The Stand

they stoodSomeone said one time, “If your will power doesn’t work, try your “won’t” power.” Ha! But there’s a lot of truth in that. The Bible talks about the stand of faith. An obscure verse that highlights this principle is Judges 7:21, “And they stood, every man in his place, round about the camp, and all the host ran and cried and fled.” In this case, the forces of God didn’t attack. They just took the stand of faith.

I’ve definitely had times in my life when I just couldn’t seem to take any forward steps. And sometimes this went on a long time. But even if “my gas pedal” just didn’t seem to work, I still had “my brakes”. And I kept my foot on the brakes. I wasn’t going to go back, even if it seemed impossible to go forward. I think this can happen a lot of times to a lot of us. The Bible says, “Having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)

Wont go back flatBut sometimes the storms get so strong, we’re rendered so helpless that all we can do is just hang on. “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19) And at times all we can do is to take the stand of faith. Our “will” power is seemingly matched by the onslaughts of the enemy or the storms of life. But we still have our “won’t” power.

Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (I John 4:4) His Spirit in us will cause us to do the humanly impossible. We can choose, no matter what.

That’s one of the things I came away with from the utterly horrific times I went through in the last months and year or so before I came to a knowledge of God. “There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (I Corinthians 10:13) When I read that verse for the first time, I was just so very astounded. Because that was exactly what I had experienced, even without salvation earlier.

In my greatest, overwhelming inundations of fear, defeat and death, there was always some tiny sliver of light, some “way of escape”, no matter how faint. And through it all, I learned I had a soul. I learned the hard way. “The way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15) and I don’t know if it could have been any harder, if I was to survive it. But it was because of my sins and my lack of knowledge of the will and existence of God. He brought me through it but not without the smell of smoke. It took months and years of the cleansing of the Word of God to, in a sense, “rewire me” and to be “renewed in the spirit of my mind.” (Ephesians 4:23)

I choose Him flatBack in those times, I had no idea really where “forward” was. But the forces of darkness and sin were so strong in my life that if I didn’t learn how to use my brakes, if I didn’t have forming in me the basics of recognizing evil and repentance of sin, then those things would have fully taken my life before I was 21. But I learned I could resist the enemy and the darkness. I learned I could choose and therefore I was responsible for my decisions. Often they were bad decisions but that’s how I learned, at length.

I didn’t have the power of God then because I wasn’t saved. “As many as received Him, to them He gave  power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” (John 1:12) That verse encapsulates my salvation experience. I received Him, Jesus. And He gave me the power I didn’t have to, not only resist the wrong, but to know what was right.

So don’t underestimate the stand of faith. Don’t underestimate your “won’t power”. Just make sure you are exercising it on the enemy and your sins; don’t use your “won’t power” against the Lord. “If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land, but if you refuse and rebel… (things won’t go so well).”  (Isaiah 1:19)

PS  And when writing this, I got a little concerned. Because, as much as we all need to understand the stand of faith and how to apply our “brakes”, it’s perhaps equally or more important to know when to “step on the gas”. Faith in God is not just about standing and resisting the darkness; it’s perhaps even more about getting moving with, and for, God. More about that in the next post.

 

Partitions

soul heart flat-2Sometimes just to have the vocabulary for a thing is a huge step forward. When I started working with computers years ago, I realized immediately that there was a vocabulary involved. And learning the basic vocabulary having to do with computers was pretty essential in learning to use them.

Somewhat similarly, when I was an atheist in university, I kept experiencing things that I had no way to describe and no vocabulary for. How can an atheist describe spiritual experiences? Maybe that’s one of the reasons why, when I finally came to believe in God and later in Jesus, that it all just flooded into me. Because I had already had things happening to me that I didn’t understand and couldn’t describe until I learned the vocabulary of the Bible that helped to understand those things.

why arent we flatIf you’re secular, basically “your mind” is about as far as the vocabulary goes. Maybe it’s different now but back when I went to university, they sure never ever talked to me about my “soul”, or my “spirit” or my “heart”. Can you imagine going to a university that offered “Soul 101” as a course? Yet the Bible talks about those things all the time. And understanding what they are and what the differences are between them is a mighty step forward in understanding what are the essences of the beings we are. But university sure isn’t going to teach you that. Maybe you’ll hear some rock song about how your girlfriend “broke your heart”. But what is a heart? Is that all just metaphorical or some ancient wives’ tales?

