Left, Right and Center

David CameranAs probably everyone knows, the big news is that the British people have voted in a referendum to exit the European Union, “Brexit”, as it’s called. It’s a pretty big deal if you’re European and of course especially if you are British. The vote was followed last night almost like it was a general election and in some ways more than a general election since the British electorate was having a once-in-a-generation chance to express their views on such a major issue affecting the future of their nation. And they voted to leave Europe. It’s a big deal.

But the thing I’ve noticed today actually is how… I’ll use the term “freaked out” the main stream media is about this event. I have been keeping up with politics, news events and reporting since I was around 6 or 7 years old. I was brought up in a family of politically active journalists and newspaper people. And to me, the thing that probably most people aren’t aware of is how unhappy and evidently angry almost all the news agencies are that report in English about this British vote. I’ve seldom seen the media so incensed, emotional, negative and whining against the British electorate for voting the way they did. To me, it’s a real news item itself how the press is reacting, mostly really overreacting to what’s happened. Examples of this are everywhere but this is one small sample here. And here’s a lead editorial in the New York Times on the subject.

They just can’t understand it. “How could the Brits do such a thing? Don’t they know how much this is going to cost them? Don’t they appreciate all the progress their European integration has brought to Britain?” Evidently the common people have not looked at it that way, even though they’ve been having a solid barrage from every European institution you can think of which has been lambasting them with how important it is that they continue to keep to the path of greater and greater European integration and less and less of the sovereign independence New York timesand identity that has marked the Brits as who they are for the last 500 to 1000 years.

You get the impression the British have thought it through and are willing to take an economic hit if it means they feel they can have more say again in the direction of their country, as well as a feeling of dignity and identity that has been eroding day by day for decades.

“Mark, you don’t know what you are talking about! Go back to your Bible verses and your little platitudes!”

Well, maybe I relate a little to the Brits who voted to exit, just as I do with people across Europe who are wondering where things are going and how much say they have left in their nations and heritages that have roots so many hundreds of years deeper than we have here in the States.

Does that mean I am a neo-Nazi? That I have far right tendencies? For me, once I became a Christian and entered on the path of discipleship and a missionary life, the whole thing of worldly politics turned into a much smaller place in my life that it did before. This is what I wrote about in “Citizenship in Heaven”. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But now it my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36)

citizenship-in-heavenSo most of the time I just don’t get involved, especially not in political activism like I did before. But at the same time, I live in this world. The people I need to reach for the Lord go through these things and are affected by the twists and turns of politics. And this vote in Britain was a pretty big deal with ramification that may go a long way, for a long time.

All the main stream media, I mean everything I have seen, has really been castigating the Brits for the way they voted. Just everything you read says that the British people have made a very big, bad, stupid almost evil decision. There are even voices of foreboding that this portends to be an omen that a similar tide of discontent will sweep Donald Trump to power here in the States.

Donald TrumpBut I strongly, strongly doubt that. Maybe there are some vague similarities to conditions in Britain that brought on the “Leave” vote and conditions here in the States that have helped to make Donald Trump into the presumed Republican nominee for President in this fall’s election. But there’s a big, big difference between a long disgruntled majority of Brits voting to leave the European Union and an American election where a man like Donald Trump, now leader of a deeply fractured Republican party, would assume the mantle of the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.

But how much will the powers that be, including the main media in the West, make the Brits to suffer for their decision? It would be a great story in itself if someone dug into why the press is currently so freaked out and angry at the British people. There seem to be some folks who are really upset about this and they may be able to make some repercussions happen, as a warning to any other electorates in Europe who may be tempted to come to the same conclusions and actions as the British have. This all bears watching.

Пророчества в истории (Russian)

русский

На русском языке я сделал пока одну из серии передач о пророчествах
библейского пророка Даниила. Эта передача на английском называется
«Пророчества в истории. Введение». Здесь вы можете посмотреть её на
английском языке.
Многие люди не знают, что такое библейские пророчества. Я тоже не
знал, пока в моей жизни не произошла большая перемена – я обнаружил,
что Бог реален, и что духовный мир существует. Потом я стал
христианином, начал читать Библию и открыл для себя много удивительных
вещей, среди них – чудесные откровения библейских пророчеств.
Я начал снимать серию передач о пророчествах Даниила и подумал, что
для начала хорошо было бы рассказать о феномене библейских пророчеств,
а также дать краткий обзор истории древнего Израиля. На историческом
фоне пророчества из Библии подобны дорожным указателям и маякам,
проливающим свет на будущее.
Следующая передача на русском языке будет посвящена 2-й главе книги
пророка Даниила. Я надеюсь, что она будет готова через несколько
месяцев. Благослови вас Бог.

