(Romanian) Textul a “O încadrare a profeției în istorie”

[Aceasta este varianta scrisă a înregistrării cu titlul “O încadrare a profeției în istorie“.]

Romanian thumbnail for ITPIHVreau să vă vorbesc despre ceva deosebit ce mi-a marcat în mod special viața. Este vorba despre profeții. E un subiect amplu. La auzul cuvântului „profeție,” diferite gânduri trec prin mintea fiecăruia, așa că am să explic la ce mă refer. Am să vă spun câte ceva despre mine, ca să înțelegeți de ce mă ineresează acest subiect.

M-am născut în Texas și am ajuns să merg la facultate fără să fi înțeles sau să mă fi interesat vreodată lucrurile spirituale. Devenisem ateu și făceam tot ce puteam să întorc de la credință pe oricare ar fi avut vreun fel de credință în Dumnezeu.

Printr-un complex de evenimente am ajuns în punctul în care a trebuit să recunosc… că există o dimensiune spirituală. Nu vroiam să devin “habotnic”, dar știam, îmi dădusem seama, că există o dimensiune în care se găsesc și spirite bune, și spirite rele.shot of me at firstEu vroiam să fiu cu cele bune.

Căutările mele m-au adus în contact cu diferite grupuri și, astfel, am întâlnit alți tineri, creștini cu vederi radicale sau, „Țicniții lui Iisus”, cum erau numiți pe atunci iar ei au reușit să mă ajute să înțeleg adevărurile din Biblie. Dumnezeu a folosit această împrejurare ca să îmi ofere un nou început și, pînă la urmă, mi-am dedicat viața în slujba Lui. Am trăit peste hotare mai bine de 30 de ani și m-am bucurat de o viață minunată, lucru pentru care sunt foarte recunoscător.

Deci, când vorbesc despre profeție, mă refer, de cele mai multe ori, la profeții din Biblie. Pe asta vom pune accentul în această serie de studii. O să ne ocupăm de profetul Daniel din Vechiul Testament. De fapt, când Iisus a fost întrebat despre viitor, l-a menționat în mod specific pe profetul Daniel. A spus: “Când veți vedea (evenimentele viitoare)… despre care a vorbit profetul Daniel (cine citește să înțeleagă)…” (Matei 24:15)

Îmi închipui că unii dintre cei care se uită la acest program au aflat destule despre acest subiect și de-abia așteptați să intrăm în detalii. Alții nu cunosc mai nimic despre toate acestea. Vreau să me adresez și unora, și altora, dar dacă ar trebui să aleg între cele două categorii, prefer să mă adresez celor pentru care acesta este un subiect nou. Așa eram și eu până când am ajuns aproape la maturitate. Acesta este, probabil, unul dintre motivele pentru care vreau ca și voi să bucurați de încântarea de a cunoaște adevărurile din cartea lui Dumnezeu, Biblia.

Acum, poate că unii dintre voi se întreabă: “Ce mai este și profeția?” Vă gândiți că, „da, sigur, sigur, într-o bună zi lumea se va sfârși și chestii din astea.” Așa credeam și eu cândva și totul mi se părea bizar și chiar stupid.

Bethlehem for blog postBun! Haideți să vedem dacă există ceva despre care a auzit fiecare dintre cei care se uită la acest program și care a fost profețit cu sute de ani înainte de a se întâmpla. Putem spune cu siguranță că fiecare dintre cei care urmăresc acest program au auzit despre Crăciun. Știți că de Crăciun oamenii cântă colinde. Se sărbătorește nașterea lui Iisus și ați văzut imagini cu Maria și Iosif și cu pruncul Iisus.

Romanian Jerusalem map for blog postAți auzit, probabil, un vechi colind, nu prea pot eu să îl cânt, dar e cam așa: “În seara de Crăciun venim/ La Vilflaim, la Viflaim/ Pe pruncul sfânt să-L preamărim/ La Viflaim, la Viflaim.

Acest colind este despre orășelul Betleem, de lângă Ierusalim, unde s-a născut Iisus. Poate că deja știați că acolo s-a născut, sau poate vă amintiți că ați mai auzit undeva de asta.

