Weapons to Pakistan

taj mahal(Even before I tell what happened, let me say that this is in no way a negative article about anyone in the Subcontinent at all. I spent 18 happy months there in the 1980’s. It’s full of wonderful people and what I’m going to tell here could have happened in Burma, Bulgaria or Bolivia. The heart of man is the same the world over.)

 

In the late 1980’s I was in Delhi, the capital of India, for a few weeks. As my custom was, I decided to go personal witnessing one afternoon in an area where there were some high rise apartments. At one door I rang the bell to, the woman opened the door and I began my greeting and explanation, as I usually did.

She looked at me silently, long and hard, and then the first thing she said was, blurting it out, Weapons to Pakistan 1-flattened

I paused, shot up a quick prayer to the Lord and then told her with peace in my heart,Weapons to Pakistan 2-flattened

There was a brief silence as we looked at each other. Finally she smiled slightly and explained what she meant. And I answered that I understood what she had meant.

Weapons to Pakistan 3She recognized from my looks and accent that I was an American. At that time it was a very topical subject in the society as to how America seemed to be supporting Pakistan in its disputes with India and that it evidently was sending weapons to Pakistan. It was a very big subject in India and in Delhi at the time.

So when this woman saw me at her door, all she could think about was how, at an international level, my country seemed to be arming her country’s opponents. But of course the reality was that I personally had nothing to do with it at all. We ended up having a good talk there that afternoon.There was a little touch of humor to the experience and it somewhat brought us together as we talked.

And you might say, “So what?” For me, that experience was a perfect illustration of what so often goes on in human contact around the world which is damaging and wrong: stereotypes, prejudges, nationalism, racism, and the multitude of divisions and hatreds that plague and divide our world, wherever we go.

I’ve actually very seldom ever, in my 36 years outside the US, experienced anything approaching hatred toward me as an American or a white or a Christian. [And just to mention it, that woman in Delhi didn’t hate me; it was just a brief misunderstanding that cleared up right away.] I think it’s helped that I learned very early on to not bring with me the outward show of Americanisms and the mannerisms that some folks bring with them if they travel outside the USA. I went aboard, not to represent America but as a representative, God helping me, of Jesus Christ.

But to me, that woman’s initial judgment of me strictly along the lines of nationalism and secularism was a perfect example of human nature, worldwide: the sad, imperfect, divisive side of human nature.

“Chauvinism” is not a word in the Bible. But it means “an excessive or prejudiced loyalty or support for one’s own cause, group, or gender”. It’s a temptation for everyone, everywhere. But it’s opposed to the spirit of Christianity and the spirit of love.

Love doesn’t look at the outward appearance. That’s why God told Samuel, “Look not on his appearance, for God sees not as man sees. For man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7) And doubtless He would have us to do the same.

broken down wall-flattenedIt says in the New Testament that God has “broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:14), in this case speaking of the division between the Jews and the Greeks of those days, through the love of Christ. But God has been in the business of breaking down prejudices, hatreds and divisions for many centuries.

It says of Jesus, He …will gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad.” (John 11:52) And to do this, He wants us to not look on the outward appearance, the nationality, the race, the age, the sex, the social status of ones we meet. He wants us to look at others they way He does, to look at the heart with love.

Hateful prejudices, chauvinism, nationalism, these are things that must grieve the heart of God. It says of Jesus, “He looked about with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their heart” (Mark 3:5). Jesus of Nazareth was not often recorded as being angry. But one time there it says He was angry at the hardness of hearts.

Demitri-flattenedAnd just think how many people today, often people who consider themselves to be very Godly, are full of fear and hatred through the hardness of their hearts, encouraged by false shepherds to hate and fear others, to nourish division and hatred of those not of their faith, nation or culture. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was exactly the very opposite of that.

Happily that afternoon, the woman I met at the door and I were able to laugh at the thought that I’d sold weapons to Pakistan. May God help His people to realize their foolish labels and prejudices against so many are anathema to His loving Spirit and ways. And that they grieve and hinder His work in His people, unless they repent of them.

Acts 18 Live Class

Acts 18Our live class on Acts 18 actually went on longer than almost any of the other classes before that. Which is only fitting as Paul wrote more to the Corinthians than to any other church. And there’s just really a lot there, in Acts 18, in the books of Corinthians and in our live class. The audio recording of our Acts 18 live class can be heard here.

And it says Paul stayed there a year and a half, the longest he’d stayed in any one place till then. But it must have been a special time and place as the Lord did something He didn’t usually do, specifically instructed Paul to stay on there in Corinth. Act 18, verses 9 & 10 say,  “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.’”

