The unguarded moment

The-fight-of-faithFrom time to time as a kid I’d hear the phrase, “the bogey man will get you if you don’t watch out.” Of course, even as I child I knew there was no “bogey man.” Still, there’s kind of a flip side to this here. Because, in actuality, there are a lot of things that will “get you if you don’t watch out.”

Many Christians know what the Apostle Peter said, “Be sober, and be vigilant, for your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8) But sometimes we find in our lives is that the “evil spirit” we have the most problem with is often our own personal spirit, our own dull, rebellious, ornery nature. And sometimes this can even be true for the saved. Jesus’ disciples rejoiced that “even the devils are subject unto us through Your name”. (Luke 10:17) But our own selves are often the spirits we have the most trouble with. This is all related to how I incurred the shoulder injury 8 months ago that caused the need for the surgery I had a few days ago. I wrote about this experience recently in “Pain and suffering”.

It was nothing sinister I did and that’s all the more reason why it’s worth sharing this as I think a lot of us may be guilty of such things from time to time. What happened? You’re going to be disappointed. I was taking a heavy grocery bag out of a shopping cart when I took a bad angle on it and suddenly felt a big pain in my shoulder. I thought I’d strained a muscle, something most of us have done at some time. But this just never healed up. I was due to move to Europe in 6 weeks and I thought it would get better but it didn’t. Now it’s turned out to be the biggest injury I’ve ever had, at least in the way of pain, debilitation and time lost for the Lord’s service.

Why did that happen? How can it be that, when the Lord has so protected me in numerous places around the world where legitimate danger was very real, I end up getting hurt pretty bad in a grocery store parking lot? There is an answer to this. It’s called “the unguarded moment”.

unguarded flatFor Christians, the Bible says “We are sealed by the Holy Ghost.” (Ephesians 1:14) “The angel of the Lord encamps about them that fear Him and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7) For those who are His, there’s a tremendous amount of protection and power that’s ours. But there are at least some conditions. “Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” I wasn’t taking drugs or drunk when this accident happened. But I’ve realized that I was not sufficiently walking in the Spirit of God at the time like I should have been.

Jesus told His disciples, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) For many of us, we can think that this means, “Oh, if a drug dealer or a prostitute came up to you there in that parking lot, you wouldn’t be tempted by them!” That’s not what happened but still something very serious did happened. “The curse causeless shall not come” (Proverbs 26:2) so what was I doing, or not doing, that brought this on?

Basically I was dull in my spirit right then . I was “entangled with the affairs of this life” (II Timothy 2:4) to the degree that I missed whatever check the Holy Spirit could have given me right then that I was making a dangerous move with the heavy grocery sack. Even with my personal limited knowledge of weight lifting, I should have noticed that my angle was bad in lifting the bag. But I must have been dull at the time, my mind somewhere else and overall being in a false sense of security in familiar surroundings, doing something I’d done so many times before.

Stormy flatThere are always things which must be attended to; we live in a physical world and we can’t be drifting around on some spiritual cloud in perpetual trance-like mediation. But for those who are His, it just doesn’t pay to ever neglect our link with the Lord, even for a moment. We are to “pray without ceasing”. (I Thessalonians 5:17) This doesn’t mean being down on your knees, frantically calling out to God all the time but that we’re walking in an alert spirit, “in all our ways acknowledging Him” so that “He shall direct our path.” (Proverbs 3:6) “You shall hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21) Well, I didn’t hear His voice that day because I was inadvertently dwelling in my carnal mind and the affairs of this life so the Holy Spirit was less able to get through to me and I’ve suffered for it ever since.

Did the devil do it? No, it was my mistake. It’s so easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when we’re on familiar ground and doing things that are so commonplace to us. But that’s when we can suffer some of our worst mistakes, in those unguarded moments when we let down our shield and are dull to our surroundings. So, as it turns out, there certainly are some things that “will get you if you don’t watch out.” It reminds me of what Jesus said, “What I say unto you, I say unto all. Watch.” (Mark 13:37)

 

Pain and suffering

I’ve had an interesting week. On Wednesday I had 5 hours of surgery on my right shoulder to repair a tendon I ruptured 8 months ago. I’d never had surgery before and almost never needed to go to a hospital til now. So it was all very new to me. I’ll pick up with what happened the next morning at the hospital, after the anesthesia wore off.