Probabil că cunoașteți măcar câte ceva despre acest subiect. Bun, haideți să ne uităm în Biblie. Haideți să ne uităm în Vechiul Testament, în cartea profetului Mica. Romanian Micah 5-2 for blog postLa mine în Biblie scrie că această carte a fost scrisă în jurul anului 700 Î.Hr. O să citim capitolul 5, versetul 2. Este ca și cum vocea lui Dumnezeu se adresează orașului sau sătucului Betleem. Spune “Și tu, Betleeme Efrata, măcar că ești prea mic între cetățile de căpetenie ale lui Iuda, totuși din tine Îmi va ieși Cel ce va stăpâni peste Israel și a cărui obârșie se suie până în vremuri srăvechi, până în zilele veșniciei.

Aici Dumnezeu se adresează Betleemului și îi spune că, cu toate că este un oraș micuț printre multe altele din regiunea Iuda (o provincie a Israelului din zilele acelea), totuși din Betleem va veni Cel care, până la urmă, va conduce poporul lui Dumnezeu și că asta era stabilit din vechime, din veșnicii.

Este o profeție din Vechiul Testament, profețită cu sute de ani înainte de nașterea lui Iisus, care ne spune exact unde se va naște Mesia, regele pe care Îl va trimite Dumnezeu. Sunt multe alte profeții ca aceasta.

Când toate acestea erau încă o noutate pentru mine, mi-a trebuit o bucată de vreme ca să încep să  înțeleg că există o putere în Ceruri, puterea lui Dumnezeu cel din Biblie, care a prezis viitorul lumii de mii de ani, și că aceste profeții, aceste previziuni s-au împlinit cu o exactitate absolută. Pentru mine asta a fost șocant. Aș putea spune că încă mai este. Acesta va fi subiectul acestor studii: profețiile care s-au împlinit și profețiile care urmează să se împlinească.

Când am menționat nașterea lui Iisus în Betleem am vrut să aleg ceva ce era cunoscut tuturor. Apoi, după ce am văzut din Biblie că cu sute de ani înainte de nașterea Lui a fost dată o profeție care spunea că Iisus se va naște în Betleem, veți putea aprecia importanța și relevanța acestui aspect. Așa că, mai departe o să aruncăm o privire asupra contextului istoric ca să ne încadrăm în timp, cum s-ar spune și să vedem amprenta profeției, care exista cu mult timp înainte și care prevestise multe dintre evenimentele cheie care aveau să se întâmple mai târziu.

Abrahamprays 4 blog postDumnezeu a ales un om cu patru mii de ani în urmă. Îl chema Avraam. El se trăgea din regiunea care în ziua de azi se numește Irak. Din urmașii lui Avraam a apărut poporul pe care noi astăzi îl cunoaștem cu numele de evrei. Dealtfel, și popoarele arabe, și credința musulmană se trag și ele tot de la Avraam.

Dar Vechiul Testament este cartea evreilor. Așa că, pentru a înțelege profețiile, trebuie să avem o perspectivă de ansamblu asupra istoriei evreilor. În același timp, va trebui să privim ascensiunea și declinul imperiilor antice până în zilele lui Iisus și ale Imperiului Roman.

Romanian History timeline for blogpostIată câteva personaje cheie din Biblie și perioada în care au trăit. Avraam este plasat în jurul anului 2000 Î.Hr. Iar Iisus în anul 30 AD. Între aceste date se situează Moise, în jur de 1400 Î.Hr. Regele David a trăit în jur de 980 Î.Hr, iar profetul Daniel, ale cărui scrieri vrem să le studiem, în jur de 600 Î.Hr.

Romanian Bible History Chart for video flat resized

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The God of Abraham

In the videos I’ve done and in these posts, I’ve spoken of “the God of Abraham”. And some have questioned, “Why did you use that phrase? Why not just say God? Or Jehovah?

Abraham for blog post

Abraham, Sara and baby Isaac 2000 BC

I guess, if you want to talk about a huge subject, you can talk about God. Or the name of God. I choose “the God of Abraham” because for probably the majority of people on earth, when you use that phrase, they know What/Who you’re talking about.

I could have said, “the God of the Bible”. But even that can arouse hesitations and possibly opposition. I wanted to find a phrase that would be clear to as many people as possible and with as little religious “baggage” as possible.

