Acts Chapter 2 Live Class Audio

Things are continuing to go well with the live classes on the book of Acts here in Austin. Recently we did Acts chapter 2; boy, that chapter can shake you up!Peter and crowd It certainly did for the ones who were there in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, to say the least. Like I said in the class on Luke 24 and Acts 1, you just wish someone with a good understanding of the things of the Lord could do a really good movie of these things.

Well, I’m tempted to tell you the whole story of Acts 2 right here but perhaps you know it already. As I did with the first blog post on these classes on the book of Acts, I’ve made an edited audio recording of the Acts 2 class and it can be heard here. It’s 50 minutes long.Peter preaching

In our class recently, there were so many fundamental, exceedingly important subjects that came up in the class that we had to make a real effort to keep going back to the text in the chapter. Basically, Peter the apostle (along with around 120 people who were in the upper room in Jerusalem) were there on the morning of Pentecost, 50 days after the Lord’s crucifixion. Suddenly they were very dramatically all filled with the Holy Spirit and were even speaking in unknown tongues and languages that they themselves didn’t know how to speak. This attracted a huge crowd from among the Jewish pilgrims who’d come to Jerusalem from all over for the feast of Pentecost.

crowd listensPeter then stood up and preached a riveting sermon to the huge crowd, using prophecies from the Old Testament which all the Jews knew, plus the testimony of Peter and the others that God had raised Jesus from the dead there in Jerusalem just weeks before.

"What must we do?"

“What must we do?”

The result was that multitudes of the Jewish pilgrims asked Peter and the others, “What must we do?”  (Acts 2:37) To which Peter said, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

And the result? Three…thousand…souls got saved right then! (Acts 2:41)

It’s just an incredible chapter and basically it’s the beginning of the Christian era that so many of us are a part of. But in our Bible study we could hardly read the chapter for all the questions that kept coming up. That’s one of the really nice things about having these home church Bible studies: people can ask questing and get involved.

If you go to church on Sunday, probably you don’t get involved. You don’t raise your hand while the preacher is preaching, that just really isn’t done. Maybe it might work out that your church will have some kind of adult Sunday school before or after the church service. But those can often be pretty stuffy or just so social and secular that there’s really nothing spiritual about them at all.hawk&dove-flattened I wrote about my experience with this in a blog post called “Hawks and Doves”, about my sad experiences in visiting a large evangelical church in Houston.

But in our Acts chapter 2 class, we just were bouncing from one subject to the other. For example,

“Do you have to receive the Holy Ghost to be saved?” “How do you know if you have the Holy Ghost?” “Is speaking in tongues required to be saved?”

(Don’t laugh; in some congregations and even denominations, a failure to speak in tongues is an indication that your salvation and future place in heaven is very questionable.)

“And how about water baptisms? Is that essential?” “And by the way, were all those people in Acts chapter 2 Communists?!”

It says they lived together and shared all things so it could seem that way.

As you can probably relate to, almost everyone had some very serious questions about all this and we took time to go over these points at least to some degree. But the very fact that we friends could meet together on a week night and really delve into the Word was one of the best things of all. Think of all the millions of Christians who may go to some church or assembly once a week but never really get into the Word deeply. So many are seldom in an atmosphere where they can talk freely about questions they have and can bring up things on their heart that can be discussed among friends from a Biblical viewpoint.

So I’m just really happy for these classes that are going on now and I hope you’ll find that the Acts chapter 2 audio recording can be some kind of blessing to you as well. Join with us in a time of feeding on the Word, even if you’re thousands of miles away. “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the Word of His Grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance…”  Acts 20:32

Good News From Bulgaria

Recently I’ve been in communications with a woman in Bulgaria. Map of BulgariaHer name is Vaska and she wrote me after she began to show my videos on Bible prophecy and the book of Daniel to two churches she ministers to in Bulgaria. It’s been quite an encouragement to hear from her and to know that the material I’ve been working on is being used by her to “feed the flock of God” (I Peter 5:2) in places I’ve personally never been to.

Bulgaria map 2Actually, I was in Sofia, Bulgaria for four very wonderful months in the early 90’s. It was a tremendous time of witnessing the Lord’s truths and it seemed like everywhere you went, there were people who were extremely hungry to hear about salvation and to learn what the Bible says. So it’s a joy to know that the videos and blog posts I’ve been placing on line are being used weekly by this dear new friend to share with two home-church type congregations in her part of Bulgaria.