With my new shoulder sling

Basically I quickly began to experience pain like I’ve never had in my life. For 2 hours it got worse and worse to where I was moaning, crying and asking/begging the nurse to hurry up with boosting the dosage of pain killer. She was doing her job but she had others to attend to. Also I suspect it can get to be with nurses that they become desensitized to the suffering that patients experience after a while. But I was getting increasingly desperate and insistent.

We got to the point where I was asking/demanding that they either give me morphine or gas me out so I wouldn’t experience what was happening at that time. But around then the effects of what they’d been giving me the last two hours began  to work and the pain level came down from “10” to about “6.5”. I was able to bear that enough.

It had been pain that pushed me to get a better analysis of what had happened to my shoulder 8 months ago. I’d finally had an MRI done which the orthopedic surgeon used to show me where my muscle was detached from my bone by about 1 inch. That’s why it had been virtually impossible for me to sleep at night for months.

Back home that night, still taking the maximum allowed of pain killers and wearing the shoulder sling you  can see in the picture, I realized I’d have another night of no sleep until my fatigue got the better of my pain. All I could do was wait, pace the floor in my apartment and “draw nigh to God” (James 4:8). And in prayer I thought about a lot.

dad and sonI thought about how many people around the world are in pain all the time. The hungry, the sick, the dispossessed, the refugees, those with no hope. I thought about the Syrians, Iraqis and Kurds I’d talked with on the Macedonian border in December, or in refugee camps in Berlin in January. Women with children, young Syrian daddies who held their little son’s hand, all in the bitter cold of a Balkan winter. How was my pain compared to theirs?

Moscow beggarI thought of the year I lived in Moscow in the 90’s and the beggars I’d see there. Many were not alcoholics but former military officers or older women who looked to come from very distinguished backgrounds who stood with their hands out, a look of sadness on their faces that made me realize how great a personal loss so many had had with the collapse of Communism. Or the middle aged men I met in Aceh Province, Indonesia, after the tsunami disaster there in 2004. It was the men who survived. aceh survivorThey often were fishermen or truck drivers and were away from their families on the Sunday morning when 3 giant waves crashed into coastal communities for hundreds of miles. I remembered the many men I’d met who’d lost their wife and all their children and the utter sadness and profound despondency they had.

And I thought of my own United States of America and the social background I come from: middle aged to elderly, White and middle class. lost my jobWhile prosperity has increased over the last 20 years or so, the demographic I’m a part of has seen basically no gain in their standards of living and it’s been necessary to work all the more just to keep at the level they were decades ago. Alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide has steadily risen for the white middle class in the USA while in other industrialized Western nations, these things have all decreased. You don’t have to talk to refugees to find pain and suffering in our times.

So I hesitate to say I became thankful for my suffering because you might ask, “Oh, would you like some more of it?” And I’d say no. But it was a reality check that I’ve had it pretty good in my life. I’ve had some very strong pain in an emotional sense from personal family-related things in my past. Also decades ago when I was getting close to becoming a Christian, the Lord allowed me to feel severe anguish and torment of soul that helped drive me to salvation. But plain, outright physical pain is not something I’ve experienced so much of.

Around 4 AM my fatigue finally got the best of my pain and I slept 2 hours, sitting upright on my sofa since lieing down was impossible. Now, a couple of days later, things are improving. The worst of the pain has abated and I’m able to sleep in my bed at night with a good deal fewer pain killers than before.

feeling pain flatThe Bible says “in everything give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:18) and I can say, in some strange way, I’m thankful for this experience. It was a very good reminder of what hundreds of millions, if not billions of people experience every day. Even before I became a Christian, when I was growing up, I wanted to do something to make things better in this world. I’m so, so thankful that the Lord got a hold of me and brought me into a life of Christian discipleship.

Some of us are doing ok today. But if we have food in our stomach, a place to sleep, some friends and we’re pretty much staying above the waves and vicissitudes of this often dangerously raging world we live in, it’s good to remember those who aren’t doing so well and who could use some help.  I think that’s how Jesus taught us to look at these things.

 

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)

News about Witnessing in Germany

German streetI received a thrilling testimony from a Christian sister around my age in Germany who’s been a faithful witness for many years. I’d like to share this with friends far and wide as it’s certainly not the kind of thing you’ll see on the evening news. But I really believe this is something that makes news in heaven.