You might be surprised how many people trace their faith back to Abraham, a man who lived 4000 years ago, who has been called “the father of Faith”. I won’t get into the specifics of Abraham but he isn’t someone who nowadays inspires much hatred toward him or what he did with his life. In the first video I did, An Introduction to Prophecy in History, there is a part about Abraham and how so much of what billions believe today originated with him. And he even received specific, time-related prophecies, just as Daniel did some 1400 years later.

Ancient of Days for blog post

“The Ancient of Days”, as described in Daniel 7: 9 & 10

To write about God is for me an awesome thing which I know is so full of controversy, unknowns and religious dogma that I don’t really do it very much. But it’s fascinating to look at the way God is portrayed, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Daniel 7 video  that i have done, there is one of the most unique visualizations of God in the whole Bible. There He is called The Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9 & 10).

And this is bound to raise the hackles of some but the Koran is also based on faith in the God of Abraham. (I can hear the temperatures rising in some right now as you read this.) So just to give some backup to this thought, I could tell you about a book I’m currently reading by a man who is an executive director of Christianity Today magazine, Timothy George. His book, “Is The Father of Jesus The God of Muhammad?” is excellent, deeply researched and would shock a lot of people with what is said there.

But, back to God. James, “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19), called God “the father of lights” (James 1:17). The book of Hebrews refers to God as “the Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:19). In the book of John, Jesus said “God is a spirit” (John 4:24) and John the Beloved said “God is light” and “God is love” (I John 1:5 and 4:8).

For me, frankly and honestly, God is almost too big to comprehend or understand. That’s why I feel closer to, and think more about, Jesus. Jesus has been here; He walked the earth, was one of us, suffered our temptations and felt our aspirations. Paul says, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 2:5)

But even that is loaded with controversy and, generally, the circle of people who believe in the God of Abraham throughout the world is larger than the circle of people who believe in Jesus. I personally had a 7 month period of time where I knew that God was real as He had radically intervened in my life and made Himself manifest in tangible, miraculous ways. I knew God was real. I also knew the devil was real as he also had manifested himself clearly to me and I wanted no part with him.

sacrifice chickens flatSo I feel a kindred spirit with the billions of people who believe in God, the God of Abraham,  because I was like that for a while.  At that time I read the Bible every day but I hardly got anything out of it. I was plowing through the Old Testament and it was clear as day to me that I needed to start some kind of animal sacrifice to please God since it was obvious that this was one of the main things. It was right there in the Bible, how could I argue with that? But all that time there was this big question, “Who was Jesus?”

you need Jesus flatI went to some local churches to try to find the answer. But nobody talked to me and I guess I was shy or scared. After 7 months I met some young, non-conformist Christians, “Jesus freaks”, who were just getting started at the time. They showed me from the Bible who Jesus was, as well as the plan of salvation. I accepted Jesus as my Savior and received Him into my heart, being born again and starting on this wonderful life I’ve had. I think the biggest single change in accepting Jesus into my heart was that the Bible which had before been so unclear and opaque suddenly became clear and open, flooding my heart with truth, wisdom, knowledge and all I’d longed for.

Becoming a Christian made my relationship with God vastly so much stronger and settled. But this has in no way made me feel antipathy for the countless number of folks worldwide who may not know Jesus, but who deeply believe in the God of Abraham. I can truly say that I often feel a real fondness for and empathy with them, no matter what their nationality, race or religion.

Jesus said of one man, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). There must be billions of people on earth who believe in the God of Abraham. Would to God that we could love each other more and see the good and faith in the Father that He must see in each of us who seek Him. As well, would to God that those of us who’ve come to know Jesus would share Him more with others

 

Acts 26 Live Class Audio

Appeal to ceasar flatAt the beginning of our live class on Acts 26, we were looking at the chapter before when Paul had to think and pray fast when he was asked if he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be judged there. Paul knew with virtual certainty that he’d be killed along the way if he went back to Jerusalem. So, to get out of that desperate situation, he said, “I appeal to Caesar” (Acts 25:11), rather like ones nowadays can appeal to the highest presiding court. And since he was a Roman citizen, he had the right to appeal to Caesar in Rome.The live class audio on Acts 26 can be heard here.

