Heat to Light

isis fixedSo we were talking about the Middle East, about Islam and Islamic fighters, extremism and the phrase that was used back in the 70’s, “hearts and minds” came up.

Yesterday on the national news a German reporter was telling about his experiences in the radical Muslim camps in the Middle East and how new volunteers from the West came every day to join the forces there.

US forces fixedThe reporter said that even the very best combat troops from the West would not really be able to defeat the Islamic fighters. The reason he gave was that all the Western forces basically still hoped they would finish their tour of duty and get back to their families. But the Islamic fighters, they were fully ready to die for what they were fighting for.

Electric heat

Electric heat

It really gives one pause for thought. I told my family that it’s almost like spectrums, how scientists say that in a sense, light and heat are the same thing, just different frequencies and ranges. In the same sense, it’s like the motivations that motivate someone when it comes to patriotism, nationalism and pride could be compared to heat that motivates us and even inflames us.

Electric light

Electric light

But further up the frequency is the realm of light, or what some people call religion. So many Islamic people worldwide today feel strongly about their faith in God, which incidentally they will tell you, if you ask them, is in the God of Abraham, regardless of what some American Evangelicals will tell you otherwise.

But it’s like the phrase again, “hearts and minds”. The early Christian movement in the first centuries started out with a band of 70 to 100 young Jewish men and women in an obscure province of Rome. And in around 200 years, it had mostly taken over the Roman Empire.

behold these Christians flatHow did they do that? With weapons? Technology? Education? Culture? Entertainment? No, it was what today is called religion. But back then it was more a matter of what was totally believed to be truth, love and a revealed reality. They reveled in the light that the promised Messiah of the Jews had indeed come, had risen from the dead and was now at the right hand of God, ready to forgive sins and to give eternal life to those who came to Him in prayer.

You may not believe that. Certainly 100’s of millions of people in the West think that’s not really true or relevant anymore. But Islamic people have not had the falling away from their faith that Westerns have had. They don’t separate out religion from the rest of their lives, like most Westerns do. Even that is as fairly recent event in our history.died in faith

Usually, in some sense, you could say that light will generally trump heat. Back at the time of Rome, the Christians had so much light, they didn’t physically attack the Romans, but the Romans attacked them. And it became clear over the first two centuries or so that the Christians were so full of their light and faith that they would joyously die for their faith, rather than renounce it. And eventually the light of Christianity defeated the heat of the Roman civilization of that day.

Mark, are you trying to say that the Muslim’s faith in what they believe is the light in their religion will not be overcome by the strength of our patriotism, our nationalism, our advanced civilization?

I don’t know. I do know from my experiences that I found the faith of many Muslims is often pretty strong and intact whereas the faith-foundation of many Westerners is kind of flimsy at best, if you really test it. People have souls and spirits. And patriotism, materialism and nationalism are just not really designed to enlighten our souls the way the God of the Bible and His Son can and will, if we let Them.

So I was telling my family tonight that I feel what’s really needed is to move out of the spectrum of heat and move towards the spectrum of light. For me, it wasn’t till I came to “the Light of Israel”, Jesus Christ, that I had the transformation of soul, spirit, mind and character that has carried me through my last 40 plus years. The Western world, what overall could be called “the Christian world”, is really pretty weak in spirit right now. So very few are strong in their faith, strong in its tenets, strong in a personal experience with God and with Jesus. And it’s just a law of nature that weakened, confused, unmotivated forces will loose to more highly motivated, envisioned, inspired forces of what are seen to be the enemy.

Most experts on international affairs and the intelligentsia of all that will openly admit that tactical, physical warfare can only do so much. If “hearts and minds” are not won, then you’re just chopping weeds without rooting out the cause. What of course is truly needed worldwide is for the people of Lord to be strengthened mightily in their innermost being, not with military weapons, foreign aid or patriotic pageantry but in the utter fundamentals of the faith of their forefathers.

Paul said, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but might through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4)  “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) This is a Biblical way of stating what folks were saying at the time of the Viet Nam war that “hearts and minds” needed to be won, not just to do battle in the physical.

But how many Christians today know how to fight with the spiritual weapons of His Word and love to bring this world to Him? Most of them seem to default to “send in the troops” or just to collapse in fear of Islam, rather than knowing how to move to the “higher frequencies” of the light of the Lord to win souls and win this world to Him.