Maybe what I can do is to share parts of letters Vaska has sent me in response to the Daniel videos she’s been showing there.  This letter is from mid January, the first time I heard from her:

Dear Mark, the videos are an absolute blessing!  We watch them on a big screen in our Bible study classes in church and the church is always full and everybody is so blessed and thankful. They say they understand everything so well. Thank you so very much for this great job and huge help in understanding these difficult chapters.

Vaska explaining to her flock a Russian chart I sent her  about the 7 world empires of prophecy

Vaska explaining to her flock a Russian chart I sent her about the 7 world empires of prophecy

After seeing the video everything is more than clear. So the whole church blesses you and thanks you very much. But I can’t find a video on Chapter 9 and in two week’s time we will be studying Chapter 9. Is there a video on Daniel Chapter 9? At the end of the video on Chapter 8 you say there is one on Chapter 9 but I can’t find it.

So I wrote back to Vaska for the first time, explaining that the Daniel 9 videos are the ones that I’m working on now and that they won’t be ready for a few more months.  Here are parts of Vaska’s reply:

Thank you very much for working on the video on chapter 9, we look forward to seeing it in a few months. Your videos on Daniel are the best. We’ve seen all of them and the video about the tsunami too. And the “Introduction to Prophecyas well, all your videos. God bless you abundantly for everything you do to help.

We are going to study Daniel chapter 9 this Sunday and repeat the Bible Study again when your video is ready because you make everything entirely clear. After watching the video everything is well understood and remembered. So thank you in advance for the new video. I have a lot of questions on Chapter 9 but I’ll wait until the video is ready.

Vaska is an English teacher in her city and she translates the classes live in the churches she visits. She wrote:

Haven’t you thought of doing the same type of Bible Study lessons on Revelation? You have a great gift of knowledge and it would be a great blessing for all Christians who are interested to know the Bible in depth. Yet, you know whether you have the time to do that, because it’s much longer than Daniel.

Then she told me some about how she became a Christian, when she was in Moscow in the early 90’s, going to high school there.

I thank the Lord very much for my American brothers and sisters because I became a Christian soon after the collapse of Communism by the testimony of American missionaries in Moscow. We were living in Moscow, Russia, at that time and I’m so grateful to those wonderful Christians who traveled the long way to come and preach the Gospel to us.

As you know during Communism, Christianity was forbidden and we were in total darkness about any spiritual matters. And after my grandfather died I was absolutely terrified of death, because they taught us that everything finished with the grave.

And also  while studying astronomy at my last year at high school in Moscow, they told us that the Universe was in absolute chaos and there is no order and nobody knows what would happen next. That also left me in terror. The Communists were so proud of their knowledge of Space and still they couldn’t give me a reasonable answer of Who is in charge.

But I’m so grateful to those missionaries who came from far away America and told me that if you accept Jesus as Savior, you will never die but live eternally. They also told me about the Mighty Loving Creator who made everything and is in control of everything. What a relief and what a joy! So, I immediately accepted the Lord as Savior and was saved. And ever after I’ve lived my life for Him and my greatest concern is to tell the others about Jesus, because they might be lost as I used to be.

One of Vaska's flocks in their large room at their church

One of Vaska’s flocks in their large room at their church

So now the Lord has given me two flocks to care of – one of about 60 people and one of about 30 people. We have a nice small building and there on the wall we see your videos (I interpret for everyone to understand) and try to study the Bible in depth. So, one day, if the Lord helps, you might come and visit us and rejoice together. We have other friends from the States too who come and visit us regularly and we are very happy. And I will always be grateful to the American Christians; they have done a lot of good in my life even until today. 

Blessings,  Vaska

So, needless to say, this has been a real thrill to get to know this new friend and to know that what I’m working on here is being a help to her in ministering to people in her far off corner of southeastern Europe. A very fitting Bible verse that comes to mind in regard to all this is, “As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” (Proverbs 25:25)

There’s more I could share from Vaska but I think I’ll put it into another blog post for another time. There have been a few others like this, friends in central Africa who use the videos in their Bible studies there and also in other places. In many ways this is exactly what I’ve hoped would happen, that this material can be useful for Christian disciples everywhere to teach and explain to their flocks the wonders of God’s Word and the hope we have in Him and in His future to come. More soon on all this, your friend in Him, Mark


Luke 24 & Acts 1 Live Class Audio

In a recent blog post, I wrote about the series of live classes I’ve started here in Austin on the book of Acts. That’s off to a good start; recently I’ve edited the audio recording of the first class and you can listen to the class here.