English

I’ve been able to complete the first video in Russian 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 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 revelations 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 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.

The next Russian video will be about chapter 2 of the book of Daniel. I hope to have that video out in the next months. God bless you.

What is sin?

so what is sin flatYears ago a dear loved one asked me, “What is sin?” Unfortunately, the question was more of a challenge about if there was even such a thing as sin. And certainly, in our “modern world”, the idea of sin is ridiculed and usually rejected out of hand.

But, is there such a thing as sin? Does sin exist? Is it a prevailing force on humanity and each individual? If so, then what is it? Can it be measured, quantified, observed, detected? Admittedly, in this day when the mind of man is supreme in so much of the world, to talk about sin seems antiquated and passé. There’s no app for that. No college course and, besides, it can be plain discouraging to even talk about sin. It sounds so religious, like something you heard your grandmother talk about one time.

But, what if? What if sin is actually real, “alive and well”, and is daily wrecking destruction across the planet and probably in your own life also? It’s insidious. A pervasive, all encompassing phenomenon that prevails in its destruction throughout the planet, yet remains for the most part undedicated and unrecognized.

report on sin flatWhat an enemy sin is and yet only a tiny few even know of its existence while it daily destroys lives, nations, families, dreams and innumerable souls. There will be no speech today at the UN about sin, no 30 minute special on CNN or BBC about sin. In fact, I challenge you to do a search of material found on any major news outlet to see if you can even find once in a day the word “sin”.

But why? Well, sin, like love, is one of those things you don’t pick up readings on with your Geiger counter or spectro-analysis. Sin works in the realm of the heart and soul. And the mind. But like they say about the devil, one of the devil’s main jobs is to convince you that he doesn’t exist. The same could be said of sin. One of the more cleaver deceptions of sin is to tell you that sin doesn’t exist.

I dont sin flatAnother loved one many years ago told me, “Mark, I don’t sin.” This was said very sincerely and I knew what they meant when they said it. To them, sin was robbing banks, murder, adultery, that kind of thing. And this person never was like that. But of course the reality is that sin is a whole lot more than that. That’s the kind of thing that some religious teaching will leave you with. Some religionists have conversations like, “Is it a sin to…” and then they bring up some things that are “classic” sins.

It’s like the story about the two little old ladies on the front row of the church and the reverend was preaching a hell-fire sermon. “IT’S A SIN TO DRINK WHISKEY!”, yelled the reverend. “Amen!”, affirmed the two little ladies. “IT’S A SIN TO RUN AROUND ON YOUR WIFE”, the reverend went on. “Amen!” shouted the little ladies. The preacher lowered his voice, looked down at the two ladies on the front row and said, “It’s a sin to dip snuff!” The two ladies gasped, looked at each other and one said, “He ‘dun stopped preaching and gone to talkin’!”

Sin is a lot bigger than the classic sins that most folks know not to partake of. The Bible says, “The thought of foolishness is sin.” (Proverbs 24:9) Every time you entertain foolish vain thoughts, that’s sin. Maybe that’s why King David said, “I hate vain thoughts, but Your law do I love.” (Psalm 119:113) Folks, sin is so vast, so overwhelming, so pervasive and so intertwined with our very being that it’s the ultimate dominating conqueror of every individual ever born. It’s that bad. And I’m not exaggerating.

Well, volumes and encyclopedias probably have been written on the subject of sin and am I going to do the subject justice in one of these short blog posts? I guess, if you don’t acknowledge that there’s a problem, how will you search for a solution? And sin, as hated and vilified as the concept is in modern times, is as much a scourge of mankind as it has ever been. And my guess is that it will only get worse since virtually everyone is looking for solutions other than the ones God has given us to free us from sin.

How can we be free from sin? That’s what Jesus did. When He died on the cross and “God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 13:30), He not only defeated death, He gave us power through Himself to overcome sin. Do I understand it all perfectly? No. But I have experienced it. It is through Jesus, His act of atonement at His crucifixion that any person on earth can have power over sin in their lives.

for our sins flatNow the biggest challenge for all the intellectuals, like I sort of used to be, is that this doesn’t seem to “make sense.” I’ve told some people before, “You are 18 inches from heaven” and then indicated that I was talking about the distance between their head and their heart. At some point, especially for those with a lot of education and worldly wisdom, they just have to make the jump and “go with their gut”, in other words go with their heart. I know this because it’s what I had to do and it worked for me.