For me, it was an incredible breakthrough to have the vocabulary of the Bible to describe my existence and experiences. Jesus spoke in one place of our “soul” and “heart” and  “mind”. (Matthew 22:47). In another place He said, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh…” (John 3:6) On the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23:46) And Paul, writing to the Ephesians, said that we should put off “the old man” and put on “the new man” (Ephesians 4:22-24). These are all ancient Biblical terms but they brought light and clarity to my soul that I was utterly lacking before.

So many people bemoan their present state. “Oh, I’m so tired!” “Oh, I’m so afraid!”  But they don’t really know, evidently, God’s way of partitioning our beings. The Bible is full of expressions that use this viewpoint. “While our outward man perishes, our inward man is renewed day by day.” (II Corinthians 4:16) Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing.” The Bible says of the Word of God that it pierces, “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit… and is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

There is ageless wisdom and understanding in the Bible that bring us to depths of understanding that university degrees never reach. Wisdom, understanding, knowledge. The Bible can help us to both treasure these things and to know how to apply them practically and daily in our lives.

Recently “my flesh” has been pushed. I’m pushing myself to get off to the next stage of my life. If I didn’t know better, I could say, “Oh, I’m really tired!” “Oh, this is so hard!” But I know that’s just the reaction of “my flesh”, according to how the Bible describes it. Because, truly, my spirit is fine and I’m excited about what’s going on and up ahead.

Admittedly, it’s a little hard on my flesh right now. But if I didn’t know God’s Word and how these things are described in the Bible, then I wouldn’t recognize the partition between “me” and “my flesh”. I’m not my flesh. It’s not the main thing, it’s not the real me. It’s part of me and part of my existence. But I am a soul, I have a spirit and a heart and a mind. So even if I have to push my flesh right now, if I still take care of it and don’t exceed the guidelines of the Lord, then this is generally what the Lord said, to “take up your cross daily” (Luke 9:24) and follow Him.

So many things flatI am benefiting so much at this time by being able to keep a Biblical view of things and what’s going on. I’m trying to go forward for Him. It involves some measure of personal and physical sacrifice and discomforted. But like Paul wrote, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) When we can take to ourselves these simple, basic principles from God’s Word, the terminology He uses to describe us, His creations, then it just helps overall to understand who and what we are, how our spiritual insides are constructed and how things work, what are our components and how we are partitioned.

Close Encounters and Pinnacle Experiences

Richard DreyfusMaybe you’ve heard the phrase, “pinnacle experiences”, those rare moments in life when you feel like you’re on some kind of spiritual mountain and see things that are almost eternal, truths you almost never realized before. For many people, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience or perhaps a few times at most. You’re lifted above the mundane, the routine, the trivial, and you briefly glimpse eternal realities.

Moses on MountPerhaps not many in history more fully experienced that than Moses of the Old Testament. He literally was called up into a mountain to hear the very voice of God and to experience the very presence of God. We are told this went on for 40 days. Of course most of us have no way we can relate to that. But many of us have had “mountain peak” experiences, moments of clarity, purity, fullness of truth when we feel we see eternal things and understand things we almost never do.

And Moses was told, “See that you make all things according to how it was showed you on the mount” (Hebrews 8:5). And it’s still the same today. Those “mountain peaks” of truth the Lord lets us see glimpses of perhaps only a few times in our lives, those glimpses of how things can be, how things are in the hereafter through the Spirit of God, those are the ways of heaven that He wants us to emulate here on earth. I’ve had a few times like that and I’ve written about them in the category “Angels and Miracles“.

Dreyfus in truckThere’s an old movie that has become very famous, ‘”Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. One of the main characters, Richard Dreyfus, has a “close encounter” with a UFO which comes to hover over his truck as he drives around to fix power lines one night. His life is utterly changed. It’s like some kind of message or imprint has been made on his soul. He just keeps duplicating “what he saw on the mount”, what he experienced in those few moments with the UFO. He isn’t really the same person he was before, because of the mountain peak experience he had with the UFO.

This to me has always been a parallel of how it is and can be with our experience with God. Many of us have had a moment in the stillness, in the presence of the supernatural Spirit of God. It could have been a dream, it could have been in prayer, it could have been in reading His Word when the affairs of this life drop behind you, you are away from secular things and on the mount with God, even if for a moment.

