New live classes

It’s worked out for me over the last month to begin to give live Bible classes here in Austin. I’m really glad about that as this is something I’ve done in the past in many places, including here in Austin for a time between 2001 and 2003.

From classes I taught in Jakarta, 2007

From classes I taught in Jakarta, 2007

Actually, the series of videos that I’ve been working on comes from the live classes that I’ve taught for years in places like Scandinavia, Hungary, Indonesia, Brazil and Ukraine.

It’s been refreshing to find that so many Christians here who really feel that the best place for fellowship and Christian feeding in the Word can be found in what they call “small groups”. I do go to a “mega church” here in Austin and I wrote a blog post about it called “A Flock of Whooping Cranes”. But it’s been the smaller groups and adult Sunday school classes where I’ve really made new friends and these are the ones who’ve invited me to start going through the prophecies of Daniel with them. So far, it’s been around 15 people who come each Thursday night and it’s been a good time of deep Bible study.

In the past when I was abroad, much of the time my teaching was to what could be called “beginners”, folks who are relatively new to the Lord and to Christian teaching. Some of those times I was also teaching the children of missionary friends. But here in Austin, I would say the ones who are coming to the classes now are more “intermediate and advanced”. These are folks who have  a pretty good knowledge of God’s Word and also are relatively familiar with what the Bible says about the times leading up to the return of Jesus. With these new freinds we can dig deeper as well as also answer some questions (or try to) about some of the more controversial subjects of the endtime picture.

Picture 3

Daniel 7: the 4 beasts

I’m really glad that things have gone so well with the web sites this year and also the Daniel 8 video which should be viewable in the next week or so, Lord willing. But I’m also very glad to see this door open to be able to teach in a live setting again. With all the art that’s been done on the videos so far, it’s made it so that the classes now can have this art shown on a large screen.

The Ancient of Days

The Ancient of Days

The ones in the class can see what the Bible describes when it talks about “the four beasts” or “the Ancient of Days” or when when Daniel speaks with the angel Gabriel.

So if there are any of you in the greater Austin area who might be interested in coming to these classes, please get in touch with me . I’m open to other things like this developing if the Lord is leading and there are receptive people who want to dig deeper in the Word.

Gabriel speaks to Daniel

Gabriel speaks to Daniel

These are exciting times. Getting to know new friends, finding ones who really are hungry for the truth of the Bible, seeing what the Lord is doing and where things are going at this time is really thrilling. If any of this rings a bell with you, do get in touch with me and perhaps some new things in the way of live classes can be started up. God bless you!

Fascination for Evil

So interesting-flattenedI’ve realized that at times I have a fascination for evil. Not that I want to do evil but it’s like people say nowadays, “What were they thinking?” Like, “How could they think like that? How could someone be like that?”

I guess we all have an innate desire to understand. And for me, some things are just so weird, strange and crazy that it’s like I get tempted to wonder how someone could think like that? And I want to pursue it, I want to get into it and understand it. But I know from experience and also God’s Word that it’s not a great idea to really pursue that line of reasoning.

We want to relate to others, we want to understand the world around us, we don’t want to be judgmental, we really want to help others. But there are times where the best choice is just to step back and walk away, as difficult as that may seem to be. It’s a little like what I wrote about in the post about the old story called “The Tar Baby“. And this is taught a number of times in the Bible in verses that may not be really popular or politically correct.

How about this one. Jesus, in His most famous “Sermon on the Mount” said at one point, “Don’t give that which is holy to the dogs. Neither cast your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you.”  (Matthew 7:6) And of course He wasn’t talking about pets and farm animals. He was referring to some individuals, saying they were like dogs and pigs. At other times He called some people snakes, foxes, and wolves. This was Jesus, the most loving and kind Man that ever walked the earth. But He wasn’t naive; He called a spade a spade.

“But Jesus, don’t you want us to love everyone?! How could you be so cold and cruel, Jesus!?”

Because there’s evil in the world and there are people who at this time embrace and choose evil and the works of darkness.

“I thought we were supposed to keep turning the other cheek, let people walk all over us and just be little feeble pushovers like everyone says you were, Lord!”

Nope. Here are a few verses that are unpopular or virtually unknown but are really important. Solomon said, “Go from the presence of a foolish man when you don’t perceive in him the lips of knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:7). In other words, don’t hang around wasting your time with folks who just want to take your time and are not hungering for the truth of God you have to offer. Or this one, one of my favorites, “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes; I hate the work of them that turn aside, it shall not cleave unto me.” (Psalms 101:3).

