“With what body do they come?”

Jesus and ThomasA friend wrote me to ask, “Why is a resurrection necessary if those who died in Christ have already gone to be with the Lord?” So I wrote back, “The best answer I know of is that God’s plan is that we have new bodies like the Lord had after His resurrection. That’s what I Corinthians 15 is about.”

That may raise some big questions for some people. “New bodies?” “Jesus’ body after His resurrection?” Well, it’s all in the Bible. Many people have heard of “doubting Thomas.” What was he doubting? He was doubting the resurrection of Jesus and that the other apostles had seen Jesus literally, up close and personal, after He’d been crucified and buried.

But then what happened? The Bible says a few days later Jesus again appeared to His disciples, this time when Thomas was there. So Jesus told Thomas to “Reach here your hand and thrust it into my side [the wound He’d received from the soldier while He was on the cross] and be not faithless but believing.” (John 20:27)

On another occasion around the same time after Jesus’ resurrection, He told His disciples when He was visiting them. “Touch me and see for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see Me have.” (Luke 24:39) I know this can severely strain the brains of unbelievers and even those who are weak in faith. But this is what the Bible says so it might be good to look a little more at what all this means and signifies.

For one, the Bible clearly teaches that we, the saved believers, will have a body like Jesus at His coming. In I Corinthians 15:51 and 52, Paul said, “Behold, I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep [meaning die here] but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of the eye, at the last trumpet.” This is the 7th trumpet, spoken of in other places as the sign or signal of the return of Jesus bodily to this earth. The verse goes on to say, “For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Jesus after resurrectionThis is one of the best verses that touches on this subject of the eternal bodies we’ll receive at the return of Jesus, at the end of this age and the beginning of the Millennium. Just to throw in one more verse on this, Paul wrote to the Philippians about Jesus who would “change our vile body that it may be fashioned like to His glorious body…” (Philippians 3:21).

But what kind of bodies will they be? Here’s what John wrote in his old age to the church at that time. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2) We shall be like Him; we’ll have a similar-like physical existence to that which Jesus now has.

And what did Jesus say about His body? “A spirit has not flesh and bones as you see me have.” So it sounds pretty much like the body we have now. We have flesh and bones. But what does it seem Jesus didn’t have? Blood. Because “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). And also sin is in the blood.

jesus eats fishSo Jesus was able “to eat and drink, after that He rose from the dead.” (Acts 10:41) He asked His disciples as He was with them after His resurrection, “Have you any meat? And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and a honeycomb. And He took it and did eat before them.” (Luke 24:41-43) So it’s pretty clear that He wasn’t like some ethereal ghost or spirit but was a tangible living man, the Son of God, in His new body, like the one we will ultimately have.

But it must be that it will in some way really be sustained in a new way, utterly by the Spirit since it seems that blood may no longer be involved. He could appear and disappear, evidently pass through walls and finally ascend up into heaven. But He said of Himself that He still had flesh and bones and He could and did eat with them, even in this utterly new physical condition.

heaven on earthThis is fascinating for me. This is our ultimate destiny and destination, to still retain many of the attributes of the life we have now, but in a new, eternal, upgraded condition. We’ll be utterly changed but it won’t be all so different that we can’t understand it or work within it. The Corinthians had asked Paul about the resurrection and about “with what body do they come?” (I Corinthians 15:35), referring to the eternalized saints. I Corinthians 15 is a whole chapter on that subject. It’s just natural that we all are curious about some of these things and that we need and want some answers for it all to make sense. Wonderfully, it does. We’ve got a lot to look forward to.

Live class audio on Daniel chapter 11:31 to 12:13

man on horseIn Texas in October I was able to complete the final live class in the series I’ve been doing with Sunday school friends there on the book of Daniel. The live class audio on Daniel 11:31 to 12:13 can be heard here.

I guess, with all the fears and foolishness that weigh on our weary world in these times, it’s still a thrill to delve into God’s Word and get “back to the future” of what Bible prophecy tells us will be how things will all end up. I personally am looking forward to, not another change of earthly governments, but the literal setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth. Yes, I’m “millenary”. And for all of us who know and believe in God and His Son Jesus, we all ought to be having the same hope and vision of the future to come: His return to save us from the mess this world is increasingly becoming under unregenerate, renegade mankind.

