“The Last 7 Years” video update

D9b blog post headingWhat am I working on nowadays? “The Last 7 Years” “The 70th Week of Daniel”. Some of you know what this is and it possibly sends a slight shiver down your spine, as it does to me. Because you know that this subject, based around the last verse in chapter 9 of the book of Daniel, is really the crux, the linchpin, the keystone around which most of the unfulfilled prophecies in the Bible gather.

So this has really sharpened my focus as well as my desperation to try to make this next video to be equal to the subject matter, which is about as significant and compelling as is possible to be. Some of you know that. You know the controversy surrounding this subject and even this verse which the video will be centered around. But for those of you who don’t know what this is about, I’ll try to do a short explanation.

Daniel 9:27: the keystone of the  books of Daniel and Revelation

Daniel 9:27: the keystone of the books of Daniel and Revelation

If you saw the video I completed around 6 weeks ago, The 69 Weeks, you’ll know that an incredibly specific prophecy was given by the angel Gabriel to the prophet Daniel when he was probably into his 80’s. You can see the whole video here or read the text here. But what we found was that there was still the very end of this prophecy yet to be fulfilled. There was a 7 year period that had not yet happened which would complete the fullness of what Gabriel told Daniel would happen.

A couple of nights ago I was at a small Christian gathering and I met a man in his 40’s who I didn’t know. I ended up telling this new friend that it was folks like him who kept me going and inspired in what I am doing. In fact, I told him that sometimes I sort of, in my mind, multiply people like him by around 50 million. Because I think there’s easily 50 million people like him around the world who are looking for the truths of Bible prophecy.

He’s got a good job, married and most would consider him successful. But he knows something’s going on. He knows there are some really important things in the Bible that are predicted to happen someday and he really wonders if we are on the cusp of, or are already into, those times. But he can’t find very much in the way of substance when he tries to research and get to the bottom of what the prophets in the Bible said.

Bible prophecy cartoon-flattenedSo it’s folks like him that keep me inspired. Because the Lord continues to lay it on my heart that there are so many, all over the world, who want the truth, particularly about prophecy and the future.

Daniel 9:27, and later verses in Daniel 11, are the place in Scripture where the Old Testament and the New Testament meet. Jesus referred to these verses when He was asked about His future return to earth in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. From these verses and the things that Jesus told us (and Paul after Him), we can go to Revelation chapter 13 and again find things that are mentioned in the prophecies of Daniel.

So I’m either going to give you all the details right now or I’m not. And I’m not right here because that’s what I’m working on right now, to try to find the very best way to present this material. I hope and am planning that this video I’m working on now will be out some time in September.

If you would, please do pray for me at this time. I don’t often ask for prayer but I do feel a need for this now. One of the most important stages in preparing a video like this is the scripting of the text. It can’t be just some stale, verbose narrative. The  subject is so alive with meaning and consequence for our times that I feel a responsibility to somehow convey these truths in as clear a way as possible when writing the text. Your prayers for this are much appreciated.

Lord willing and Lord helping me, this video on “The Last 7 Years” should be out in the next 6 to 8 weeks. Thanks for the words of encouragement I’ve received from many of you. I’m looking forward to having this next video out soon.

Your friend in Him,

Mark

Acts 14 live class audio

Paul walkingOne way to look at Acts 14 is to just quote what Paul told his follower Timothy towards the end of Paul’s life: “All that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Timothy 3:12) Our weekly live class was on Acts chapter 14  [You can hear the live class audio here] and this was the chapter where Paul and Barnabas suffered their first and some of their worst persecution.

In our class we again noted and discussed the different ways Paul witnessed to the Jews and then to the Greeks. His whole approach and conversation with the Greeks was completely different from the way he spoke to the Jews. For one, when speaking to the Greeks, he didn’t start out by blasting them that they were all worshiping devils and that they were going to hell. He was a good deal wiser and more loving, doing all he could to win them to the Lord and to share the Gospel with them in such a way that they could relate to it from their background and nationality.

