Addictions

I was a drug addict. It was a long time ago and I got delivered but still, it was a major part of my life. And in these times it seems to be more and more a scourge on society worldwide. I just got word now of a friend whose son died last night of an overdose. He’d been in rehab, been incarcerated and had been revived many times. But last night he passed on, after another overdose.

It’s a sad time for his family and loved ones. But also it can be a time of reflection and even for some of us it can underline the militancy and determination we need to have to do what we can to help our fellow human beings.

I don’t know all the details of what happened but I know this young man had a Godly father who loved him and did all he could to try to help him. But this has caused me to reflect on what happened to me because I very easily could have died on drugs and in fact very nearly did. It was near death experiences before I came to Christ which so fundamentally shook me up that ultimately lead me out of atheism and towards the God of Abraham.

What can any of us do? How can we help someone in the grip of addiction, no matter what its form? In some states in America now the morgues are so full of the overdosed dead that they evidently can’t bury them fast enough or find a place to store bodies until they can be buried.

But if there’s anything I can add that can help in any way, it’s to say again that for me personally there was an escape from addiction. Because, at its root is the explanation the Bible gives for the nature of human beings, that we are fallen creatures who are in thrall to sin, in whatever way it has manifested itself in our lives.

(Did you roll your eyes when you read what I said there?) “Sin”, you said, with perhaps a smirk? You have my sympathies because that’s exactly the way I used to feel but actually the joke is on any of us who “make a mock at sin”. (Proverbs 14:9) Here’s a blog post I wrote specifically on “Sin”.

I never got deliverance from my addiction until I finally accepted what the Spirit of truth was hammering into me, that the explanation from the Bible is the most fundamental, elemental account of human existence that there is. So I’m going to take a few thoughts from the Bible that were absolute revelations to me and share them with you. Actually these truths were what reached into the darkest dungeon of my life and brought me out, even before I knew the actually textual verbalization of these truths that existed in God’s Word.

Here’s what Paul said and perhaps you can think of addiction in relation to this. “The good that I would, I do not. But the evil that I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19) That’s a short explanation of how sin works in addiction, whatever the form of addiction it may be.

In another place Paul said to Christians, “Sin shall not have dominion over you…”. (Romans 6:14) But, folks, let me tell you from my excruciating experiences and the bottom of my heart: if you don’t have Jesus Christ, sin will definitely have dominion over you. And drug addiction is just one of the clearest manifestations of that. Sin has dominion over you and as James, the Lord’s brother said, “Sin, when it is finished, brings forth death”. (James 1:15)

I’m convinced I was only hours, days or weeks away from death, insanity or prison when I finally was rescued by God. But how? John the beloved disciple said, “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things.” (I John 3:20) I certainly deserved death, insanity or prison. The police were literally at my door to arrest me as a teenager and I would have been two years in prison. Here’s the story of how the Lord rescued me out of that. But, ultimately, God in His love gave me an opportunity to see things as they were and to choose Him and His ways. As Joshua told Israel of old, “Chose this day whom you will serve”. (Joshua 24:15)

I just didn’t personally have the power to stop using psychedelic drugs. I’d make a resolution to stop, I had all the intentions but then a few weeks or months later I’d go back to drugs. Sin had dominion over me. But here’s the Bible verse that best sums up the miraculous deliverance I experienced. Perhaps it’s my favorite verse.

From the first chapter of John, verse 12, it says, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” That’s what happened to me. I received Jesus. I asked Jesus to come into my heart and save me from my sins. And He did. And He gave me that “power” spoken of there, power over sin that had so wrecked my life.

That still is the final solution against sin and addiction, in whatever form it may take. Yes, you may not be able to quit. But God is greater than you and your heart and even your flesh and your addictions. You can’t, but He can. It’s a simple as that. That’s what happened to me as an addict.

Christmas Miracle, 1875 and now

It was Christmas Eve, 1875. Ira D. Sankey, one of the most famous Christian singers of those times, was traveling by steamboat up the Delaware River. It was a calm, starlight evening and there were many passengers gathered on deck. Mr. Sankey was asked to sing. He stood leaning against one of the great funnels of the boat and his eyes were raised to heaven in quiet prayer.