One of the things we talked about for a while is where Paul said, “Your blood be upon you, I turn to the Gentiles” (Act 18:6). This It’s a very big and sober subject about our responsibility to “deliver our souls”, something that is never taught in church but is definitely in the Bible. Paul may have been thinking or referring to something that is found in Ezekiel 3:17-19, “His blood will I require at your hand.” Paul evidently felt he had that much responsibility to deliver his soul and to preach the whole council of God to those he met.

Another aspect of Christian discipleship that we talked about was how Paul, almost more than anyone else, was able to blast off from the “gravitational pull” of his own background, his own heritage and cultural and even his own religion, to truly follow God into a new “universe”, delivered from his old “planet” and way of life.

Jesus said “If you love father or mother more than me”(Matthew 10:37), or even “your own land” (Matthew 19:29), then He said you are not worthy of Him. Not the kind of thing you’ll hear in church on Sunday, is it?

Paul on the road to Damascus

Paul on the road to Damascus

And we talked somewhat about some strange web sites and folks who will tell you that Paul “was not really an apostle of the Lord”. Why would they say that? Well, they figure that “Paul didn’t respect the laws of Moses enough”. “He went astray from the laws of Moses. So that Light he saw on the road to Damascus?? Well, …. Maybe… “

So it’s pretty far out and delusional what some folks get into in order to preserve the necessity of keeping the old Mosaic Law. Even to the extent of sowing doubt about the Godliness of the Apostle Paul. Like we said in our class, if Paul hadn’t followed the Lord into all the world, witnessing faithfully to the Gentiles, Christianity might have been just another sect of Judaism and would have perished with the crushing of Israel and the scattering of the Jews in 70 AD.

Aquila & Priscilla with Apollos

Aquila & Priscilla with Apollos

We talked about that and if (and how much) the Early Church leaders had really obeyed the Lord to “go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Obviously they were doing that some, as we can read about Peter witnessing to and converting the Gentiles in Acts 10. But the impression is that Paul took the whole thing much further and much more rapidly than had been happening up till that time.

And we read about Apollos in Acts 18 and how he “knew only the Baptism of John” (Act 18:25). We talked about how, when we witness, that sometimes we meet people who really love the Lord and are doing what they can to walk according to the light they have. But like Apollos in this case, they sometimes are missing some major pieces of the puzzle when it comes to the things of the Lord.

teaching Apollos

Teaching Apollos

So like the Aquila and Priscilla did here with Apollos, they built upon what was really a partial foundation in him and he became an even stronger Christian and worker for the Lord from it. It can happen that we run into similar situations in our witnessing and ministering to people.

In relation to this, I shared a personal story of a good friend of mine from 30 years ago who flew in to Moscow in the early 80’s, at a time when Russian Communism just couldn’t have been more serious, and he there just happened to met up with a strong young leader of a budding “Jesus people” movement in Moscow. My friend and this Russian hit it off completely and my friend told him and taught him everything he could in the days he was there. But this all was similar to how these ones in the book of Acts found Apollos who went on to be even much more a witness than he had been up until the time the early church brethren met him in Alexandria.

So, the Book of Acts. It’s an incredible study but many people really have almost never read it. What we see there of how the early Christians were powerfully led of the Lord, as they gave their lives to Him, should inspire us to do the same in our generation. The audio recording of our Acts 18 live class can be heard here.

Isn’t God Enough?

I believe in God-flattenedThere was a 7 month period of time when I strongly and sincerely believed in God, but I just didn’t know who Jesus was. I wrote about my experience in “Lucifer and the White Moths” where I very nearly died and was carried by Satan into the spirit world to be his. But by the mercy of God, I called out to Him at that time. That’s how I came to know that God was real. As the Bible says, “some saved by fire” (I Corinthians 3:15) . That was me.

But was I saved? I don’t know. I’d had an utter change in my life. I went from being a hardened, mocking atheist to being a stunned, almost speechless believer. I believed in the God of the Bible. I had personally experienced the God of the Bible and the Satan of the Bible as well. But I had no idea who Jesus was. I totally didn’t know the difference between Jesus and Moses and Paul and Abraham. A verse I read a few months later, after I became a Christian, was “God is not in all their thoughts.” (Psalms 10:4) Boy, I could relate to that verse. When I read that, I immediately felt, “That’s just the way I was before all these things happened to me”.

And yet, I didn’t know Jesus. I didn’t pray to Jesus or have any knowledge of Him. I went to a couple of churches in Austin during those months in order to try to find out from them about Jesus. But I guess I looked like a hippy at the time, although I wasn’t a hippy. And in those days, churches were not too friendly to hippies.

But I’ve often wondered, “What would have happened to me if I’d died during that time?” Would I have gone to heaven? I wasn’t a Christian. In many ways actually I was like a Muslim or Jew who believes in the God of Abraham and prays to God from their heart. That’s how I was. If I had died right then, would I go to hell? It’s actually a rather deep question and brings up a lot of pretty touchy theological questions, which can lead to some very heated debates.