And we talked about destiny and how some things just are evidently “ordained”. This was in relation to how the prophet Agabus had told Paul much earlier, in warning him not to go to Jerusalem, that he would be delivered to the gentiles.

So I told a testimony about a time years ago when I was in Romania and how destiny seemed to get involved in my life. I was single and was getting close to a Romanian Christian sister. I liked her, she liked me, everyone was telling me how great this was and things seemed to really be moving a direction.

Going to Russia flatBut then, when I checked in with the Lord about it, He kind of startlingly reminded me that He’d already told me a year or two before that I was going to go to Russia. I’ll admit this wasn’t what I wanted to hear from the Lord. At the time I had no “burden” for Russia, I didn’t see anything I could do there and there were other factors that made it so that I just really was peeved that the Lord was not going along with this really good thing that was happening right then in Romania.

But as it worked out, circumstances change and as I was leaving Romania unexpectedly, I had the first of two dreams in which the Romanian Christian sister I was close to had two sons who were not by me. Sure ‘nuf, not long after I left the country, she fell in love with a guy I knew there and… they had two sons! And around 2 years later circumstances changed again so that I was invited to Moscow. I spent one of the toughest years of my life in that city, but also one of the most fruitful. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.” (Acts 15:18) Some things at least seem to be foreknown and planned by God.

Back to the book of Acts. We talked about how King Agrippa was much more knowledgeable of Jewish affairs, his wife being Jewish and he being brought up in Israel. And this is all like Jesus had said years earlier.

You shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what you shall speak for it shall be given you in that hour what you shall speak, for it is not you that speak but the Spirit of your Father which speaks in you.”(Matthew 10:18-20)

Here was a perfect example and fulfillment of those words of Jesus.

So Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself” (Acts 26:1). It was a private council, it sounds like his accusers from Jerusalem where not there. And Paul told Agrippa that his accusers actually knew him well, because he came from the Jewish Pharisee hierarchy. He went on to say, as he had said at other times, that he was being accused and judged “for the hope of the promise God made to our fathers.” (Acts 26:6)

And in verse 8 Paul asks Agrippa, “Why should it be thought an incredible thing to you that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8) For the Greeks and Romans, raising the dead was a new and strange idea. But for Agrippa, who knew Jewish customs and history, he would know that this was found within the history of the Jews. Paul ends up giving his testimony to Agrippa so that it is much the same story as what we read in Acts 9 where Paul’s conversion is recorded

And this chapter actually includes the words Jesus spoke to Paul in his encounter on the road to Damascus years before. Here’s a famous ringing part of Jesus’ charge to Paul, what Paul was to do with his life from them on. Not disobedient flatJesus told Paul that He was sending him to the Gentiles, “…to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.” (Acts 26:18) What a charge of God that man had on his life.

Then Paul next said, “Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.”  (Acts 26:19) God help us all to be able to say that in our own hearts with a clean conscience.

much learning flatAnd it’s a fascinating sequence of events because, after Paul has shared these things that had happened to him, Festus, not Agrippa, blurts out. “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning has made you mad!”  (Acts 26:24) Those are some nice old English terms from the King James Bible. But in our times, he would have just said, “Paul, you’ve gone crazy!”

So it’s pretty amazing. Paul had boldness but he also had humility. When Festus said that, Paul didn’t back down but neither did he get provoked. He “stuck to his guns” but with humility. What a lesson for us all. It’s another great chapter from the book of Acts, full of the jewels found in His Word. The live class audio on Acts 26 can be heard here.

Battles or Harvests, Swords or Seeds?

swords or seeds flat-2So many of us know that we need to “fight the good fight of faith” (I Tim. 6:12). We heed the admonition to “put on the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:11) and “war a good warfare” (I Tim. 1:18). But I know times when this analogy, that paradigm is not the best one.

I’ve written a lot recently about the current refugee crisis in Europe and the West. Many of you know that I spent years in Islamic countries and I don’t accept the hatred and fear of Muslims that’s so often heard in our times. And when I think about or write about my interaction with those people, I believe I’ve gotten a strong check from the Lord that the terms of “battle” are not the ones that should be used.

crusadorsWhy? If you know history, you’ll know that the interplay between Christianity and Islam has been fraught with conflict, almost always violent. When we in the West think of the Crusades, it brings thoughts of virtually ancient times and Catholic at that. We just don’t relate to it. But for Muslims, the history of the Crusades is almost like still a living memory. And all bad.