Don’t set wicked things before your eyes, even the eyes of your mind. We need to hate the works of them that turn away from the Lord. Because those evil works will cleave to us if we don’t resist them. “Cleave” is an old word; think of what it’s like to have old ugly chewing gum stick to you or your clothes. That’s what “cleave” means. That’s what the sins and darkness want to do to your life and mind when you allow evil to fascinate you.

“Oh, Mark! Now you are preaching hate!”

King David said, “You who love the Lord, hate evil.”  (Psalms 97:10) Paul said to the Ephesians “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them”, (Ephesians 5:11). Same idea again: just don’t “give place to the devil” (James 4:7). Don’t give time for the darkness and the evil to fascinate you and make you wonder what it’s all about. Isn’t that what happened to Eve? She saw the fruit was “good to the taste” and one that “made her wise” (Genesis 3:6); so she went for it. Big, big mistake. But it probably all seemed so “reasonable”.

“How could it be wrong?”  “Let me just think about this for a minute; let me make sense of it all and figure it out.”

Nope. Walk away. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)RH-NehemiahOnWall Like I wrote about Nehemiah, in “Can’t Come Down”, it must have really seemed narrow-minded and extreme that Nehemiah wouldn’t just come down from the wall and have a chat with those interesting folks who’d come to talk to him. But he didn’t. He had the grace of God to recognize that “God had not sent them” (Nehemiah 6:12) and he didn’t even want to hear what they had to say. Don’t get trapped, lured or lulled into a fascination for evil.When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19)

Resetting to factory default

Sabbath for man-flattenedIn a recent post on my other web site, I wrote about “The Operating System”. Your computer probably runs Windows but maybe it’s a Mac or you run Linux. This is the basic system that operates your computer and is the platform on which all the software you use works from.

But often, everything means something. The same way there’s darkness and light, there’s Darkness and Light. There’s the sun but also there’s the Son and the Bible likens the sun to God’s Son. (Psalms 19:4-6)

So my “Operating System” is the regenerated heart and spirit that I received when I accepted Jesus into my life, as well as all the truth and power that flooded into my life at that time and continually since then. Today’s modern computers in some ways are a reflection of spiritual realities.

And the same way that Windows or Apple send out upgrades from time to time, God can and does sometime send us “new wine” (Luke 5:37) and tweaks and apps with the intention to improve our experience.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Most of us are pretty thankful for our computers as they help us do quite a lot we couldn’t do before. But every time there’s a new upgrade or a new package to install, do you always do it? In fact, not all of them are from the Manufacturer of your Operating System. Many are from vendors and software programs, promising you some great new boost to your experience if you’ll just download their program.

Maybe one time you did that and your computer jammed. There were viruses. It was a scam. Or maybe it was legitimate but so complicated or took so much Ram and hard drive space that it seemed like it just wasn’t worth it. It didn’t improve your experience, no matter what they said.

Maybe somebody liked it but your computer just ran slower and slower. You were confused, a little worried and you just really didn’t like this new thing that you were told was going to be so great. All kinds of things you could do before now didn’t work with the new upgrade.

Well, most computers come with an option that you can “reset to factory default”. You can go back to the original that was working pretty well when you first got it. You may lose some programs but your computer will work again. You may not have the latest and the greatest new thing. But you’ll be back to something that worked well and helped you to get the job done.

That can happen sometimes in your Christian life. You may have a time when you need to go back to the factory default. I’ve had to do that a few times, just to stay alive for the Lord. The latest and the greatest just didn’t work well for me.

I was at a seminar a few days ago and a couple admitted in public to a large audience that they were still using Windows XP. They were a little ashamed but probably everyone understood. XP was the operating system Windows released in 2001. It was perhaps the best since Windows 95. Most people found it just very rarely crashed.

But then the next one that was released was Windows Vista in 2006. Many people, myself included, found it to be difficult, slow, and a consumer of vast amounts of Ram and hard drive space. So those folks were still using what is considered a very old operating system. But it works well for them.

The main thing isn’t that you get the latest upgrade or program. The main thing is that you can use what you’ve got to interact with God and man and to serve God and man as well. Are you having trouble with your operating system? Have you had so many upgrades and packages installed that it hardly even works for you anymore? Maybe you need to reset to the factory default.

