Black and White

High noonDon’t you just wish things were more black and white? When I was a kid, there were (what seemed to be) the really good guys and the really bad guys. Of course we were the good guys; there was no question about that 🙂 . But then things really began to blur, you know what I mean?

Nowadays, it’s really difficult, so it seems, to know who are the bad guys and the good guys or at times even to know good from bad, at least in some situations. Thank God I became a Christian or (as it should be said) that the Lord pulled me out of the pit I was in. But still, I think a lot of us feel it’s more difficult in these times to truly discern good from bad and even truth from the lies.

I mean, even in writing this, I keep adding “so it seems”, like I can’t hardly make a sentence without qualifying it and having some equivocation. I guess it’s good but sometimes you just yearn for black and white. [And for those folks who see a racist in every Christian nowadays, of course I’m not talking about “black and white” in that sense.] Personally, I’ve always been one who believes strongly that there really is such thing as the truth. I just didn’t think that everything is relative and it’s all just a mater of  each individual’s perspective.

Of course there is nuance. Not only is the devil in the details, as they say, but God is often in the details too. But as far as I am concerned, there is truth. “God is not the author of confusion” (I Corinthians 14:33) and I’m happy to say that I do know and have experienced that God is not just some equation or frequency off in the universe someplace. God-is-chanceBut “He” (more equivocation there, did you notice?) is fully able and willing to intervene in the lives of individuals or societies, according to our prayers and needs or the lack of our prayers and our transgressions against Him.

first road picture-flattened“The Lord is known by the judgment which He executes” (Psalm 9:16) and a few times in my life I’ve really known the direct hand of God in His judgments on me. A couple of specific ones I’ve written about are “Lights On the Road” and “God is Chance”. In those times and many others, my darkness and lack of understanding was shocked by the direct hand of God intervening in my life. So I can’t help but believe there is a black and white, a right and wrong, a truth and a lie.

We’re told to realize and embrace the “black and white” in ourselves and of course that’s right to some degree. An obscure verse I memorized on that subject is Romans 8:20. “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly but by reason of Him who has subject the same in hope.We are subject to both vanity and hope, falsehood and truth, wrongdoing and virtue. But without the perspective and foundation that God gives us through faith, everything just increasingly blurs into equivalency and relativism. “Who are any of us to judge?” we are told.

Arise oh Lord flatSome folks even think they can quote Jesus on this. “Jesus said, ‘Judge not’”, they say. But He also said “Judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24) I think King David of old expressed the cry of my heart at times when he prayed, “Arise, oh Lord, let not man prevail. Let the nations be judged in your sight. Put them in fear, oh Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men.” (Psalm 9:19 & 20)

Sometimes (and this may shock you) I think we just need the judgments of God. That might scare some people but King David said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous all together” (Psalm 19:9). If we can righteously judge… everything, starting with our own heart and motives, then everything else can begin to fall in place. But if we don’t know the way God looks at things, then everything can get overwhelmingly complicated and blurry so that most of us just give up in defeat.

pray for clarity flatSo, what’s the conclusion? Pray for God’s judgments?  (“Uh, Mark, I don’t think I can follow you on that one.”) Well then pray for clarity, pray for definiteness, pray for righteousness to prevail and justice and truth to triumph and rise to the top of things in our world right now. Without those graces that come from Him, greater and greater darkness will continue to prevail and grow. Confusion, fear, trepidation, and defeat of heart will become the greater and greater norm, both for individuals and many nations. We so much need the cleansing light and truth of the judgments of God on each of us individually and as well on this world we live in now.

The princess and the pea

princess and peaEver heard the story about the prince who was trying to find a wife? So the story goes, he made a stack of mattresses, 100 tall. Then he put a tiny pea underneath them at the bottom. Next he had a try out for his princess, bringing one candidate after the other to see how she liked the bed. All were thrilled by laying on it till one said she felt something under the mattress. That was the one the prince chose to be his princess, so they say.

Well, I’ll tell you, I really don’t think that prince was Jesus. Because the Lord’s princesses need to be able to take quite a lot more than a little pea under 100 mattresses. But it does seem that many today have the notion that a Christian life is similar like to sleeping on 100 mattresses and being upset by a pea. If you read your Bible, or even the history of people who’ve lived a life for the Lord, you’ll see that personal comfort was most often really pretty far down their list of needs or wants.

special forcesThink about it, what humans will do for people or organizations other than God and His Son, Jesus. We glorify the Special Forces of the military, how they endure incredible hardships and sacrifices to fight foreign wars. We hear of people in Asia dying from overwork, literally dying on the job because they work such long hours, just trying to make money. And rock stars and movie stars often sacrifice everything in the way of morals and their conscience, to “rise to the top” and be famous.