Without a knowledge of God, a relationship with God, the protection of God and the salvation of God, no amount of carnal, mental machinations of man will stand up to stronger spiritual forces, if God deems it time to unleash them on a backslidden people. Heat has its limits and weaknesses. We must all get further up the frequency, into the realms of Light.

Matches, when I was 5

I was 5 years old in Marlin, Texas. My parents both went to work every day so I was left alone with a “Negro maid”. I was pretty much on my own so I was out on my tricycle a lot, riding around the neighborhood and just checking things out.

Four years old; Marlin, Texas

Four years old; Marlin, Texas

I guess it was summer because a friend of mine who was 7 and I were out in a vacant lot and we decided to start a fire. I knew enough already to clear all the dead and dry grass around in order to make a little clearing and a circle of stones to make the fire in. But we needed a way to start it. We decided that I would go back home and snitch a box of matches which I knew were in a place in the kitchen, without our maid knowing of course.

So I got back with the matches and we were all ready to make our little fire. Boy, did I learn some lessons. First one was that, strange as it may seem, 7 year olds are not always smarter than 5 year olds. My friend suddenly started striking matches and throwing them out into the dry grass, rather than to light a fire in the circle of stones that we’d agreed on. I was yelling at him not to do that but to no avail. The next thing we knew, the grass was on fire and a right good grass fire was suddenly started up in the neighborhood.Striking matches-a-resized

Heading out into the neighborhood, looking for adventure

Heading out into the neighborhood, looking for adventure

And, would you believe it, the fire department had to come out with two fire trucks and put out the blaze. Good they did, since the vacant lot was surrounded by bungalows on 3 sides.

I really got in trouble. I got some serious discipline which I remember I didn’t fight much as I had enough conscience to know I’d done wrong by going back to the house and sneaking off with those matches. But my 7 year old friend? Nothing happened to him. His dad had been a pilot and was killed in the Korean War; his mom was a nurse at the Veterans’ hospital. He didn’t get any discipline.

I thought it wasn’t fair, he was the one that was stupid, it seemed to me. But I knew what I got was fair as I’d done wrong and I knew it. But it was good in a sense that nothing really bad came of this beyond a grass fire in a vacant lot that the Marlin fire department had to come and put out.

What in the world of a lesson can be found in this? Well, like Moses said, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23) I didn’t know that verse back then but I had an active enough conscience that the principle was certainly clear to me. Also, like Job said, “Great men are not always wise. Neither do the aged understand judgment.”  (Job 32:9) I was really surprised at my 7 year old friend that he didn’t have more wisdom than that to just start throwing matches out into dry grass. Even I knew that and I was 5.

And then I was thinking tonight, “Well, son-of-a-gun, it’s in some ways like I’m throwing matches out into dry grass.” Only in this case it’s not to do mischief but in hopes to start fires for the Lord in a positive way, a little like the verse, “Cast thy bread upon the waters for thou shalt find it after many days.Give a portion to seven and also to eight.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1 & 2) Some of the things I write, it’s like, and “Who needs this? strike a match flatThis is kind of ‘out there’”. But maybe it will catch fire in a good sense somewhere. Someone will be moved by it; someone will respond to it, someone will be inspired and inflamed by it, just like a match on dry grass.

That incident when I was 5 was a very memorable moment for me. The whole episode could have gone much worse. The fire could have caught the houses nearby on fire and injured people. I was doing something I knew in my heart was wrong. The older kid didn’t seem to have the knowledge and conscience that I did, although he was two years older than me. That was a surprise.

But it was a memorable moment on many fronts. I never saw anything good in it at all that I did; it was just wrong. “A child left to himself, brings his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15). I’d been left alone to ride my bike around the neighborhood at the age of 5 almost every day and I got into mischief.

But tonight I was thinking about these blog posts and the thought came to me that it’s like throwing matches out into dry grass. Only in this case, it is in an attempt to do good, not mischief. It’s an attempt to help other Christians ignite for the Lord and be a light for Him.Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

La Profecía Bíblica de la Historia video

Español

Este video presenta el fenómeno de la profecía bíblica en la historia del antiguo Israel. Es el primer film producido sobre las profecías de Daniel. Muchas personas no saben qué es la profecía bíblica. Desde luego, yo no lo sabia hasta que tuve un gran cambio en mi vida. Descubrí que hay un mundo espiritual y que yo estaba equivocado al ser ateo. Me convertí al Cristianismo  y estaba tan sorprendido cuando estudié la Biblia.