Sin is the greatest enemy of mankind and every individual. It’s running rampant in its destruction across our planet and actually it always has been. But there is an antidote, a solution, a champion and deliverer. And that’s Jesus. It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s just the truth. Give it a try.

Repentance

repent for flatRepent. It must be something we can do because it was one of the first things Jesus taught. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) But what is repentance and how do you do it? Well, repentance is sort of on the “endangered species” list of words and even ideas, as has happened to so many other words that once were clear and understood by all.

This means a lot to me because repentance was an essential step in my life that brought me out of indescribable darkness and death and into this (most-of-the-time-anyway) happy life I’ve had for decades. Probably most English speaking people have at least some inkling of what repentance means, even if they don’t fully understand it or even like the idea.

Simply put, “repentance” means to change direction in your life but from your innermost being, to have a change of heart. And it also implies that the direction you’ve been going has been wrong and that some at least of what you’ve harbored in your heart needs to be abandoned and turned against. But there are a few more utterly essential ingredients that go into repentance if it’s to be real and lasting.

Never do this flatI know this because I repeatedly tried to repent when I was using drugs in university. It was like I was vowing a vow, “I’m NEVER going to do this again!” But a few months later I did. What went wrong? I was sincere and desperate; I was really trying to repent. This is where another of those “endangered species” words comes into play: sin.

“Oh, Mark, please! It’s just insane to bring up these ragged, old, tired, unscientific concepts that belong to the dustbin of history! ‘Sin’! Mark, really? No one believes in that kind of thing anymore; you’re making a fool of yourself!”

And yet, this is the very best terminology to describe what happened to my life and how I survived to live beyond my 21st birthday. It’s like Paul the Apostle said, “The good that I would, I do not. But the evil that I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19) That’s exactly how it was with me. Although I was not familiar with that word yet, I really wanted to “repent”. But I just didn’t have the personal power to resist what I was into. That’s why Paul went on to say, “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I do that do it but sin that lies in me.” (Romans 7:20)

Of course there’s a sense in which, in the big picture, God allows us to really go down the wrong path so that we will learn firsthand what the difference is between right and wrong. “The way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15) and often we have to learn the hard way. whapHe even uses our wrongdoing to be His instrument of correction to bring us back to His highest and best. As unpopular a concept as it may be among the worldly, the Lord does chasten and punish His children and even those who aren’t His children to bring them back to a better way.

It sounds really hopeless and in a sense it is. But let’s bring in another of those “endangered species” words: Jesus Christ. No, not the words so many use as a loud and profane curse, but the man of the Bible. To cut to the chase here, I never was able to really repent until I accepted the saving power of Jesus by asking Him into my heart. I didn’t understand it all, in fact I didn’t understand very much of it at all. But it came down to instincts and my gut, as they say. I knew I needed help desperately. I met people who’d been in the same fix and they said it had all changed when they’d prayed to become new creatures through His forgiveness and regeneration. So I tried it.

Up until that time, I had stopped using hallucinogenic drugs but I was still smoking marijuana sometimes. I’d come to believe in the God of Abraham and I read my Bible every day. But I still had a lot of fears and confusion and I had no idea who Jesus was. But as I’ve shared elsewhere, the Bible verse that best summed up my experience is this, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” (John 1:12)

Jesus in heart-flattenedOnce I received Jesus, I had power I’d never had before. With that new power within me, I not only repented of using drugs at that time (and have never touched them since), I had a whole regenerative experience in my innermost being, in my heart, mind, soul and spirit.

So, from my experience, repentance without the power of Jesus in your heart… well it didn’t work or happen for me. But with Him, “all things are possible to him that believes.” (Mark 9:23) There have been other things over the years I’ve had to repent of, as the Lord brings them up in my life. Usually it’s been deeper things of my heart rather than physical sins like drugs. But the point is, through Jesus repentance is really possible, no matter what you’re facing.

Are you feeling doomed, defeated, utterly overwhelmed by aspects of your personality or life that you just can’t get on top of and overcome? As old fashion and out of style as it may sound, taking these things of your life and heart to Jesus Christ, through personal prayer, may very likely be the only way you’ll ever get a lasting victory over things that may end up being your total downfall and even death. It is possible, it does work and and I hope you’ll try it : repentance through the power of Jesus. God bless you.