For me at least, the good news was that the Lord was preparing a way for me to meet some people who could tell me about Jesus. Just after New Year of 1970, I met some Jesus People. And they really knew their stuff.

SDS demonstration

Student demonstrations, 1969

Earlier that year, the SDS, the Students for a Democratic Society, had had their national meeting in Austin. I went to that convention and also to some of their private parties afterwards. I met people informally who were part of the Weathermen who ended up on the FBI’s Top Ten wanted list. So I had been in some pretty radical and serious circles in the last months.

But those Jesus People had more certainty and just plain answers than anything I’d ever seen. They could answer me with Scriptures. I was 21 by then but a lot of them were no more than 19 or even 17 years old. But they showed me verse after verse from the Bible to answer my questions and to show me that I needed to receive Jesus and to be born again.

When I did that, after several talks with them, I didn’t suddenly have a swirling heavenly feeling and saw the gates of paradise opened. I’d already had a lot of experiences and I think the Lord figured that I just didn’t need any big emotions right then. But something really did change mightily. All during that last 7 months, I’d been reading the Bible every day. I read all the way through it from cover to cover and was on my second reading. Had I really gotten a lot out of it? No. Virtually nothing. I was convinced that God’s will was that I should be sacrificing chickens and goats since there was so much of that in the Bible and it was obvious that this was God’s will for mankind. That’s how be-darkened I was.

3-D GlassesBut the strongest thing that happened to me when I received Jesus was that it was almost like those 3-D glasses that are given to people when they see a 3-D movie. Without them the movie is all a blur. But when you put them on, it all becomes clear, in 3-D. When I was born again through receiving Jesus as my Lord and asking Him into my heart, that was when the Bible suddenly began to flood my mind and heart as it had not done at all before that time. I really fell in love with the truth that was there and that love is still with me till now.

Before I recieved Jesus-flattenedWas God enough? For me, I can say that it wasn’t till I received Jesus that I truly was what I needed to be. Even during that 7 months when I prayed to God every day, I was still a little afraid of the Devil. I still was weak through my sins and at one point even started using some light drugs again. But when I recieved the Lord, I was no longer afraid of the Devil. Also like the verse says, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power…” (John 1:12) that was really, really true for me.

I had the power now to resist sin. I had experienced a change of heart and I knew that I was just not the same person or even the same thing as I’d been before. What would have happened if I’d died with only believing and praying to God? I really don’t know. But I know I was like what the Old Testament calls, “a half baked cake” (Hosea 7:8), I wasn’t fully what God wanted me to be and what God planned for me. Yes, I did believe in the God of Abraham, vehemently and sincerely. But I was not complete till I came to Jesus. That’s why the Bible says, “We are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10) and why, if you only believe in God, there’s really more for you that you’ve not experienced yet. Just like what happened to me.

Mighty Angels

mighty angels first scene-flatttenedWhat I’m going to tell you here is the truth. But it might be hard to believe. I’m pretty sure this is the most supernatural experience I’ve ever had, at least when I was wide awake and on my feet.

In an earlier blog post I told you about “That’s not how to talk about Jesus.”, during a time in the early 70’s when I was witnessing daily at or near the University of California at Berkley campus. This is something that happened during that time there. My friends and I would daily take our “hippy bus” that we’d converted into something like a mobile coffee house and drive to a place near the Berkley campus. witnessing Jesus Rev 1

We’d break up into teams of two, like when Jesus sent his disciples out “two by two” (Mark 6:7). Then everyone would be off with their guitars and Bibles, witnessing to the students as well as the thousands of drop-outs and travelers that were everywhere around there at that time.

Since I was already one of the “older ones” in the Lord, as well as already being into my 20’s, I was the one who stayed back with the bus to take care of it, as well as to pass out sandwiches to anyone who came up and asked for one.

So this “person” came up to me. He seemed to be around my age and size. He had long red hair and a red plaid shirt. So far, so good; right? No big deal. But next I’m going to have to do some explaining. Because things quickly got different from anything I ever experienced, before or after that.

guardian-angelsFirst, let me give you a verse that is important. We are “sealed by the Holy Ghost” (Ephesians 1:13). Someone may attack us physically and even hurt us, if God allows that. The devil can tempt us mightily. But the plain spiritual truth is that we are now the Lord’s, if you are one of His. We belong to a mighty God and no one can enter into our spirits and souls, except of course the Lord Himself. Or one of His messengers.

I started talking with this “guy” and rather quickly things got very different. I’ll try to explain it but it may not be as clear as you’d like. Of course we were speaking English. But what happened was that this being, also speaking English, had such weight, depth and significance in what he said that it was like I was quickly being taken by an elevator up into much higher levels of spirituality. I would say something and then he would respond. But each time, what he said dwarfed what I had said, leading our conversation into depths of spirituality that are hard to describe.

glowing angelI probably should have written down every single thing I could remember from the experience, immediately after it was over. Sadly I didn’t do that. But the impact of it all was so overwhelming that I might not have even been able to do that.