This sister lives in a large industrial city in German which has very many Muslim refugees, as well as German citizens of Middle Eastern background. And on top of that, it’s one of the centers in Germany of the far right, anti-immigrant, nationalist movement. A few months ago I helped my friend to get a shipment of several hundred Gospels of Luke in Arabic which she would be able to use in the times she goes out witnessing in her city. Here’s part of a letter she wrote me yesterday.

passing litI was out witnessing after some time of not being able to go out much and at first it was such a battle; but that always happens. I’d copied some tracts to pass out and it had become late already. I was starting to get tired but was dissatisfied because I’d taken 10 Arabic Gospels of Luke with me, with the determination to give them out. But I was by that time just tired and wanting to go home.

I told myself, “OK, I’ll walk toward the train station and on the way pass out some more things.” I realized there where quite a few people also streaming toward the train station so I just asked Arabic-looking people if they spoke Arabic and offered them then the Gospels of Luke.

There were two families with little kids and each looked at me like they wanting to say, “Are you in your right senses? We are Muslims.”  sharing wordSo I told them that the Quran teaches we should read the “Injils”, the gospels about “Isa”, Jesus. They both reacted with an “Ohh”, realizing I might know more about the Quran than them, and took it, thanking me for it.

On the way I passed the big cinema and decided to see if there was an announcement about the new movie with Joseph Fiennes about the resurrection of Jesus. And there were 2 young girls sitting with Muslim head-scarfs on, around 15 or 16 years old.

I offered them Gospels of Luke too and at first they were a bit mixed up in surprise. Then the younger one started to get all excited and I heard the word “Injil” several times. Then the older one caught on and thanked me profusely, even kissing the booklet. That was my time to be startled.

Phew, what a great time I still had! One more guy took it because I said yes when he asked me if I’ve read the Quran. I have read only here and there a verse but that’s probably more than many Muslims ever have read, like most church people don’t read their Bible.

giving GoL flatIn all I was able to give out 8 Gospels of Luke in Arabic and a bunch of German and English tracts, thank you Jesus! I was all poured out when I arrived at the train station but very happy.

I am still praying for one or more Muslims to teach the Bible and who can help me better spread the Good News (my strength is so little for this great job) if you like to pray with me for this.

Much love, C.

Angela MerkelI don’t know about you but this just made my day. It’s exactly what I’ve written about in blog posts like “Merkel’s Call”, “Enemy at the Gate”, “They that be with us…” and several other similar posts about conditions presently in Germany and Europe. What this dear sister wrote about shows that it can be done. It would be great it if was some huge, mass movement that everyone can feel they are swept up in and feel a part of. But that may not happen. Meanwhile, it’s up to individuals to just share the love of God and the truth of God with the lost, like the people of faith have been doing since the days of the Early Church.

It may not seem like much. “What is this among so many?” (John 6:9) But it’s a start. And I know personally a number of other folks around Europe who are doing daily exactly what this dear sister in German wrote about.Go flatOne shall chase a thousand and two shall put ten thousand to flight.” (Joshua 23:10) May the Lord bless this dear German sister for her faithfulness to share God’s love and truth with the lost and may others catch the same vision and passion.

Praying the Word

neither know we flatThere are so many good things to do. But sometimes we just need to lay them down and pour out our hearts to the Lord. Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) And as much as our own independent hearts would like to disagree with that, it’s totally the truth. Well, we might clarify His words there by saying “We can do nothing good and anything bad“, without Him.

And Jesus, rising up a great while before dawn, went out into a desert place and there prayed.” (Mark 1:35) For me, prayer is an absolute necessity. Of course we should be praying all the time, “pray without ceasing” (I Thes. 5:17), right? But there are certainly times when it’s got to be a whole lot more than our little prayers we pray as we go about our tasks of the day. There really have to be times when we “Come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) God wants that and we need that in a more absolute way than most of us realize.

But, what do we say? How do we pray? In many ways, it should just be natural. Jesus said “The hour comes and now is that the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him.” (John 4:23)

In the first weeks after I became a Christian, my friends encouraged me that, in prayer, I should tell God how much I loved Him. Well, I was so messed up back in those days and still coming out of so much darkness and heart sickness that I just told God I didn’t know how or if I loved Him.  I just knew that He was, that I believed in Him and was very thankful to be alive. I told Him I didn’t even know what love was so He would have to show me and teach me to love because I didn’t know it or see it in myself. Later I found a lot of comfort in the verse I Corinthians 8:3, “If any man loves God, the same is known of him.” I figured God knew I loved Him, even if I was finding difficulty expressing it. And I think, over the years, gradually the Lord has taught me about love and loving Him.

please hear me flatThere’s just so much to prayer, it’s hard to encapsulate it into a small post like this. But worshiping the Father “in spirit and in truth” is what Jesus said we should do. You “pour out your heart before Him” (Psalm 62:8), telling the Lord what’s at the bottom of your soul, even if you think it’s not perfect, eloquent or sufficient. Just that you’re bringing your innermost self before Him is a major right thing to do and He sees it and will bless it.