Worship

worship flatWorship. How can you make sense of that? Well, maybe someone might say to their wife or husband sometime, “I worship you.” But that would be pretty extreme. Mostly we’d be fine with just saying “I love you” to them, that’s going pretty far already. But perhaps that means that “worship” is like an extreme, advanced form of love?

And “love” is not one of those things that always makes sense anyway. So worship must be like that: it just doesn’t make sense. It’s a “heart thing” rather than a head thing and most people get a little tripidatious when it comes to the heart in the first place. No university course about the heart. Sometimes people just think, “Don’t go there”. You don’t know what you’re going to find; might be something you don’t like, ha!

Hispanic prayerWell, probably hundreds of millions of people look at things this way, especially in the “post-Christian” West. Actually, “worship” still has a pretty good name in many parts of the world and perhaps billions of people feel right at home with the concept of worship. But, for the most part, that’s not how it is in much of Western Europe and North America.

“And what does it matter anyway?” some would say. Well, you’re really missing something. If a life is devoid of love, most folks would think that would be an empty life. But in the same way, a life without worship is missing one of the highest and most fulfilling emotions that exists. But the rub is, most of us know that worship is not really associated with our spouse, dog or sports team. It’s something we think of in relationship to God.

I was having my morning walk and I thought about the Bible verse, “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2) And it dawned on me what a special concept worship is, often unknown to so many. love the Lord flatJesus was asked what the greatest commandment was and He answered from the Hebrew Scriptures, saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.” And He went on to say, “The second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30 & 31)

And I thought how He could have said, “You shall worship the Lord your God with all your heart…” That could have worked and fit just fine. But if He’d then said, “You shall worship your neighbor as yourself…”, somehow that doesn’t have the best ring to it. Still, worship and love are probably pretty close to each other. Maybe worship is like love on steroids? Or maybe love is like a single stage rocket that can get you from the ground into space. But worship is like the second or third stage of a rocket that works best in the upper atmospheres?

One thing I know, worship has greatly enriched my life since I came to know and believe in the God of Abraham and His Son, Jesus. I was like so many people, my heart was like a dark basement, full of all kinds of musty, dusty, often dank and dark things. But when Jesus came into my life, He not only cleaned out my basement, He redid my whole house plus added some rooms and a new floor or two. Now I don’t feel uneasy in the basement or the attic or anywhere else in between. So many things of the heart that were awkward to me are now either not that way or much less so.

Worship for me is a wonderful thing, not something I have to do as some ancient ritual or in some building on a certain day but just spontaneously, from my heart on a Saturday morning as I walk down the street. It’s a wonderful life. Reminds of the verse, “For the creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption unto the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

 

 

Lies, confusion and the truth

believe me 2 flatDon’t you just hate it when someone lies to you? It’s one thing when you catch it right away but even worse when they’ve lied to you for a while and you finally find out. I always figure the Lord gives us a measure of discernment and often we’ll detect a lie immediately. But not always.

Years ago in Scandinavia I’d begun meeting together with (what I thought was) a young man, perhaps around 20. “He” seemed interesting in the things of the Lord and we met together a few times before I didn’t see them anymore. Later I found that this was actually a young woman who’d probably had a great time deceiving me into thinking she was a male. I have to admit this somewhat stunned me that I’d been tricked like that and also that someone would be so deceptive.

really true flatI’ve had one other experience like that in another part of the world. A young man befriended me and my Christian friends and began to come regularly to our classes. He came from a wealthy, prominent family in the capital and seemed to have it all when it came to the physical. He helped us in our work with the poor and in many ways began to work besides us for months. But somehow this dear man seemed to find joy in telling stories of his past accomplishments that just were not true. He was pretty good at it and because of his background, none of us thought to just really dig into it and find that he was lying.

It was really pitiful because this young man had many good qualities and there was no need for him to try to pull the wool over our eyes with tall tales. But he did. At length it was all found out and he was embarrassed, ashamed and left our company. It was again kind of startling to me that someone would tell lies for so long to people who had sincerely become his friends and who really loved him. Also he had been through many Bible lessons and prayers and had been treated as someone who wanted to pursue a path of Christian discipleship.

King David desire truth flatAs I’ve written elsewhere, truth has always been important to me. King David in Psalm 51, said to God, “Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts, in the hidden parts you shall make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)  It’s almost like an unspoken given among Christians that we speak the truth with each other. We may not tell everything of our lives to every person. But at least we realize that truth is the true coinage of the realm of Heaven and that lies, deception and confusion should have no part in our lives.

