Hawks and doves (Part 1)

hawk&dove-flattenedAn hour ago I was on a walk, something I often do after getting back from church. Suddenly I started flaying my arms wildly as it sounded like a flock of birds was flying right at me. Then I saw that a dove or quail had been in some cactus right next to the sidewalk I was on and had taken off as I passed by. It flew into some bushes a few yards away and was followed closely by a small hawk.

The hawk perched on the eve of a house, directly above the bush where the dove was. This was surprising and looked interesting. I walked up the sidewalk and stood there to see what would happen. Basically nothing happened for several minutes. Standing there, I was thinking about the whole thing. Hawks stay alive by killing things. That’s just the nature of hawks. And of course the dove had been hiding from the hawk probably down in the cactus I’d just walked by and was simply trying to stay alive. I found myself sympathizing with the dove, although I understood the hawk’s viewpoint. I thought about shooing the hawk off but I would have had to walk into someone’s yard to do that. Also it wasn’t really essential that I get involved with this, even though my thoughts were with the dove.

I walked on down to the park, took my prayer time and walked back home. As I walked back by where the hawk and dove had been, I noticed that the hawk was gone. No feathers were on the yard or around. So my guess is that the hawk got tired of waiting for the dove to fly out of the bush and it went off, seeking better game.

I walked back home, thinking about my experiences at church today and in the last months. And I was thinking some about the hawk and the dove. There was the hawk, trying to prey upon the dove. And I was thinking if any of this was significant and maybe why the Lord let that happen right in front of me.

And the thought came to me that this was all a bit of an allegory of how some things are in some churches and in Christianity right now. Jesus said to His followers, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) When the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, it was said to be like a dove. (Luke 3:22) Often God’s people are pictured as sheep but sometimes they are pictured as doves. Jesus called them “harmless”. So I suppose a real church or gathering of the people of God should be somewhat like a flock of doves, harmless, together and free. But from this experience today that the Lord was letting me have, I do have to admit that some churches I’ve been to are like that dove in the bush with the hawk just above it.

In 2010 in Houston, Texas, after returning from a lifetime of missionary service abroad, I was somewhat desperate to find a home church. I ended up going to a large evangelical church in north Houston, hoping to find Christian friends to connect with. The first Sunday the sermon was pretty good. I went on to the adult Sunday school, somewhat wandering in as someone new, a guest. Before the meeting was started, a woman began talking to me about President Obama. She went on and on about how he was just the same as the former dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu. Others from the class were standing around as she talked to me, a visitor.

As a missionary, I was in Bucharest, Romania for four months in early 1992, at a time when the social upheavals in Romania were still very much in flux. For much of my life, Eastern Europe had been the field I was called to. So to compare our President to a Communist dictator was not something I felt comfortable with, either factually, or emotionally.

Also it was heartbreaking that this was a well known evangelical church, with the latest in facilities, its own school and thousands of attendees. I was someone who was really seeking for a Christian family and then I was set upon as soon as I entered a Sunday school by a radical political agenda. I tried another Sunday school group in the same church next week. Again the Sunday school theme of the hour was also dominated by a strong political agenda, with much in the way of disparaging comments about those of the opposite view.

“The hawks” were preying on “the doves”. I ended up ceasing my search for a church home in Houston. Probably if I’d looked and looked, I could have found something. But I had a demanding job and also I felt still called to work on the series of videos that have finally been hosted now on a web site.

But even here in Austin I find  “hawks”, people in the congregation I go to who feel that the body of Christ is the place to recruit and propagate their strongly political, worldly message on Sunday mornings. I don’t begrudge people having their political views. I was brought up in a very politically minded family and there’s a time and a place for that. But I am a dove and that’s what Jesus called His followers.  I don’t want to be attacked by hawks in church on Sunday morning.

(How about you? Have any thoughts about “hawks and doves”? I love to hear from you about it. You can use the reply box below. God bless you!)

Harden not your heart

harden not your heart-edited-flattenedIn Psalm 95, King David tells us, “Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”  Many people in our times may not even know what that means, to “harden your heart”. Or, if they do, they may think of it as something they should do, instead of not do.

Growing up in Texas (and perhaps it’s the same in any place and any age) it was really not cool to cry. Men don’t cry. It was a sign of weakness, a lack of manhood. But for me, as much as I would try not to, it would still happen from time to time. I won’t go into the details; sometimes it would involve the cruelty of some people. Or sometimes it was personal disappointment with myself. But it disgusted me that I’d still cry from time to time. I wasn’t a Christian and I didn’t believe in God. I was just a normal, worldly young guy and the image you look up to is utter coolness, and actual coldness and hardness.

I saw a movie starring Paul Newman when I was about 20 and it nearly drove me crazy. At the end of the movie the star had hurt and crushed virtually everyone in his family and in his life. The closing scene was of him knocking back the last of a beer with a cold, cruel, emotionless grin on his face. I just couldn’t accept that there was such hardness and lack of emotion and empathy in a person and it had a strong impact on me.