Paul really loved people and was earnest in his desire to bring men to Christ, not to tell them how bad they were and how righteous he and his fellows were. And that’s a good lesson for all Christians today when we’re faced with those from another race, religion, ethnicity or nation.

Paul preachingIn fact, if you want to read a sweet, loving, heartfelt speech given to present to the complete heathen an introduction to who the “Father of Spirits” (Hebrews 12:9) is, the “Father of lights” (Hebrews 12:9) , you can read this passage here in Acts 14.Paul told them,

“We are merely human beings the same as you and we’re telling you the good news so you’ll turn from these worthless things [worshiping idols] to the living God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In past generations He allowed all the nations to go their own ways, but He has not abandoned His witness: He continues to do good, to give you rain from heaven, to give you fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14: 15-17)

But also this chapter was one of the worst and most direct examples of extreme persecution that Paul every experienced. Did he cut and run? Did he apologize and shilly-shally? Did he become an apostate and go back to Jerusalem to rejoin his Pharisee friends? You know he didn’t. He was literally left for dead on the side of the road in Acts 14.Paul stoned But he got up, went back into the same city his persecutors had come from and again preached the gospel. How could he?! Was he crazy? You or I would never do anything like that, would we? Christians are not like that now, are they?

God can surprise you. There are Bible prophecies saying that the people of the Last Days “shall be strong and do exploits“. (Daniel 11:32) “And they that understand among the people shall instruct many.” (Daniel 11:33) “And they that be wise shall turn many to righteousness”, (Daniel 12:3) all spoken of concerning the times yet to come.

“Oh that couldn’t be me! I’m not like that. Those days were different! People are not like that now!”

Well, the Bible says, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) I personally believe that someone, maybe it won’t be you, maybe it won’t be me, but someone is going to do “greater works” (John 14:12); Jesus said so.

The church of the future to come is not going to be full of cowards, quitters and defeated souls. Someones are going to stand up in the days to come as some of the strongest Christians to have ever lived, as a witness to the nations and peoples of the Last Days, just as Paul did here in Acts 14 at the beginning of Christian times and the Early Church 2000 years ago.endtime witness-flattened

We also talked about the two manifestations of the Devil, the serpent and the dragon. Most of the time, sadly, the serpent can get many people with his words. That’s all that’s needed for some people who can be led away from God and the truth through the words of the serpent. But if, at length, that doesn’t work, then along comes the dragon with violent, physical persecution and attacks like Paul suffered in Acts 14

And we talked about how this pattern of witnessing, winning souls, and ordaining elders or pastors in small fledgling churches was the model on which future missionaries patterned their work for the next hundreds of years, including St. Patrick when he evangelized the Irish, Columba when he evangelized the Scots and Boniface when the gospel was preached to the nation we now call Germany, around 700 AD.

So I hope if you get a chance, you can listen to the 30+ minute audio of our class on Acts 14. In some ways, it’s all there. True disciples of Jesus were going into all the world to win souls. They received persecution for their efforts. But through them Christianity was born in the hearts of those they witnessed to. And it took root and grew in the centuries to come to be some of the best bodies of believers there has ever been. A sample to us all, God help us.

Categories

catagories-flattenedThis will not be a usual kind of blog post. It came to my attention recently that I have not been keeping up with the categories section of this blog site. Sorry about that.

It’s been close to two years now since I first got going with this site. During that time, I’ve written around 137 articles. But if you’ve been finding things in these that are interesting to you and you wanted to find more, till now you would have just had to scroll back through all the articles randomly and hope something shows up that’s interesting.

I’ve worked on that and updated the categories section; you can see it off to the right side of the blog site on the home page. Some of the categories are pretty self-explanatory. For example, in recent times I’ve been doing a series of live classes here in Austin on the book of Acts. There’s a category on this, Book of Acts live classes.

One I personally like to write articles about has been Angels and Miracles. Two larger categories are Basic Christianity and Christian Discipleship. And there’s one where I’ve grouped different articles relating to Mission field news , like when I was in Indonesia, as well as recent news from places like Bulgaria where some folks in a church have been using my videos to teach their flock. Another is My Past which are articles where parts of it are about my upbringing, or conversion to faith in God, or some events in my life as a missionary.