For me at least, and I think it’s true for many of us, I just need to draw back, way back from all this. I’m not an ethnic Christian, I’m a born again Christian. There should be no race, people or nationality that I think of as my enemy. I do want to have the attributes of a soldier of the Lord, that dedication, that sacrifice, that character. But when it comes to wining people to the Lord, approaching my interaction with lost souls is not best helped if I go at it with the mindset that I’m a solder going to defeat an enemy.

Jesus gave us a much better way of looking at this. He spoke of harvests, of sowers, reapers and vine-dressers. And I find that a much better mindset to approach all this with. Let me say it again, Muslims are not my enemy. They are individuals who need the love and truth of Jesus Christ , just as much as the Jews do or any other people on earth.

sowerJesus said something so rich and poignant in Luke 8:15. “That on the good ground are they which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it. And bring forth fruit unto life eternal.” That to me describes very many people who have been born into a Muslim culture and religion. Many people who minister to Muslims are finding very “good ground” among these people.

So what is needed? Sowers of the seed which “is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11).” That’s you and me. That’s our job, to be sowers. There’s no harvest without a sowing and sowers. While we hear of many Muslims coming to the Lord now, for the most part it’s more a time of planting, rather than harvesting just yet.

If you’re concerned about all that we’re told to be concerned about, and you want to know what you can do, I implore you to take on the mindset of a sower of the seeds of God. He wants His love and truth to be planted in fertile, tilled, broken ground. And many Muslims are that fertile broken ground right now.

As so often happens, we come back to the simple words of Jesus in the Gospels. multitudesThink about these verses again and keep in mind the plight and challenge of these millions of Muslims who God has allowed to come from their lands to ours.

But when He saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion upon them. For the fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plenteous but the laborers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)

This is a whole lot more fitting an analogy to use that anything having to do with warfare right now. In the Spirit, if you can see it, this can be an incredible springtime of sowing precious seeds in a fertile field of people eager to learn of Him.

He that goes forth, weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:6)

The Third Man

Harry LimeI rarely write things that are just personal, just something about my life. Tonight, late, I was on YouTube and just taking the liberty to listen to a couple of old songs from my early youth, not something I do very often at all.

So I’ll share something personal with you. Some of the more formative years of my life were spent in Vienna, Austria. Vienna just sort of sat well with me. It got to me. It rang my bell. That was about as close to east Europe as one could get back then and not be behind “the Iron Curtain.” It was very much like a central European city, not really like West Europe at all. When I first got there, I saw old women walking around with very bowed legs. I found this was the result of them living through World War II there where the hunger and rickets was so bad that they had developed bowed legs from a lack of nutrition.

prater 2And I don’t know when the movie, “The Third Man” was first happening in my life. But that movie, and particularly the music to it, just got through to me in a very deep way. It still does and I was listening to it tonight. This movie is just so uncool by modern standards it’s beyond a joke. But it’s maybe like some extremely classic car from way back that doesn’t have all the gadgets and technology that ones do now. But it has a sense of style and intrigue that is just overwhelming.

Let me place right here the link to the theme music of “The Third Man”. This song came out around 1950 (1950!). I mean, it’s like a paraphrase of what Nathaniel said in the book of John, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) The same can be said of 1950, “Can any good thing come out of 1950?!” They didn’t even have televisions back then! Maybe this music won’t get to you but it sure does to me, even now.

The director of “The Third Man”, Carol Reed heard Anton Karas playing the zither in a wine stuba, a neighborhood wine house in Vienna at the time he was making a movie of Graham Greene‘s post World War II book. There’s so very much history in all this which is now only distant water under the bridge and the long forgotten past. But Reed was haunted by this local nobody troubadour and his strange instrument he played for pocket change to Viennese provincials, sitting outside in the evenings in the post war city.

vienna nightThe movie itself is one of the most unusual and best I’ve ever seen. Black and white, no sex, virtually no violence, no real special effects and almost one of those old square screens. But the narrative, the filming, the setting and the acting just keep you hanging on the edge of your seat for the full show. Or at least it did me for me the several times I’ve seen it.