Of course if we turn to modern Christianity, it would be wrong to say that there are just no people like that today with vision and guts to live a life of sacrificial service for God and others. But for probably too many, the idea of really and truly “going the extra mile” (Matthew 5:41), “laying down your life for the brethren” (I John 3:16), and going “out into the highways and hedges to compel them to come in” (Luke 14:23) is just nearly unthinkable.

That’s the only kind of Christianity I’ve ever known and I think the only kind that could have won me to Him: a strong Christianity similar like to the Early Church. Because I grew up surrounded by (I’m sorry to say) shallow, racist, self-righteous nominal Christians and I was deeply unimpressed. When I would engage them in a conversation about the things of God when I was a pre-teen or teenager, they would all wither at the first sign of any need to “contend for the faith.” (Jude 1:3)

passing tracts-2Thankfully I know that Christianity in our times is better about this in many ways compared to how it was where I was, growing up. The Christians who are still left in our times have found they have to do better at being able to defend and explain their faith or they’ll just be defeated and destroyed by the kind of person I used to be. I’m so thankful that, back then, I met some serious, committed, even radical young “Jesus People” Christians at a pivotal point in my life. And their lives, sample and knowledge of God’s Word won me to Him when no shallow Christianity had been able to do that till then.

But, think about it, where are the real fighters for the Lord in our times? Where are the ones working 12 to 16 hours a day, on the home field or the foreign field, to bring the love and truth of God to the people of our times? People will do it for money, so many millions do. They’ll endure incredible hardships in the military and kill people in foreign countries, all with the idea that they’re defending their nation 10,000 kilometers away.

fight backBut where are the people who are not hung up on their comforts or the pea under the mattress but are like the people of the Bible or past centuries who took up their cross to really “forsake all” (Luke 14:33) and put their lives in His hands, put the Devil to rout and win the world for Him?

It’s ended up happening that I’ve done a lot of traveling in the last 20 months or so. And it looks like that that may continue for a while more. It’s all been for the Lord’s work but in my travels, I do look around. How are people doing? How is the body of Christ? Is it growing or diminishing? Bold or defeated? Promised_Land fixed flatMoving forward or sliding back into the morass of humanity and the mire of the multitude?

One of the more encouraging things I’ve seen is to have met some teenagers, some in South Africa and others in northern Germany, who give the impression of being very sold out and committed to the Lord. I feel I’ve seen in some of them the vision and commitment to Christian service that is essential to happen in every generation if the Lord is to continue to have, not just sheep, but shepherds, servants, true followers and disciples in each generation.

It’s a big subject and maybe there will be more the Lord lays on my heart about this. But if there is anyone out there, my age or one or even two generations younger, and you’re feeling the Lord’s service may be His will in your life, I can tell you plainly that I have utterly no regrets about living for Him as a missionary and disciple for closing on 50 years now. If you feel a call on your life to serve Him, I greatly, greatly encouraging to follow that calling.

 

Spiritualizing Prophecy

Spiritualizing Prophecy flatSometimes things really are simple. So it might sound complicated if I write something about spiritualizing prophecy. Isn’t prophecy by definition spiritual? Doesn’t the prophecy we study come from the Spirit of God? Of course.

So I’ll explain. What I mean when I speak against what I’ve called “spiritualizing prophecy” is when someone spiritualizes what in the Scriptures is referring to a specific event that will happen in the physical, real-time world. But some prefer a spiritualized application instead of it being literally fulfilled, physically.

Crucifixiion of Jesus for blog postJesus didn’t come spiritually, died on the cross spiritually and was raised from the dead spiritually. It happened in the real-time, physical world. Israel didn’t suffer 70 years of captivity and then return to their country spiritually; it happened physically. So you get the idea and where I’m coming from.

But if you keep up with prophetic studies, you’re probably aware of how this tendency to spiritualize prophecies that most take as physical events to come is are major trend among some followers of prophecy. In the last year I had a talk with a dear friend, one who has led many souls to the Lord, who told me with passion that we are now presently living in the Kingdom of God on earth, that since Jesus now rules, this is the Millennial Kingdom to come, right now on this earth. I could have gotten mad at this view my friend had. But mostly it just astounded and saddened me that the Christianity they now hang out with could be so beclouded by thinking this present hellish existence on this earth is the literal Millennial Kingdom of Christ.