And one other thing here. In the categories list there is one called “Text to the Daniel videos”. The problem is, on this site there are only 3 of those blog articles. If you want to read the text to the Daniel videos I’ve been doing, the full list is a category on my “Prophecies of Daniel” site. The category on that site is Text to the Daniel videos.

Just to let you know, currently I’m spending all the time I can on the next video in the Daniel series, this one being the second of two videos on Daniel 9 which can be called “The 70th Week” or “The Last 7 Years”. My hope and goal is to have this video out and on line in September.

But for now I hope this little notice about the categories sections being updated will perhaps help you find some articles I’ve written in the past on subjects that have been interesting to you. It’s great being in contact with you, thanks for your prayers and love.

Your friend,

Mark

Chastening and Judgment

talk to John-flattenedChastening and judgment? Who wants to read a blog post about that?! Most of us would rather go eat a cookie. But… but that’s where quite a lot of things suddenly come into play. It turns out for most of us that in life, we find that we end up more enhanced and matured through the experiences we learn, often from chastening and judgments, than we do from the fleeting pleasures of eating cookies.

This morning I was sitting on that park bench again. And I was thinking about a slightly complex couple of Bible verses that say, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (I Corinthians 11:31 & 32)

What does it mean, “If we would judge ourselves…”? The idea is, I think, that if we listened to the voice of our conscience (and for those of us who are Christians, the voice of God through the Holy Spirit), quite often those voices will lead and guide us to make the right decisions. We may not always like the way they are leading and it’s often a real battle inside of us to obey what we know is right.

stopBut, like the verse says, “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” We can escape quite a lot of suffering in this world if we take heed to those voices of our conscience, voices of the Holy Spirit and Bible verses that come to mind which tell us something we should or shouldn’t do. This isn’t rocket science; basically everybody knows this, even if they don’t always like it or sometimes make light of it.

But what if we don’t listen to those voices? OK, sometimes you seem to get away with it, don’t you? Ha! But then, like Moses of old said, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23) Some people don’t like Moses and the word “sin” so they opt to “karma”. I read somewhere the other day, “Karma is only a bitch if you are.”

Anyway that verse I was thinking about this morning also gave the alternative to the times when we properly “judge ourselves”. When we don’t, sooner or later, through one means or the other, it says “but when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (I Corinthians 11:32)

Oh, how some people hate this concept! They love to make God out as some giant cruel monster Who’s always ready to crush us poor little righteous people. I wrote about folks how believe that recently in “God is a Monster!” he said. But we often don’t even obey our consciences, what we already know in our heart is right, much less any admonition from the Holy Spirit which tries to punch through and provide direction in our lives.

So through one means or the other, sooner or later there’s some form of suffering for our “sins”. Here are another set of very famous verses on the subject from Hebrews 12:5-11

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children, ‘My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, or faint when you art rebuked by Him. For whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father doesn’t chasten? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they truly for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby.”

Oh my gosh. Some folks just utterly hate this passage and the concepts within it. But the reality is that for almost every person in their life, even if they hate the whole idea of what’s being talked about here, usually sooner or later they have to admit, if only to themselves and under their breath, that they did do something wrong or stupid or even evil and that they suffered because of it. And for some, they very reluctantly learned a major lesson of life through the “chastening” of their experiences. Or if you don’t like “chastening”, try “karma”

True and rightious-flattenedBut how much better it is if we could just be like that verse says that we talked about and the many verses in the Bible which teach us to look at things so differently from the way the world does? That’s what that verse in Hebrews 12 is saying, “No chastening for the present seems to be joyous but grievous.

Who likes chastening? Nobody! But the rest of the verse shows us how we can more wisely look at the thing, “Nevertheless afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Chastening isn’t the same as being beat up and injured in some abusive circumstances. But in whatever way some form of chastening comes, the wise in heart will ask the Lord, “What can I learn from this?” “Did this happen for some reason?”

justify myself-flattenedThere’s so much more to all this and I don’t like to make these long. There’s the whole thing about “justifying ourselves”. (Job 9:20, Luke 10:29) That’s usually our first reaction, even to strike back at the circumstances or the one who’s being used to correct us or even chasten us. But for some wise souls, like King David when he was being exposed by the prophet Nathan, (II Samuel 12) they seem to have the honesty and humility to admit their sins and to not justify themselves. For some of us, we sometimes eventually do that. But first we have to justify ourselves for a while, Lord help us.

