Cannot come down

RH-NehemiahOnWallOne of the more stirring verses in the Bible to me is what Nehemiah said to his sly enemies from the walls of Jerusalem in the 5th century B.C. “I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should I come down to you and the work cease?” It probably sounded unreasonable, extreme, perhaps unsociable. But Nehemiah was not only filled with a vision and conviction about what he was called to do. He also knew how to recognize distractions and subtle attempts to get him away from God’s highest and best.

In approximately 440 BC, Nehemiah was governor of a weakened, distressed Jerusalem. He had been sent there by the Artaxerxes, King of Persia, who ruled over the land that had been Israel, as well as much of what we today call the Middle East.

Jerusalem destroyed; 586 BC

Jerusalem destroyed; 586 BC

Nehemiah was a pious Jew who was part of the Jewish diaspora. Most of the surviving Jews had lived mainly in Babylon and later Persia, since the conquest of Judah by Babylon in 586 BC. Around 516 BC, some of the Jews who had been carried away to Babylon (as well as ones born there during their seventy year captivity) began to return to their capital, Jerusalem. But it was in ruins, a virtual ghost town compared to the glory that it had been in the hundreds of years before its destruction.

The Jews return to Jerusalem

The Jews return to Jerusalem

Nehemiah, who was the cup bearer of king Artaxerxes, received permission from the Persian king to go back to Jerusalem and serve as the governor of the people there. His specific vision was to restore and build the walls of the city. This held much significance in those days, similar like to today when a conquered people are allowed to rearm and defend themselves to some degree, after having been subjugated and stripped of their rights by the nation which defeated them.

While the book of Nehemiah is a history book and not considered especially spiritual in content, there are some key verses which show that the returned Jews were a chastened, humbled, believing people, focused on living repentant lives in obedience to the God of Abraham. Even a little verse like Nehemiah 4:6 “For the people had a mind to work” is like a short glimpse into the reformed, regenerated soul of the inhabitants of Jerusalem as they banded together in thankfulness that God had allowed them, as He had promised He would, to return to their homeland.

But where there is faith, reverence and obedience to God, the Devil is always going about in one form or the other to try to destroy God’s plan and His people. This is a constant throughout history and it’s shown in an amazing way in the book of Nehemiah. We often think of Satan “going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” ( I Peter 5:8). But believe it or not, more often the Devil will go about as a sly, slithering serpent.

In the book of Nehemiah, the enemies of God never openly, physically attacked the fragile remnant of the Jews who were attempting to fortify their city. Instead, it was all with words. Doubts, fears, questions, accusations, whatever might be thrown against their faith was tried by the local enemies of Israel in an attempt to defeat the faith and reborn convictions of the Jews.

And often this is the Devil’s first line of attack. If he can dissuade you from obeying God through fear, confusion, doubt or whatever it takes to turn you away from your faith and obedience, then he doesn’t need to try any kind of physical attack on you. He can just lie to you. And if you believe the lie, rather than God’s Word, Satan has won and you and God have lost.

In Nehemiah chapter 6, the local enemies of the Jews wanted Nehemiah to “come down into the plain of Ono and talk to us.” (Nehemiah 6:2) Their cunning line of reasoning was, “Let’s talk this over, Nehemiah! Be reasonable; we are your friends and you need to listen to us!” Well, don’t get me wrong, there can certainly be a time to listen to people and discuss things. But in this case, Nehemiah knew that these enemies at the gate were utterly and totally “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15).

So Nehemiah boldly told them, “I’m doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I come down and talk to you?” Nehemiah was not tricked and duped by the deceit of the Devil. He wasn’t sidetracked and tripped off into a trap, lured by the lies of the Lucifer.

And those words, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down” are ones that we can claim, remember and even quote back to the Devil if need be when we are being besieged by temptations and allurements, doubts, fears and confusion that the Enemy of God throws at us daily to try to get us to cast away our confidence, surrender our joy and lose our crown to the words of Satan and the wisdom that is not of God. Don’t come down from the wall of God’s will and high calling into the “plain of Ono”!

No Millennium?

MilleniumBlack&White-flattenedA few days ago I had a brief dialog with a missionary friend of mine in Europe about the subject of the Millennium. He wrote this:

Millennium – a word not found in your Bible, denoting a mythical time period somewhere in the far future when all we don’t have faith for now will suddenly happen as if by magic…

So I wrote a note back to him:

While the literal word “Millennium” is not in the Bible, just as the word “Rapture” is also not there, Revelation chapter 20 does specifically refer six times to a period of 1000 years of Christ’s reign on earth…

And he wrote back:

Neither Jesus nor the apostles preached a millennial gospel . . . No other scriptures [other than the ones in the book of Revelation] speak of a temporary kingdom to be set up when Christ returns . . . The Millennium was not a part of Jesus’ gospel…

So I decided to leave it at that for right then.