The Apostle Peter, speaking to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost

The Apostle Peter, speaking to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost

A few months ago I went through the books of Daniel and Revelation with the same group of friends. That series was so heart gripping as we were able to see again, not only all the fulfilled prophecies of the past, but the ones yet to be fulfilled. It seems to me at least that current events in our world today dovetail so clearly with the conditions described by the prophecies which are yet to be fulfilled in the lead up to the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth.

But it’s not good to get so caught up in Bible prophecy that we lose sight of our own call to Christian discipleship that’s at the heart of the New Testament. That’s why for me the book of Acts is perhaps the best book in the Bible (after the four Gospels of course) which can make plain what it should mean to be a Christian.

In opening this series, I wanted first to set the stage and the background for the beginning of Christianity after the resurrection of Jesus. So we started the class with Luke 24, the last chapter in the book of Luke. It’s clear from the first verses in Luke 1 and the first verses in Acts 1 that they’re written by the same man, “Luke the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). Luke 24 just tingles with the atmosphere of the time between the Lord’s crucifixion, His rising from the dead 3 days later, and His ascension 40 days after that.

I just wish some movie could or would really do justice to that time and how it became clear to the disciples that Jesus had actually risen from the dead. In our class on this chapter, we also covered how that Jesus made clear to them that He wasn’t a ghost when He appeared to them, saying “handle Me and see for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see Me have.” (Luke 24:39)

From Acts 1, verses 10 & 11

From Acts 1, verses 10 & 11

Then in the class we went on to the book of Acts, which sort of overlaps the last verses of Luke. And Bible prophecy even comes into the picture. The two angels who were with the disciples on the Mount of Olives as they saw Jesus ascend up into heaven told the disciples that “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven”. (Acts 1:11) This is what was said in the Book of Zachariah 500 years before, speaking about the Lord’s ultimate return to the earth, “His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with You.” (Zachariah 14:4 & 5)

But perhaps the biggest thing in Acts chapter 1 was the promise of the Holy Ghost which Jesus said the disciples would receive in a few days after He had ascended. Such a ringing verse, “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you. And you shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8) The Holy Ghost was not to be given as some kind of virtual toy for Christians to be proud about. But it was to be given as a source of power to increase their effectiveness in their primary purpose and duty: to witness to others about the Lord.

The class has been edited down to just under an hour. Since it was a live class, it isn’t the same type as the videos on the book of Daniel have been. Those are all scripted beforehand while this one was just given as it came and so there are more “rabbit trails and ramblings” than are in the Daniel videos. But several people abroad have asked if these could be made into some kind of audio class so that they can have the opportunity to be in on the classes and the atmosphere of a live Bible study.

Here’s a link where the audio can be listened to. I hope this class and the ones to come will be a blessing to you. With love, Mark


PS  In the last few days here we’ve had the funeral for my dad. There have been more relatives here than at any time since my parents 50th wedding anniversary in the late 90’s. It’s been a sad time but also a very nice time that so many have been together again. My four kids from Europe have been here and one of my grandsons.

Bonner McMillion (1921-2014)

On Feb. 7 my dad, Bonner McMillion, passed away here in Austin.In his last days he contracted pneumonia but by then he was in a nursing facility and in extremely poor health. He is survived by his wife and three children, 8 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

My dad, with my mom, on his 92nd birthday, November, 2013

My dad with my mom, on his 92nd birthday, November, 2013

As my mom likes to say, my dad owned three newspapers, wrote three books and had three children. Growing up around journalism and publishing is where I learned so much about printing, writing, publications and many aspects of graphic arts.

In his last years my dad and I were much closer than when I was growing up. Being a person who was somewhat at the center of events in the late 1960’s, my relationship with my parents was similar to how it was for millions of young people back then. But over the years I’ve come to realize how much of an influence my parents were in what I’ve done with my life.

I told you about my grandparents in the blog post “Texas People”. But here I’ll tell you about my parents. Although my father was a Unitarian, the outlook my parents brought me up with had a number of aspects to it which fit well with my later calling to a Christian missionary lifestyle.

If you’re going to be a Christian disciple and a missionary abroad, you need to be comfortable with being different. In a very real sense, I was brought up in an alternative lifestyle. Nowadays that seems to mean that you were home schooled and your parents were far out hippies or some kind of freaks. For me, it meant that my family were not nominal Christians in a city in Texas during the 50’s and 60’s when to not be a church-going Christian was very unusual.

colored seated

A sign in all city buses.