It was actually difficult to get through this class because so many of these verses are just outstanding and drenched in significance for those of us in these times. This is particularly true of Daniel 12: verses 1 through 4. But many other verses in the classes could have used more attention that we were able to give them in the time we had. For example Daniel 12:1 seems to be important enough that it was paraphrased by Jesus in Matthew 24:21 and Mark 13:19.

Daniel at deskDaniel 12:1 says, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

As we got into chapter 12, we saw that the dialogue changes and it goes back to how it was in chapter 10 with the conversation back and forth between Daniel and the angel or angels. In chapter 10 the angels were just barely able to get Daniel strengthened enough to be able to handle the incredible truth that was to be shared with him. But then by chapter 12, Daniel was so invigorated by his experience then that the angel had to tell him “Go your way, Daniel.” (Daniel 12:9) Daniel still had a stout heart, even if his flesh was beginning to flag in his 80’s by then.

And I’ll just mention that I was glad it worked out in the class to make it through to the last 3 verses in chapter 12. Because they are some of the more surprising in the book of Daniel and seem to segue into events that follow the second coming of Jesus, giving us a glimpse beyond the period of the last 7 years and especially the last 3½ years that the messages Daniel received focus on so much.

But I won’t give it all away here. It was an inspiring time and I personally was having a really good time sharing the class with my friends as it’s a subject that is very dear to my heart. I hope you’ll be able to listen to the class. And please do pray for me that I’ll be able to complete videos on these last 3 chapters in Daniel, hopefully within the next year. GBY, the live class audio on Daniel 11:31 to 12:13 can be heard here.

 

Daniel 11: verses 1 to 35 live class audio

Daniel at desk for D9 blog postWe continued, last Sunday, the Bible study I’ve been doing with friends at an adult Sunday school class on the book of the prophet Daniel. This time we went over perhaps the most difficult but also significant passage in Daniel, chapter 11. I took some time in prayer the night before to really look to the Lord about the class and to try to find the best approach in sharing it. The live class audio on Daniel 11: verses 1 to 35 can be heard here.

D11 picture of angel touching DanielThe three last chapters in Daniel seem to be one continuing event, unlike the other chapters before them. So Daniel 11 picks up the narrative from Daniel 10 of what happened next after Daniel’s incredible experience with an angel or possibly angels who had a real job on their hands in strengthening Daniel sufficiently enough to be able to receive this final mighty revelation in the book.

In prayer the night before the class, the Lord laid it on my heart to start out by stepping back a bit at the beginning in order to try to share with the ones in class what are actually the most important pillars that make up the framework of yet-to-be-fulfilled Bible prophecy. I won’t go into the details here but we started out with the greatest Teacher of them all, the Lord Himself. When asked about His second coming, Jesus gave three very distinct points of importance. Those can be found in Matthew 24:15, 21 and 29-31. I went over these before in the video on Daniel 9:27, how that they could be boiled down to “When…”, “Then…” and “Immediately after…”.

And we saw from Matthew 24 that Jesus clearly and emphatically pointed us back to something in the book of Daniel , telling us “whosoever reads, let him understand”. (Matthew 24:15) And what Jesus was pointing us to is found most clearly in Daniel 11:31, from the chapter we went over on Sunday. Well, if I get into too much detail here, it will become quite a long blog post. But I’ll add the four other pillars of prophecy that I shared with the class on Sunday: Daniel 8:11, Daniel 9:27, II Thessalonians 2:3 & 4 and Revelation 13:5-7.

I’m very aware that for some people this can just be too much. Bible prophecy is not everyone’s cup of tea. I think the Lord has to bring it to someone’s attention and show them the importance of it. Otherwise it can seem tedious and just too difficult to understand. So I’ve really tried in these classes to break it down to bite-sized pieces as much as possible and to continue to aim at those who are new to the subject, rather than the ones who’ve been studying it for years.