But I’ve always sort of wondered what it is since it could hardly be more basic and non-techno. The instrument, the zither, has some comparisons I guess to a guitar. But the way Anton Karas plays it is just so that he gets all over it and brings out so much that I’m sure some music aficionado could explain much better than me.

Heading out into the neighborhood, looking for adventure

I’ve wondered why that music has such an effect on me. Perhaps I heard it on the radio sometime when I was a little boy and it stuck with me, even though I don’t specifically remember it. Maybe there’s just something intrinsic and indigenous about it that’s the essence of that part of the world which the Lord called me to serve Him in for many years.

The whole thing together just really works. If you’ve never heard that music or seen that movie, I suggest you do some time. It’s like checking out a Dusenberg sedan or something else like that from a bygone era, seemingly put to shame by the marvels we experience nowadays. But every so often we find something from days of yore that still hold us in wonder and the spell they spun for their times still works well today. Try it. You might like it.

Does God have a sense of humor?

mount of transfiguration flatSo Peter, James and John walked into a bar…   No, wait, change that. Peter, James and John were on the mount of transfiguration. There was Jesus and it says “His face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2) It says that the three disciples saw Moses and Elijah, speaking with Jesus as He was transformed like that. It’s even recorded to some degree what Moses and Elijah were speaking to Jesus about.

Can you relate to any of this? Can you see yourself one afternoon experiencing something like that? How would you react? What would you say? Do you thing you could do the subject justice and rise to the occasion? Well, dear impulsive, impetuous Peter the fisherman, just as human as any of us, tried to do what he could. It is recorded that during this utterly unearthly scene, transfigurationpretty much evidently unique in Jesus’ ministry, that our dear Peter just had to blurt out his analysis on the whole event and chime in with his council to Jesus as He glistened there in ethereal heavenly glory before them.

Peter advised the Lord at this time, “Lord, it is good that we are here. And let us make three tabernacles, one for You one, for Moses and one for Elijah”. (Luke 9:33) And the Bible goes on to try to help us understand Peter’s dilemma at this moment, “for he knew not what to say.” (Mark 9:6) You can say that again. And what happened next? Get this. “And while they were yet speaking, a cloud overshadowed them and a Voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.” (Luke 9: 34 &35)

I don’t know about you but I’ve almost never been able to read this without a wry smile. It’s like the very presence of God, the Father (the “Ancient of Days” of Daniel 7:13), came near to them and sweetly, to me almost humorously chided Peter, “Umm Peter, this is My Son. Hear Him.

Talk about tact. Talk about understatement. Maybe everyone didn’t chuckle but there has just got to be some humor into that. “Peter, shhssss. Just be quiet Peter. We don’t really need your suggestions right now.” But isn’t it just like almost any of us have done in some incredible moment when we don’t know what to do? So we pipe up with something that in retrospect was pretty much misplaced and virtually stupid, considering the circumstances? Could God, the Father, have been smiling and just shaking His head when He said that? I’ve always thought so.

running from Jazebel fixed-1Then there was Elijah. Having fled from Jezebel, defeated, discouraged, a shadow of the great man of God that he’d just been recently in slaying the 450 prophets of Baal, now having fled far into the wilderness of the south. Away from his place of service and seemingly almost ready to hang up his crown and calling of being a prophet, there we see him on the mount Horeb.The Bible says the Lord sent the wind, but He was not in it, then the fire and He was not in it and then a shaking and He was not in it. What a pregnant build-up to that moment when Elijah heard the still, small voice of God. And what did the Voice say? (Wait for it) “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9)

doing here flatCome on! That’s funny! God, the God of the universe, the Almighty, is asking this guy what he’s doing there?! He knows everything! He doesn’t need to ask anything! I just can never read this without feeling that there’s this kind, loving God of the universe having condescended to this poor, defeated servant of His and He’s striking up a conversation with him, saying, “Umm, why are you here, Elijah?

Don’t you just know that if you could see all this in real time, there would be a warm, wry smile on the face of God as He asked that? Maybe, probably even a smidgen, a sprinkle of humor on the whole thing? Gotta be.

