Dumbing down

Dumb-and-DumberIt’s one thing to be simple, but another to be ignorant and lacking understanding. It’s often so shocking, heartbreaking and infuriating for me to see in my home country the level of ignorance concerning the things of the Lord or especially the history of faith.

Martin Luther

If I asked 100 Americans who Martin Luther was, I honestly believe over 90% would ask if I meant Dr. Martin Luther King.  Here’s another example. Martin-Luther-King-Jr--Day-CelebrationI have some friends here with master’s degrees or doctor’s degrees and often I’ll hear from them that “Allah” is a moon god, an idol that the Arabs worship.

My reaction is exasperation and real sadness. Maybe it’s like when God spoke through Hosea to the nation of Israel some 2800 years ago, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you.” (Hosea 4:6)

And I’m not just talking about “taking God out of the schools”. I’m talking about a huge falling away from a knowledge of the significance of spirituality in the civilization of mankind. I was in my third year of university when I personally experienced that the God of Abraham was for real. Among my many emotions at that time was anger at how little I’d learned about anything having to do with the great changers of history who were not politicians, businessmen or scientist but were purely spiritual people.

Joan of Arc

I myself had no idea who Martin Luther was, the German priest who set in motion the Reformation in the 1500’s and changed the course of European history. Joan of Arc? Never heard of her. But an illiterate girl who herded swine “heard voices” in the 1400’s. And by obeying the voice of God, she ultimately led the armies of France to defeat their invaders at that time, the English.

St Patrick

And there’s so many more. Saint Patrick? “Ha, ha, ha! Let’s all wear green and get drunk”, most would say. But that man virtually alone changed the course of the history of Ireland, starting a wave of faith and devotion in what was a land beyond the edge of civilization at that time. Patrick’s influence continued in his followers for several hundred years, inspiring other missionaries in the next two centuries to go out to places like the darkest … no, not Africa but places like modern Holland, Germany and the rest of Europe to take the light and love of Jesus Christ and to turn those peoples to the Lord during the times called the Dark Ages.

Did you know that? I didn’t until I was way up into my adult years. But it was those spiritual people, people of faith who changed their generations, brought civilization and spiritual enlightenment to their times and neighbors and that’s why we have what has been called “Western Civilization”.

Google glasses

So there’s just this huge irony. We have smart phones, the latest apps, Google glass and every kind of advancement and technical innovation that our hearts could desire. But all the while, the gloom of ignorance and the lack of basic knowledge of the spiritual world increases like the armies of Mordor across the world. Even a knowledge that there is a God is less and less a part of the mentality of hundreds of millions of people in the “advanced” and “civilized” nations of the world.

It’s a sad, ominous, foreboding situation to observe. Hosea also said, “They have sown the wind and they will reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7)  How can there not come a reaping and reward for society’s abandonment of God and our eternal foundations, for ignorance of the reality of the spiritual world?

I experienced it myself. I was brought up in a home that didn’t acknowledge a prayer-answering God. “Maybe there’s a God but He is way off somewhere. Don’t bother Him and He won’t bother you”, seemed to be the idea. So in my greatest time of trial and difficulty, I simply and truly didn’t know there was a God, didn’t know or understand virtually anything about sin, faith, repentance, submission, redemption or grace. These were all utterly unknown to me. It’s an absolute miracle of God that He somehow pulled me through that time.

How many hundreds of millions now are in just as much spiritual darkness and delusion, no matter how advanced the technical gadgets they have? May God help us to do all we can to share His light, spread His truth and to keep our candles burning in this time of billowing darkness that we live in, even though most are blissfully ignorant of their ignorance.

A Strong Man, Armed

After the article I posted “Citizenship in Heaven”, I received a comment on it from a friend. Here are parts of it:

gun & Bible pictureWhat about taking up arms to protect your wife and children, elderly relatives and friends from roving gangs of hoodlums who’ll laugh in your face as they go through your neighborhoods in the coming rampage in the USA when there are no jobs or money and famine sets in? Do we shoot them? I simply couldn’t stand idly by and watch this happen to my family without fighting back the best way possible. At my age that would be with a shotgun or .45… This is not clear to me in the Bible. The subject is painted with “too broad a brush!” I just can’t see allowing that to happen. But I agree with you on the idea of not taking on the United States government. But there does seem to be a difference here. I just think this is a much more complicated issue than only having two sides to it. I believe we should defend our own. Now a government edict, that’s different. But roving gangs of bloodthirsty mobs…? Sorry… Just my opinion, – God bless you Mark, -John

 

And, yes, he’s right. In one place Jesus even said, “A strong man, armed, keeps his goods in peace.” (Luke 11:21) But He went on to say, “When a stronger than him comes, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and he spoils all his goods.” (Luke 11:22) And the favorite one of the gun lobby here in America is where Jesus, towards the end of His ministry, told his disciples “He that has no sword, let him buy one”. (Luke 22:36) Then when the high priest and his men came to take Jesus, it says Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.(John 18:10) Whereupon Jesus told Peter, “Put up your sword, for they that live by the sword shall die by the sword.(Matthew 26:52) And then Jesus replaced the ear of the high priest’s servant.