Was there a time when it really worked great and you were really getting something done with it? Maybe those settings are better for you, even if the company is telling you that you’re really behind the times. Old isn’t always bad and new isn’t always good. Or like Jesus said, “The operating system was made for man and not man for the operating system.” (Mark 2:27) That wasn’t quite the way He phrased it but I think the idea was similar.

Find what works for you within the packages of God. Upgrades are great. But some upgrades may be over your head, not totally essential or even from untrustworthy vendors. That’s why it says in Hebrews 13:9 “Don’t be carried about with different and strange doctrines, for it is good for the heart to be established with grace, not with foods, in which those who have walked in them were not helped.

And don’t throw your computer out with the malware. Don’t through the baby out with the bathwater either. Hit “reset to factory default” and keep going for the Lord in a mode you find works for you and helps you to stay alive and fruitful for Him.

Redeeming the time

Redeeming the time-flattenedThere are so many fascinating, often obscure verses in the Bible that have had an effect on my life. Paul said that we should be “renewed in the spirit of our minds” (Ephesians 4:23). For me, it was reading, memorizing and embracing the words in the Bible that had so much to do with renewing my mind.

In one little known verse that Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he told them we should “redeem the time”  (Ephesians 5:16), a fascinating idea. Does that mean we should stay real busy? You hear people say nowadays, “don’t waste time.” But why not? Why not just goof off as much as you can?

It comes back to what I wrote in “The Heavenly Vision” and “Is There Not A Cause?” For Christians and believers in God, our whole starting point for how we view life is different. If anyone should have a “purpose driven life”, it’s a Christian or believer in God. If Jesus was doing anything, He was giving us a vision for a life saturated with meaning, purpose, significance and even a sense of urgency to obey God and fulfill the calling and role that He communicates to us.

Besides our lives, our time is the next most important thing we have. Does that mean we should be rushing around all our lives, frantically trying to obey all that we know God wants us to do? No. In the story of Mary and Martha, Martha was busy doing housework and physical service while her sister was “just sitting there”, listening to Jesus.  But when Martha complained to Jesus about it, He told her that “Mary has chosen the good part” (Luke 10:42), to sit at His feet and learn of Him. On the other hand, we can’t or shouldn’t just sit around all day in mediation and personal prayer.

what do you want-flattenedSo it comes back to our personal, living relationship with the Lord. Day by day, only God is way out there in front and knows what’s going to happen and is able to lead you and guide you and show you what to do. What did He show you to do today when you prayed about it? Should you take a day off to really pray about something? Did He show you to get busy and diligent with what He already showed you to do?

But in whatever you’re supposed to be doing, whatever He has showed you to do, we are to do it whole heartedly, with vigor and vision. That’s why all these things tie together so much. If you lose the vision, you probably can’t really “redeem the time” because you haven’t really found out what the Lord wants you to do.

And sadly that’s what so many believers succumb to: they loose the vision.Where there is no vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18) and how many believers just end up “fainting in their minds” (Hebrews 12:3) and loosing the vision over the years. Jesus talked about the virgins who let their lights go out (Matthew 25); it’s pitiful how many people that happens to. They no longer have the ardor they originally felt for the Lord and have lost the desire to go forward in their walk with Him.

Some people I know think that means they lose their salvation, if they are in that condition. I don’t believe that. But Jesus said, “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). If we’re going to give an account for every idle word, will we have to give an account of idle time, wasted on frivolous, worldly vanity that most of us are surrounded with in these times?

At the end of the day, I try to weigh up the books with my soul and ask myself, “What have I done today that I won’t have to do tomorrow? What have I done with this wonderful life that He’s allowed me to have? Have I spent it for myself? Have I been a blessing to Him and others? Have I “laid up treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20) or “wasted my substance in riotous living” (Luke 15:13) ? Has my vision today been for the world to come and to preach His Word in whatever way He has made for me? Or have I turned back to Egypt and settled in Babylon, like so many of the ancient Jews did?”

There’s a time to just take some time off. Read a book, go for a walk, have a glass of wine, go to a movie. But for so many, redeeming the time by staying full of the vision and active in the Lord’s service daily is either something they’ve almost never really gotten on board with or it’s something that they remember they did for a while years ago.

Even Jesus redeemed the time. He said, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day” (John 9:4) and “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) God help all of us to keep the vision and to redeem the time daily for Him and others.