The Bible warns of “foolish jesting” (Ephesians 5:4) but it also says “A merry heart does good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). keep laughing flatOne of the greatest helps I’ve ever had in my missionary service has been times when my friends and I just laughed at the impossibility of what we were trying to do and how it was utterly insane except within the will of God. My one year in Moscow in 1995 and 1996 was only sustained by just laughing with my friends at the extremes to which we were pushed physically to do what we felt we needed to do there and how no one in the world would do what we were doing, there’s not enough money to pay for it, unless you were doing it for God’s service.

So often we just kept laughing in the extremely difficult conditions we worked in. It was perhaps the toughest year of my adult life physically but also one I count as one of the most fruitful. And a sense of humor was a continual essential asset through it all.

I’m convinced God has some sense of humor. It doesn’t show up very much in the Bible and we know that Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). But also I’ve had times, even recently, where I just felt that the Lord can do some things that are just so amazing, “out there” and radically loving that the only reaction is to smile, laugh and feel that He’s just funny sometime. Or so it seems to me.

Obi-Wan Kenobi In His Cave

Obi WanThere he is, Obi-Wan Kenobi in his cave. Remember him? When you first saw him there in that movie, what did you think? “Hmm. Old has-been. Failure, washed up, driven into the wilderness.”

But as we watched further, we found that he was an incredible guy. He had supernatural powers. He was extremely wise but also good. He was a survivor, a warrior, a master. Maybe he was in the wilderness but he still had some life in him, some purpose, fight and even destiny ahead of him.

But I think there are a lot of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s in caves nowadays. Maybe that’s not you but on the other hand, maybe you’re one of a few I know who are. Seasoned disciples of Jesus Christ, years of Christian service in faraway lands, crowns already laid up for them in heaven from just what they’ve done with their lives already. But some are now in “caves”, for one reason or the other.

“Oh, it’s all over!” “That was then!” “I’ve made mistakes!” or “Others damaged my life.” “So I’ve retired; the war is over! God can’t really use me anymore. And besides, there’s not really anything to do anymore. Those fields are now harvested so I’m back home now and just taking it easy till I die. That may be 20 or 30 years from now. But I’ve gone as far as I want to go.”

no discharge flatObi-Wan in the cave. But along comes a new day, a new generation, a new need for Jedi masters. I’m convinced that this is the situation for perhaps quite a few people. I believe it was Solomon who wrote “There is no discharge in this war.” (Ecclesiastes 8:8) Or, another way of looking at it is what Paul said, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11:29) When Obi-Wan Kenobi met Luke Skywalker, he seemed to come out of retirement. And from what I am seeing, there are a lot of Luke Skywalker Christians around nowadays who could really use some Obi-Wan Kenobi’s.

When you’ve had a call of God in your life, when God has gifted, called and trained you for His purpose, He doesn’t take that away. He needs every worker He can find. It’s another thing for those who “put their hand to the plow and look back”. (Luke 9:62) But even then some return to that plow and return to that field because they know it was “the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

These thoughts came to me today on a phone call with some dear friends in Western Europe. They presently are very engaged in trying to do what they can to minister to the hundreds of thousands of refugees in their country. And you’d probably be surprised how well it’s going and how receptive and thankful they are finding these refugees to be. They themselves are not really physically young. But their spirits are just tingling with excitement and expectation at the amazing things that are happening where they are. They aren’t Obi-Wan Kenobi’s in caves. They are fully energized Jedi Masters for Jesus, if you know what I mean.

We talked about ones we know, folks who have incredible gifts, experiences and unquestionable callings as disciples and servants of the Lord, some of whom are not really active or engaged in the things of the Lord in the way they were before. But for many that we could think of, they seem to be like Obi-Wan Kenobi in his cave. Alone, away from the arena of Christian discipleship where they spent years. They are gifted, inspired, anointed people but many are hardly using their spiritual gifts at all anymore.

The story is told that Alexander the Great died of a broken heart because he thought there were no more worlds to conquer. Of course he’d gone so far to the east but towards the west, he had hardly ventured and it wasn’t too many more years before the Roman empire of the west conquered the Greeks.Esther flat When we think there are no more worlds to conquer, that’s not good. And when we lose the vision of God for our place and calling in this world, that’s not good.

Mordecai told Queen Esther, “You are come into the kingdom for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) Esther recognized the truth of this; she saw the reality of how important she was to His work. She seized her calling and crown and was the instrument God used for a mighty deliverance for her people at that time.