What’s the conclusion? “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” It’s like the verse in Proverbs, “A prudent man foresees the evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.” (Proverbs 22:3) Sometimes that “evil” a prudent man foresees is some impulse in his heart to do what he knows is wrong. But he sees it, recognizes it and turns from it. On the other hand, “the simple” (meaning in this case the unwise and hardened of heart) “pass on and are punished.” Because they didn’t listen to the voice of their conscience and the voice of the Lord. Or their friends.

Like it even says in Psalm 23, “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me”. (Psalm 23:4)  It happens to all of us. We all experience this. But if you learn from it, you can grow through the mistakes you make and you can learn to have a wiser, chastened heart which can be led by Him into “green pastures” and the “still waters” of life.(Psalm 23:2) God bless you!

“Happy Is That People”

happy peopleJesus said, “Your joy no man takes from you.” (John 16:22) But we sure don’t feel that way all the time, do we? Happiness and joy can often seem pretty elusive. Is it confession time here? Maybe. I often have to pray against sadness. It just seems to spring up in me like some besetting sin, some old weed that keeps coming back. But I have learned by years of experiences that I can’t give place to it in the same way that the verse says, “Neither give place to the Devil.” (Ephesians 4:27)

Many would say, “But Mark, it’s not a sin to be sad! Sadness is just part of life, we’re all sad sometimes.”

little foxesMaybe so. The problem is, for someone who is trying to maintain a relationship with the Lord and to sort of keep himself in proper spiritual shape, these little things cannot be allowed to come into my mind and consciousness. There’s an obscure verse that says, “The little foxes spoil the vines”. (Song of Solomon 2:15) And the funny thing is that actually and truly, we’ve had a family of foxes in our neighborhood off and on for the last weeks. Yesterday there were three “teenager” foxes in our backyard and I told my mom about that verse, “the little foxes spoil the vines” but she didn’t understand it.

So I told her it was applied as meaning those “little sins”, things that may not seem like such a big deal. Like tolerating a little sadness to come, sit down beside you in your heart and strike up a conversation. It doesn’t seem so bad at first. There seem to be a few things to be sad about. This happened and that happened and this didn’t work out and someone said something I didn’t like.

But maybe it’s from years of experience, I’ve just come to know that this kind of thing has to be recognized and resisted just as much as if someone offered me drugs. The little foxes spoil the vines. And the rest of the verse says, “For our vines have tender grapes”. (Song of Solomon 2:15) The vines of our lives in this sense are tender. Our relationship with the Lord in some ways is tender, if it is fine tuned and is the way He wants it. And that can make it so that we can have a close relationship with Him. We can hear His voice, we are in line for His blessings, we are seeking to do His will, we are looking to experience Him each day, loving Him, loving others and pretty much abandoned to the freedom and joy of our life in Him.

holy spirit doveBut maybe it’s like the picture of the Holy Spirit being like a dove; it can be easily shooed away. And one way that can happen is by allowing ourselves to bend to moods and emotions that are not the ones He wants us to have.

There are just oodles of places in the Bible that admonish us about the benefits of cultivating a happy spirit along with warnings against falling prey to sadness and depression. “A merry heart does good like a medicine…” (Proverbs 17:22) “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”(Nehemiah 8:10b) “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” (John 13:17)

smoking Christians-flattenedSo the same way a person with a problem with alcohol or cigarettes can’t allow themselves to have even one smoke, some of us need to treat sadness with the same intolerance. It’s like the verse, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against him.” (Isiah 59:19b)  That’s the kind of militant spirit and attitude we need to have if we want to “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1), or as Jesus said, to “abide in the Vine”. (John 15:4)

