equally can be taken the other way.

watch and pray flatHaving a desire to get alone with the Lord and to connect with Him, we separate ourselves from the world around us and its distractions so that we can seek and intermeddle with the wisdom, love and Spirit of God. That was my verse I claimed as I went out to pray today. But it was a battle. Another verse that came to me was what the Lord told His disciples when He said to them, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

Temptation? You mean one of them had brought a bottle of whiskey or some other sin of the flesh? I don’t think so. I think the temptation was the same kind I was facing in our garden here this morning. Distractions, lethargy, fainting in our minds. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10) And that “day of adversity” doesn’t only have to be when you’re faceing ISIS or your neighbor’s dog.

It’s a battle every day with our besetting sins, the “weights and sins that do so easily beset us.” (Hebrews 12:2) And one of those besetting sins is to just grow weary in well doing, to get our eyes off the Lord and the goal before us. “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, (Proverbs 29:12) and in some ways it takes vision to take prayer time.

For me that vision is strengthened and enhanced by quoting the Word of God I have memorized. Otherwise I will just stroll along, doing my own thing and thinking my own vain thoughts. King David said, “I hate vain thoughts, but your law do I love.” (Psalm 119:113) Or it’s like Paul said, “Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. ” (II Corinthians 10:5) That says a lot there, bringing every thought into captivity. Maybe that’s what that verse in the Old Testament meant when it said, “He did evil because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.” (II Chronicles 12:14) We have to not only get in prayer; we have to get in the Spirit.

dont have to pray flatIt can all seem tedious. The devil and our own carnal mind can tell us that this isn’t really so important. “What you’re doing today doesn’t really have to be prayed about. You can handle this on your own.” Boy, what a lie. The Lord said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)  Well, we can do a lot of wrong and useless things. But to do His Will, we need His strength and power.

So even if this day may look a lot like the one yesterday, it still needs to be hemmed in at the beginning and end with focused, undistracted prayer. Lord help me, I’m almost writing this to myself as much as I am to anyone else. These are things I need to really remember, do and hold on to. I hope it’s something that others may be facing and need help with as well.

Turning Back

will you also flatThere is an incredible joy in becoming a Christian, I certainly experienced that and continue to experience it. But most of us know that there also can be some serious times of difficulty, challenges and even wrenching heartbreaks that come in our life along the road of faith. One of the heartbreaks that I’ve experienced a lot in recent years is seeing dear brethren in the Lord who’ve turned back from their convictions and life of faith they once held and are now no longer believers or who are overcome and defeated with “the affairs of this life.” (II Timothy 2:4)

It’s a bit of a delicate subject. Jesus said to the self-righteous religionists, “He that is without sin, cast the first stone.” (John 8:7) So definitely the idea here isn’t to cast stones and condemn those who, for whatever reason, have “cast away their confidence” (Hebrews 10:35) in the Lord, His Word and the life we’ve been given.

Demas has forsaken flatBut it is heartbreaking. It’s even discouraging to have contact with ones who once were not just believers but soul winners, disciple-makers and missionaries at the ends of the earth who now question the basic tenets of the Bible and have sunk back into the morass of humanity and the mire of the multitude. Paul said in one place, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” (II Timothy 4:10) Or like it says in the Old Testament, “The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.” (Psalm 78:9)

It’s almost like being in one of those dreams where you see someone in mortal danger and you try to reach out to them or rescue them. But, in your dream, you can’t reach them or save them from their plight. I suppose it’s similar to what solders experience in the heat of war when a comrade falls at their side. Except this is not exactly the same because it may be closer to what the Bible says about being “wearied and faint in your mind.”  (Hebrews 12:3) Or even what happened with John the Baptist and Jesus.

are you he flatJohn the Baptist was the herald and forerunner of Jesus, preparing the way before Him. But something must have happened because he later sent his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you He that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3) It’s hard to read that any other way than that John had really fallen back from his faith in Jesus. So the Lord said to “go show John again those things which you see, the blind see, the lame walk, the dead are raised.” (Matthew 11:4 & 5) And then the clincher, “And blessed is he who is not offended in Me.” (Matthew 11:6)

Evidently something the Lord did or said must have offended John the Baptist. And in our times as well something can happen that offends us, something we never thought would happen.  “Surely the Lord wouldn’t let that happen!” But it did. And we are offended, stumbled and sometimes, if we don’t get back to standing on the Rock and trusting Him, it can take us all the way out of our realm of faith rewards in heaven-flattenedand land us in the outer darkness of unbelief. It happens to a lot of people, maybe you know some. That may be why the Lord said, “Hold fast to what you have that no man take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11)

Paul wrote a whole epistle which was around this theme, to the Galatians. “Oh foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1) Some “false brethren” had come to the Galatians after Paul had left them and had sown major doubts and questions about the faith and freedom Paul told them they had in the Lord. Repeatedly in Galatians you can see Paul trying to restore these ones back to the foundation he’d laid for them which had been challenged and attacked by “brethren.”  “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19)

I dont believe flatIt’s an ongoing occupational hazard of being a disciple of the Lord to have ones you love and who stood with you on the battlefronts of the Lord to somehow later turn back from their faith and convictions and to even be used of the enemy at times to try to sow doubt in your mind that has entered theirs.