And I believe that the same way God told Moses to do all things according as it was shown him on the mount, He says the same to us today. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Sometimes there are moments when we “see God”. It doesn’t happen all the time but it does happen. And if we hold on to that, if we retain and treasure in our hearts those moments with Him on the mount that He gives us, then we can bring that essence down from the mount, as Moses did.

It says that Moses’s face shown and glowed so much when he came down from Mount Sinai that he had to put a veil or covering over his face because he glowed with the light of God right then. That’s for us too. If we remember our paths to the mountains that He has taken us to, then we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need”. (Hebrews 4:16)

Glow with GodThose mountain peaks don’t have to be once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Maybe they aren’t everyday things. But the influence, the change, the glory, the infusion of His mighty Love and Light can remain with us and we come back to this world as Moses did when he came down from the mount. We can “go about everywhere doing good” (Acts 10:38), as Jesus did. We can be “instruments of his peace”, that Saint Francis prayed he would be. We can bring that imprint of the mountain back to this dark, sad world and be the light He has called us to be.

See that you do all things according to how it was shown you on the mountain” (Hebrews 8:5). May God help us to remember those mountain peaks of experience He gives us, to live in those moments, even if they’re now memories, and to let others see that heavenly realm in and through us. “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). “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men, they marveled and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

Strange, very strange. But true.

same day born flatAbout this time 15 years ago I moved back to Austin, Texas for a while. I wasn’t exactly backsliding but maybe I was “side-sliding”. I’d somewhat lost faith in myself as a Christian disciple. Frankly, it’s more difficult to have faith in yourself when it seems others don’t. I felt that my Christian service had plateau-ed for a long time. Anyway, that’s how it seemed to me and how I felt others saw me.

So I moved back to my home field, after living abroad for 27 years. I got a job, an apartment, bought a car and just starting being “normal”. But maybe a good verse that applies here is “Whether shall I go from Your Spirit or whether shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend up into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold You are there…” Beautiful, famous verses from Psalm 139. Perhaps I could apply the verse about the prodigal son who “took his journey into a far country and wasted his substance with riotous living.” (Luke 15:13) Maybe that doesn’t apply though. I think I was just discouraged about my life and needed a break.

One night I was over at a Christian get-together here in Austin. I was in the library of this friend’s house, some guy I didn’t know was talking and I heard him say that he was born in 19–. [I’ll leave out some of the specifics; not good to share all that stuff in these computer times.] So just to make conversion I said,

“Interesting; I was also born in 19–.”

So this guy said,

“Yep, September -, 19—.”

So I said,

“Wow! Really? That’s the same day I was born! September -, 19–!”

One or two times in my life I’d met someone who was born on the same day as me. What a surprise! But then this fellow said next, just out of the blue,

“Yep ——— Hospital; ——, Texas. September —-, 19–.”

I was dumbfounded! I said,

I was born in ——– Hospital, —–, Texas. September —, 19–!”

By this time everyone was quiet and looking at us. And I was really checking this guy out. This all just came out of nowhere. But then next he said,

“Yep, my dad and uncle worked on the ———– newspaper in —–, Texas.”

And I said,

“But my dad worked on the ——– newspaper in ——, Texas!”

This really happened; I’ve got witnesses. This guy is a friend now and still around. So we were beyond astounded and could hardly believe what had happened. We told the rest of the ones there that night and everyone was shocked and surprised. But for me, I was perhaps more than that. I’ve seen the miraculous hand of God in my life and in the lives of others. I knew this wasn’t just a coincidence; this was another of “God’s little miracles”; maybe not even that little. But why?

Why did the Lord let that happen? This guy could have said he was born in 19–; I could have said “So was I.” And then he could have smiled and left the room! But he just kept coming up with more info, without any prompting from me at all! I didn’t do anything; he just kept revealing more of his life that corresponded exactly with mine.

I told my parents about this experience later and my mom remembered his mom being in the same room with her in the hospital. My dad remembered his dad and his uncle who worked on the newspaper with him. What kind of odds would Las Vegas bookies give for something like this happening? One in a million? Probably more than that.

But why did this happen? Was there some message? Some purpose beyond just the “X-files” strangeness of the whole thing? I thought and prayed about that. I just knew it was the hand of the Lord, manifesting Himself at a time when I was not really aiming to follow His highest and best.