We just have to fight it. We have to pray, we have to quote Scriptures, claiming the promises of God that He will give us joy and peace and happiness. We have to recognize that it’s not some little innocent thing that we deserve and isn’t so bad. We don’t deserve it because we are forgiven and are aiming to walk in the light. And it is bad because it’s one of those little things that seem so innocent. But the next thing you know, you are totally and utterly defeated, bummed out, ready to give up as you are flooded with more and bigger negative thoughts about yourself, others, God or whatever.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life“. (I Timothy 6:10) “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sins that so easily beset us.” (Hebrews 12:2) “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes (like “innocent” sadness), I hate the work of them that turn aside (people or spirits who would cause you to come down from the wall of His will and joy) it shall not cleave unto me.” (Psalm 101:3) Wow. What a statement. It’s a picture of these things almost being like some kind of evil, sticky chewing gum that wants to “cleave unto me”, wants to stick to you. Don’t let it happen. Claim His happiness and joy and walk and live in it today and every day.Happy is that people that is in such a case, yea happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.” (Psalms 144:15)

Acts Chapter 13 live class audio

Acts 13 marks a new beginning in the book of Acts. From here forward, the narrative is primarily about the Apostle Paul, his three missionary journeys, his subsequent arrest in Jerusalem and his trials in courts after that. [You can hear an edited version of our Acts 13 class here.]

Believe it or not, I read a few days ago a Christian web site that questioned whether Paul was really an apostle of God or not. Can you believe that?! Primarily they didn’t like how Paul moved the early church so much towards the gospel of grace, rather than the Mosaic Law, and that the church was less observant of Jewish rituals and traditions as a result of Paul’s teaching and influence. Can you imagine Christians in this day and age thinking, believing and teaching that? Sadly, it’s not highly unusual here.

On their way to Cyprus

On their way to Cyprus

But the book of Acts only gets better, once we enter this stage of where Paul and his companions begin to go even further “into all the world” (Mark 16:15). The chapter starts out at a good place: hearing from God. Verse 2 says “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, ‘Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.’” (Acts 13:2) One of the first things you can see is how the early church was set up, with prophets, fasting, counseling together and really being led of the Lord and the Holy Ghost. And at that point it was still “Barnabas and Saul” but before long it was “Paul and Barnabas”.

Acts 13 map

Paul’s 1st missionary journey

They started out by sailing to the island that Barnabas was from, Cyprus. A lesson that many missionaries have drawn from this chapter is who they first aimed to reach: the governor of the island, Sergius Paulus. They went to the top first.

But when they met him, they found out that the devil had already got there first. A sorcerer, the Bible says, a Jewish false prophet, Elymas, was already Sergius Paulus’s guide and councilor. And Elymus “withstood them, seeking to turn the deputy away from the faith.” (Acts 13:8)

Paul rebukes

Paul rebukes the sorcery

Oh my gosh! The devil is attacking them! What did Paul do? Did he choke up with fear, turn tail and run? Let’s read it. “Then Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, ‘O full of all subtlety and all mischief, you child of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a season.’ And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.” (Acts 13: 9-11)

Don’t you just love the Bible?! No political correctness there, no namby-pamby beating around the bush and politely asking the devil if he would be so kind as to move along now. Just plain, outright spiritual warfare, in the extreme.

rebuke the devil-flattenedIn this case Paul recognized by the Spirit that this Elymas was nothing but an evil “sorcerer” as the Bible calls him and the only solution was to rebuke the devil and the man who was inhabited by the devil.

The results? “Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” (Acts 13:12) The governor saw the raw power of God, exposing the darkness of Elymas and confirming that Paul and Barnabas were the true apostles of God.

But this isn’t even the best part of the chapter. From Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas sailed north to what is today the Mediterranean coast of modern Turkey. Have you ever heard of the book of Galatians? Well, this is where Paul and Barnabas first preached the gospel to the people of Galatia.