After our conversation went on for a little bit, basically it got to where it transcended language and English. I guess we were speaking English but our communication was on a higher, more heavenly level than normal English can transmit. And actually, this was all more than a little bit disconcerting. Basically I was facing a being that was much more powerful than me, which could get through any kind of defense or normal ways of man that I might throw up.

I had faced demon-possessed people before and I’d had some spiritual experiences of different kinds. So I was aware at the time that this was an extremely spiritual experience I was having there in the parking lot. There was some fear on my part. But at the same time I could tell and feel that this being was benign, not malevolent. And the fact that basically it was able to get past everything of me and to be speaking and interacting with my innermost soul and spirit was disturbing and a little scary. I guess if I’d wanted to, I could have run off. I was not forced to be there. But basically what ended up happening can only be described as some kind of energy transfer.

He didn’t look like this. But this is what he was.

He didn’t look like this. But this is what he was.

This angel was very serious and sober. It’s a shame I don’t have anything I wrote down from that experience but back then I didn’t know I should do that. But my strongest remembrance of the experience was that it was like he reached out, gripped my soul and spirit and just sent a strong surge of spirit and energy into me.

The message, if there was one, was that I’d been shown and knew a lot. And that I was very accountable. That I should be very sober and should very much “walk worthy” (Ephesians 4:1) of all that had been shown me and done for me. It wasn’t that this angel was mad at me. But it was just an extremely sober, serious moment and the presence of the fear of God and the knowledge of how important all of this is was just immense.

In many ways, words kind of fail me to be able to describe this experience much more than this. It was in broad daylight in a parking lot near the Berkley campus. I felt like that “being” could have tossed me 100 feet in the air or struck me dead on the spot if that had been his will. Also, I guess it’s like another blog post I wrote “Fear God“, where I talked about the verse “the fear of the Lord is clean”. (Psalm 19:9)

I was afraid. But there was nothing destructive happening with this. If anything was destroyed, it was my shallowness, wavering or anything other than just utter commitment to serving the Lord. I guess I wasn’t thinking that I was shallow or wavering at that time. But the Lord wanted to really strongly impress upon me the imperative of commitment and focus to put Him and His will first.

Actually I was in the first weeks of getting ready to move abroad, to Europe to be a missionary there. So maybe this visitation was a strengthening and sobering message and experience from the Lord to prepare me for the times and battles to come as I left my home country to be a missionary abroad.

It was almost like an umbilical cord. This guy never touched me but he didn’t have to. His spirit and words got passed my mind and my own spirit and just infused me with a warning, with power, with spirit and with thoughts I can’t even put into English. It’s a little like it was pictured in the movie “Matrix” where the Keanu Reeves character, Neo, got a link into his neck and got a data transfer of knowledge. Except in this case, it was real, it was face to face and it was like the angel’s spirit infused my spirit and soul with things of the Lord that I can’t really explain as well as I would like.

mighty angels second scene-flattenedAnd then he left. I was ok, very shaken up but all the better for it. I’ve never had an experience like that again. I’ve had one or two other angel experiences, I’ve shared some of those in these posts and I’ll try to tell about the others. I know, if I was someone reading this post, I might be tempted to think that guy is lying or just making this up. But I’m not.

Angels are out there. “The angel of the Lord camps round about them that fear Him and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7) They’re there to keep us on the straight and narrow for the Lord. But it’s all not even really easy to write about as it just is above our normal experiences so much that the words used don’t seem equal to the experience.

 

“UP AGAINST THE WALL!!”

UpAgainstTheWall_02-reworkedWould God do a miracle for an unbeliever? An atheist? Jesus said that God “sends the rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:44)  He certainly did a miracle for me that kept me out of 2 years of prison at a time when I was really not a believer. Here’s what happened.

While I was going to the University of Texas in Austin back in the late 60’s, I had a nice job, drove a sports car and I was an atheist. I smoked marijuana from time to time, used psychedelics and sometimes I sold a little marijuana and psychedelics. I never sold stuff on the streets, just to close friends. But after awhile I got a little careless. Friends would come with their friends, people I didn’t know.

I lived in an efficiency apartment near the campus and one afternoon I was ironing shirts in my tiny kitchen. Then, kind of out of nowhere, the idea came to me that I really should take my drugs and go put them away somewhere.

Ironing-fixedI hadn’t been thinking about that till then. But I stopped ironing my shirts, put my several ounces of marijuana and the various pills I had into a paper grocery bag. My thinking was that this would somehow make it look like I was walking around with groceries.

I walked out the door of my apartment and right there was a man on a ladder. That wasn’t normal but I figured he was a repairman. He looked down at me and the paper bag but I guess he just saw the loaf of bread on top.