But for me, I’ve ended up finding that when I “pray the Word”, I feel my prayers go further and are stronger. What do I mean by that? Often in prayer I have to “prime the pump”. It’s a little like that strange verse, “He did evil because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.” (II Chronicles 12:14) We have to not only get in prayer, it helps a lot if we get in the Spirit also. We have to move out of our carnal minds and worldly affairs and to come into the place in our hearts where it’s like what it says, “Who is this that engages his heart to come unto me?” (Jeremiah 30:21)

We have to engage our hearts to come to him. And for me, one of the ways to do this is to pray and quote the Word, the Bible. It gets me out of my carnality and into the Godly mindset of His promises. Peter said, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature”. (II Peter 1:4a) There’s a whole lot of truth right there in that verse.

So when we bring our thoughts and conscience into the realm of His promises, His Word, it engenders light and truth and the whole revitalizing “magic” (pardon the expression) that God’s Word can and does work in us. Jesus said “The words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63) quicken me flatKing David certainly knew this principle when he said, “My soul cleaves to the dust, quicken me through Your Word.” (Psalm 119:25) Or it’s like Jeremiah prayed to the Lord, “Your words were found and I did eat them and Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” (Jeremiah 15:16)

So if you’re battling in prayer, weighted down by the affairs of this life, all too aware of your demanding nature, here are a few ideas. Sing a song to the Lord that’s meaningful to you. Then sing another one. And if you feel you’re not great at memorizing, try to just memorize the 23rd Psalm, the one that starts “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”. You could quote that in prayer.  Some people even raise their hands in prayer, you don’t have to but it can be good.

These things are like priming the pump. And what you may find is that it begins to get a little easier. Thank Him for all the good things that you have, even if you feel there are some things missing. You could even use the word “praise” in your prayers, like you find so often in the Psalms. “Let all the people praise You, then shall the earth yield its increase.” (Psalm 67:5 & 6)

For me, sometimes in prayer I just quote God’s Word like a stream flowing out of me. I claim God’s promises and I pray and quote the prayers I find in the Psalms which I’ve committed to memory. Sometimes I just get lifted out of my doldrums and almost get “lost in the Spirit”, delivered from my self-absorbed self  as I enter the realm of His presence through prayer and His Word.

I hope your prayer life is what He (and you) want it to be. We all need this so much. “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Hard Knocks Witnessing

you are wrong flatI’ve often mentioned the subject of witnessing and it’s certainly a huge subject. I’ve never yet been in a church that teaches personal witnessing to its people. But witnessing at times can be tough. Everyone probably knows that and it’s one reason so few people do it.

I was on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California decades ago, witnessing to young people when I was a young person myself. Then, off to my right and striding down the sidewalk in the early evening was someone decked out in a full Satan costume, red cape, horns, mask and all. As he walked by he was repeatedly saying in a deep voice, “I’ve come to see my kingdom”. This was many years ago and I’ve been told it’s much worse there now.

While witnessing is really like sowing seeds, it also can be like a battle. Some folks just have their standard lines they throw back at Christians since most Christians don’t know how to answer tough questions. I remember one that really stumped me when I was about a year old in the Lord. This guy in Los Angeles told me that Jesus never actually said that He was the Son of God. That really got me right then. I’d been studying the Word and had memorized a lot but I just couldn’t think of anything right then that absolutely proved the guy wrong.

But it really got me into the Word about it. Later I found what I figure was the best place where Jesus said He was the Son of God, John 10:36b, “…do you say of Him who was sanctified and sent into the world, ‘you blaspheme’, because I said I am the Son of God?

Actually, when you think about it, Jesus didn’t go around all the time telling everyone He was the Son of God. He called Himself “the Son of Man” over 70 times  but the specific places where He said He was the Son of God were rare. So that guy back then long ago sort of won the conversation I was having with him that day. But then I knew what to answer the next time someone pulled that one on me.

Weapons to Pakistan 1-flattenedMaybe that’s another thing about witnessing that most people just don’t want to experience. You just might meet your match, ha! The only thing is, it may be your match but not the Lord’s. Like anything, you have to hone your skills or, better yet, let the Lord teach you how to witness and share your faith. You may have your stumbles or bumps in the road but you keep taking it back to the Lord, learn your lessons, Weapons to Pakistan 2-flattenedand do better next time. A little like what happened to me years later in New Delhi, India when I was witnessing door to door there and a woman almost immediately, upon opening her door, yelled at me, “Why are you selling weapons to Pakistan!” I wrote about that experience here.