Also in working on this Daniel 11 class, I realized again that the best way to present this is in the format I’ve used for the videos on the prophecies of Daniel series. The live class format, like on Sunday, has the advantage of spontaneity and the interaction that goes on between the teacher and the class. But for this chapter, the material is so meaty and yet so significant that I’ve been realizing that Daniel 11 really needs to have a class that is scripted beforehand so that the very best way can be found to present the chapter to the general public.

When I read again the buildup to Daniel chapter 11 that was to been found in Daniel 10, the effort in prayer by Daniel and the effort in the spirit by the angels, as well as the opposition of Satan to this message even getting through, it was even clearer that this is an incredibly important part of the prophetic picture that God has given to us in His Word. And to top it off, Jesus Himself points us to this chapter.

For now, this live class audio hopefully will be a blessing to those who are ready for this rather advanced Bible prophecy class. And this has also been a tug on my heart to try to get the last 3 chapters in Daniel into video classes at some point in, hopefully, the not too distant future. The live class on Daniel 11, verses 1 to 35 can be heard here.

Daniel chapter 10 live class audio

Last Sunday I shared a class on Daniel chapter 10 with an adult Sunday school group I attend in Austin, Texas. I made an audio recording of the class and an edited 35 minute version of it can be heard here. In the class we have been going through the prophets in the Old Testament and they wanted me to do the prophetic chapters in Daniel. We completed the prophetic chapters through Daniel 9 and the Sunday before we watched the video I did in 2014 on Daniel 9:27. As some of you know, Daniel 9:27 is one of the most important verses in the whole book of Daniel and, perhaps it could be said, in the whole Old Testament.

I’ve often shared in my video classes what Jesus said in Matthew 24 when He was asked about His return.Matthew 24 21-a for blog post One of the most pivotal verses in the chapter is Matthew 24:15 where Jesus said, “When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, whoso reads, let him understand.

And He went on to say in verse 21 that “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world”. But what exactly is Jesus referring to there in Matthew 24 that we should read in the book of Daniel? It seems this is not too often spoken about or pursued, even though the Lord put so much emphasis on it.

The video on Daniel 9:27 explains about this a good deal. But specifically, the clearest verse on this is found in Daniel 11. And as we found in our class on Daniel 10 last Sunday, the last 3 chapters in Daniel, 10, 11 & 12, seem to be all one event, unlike the first 9 chapters. The narrative flows from one chapter to the next in these last three. It seems that since it was all so much longer than the other narratives, the people back in the 1600’s or 1500’s who divided the Bible up into chapters and verses made this section into 3 chapters.

Actually, this is not specifically a prophetic chapter. But Daniel chapter 10 sets the stage for the archangel Michael’s message to Daniel in chapters 11 and 12. And it contains one of the most amazing glimpses in the Bible into the spiritual world and the battles going on there between the angels of God and the demons of hell.

Daniel tells us that he had been fasting for 21 days. In the class we took note of the fact that almost certainly Daniel was well into his 80’s by this time. Michael the archangelThen appeared to him an angel in all his glory to speak to him and bring a message to him about the future. It doesn’t say definitively who this angel is but my thought has always been that this was Gabriel, as he was the angel coming to Daniel in earlier chapters.

But then the angel explains that he had been hindered in answering Daniel’s prayer because “the prince of Persia withstood me 21 days. But then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” (Daniel 10:13) What an incredible flash of revelation into the behind-the-scenes workings of the spiritual world. A demon prince had fought against this angel getting his message through to Daniel until Michael, the archangel, came and intervened to turn the tide to the favor of the Lord’s will and His servant, Daniel.

It’s just an incredible chapter and vividly visual. Hopefully someday I can make a video of this one and continue the prophecies of Daniel video series. Meanwhile, here’s the link to the 35 minute audio of the class we had on Daniel 10 last Sunday. I hope it’s a blessing to you.

Your friend, Mark

The Last shall be First

the first shall be last flatSometimes life is kind of funny, amazing and strange; you know what I mean? It’s like where Jesus said “Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 19:30) You think you’re on top and have arrived and then, oops! It all turns to ashes and it seems you’re left with nothing. Or maybe you think you see that in someone else’s life. “Boy, they’re ruined now. What a failure they are; I knew it all along.” It’s easy to think that about ourselves or others.