Shoal Creek, near the University of Texas in Austin

Shoal Creek, near the University of Texas in Austin

I walked a few blocks down to Shoal Creek, a well known place that students and locals go to for nature walks. I found a secluded spot, put my drugs underneath a rock and walked back to my apartment.

When I got there, I was surprised because the lights were on inside and I always turned off the lights when I left. I unlocked the door. UpAgainstTheWall_02-reworkedAnd I was completely in shock to have two policemen with drawn guns coming out of my bathroom and kitchen, yelling at me, “Put your hands up against the wall!

They had a search warrant for my apartment. I sat on the sofa while they searched everything. In those days, if the police even found a stem, seeds or the tiniest butt of a marijuana cigarette, it would virtually guarantee that you’d spend two years in Huntsville state prison, even as a first time offender. As it turned out, they did find some tiny seeds or stems of marijuana on my carpet.

Evidence-fixed-flattenedAt last they talked to me and said, “We can take you in for what we found here, the seeds and stems. But we didn’t find what the search warrant was written for. So if we take this to a grand jury, we won’t win. But we’re watching you.”

So they left. And I sat there. Did I praise God? Did I say, “Thank you Jesus!” No. I was a hardened atheist. I believed in nothing other than evolution, chance and the law of averages. God-is-chance(This is what I wrote about in “God is Chance”.) I was convinced that’s all there was.

I can tell you, things like this can really be tough on atheists. All I was really thinking about was,

“Why did I get that idea right then, when I was ironing shirts, to go put my dope away?!”

I hadn’t thought about that before then.The guy on the ladder outside my apartment? Almost certainly a police stakeout. He looked at the bag of drugs but saw the loaf of bread and didn’t do anything. The time between when I left my apartment and when I got back was around 20 minutes. I missed going to prison for 2 years by 20 minutes. It was like I’d been run over by a big truck but somehow I ended up between the wheels. That was how I thought about it afterwards.

So next Sunday I was in church, right? Suit and tie, big haircut and had really changed my ways? Not at all. I was deeply “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). “Though mercy be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness” (Isiah 26:10).

I guess I just thought that I’d been really, really lucky. But the thing is, all the time, things like this kept happening to me, for good and for bad. Not every day. But these were things that atheism was having a real hard time explaining.

The-devil-and-hopelessness

From “Lucifer and the White Moths”

I guess the end of the story is what I wrote about in “Lucifer and the White Moths”. It was over a year later when it virtually took death itself and going to the eternal fires of hell to wake me up enough to turn towards the Lord. But He, in His infinite foresight and knowledge, knew that ultimately I would make that turn to Him.

At the bottom of my heart I was desperately looking for the truth and wanted to do something good with my life. I just really didn’t know there was a spiritual world. So God in His love chose that day to send an angel to probably yell in my ear to get those drugs out of my apartment immediately. I just thought it was my own thoughts. Thank God for His unfathomable love and mercy and power.

Good news from the Middle East

Iraq refugee campThis is the first time I’ve made a news item the main substance of a blog post. But this article so struck me as good news, as well as an antidote to what I feel has been so much fear and terror that’s been spread on Christian web sites in response to recent events in the Middle East.

So this is a great article for the fear mongers and terror advocates. God’s not dead or even sick! It’s not all beheadings and terror in the Middle East. Here are Christians witnessing and singing, worshiping and bringing others to Him, even during their personal “great tribulation”!

For many Christians here in the West, they teach and believe that the Church will be waft away before the “great tribulation” (Mathew 24:21). But the Lord didn’t rapture out these suffering Middle Eastern Christians and we won’t be raptured out either, at least not the way many teach and believe.

This is a great article to show that “they that understand among the people shall instruct many.” “They shall be strong and do exploits”, (Daniel 11:32 & 33) even during great tribulation. I’d already been hearing this news from my missionary friends who have been in those places for decades. This article shows that there are those there who are standing up for Him, as more of us will be someday in similar circumstances.

This was found on the web site www.breakingchristiannews.com. I don’t know these folks and I don’t know what they believe. But it’s great that they are letting us know about these victories for Him as this Middle Eastern Christians stand strong for Him. Here’s the article:

Despite ISIS Grip, Holy Spirit is at Work: Tent Churches Emerge in Iraqi Refugee Camps

Christian Aid Staff: Sep 12, 2014: Christian Aid Mission

“They asked us if God even exists for this to be allowed to happen. It was very difficult, but the Lord has given us grace in their sight to represent Jesus and the love of the work, which was shown to be wonderfully accepted among the Yazidis. They asked us to come back and took all our Bibles ‘in secret.'”

Iraq Christian aidIn the Kurdish area of Iraq, where people of different beliefs fled atrocities of the Islamic State (ISIS), the Iraqi ministry team supported by Christian Aid Mission found people in need of water, food and medicine.