I was thinking about this tonight in relation to being back here in America and (seemingly at least) how very hard it is to find the real truth here on so many things. Of course we who have the Lord have the truth of His Word and through prayer we can access Him and “the Spirit of Truth” (John 16:13), as Jesus called the Holy Spirit. But once you’re anywhere outside the realm of heavenly things, knowing what the truth is here is not easy. The Bible says, “God is not the author of confusion” (I Corinthians 14:33). But here there’s a tremendous degree of confusion and deception as so many news outlets compete to tell you their brand of facts and truth.

It really seems like a great confusion has settled upon this nation, so much so that most people no longer even try to dig down to find the unbiased reality and veracity on any subject. It’s just seems too difficult. So most choose some source to get their information from, often knowing that what they’re being told is almost always seriously tainted with a bias from some special interest group, trying to influence and control the population through their particular narrative.

I met a friend yesterday, a former missionary, who now really rails against the government here and how “they” are out to get us and to enslave us all. Fear of powerful unknown interests who control and orchestrate virtually everything from behind the scenes is a viewpoint held by many millions here, including many sincere Christians. But in talking with this friend, almost immediately there were some things he’d say about current world conditions or this country that I knew to be just plainly not true from a facts-based assessment. But I didn’t engage him on it as I knew he would just get mad at me for not agreeing with this point of view he felt so strongly about.

no truth flatFriends, I don’t have a really great “happy ending” to this article. We who believe in God and the Bible know where to get our eternal truths and verities from: His unfailing Word. But when it comes to the truth as to what’s happening in our world or our nation …well it reminds me of what Jesus said, “If the light that be in you be darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Matthew 6:23) We seem to be the most informed and knowledge-saturated people on earth. But so much of what we are “fed” through the media and on line is just as insidious as the worst junk food bought at the sleaziest restaurant.

I’ll try to end this with at least some ideas and hope. Get your information from more than one source. If you know your main news source is predominately “left wing” or “right wing”, try to find what the more reputable sources of the other viewpoint are saying, just in order to try to find objective facts that your favorite sources aren’t telling you. I even access the “main stream media” which is so often so reviled. The reason I do is simply because they have some reputation to uphold and they’re held accountable in ways that many fly-by-night, shoe-string budget alternative information sources never are.

Maybe it’s like Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?”  (John 18:38) In this day and hour, finding credible sources of truth about our current world and its condition is often a real labor. But it’s worth the effort. Don’t settle for the “shock jocks” and the spin masters to be your info source. You could even ask the Lord to help you discern these things and to help you not settle for news and info that you feel may be much less than “24 carat gold”. May God bless you as you search through the confusion of these times to try to find accurate information on which to make the decisions needed in these perilous times. God bless you.

 

“Let both grow to the harvest”

Let both grow flatSometimes you have to give things time. And that’s not easy to do. You just wish you could wake some people up and even shock them into realizing how things really are, how much God’s will and Word are the overarching realities of all we experience. But it just doesn’t seem to work, at least much of the time. We are to share the love and truth of the Lord with everyone. But often it seems to fall on “stony ground” (Luke 8:13). I’m sure that’s what folks thought who shared their faith with me.

“What a goat!”, they probably thought. Even “What a devil!” I was a real case. But often things just take time and that’s not easy for us.Judge nothing before its time” (I Corinthians 4:5), Paul said. Or as Bob Dylan sang years ago, “Don’t start talking while the wheel’s still in spin…”

Prodical sonIt takes time for some people, many people, to really realize how things are. Sometimes it takes a lifetime. And that’s difficult for us who pray for them, love them and watch as they seem to be wasting their life away. The prodigal son, at length, “came to himself” (Luke 15:17) and realized he was seriously on the wrong track. You get the feeling that this didn’t take many years to happen. But it saddens some of us when you see years go by with friends and loved ones living a life like the prodigal son but never really “coming to himself”, as Jesus called it.

Nevertheless, “Let both grow unto the harvest” (Matthew 13:30). That’s a fascinating verse. It’s from the parable of the wheat and the tares, about wheat and a type of poisonous weed, “tares”, that starts out looking very similar to wheat in its early stages. But, at length, wheat turns more or less white while full grown tares turns dark. Symbolic, no? So “at the harvest” it’s pretty easy to see what is the good, healthy wheat and what’s the poisonous weed, tares.

