Christmas Miracle, 1875 and now

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

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

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

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

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

We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,

Be the guardian of our way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is it not a little one?”

Lot had just been rescued and delivered from the fiery judgments of God which He had rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, his wife and two daughters had to be led by the hand out of Sodom, being warned by the angels to not even look back. Famously, Lot’s wife did look back and was turned into a pillar of salt. That might be hard to believe but evidently Jesus Christ believed it. See Luke 17:32.

You might think all this would be an incredible shake-up for Lot. My gosh, that guy is going to walk the straight and narrow the rest of his life, no? Evidently not. And it’s a watershed moment in the history of sin when we read what happened next. Lot turned to the angels as they passed by another heathen town of wickedness and said to the angel, “Behold, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one. Oh, let me escape thither; is it not a little one? And my soul shall have rest.” (Genesis 19:20)

Folks, you can get the soul out of the worldly satanic system, whether it be Sodom of old or the satanic amalgam of metropolises that now dominate the earth. But just like with Lot, it’s not easy to get the satanic system out of the soul. God had “delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked.” (II Peter 2:7) But was Lot all contrite and trembling before the Lord? Did Lot make a bee line to his Godly uncle Abraham and his family up in the hills and highlands of God, begging to be taken back in like a prequel to the Prodigal son?

Nope, Lot immediately tried to cut a deal with the angels, “reasoning” with them that another little Babylon-like city not far from Sodom would do just fine and he’d really like to get back to some system preserving compromises and worldliness, even after God had just destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah literally right before their eyes.

“Ah,” you say, “this happened 4000 years ago and things are different today.” Really? If you think that, I’ve got some bad news for you. It’s like Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) As difficult as it was to go through, I’m thankful that God made about as plain to me as He could just how hopelessly sinful and lost I was long ago. My own ignorance, my own willful darkness very nearly took my life except for the totally undeserved, almost strange mercy of God who brought light to my soul when I was writhing in the agonies of the afterlife without God.

“Oh, Mark! Why did God do that to you?! Why did He treat you like that? Why does a God of love send us to hell?!!” Sister or brother, you got it wrong there. God doesn’t send us to hell. We send ourselves to hell through our willful, stubborn ignorance and choosing the wrong path, away from the presence of God to live in the presence of our choices which we made against His truth and light.

He didn’t have to plead with the angels to let him go to a new manifestation of the worldly system of his day. Lot could have asked to have a place at his uncle Abraham’s table and to learn more fully of the ways of God as evidently Lot did believe in the Lord. But it’s just like how it is for millions and billions of people: sin does have dominion over them. And except for the mercy of God, sin will and does have dominion over every one of us. Lot was like the Prodigal Son but who never “came to himself” (Luke 15:17). And sadly there are a lot of those it seems.

In the last book in the Bible, we are told of “Babylon the Great”, pictured as a wretched prostitute which sits upon many nations and rules over the kings of the earth. And God says, “Come out of her, My people, that you partake not of her sins or receive of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4) But God in a sense has been saying that for thousands of years. He even had the angels take Lot and his family out of the Babylon of his day by the hand. And in the last days before the setting up of God’s kingdom on earth, He is going to destroy the final Babylon the Great, this final Sodom and Gomorrah that has now spread across the earth. Whether or not any of His people will get the message and “come out of her” remains to be seen.

We need to acknowledge our sinful nature and ways every single day and pray desperately and sincerely that God will “withhold you from sinning against Me.” (Genesis 20:6) Because as sure as your garden will start turning up weeds if you don’t diligent tend it, your own human heart and nature will rise up against your Christian convictions and character if you don’t daily “keep your heart with all diligence.” (Proverbs 4:23)

“Oh Mark, I’m not going to read your blog posts anymore! I’m going back to Joel Osteen and his lovely wife. They’re so sweet and positive, always encouraging and uplifting, not like you!” Friends, I’m all for being loving, positive and uplifting. But I’m just telling you from extremely hard experience that none of us had better ever get to the place where we forget how much we need the Lord , how much we should be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?!” (Romans 7:24)

Don’t be like Lot. If the Lord has delivered you from your Sodom and Gomorrah, don’t beg the angels to let you off at the next hellish place just down the road so you can continue in the compromised worldliness that is anathema to God’s highest and best in your life. Instead, be like Moses who “forsook Egypt” (Hebrews 11:27) because “he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26) What Egypt, Sodom or Babylon is God calling you out of?