It was his intention to sing a Christmas song but he was driven almost against his will to sing “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us”. There was a deep stillness. Words and melody, welling forth from the singer’s soul, floated out over the deck and the quiet river. Every heart was touched.

After the song ended, a man with a rough, weather beaten face came up to Mr. Sankey and said, “Did you ever serve in the Union army?” “Yes”, answered Mr. Sankey, “in the spring of 1860.” “Can you remember if you were doing guard duty on a bright, moonlight night in 1862?”   “Yes”, answered Mr. Sankey, very much surprised.

“So did I,” said the stranger, “but I was serving in the Confederate army. When I saw you standing at your post, I said to myself, ‘That fellow will never get away from here alive.’ I raised my musket and took aim. I was standing in the shadow, completely concealed while the full light of the moon was falling upon you.”

“At that instant, just as a moment ago, you raised you eyes to Heaven and began to sing. Music, especially song, has always had a wonderful power over me and I took my finger off the trigger. ‘Let him sing his song to the end,’ I said to myself. ‘I can shoot him afterwards. He’s my victim in all events and my bullet can’t miss him.’ But the song you sang then was the song you sang just now. I heard the words perfectly:

We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,

Be the guardian of our way.

When you had finished your song, it was impossible for me to take aim at you again. I thought, ‘The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty’ and my arm of its own accord dropped limp at my side.

“Since that time I have wandered about, far and wide. But when I just now saw you standing there praying as on that other occasion, I recognized you. Then my heart was wounded by your song. Now I ask you to help me find a cure for my sick soul.” Deeply moved, Mr. Sankey threw his arms about the man who in the days of the war had been his enemy. And that night the stranger found the Good Shepherd as his savior.

Well, Merry Christmas to you. I read this story this morning from “Streams in the Desert”, one of the books I read for my daily devotions. It really got through to me as not only a beautiful story but another striking miracle from the God of miracles and His Son, Jesus.

I guess I’m a person of my times and easily jaded by hype and razzle-dazzle. And I’ve heard the Christmas story so many times and seen it presented so many ways that I’m probably cloyed by it all, as probably many are. But this that I read just now, of an outstanding miracle happening at Christmas to two men, one of whom who went on to reach many thousands with his voice and music, was the jolt I needed to remind me again of the God of miracles.

Miracles have been a mainstay of my life in many ways. I’ve written about some of them and they continue to fascinate me. In this day of cynicism, postmodernism and demonic darkness, the good God is still doing miracles as much as ever, perhaps even increasing them.

So thank God for Christmas, a day in the year when we earthlings are almost forced and dragged, kicking and screaming, to remember the birth of, not only the greatest man that ever lived, but the eternal Son of God come down to earth as a poor helpless baby. Parents have to, often reluctantly, explain to their curious children what Christmas is all about. And in some fumbling way they’re almost forced to try to give a decent reason to their own kids why the whole world stops to remember the birth of a baby in Palestine two thousand years ago.

But that wasn’t God’s last miracle. Jesus’ life was more full of miracles by far than any other man that ever lived. And God is still doing miracles, at the time of Jesus, at the time of Ira Sankey and the Civil War and in our times as well. This is what I needed to hear today, not just something that happened 2000 years ago but that the miracle-working power of those times is just as alive today as it was then. That’s been my experience over and over, thank God, of a caring, loving Savior and Father, a “very present help in the time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

I hope you have a great Christmas and that we all keep in mind that it’s all still as real as it was in Bethlehem way back then. God’s not dead or even sick. He loves us and will protect and provide for us just as he did for dear Ira Sankey on Christmas Eve in 1875. God bless you, Merry Christmas.

I believe in Truth

A lot of people today are so skeptical that they hardly believe anything is true. To me that’s pitiful. Maybe it’s because I grew up around newspapers and worked for two years in the newsroom of a large daily newspaper here in Texas that I just feel, for the most part, all the news is not staged and false, as so many (even Christians) now believe.