And I can hear some say, “Well, they just got tired or discouraged”. There’s a difference between that and turning back on the Lord. I know a lot of people in their 60’s who can’t carry the physical load they once did but who still are keeping the faith. Some are even witnessing in parks and on the streets, doing what they can, even when their bodies can’t do as much as they did before.

Prodical sonIs there a happy ending to this? I don’t know. We can hope and pray that some of these will be like the prodigal son and return to the Father’s house and their original calling. But perhaps for all of us, it’s good to remember the admonition, “Cast not away your confidence which has great recompense of reward.” (Hebrews 10:35) “Now the just shall live by faith, but if any man draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:38)

We all need encouragement and the help and love from fellow brethren. It is a battle and the darkness deepens steeply in our times. My prayer and hope is that each person reading this will keep the faith and continue to be a helper of others in order that we continue to let our lights shine before men as we lift Him up and all will be drawn to the Lord.

Consumer, Citizen or Disciple?

People in America nowadays are often referred to as “consumers”. That sort of bothers me. When I read in history books about how folks in times past thought, it doesn’t seem like they viewed humanity as consumers. Certainly I didn’t get that feeling from my grandparents and their families.

If you go a little back in history, people more often thought of themselves as “citizens”. This was a popular term in the times of the French Revolution and the first generations of the United States. People more and more realized their individuality and the need to participate in their society as citizens. Still in our times people talk about being citizens.

Certainly my parents’ generation was strong on the idea of our democracy and the equality and rights of the citizens of this country. It seems like it’s only been in the last 30 years maybe that the concept of seeing ourselves as “consumers” has come to compete with our sense of being a citizen.

But there was a time when neither of these concepts was supreme. In times past the vision of being a disciple was what was esteemed to be the highest identity we should espouse to. Let’s face it, even the word “disciple” itself is pretty out of vogue nowadays. Sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? “Disciple.” Really old fashion and rather suspect.

hogsBut how about that? What should be our priorities? How do you feel about being considered a “consumer”?  lt makes me think of hogs jostling around a trough. Sickening thought? Yes. But isn’t that how a lot of modern living in the consumer society is becoming?

carnaval barker flat“Your responsibility is to consume things in order to help boost the economy. You’ll find satisfaction and fulfillment in your next acquisition, your next huge meal at the restaurant, purchase of a new gadget or whatever material fulfillment has captured your heart!”

That’s the bottom line that is pandered incessantly in our times. And unless you make a conscious effort to turn away from that vision, it will claim your heart and that’s what you’ll be: a consumer. You might say, “What else is there?” Well, for centuries one thing came first for a large part of this world: discipleship. The concept of being followers, disciples of God, and specifically of Jesus Christ.

George WashingtonNow your reaction may be, “Oh but they were all hypocrites! There were all those wars!” You can sure get that impression if you read many books on the subject, written in our times. But if you read others, especially older ones or histories written in those times, you may be struck by the devotion and single-mindedness that comes across as being so prevalent then.

praying peopleHypocrites? There always have been those. Wars? When and where have there not been wars? But again and again from reading history (or even the contact I remember with my aged relatives from when I was little) it’s how their faith in God, their desire to seek the ways of God and to keep their heart right with Him, in a good spirit, this was the paramount ideal to so many then.

And it often impresses me when I compare it to how we are taught to be today. If we all do our best to be good consumers, is that going to make a better world for everyone? Or if our goal is only to be a good citizen, how’s that going to help when we meet people of another culture, country or faith?

There was a time in my life when I really was a consumer. Also I thought the end goal was to be a good citizen and make a better society. But both of those things, through no effort on my part, came to where they were “weighed in the balances and found wanting” my eyes. (Daniel 5:27) But discipleship, to be a follower of God and Jesus of Nazareth has been my quest and the beacon before me for over 40 years now. And I’m so glad for that.

Consumerism, nationalism and citizenship are all systems of thought that inherently are weak and fail because they fail to acknowledge the essential truth of our existence. We’re not merely physical or social beings, we are spirits and souls who are made to love and live in the light of the God of Abraham and His Son. Anything short of that is doomed to failure.

run to GodBut truly loving and following God is destined to find a happy ending. If you’re unfulfilled by materialism or disappointed with politics, I suggest you establish a relationship with the one true God. There’s real fulfillment in that.