What can I say? God needs every one of us, but perhaps especially the ones who have served him for so many years, who ben & Luke skywalkerhave so much experience, so much they could teach and use and put to His service right now in the events we see unfolding here in Europe. Can you please pray with me that if there are any Christian “Obi-Wan Kenobi’s” who have retired to their caves, that they will hear the calling of God again and get back on the wall of His Will, to “die daily” (I Corinthians 15:31) in this incredible hour here in Europe when the need for experienced, grass roots Christian leadership in the field is very great. Thanks so much.

Catalyst

Catalyst flatAccording to the dictionary, a catalyst is (1) “a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change” or (2) “a person or thing that precipitates an event”.

That’s what we should be, those of us who believe in and know God and Jesus. Of course it is only the Lord in us. But, then, it is the Lord in us. And He very definitely wants to change things. He wants to “increase the rate of reaction”; He wants to “precipitate events”. And if we’re moving with His Spirit within us, then we’ll be catalysts for good, in our families, in our communities and in our world. This is how it is supposed to be. This is what we are ordained, commissioned and even “predestined” to do.

hold back flatPoor Jeremiah, he knew all about this. He had been given such a powerful message of judgment to declare to the rebellious people of God of that day. But it was difficult for him and sometimes he just didn’t want to do it. In one place he said, “Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name.’ But His Word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not hold back.” (Jeremiah 20:9)

If you’re truly staying close to the Lord and wanting Him in you to have full sway in your life, there will certainly be times when He will want to move in you when you’re in some situations. Maybe it’s a “on the road to Jericho” (Luke 10:30) situation where you’re moved with compassion and just have to say or do something.

grand bazaarA strange happened to me years ago at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey when I burst into tears when I meet an Iraqi for the first time. I was surrounded by a bunch of Turkish men at the time and it was a little bit of an embarrassing moment for me. But I just knew it was the Lord in me so I didn’t quench it or hold back. I wrote a blog post about this experience called “Hawks and doves (Part 2) Istanbul, Turkey”.

We are supposed to be catalysts of change in this world. Jesus warned of “the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). But He also spoke of another kind of leaven. He said leaven is like the Kingdom of God itself. “It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” (Luke 13:21)

And I could embarrass everyone now by asking for a show of hands of who actually knows what “leaven” is. I certainly never did until I became a Christian and read about it. Because the tradition of baking bread at home had passed out of my family several generations ago. A word we now use for “leaven” is “yeast”. And even that’s not always very well known.

Many years ago I lived with my 3 sons in Andra Pradesh, India for around 18 months. knead dougSomething my two oldest sons would do almost every day, at the ages of 10 and 11, was to make bread. And part of that was to not only knead the dough but to include a rather small amount of yeast or leaven in it. This is what makes the bread rise over a few hours. But it’s kind of interesting if you’ve never been around it, and most of us haven’t in these times, to see how this tiny little ingredient somehow has this major effect on the whole lump of bread, making it rise like that.

But it’s all a picture of how we, the people of the kingdom of God on earth at this time, should “leaven the whole lump”.  This is all a similar idea to what I wrote about a while back in “A Parable of Yogurts and Warm Milk”. Yogurt when added to milk actually works rather similarly and almost mysteriously like leaven does to bread.

The fact of the matter is, everything means something. This is what Paul meant in Romans 1 when he said, “The invisible things from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead…” (Romans 1:20) With all our technology and science in these times, it’s so easy to miss the messages all around us in His creation. And one of those messages is that we are “created for good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

He wants to change things. Things really, really need to be changed; most of us know and agree to that. But He doesn’t want us to just be observers. That’s what’s so sadly wrong with so many churches. “They say and do not” (Matthew 23:3). But then it’s been like that for generations and it’s very hard to change ingrained habits of inaction and trepidation. Generations ago, possibly well meaning religious leaders led the body of Christ out of the arena, off the playing field of Christian discipleship, and into the grandstands of mere Sunday church attendance. Maybe they thought everyone would be safer and more comfortable there. Sad mistake.

But just remember, if He’s in you, He wants to be allowed to use you as a catalyst, a world changer, as leaven to leaven the whole lump. God help us all to let Him do that in us, through us in the desperately darkening days we live in.