But one of the things that seemed to be more or less totally accepted by everyone in my part of Texas was racism. When I wanted to take a city bus back then, there was a sign at the front of the bus, “Coloreds to the rear”. I was 17 years old before the schools in Texas integrated, in other words where African-American students were allowed to go to the same schools as white students.

Back of the bus.

Back of the bus.

African-Americans were compelled to sit at the rear of city buses. They couldn’t eat in the restaurants that my family could. They couldn’t use the public restrooms I could or drink at the same water fountain. This was just the way it was and virtually no one said anything against it.

But my parents did. They taught me it was wrong. Nowadays everyone looks at it that way. But when and where I was growing up, virtually no one at all did, including all the Christians I knew. But my folks taught me that to be racist was wrong and evil. I agreed with that and stood up for it.seperate water fountains So I was teased and ostracized and I learned to stand up for what I felt was right, even if everyone else didn’t agree.

That’s been a real help in my adult life when standing up for the Lord and putting faith and God’s Word ahead of worldly wisdom and secular values.

Also my parents were politically active. I distinctly remember passing out political pamphlets with my mother on the street in the lead-up to the 1956 presidential election. I was really glad to be able to do that together with them and to stand up for the beliefs that I held with them.

Another alternative, almost weird thing my parents would do would be to take food to the poor and to take Thanksgiving dinners that my mom prepared to poor folks on the other side of town. This type of thing had a profound impact on me. I had no doubts about my parents’ sincere care for others and their benevolence to the needy and those in distress.

Things like this and much more influenced my life to move towards some kind of public service. That was what I was directing my studies towards when I was in university here in Austin in the late 60’s. Through God’s mighty and miraculous hand, He worked in such a way to bring me to a form of “public service” that was far greater than getting involved with the often fruitless life that modern politics can lead to.

Instead, God brought me into a life of Christian service for Him in many lands. But it was my parents’ example of going against the grain and standing up for the downtrodden that set the tone for my life of being a fighter for the Lord’s cause against the spiritual darkness that comes against that cause from so very many quarters.

My dad taught me to care about those who were hated and to not feel I had to succumb to the whims of the majority. I would not have had the life I’ve had without all that I learned from him and my mom.

The Miracle Suitcase

me&suitcaseThere were so many experiences I had from the time I spent on the mission field which basically were supernatural. The other day I thought of one I included in a newsletter around 2008.

I was living in Ukraine and I planned a trip to Norway. Along the way one of those “God’s little miracle” situations happened which is almost possible to overlook if you’re not sensitive to the hand of God when He intervenes in a miraculous way. Here’s what I put in my newsletter from August of 2008

Just to get from here in Ukraine to Oslo, Norway is no small thing. Flying from here would be extremely expensive. So I found a budget airline that flies from Warsaw, Poland to south of Oslo, Norway. But to get to Warsaw from my city in south east Ukraine was a 700 mile (1200 kilometer) two-nights-and-a-day ride on a bumpity, former USSR train. There was next to no sleep.

After the flight from Warsaw, I landed at the airport about 70 miles south of Oslo, got my small suitcase off the luggage carousel at the airport and found my way to a bus that would take me to Oslo.

Virtually as I was boarding the bus, way out in the airport parking lot, an elderly man quickly came up to me, speaking Polish.  I understood that he thought I’d taken his suitcase. He produced the baggage tag that went with the suitcase and, sure enough, it was his.

I looked real closely because the suitcase I’d brought on the trip was borrowed and it seemed like one that not a lot of folks have. But I did notice that the one I’d brought out of the airport to the bus was somehow newer than the one I brought on the trip. About that time, one of the Polish man’s friends came up to us with my suitcase, identical in every way to his except mine was just a little bit older.

What happened was that, when the one I took had come around on the luggage conveyer belt, I saw it and took it. The plane had not been full and it never occurred to me that there could possibly be another bag on the plane that looked the same as mine. It was virtually a miracle that he found me in the airport bus parking lot, just before I was getting on the bus with his suitcase for the ride into Oslo.

I don’t care to even think of how much of a hassle it would have been if I’d not been found by that man just seconds before I boarded the bus for the 90 minute drive to Oslo. I suppose something might have eventually worked out if I had needed to phone the airport about it. But in Oslo, one of the most expensive cities in the world, it would have been a nightmare of time and expense.