I was a smart-alecky 18 year old atheist in my first semester of university  when a young Christian student at the university was going door to door in the dormitory, witnessing for the Lord. I gleefully welcomed him in to have a talk, like a spider to a fly.

The thing is, I’d never before met a Christian like that. I tried all my old lines I usually used to mock Christians. I laughed long and heartily at him. He stood his ground with a friendly smile and just kept sharing his faith with me. I rejected the witness he shared with me but that experience changed my life.

Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin.” (John 15:22) Up till that time, I’d never really been witnessed to by a strong Christian. But after that event I was much more accountable and two weeks later, having rejected the messenger of God, the messenger of Satan was allowed by God to come to me in the form of a hippie on campus who sold me my first marijuana. For the next 2 years my life gradually went downhill till I very nearly died on drugs and went to hell, an event I told you about in “Lucifer and the White Moths”.

delivered your soul-1 flatBut it was the faithfulness of that young Christian student at my university to share God’s message with me, even though I rejected it, that was part of God’s plan in bringing me to Him. And I share this here to show how that, even if you have a “negative” witnessing experience, as that dear brother had with me that day back then, “nevertheless Christ is preached” (Philippians 1:18) and it was an integral part of God’s plan for my life. Even if someone gives you grief while you’re out witnessing, it is still your faithfulness that counts and you have “delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 3:19), as the Lord wants us to do.

No wicked thing before my eyes

watching TVThis morning I was reviewing some of the verses I’ve memorized over the years and I came again to one of those real jewels in God’s Word. King David said, “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes. I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” (Psalm 101:3)

Just, wow. Try applying that to our times. Think of the multitude of “wicked things” that vie to get the attention of our eyes. Of course for me and most people the first thing that comes to mind is television, followed hard by the internet and movies. “Wicked’ is not a common word in our times but most people know what it means. Downright dirty evil.

watching computerI virtually hate television. Not the physical appliance but the sludge that pours through it 99% of the time. The thing is, it’s very much like that verse from 3000 years ago says, “It shall not cleave unto me.” That means it won’t stick to you if you make a point not to let you eyes look at it. Because that’s what it does, it sticks to your heart and mind like some vile, filthy chewing gum. The things you see on TV and through the media, the words you hear, the whole universe of filth, vanity and froth that spews forth will cleave to your soul and utterly corrupt your heart and mind, all in the name of “entertainment” or even “education”.

Is it all really that bad? Is there anything on TV or the net worth watching? Yeah, I guess so. Of course it could be said that what I do with the web sites and videos I do is actually using the modern media which I seem to be virtually cursing here. So the point is that these things can be used to bring even Godly truth to those hungry for it. But it’s just that so very much garbage comes down the chute that you have to be fully on guard against and aware of the danger.

Some documentaries are good and informative. But then they are “brought to you by…” and you’ve got to sit through the commercials and soon your glued to the tube again. Of course now it’s not the tube anymore, it’s the internet. Or it’s not the internet, it’s your phone. But one way or the other, whether it’s hate speech, lewd music videos, divisive politics and assorted vanities, your life is consumed, 24/7, by things that are not of God. They’ve cleaved to you and you’ve become one with them. You speak of them, out of the abundance of the heart, (Luke 6:45) which has been filled with the things of this world.

woman_on_beast for blog postAnd yet (and this may shock some people) this was prophesied 2000 years ago as being a sign of the events prior to the return of Jesus. Speaking of “Babylon the Great” in Revelation 18, the angel told John the Divine “All nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication”. (Revelation 18:3) Strong language, no? But that seems to be how God sees it. While we, as the creations of God, are supposed to love Him and in a sense be married to Him as His bride, the vast majority of the earth has “gone a whoring with their own inventions” (Psalm 106:39) and has cleaved to Babylon the Great.

mileyHow have “all nations drunk the wine of the wrath of her fornication”? From Borneo to Ecuador, from Lichtenstein to Qua Zulu Natal the pleasures and allurements of Babylon are daily the delight of billions in our times as they groove to the latest lewdness from Hollywood, the latest gadget from Silicon Valley or the latest Satanic music. And what does God’s Word have to say to all this? “Come out of her My people, that you be not partakers of her sins or receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Revelation 18:4 & 5)