If I can get away with quoting a little Bob Dylan here in perhaps his most famous song, he sang “The slow one now will later be fast” and he went on to sing, “And don’t start talking while the wheel’s still in spin, for the times they are a changin’.” So often we think it’s “the end” (our end or someone else’s end) when it turns out to be just “a bend in the road.”

About 15 years ago I’d pretty much lost faith in myself and was at a real low point in my life. I felt like all I was good for was moving boxes, sweeping sidewalks and driving a truck. It’s sometimes hard to have faith in yourself or the Lord being able to use you when others see little or nothing in you or have much faith in you. That was part of it. But also my life in many ways just seemed to be losing its meaning and purpose. So I moved back to my home country after living many years abroad as a missionary. I got a secular job and began puttering around, just trying to get along.

same day born flatThen, during that time, happened one of the most unusual and bizarre things that ever happened to me in my life. It occurred in the middle of a Thursday night get together with some Christian friends I’d begun meeting with. I wrote about this in “Strange, Very Strange. But True.” A Las Vegas gambler would probably give odds on what happened there that night at something like around 10 million to one, if that.

Back then I didn’t even know why it happened but I guess I just felt that the Lord was ringing His bell in my life, letting me know He was still around and could do some impossible things when it fit His plan. And during that time was when the first beginnings of the video ministry with the Prophecies of Daniel started for me. I was sharing Bible classes with those folks and some others and a number of people told me, “You should video this.” So that time, when it really was like the end for me, was actually the beginning place of this video ministry which has been a real personal blessing and encouragement to me.

Im so great flatI was thinking this morning about how things like that work, how it seems at some points that some people are really way out in front, amazingly used of the Lord, full of the Holy Ghost and then some time later something seems to have happened. It’s like they’ve crashed, stumbled, fallen or laid down their crown. But sometimes it’s just that, like trees, we go through winters.

Even fruitful trees have times when they look dead. But they aren’t. However, for us humans, it can look like the end. King David knew about this. He said, “And in my prosperity I said ‘I shall never be moved.’ Lord, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong. You did withdraw your hand and I was troubled.” (Psalm 30:6 & 7)

In fact, because of his sins, God let David basically lose his kingdom and have to flee for his life with a small band of followers, being cursed by former friends along the road as he went. But David got his heart right with the Lord and kept holding on to his faith until the Lord restored him to his throne.

We all go through seasons, like the famous chapter in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3, says and which was immortalized by the popular song by The Byrds from the 1960’s:

four seasonsThere are just these cycles of life: birth, life, death and resurrection which in some ways can happen more than a few times within our lives here on earth. I think the lesson for me this morning is that this has happened in my life a good number of times. But I also need to remember that this can and does happen in the lives of others, even ones I have (Lord help and forgive me) somewhat given up on.

Some folks seem to have fallen so far and stayed there so long but that really doesn’t have to be “the end”. God is still the God of miracles and He can still “deliver from the lowest hell.” (Psalm 86:13) Sometimes the Lord lets things or people and their hearts get to be really pretty bad so that they’ll see it themselves and come to where they feel a desperate need for God. That’s what happened to me.

The first shall be last and the last first.” (Matthew 19:30) It’s not the end, just a bend in the road. “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20) and He delights in taking complete failures, twisted wasted lives and bringing them into His kingdom of light through His unimaginable, miraculous, loving touch. So, don’t give up on yourself or others. He hasn’t.

“Don’t ever ask again.”

Dont ever ask again-flattenedI was 20 years old, kneeling on the floor of my apartment in the dark at 3 AM, overwhelmed with emotion. As I wrote about in “The Radio Miracle, I’d just had a completely amazing answer to prayer, in response to my utter desperation to try to find out if God was really there. Out of nowhere my clock radio had come on and at that moment the song on the radio was saying,

“Lift up your fellow man, lend him a helping hand, Put a little love in your heart.”