That’s how good things can happen to you when you’re praying and others are praying for you. I really thought about all my friends who were praying for me at that time. It was surely just the Lord doing that little miracle to keep me from having to suffer for days from that mix up about the suitcase. Thank the Lord! And thanks to all of you for your continued prayers.

Isn’t that amazing? I was seconds away from boarding that bus with the wrong suitcase for the long ride to Oslo. Those folks found me way out in the parking lot at the last moment. Some would wave all this off as a “lucky coincidence”. For those of us who know and live for the Lord, we know it was more than that. It was “…the Lord working with them, and confirming His Word with signs following.” (Mark 16:20)

“Who Do You Think You Are?!”

Who Do You Think You Are-flattenedHas anybody every said that to you, “Who do you think you are?” Or maybe, have you ever said that to yourself? It can get kind of deep.

Pride is such a major pitfall of Christians. But on the other hand,  you can be so negative about yourself that you just feel God couldn’t possibly use you. These are things our human hearts are privy to, even without any assistance from the Devil.

So an equally dangerous pitfall can be a misplaced self-abasement. Basically, if we get our eyes on ourselves, it is almost hopeless. Like the old song by Tennessee Ernie Ford said, “If the right one don’t get you, the left one will.” If one sin doesn’t get you, sometimes it seems another one will.

But of course, things are not hopeless at all. That’s why the Bible says, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) It doesn’t say, “Looking unto ourselves…” That’s why prayer, immersing ourselves in God’s Word, being busy and active in obeying what He’s told us to do, and just mostly forgetting ourselves is so essential.

I think it was the famous blind song writer, Fanny Crosby, who said, “There is joy in self-forgetfulness.” Boy, is that true. But there’s more to it than that. Once we get our eyes off ourselves, either how great we are or how terribly we are, we find that God Himself has a plan and an agenda. And He’s wanting to get in contact with us about it.

nothing great-flattenedAn example of this can be found in these verses from Matthew 9:36 through 38. It says, “But when He (Jesus) saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion upon them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is truly plenteous but the laborers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into the harvest.’”

We so easily keep our eyes on ourselves. But it’s like Jesus said in another place, “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest.” (John 4:35) And He wasn’t talking about barley and wheat fields either. He was talking about the vast harvest of souls who long to be part of the Kingdom of God.

When we begin to take heed to God’s Word, we find that…He needs us. Not just to pray, not just to go to church, not just to be good citizens and vote for the right political party. He needs us desperately in the work that He commissioned His disciples to do: to witness, win souls and take care of the results.

“But who am I?! I can’t do that!!  I don’t have the gifts!! I haven’t been to the Dallas Theological Seminary! I might say something wrong!”  Etc, etc, etc.

And some of this might not be misplaced. True humility is what the Lord wants. But so often, other things enter into the mix and just hinder the calling of God in our lives. A much better response is what’s found in Isaiah,  “And the Lord said, ‘Who will go for us and who shall we send?’ And I said, ‘Here am I Lord, send me.’” (Isaiah 6:8)

Would to God that more people of the Lord would respond like that! If more would respond like that, then you wouldn’t have verses like Jeremiah 8:20, “The summer is past, the harvest is ended, and we are not saved.” Why were they not saved? Because no one shared the message of salvation with them? Because no one “went out into the highways and hedges and compelled them to come in”? (Luke 14:23)

But so often for sincere Christians, their hesitancy to answers God’s call and obey what the Spirit is leading them to do can come back to condemnation and misplaced self abasement. They think they’re not worthy. They think they don’t have enough gifts. They doubt that it’s even God’s Spirit calling them. They have such a “humble” view of themselves that it’s morphed over into their heart condemning them and belittling them.

So many of God’s greats in the Bible were just little people who did what God told them to do. Jesus said of one woman, “She has done what she could.” (Mark 14:8)

That’s what we each should be asking ourselves each day. “Have I done what I could? Am I obeying what I know God personally wants me to do? Am I resisting the voice of the Lord in some area of my life? Is there some step forward in service and God’s calling that He’s drawing me towards that I’m hesitating in?”

done what she could-flattenedIt’s not a question of talents or abilities; it’s just a question of yeildedness to His voice, both the voice we hear in our hearts personally and the voice that speaks to us through reading His Word. “He gives the Holy Spirit to them that obey Him.” (Acts 5:32). He can “lead us into all truth” (John 16:23) and also into opportunities of service and fruitfulness in Him that are far more than we can imagine. God help us all to obey and follow His Words and His calls. “Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart.” (Psalms 95:8)