Espero que este film explique la historia de Israel y el milagro de la profecía bíblica. Esta es la versión en inglés de este documental. Mi siguiente video español será el libro de Daniel capítulo 2. Debería estar listo muy pronto. Dios los bendiga.

English

I’ve been able to complete the first video in Spanish of the Prophecies of Daniel series. This one in English is “An Introduction to Prophecy in History”. This can be seen in English here.

Many people don’t know what Bible prophecy is. I certainly didn’t until I had a big change in my life when I found out that God is real and the spiritual world really exists. Later I became a Christian and was so surprised when I read the Bible, especially the marvelous disclosures of Bible prophecy.

So, in doing this series on the prophecies of Daniel, I felt it would be good to first present the phenomenon of Bible prophecy, as well as a brief background of ancient history and the history of ancient Israel. History is the backdrop against which the prophecies of the prophets stand out as beacons and signposts of the future to come.

My next Spanish video will be Daniel chapter 2. That video should be ready soon. Meanwhile, I’m working on several other foreign language videos on Bible prophecy and I hope to have those out in the next few months. God bless you.

 

What Is A Conscience?

what conscience flatI got an interesting letter from a friend in Romania, telling me that someone had told him that our conscience is virtually a hindrance and a counterfeit of the presence of God. So he was asking me what actually our conscience is and where it might fit into the plan of God and God’s Word.

I wrote him back and said that, as with so many things like this, I always feel the first place to look is in the Word. The light of God’s Word can shine on and clarify things of the spirit, soul and heart that our own understanding can only try to grab at in our darkness.

That specific word, “conscience”, doesn’t seem to be used in the Old Testament but it’s found one place in the Gospels, “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one,” (John 8:9) Actually, the first verse that came to mind for me was where Paul made his defense to the Jewish elders in Jerusalem. The first thing he said was, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” (Acts 23:1) Whereupon he got a big slap on the mouth for saying that to them.

gyroscopeBut when I was looking to the Lord about this question, I got some interesting pictures. The whole principle of gyroscopes and compasses came to mind. And I think maybe our conscience is like those things in some ways.

The Bible says we have a heart, a soul, a mind and a spirit. But it seems like our conscience is something that is sort of built into us and that we’re born with, almost like a rudimentary “on board navigation system” that each person has. Gyroscopes, in the physical, help provide ships and other things with a balancing system. How exactly that works with a gyroscope is a little mysterious; I can’t explain it but I’m sure some scientist can. And the same with compasses: they provide direction, always pointing to the north, although again, it seems almost spooky how they work. But they do.

compassSo maybe our consciences are a little like a gyroscope and a compass within our souls, providing us some rudimentary “balance” and “direction” in the affairs of our moral and ethical decision-making.

But like the person who was talking to my Romanian friend said, our consciences are far from foolproof and certainly not themselves devices that bring us salvation. Paul talked about things that “wound their weak conscience” (I Corinthians 8:12) or even where some “Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron…” (I Tim. 4:2)

So just as gyroscopes and compasses are relatively fragile instruments, it seems our consciences can be weak, even become damaged and in some cases dysfunctional. A word you don’t hear much anymore is “reprobate” (Romans 1:28), a good Bible word for someone who has moved so far away from the voice of their conscience that they literally don’t know the difference between right and wrong anymore.

But to the questions or statements about our conscience, the person told my Romanian friend that “The biggest lie, even before evolution, that the devil was able to push on the World was that our conscience is God’s presence in us. “

stopI think a thorough Word study on our conscience would show that it’s certainly something that we’re born with and is some form or type of guidance and balance system that is imbued in each soul born, or so it seems. And that it comes from God.