But it did certainly get me thinking. As a Christian and Bible teacher, I definitely believe in the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. If any of us are believers at all, we’ve prayed the prayer He taught us to pray which includes, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  (Matthew 6:10) We who love the Lord have that kingdom in our hearts already. But is it really here on earth right

In other posts such as “Did He Really Say That?” I’ve gone into the sayings of Jesus where He clearly stated that He was going away, but that He would return here. One simple and clear place to see this is in John 14: 1-3.

Personally, I feel uneasy about beginning to dismantle and dismembered the Word of God. Since God’s plan has always been a progressive unfolding of the truth, I find no problem at all with the book of Revelation having a more complete and detailed explanation of the future than what we find in the Gospels.

If we are to remove Revelation 20 from the Bible, shall we also take the next two chapters away, the last ones in the Bible? These two talk about the “New Heaven and the New Earth” which are to come at the end of the Millennium, talked about in Revelation 20. And then we find back in the Old Testament that Isaiah foretold the same thing perhaps 800 years before the writing of Revelation, speaking of the coming “…new heavens and the new earth…” in Isaiah 66:22.

In my video on Daniel Chapter 2, I emphasis what seems to be the highpoint of that chapter, verse 44, which says:

“In the days of these kings, the God of Heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. And the kingdom shall not be left to other peoples, but it shall crush and destroy all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. “

Then in the video on Daniel Chapter 7, again this coming kingdom on earth is highlighted in verse 27 which says:

“And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”

Elsewhere in Revelation, not just in chapter 20, it talks about a coming of God’s kingdom on earth immediately after the Second Coming of the Lord. In Revelation 11:15 it says “…the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and Savior…”, which is at the time of the 7th trumpet. In Revelation 5:10 the 24 elders say “…you’ve made us unto our God, kings and priests, and we shall rule on the earth.”

No Rain picture-flattenedThere are oodles more Scriptures like this. Isaiah saw “…the lion shall lay down with the lamb…” (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25) and “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares…” (Isaiah 2:4). Or in Zachariah 14: 9-17 where those being ruled on earth during the Millennium by the Lord and His people will receive no rain if they refuse and rebel from His rule.

To say that Jesus never mentioned a 1000 year rule on earth is what is called “arguing from silence.” In other words, “He never said it personally Himself on earth so it must not be true.” Jesus doesn’t have to have said it personally Himself for it to be true. There are all kinds of things He never personally talked about when He was on earth. But they are found elsewhere throughout the Bible.

So I am going to stick to what I believe is taught in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. There’s even a pretty sober warning at the end of Revelation about all this. It says And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:19) Seems like John the Beloved’s Revelation, which is actually “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1), is not something we are suppose to discard.

Miracles Per Hour

Miracles Per Hour-flattenedI was thinking tonight about the idea of “miracles per hour”. I’d just told one of the teachers at school about what happened to me last week. I wrote up that and posted it here under the title “God’s Little Miracles.” So she said, “Wow, you were really lucky.” That’s often how people look at such things when they don’t have a life based on faith in God.

But it got me thinking about what happened last week. It wasn’t luck, it was a miracle. And I thought about how I’ve been in places where the “miracles per hour” were pretty high. But in other places and at other times, there really didn’t seem to be very many miracles happening at all.

And I sort of envisioned some place in the heavenlies where the “Angels’ Regional Command Center” is, or even the local command. It’s pretty clear from the Bible that there are different ranks and orders of angels and I can only assume they must have organization and communications of all kinds. And I assume angels must even be able to measure quite a lot of things that we hardly even have names for. Do you think they have some gauge somewhere that measures “miracles per hour”? Do they determine between “miracles that were recognized” and the ones that went unrecognized?

Let’s face it, there are oodles of miracles every day that we don’t recognize or that don’t appear to us as miracles. I drive 30 miles a day on one of the busiest highways in the US. Every day I get home safely, I know it’s because of the protection of the angels of God. All the things that don’t happen every day, the crazy drivers we don’t encounter, the germs that don’t take root in our bodies, so many things are part of God’s supernatural protect which we don’t usually acknowledge or even think about.flat tire picture-flattened

But at other times in my life, I’ve been in situations where there was a pretty high “miracles per hour” reading. And that’s fascinating to me. Why are some  times and places seemingly more spiritual than others?  I spent the summer of 1971 witnessing daily on the streets of Berkley, California and it was one of the most spiritual times, full of miracles, that I’ve ever experienced. The “miracles per hour” were really high and the friends I worked with back then just almost took it for granted that miracles would happen that day. The spiritual world just seemed much closer and more real, regularly manifesting itself, both the good spirits of God and the evil spirits of Satan. So many people were coming to crises and life-changing experiences at that time and for those of us who were working for the Lord, it was a very busy time. And I think the angels and their local and regional commanders were really busy, really working overtime, if that’s the right way to express it, because there were lots of spiritual manifestations back then. Another time like that for me was eastern Europe in the 1990’s.