Sharing your faith and seeing miracles

Sharing our faith with those who don’t know the Lord is not only “the Great Commission”, it’s an incredible way to experience the thrills of heaven and be right immediately where miracles of God happen. It’s a crying shame that so few Christians regularly share their faith with others, or “witness”, as it is called. There are virtually no churches who teach their congregations that they should actively share their faith with others, much less teach them how to do so.

Most of us would like to see more miracles in our lives. We know the Lord is there and that He can do “exceeding abundantly, above all we ask or think.” (Ephesian 3:20) But how can we be part of that? I’ll tell you, if you take the step to launch out and share your faith, you’ll often see some truly amazing and supernatural things happen, things that are impossible without God.

I’m blessed to be part of a weekly Christian fellowship, folks who almost all are active daily witnessers here in Texas. Many of these have backgrounds similar to mine, a lifetime of Christian service which was mostly spent outside the USA. So mostly these friends are not beginners to witnessing. And with this example I’m going to share, some of you might feel these friends have a lot more holy boldness than you feel you have right now. Their method of witnessing is perhaps not what you feel you’re ready for. But they told us recently of an incredible experience that happened to them while they were out sharing their faith and I thought to pass it on to you.

These friends told us of an afternoon when they were witnessing in restaurants. [“Oh, Mark. I COULDN’T POSSIBLY do that! What would people think? I’d just be making a fool of myself!”] OK, like I said, this is not a beginner’s witnessing testimony and an example everyone would feel they can immediately emulate. But here’s what they said happened.

“We were in a restaurant and we approached a table where two women were talking intensely. We had some Christian material with us that we usually offer to people in order to start a conversation. So we offered the first lady something that highlighted a Bible verse, Isaiah 41:10. And just looking at it she started crying. At first we didn’t actually see that the woman had started crying and I offered the other woman material having to do with the serenity prayer. Then that woman started crying. And we couldn’t talk to them for a minute or two because they both were crying.”

“We apologized to them that we made them cry and the first woman said that it wasn’t really us, it was just that her grandson is in the hospital with cancer. And his name is Isaiah. And then it turns out that Isaiah’s little sister is named Serenity. These women had just come from the hospital where little Isaiah was  and after lunch they were going back. We were able to pray with them and they said they knew the Lord sent us to them right then to comfort them and to be like a sign to them. They said, ‘We know God sent you to us right now’.”

My freinds went on to tell me, “When you are out there, it really isn’t like hard work. So often people say, ‘When I met you, it’s like I feel I’ve met the Lord in you.’ Often there’s this incredible timing to things, even though we don’t know it ourselves. It’s like a flow to be in and we take on the mantle of the Lord. This is how He’s ordained it and when you make yourself available, then His miracle working power is done through you, right in front of you and you are as amazed as the others. A person said to us today, ‘How does this work? Does God know this and then He told the angels to send you to this restaurant so you can talk to me? It must be because it’s not an accident that you came to see me today.’”

“Mark, these folks must really be saints. Probably no problems but just barely in this world they’re so spiritual.”

Well they just told me that not long ago, when their children were really not doing good, having troubles with growing up, that the only way they got through it was to go out daily and share their faith with others. Thinking about the needs of others and pouring out to others was a way to keep putting first the things of the Lord when their own situations were going over their head, even after they’d been doing everything they could for their kids.

They said “It just helped us to go out and talk to and help others as so many have so many problems and we were just there to be a blessing and help to others. One time we were driving down the street and I said, ‘I don’t even know how I can talk to people today, so many things and problems are going on.’ But then the first person we talked to said almost immediately, “Wow, I know God sent you to me today.”

One more thing they shared, I just can’t leave this out. They had been in Beirut, Lebanon during the time of the war when there were the militias and the Green Line. So they had witnessed to the Christian militias which often were teenagers. Late one afternoon they were coming back from downtown Beirut through the Muslim section and they were about to cross the Green Line to the Christian side of the city. But some Muslim militiamen came up to them and asked them what they were doing, pointing their Kalashnikovs at them. They were there to prevent people crossing back and forth.  Then out of a side street came the Christian militia they’d witnessed to and, pointing their guns at the Muslims, told the Muslims to let them pass over into the Christian section, that they were with them. But their witnessing to the Christian militias earlier was what keyed them to stand up for my missionary friends when they we were stopped by the opposing militias.

Whew. This is a lot better than sports bars, virtual reality or Netflix, no? I sure think so. Witnessing and sharing our faith is where it’s at.

“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)