But, as often happens, it gets worse. This morning I was reading an article and it came to my attention again the current doctrine that the primary elements of the endtime picture that was taught and believed by the Early Church are actually all to be spiritualized. We are told, “There will be no Antichrist as is told us in Revelation 13, II Thessalonians 2, Daniel 7 and many other places. We are the antichrist; we are the son of perdition”. Indeed, strong delusion gathers pace as a rolling poisonous fog across the world.

the bible means exactly flatI try to keep my blog posts short and to the point since in our world today, people are often in a hurry and don’t or won’t have time to read some long-winded, detailed diatribe. But I can just tell you, in the history of prophetic interpretation and even in the history of Biblical interpretation in general, this method of over spiritualization has been a bane for those looking to understand God’s Word. In recent centuries, there’s been a strong turn towards what is considered to be the best way to take God’s Word: at face value. And if it seems from a simple reading to be saying something simple, then that’s usually the best way to take it, unless it’s clearly pointing otherwise.

When we read of the “woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet” in Revelation 12, then we can be pretty confident in looking for some spiritual meaning there. But when chapter after chapter and book after book, stretching over centuries point towards a time of great trouble immediately preceding the coming of the Lord to establish God’s Kingdom on earth, we do ourselves and Him no service by endeavoring to spiritualize the whole thing. Nor do we build on solid ground when we spiritualize the Antichrist of the final end days or what the Bible says he will do.

Hippolytus book coverFor example, Paul in II Thessalonians chapter 2 was trying to give a specific warning of something that he knew would come to pass before the second coming of Jesus. That is, that the Antichrist will “sit in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (II Thes. 2:4) It doesn’t get much plainer than that. The Early Church fathers were not confused about this and taught it as an event to come, just as it is most easily understood in the passage. If you have any questions about that, get a copy of “Hippolytus of Rome’s Commentary on Daniel”, written around 211 AD. It’s as clear as can be how he saw that event to come from his Early Church vantage point.

But there are plenty today who tell us that this is all to be spiritualized. “WE are the temple!” they say. Well, yes, in other places that spiritual analogy has been made. Paul told the Corinthians, “You are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (I Corinthians 3:16) But that’s not at all what he’s talking about in his writings in II Thessalonians. Paul is referring back to what was shown to the prophet Daniel some 600 years  earlier, the same prophet Daniel that Jesus Himself referred us to when He was asked about the endtime, going on to say to His disciples, “whoso reads, let him understand.” (Matthew 24:15)

I feel that to spiritualize key elements of the prophetic endtime picture is doing a great disservice to the Word of God and to the people of God. Jesus Christ came in the flesh, was buried and “rose again the third day, according to Scripture.”  (I Corinthians 15:4) According to the same Scriptures, a number of very key prophetic events are going to happen in real-time, on the earth, before His return. “Be not deceived”.

Surrendering Truth?

dont surrender it flatAs I have written elsewhere, truth has always been important to me. I’ve told you before that as a young person, I didn’t believe in God but I did believe in and was searching for truth. It’s still the same for me. So it grieves me to hear of those today who seem to have surrendered the field to falsehood and now believe that truth is only to be found in the Bible, all other truth is virtually unknowable and unfindable.

I don’t agree. We believe in the love of God, many of us. But we also believe in loving our neighbor, that it can and should be done. That it exists. We believe that God is light. But we also believe that we are supposed to be, are commissioned to be, “the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) In exactly the same way, we are told to “speak the truth in love.Christians should be some of the foremost advocates of truth, in all forms.

The-truthTruth is part of the fundamental nature of God, along with light and love. Jesus said in one of His most famous sayings, “I am …the truth…” He told Pilate “Every one who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37) So when my friends (some of whom may be reading this) tell me that there’s no more truth today, it can’t be discerned or found, that things are so bad that we just have no way anymore to know what the truth is outside of the Bible, it greatly grieves me and I just don’t agree.

To me that’s a surrender to the spirit of the times we live in. We should not only be proponents of love, the Lord’s love and our own, but we should also be proponents of the truth. We don’t only believe in a personal gospel, we believe in a social gospel as well. Likewise we don’t only believe in heavenly truth but in truth as it is found and known in this world we live in. Jesus said the Holy Spirit “will lead you into all truth.”  (John 16:13)

So many people nowadays are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore. So they pipe up and spout off but then what do they really say? We are supposed to “speak the truth in Christ and lie not”. (I Tim. 2:7) But Solomon said, “He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him.” (Proverbs 18:13) That’s what so many do, just vent their emotions without really knowing, finding and speaking the truth. So they just make another contribution to the spirit of confusion and emotions around us. Wikipedia even has an article on “Post Truth Politics”, it pretty well sums up a lot of things on this subject.