At length, I came to feel that the Lord engineered the whole thing that night to show me that He was still around. He hadn’t given up on me, even if others had and perhaps I myself had. He was still the God of miracles; He could do mighty things to show that He was God, still leading, if I was willing to follow.“If we believe not, yet He remains faithful…”  (II Tim 2:13) “He that has begun a good work in you will perform it” (Philippians 1:6)

filming 2003

Filming, 2003

And from those somewhat sad, secular times of around 15 years ago came the beginnings of the video ministry I’ve been working on for the last years. So many friends in Austin who I had classes with back then on the book of Daniel (including ones who were there that night) said to me, “”You should video these”.

And so, at length, hearing this three or four times from various quarters, I began to have the vision to make into videos the prophecies of Daniel classes that I’d taught abroad for over 20 years. But it was the Lord showing me that He was still present in my life, still willing to do miracles and set up a situation with someone I was born in the same hospital with, that helped to renew my faith again in Him. And perhaps, even more, in the calling of God in my life.

The lesson? Maybe it’s simply what the Lord told us all in His Word, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) I will never flatI guess in a sense I’ve had many lives, many endings, followed by new beginnings. That night in 2000 was like the dawn of a new day when I experienced that the God of miracles was still around, still able to come through, even when I’d more or less given up on myself. So? Keep the faith.

Long time therefore…

west texasIt was late summer in dry, arid west Texas, just before I turned 22. I was standing on top of a hill, thinking about the last few months and the ones up ahead. It had turned out to be the best year of my life till then, the year I very nearly died in torment and went to hell. But instead I was miraculously saved by the undeserved mercy of God. That’s what I wrote about in “Lucifer and the White Moths“.

I’d been staying with some young people who had banded together to study God’s Word and prepare for a life of Christian service. But my time there had come to an end and I was soon to leave to go to California and begin a time of daily witnessing on the streets of Los Angeles.

I don’t remember exactly asking the Lord for a message right then, maybe I did. But something very simple came to me as I stood on that hill, a reference to a Bible verse I don’t remember reading before, Acts 14:3. I carried a small Bible with me so I looked it up. It said, “Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony to the Word of His grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” I took it as a message of encouragement from the Lord that He had a plan for me. And I was especially drawn to the words “long time therefore…” My feeling was that the Lord was telling me I would have a long time of Christian service ahead of me.

thinking long life-flat-flatThinking back to that time and how my life has gone from then to now, I can feel that the verse I got that day has already been fulfilled in my life, for which I am so thankful. If I quit right now, that “long time” has already been a reality of decades of endeavoring to abide in His grace in many lands, during storms and calms, during fruitful times and dry years, but always with the knowledge that “He that began a good work in me would continue to perform it.” (Philippians 1:6)

Back then, that method of the Lord speaking to me that way, by just giving me a reference which would unlock a passage in Scripture that was specifically for me, was not something that happened all the time. But from time to time it did happen. This is what I wrote about in “Direct Revelations” where I mentioned a couple of other times when the Lord gave me Bible references like that in answer to prayer.

It’s encouraging to look back and reminisce about these things, to see how the Lord has fulfilled His promise and Word to me as He does to all of us. But I do feel there’s a potential danger in it. Because it’s just so easy to decide that you’ve gone as far as you want to go.

“Quit while you are ahead” is not a phrase found in the Bible.

But in the world, this is a common theme and very easy to fall into. So looking back and reminiscing about your life, while understandable and very human, is for me at least something I don’t like to spend much time doing. Because it just might influence me to not keep going forward.

under a treeThere’s that strange story in the Old Testament of the old prophet and the young prophet, one of the more “post graduate” lessons in the Bible. (see I Kings 13) God told the young prophet to go do something and then come right back to where he had been. And the young prophet obeyed, at least in some ways, and he even performed miracles. But then what happened? On the way home, he sat down under a tree. He didn’t keep obeying. He sat down. It’s all a really intriguing story; I’ll let you read the whole thing yourself. But the end of the matter was that the sitting under the tree, rather than finishing his task, ultimately led to the death of the young prophet.

path aheadSo our best bet is to keep our eyes on the Lord and to keep obeying and living for Him, even if you think you’ve already had a pretty good life and it’s time to just sit down, kick back, relax and retire from His service that He’s called you to. I’m thankful for the life the Lord has given me; it’s such a blessing to look back and see all the ways He’s fulfilled His Word and allowed me to be a part of His work and plan. But it’s even more thrilling to look ahead to all that may still lie ahead, greater victories to be won and greater experiences to have with Him as He continues to set the captives free and break the chains that enslave so many around the world in these threatening times.