Put-a-little-love-in-your-heartThe song instead could have been, “Sympathy For The Devil”, a hit song at that time. But it wasn’t. I really knew it was an answer from “outer space”, from another realm I hardly knew existed. It was an answer from God. So there on my knees I was saying, “Thank you God, thank you God.”

But then I heard a voice. Was it the voice of my mind or was it the voice of the devil?  I’d been on the devil’s frequency so long that it was almost like they’d intertwined. But clearly the thought was,devil

“That was just a coincidence. Your radio just happened to come on right then and it just happened that that song was on right then. Just happenstance.”

God pictureBut then, immediately there was another voice. I knew it wasn’t my voice or my thoughts. And that changed my life. The Voice said,

“Don’t ever ask again.” 

I wish I could let you hear how that voice sounded. Because those words themselves can sound hard or harsh. But they really, really weren’t. The voice was kind, warm, friendly and almost pleading. It was rather like I’d been in elementary school and had failed 1st grade twice.

It was like the voice of a kind, concerned father telling me that I really needed to get a grip and to get the victory in this, to get over the hump and to learn this lesson that was evidently so hard for me. What was the lesson? Unbelief.

I just over and over would default to doubt and not accept that the spiritual world was real, had worked in my life and made itself manifest on many occasions. I’d been in the grip of unbelief,UpAgainstTheWall_02-reworked even though God had really done a lot to show me that the world of His Spirit is real. If you want just one example of that among many, you can read about how God supernaturally warned me moments before the police raided my apartment about a year before what I’m talking about here. I wrote about that in “Up Against the Wall!

God was lovingly charging me and instructing me to not keep asking if it was all real. It was. And this was it; it was time to accept that His explanation for things, His way of seeing things, was the real one and the more powerful one, the truest explanation of the world I lived in. I was of course really shocked to hear those words. But also it sunk so deep in my heart that I really shouldn’t keep defaulting to my doubts which had been so entrenched in my heart for so many years.

The Bible talks about “besetting sins” (Hebrews 12:2). My besetting sin had been unbelief. And God wanted me to come to where I accepted what He’d been showing me and to repent of my doubting, to stop doubting and to come firmly down on the side of belief in Him and all that He has done and said.

Happily for me, that experience and those words changed my life. I made a real commitment right then to turn away from the reflex to doubt that had gripped me for so long. It was something I had to do. I had to resist those thoughts and recognize that it just wasn’t true. What was true was that there is a God, there is a spiritual world, and there is a devil. I had to adjust my life to these new realities that I’d discovered. It was a huge and total break with the life I’d had till that time.

As it says so clearly and so many times in the Bible, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him. For he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) If you know much about God’s Word, you know how much importance He attaches to simply believing Him. All the way back 4000 years ago, “Abraham believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

“Good works” are important. Helping the poor, loving your neighbor, not being selfish. But the rock bottom essential in our spiritual lives comes down to belief in God, acknowledging that He is real, He is there, not just in our minds, not just as a concept but as a real Essence and Being, a Spirit that we can’t really understand and can’t see but whose spiritual world and working is all around us.

Thankfully I can say that I don’t think I’ve had that problem any more since that time. I haven’t battled doubt about the existence of God and the spiritual world. And that acceptance of faith and heeding His personal commandment to me to not doubt has been part of the foundation stone of the wonderful, incredible life of service for God that I’ve experienced since that time.

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)

Dr. Kosmos

Dr Kosmos fixed flatI was thinking about an incredible incident that happened when I was in university but already on the path of faith in God and in Jesus, only just at the beginning. You may have read were I wrote about how I very nearly died on drugs and went to hell for my sins when I was in university. I wrote about that in “Lucifer and the White Moths.

You’d think an incident like that would be all that it would take to utterly get me turned around and straightened out once and for all. But it wasn’t. I had many rises and falls, many missteps and hesitations, even what could be called backslidings.first road picture-flattened I wrote about one of those in “Lights on the Road”, where I had a car mishap that should have surely taken my life when I was back in sin again. But the Lord saw fit to make things happen otherwise through the intervention of what certainly were angels who manifested themselves.