They ended up going into the synagogue on the Sabbath and were invited to speak. As was often the custom of those days, Paul rehearsed the history of Israel to them, similar in many ways to what Stephen did in Acts 7. And when Paul got to the place of David in their history, he told them “Of this man’s seed has God according to His promise, raised unto Israel a Savior.” (Acts 13:23)

It’s just a clear and simple example of witnessing and trying to reach people for Jesus , the Jews in this case, through means and things that they could relate to and understand. Later, when Paul was talking to the Greeks in Athens, his method was totally different

Paul in synagog

Paul in the synagogue

In Acts 13, he told them, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, to you is this word of Salvation sent” (Acts 13:26) and went on to tell them how the Jewish rulers at Jerusalem, “because they knew Him not” (Acts 13:27) had killed their own Savoir.

In our live class, we talked about how Paul witnessed to this people and the similarity and difference we have with what he did. In Acts 13, Paul was not witnessing to Greek philosophers, he was witnessing to solid believers in the God of the Jews. He was reasoning with them, he was sharing the Word with them and in many ways he was showing a great deal of respect to them.

And our class developed into a very good and rousing discussion on witnessing, how to witness to believers in God, whether they be Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox or whatever. Find the points you agree on first. There’s much that we can see in this chapter that can be a lesson to us as to how to witness even in our times. I hope the live class audio [here] will be a blessing to you and that you too will be finding avenues and open doors to witness your faith and to share the gospel and love of God with others, God bless you!

 

Three Fingers

two men pointingI was in Hyderabad, India, back around 1988, teaching a home schooling class of grade school kids whose parents were doing mission and social service work in the state of Andra Pradesh. Well, like someone said onetime, “Kids say the darndest things.”

One of the boys in my class was probably around the age of 7 or 8. And I’d noticed that he had a habit of making a particular gesture with his hand when he talked. He would spread out his five fingers towards you when he got excited or animated in talking about something. It didn’t look bad, just a little different and slightly strange.hand gesture

So I asked him why he pointed out his five fingers like that. His answer has strongly stuck with me since then. He said,

Three fingers“Well, my mommy says that when you point a finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointing back at you!”

Boy, did I laugh at that one. He’d been pointing his 5 fingers out since he didn’t want any of them pointing back at him!  Ha! Probably someone else has said  that before but I’d never heard it til then.

And to this day, even when I have the live classes I’ve been having here over the last months, that phrase often comes to my mind when I’m teaching something or even exhorting or admonishing someone about something. What that little boy said to me years ago comes back: there are three fingers pointing back at me.

And of course the whole idea is very Scriptural and very Biblical. Paul said,You told me the truth-flattenedBrethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) That “considering yourself” part is another way of saying that we should remember that we have 3 fingers pointing at ourselves when we’re making efforts to restore others to the correct path.

So the idea isn’t that we should never admonish or caution someone who needs it. Actually, we’re our brother’s keeper and we are responsible to speak up when something needs to be said. So many people don’t even do that. But when we speak up, it should be in that “spirit of meekness”, remembering that whatever lessons or point you feel needs to be made is one that is just as much true for you as it is for the person you’re sharing it with.

sharing the Word with joy-1-flattenedThe book of Hebrews says, “But exhort one another daily… lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) Let’s face it, many people are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, right? So it is what the Lord wants us to do, to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine.” (II Timothy 4:2)

But for the most part, the only way that’s going to be effective is if you keep those three fingers pointing back at you as a part of your mindset and even witness when you’re sharing something that needs to be said with others. People are defensive. They don’t like to be criticized, much less lectured by someone with a self righteous “I am holier than thou” attitude. (Isaiah 65:5)

It’s been a real challenge for me in my life to try to find ways to say things to people when I feel pretty sure that the Lord wants me to say something but I’m not sure I can say it in such a way that it will be effective and bear good fruit. The idea is to help people “see the lightning without feeling the bolt”.

A verse that’s always been a goal for me is where it says, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. He wakens morning by morning; He wakens my ear to hear as the learned.”  (Isiah 50:4) judging righteously-flattenedThat’s what I’ve often really wanted to have, “the tongue of the learned” so that I can say something to someone who needs to hear something. But they’ll probably not receive what I say unless I’m really, really wise in how I say it.