And that’s how life is too.  Sometimes on the short term there are “The pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). But as Moses said, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). jerimiah questions flatOnly thing is, sometimes that doesn’t even seem to happen in this life. Ones in the Old Testament from Job to Jeremiah questioned the Lord about why He seemed at times to allow the sinful and Godless to live out their lives and not suffer for their evil. Jeremiah prayed, “Righteous are you, oh Lord; but let me speak to You of Your judgments…” (Jeremiah 12:1)

I guess it’s like Paul said, “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment and some men they follow after. Likewise the good works of some are manifest beforehand and they that be otherwise cannot be hid.” (I Timothy 5:24&25) That’s a New Testament way of saying that some folks don’t get their reward in this lifetime for the good and Godly lives they live here. But they will up there. Likewise some people who mock God and live selfish, hellish lives in this world seem to never really suffer for it here. But they will in the hereafter.

And since some reading this don’t really know what I’m talking about with “wheat and tares”, here’s what Jesus said about this in the Bible.

sowerAnother parable He put forth unto them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a man which sowed good seed in his field. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? From where then does it have tares?’ He said unto them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said unto him, ‘Will you then that we go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, because while you gather up the tares, you may root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. And in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘Gather together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them. But gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house. And His disciples came unto Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field”. He answered them, “He that sows the good seed is the Son of man. The field is the world and the good seed are the children of the kingdom. wheat & taresBut the tares are the children of the wicked one and the enemy that sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth His angels and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and them which do iniquity and shall cast them into a furnace of fire. There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:36-43)

The good news is that, “He left not Himself without witness” (Acts 14:17). I’m convinced and have seen it in my own life that, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” (Titus 2:11) God is not unfair, everyone has some kind of chance. Many have really a lot of changes, have seen a lot of truth and love from Him and they are very accountable. But often, it really takes the almost literal fires of hell experienced in this life for some people to say “uncle” to God.

That’s totally how it was for me; I was just a tough nut and resistant to the realities of the things of God. Back then you would have probably thought for sure that I was part of “the tares”.I choose Him flat But through God’s incredible, undeserved mercy, I somehow “came to myself” and joined the wheat. I personally was very nearly at “the harvest”. The Grim Reaper was before me, literally, and my life was hanging by the barest thread when I finally “figured it out” and turned to the God of Abraham.

But for many, it just seems to really take time. In a sense, so many are “resisting the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51) every day. And Solomon said, “He that is often reproved and hardens his neck shall suddenly be destroyed.” (Proverbs 29:1) It’s difficult to know of friends and loved ones who’ve seen and heard so much of the love of God and the truth of God who still walk their willful way. But, “Let both grow to the harvest.” “For we are like water spilled on the ground. Nevertheless the Lord devises ways that His banished be not expelled from Him.” (II Samuel 14:14)

“…and you are still?”

and you are still flatThis morning I found a verse that I’ve never noticed before but which really resonates for our times. It’s about “the promised land”. Specifically it refers to events from over 3000 years ago but its significance to us Christians today couldn’t be more important. No, this won’t be about Jewish settlements in the West Bank but about our own “Promised Land” of God’s will and destiny for His children which so many do not fully possess. From Judges 18:9 & 10. “Arise…for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good; and you are still? Be not slothful to go, and enter to possess the land: for God has given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of anything that is in the earth.

What really shocked me when I read this was realizing that this isn’t from the time of Joshua, the battle of Jericho and those events surrounding the original entrance of the Israelites into the land they’d been called to take. This verse is from hundreds of years later! They’d already entered the  land but only partially before running out of steam and settling down to enjoy what they had.

Come on flatAll of this of course is exceedingly rich in symbolism and meaning. They entered the promised land “by faith”, just as we are to receive and believe for all that God has given us through the mighty saving grace of our dear Lord Jesus. We have entered into the true “Promised Land” of eternal life and blessings through Him. But, but… like God’s people of old, so very many of us have not fully possessed the land.

Davids-Mighty-Men3Did you know that over 300 years after the Jews conquered the land, that what we now call Jerusalem was still inhabited by the Canaanites? David and his men climbed the mountains surrounding the city and routed the inhabitants, establishing Jerusalem as the new center and capital of ancient Israel. But that was centuries after the time of Joshua and the original conquering of the land.

They had to go further. David and his followers had to take the original commandments of God to a new level of obedience, hundreds of years after God had first spoken His Word on the mater. Why? Because our evil human nature of sloth,  disobedience, of being satisfied with a little, rather than all God has promised got the best of the people back then. So there were still giants in the land.