So I understand what that person is trying to say there. But I think they’re being a little too hard and critical of our God-given conscience. I understand what they want to get across is that our conscience is not going to save us and actually our sinful nature can and often does overrule our conscience. I think that’s what Paul meant when he said, “The good that I would, I do not, but the evil that I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19)

The power of sin in the life of the unsaved can and often will overcome their conscience. That’s certainly what happened to me. That’s why that verse in John has always seemed to encapsulate what happened to me, “As many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name.” (John 1:12) Until I received Jesus, I just didn’t have the power to resist the sins that were increasingly destroying my life. My conscience was there. But I increasingly listened to other voices, the voices of friends, social pressure and just “the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2). And the voice of my conscience became fainter and fainter.smoking flat-a

That’s why God provided a better “guidance system” than our weak “onboard” conscience. And that is “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) “A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you, I will take the stony heart out of our flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

Our consciences are not bad and I believe they’re part of the gift and grace of God. But they alone won’t really provide the guidance and certainly not the strength we need to turn against the course of this world and to follow the Spirit of God into “the path of life. (Psalms 16:11)

So is that guy right or wrong? A little of both, I think. He does have a point. But your conscience doesn’t have to be seen as your enemy and again, a good Word study in the New Testament will repeatedly speak of our conscience as being a good thing.

Only, Salvation is a better thing. Salvation is God’s final solution and answer to the darkness and sin in our lives.Who has delivered us from the power of darkness and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son, in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13 & 14) Gyroscopes and compasses are good and they have their place. But it’s far more important to get God’s full package of “upgrades, hardware and software” that can truly make us “new creatures in Christ Jesus”. (II Corinthians 5:17)

 

Conspiracy Theory and/or Bible Prophecy

John KennedyWhen John Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Texas, I was a young teenager, living 100 miles away. He was a major hero and role model to me and his death had a heavy impact on my heart and life. Later, as the info came out about the details of his death, it seemed clear to me that it was not just a lone gunman who got off some amazingly “lucky” shots. I saw the Zapruder film and from that it seems clear that the shot that killed Kennedy didn’t come from the direction of Oswald.

Lee Harvey Oswald

Lee Harvey Oswald

So I guess that makes me a conspiracy theorist. And since that time the whole genre of conspiracy theories has grown to a full industry and major phenomenon of our times.

Some years later I surprisingly came to find out that there actually is a God in heaven, as well as the devil, angels and the whole thing. It in some ways was the climax of a series of shocking, eye-opening experiences that caused me to see the world in a totally different way. And I guess you could say, “Well, if you can believe in conspiracy theories, it’s probably easy for you to believe in that God stuff too.

But they are different. Admittedly there are some similarities. Conspiracy theorists see a lot of things going on that most people don’t know about. They see unseen forces, organizations and individuals, working behind the scenes to shape the destiny of man to go the direction they want them to. They see entities which want us to view things a certain way, to believe things that aren’t true and to basically enslave the human race. Is that all true? I’d say some of it is true and even verifiable to some degree.

But also there’s a difference. From my experience, conspiracy theorists seem to get mad a lot and there’s virtually no stopping place at where they will see “them” at work. Everything that happens is somehow not as it seems. “They” are active, everywhere and just about to take over our lives, our nation and our world.

What I don’t find in conspiracy theory is answers. There’s fear, there’s what is said to be a revelation of what is real, but there really isn’t much offered to alleviate all this. Also I feel that following a strong, steady line of conspiracy theory doctrine will come to make someone rather paranoid overall, distrustful, cynical and afraid of virtually everyone, even their best friends.

It reminds me of the verse in II Timothy, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7) I came out of a lot of atheist, worldly darkness and that verse was like a promise I held on to for years that the Lord would create in me a “sound mind”, not burdened with confusion, fears and misunderstand.

Conspiracy Theory or Bible Prophecy flatThat’s another good verse that could be applied to conspiracy theories” “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” (I Corinthians 14:33) I guess in some ways it is good what those folks do since so many people walk in such dullness and blindness. Conspiracy theorists might wake some of those ones up that there’s some serious stuff going on and that common people are being deceived daily on a massive scale.

sharing the Word with joy-2 flatBut this is all really different from what the study of Bible prophecy does. Bible prophecy not only exposes the systems and evils of man, which has been around for millennia, but it gives clear answers about what the solution is that God Himself has provided and is in the process of bringing to pass. Bible prophecy is a real eye opener. But it doesn’t carry that “spirit of fear”, as well as confusion that so often seems to accompany conspiracy theory teaching.

So I suppose those who avidly follow conspiracy theories might be woken up somewhat to the depth of evil in the world and shaken somewhat out of the general stupor that is upon so much of mankind. But then what?