But when I came to the Lord and the light of Christianity, I had a whole new way of looking at things. I found that my weakness, having at least somewhat of a tender heart, was not a weakness or a sign of a lack of masculinity. In the eyes of God it was a good thing. I found that King David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart Thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) New Humility picture-flattenedBrokenness, humility, malleableness, these are things that are of value and are esteemed in the kingdom of God. An obscure but amazing verse in Isaiah says, “Thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity. I dwell in the high and lofty place with him that is of a humble and contrite spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Isaiah 57:15)

How utterly, utterly different that is from the values of the world around us. There the goal is to harden your heart to where nothing and no one matters to you at all. Utter hardness, utter coldness. But in God’s eyes, this is just the fruit and work of a stubborn willful soul, unwilling to be broken in order to have the love and healing balm of His truth and power to flood into us and make of us warm, compassionate people that we should be. It’s also called “resisting the Holy Ghost”. (Acts 7:51) God doesn’t force Himself on us. He entreats, He implores, He asks and He presents. But we have to accept. On the other hand, we don’t have to accept. In fact so many people don’t. They harden their hearts. They resist the Holy Ghost. people do that and have done that all their lives. And they are proud of it.

Jesus said, “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken. But on whomsoever it fall, it will ground him to powder.” (Matthew 21:44) He was speaking of Himself. We are to fall on Him, to allow ourselves to be broken, to come to the end of ourselves, to even weep in prayer and in crying out to Him to work in our hearts. It really doesn’t sound very modern or cool or manly, does it?

But what happens if we don’t. He says, “On whomsoever it [the Stone] shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” It’s actually the same image as what Daniel saw in interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel chapter 2, verses 34 and 35. It’s a picture of a Stone “cut out without hands” crushing all the kingdoms of man and the kingdoms of this world and grinding them to powder.

Its your problem-flattenedThe proud, the haughty, the hardened of heart, the resisters of the Holy Spirit, resisters of love and of truth, resisters of mercy and compassion, will ultimately suffer an awful fate of seeing their hardened hearts be nothing but ashes. Then the verse will be fulfilled, “the meek shall inherit the earth and delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psalm 37:14)

Do you have a tender heart? Does hardened, hateful cruelty and coldness sicken you? That’s a good sign, no matter who or what tells you otherwise.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas

Just a short personal note here, I’d like to wish you a happy, joyful, faith-filed Christmas. The very fact that I can be doing a post on a blog like this is like a little miracle, something that was only a distant hope or dream last Christmas. I know in my heart I really have a lot to be thankful for. I’m in my 60’s now and my parents are up into their 90’s and they are still hanging in there. So it’s been a wonderful year for me, perhaps one of the best I’ve had.

If you keep up with the news, current events and the world around us in these times, there’s so much to be saddened about, to feel afraid of or to be furious about. I was brought up in a family of activists in political and social matters. Then, when I went from being an atheist to being a Christian, that same activism carried over into a life of Christian service abroad for 36 years. But still, when I see the fear, the confusion, the tragedy, the lies and misinformation that are so endemic in society today, it is a struggle at times to keep my eyes on the Lord.

But then, He has the best ideas and solutions because He really is real and is more concerned about all these things and more able than we are. And I remain determined to try to do what I can to be used by Him to bring truth and change to this world, as He leads. May God help us all to focus in prayer all the more this coming year and to commit our time and energies to His Highest and best, perhaps as never before.

It was said in the Bible of one obscure woman , “she has done what she could.” That’s my prayer: that I can know in my heart in the coming year that I have done what I could, for Him and for my neighbors, the people of this world. I pray that the same can be said for you too: you’ve done what you could.

Best wishes for a great Christmas and an amazing New Year.

Your friend in Him,

Mark McMillion

Fields newsletters

In 2003 I moved abroad again after of living in Austin, Texas for 2½ years. I’d been living outside the US for most of my adult life before that and was in need of a break, as well as time with my family. But the Lord led me again to “go into all the world” for Him, this time to far off Indonesia.

I wanted to stay in contact with friends and it worked out that I was able to start a series of newsletters which I would send to friends back in the States and elsewhere. I’ll include here the first Fields newsletter I did, which was completed shortly before I left for Indonesia in early 2003.

Greetings and God bless you. My name is Mark McMillion and I’m preparing to move abroad after being in Austin for the last 2½ years. It’s certainly been a wonderful time here in many ways, with new friends and new experiences. But over recent months I have been feeling the Lord’s tug on my heart to move back to the way of life that He called me to live for around 30 years, before I came back to Texas in 2000.