They had entered the promised land but they had not scaled the heights.

Solomon thinkingAnd of course we know that David not only scaled the heights and took the capital city physically, he did this spiritually as well. David probably went further than any other man in the Old Testament in really loving the Lord and, even as the sinner he was, in doing all he could to obey the Lord. It was David’s love for the Lord and obedience that catapulted Israel into the richest era in its history, not only physically in the coming kingdom of Solomon but spiritually in the lifetime of David and the treasures of spiritual riches he shared with his generation and all generations after that in the Psalms.

But what about us? How many Christians today will say with Caleb of old, “I’ll take the mountain”? In his 80’s Caleb, Joshua’s brother, led his tribe up the mountain to take the promised land. The question remains for so much of Christianity today, “…and you are still?

The truth is that the unconquered parts of the promised land came back to haunt and attack God’s partially obedient children of old. And it’s certainly still the same today. Christians who’ve gone as far as they want to go, who’ve settled down in the valleys of God’s Spirit, unwilling to drive out the darkened mountainous areas of their lives where God’s Spirit would lead them to victory, often find themselves to be in a weakened, defeated condition, not able to resist when the enemy launches a new attack. Because they themselves stopped attacking long ago. They didn’t really fully enter the promised land of God’s Spirit. They quit too soon, before the battle was fully won.

lethargy flatThe Bible says that “…in whatsoever state we are in to be content.” (Philipians 4:11) Well, I can tell you, there are certainly times to not be content. If “contentment” is actually self-satisfaction and lethargy when God is commanding and urging us on to greater obedience and greater spiritual victories, then “contentment” is not called for. Someone has wisely said, “Be content enough to be happy and discontent enough to want progress”

It comes back to discipleship and obedience. The Early Church was one of the best examples in history of about as close as we can find to ones who were really trying to obey fully. They claimed the spiritual promised land and prospered mightily in the first few generations of Christianity.

But today? So very many believers are “sitting at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1). Maybe that’s why we’ll need to go through the “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21) before the coming of the Lord. So often it takes suffering and tribulation to awaken His bride from her slumber. And we find this in His Word about the final days before His return, “…and some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them and to purge and to make them white, even unto the time of the end, for it is yet for a time appointed.” (Daniel 11:35)

Hearken and heed

world in darkness flatI heard about a man one time who had a good job at a law firm in a high-rise building in the USA. It was a beautiful day outside and he was admiring the view when God’s voice spoke to him, “See, the world lies in darkness”. He had a call of God in his life and he heard the Lord’s voice, impressing on him that, it might have been a beautiful day physically but spiritual darkness still reigned supreme on so many. And, as I heard it, this man took heed to God’s voice that day.

Recently I was reviewing some Bible verses I’ve memorized and I came upon a word that’s almost disappeared from modern English: heed. Maybe you’ve heard it used like, “You need to take heed to the warnings”. It means to listen to, consider or take note of. You won’t hear “heed” used on CNN, Fox News or BBC tonight.

hear O Israel fixed again flatIf you’re a student of the things of God, you’ll know how seriously He emphasizes the need for us to heed and hearken to Him. It virtually all starts with that. You can say it all starts with faith and belief; that’s certainly also true. But here’s an example of what I mean. Someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus said, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one God’.” (Mark 12:29) And He goes on in the next verses to say that we should love the Lord our God with all our hearts and our neighbor as our selves. That’s the part we remember. But it’s prefaced by “Hear, O Israel.

Even in many churches today the need to hear God and to hearken to Him is either not understood or at least not emphasized much. But the Bible says, “Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart.” (Psalm 95:7 & 8) Job said nearly 4000 years ago, “For God speaks once, yea twice, but man does not perceive it.”(Job 33:14) And then he goes on to say how that God will end up giving us dreams in the night when He can’t get through to us any other way.

“Mark what do you mean by hearing from God? Do you think we should all go around like Elijah? Or Moses on Mount Sinai?”