I believe in truth. I’m pretty sure I always have. In my university years I didn’t believe in God or Jesus because I just didn’t believe they were the truth. I very surprisingly found out I was wrong.

Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37) It is written of the final world dictator to come, the “Antichrist”, that he will “cast down the truth to the ground.” (Daniel 8:12) In a very real sense right now in the world, there’s an onslaught against every vestige of the presence and Spirit of God.

Truth is under attack so much that I think most folks have really no idea what to believe. Love, both God’s love and even natural and beautiful human love are also under attack. The Bible talks about “the author of confusion” (I Corinthians 14:33) and that’s what we seem to have more and more. The author of confusion and lies, Satan himself, is rolling out ever evil machination and foolish falsehood imaginable.

And, believe it or not, the Bible seems to indicate that in the End Time this will be happening. In Revelation 12:15, speaking of the very last days, it says “the serpent” released a stream of water out of his mouth. This “water” from the serpent is the putrid, stench-filled essences of Satanic falsehood unleashed on the world.This is the symbolic opposite of the pure living waters of truth that Jesus said would flow out of the belly of believers in Him (John 7:38).

But then what does the Bible say will happen? This is hard to believe. Revelation 12:16 goes on to say “the earth” opened her mouth and drank the waters of the dragon. And isn’t that what’s happening now already? So, so many are only too ready to gulp down the latest filthy, enticing falsehood, the latest dirt and exposé of someone, the latest unfounded conspiracy theory. It gets to where everyone just reverts to their shell and has become fatally numbed to the world around them, “deer in the headlights”, stunned into stupor and unable to any longer even discern truth from a lie.

Talk about zombies. The Bible has a phrase for it, “Because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” (Romans 1:28) “A reprobate mind.” A mind no longer able to discern truth from falsehood, good from bad, right from wrong. And, folks, this is not coming; this is not what may happen. We. Are. There.

“Mark, what’s the solution?! This is so discouraging, Mark!”

It’s like what Jesus said in the book of Revelation to one of the mostly fallen churches at the time of the writing of that book, around 90 AD. To some of them He said, “You have a name, you live and are dead.” (Revelation 3:1) Christians, the saved, but who were so far fallen from the living presence of the Lord that He called them both alive and dead. To these ones He said, “Strengthen the things that remain.” (Revelation 3:2)

This may be radical and extreme for some of my fellow Americans but maybe it’s worth saying here: I’m not trying to save my country. And I don’t know how apt the comparison is but I don’t think Jesus, when He was here on this earth, was trying to save His country. He knew what was to come, that in the lifetime of many of those who saw and heard Him would come another mighty judgment on Israel, greater than that brought by Babylon 600 years before.

Forty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, in 70 AD, the Romans basically destroyed Israel. And Jesus, in His divine omniscience, knew while He was on earth that this judgment was to come and spoke of it. So He spent His energy in trying to win and save individuals to Himself and to bring a new heart and new soul to His lost countrymen.

For me, that’s the only battle worth fighting. For individuals. How? By sharing, pouring out and witnessing to as many as I can and as many as I can help others to witness to. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.” (John 10:27) And His voice is the voice of truth. He even said that he was “the truth”. (John 14:6)

So many are “multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision.(Joel 3:14) For those of us who know the Lord, God help us to be like beacons and transmitters in the gross darkness of these times, pulsing out the light, truth, love and sincerity that we have from Him, out into the teeming masses in the mists of this earth, to draw those seeking truth and the things of God, to be the Light to the World He has called each of us to be. “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me and he that comes to Me I will in no wise caste out.” (John 6:37)

Turkish Video: “Daniel Kitabı Bölüm 2”

I’ve been able to complete in Turkish the second video in the Prophecies of Daniel series, Daniel Chapter 2. This chapter is considered by scholars of almost all faiths to be the briefest and most concise overall picture of the history and future of the world in the entire Bible. Daniel chapter 2 is like a foundation on which we can understand the many fulfilled prophecies of the past, as well as see what still is to be fulfilled in times soon to come.