Tonight I was thinking back to those first weeks and how utterly astounded I was, flabbergasted, utterly mind-blown at the reality of the existence of the God of Abraham. It might be easy for you to think, “if that happened to me, I would so much straighten up and fly right”, as my dad  used to say. Maybe you would but I didn’t. It really took a lot to get me even to the point of receiving Jesus as my personal savior.

In the first days and weeks after I had the incredible breakthrough just before I was 21, I had a strong feeling in my heart that I should just leave everything behind and start traveling with a backpack as so many young people were doing then. I strongly felt that I should travel towards Houston, Texas and then on east towards Atlanta. I didn’t really know why but later I found that some of the Jesus People who led me to the Lord were in those areas at that time. But I didn’t know that.

Dr. Kosmos 2 fixed flatBut I did determine that this was what I should do and I began to make preparations. I had flunked out of university, mostly because of my fallen state through drugs, debauchery and a lack of vision for “useless and pointless knowledge”, as Bob Dylan had described higher education in one of his songs. I was on the right track at last, trying to move with a new impetus from the Spirit of God and a specific leading to travel, going out “not knowing whether I went” (Hebrews 11:8), rather like Abraham.

But then, the Devil entered the scene again. I got a letter from my university. (This is going to be hard to believe but it really happened.) In those days, if you flunked out of university, you were very likely to be drafted almost immediately to go fight in the war in Viet Nam which was raging at that time. And I’d flunked out so I would shortly be eligible to be drafted.

A letter arrived from my university. They told me they were going to give me another chance. I could come back for another semester and try one more time. Sounds good, no? Only, in my case, God had saved me from hell and He had greater plans for me than “finishing my education” at university. He had a whole new life ahead of me, from Him.

But here’s where it really gets good. I was reading this letter, telling me I could reapply to the university. And I was thinking, “I’ve already made a decision to just leave everything and go out traveling in the direction the Spirit of God is leading me, towards Houston and Atlanta. And now I get this letter. Hmm.”  But here it comes, wait for it….

Dr Kosmos 3 fixed flatThe letter from the university was signed by… Dr. Kosmos. Even with my extremely limited knowledge of spiritual things, I knew that “Cosmos” was the Greek word for “the world”. Like the verse that says, “Love not the world.” (I John 2:15) So I nearly dropped my teeth, as they say. I practically could smell the sulfur and see the horns peaking up behind the letter I had received. I’m sure there was a literal “Dr. Kosmos” who had sent me this letter from the university. But I was able to see by the Spirit that this was a message from Satan, luring me back into the world after I’d begun to be set free by God to follow Him.

Good for you Mark! You really recognized the enemy there! And you stood your ground and didn’t yield, right?

dont follow God flatNope, I was weak and fell for it. Even though by the Spirit I recognized this as an allurement of Satan to hinder me from following the Lord the way He was leading, I still didn’t have the faith and strength to go against this back then and I went back to university.

So you failed God! Again, Mark! And He sent you to Hell, right!? You failed Him over and over again, practically at every turn and here you did it again! He killed you that night as you rightly deserved, no?!

Not actually. Back at university in the fall of 1969 I experienced what I wrote about in “Terrorist Infiltrators”, getting to know some of the top revolutionaries in the USA back then, working on SDS demonstrationthe main underground newspaper in Texas at the time and being in the leadership of a major demonstration on my campus. At the end of that semester I was still alive. I had flunked out again, had stopped using heavy drugs, was still reading my Bible every day and praying all the time. Again the Lord led me to just leave it all behind, “forsake all”  (Matthew 19:29), and to journey in the direction He’d originally told me to go. That finally happened. And soon I met those Jesus People and came to the day where I received Jesus as my Savior, beginning this wonderful life I’ve had for so long.

If you get a letter from “Dr. Kosmos”, giving you “one more chance” to make it in this world’s systems of man, as opposed to God’s will for your life, maybe you can remember this story. “You shall worship the Lord you God, and Him only shall you serve.” (Luke 4:8) “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” (Proverbs 1:10)

God’s Many Ways

Thats in the Bible flatGod’s kind of funny sometimes. Just when you think you’ve got Him figured out and under control, He pops up with some new thing that lines up outside the box you had for Him. You’re reading your Bible and you come upon some verse or story and you slam on the breaks with a “What!? That’s in the Bible?!” Or you read the history of Christianity or even the history of the Jews in the Bible and you come upon things that seem to be way out of bounds at times.