But often it seems a major ingredient in any of this is “a meek and quiet spirit”, (I Peter 3:4) one that is not self righteous and judgmental but acknowledges that those three fingers are right there, pointing at me when I’m sharing something with someone else.

 

“That’s not how to talk about Jesus.”

This happened to me-flattenedI was in Hyderabad, India in the late 1980’s when I got a letter from someone in South America. They’d seen my name and address somewhere and they wrote me to say, “If you are the guy that witnessed to me at the University of California at Berkley in the summer of ’71, I just want to say thank you.”

I vaguely remembered the incident that he went on to tell me about. The letter said,

 

The steps at Berkley, 1971

The steps at Berkley, 1971

“I was listening to some Jesus People guy who was “preaching” to a large crowd on the steps of Berkley campus. He was really preaching hellfire and damnation, telling everyone there that they were all going to hell, getting a lot of hecklers answering back and getting into a big public argument and harangue.”

His letter went on,

“You were standing next to me and you looked over and said to me, ‘That’s not the way to talk about Jesus’. So I said back to you, ‘How do you talk about Jesus?’

Fishers-of-men“ So you started showing me Bible verses. One of the first ones you showed me was Matthew 4:19, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ We had a long talk, you showed me a lots more verses from the Bible and challenged me to drop out and serve the Lord since I was already a Christian.”

“I never saw you again but what you told me that afternoon had a profound effect on my life. I took it as from the Lord that I met you and that you shared what you did with me. You gave me the address of some Jesus People in Los Angeles that I could visit and get training from.

What I did was to go back to St. Louis, Missouri, 1500 miles east of Berkeley, California; I got my things together and then hitch-hiked back to California. As it turned out, I ended up knocking on the door of that Jesus People place around 1:30 in the morning, a week or so later. Wonderfully, they opened the door and let me in at that late hour. And a few hours later they got kicked out of the place by the owner of the building. But I stayed with them, got training as a disciple and missionary and now I’ve been living here in Colombia as a missionary with my wife and 5 kids. So I just want to say thank you for talking to me that afternoon.

Needless to say, that was quiet an inspiration and even a shock to get that letter back then. I did barely remember that event of talking to him. So it was wonderful to know that my witnessing that afternoon in Berkley so many years earlier had resulted in a person dropping out to dedicate their life to serving God on the foreign field.

But also it was like a glimpse into the spiritual realm. Many people who witness and stand up for the Lord often don’t get to see the results of their faithfulness. I personally don’t think of myself as a really great soul winner or “fisher of men”. In my many experiences, I’ve had relatively numerous times when I’ve led someone to receive Christ and I’ve had a few times like this where that person went on to dedicate their lives to full time Christian service. But I know of others who I think of as being much more fruitful and used in these things than I think I’ve been.

But this all made me think, “How many people are there who we’ll never see again but they go away from meeting us with their lives totally changed?” We don’t always see the effect we have on them. We’re just faithful to share the Lord’s love and truth with them. But to them, it was like God was directly using us to speak to them and they knew it. They knew God had brought us along to speak to them that day and they took it as from Him.

in the park-flattenedThere’s another guy I can tell you about who I met long ago. I’ll meet him in heaven and he’ll probably be surprised to see me there. During my first semester at the University of Texas back in the late 60’s, a young Christian was going door to door in my dormitory, telling the other students about the Lord. I invited him in, licking my chops like the wolf I was at that time.

I mocked him, I scoffed, and I literally rolled on the floor with laughter at what he said. He was unmoved, stood his ground and kept the faith. But his witness that afternoon change my life. Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin.” (John 15:22)

The-devil-and-hopelessness

From “Lucifer and the White Moths”

I’d never before really been witnessed to by a strong, knowledgeable Christian. But I was that day. I rejected the witness and the Lord then. “Because they receive not the love of the truth, God shall send them strong delusion.” (II Thessalonians 2:10 &11) Having rejected the messenger of God, two weeks later I accepted the messenger of Darkness. Drugs like marijuana were just beginning to make an impact on the campus back then and I met a hippy who was connected with the Mafia, from whom I bought my first marijuana. From there on, it was two years of a deadly downward spiral that ended up in the day I told you about in “Lucifer and the White Moths”.