God told Jeremiah that he was ordained to “root out, pull down, destroy, throw down” (Jeremiah 1:10) Conspiracy theory does that, sort of a general deconstruction of almost everything. But then God told Jeremiah two more things he was to do, “to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10) I haven’t seen any way that conspiracy theory builds and plants. But Bible prophecy does. It tells how bad it is and how bad it will still get. But then it tells of God’s solution and the happy ending to all this mess that He will bring in His coming Kingdom on earth.

jesus on mount reduced

Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, as Peter, James and John watch. (Matthew 17:1-8)

I suppose one of the greatest witnesses of one of the greatest miracles on earth was the Apostle Peter. The Bible says he was there when Jesus was transformed on the mountain into His glory and shined like the sun in front of 3 of His disciples. And God the Father spoke to them as well. Peter said of this experience, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables but were eyewitnesses of the majesty of Jesus Christ. For He received honor and glory from God the Father, when there came a voice from the excellent glory, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice from Heaven, being with Him in the holy mountain.” (II Peter 1:16-18)

But then Peter goes on to say an amazing thing. He tells us of something that’s even greater than what he personally saw with his eyes and heard with his ears. Here’s what he says next. “We also have a more sure Word of prophecy, to which you do well to take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Daystar arises in your hearts. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture came into being of its own private interpretation. For prophecy didn’t come in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (II Peter 1:19-21)

Peter says that the prophecies of the Word of God are more sure than even what he personal saw and heard at perhaps one of the most seminal moments in his life. That’s good truth for us today when we are at times “tossed and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14), by conspiracy theories with their adjacent fears and uncertainties. For believers in God and in Christ, we have a “more sure word of prophecy.” (II Peter 1:19)

 

A little further

Jesus in gardenMathew 26:39 says of Jesus, “He went a little further and fell on His face.” This was Jesus’ time in the garden of Gethsemane, just before His arrest and subsequent crucifixion. But how many of us need to follow Jesus’ example here in “going a little further and falling on our face” in desperate prayer? Sadly, many of us are more like what it says of the Apostle Peter, an hour or two after Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane.

Peter afar off flatIt says of Peter, “he followed Him afar off” (Mathew 26:58). Well, at least he followed. But I wonder sometimes how many believers in God nowadays even know what it means to “follow”, much less to “go a little further”.

Maybe some do, I don’t want to be less than magnanimous or fail to give people the benefit of the doubt. But if there’s any hope for our nation, much less our world in these times, it’s that the people of faith have an awakening in their hearts to endeavor to truly obey and follow God more than they ever have before.

Sadly, I feel so many churches don’t teach this or hardly know what it means. In a recent blog post, I shared the story of how four of us were a team in the immediate aftermath of the South Asian Tsunami of late 2004. We’d each prayed desperately and felt individually called by the Lord to go to the horrific disaster area that we were hearing about. It was truly like being in another world in so many ways. All social structures had been swept away in that tsunami, the police, the hospitals and the survivors in city of nearly half a million were probably all in some state of shock, stress and suspended belief, mixed with great grief.

airport in Aceh

Four of us with 2 helpers. Banda Aceh, Indonesia. January, 2005

But it was the fact that the four of us had working in us strongly the operating system of the Lord, providing us unity between ourselves, peace, wisdom, compassion and as well leading and guiding at a time when many aid workers coming there couldn’t stay more than a few days. Many said it was just too much for them. But this principle of following the Lord, being a disciple of Jesus was the underpinning and stability that gave the four of us the strength, wisdom and grace we needed each day in what were traumatic, unstable and potentially hostile situations.

Are we going a little further and falling on our face in desperate prayer, like Jesus? Or are we “following afar off”? Or worse, are we “at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1)? Sadly, the nature of our world today (and maybe it’s always been this way) is that the words Jesus spoke to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3 seem to hold a heavy significance for many believers today.I traded Gods will-flattened

Because you say you are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing, but know not that you are wretched and blind and miserable and naked. I council you to buy of Me gold tried in the fire.” (Rev. 3:17 & 18) This wasn’t spoken to unbelievers; it was spoken from heaven by the Lord to His own followers which He was addressing in the book of Revelation.

Often it just finally takes some kind of persecution or affliction to wake people up, both individually and also as a nation. And even that doesn’t always work. I guess it comes back to that verse, “Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart“. (Psalm 95:7 & 8)

I believe that the voice and Spirit of God is active daily in the lives of believers, calling them, instructing them, pleading with them, offering Godly choices and alternatives to them. But sadly I think so many folks have become dull to the voice of God. They “follow afar off”. Or not at all. They believe in the Lord, but they barely know what it means to “take up their cross daily” (Luke 9:23) and follow Him. Definitely they believe. Definitely they pray, read their Bibles and make some efforts and even sacrifices to face the direction that God would lead. But it often doesn’t go too much further than that.