If you believe in God and the Bible, you’ll know that a judgment day is coming. Not just Judgement Day in the hereafter but a day of judgment on this earth and the world as we know it now. And in the book of Revelation He spoke to His people to come out of this Babylon-dominated world, to be separated from the sirens of Satan that so overshadow our times. It’s like James, “the Lord’s brother”, told people “You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God? Whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

This can be a little overwhelming. “Where do I start?” your might wonder. One place would be to “set no wicked thing before your eyes”, to “hate the works of them that turn aside.” Why? Because if you don’t, they will without doubt “cleave” to you. God took His people out of Egypt over 3000 years ago. He made a way for them to leave Babylon after their 70 years captivity 500 years before Jesus. Martin Luther even famously wrote of the “Babylonian Captivity” of Christianity as it had come to be in his time under the fallen Catholic church of his day. And our times? Babylon the Great is alive, well and squirming mightily to enter your heart and the heart of every person on this planet. But God’s Word stands, “Come out of her, My people.” Set no wicked thing before your eyes. Hate it. Or it will cleave to you.

Zeal and Hard Sayings

ChurchillI was thinking about Winston Churchill, one of my heroes. A movie that made a huge impact on me was “The Gathering Storm” about Churchill in the 1930’s. He was already old and pretty much out of favor in Britain. In the British parliament he just kept up his “rant”, if you will, against the dangers of Germany and Hitler’s rise. But it wasn’t what people wanted to hear and he was pretty much “a voice in the wilderness” (John 1:23), going against the wind and the tide of the times. But he was right, very right. And ultimately, as that movie shows, the nation came to see that he’d been right all along in his warnings.

It can be a lonely job at times to tell truths that are unpopular and go against popular opinion. It can be tough to be tough. And sometimes, actually, it can be God’s will to be a little tough. Jesus was. Yes, He was, at least in some sense. You don’t usually hear about this from the pulpit but in John 6 Jesus gave His “cannibal speech”. Today we have sanitized the whole thing and understand it by the Spirit. But back then it was very, very rough.

hard saying flatSo rough that it says that some of His disciples said, “This is a hard saying, who can hear it?” (John 6:60) The Bible goes on to say, “From that time, many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.” (John 6:66) What happened? Well, Jesus told them, “Except you eat the flesh of the son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you.” (John 6:53)

That doesn’t bother you because you’ve had it explained to you and you know Jesus was not speaking of cannibalism. But the ones who heard Him say it that day really didn’t get it. And it gets worse. In Luke 14 “Great multitudes followed Him and He turned and said to them, ‘If any man come to me and hate not his father and mother and wife and children, yeah and his own life also, He cannot be my disciple’.” (Luke 14:26)

So there you have it in the Gospels, cannibalism and hatred. Of course we now know and understand what we feel those things mean. But the point is, there are some relatively hard sayings in some places in Scripture, even in the four Gosples. And if we’re following the Lord and letting the Lord speak to us and through us, at times there are still hard sayings today.

Maybe it’s like the phrase people use nowadays, “tough love.” That’s how it can be. Solomon said, “Rebuke a wise man and he will love you.” (Proverbs 9:8) Let’s face it, most of us are not that wise and don’t love getting rebuked. Still Solomon was right; being shown a better way than your own can be tough but it also really helps.

I guess I’ve been a little concerned because I know that recently I’ve put some things in my posts that may have been “hard sayings” to some of my friends. I hesitate to apologize because I just know and feel that there has to be a time in each life where difficult things need to be said in order to make things better. It’s certainly not a matter of hate or, hopefully, of self-righteousness. It’s just that in order to help each other, we have to say things that are difficult, things that call us to a serious appraisal of ourselves and even to repentance for our slackness and an urging to great commitment to Him.

You told me the truth-a-flattenedThis can not only be difficult to receive, it can be difficult to share. But I’ve often been on the receiving end of some rather strong but Godly council from Christian brethren who were trying to help me see the error of my ways and the areas I needed to make Christian progress in. It was not easy to receive and sometimes it wasn’t even shared with me in all that sweet a lovey-dovey package. Nevertheless, the Lord’s truth was there and I needed “to see the lightning without feeling the bolt”, which was not always easy.

So when I share things in some of my posts that may come across as challenging or almost extreme to some, I hope I’m sharing these things in love, often as lessons I myself have experienced and gone through. Richard GereAgain, going back to movies many of us have seen to be an example of this, “An Officer and a Gentleman” is an incredible movie that shows these things so well. Staring Richard Gere and Louis Gossett, Jr., Gere is in basic training to be a navy pilot and Gossett is his hard-as-nails drill sergeant and instructor. It basically seems like Gossett hates Gere and is doing all he can to get him to fail. But the movie brings out that the drill sergeant has to be that way in order to get Gere to be a completely remolded man and to know if he will be of the meddle that can have what it takes to be at that level of the military.