What does that have to do with us 2000 years later? First, I can tell the ones of you who are reading this outside the US that this is a very serious question for many here. The USA currently has one gun for every man, woman and child in the country. There’s a vast gun culture here and they’re used in crimes of all kinds every day.

This is an enormous subject. I suppose I agree with what John wrote that, as Jesus said, “The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.” (John 10:11)  If someone is in a situation where intruders or mobs come to your house to take your family and your lives, then I think there’s Scriptural evidence enough to say that you’re within your rights to defend your life and your family.

But here’s the problem with saying that. From this particular example of an exceptional situation can grow the justification for keeping huge arsenals of weapons in the homes of Christians with the excuse that it’s all there to defend their family. And the culture of guns, self defense, militias and all that grows until it becomes the totally predominate philosophy of that house, or neighborhood or culture.

In the history of Christianity, that’s not been the hallmark of great Christian individuals or nations. By leaning on the arm of the flesh and physical means, Christians are turned away from the true armor of God and the protection He would have us hold dearest. There are so many historic examples of families, individuals, societies and nations who cultivated their spiritual weapons and their relationship with the Lord and the Lord delivered them from marauders, mobs or invasions.

I’m sure many of you know these verses from the Bible but I’ll share just a few here. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the tearing down of strongholds” (II Corinthians 10:3). Or perhaps the most famous, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) If a Christian family is truly strong in spirit, depending on the Lord and even getting their instructions directly from the Lord, then He can protect and even lead them out of danger before it happens, or “give them a mouth and wisdom that none of your adversaries can refute or resist”. (Luke 21:15)

By putting our first trust in weapons, rather than the power of the Spirit, we actually weaken ourselves in the spiritual and that’s actually where it’s all really happening. Admittedly, millions of American Christians may have already made that decision and turned to carnal weapons as their default choice in the battles that may come in times ahead. So this is a struggle between the flesh and the spirit, spiritual armor or carnal armor. I’m not saying not to defend your flocks if you’re in a situation like that. But if building up weapons stocks and boasting in your arsenal weakens you in the spirit, then you’re not really and truly prepared for the dark ages that may soon come. That’s how it seems to me. “According to your faith be it unto you.” (Matthew 9:29)

 

Citizenship in heaven

Citizenship in heaven-flattenedPaul told some folks, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). That may be a strange concept to some. And it may hit a raw nerve for others. Our citizenship, our nationality is for many people everywhere perhaps their most cherished identity. But then at the same time they will say they are Christians. Or Jewish. Or Muslim. And most, let’s say many, don’t see any clash at all between their professed faith in God and their nationality.

Patriotism is a very strong force in the USA, probably more than in many countries. I’ve met a number of new friends here over the last 6 months who are both extremely patriotic while at the same time being exceptionally serious about their Christian faith. They are very aware of current events here. Many feel the USA has already moved far towards a totalitarian state. They believe the original freedoms and rights that the country was founded upon are being eroded or are just plain gone. There’s talk of taking a stand, of fighting for liberty.

But this is where the discussion turns intense and focused. What exactly should one fight for? What are we? Is it a matter of just standing up for a cause? Which one? And for many of us, it comes back to our identity. What are we?

my kingdom is not flatPilate asked Jesus if He was a king. And Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36) And this is where our conversations turn to when my friends and I discuss these things.

You don’t have to be a Christian in America to be extremely patriotic. Certainly there are millions of exceptionally patriotic Americans who are not Christians or for whom their faith is a distant second place to their allegiance to their country. But what about for a Christian, one whose life is centered around their faith in God and in Jesus?

I’ve written a few articles on this web site previously on this subject. I wrote “Proud to be an American” about my experiences while outside the USA for 36 years as a missionary and some times when I felt proud of my nationality. consumer citizen or disciple-flattenedAnother article was “Consumer, Citizen or Disciple” which traced the history of our identity and how people in America and elsewhere see themselves now.

Roman persecutionBut this dilemma, this conflict of interests has in history brought some believers in God to stark, immediate choices. If you read the history of Christianity, many early Roman Christians were brought to the place where they had to show allegiance to the Roman Empire or face death. Immediately. Countless numbers chose to take their stand with Jesus Christ and the God of Abraham, rather than to an earthly king and country. Of course we always can think, “That can’t happen here, not in my country! We’re too advanced for that, too intelligent, too sophisticated, too modern.”

For me personally, over 40 years ago I had to decide what would come first in my life and how I would see myself. I had to know that my allegiance to Jesus Christ and my citizenship in heaven had to be the most precious thing for me and what I felt was worth living and dying for. Since that time I have lived in over 40 countries as an ambassador of the kingdom of God and I have no regrets about that.