Fatima, an Iraqi woman who fled atrocities committed by the Islamic State, was drawn to the sound of singing in a tent in a refugee camp in Dohuk, in the Kurdish region of Iraq. She approached cautiously.

Though embarrassed when the Christians worshiping inside saw her, she came closer and asked if she could enter and listen to what they were saying. By the time the meeting finished at 4 AM, she was on her way to embracing Christ as Savior and asked if she could bring friends and family to the next meeting.

Fatima, her husband and three daughters put their trust in Jesus for their salvation, and within a few weeks her involvement led to another 60 families making the same commitment, according to an area ministry leader supported by Christian Aid Mission.

“Tent churches are going on everywhere,” said the ministry leader. “Last week we had 68 families openly surrender their lives to the Lord. With all their large needs and difficult situations that they are going through, they thank God for the indwelling of Christ in their hearts. Twelve of those families were Muslims.” In addition, 200 children who received Bibles and coloring materials prayed to accept Jesus into their hearts.

Broken Hearts
Near Amerli, which Islamic State fighters besieged for more than two months before Kurdish and Iraqi forces aided by US warplanes drove them out on Sept. 1, the ministry leader’s team encountered people in need of water, food and medicine. In a visit with a group of families able to escape before the ISIS siege, the team found opportunity to meet both spiritual and physical needs. “The Lord gave us many souls who believed in Christ there,” the team leader said.

In northern Erbil, the leader’s team met with displaced Yazidis, a predominantly Kurdish ethnic group practicing a mix of Zoroastrian, Islamic, and Christian rituals, who suffered the slaughter of an estimated 500 of their members at the hands of ISIS. Some 130,000 Yazidis of Sinjar had fled to Irbil or farther north to Dohuk. “Our ministry to them was filled with tears and broken hearts to hear scary stories about abducted children and women and the slaughter of men,” the team leader said.

The Iraqi ministry team has prepared 2,000 Bibles, including those for children, plus 2,500 New Testaments in Arabic, Aramaic and Kurdish, along with tracts and Bible-based coloring books.

Iraq mattreses“We have a lot more that is needed, such as gas, workers’ support, radios, clothing and miscellaneous ministry items,” the team leader said.

Christian Aid Mission is helping the ministry to provide two kinds of food to Iraq’s internally displaced people – one for those who have cooking facilities, and another for those who are homeless. A box containing eggs, salt, oil, rice, cheese, beef, tomato paste, powdered milk, macaroni and bread costs $25. For 300 tents for small families, the cost comes to $7,500.

The team provides 800 sandwiches a day to different areas and groups at a cost of $2 per sandwich, which amounts to a weekly cost of $11,200. The ministry has borrowed sleeping bags and mattresses from a local store with the hope of repaying the merchants at $20 per mattress. “Four hundred mattresses cost $8,000, and we are almost out,” the leader said.

The ministry team also provides medicines for blood pressure, diabetes, headaches and stomach ailments, along with personal hygiene items. “Our goal was to provide $10,000 worth. We are starting with only $2,000 now,” he said. “Thank you so much for your prayers and support.”

For more information on indigenous Iraqi ministries, visit ChristianAid.org or see #HelpLocalIraq on Twitter.

“The Last 7 Years” -Daniel 9:27-

If you’ve been seeing the other videos on the prophecies of Daniel before this, you’ll know that this is essentially the seminal video in the series. This video, based around the last verse in Daniel 9, is focused on the Old Testament verse that Jesus Himself referred to when He was asked about His return. For those familiar with Bible prophecy, this verse is somewhat like a linchpin, a “Rosetta Stone”, fitting together the many different pieces of the endtime picture and the future to come.

On a personal note, it’s been a joy to me that the Lord has made it so that I’ve been able to get this far in this series that these two videos on Daniel chapter 9 have been completed. I hope and pray this one will be a blessing to you and to all those who are seeking to understand. As Jesus said about this verse, “…whoever reads, let him understand” (Matthew 24:15b).

Looking back, and up ahead

Keep climbing-flattenedAs some of you know, I had a birthday in the last few days. But there’s something happening at this time which is a bigger milestone than that. I’ve finally completed the present video I’ve been working on, the one about Daniel 9:27 and the last 7 year before the coming of the Lord.

If you’d told me, 25 years ago, that in the future I’d be able to make a video series like this which can be viewed quickly and simply by people around the world, I definitely would have been really happy to hear that. It’s not that I’ve completed all the videos to be done on the prophecies of Daniel. But this video that’s just now been finished is what could be considered the seminal video in the series that brings together the pith and essence of the message about the future contained in Daniel. This is the chapter and the verse that Jesus Himself referred to when He was asked about His return.