Does God change? It says in the Bible, “I am the Lord, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6) But it sure seems to me He has a pretty wide array of ways and tools at His disposal. And of course this is only good.

For example, here’s an obscure verse that’s always interested me. “The Word of God was precious in those days, there was no open vision.” (I Samuel 3:1) This is right at the end of the period of the judges and right at the beginning of when Israel went into the period of their kings.period of judges and kings From what I get from that verse, during the period of the judges they were not having the kind of spiritual manifestations we associate with visions, dreams, prophecies and the like. And so the simple word of God was all the more precious then.

But in Samuel’s time and certainly with David and even Solomon after him, the Lord changed that. When you read I and II Samuel, as well as the Psalms, it seems they came into an abundant wealth of revealed spirituality that was a major change from the previous centuries.Elijah calling fire And you could say this went on for a good while. Even though northern Israel and southern Judah split into two kingdoms and often there were evil kings, still the Lord kept sending prophets in those times. We read about Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah and many others.

But then what happened? They stopped. For 400 years. It is said in Jewish history that Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi were all around at the same time, around 400 BC and even then it was known among the people that after them, the line of prophets would stop. That’s what it says in history, they knew back there at that time that they were the last prophets.

Why? Why did God do that? Maybe it’s like it says in the Psalms, “Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.” (Psalm 55:19) Maybe God doesn’t like it when you think you have Him figured out. Like He said to Job, “Should it be according to your mind?” (Job 34:33)

Then along came Jesus. Talk about a change! But it was change with continuity, wasn’t it? The absolute basics didn’t change, to love God and love our neighbor. But as so many of the prophets had foreseen, God was going to “put the law in their heart”, (Jeremiah 31:33) with “a new spirit within them”. (Ezekiel 11:19) And it was to be “a light to the Gentiles, that you should be salvation unto the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)

no new wine please-flattenedThat was about the biggest thing that broke the religious old bottles of Jewish Christians back then, that the God of Abraham was no longer just for the Jews but that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “What!? He loves the whole world? Whosoever believes in Him?” Even John 3:16 is a really radical verse when you see it in the context of its days. So in some ways, God is a moving God. He’s in some ways constantly changing and doing new things, effecting change in every sphere of His creation.

And when I say, “God’s Many Ways”, of course I’m not meaning many ways to God. I’m still a firm believer in what Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6) There’s only one way to God, “one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 2:5) But, boy, God Himself has a really huge repertoire of songs He can sing, instruments He can play, brushes in His box, and colors on His palette.

“The Venerable Bede”, northern England, 722 AD

“The Venerable Bede”, northern England, 722 AD

Here’s one that nearly stumbled me so I”ll share it, just to show God’s many ways. Relics. Have you ever heard of “relics”? Years ago I read a fantastic book, written in 722 AD, called “The Ecclesiastical History of England.” Written by “the Venerable Bede”, it’s the story of the Christianization of England up till that time. But I was choking and stumbling where there were repeated testimonies of relics being the instruments of major miracles back then. I figure that this guy, “the Venerable Bede”, was either lying or telling the truth. It didn’t seem like he was lying. So, if he was telling the truth and all these things happened like he said, then why and how did the Lord allow that to happened? Why did He work that way back then?

Books and libraries have been written on this subject and I don’t have that much room here. But maybe the Lord was working with the faith that people had back then. So many had faith but they really didn’t have the knowledge of the Word that we have now. The Bible was all still in Latin or Greek and perhaps one in a thousand back then could even read. And besides, God had used this method of working at least a few times in the Bible.