And so it is with us. The Lord loves us but wants to make us into something useful and fruitful for Him. I’ve been through the fire, the flood, the anvil and the ice at times in my life. It was rough, sometimes really rough, but I’m still around and I’ve profited from those tough experiences. If you find things in my blog posts that push you, challenge you or make you feel uncomfortable, hopefully it will not be something you take personally. Instead you’ll see it as my trying to share what I’ve learned in my life with you and my trying to help all of us to go further up the mountain of His will, further along the road of the cross, further along the road of commitment and fruitfulness.

Jesus said, “Blessed is he who is not offended in Me.” (Luke 7:23) My hope and prayer is that what I share in my posts, although they may be zealous, will be a blessing to you, even if some things are hard to receive or understand at times. God bless you, your friend, Mark

Enemy at the Gate?

enemy at gate 2A movie I really enjoyed was “Enemy at the Gates”. One reason is that I lived over two years in Moscow and in the Russian-speaking part of Ukraine. Knowing that part of the world, the people, the history and their sufferings, made it all the more moving to me. The subject of the movie is the battle of Stalingrad and I have Russian friends from Stalingrad, now called Volgograd.

It’s based on a true story of one of the bloodiest, heart-wrenching battles of World War II. The movie shows that the Russians were so bad off that two soldiers were given one gun and a handful of bullets each, enemy at gate 3the idea being that when the first solder was shot, the second one was to pick up the gun and keep going. But the hero of the movie, played by Jude Law, grew up as a hunter with his grandfather and was a crack shot with a rifle. Lying motionless among his dead comrades in the battle of Stalingrad, Law uses his rifle skills to pick off Nazi officers at a distance during the battle. He actually gets pretty good at it.

It’s an amazing story but then another layer is added. A fledgling writer of propaganda for the Communists finds out about Jude Law’s beginnings of success. And it’s not just the battle in Stalingrad they’re losing; the whole Russian nation is utterly defeated and afraid spiritually at that time. They need heroes. They need to hear about a victory. So the writer begins to write up what the young sniper is doing to turn the battle at least somewhat towards the favor of Russia. And soon the nation is taking heart as they hear of a common soldier picking off the Nazi officers in the battle there.

trojan horseIt’s not meant to be a parable but today it became like a parable to me. “The enemy at the gate.” How many times have we heard something like that in reference to the current refugee crisis in Europe? “They are sent here to invade us, to defeat us! They are the very forces of Satan, every last one of them! It’s a Trojan Horse. We’re doomed; it’s the end of civilization! The enemy at the gate!

Pardon me but that’s a lot of hooey. It’s sensationalist propaganda from folks often not even from Europe who have a political agenda. I’ve written about this in “Merkel’s Call” and “Come, I Will Send You”. I will send you 1 flatBut right or wrong, many millions of people are very afraid, just as the Russians were over 70 years ago. Back then, just a tiny handful of sharp shooters had a major hand in turning a loosing battle into a victory, rather like the British aviators did in the Battle of Britain.

Is there any parallel to this today? Well, first, we aren’t talking about sharp shooters, airplane battles in the sky and killing people. And we’re not talking about Nazis battling Communists. crowd scene trainWe’re talking about millions of poor souls who’ve had it so bad in their home countries that they’ve risked their lives to cross land and sea, hoping to find refuge in Europe. What can any of us do? I’ve been with these people personally several times recently; here’s a post about when I was on the Macedonian border with them a few weeks ago, called “Encountering Refugees”.

In this case, I think what Angela Merkel has said is just incredible. She’s said her people should show kindness, hospitality and love to these refugees.refugees at tables And some are doing that, I met and worked with them last month; this is what I wrote about in “German Refugee Camp”.

How can those so many view as “enemies at the gate” be met today? By snipers? If you’re a Christian, what’s your greatest “weapon”? It’s love. Wouldn’t that shock and invigorate Christendom if a few brave souls plunged into the events of today and found that these “enemies”, many of them at least, turned out to be our friends? Turned out to want what we have? Not just the material wealth of the West but the truth that the West was founded on long ago? That the Love of God in Jesus was and is all that it’s said to be. That might alter the mood of whole nations to hear some good stories of the love of God and the love of our neighbors actually wining out over the hatred and fears we’ve been taught. That’s what I was personally seeing and experiencing last month at the refugee camp I was in in Germany.