May the Lord help us all. May we “lay aside every weight and the sins that so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12:2). May we “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:2). Not as spectators, sitting in the grandstands of faith, but active participants for the Lord, disciples, servants of Him and others, moving with the white hot fires of the Spirit of God. Don’t follow afar off, go a little further.

Addicted to hate

I hate them-2 flatYears ago in Denmark my former wife and I were ministering to a recovered morphine addict. We read the Bible with him and tried to help him in his recovery. But a thing that both of us noticed was that, although he no longer used morphine, he was drinking up to 20 cups of coffee a day. In some sense, he’d traded one addiction for another.

It seems that’s how it is for multitudes of people when it comes to hatred. Vast numbers of people think of themselves as good citizens, faithful to their wife or husband and keeping the law. But, boy, they love to hate.

Around a year ago my dad passed away and I wrote a post about him, Bonner McMillion. One of the main things I mentioned there was how my parents taught me not to hate African-Americans at a time when virtually every white person I knew in our city was filled with racial hatred to one degree or another.

But today, hatred of blacks by whites is much less than it was when I was growing up. It’s not in vogue anymore, it’s less accepted. But it’s surely still ok to hate, perhaps more than in the past. Pew Research recently made a study and found that the USA is more divided as a nation than any time in the last 150 years. I wonder how much of that has to do with a thriving cultural acceptance of hatred.

fear them not-3- flattenedThe most popular hatred here in the States seems to be hatred of Islamic people. “They” are here. “They” will destroy us. But some people feel that way about Catholics. Years ago it was popular to hate Jews. That was normal and accepted. We just seem to stop one addiction but move on to another.

You could say a lot of things in support of hatred, at least if you are not a Christian. Shouldn’t we hate “them”? Here’s what the Bible says, even the Old Testament. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” (Leviticus 19:17) It’s one of the greatest truisms of Christianity that it teaches love. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you.” (Matthew 5:44)

If you’re a Christian, and your life and words are full of hatred, then you’re living in sin, just as much as if you were an adulterer or whore monger. You’re just as defeated by your addiction to hatred as that man was that I ministered to years ago who was addicted to morphine first and then switched to coffee.

But, in a sense, you have my sympathies because “everybody else is doing it.” You’re mostly right on that; they are. But that surely doesn’t make it right if you’re trying to follow the light and path of the God of the Bible.

But Mark! Surely all hatred is not wrong!

Right again. Let’s look to God’s Word about that. Psalm 97:10 says, “You who love the Lord, hate evil.” Does it say to hate Muslims there? Or Catholics? Blacks? Jews? “Dagoes”? “Spics”? “Wops”? “Krauts”? “Chinks”? “Ragheads”? Obama? Or whatever your favorite hatred is? No. It says to hate evil, not people. God even “sends His rain on the just and the unjust”. (Matthew 5:45)

Does God hate? Yes, He does. Here’s what God’s Word says He hates. These six things does the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:16-19) We are to hate sin, as God does. But not people. We are to love people, in our hearts.

But Mark! I really hate them! All my friends hate them! TV commentators hate them! They are evil, Mark!

Conversation between 2 flatMy friend, this is a modern, virulent, satanic mindset that’s blinding and will snuff out God’s blessing and presence in your life, if it hasn’t already. You need to be “renewed in the spirit of your mind.” (Ephesians 4:23) You might need to turn off the TV, make new friends and move away from the old ones, just as if they were drug dealers or criminals.

If you love to hate, if you cultivate and nurture hatred, if you propagate hatred and start conversations with words about your hatred, then please don’t call yourself a Christian. If you’re doing this, you’re a reproach to the cause of Christ; you’re a mockery of what it is to be a Christian, no matter how outwardly righteous you appear to be. The evil you should hate is the hatred that has gripped your heart. Call out to the Lord Who can break every chain and cleanse ever stain. Flee hatred as you would drugs and ask the Lord to replace it with His love in your heart for all men, as He had.