It has often seemed to me that this chapter was intentionally designed by God as an easy first step along the path of prophecy. It’s like a preparation for the more advanced prophecy chapters, such as Daniel chapter 7. That chapter is where we will begin to really climb up into the mountains of prophecy. I hope to finish the Turkish version of Daniel 7 sometime in 2018.

The English version of “The Book of Daniel Chapter 2”, can be seen here.

Redeeming the time because the days are evil

What does the Bible mean, “Redeeming the time because the days are evil”? (Ephesians 5:16)  Actually there are so many deep truths in the Bible, often wrapped up in just a few brief words. This here is one of the really good examples of this.

It’s not even exclusively a Christian truth or teaching. You can be an atheist and still believe in the basics of diligence and making the most of your time. But when this thought is brought into a Christian context, as an injunction for Christian living, it takes on so much more meaning. Jesus said to His disciples, “I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day. The night comes when no many can work.” (John 9:4)

One of the Devil’s greatest wiles is “Wait a while.” If the devil can’t defeat you any other way, he tries to get you to procrastinate and get busy with a little here and there. There’s even an obscure verse in the Old Testament that says just that. Someone was commanded to watch a prisoner but he escaped and the excuse was given, “While I was busy with a little here and there the man was gone.” (I Kings 20:40)

Oh, pitifully, sadly, how many of us may have to say the same to the Lord at the Judgment seat of Christ. We were “busy with a little here and there.” We didn’t redeem the time. Perhaps the most precious thing any one of us has, besides our souls, is our time. This was such an indelibly etched lesson on my soul during the times where I had life after death experiences which sadly were basically on the dark side. I had a foretaste of hell and one of the greatest impression was the time I’d wasted and frittered away, never to be recovered. I believe that was a foretaste of eternal hell and separation from God and the agony that can be felt of a wasted life, squandered in vanity.

The Lord so clearly commands us to “lay up treasure in heaven”. (Matthew 6:19) The Bible says, “He that sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly and he that sow bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” Yes, that doesn’t mean you have to be out passing out tracts on the streets or you’re not in God’s highest and best. But I think if we’re all honest, there are a lot of things that are pretty much worldly, mundane tasks that will flow into our lives like some infectious weeds on a lake so that nothing grows or even swims there anymore because of the weeds.

Jesus spoke of the seed sown on thorny ground that was chocked by “the cares and pleasures and riches of this life and brings no fruit to perfection.” (Luke 8:14) For so many, any thought of “redeeming the time” to “seek first His kingdom” gets further and further down their list every day. This is what I wrote about in “They Began to Make Excuse.” But it’s just not how things are suppose to be.

I guess it can come down to a lack of vision. “Where there is no vision the people perish”, (Proverbs 29:18) and I think for so many, this is what happens. They don’t even begin to redeem the time because they have lost the vision of the Lord’s commandments and teaching and His call on their lives.

It just all goes together, doesn’t it? I’ve written about so many aspects of this and they all tie together. I wrote about “Keep Your Heart with all Diligence”. I wrote about “The  Heavenly Vision” and this is also part of it, “redeeming the time”. If we keep these things, they’re some of the key components in staying alive spiritually and pulsating for Him. We are to be “not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)

But of course for Christians this isn’t just a matter of constant, feverish physical work. Redeeming the time can mean “continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).Redeeming-the-time It’s a manifestation of a God-given inner awakeness that is engendered by the Spirit of God, a godly urgency to make the most of the precious life we have and the moment in eternity we have in the world to live for him and bring others to Him.

There’s more than enough for us to do in  this world, harvests to reap, seeds to sow, sheep to feed, prayers to pray, friends who need love, to keep us alive and busy in Godly service for Him and others till He returns or we pass on to our reward. It’s imperative that we “redeem the time” and not be caught like the unwise virgins at the return of the bridegroom, our lights gone out and we be found wanting for lack of our love for Him and our vision of His calling and will.