II Kings 13:20 & 21 says a burial team in an emergency virtually threw a dead body onto the grave of Elisha. And when the dead man’s body touched the bones of Elisha, then he came back to life. Or in the New Testament they sent handkerchiefs from Paul to people and they got healed. So, what can you say? These things are in the Word. (Acts 19:12)

But it just shows the broadness and latitude of God at times to work in ways that we (should I say this?) don’t think He should. Ha! Lord help us. Like King David said, “Stand in awe and sin not.” (Psalm 4:4) He really is a mighty God. We don’t have Him completely figured out. We err when we limit Him and say what He can’t or won’t do. He doesn’t always fit into our religious framework. He’s downright unorthodox at times. Still, we love Him, right? Lead on, oh King Eternal.

1 AM in Sofia, Bulgaria

sofia night 1My bus was delayed on the border so I didn’t get into Sofia, Bulgaria till after midnight. I was expecting my friends to meet me at the bus station. But as I looked around the nearly empty station, I had a bad feeling about how I’d not really made sure to completely be definite that they’d meet me there. I tried to phone them from the station but my roaming service on my phone was not connecting so I couldn’t get through. Things were getting bleak pretty quickly and it didn’t immediately get better.

There were some ominous looking taxi drivers hanging around who wanted to drive me somewhere. But I didn’t know where that would be. I asked someone at a food stall that was still opened if they could phone my friends. But they didn’t speak English. I was rapidly realizing that I was in a real fix and a potential dangerous situation.

There were 3 young guys standing around at the food stand in the bus station. I say young; I guess they were around 19. They weren’t grown men but they weren’t really kids. They heard me speaking English and said they could phone my friends on their phone. They did but there was no answer. I noticed that they were friendly, willing to talk and be helpful. So I explained to them what had happened and took the step of faith to ask them if they knew of any hotels in the area. It was past 1 AM and it was looking like a hotel was about the only alternative as I was not getting through to my friends and it was getting real late.

The three young Bulgarians said they knew some hotels in the area and could take me there. Needless to say, I was sure sending up some prayers during all this. The thought did cross my mind several times that I probably looked pretty vulnerable to any late night denizens of the deep who were looking for some soft target and easy pickings.

As we went out to their car, I’ll admit I thought about how these guys could just drive me off somewhere to kill me and rob whatever I had with me. But I was checking in with the Lord and also trying to get the witness of the Spirit on the whole thing. And I was not getting any checks in the Spirit against the way things were going.

sofia nightWe starting driving around downtown Sofia and soon found a hotel that was nicer than I was figuring to stay in. Two of them went in to check the price and it sounded surprisingly low to me. But they wanted to see if they could find something for less. At length, after trying a few other places, I told them that the nice hotel they checked out would be fine. I was also telling them how much I appreciated their help, that I’d come to Bulgaria to speak in churches and that I prayed that God would bless them for their helping. They continued to just be kind hearted “good guys”, for lack of a better term.

I checked into the hotel with their help and was finally up in my room for the night when the phone there rang in my room. It was my friends in Sofia who I’d been trying to reach earlier that night from the station. They had gotten the call from the young men and phoned the number back. Those guys told my friend where I was so she got in contact with me.

End of story, I guess. But I can tell you I was mighty glad to be safely in a hotel at that hour of the night in a foreign city where I didn’t speak the language and knew hardly anyone. I was very aware that it all could have gone much worse. And it really stood out to me that those 3 young men were there at the bus station at that time and were able and willing to help me. I certainly saw it as the Lord’s love and hand, getting me through a potentially very dangerous situation.

It reminded me of the verse, “…underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27) I’d failed to be diligent in making sure of my contact and meeting with my friends in Sofia. But in spite of my failure, the Lord came to the rescue in bringing along those young men to help me. It reminded me of another time I wrote about in the blog post “God’s Little Miracles” where a similar but even more supernatural thing happened to me late one night in Austin, Texas.

God-is-chanceSome folks will say, “This is all chance.” That’s certainly how I used to look at it in the past. In fact, one time before I was a Christian I blurted out one day to my friends like it was a revelation, “God is chance!” And the Lord proceeded to get a good deal of mileage out of my saying that. I wrote about that in the blog post “God Is Chance.

I’m just really thankful that the Lord was there to rescue me that night in Sofia. It could seem like a little thing or a “coincidence” that those young men were there and helped. For me, I recognized that it was again the Lord’s mercy on my life. I’m so thankful for that.