So I wanted to put this newsletter together for some of you who have gotten to know me here, to let you know a little more about my hopes and plans. Also I’ll add a few pictures from years past when I was living outside the US and was involved in full time Christian service. My hope is that this newsletter will be the beginning of something I can continue to send to you from my new field, in order to keep in contact with those of you who I have gotten to know and grow close to while here

I thought to call this newsletter “Fields”. Jesus used this analogy several times, saying in one place, “…the field is the world…”. He sends us to sow and share freely the seed of the love and the gospel of God. I’ll add some pictures here next of some of the foreign fields He’s allowed me to go and do the work of a sower of the Word over the years.

FIELDS OF THE PAST

I don’t have many pictures of my early years. But it was often spent on the streets in personal talks with other young people in places like Hollywood Boulevard and Greenwich Village, or in similar places in London, Amsterdam or Copenhagen.

Here’s a photo from 1976 when I was talking with a young girl in a fishing village in northwest Denmark. Yes, that’s me with the Bible, she has a gospel tract in hand, and I have hair too!

In 1986 I moved from Europe to central India, along with my sons Andrew, JJ and Ariel.  During this time I home schooled the boys as well as some children of other friends we knew and worked with in the area. We spent the next year and a half there in a variety of ways. At times we went door to door to meet people and present Christian material. Or we would use the boys’ musical skills in small performances or when we went to schools like this one in Andra Pradesh in the next picture. It was all not without incident. But it might come as a surprise to some how much of a blessed time this was and how much we felt the Lord’s favor and protection.

At the end of this time, doors began to close for us there. We moved back, somewhat sadly, to Scandinavia, the area my former wife is from. Unbeknownst to us, the Lord all the while was working to have us back in Europe just as the doors to Eastern Europe would open at the fall of Communism in 1989. Central and Eastern Europe had been our vision and calling in the late 70’s and early 80’s and it was with great joy we were able to go back there again. From 1990 to 1998 almost my full time was spent there and in Russia.

In this picture I’m at the Nagyatad refugee camp in southern Hungary in 1994. With me is a Christian sister, Rebecca. She is from Sarajevo in Bosnia. The conflict in the region brought 1000’s of refugees pouring over the borders and we daily visited this abandoned Russian military camp, full of Bosnians of an Islamic background.

The couple with me in this picture were considered the elders of the camp. The woman was an Islamic religious woman and much respected. In the camp there had been a refugee who was deeply troubled emotionally and spiritually and no one could help her. Through our council and prayers the woman was delivered. So this Muslim matriarch recognized God’s power working through us and told the ones in the camp that we should be accepted there.

One day Rebecca and I talked with a dozen young Bosnia men. They’d been in the Bosnian army but they told us they’d mostly been roving bands of undisciplined irregulars, killing and being killed. I prayed desperately to know what to say to these men who’d recently been through such trauma and had witnessed the death of their wives and children. One of them is in the picture at the right.

With Rebecca translating, the Lord led me to talk to them about forgiveness. My own time of divorce and losing my family came to mind. It was not the same as they had experienced. But it was when I needed to call out to God to help me not allow bitterness and revenge to take hold of my heart. They listened and responded as we opened our lives to each other. It was a few hours of heart-to-heart talk among people who had been deeply wounded and needed to find a way out. I’ve prayed that the seed sown there and elsewhere in that region will grow to a new generation of people who will break the cycle of hatred and war.

FIELDS OF THE FUTURE

Last September I visited some Christian friends in Indonesia and they’ve encouraged me to help them in the work they do. While I was there we visited this school in Jakarta for street children that they help regularly. The students are not orphans but their parents are too poor to provide an education for them. That day we delivered crates of pasta, sacks of rice and several used computers which businesses had given us to pass on to poorer schools like these. It’s a predominately Muslim country of 240 million people but there is also a large minority of Christians. I had several meaningful evenings of Bible study with people there, similar to ones I’ve had here in Austin with some of you.

This is the country I feel the Lord is leading me to, to be a help to the ones I know there and to return, God helping me, to a life of more fulltime Christian service.

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I stayed in Indonesia for nearly 5 years and it was an incredible, blessed experience. In future posts on the blog here I will be adding more of these Fields newsletters that were written while I was there.

The Daniel Videos

A special interest for me over the years has been the subject of Bible prophecy. Having grown up as an atheist, discovering Bible prophecy after I became a Christian was an astonishing experience. Knowing that God has a plan and ultimate destination for mankind (and that He’s revealed that plan through His prophets) has been such a deep wellspring of fascination and strength for me. And it’s been a thrill for me over the years to share with others the truths I’ve found when studying Bible prophecy.

Daniel explains the dream to Nebuchadnezzar, from the Daniel Chapter 2 video

Around 10 years ago someone said to me, “You should video these classes you teach about the book of Daniel.” That was the beginning of a new stage in my life. Till now I have completed three videos and they are now available to view on the companion website to this one, propheciesofdaniel.com.