Possibly the next blog article I post after this one, probably later this week, will announce this video and make it available. And since I did the first filming on this Daniel project over 11 years ago, it’s a feeling of accomplished and satisfaction in the Lord to know that there are 6 full length videos and 3 supplementary ones that delve into the depths of the prophecies of Daniel, but which also are hopefully simple enough that folks without a lot of theology background can understand them and share them with others.

I made it-flattenedBut, as many of us know, it can be a rather dangerous place if you get to where you are satisfied and feel you have come to the pinnacle and ultimate plateau of your work and life. Thankfully, I don’t feel that way at all. It is nice to realize that a dream in some ways has become reality. But there’s still so very much to do, seed to sow, fields to reap, worlds to be changed, lives to be touched, that there’s no room or place for complacency or a sense of having arrived.

Presently, my vision for the next months is not to immediately jump into the next chapter in Daniel, chapter 10, and to do a video about that. Months ago the Lord laid it on my heart to get these videos into other languages. Having lived in so many countries, I feel I know that there’s a vast hunger for teaching on the future that is Bible based, visual, somewhat brief and is simple enough that “normal folks” can understand it and grasp its significance.

what is next-flattenedOver the last few months I’ve started working with translators and audio dubbers in seven languages so far. My goal is to at least get the first two videos I’ve done in English over into these other languages. After that, I’ll aim to have those posted on a “Prophecies of Daniel” web site in those languages and to begin to do blog posts regularly there as I continue to get the next videos done into those languages and posted on those sites. It’s kind of a big vision. But also it’s very exciting and something that I feel, if it can happen, can really be a help to so many.

And there are other things coming up. It looks like I’ll be making a trip to Europe to visit my family in October. And my hope is to make another visit there early next year to talk with the translators and the ones doing the dubbing of the videos into some of the other languages. There’s a lot to look forward to.

Students and Goj 1

Their own Gospel of John in their language, Zulu

Another thing that I haven’t mentioned is how my friends here in Austin have been helping towards missionary efforts of my friends abroad. A lot of this has been in the purchase of Bibles and especially Gospels of John. There are local pastors in Africa who don’t even have a Bible in their own language. So we’ve been working with ones on the field to purchase Bibles for ones like this.

Students and Goj 2

“Holding forth the Word of life…” (Philippians 2:16)

Also there have been some large purchases of Gospels of John which have been distributed to members of congregations and also in schools. The brother who was the translator of my classes in Budapest, Hungary 20 years ago has been working in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa for 11 years now. He does programs in high schools there and he is distributing thousands of gospels of John to the students in the local language, Zulu. It’s a thrill because those young folks will be able to take those booklets home to share with their parents, grandparents and larger family. Probably for most, it will be the first time they’ve had even a piece of the Bible in their home.

So, overall, it’s a happy time. Lots of good things have been happening and I feel there are still yet many more things within view up ahead that will keep me busy and active, fighting for something that I feel is worth fighting for. And that’s to feed His sheep, to try to publish “glad tidings” and just to live for Him and for others. It’s been a very good year, thank the Lord. I hope you’ve had the same.

 

Action? Or Stillness?

Elijah smote2 flattenedI was having my morning devotions time and one of the things I read was from “Streams in the Desert” about stillness. The thought was how that it isn’t in all our efforts or straining that God’s will is accomplished but in being still.

So I really thought about that. Like so many things, there’s a lot of truth there. At the same time, there’s plenty of room also for coming to the wrong conclusion.

Of course it’s all very true: our own feverish efforts in our own spirit to accomplish God’s will is not what’s needed or what God wants. But on the other hand, if someone comes to the conclusion that His highest and best is to attain some monastic asceticism, then they really haven’t got the picture of what God is and what He wants. God is a moving God. He’s always changing, moving, flowing and affecting change in every sphere of His creation.

Jesus didn’t command His disciples in His last day on earth, “Go off into the desert, run from the devil and perfect your own holiness.” Nope. He told them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

Active or Stillness flattenedHoliness is great. But what is it? Sitting around in mediation and stillness all day? There’s certainly, definitely a time and a need for meditation, stillness and coming into the presence of the Lord; we all desperately need that.

But then what? Well, a verse that’s always pierced my heart is “Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, so shall you be My disciple.” (John 15:8) And of course some people don’t even know what the Lord is talking about there. Some people think Jesus is talking about “the fruit of the Spirit” that Paul talked about: love, joy, peace and things like that. Well in this case, Jesus was not talking about the fruit of the Spirit. He was talking about being fruitful the same way a tree is fruitful or a man and a woman are fruitful.