But for many here, this is a time of deep heart searching. Some even question if they should take up arms to defend what they see as their inalienable rights. But I don’t think I’m supposed to do that. That’s not the battle I’m supposed to fight. And I question if any sincere, consecrated Christian is supposed to take up earthly weapons to fight an earthly war for worldly goals. I don’t believe that’s the battle I’m called to and I feel many American Christians are going to be sadly shocked if they go that direction, to take up arms against their country.

Prophecy fulfilled flatOur calling is to stand up for the truth of Scriptures and perhaps especially to use the weapon of the truth within Bible prophecy to share with all we know the condition the world is in today and the soon possibly beginnings of the final events of the endtime. I feel it is there that the Lord will meet us, is even waiting there for us, to be His salvation army of true witnesses to what has been foretold in prophecy for over 2000 years, of the final events of the endtime before His coming.

That’s a battle worth fighting that we’re destined to win. Those with true faith in God will find their strength and calling and victory, not fighting earthly political battles to save their nation but fighting the good fight of faith for the truth and for lost souls everywhere. It is written, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11)

He said it 3 times

God doesn’t waste His breath. Like a good Father, He just expects that, if He says something, we’ll respond and do it.But on rare occasions, He said something 3 times. So, probably, whatever He said was important.

One of those places is in Daniel chapter 8, the chapter I’m making the next video on currently. But let’s start off with what’s probably the most famous example of the Lord saying something 3 times.

Peter and JesusAfter His resurrection, Jesus was with His disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. They’d just finished a fish supper Jesus had prepared for them and it says in John 21:15-17, “So after they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs’ . He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My sheep’. He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’  Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things. You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep’”.

That’s an amazing passage in Scripture. Jesus told Peter 3 times, “Feed My sheep.” It must have been that important to the Lord that He did something that emphatic and insistent. Feeding His sheep, teaching, instructing, nourishing and guiding the Lord’s sheep, His flock of believers is obviously just as important as it gets in God’s eyes.

peters_visionAnd strangely, another time in the Bible it says that Peter was told something 3 times from God, in no uncertain terms. In Acts chapter 10 Peter was in Joppa in northern Israel. Peter was the head of the growing group of believers who spread Jesus’ message and truth, after He’d ascended to heaven years before. Peter was on a house top, in prayer, when in a vision he saw a sheet let down from heaven with all kinds of “unclean” animals. The Laws of Moses gave strict rules for the Jews as to what animals were “clean” to eat, permissible, and which ones weren’t. So Peter sees this sheet coming down with these “unclean” animals and then he hears God’s voice, “Arise, Peter! Kill and eat!

Peter, being a righteous Jew replied, “Not so Lord, for I’ve never eaten anything that’s unclean.

And the voice said to him, “What God has cleansed, you do not call common.”

It says, “This happened three times” and then the sheet was let back up to heaven. It sounds like Peter was arguing with God but this seemed so contrary to everything Peter thought was righteous.

Then it says that immediately there was a knock at the door downstairs at the house Peter was at. And the Lord told Peter that there were 3 men there who’d come to see him and that Peter should go with them, “doubting nothing”.

“What’s the big deal with that?” you might say. The big deal is that these men at the door were Romans, “Gentiles”. The Jews weren’t supposed to have anything to do with Gentiles and certainly not go to their house. But Peter went, as the Lord had so firmly told him. The result? Peter preached to a big gathering of Gentiles,  telling them about Jesus and they all experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit, just as the first disciples had in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.

Nowadays it’s easy for us to not appreciate all this. But it was a very, very big deal at that time. Basically this event was when the Lord opened the door clearly to non Jews to receive all the blessing and provision of His promises, breaking down the wall between the Jews and the Gentiles, making it possibly for anyone through Jesus to receive salvation through Him. But God had to tell Peter plainly and emphatically, three times, that this was of Him and that Peter should go and flow with it, “doubting nothing.”

Gab & Dan for blog post-flattenedIn Daniel chapter 8 something similar also happened. In a vision, Daniel was by the river Ulai, in what’s now modern Iran, and the angel Gabriel was commanded to explain what Daniel had just seen, a goat and a ram clashing in battle and the goat conquering the ram. But there was more to it, much more, and Daniel tells us he just didn’t understand it. But the angel Gabriel then tells Daniel 3 times in two verses that “at the time of the end shall be the vision”.

Daniel chapter 8 is a somewhat difficult chapter to understand or even to teach. Prophecy teachers through the years have had some huge debates about parts of it and I’ve been in some of those debates. Some say that it’s all already been fulfilled. But then we can go back to the words of Gabriel, spoken three times to Daniel, “at the time of the end shall be the vision.” At the time of the end. And we’re not there yet. But we may be getting real close.

When God says something 3 times, it’s important. Whether it’s to feed the flock of God, or to not call unclean what God has cleansed, or that the prophecies of God are going to have a future, endtime fulfillment, God thought those were important enough to say it 3 times. Lord help us to get the point, to believe it and act upon it.