 

 

Foolhardy Faith

What is that flatSome of the things I’ve done or experienced in my life as a missionary would probably be seen by some people as virtually foolish and even a bad testimony. I wrote about “It’s a gun, isn’t it?” and how the Lord protected me and my friend with 5 drunken east European miners in our train car on a Saturday night. But we were traveling on a mission for the Lord, trying to go forward for Him.

ItsAGun_04F fixed flatI can tell you of another time, perhaps more miraculous, while also probably more of a testimony of my youthful zeal but without wisdom, which the Lord forgave and seemingly blessed anyway.

I’d been married a little over a year and my Norwegian wife and I were desperate to leave Stockholm, Sweden, where our first son had been born, and to somehow get ourselves to Vienna, Austria, where we both strongly felt that God was leading us. We felt called to the then-Communist lands of eastern Europe. And to get ahead of the story a little, we did ultimately get to Vienna and had nearly 6 wonderful years there as we aimed with other young missionaries back then to reach the be-darkened people “behind the Iron Curtain”, as it was called then.

But before we ever got there, I’ll tell you of a story of God’s infinite mercy and provision, in spite of our zealous inexperience and almost foolhardy attempts to obey Him and go forward.

north European map flatIt was barely spring in the Stockholm, Sweden. My wife and I were desperate to move on from there, towards what we hoped would be an “open door” (I Corinthians 16:9) to Vienna, Austria, almost 1800 kilometers (1100 miles) to the south. Our first move was to get ourselves back over to Norway, my wife’s home country. We believed in “living by faith”, that is trusting God to “supply all our needs according to His riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19)  if we were “seeking first His Kingdom” (Matthew 6:33).  A solidly Biblical belief but certainly not one you’ll hear taught from most churches.

Here comes the hard part. You’re gonna think this is really “out there”. We were desperate and believed the Lord wanted us to go forward in our faith and obedience to Him. We had very little money at that time so we decided to “hitchhike” from Stockholm to Oslo, Norway in early spring. This was somewhat more normal back then, not as dangerous as it is nowadays and somewhat more acceptable. Still, we had our 2 month old son with us so it was still pretty close to foolhardy. And it’s not like there’s some 500 kilometer (300 mile) super highway between Stockholm and Oslo.

The first evening my former wife and I were at a highway rest stop, not actually too far from Stockholm. We’d made very little progress in hitchhiking, had virtually no money and we were eating a plate of French fries, praying together, reading our Bibles together and  were pretty desperate.

Fool hardy faith 1 editedTo make a long story short, we saw a man looking at us from across the restaurant who seemed to be a truck driver. As he left to go out to his truck, my wife went out to talk to him and ask if he was driving to Norway to see if we could get a ride. (I didn’t speak the language there at that time.)

Fool hardy faith 2 flatThe man was already in his truck by the time my wife got there. He said that, no, he wasn’t driving to Oslo. But then he said, “Are you guys Christians?” Perhaps that was slightly more normal back then in that part of the world than it is now. But still, it was a very unusual question to have a stranger ask in Sweden. He’d seen us praying and reading our Bibles in the restaurant.

So my wife said that we were and he asked, “Well, do you need help?” She explained our situation and he then helped with a generous donation. This made it possible for us to have a normal meal there as well as to pay for a room to stay at an adjoining motel over night.

The next day, we were able to hitchhike, in fits and starts, across Sweden to Norway and Oslo, to friends and loved ones where we grew in the Lord in those early years of our faith.But, it took another 3 years of travails in Scandinavia before we finally made it to Vienna.

They say, “It takes an impossible situation for God to do a miracle.” For us, that was one of the most outstanding and appreciated miracles we ever experienced. Perhaps it was foolhardy for us to “step out on the water” (see Matthew 14:28) like that with a young baby. But the Lord somehow forgave and overlooked our naivety and lack of wisdom and saw instead our desire to go forward for Him.

on our field flatAre you young in the Lord? Are you desperate to follow your faith and what you believe God is calling you to do? I would certainly say, try to have wisdom in what you do. “Wisdom is the principle thing” (Proverbs 4:7). But also, if God is giving you the faith to follow Him and trust that He will provide and supply, I can tell you that He did that for me, in spite of my indiscretions and being pretty much “a fool for Christ” (I Corinthians 4:10).

Your best bet is to truly follow Him, no matter how “crazy” it may seem. If it’s truly of Him, He’ll reach out His hand and get you across to the other side, no matter what outlandish way He has to do it. Like He did for me, my wife and little boy so many years ago. God bless you.