“Mark, do you really believe that? Do you think love is going to win out in all this and that everyone will put down their antagonism and love one another? Come on; get real!”

Maybe not; maybe all of Europe is not going to come around to love and accept this flood of refugees. And probably not all of them are going to be humble and thankful for the help they are receiving.

But I know some will. Some will find that there are good and kind Europeans, even ones who come with the love they have from God. And there will be changes of minds and hearts; there will be miracles of love because that’s happening already. For some, this is their hour. How it all will play out, I don’t know. But if ever there was a time for Christians in Europe to show love to those who need it so much, now’s the time.

In Stalingrad, it only took a few. But it changed the course of history and invigorated the Russian nation. May God in heaven today find those in these times who will answer His call in this hour and turn this crisis into a mighty victory of His love and truth.

Christians, the endtime and witnessing

get out Gods truth flatIt’s always struck me, when reading about the prophecies of the future to come, that repeatedly the future believers are pictured as being witnessers and proclaimers of His truth and power. There are many examples of this. One of the best is found in Daniel 12:3, a verse specifically about the last years before the second coming of Jesus at the end of this age. It says, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”  This is a direct prophetic verse about the future times which speak of the people of the endtime who will “turn many to righteousness”. That’s witnessing, folks. That’s an active, fruit-bearing body of believers who evidently are having a real harvest in the final days.

But there’s more. Some of the verses that have inspired me the most about this are from Daniel 11. The context is that Jesus Himself specifically referred to Daniel 11:31 when teaching His disciples in Matthew 24 about the times immediately prior to His second coming. But what do the next two verses in Daniel 11 say? Daniel 11:32b says “but the people who do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. Strong. Doing exploits. Like the Early Church, witnessing miracles , “greater works shall they do”. (John 14:12)

please teach us flatThen the next verse in Daniel 11 says, “And they that understand amoung the people shall instruct many”  (Daniel 11:33) There it is again. Not only will some endtime Christians be strong and do exploits, it says that some will have understanding and that they will instruct many. Not only miracles and greater works but also fruitful witnessing and teaching, explaining to the people of the endtime what’s happening around them, because of their knowledge of prophetic events unfolding before their eyes that they recognize from their study of Bible prophecy.

The believers turning many to righteousness, doing exploits, being strong, understanding, instructing many in the final years prior to the return of Jesus . Sure sounds like an on-fire, fully-functioning, dropped-out multitude of believers, a bride “who has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7). Inspiring, no?

But as we look around us in our present times, we see so many pundits of fear who want to tell us who the Antichrist is. They want to tell us who are enemies are, they want us to become fully armed with carnal weapons. But are those folks preparing us to be “strong in the Lord and the power of His might“? (Ephesians 6:10) Are they discipling Christians to be the light to the World that the Bible says some will be in those times? Or is it a constant cacophony of consuming fear and hatred of “our enemies”? Are we really going to go to war against the Antichrist forces with AK-47 assault rifles? Here’s the Bible’s answer to this as found in Revelation 12. “And they overcame him (the devil and the Antichrist) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the Word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11) Nothing about armed Christian militias there.

If the believers of the endtime are people who dependent on spiritual weapons rather than carnal, if they’re going to be strong enough to witness and do mighty works in those times, then so much of Christianity now will somehow need a huge, mighty turn around.died in faith The vast majority of Christians today are spectators, at best. They’ve left the arena and are watching from the grandstands. But Scripture says that the bride of Christ in the endtime will be in the arena again, literally or otherwise, like the believers of the Early Church.

Maybe it will take a continuing loss of Christians across the whole spectrum of the faith, a vast falling away that will be the shock that’s needed for the few that are left that they need to get down to business with God like few, if any, have done in the last few hundred years. At some point, somehow God is going to find those ones who will fulfill those verses given so long ago about the believers of the endtime. And, yes, I do hear of some here and there who are banding together in a new wave of witnessing and discipleship, like I wrote about in “German Awakening“.

endtime witness-flattenedBut overall and for the most part, right now things look bleak. So many want to tell us who our enemies are, those who we’re to fear and even prepare to kill. But where are the noble souls who are preparing His people to be the mighty witnessers and disciples of the endtime that we read about in Scripture? Oh, dear Lord, please raise up the believers You spoke of who will be those that will turn many to righteousness, do great exploits, and instruct many before You return.