Nope. The first and most important way to hear from God is through His written, revealed Word. If you never hear a voice, if you never have a dream, if you never have a vision, if you’ll just receive and obey what He’s given us through His Word, you’ll do great. Jesus said, “He that has My commandments and keeps them, he is it that loves Me. And he that loves Me will be loved of My Father and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21) Jesus promises that those who keep His commandments will be loved by Him and the Father and that They will manifest Themselves to us. What a promise. So the first way to “take heed and hearken” to God’s voice is to receive and obey what He’s already said in His revealed Word, the Bible.

my presence flatBut there’s more to it than that. Some people think the last time God spoke was to John on the Isle of Patmos in 90 AD. But the reality is that God is still alive, well and speaking to us today, or at least He wants to if He can get our ear. “You shall hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it’.” (Isiah 30:21) The whole idea of salvation is to restore us to personal, living, intimate fellowship with God so that not only “Christ shall live in your hearts by faith” (Ephesians 3:17) but the presence of God can communicate to us in all the fullness, strength and joy that is His will and our need and desire. God told Moses, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus  33:14)

But there is something we need to do. We need to “take heed.” We need to “hearken.” Probably that’s why it says “Be not as the horse or the mule which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle.” (Psalm 32:9) We are commanded to hear from God, both from His written Word and from His living voice and not to be like dull animals, insensitive to the voice and impulses of our Master.

Why? Because He’s some cruel supernatural authoritarian who just won’t leave us alone to do our own thing? Nope, because He’s the very spirit of love that created all things and He has an indescribably better idea than we do of what will make us happy and how we can best spend our lives. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). And that’s true on so many levels and scales, not only deep theological truth but also for each of us personally in our day to day affairs, even “a very present help in the time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) God help us all to “incline our ear and come unto Him”. (Isiah 55:3) “Now therefore hearken unto Me, oh My children: for blessed are they that keep My ways.”  (Proverbs 8:32)

Pickpockets

PickpocketsI was at the Kiev train station two weeks ago, taking an early morning train back to eastern Ukraine. I hadn’t slept much the night before and I was in a bit of a rush to get to my place on the train before it left the station. There were a lot of people on the platform and at times things got rather packed in the crowd.

Suddenly I felt someone lightly pinch my arm. I looked and a young girl started speaking to me in Russian. I smiled and apologized that I didn’t speak her language and that (I thought) was the end of that. But I did think it was a little strange that she pinched my arm that way. Why didn’t she just tap me on the shoulder if she had a question? Anyway, it doesn’t matter (I thought).

kiev trainI was able to get onto my train wagon and was trying to get to my assigned seat but there still was quiet a crush in the isle. Somehow, I don’t know why, I got a “check” in my spirit, when the crowd was really packed, to reach back to my pocket to protect my wallet.

And as I reached back, there was already a hand in my back pocket, trying to pull out my wallet.  The hand quickly was withdrawn and it all became clear to me at that moment that the young girl was part of a pick pocketing team. I remembered that I’d barely seen another young girl with her when my arm had been pinched a few minutes earlier. It all happened in an instant and I didn’t want to try to take the time to yell or catch the pickpockets. They are usually very clever about what they do and know how to melt away into a crowd very quickly.

But as the train pulled out of the station I had time for the significance of it all to dawn on me. The Lord somehow had given me the presence of mind and the nudge of His Spirit to reach back with my painful arm to check my wallet just as the moment when I was being robbed. It would have been a real big setback for me as there were not only funds there but cards and documents having to do with travel that would have been a nightmare to replace. The Lord had protected me again in a supernatural and miraculous way.

A few weeks ago I wrote about “The Unguarded Moment”, when in a brief time of dullness and a lack of prayerfulness, I seriously injured my arm at a grocery store parking lot nearly a year ago. But my time in Kiev two weeks ago was a “guarded moment”. The dear loving Lord saw fit to protect me against very professional thieves who very nearly accomplished a major strike on my life when I was far from my home and base.

guardian-angelsSometimes it’s just God’s grace and we are swept along by His heavenly providence and protection. “The angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7)  “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (I John 4:4)

I’ve thought some about why the Lord so miraculously protected me there at the train station in Kiev but allowed the serious injury at the parking lot in Texas last year. And I don’t have a really full and definitive answer about it. But a year ago in the parking lot, I was just “running on autopilot”, not really in prayer or even thinking very much. But in Kiev, I was praying as things were a little tense overall and I’ve had other times where I’ve known how crowds like that can be the lurking places of thieves. I think even that girl pinching my arm like that did something to alert me that there might be some funny business going on.

So it’s another of “God’s Little Miracles” which I have written about a few times elsewhere. What else can we say but to be abundantly thankful for a supernatural, miracle-working God Who’s promised to be with us unto the end of the world. I think this is especially true when we are going forward for the Lord, even in foreign lands to share His love and truth to those in need. “They went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming His Word with signs following.” (Mark 16:20)