Apples are the fruit of an apple tree and other Christians are the fruit of a Christian. Did they tell you that in your church? Did you know that we are supposed to bear fruit in the form of other people that we bring to the Lord? And if we’re going to do that, then we aren’t going to be sitting around all day in stoic stillness, solitude and mediation.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m certainly not disagreeing with the admonition to get quiet before the Lord and to seek His face. It’s part of my life daily and I don’t do so well if I don’t have that time. Even Jesus had to get up before dawn and go out in nature and get alone with His Father, it says so in the Bible. “And Jesus, rising up a great while before dawn, went out into a solitary place, and there prayed.” (Mark 1:35) But He didn’t stay there all day. He was back with people, “going about everywhere, doing good“. (Acts 10:38)

Hurry-or-prayerI guess it’s like the verse that to me really covers a lot of things. “These ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”  (Matthew 23:23) Stillness? Quietness? Mediation? Sure. But then we are to come down off our mountain and to be about our Father’s business. And we will carry that serenity, that power and that blessing with us because we will be so full of Him, His love and His compassion for the lost that it won’t be self effort and our frantic frenzy in the flesh. It will be His Spirit in us, causing us to do the humanly impossible.

Paul said one time, “But by the grace of God I am what I am. And his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain. But I labored more abundantly than they all. Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (I Corinthians 15:10) Paul said that he labored more than they all, but that it was still all only God’s grace.

If you are really coming before the Lord and receiving from Him, it will activated you and motivate you. Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” But true and real Christianity is anything but sleep inducing. Jesus wasn’t crucified for putting people into a drugged stupor.

So Lord help us all to “not leave the other undone”, to not overdo it in the direction of mediation and stillness, or to be so fervent in the direction of Christian action and our efforts to sow the seeds of His word and to win souls that we run outside His will and His power. “There’s a time for every purpose under heaven“. (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Lord help us to know when to do what.

Acts 17 Live Class Audio

Acts 17 is a beautiful and triumphant chapter, showing obedience to the commandment Jesus gave His disciples after His resurrection when He said, “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you. And you shall be witnesses unto me …unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Paul preaching in Athens

Paul preaching in Athens

In our live class on Acts 17, we saw the Apostle Paul as he witnessed both to the Jews and especially to the Greeks of Athens. The audio recording of our Acts 17 live class can be heard here.

We talking about how this chapter shows so much of the character and heart of the Apostle Paul. In the second half of Acts 17, at one point he is witnessing to fully pagan Greeks. Did he tell them they were all worshiping devils and that they’d all burn in hell? No, he didn’t. His purpose was to win souls.

But at the beginning of the chapter, when he was witnessing to the Jews, it says in Acts 17:2 & 3 “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.”

We talked about how Paul must have used Isaiah 53, the chapter that so clearer foretells the suffering of the Messiah to come. It’s one of the most astounding prophecy chapters in the Bible and the one that perhaps encapsulates the life of Jesus, more than any other chapter in the Old Testament.

But, just as happened to Paul in Acts 13, the Jews, “moved with envy” (Acts 17:5), gathered a mob and accused Paul and his friends of “turning the world upside down”, “doing contrary to decrees of Caesar”. (Acts 17:6 & 7)

If they’d come with religious accusations to the authorities, they wouldn’t have listened to them. So they had to try to make it something political. But actually it was religious envy at the core of it all. “The time will come that whoever kills you will think they do God service.” (John 16:2)

In Athens, Paul passes by the altar “To the unknown god”

In Athens, Paul passes by the altar “To the unknown god”

So this pattern we see here in this chapter is something that had happened before and would happen later in Acts. And it has been repeated in history for centuries when radical discipleship Christians stand up for the Lord and refuse to be cowered by the jealousies and power of the older church which no longer was moving with the white hot fires of the Spirit of God.

We went over that in our class how many denominations have come out of once “on fire” groups of believers. The Church of England came out of the Catholic Church back in the 1500’s. John Wesley led the Methodist Revival movement which eventually came out of the Church of England. And England was swept with Christian fervor and revival at the same time as nearby France was suffering the terrors of the French Revolution. Then later, after Methodism began to cool, William Booth led the Salvation Army out of the Methodist 150 years ago.

And of course we paused at Acts 17:11, which says, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so”. That verse is often remembered and quoted, about the Bereans who didn’t just listen to Paul but went back home and checked with Scripture on whether what he’d been telling them was the truth. Just one verse, but it’s famous for being how all of us should be in digging into the Scriptures personally to be certain of the truth ourselves.

Paul witnessing in AthensAnd then we have the beautiful, deep witness that Paul gave to the Athenians on Mars Hill, as he told them about “the unknown god”, the Creator. If ever there is a witness to us Christians of someone’s love for the lost, even the intellectual lost, this is it. No condemnation, no ranting and talk of the devil, just expounding and explaining to them about something most of them had maybe never heard of, the God of creation.

It’s a beautiful and significant chapter, not just as history but an example to us all of how, as Solomon said, “a true witness delivereth souls”. (Proverbs 14:25) God help us all to be more like that. The live audio of our Acts 17 class can be heard here. I hope you’ll be able to listen to it and that it will be a blessing to you.