Don’t ever think your witness is wasted. Most of the time we don’t see or know about the results. But the Lord knows about it. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:58)

Acts Chapter 12 live class audio

Acts 12 is the last chapter where the Apostle Peter is the primary character. After this, from chapter 13 on, the Apostle Paul becomes the central figure. In Acts 12, Peter was continuing to witness and to spread the good news to his brethren the Jews that the long awaited Messiah had indeed come. [You can hear an edited version of our Acts 12 class here.] And because it’s a short chapter, we included the last 8 verses from Acts 11 which sort of set the stage for chapter 12.

An angel awakens Peter in prison

An angel awakens Peter in prison

The chapter nearly starts out with the martyrdom of Peter. It does start with the martyrdom of “James, the brother of John. (Mark 5:37) This man was definitely one of the main disciples as often in the gospels it talks about “Peter, James and John” (Mark 9:2). This James was the brother of John the Beloved who later wrote the gospel of John and the book of Revelation. There’s not a whole lot in the Word about James, the brother of John, except that he evidently was one of the most trusted disciples.

But after the death of James, Peter himself was kept in prison under heavy guard. It was great in our class to go over how this miraculous release of Peter must have actually been. We’re all so used to “instant replays” and 20 different video angles on everything that it could be a little rough to not have all the visuals that must have just been amazing in all this.

The angel commands Peter to follow him

The angel commands Peter to follow him

I’ll let you read it or listen to the class but it’s a remarkable, almost funny story of what happened and what the Lord did to get Peter out of prison then. It just wasn’t God’s time or place for Peter to go to be with Him. So the angel of the Lord, probably quite a few angels, worked out Peter’s release the night before what was most likely going to be his death.

Peter at the gate

Peter at the gate

All the while, prayer was made without ceasing  (Acts 12:5) by the Christians in Jerusalem for Peter. But it seems the situation was so bad that, when Peter actually got to the gate of the house where he knew the brethren were, they wouldn’t even open the gate at first. They just could hardly believe it was true that he had escaped or been released.

To me, one of the main things at this place in the book of Acts is the introduction of three new characters. They’re not really major players in the scheme of things here. But, on the other hand, they are important and will become increasingly so as the book of Acts continues.

One of those mentioned is an early prophet of the church at that time, “Agabus(Acts 11:28). We don’t hear a lot about him here but we certainly will hear more about him later. Another person mentioned is “John, whose surname was Mark: (Acts 12:25). We first hear of him here in Acts 12; it sounds like the main body of the disciples were staying at the house of his mother in Jerusalem.

Church history tells us that this is the man who eventually wrote the book of Mark. And basically it could be considered that the book of Mark is like the gospel of Peter. It seems that Peter was not a man well versed in Greek. But John Mark wrote down what Peter told him of the life of Jesus and that’s what developed into the book of Mark, which is considered by some to have been the first of the four gospels written. We’ll hear more about John Mark in subsequent chapters.

The third person that we first begin to hear more of in this chapter was “James(Acts 12:17). This is not James, the brother of John, who was martyred at the beginning of the chapter but “James the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). For our Catholic friends here this gets difficult. Because, according to Catholic teaching and tradition, Mary and Joseph had no children together after Jesus was born.

But in Mark 6:3 it says, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. We also hear of Jesus’ brothers at the beginning of John 7 and it says of them at this time, “neither did his brethren believe in him”. But according to the Bible, after Jesus’ resurrection “He appeared unto James” (I Corinthians 15:7), one of His brothers. And from what we can read, this James eventually became the leader of the Christians at Jerusalem for the rest of his life. According to church history he was martyred there just one year before the armies of Titus destroyed the city in 70 AD.

In some ways Acts 12 is more action than theology. But it is also a transitional chapter and several new characters we see there will come more to the fore as we go forward in Acts. I hope these classes are a blessing to you and that the live version of this class can help those of you in far off places and without so much Christian fellowship to, at least a little, feel a part of our activities and fellowship here, GBY.