In the early church, it says at times “many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.”  (Acts 4:23, 5:12, 14:3) It must have been that miracles were almost commonplace and just expected daily, because they were happening so often. The “miracles per hour” meter at the angels’ office was really buzzing. Maybe they have one to register “recognized miracles” too? Miracle car picture-flattenedThose are the ones that not only help people but they’re also recognized by folks here in this world and we’re struck with awe at the power of God and our faith is increased, often dramatically.

But equally, and sadly, it seems our unbelief has almost a power to halt the Lord’s miracle working power. It says of Jesus, “He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”  (Matthew 13:58) Think of it. Jesus Himself was hindered by the unbelief he encountered in some people. But when He was to do some of His greatest miracles, He put everyone out of the room except Peter, James and John, His closest disciples with the greatest faith. (See Luke 8: 51-54) He created an atmosphere of faith around Him. Of course with Jesus the “miracles per hour” were just at the maximum since it was the Lord Himself here on earth in His ministry. But the early apostles carried on the ministry of miracles. And if you know anything of some of the great people of God after that, Saint Patrick for example or St. Francis and many other lesser know people of God, miracles were a regular part of their lives.

So often we’re like the ones of old, “their eyes were closed” (Luke 24:16) and we just don’t recognize and see spiritually what’s happening right in front of us: an astounding act of God. But He’s still very much the God of miracles. And you may find yourself in situations sometimes where the “miracles per hour” at the local angels’ headquarters is really rising. God bless you with faith for, and the eyes to see, miracles.

 

Teaching in Jakarta

After a year in Jakarta, I made a trip back home to the US in the spring of 2004. Then, back again in Indonesia, I made this Fields newsletter which highlighted the classes I’d been having with young people there. And these ones I had classes with were themselves learning to be teachers and ministers to their own people.

Hello and greetings yet again. It’s been around 6 months since the last Fields newsletter and I’ve visited quite a number of you in Europe and Texas during that time. In April I traveled from Jakarta to Sweden to see my kids and former wife. The two weeks I spent there was really great, doing almost nothing but just having time with my family, catching up with what’s been happening in their lives.

From Sweden I flew to Austin, Texas, basing there at my parent’s house. They are now in their 80’s and are both doing well. I was able to bring back from Austin, a series of vinyl “banners” that I’ve been using in the classes I teach here. These banners are something I’ve been working on for over two years. But producing them here in Indonesia has proven to be very expensive. So it was a thrill for all the pieces to come together when I was in Austin and to have these done at last.

The new banners that are used in classes, one on the book of Revelations and the other on the book of Daniel.

In the pictures here you can see some of the young people who have been coming to the classes, mostly ones in their teens and twenties. Some of these regular attendees are the people I wrote you about who recently made a “road trip” far into the jungles of the Borneo (now called Kalimantan) to witness to some of the small villages there and to try to bring the “good news” to those of their own nation.

This is during one of regular weekly classes that I would have with friends in Jakarta.

It’s been very rewarding to see these students with whom I’ve been having classes and personal time over the last year begin to blossom into teachers themselves and being able to do much more to minister to people. A good example of this has been Steve and Wulan, the young people who’ve faithful come here to do typing and proofreading for around a year. I’ve started going with them to an orphanage that focuses on the very worst case situations with young people in the city: abandoned kids, living under bridges, beggars and the worst.

Many of my students seen here went on the trip  to the villages in Borneo, featured in another newsletter.

The main orphanage has around 100 kids like this. The folks who run the place have rather radical views as Christians so we fit in quite well, ha! They say the thing they need most is inspiration and spiritual input for the young people. Steve and Wulan both come out of a similar background to these new kids but their background was more a foster home type place rather than being real rough cases themselves. So they know how to relate to these street kids and the kids can see them as examples to look up to.

Steve & Wulan (center) sharing songs in an institution for children just off the streets

And the main thing that it looks like we are going to try to be specializing in is music. A lot of these kids are 12 or 14 and they can’t read. But I’m really encouraged about this new project and part of that is just that Steve and Wulan are now getting a chance to pour out and use all that they’ve been learning over the last year. We’ve been working on songs they can play and it’s neat to see these young Indonesians finding their feet and being used as they want to be.

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In some ways I’m continually amazed at how the Lord has led in my life over the last few years. At times this is not an easy place to stay in. It’s somewhat off the beaten path and not what “I would have chosen”. Having had so many changes so often for many years, it’s rather strange for me that this place and calling seems to remain stable as I begin my second year here. And there seem to be some interesting things up ahead which I’ll let you know about soon, hopefully in the next newsletter.

Your friend,  Mark