I dont believe anything flatI just don’t see how we can, in good conscience, surrender to the confounding confusion that is strong upon our societies in these times. “Fake news”. “The main stream media”. “Alternative news”. It’s like we were shopping for shoes or a car. Well, how about this? You don’t believe there is any truth left to be found within the news media we have today? It’s all been utterly stripped of truth, accuracy and genuineness? How about then the judicial systems of at least some nations?

In a courtroom, there’s a judge and sometimes a jury. Ascertaining truth is fundamental to a righteous judgment in almost every court of law that’s functioning properly. Jesus even said to people of His day, “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (john 7:24) He said, “Nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest, neither anything hid that shall not be known and come abroad.” (Luke 8:17)

How can those things be true if there’s no longer any possibility of finding and knowing the truth? How can Christians surrender such a huge fundamental element of our most essential need, truth itself? So I personally believe that Christians should be some of the foremost champions of un-spun, un-factional truth. We know we should be champions of love, of humility, of grace. But should we surrender to the forces that tell us there’s now no way to really know the truth about the daily affairs of our lives? It’s a surrender and capitulation of the worst kind, it seems to me.

So if you read some story that’s outlandish and sensational, what should you do? Just shrug your shoulders and cave in to confusion and double mindedness? Or if perhaps you read something in what is called “the main stream media” that smacks of being the party line of some major agenda, political or otherwise, what should you do?

“Well, Mark, things are so complex now. I don’t have time to really find out the facts. Mark, I’m confused. So I just want to retreat to my little life, my little comfort zone and not think about things anymore or really bother to find out what is true or false.”

I suggest that that’s not a very wise or safe way to conduct your life, even if it seems to be the easiest way to do things. As a Christian, we know we need to love, both God and our fellow human being. But also, I feel, we need to militantly guard the borders of the truth we know and can know, to fight to keep ahead of the encroaching darkness and demonic confusion that’s one of the greatest plagues of our times.

You told me the truth-a-flattenedDon’t surrender the truth. Don’t lower the flag of truth over your castle, any more than you’d lower the flag of love or light or faith. “God is not the author of confusion”  (I Corinthians 14:33) but of light, love and knowledge. And truth. As for me and my house, we’re going to continue to believe in the truth, that it’s knowable, findable, sharable and essential, both God’s truth and the truth in the affairs of this life we live. Don’t surrender it.

 

 

The French Resistance

french resistance fightersLast night I talked with a man who was a commander as a teenager of French resistance forces during World War II. Now in his 90’s, he was a young student when war broke out in 1939. It was fascinating to hear his stories of those times and how he ended up working in the French underground. At first, he would do things like clandestinely distribute underground newspapers which counteracted German propaganda, as well as those French who were collaborating with the invasion forces.

french women on bicyclesHe told of a blind man back then who would mostly be overlooked by the Germans who would carry about a large suitcase, often with radio equipment inside which the French resistance forces could use. There were women on bicycles who’d convey messages to bands of French freedom fighters who were on the constant move in the woods or fields. Those he worked with would focus on trying to help downed airmen from the Allied forces fighting the Germans, ones whose planes had been shot down over France. There was like an “underground railroad” to get the Allied pilots either to Spain or across the English Channel and back to Britain.

He said their specific goal was not to engage in combat with German forces but to make things difficult for them by blowing up bridges, planting bombs on roads and whatever it took to slow down and hinder the occupation. We laughed at one point when he smilingly said how that he’d been known as a terrorist back then and we talked about how it so often happens that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

But there was combat and lose of life. His older brother had been in the underground as well but was betrayed and ended up dying in a concentration camp in Germany. He told of times where he had to react instantly to save his life before someone shot him. This had come down to the reality of whether it would be his life or theirs.

French awardSomething he felt proud of is that the group of men he led had a relatively smaller loss of life than that experienced by many other similar groups. He mentioned that his own dad had somewhat miraculously survived as a combat soldier throughout the First World War when 1.2 million French soldiers were killed. He told me that at the end of the war, at the age of 20, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his service in freeing his nation from the occupiers.

I asked him what kept him motivated, what he drew his strength from during those times. It was clear that the main thing was what we would call nationalism. His ancestry has been part of the French aristocracy for many centuries and he felt there was no question of what he should do to defend his nation against the invaders of his youth.

I asked him if he ever saw anyone pray in those times and he said he hadn’t. The conversation turned briefly to “religion” and, as some of you know, that word has a very bad ring to it in France, arising in part from the French Revolution and the impact that formal religion was seen to have had on the nation and society.

I told him at the first that part of my reason for wanting to hear about his life was to try to find what I could learn from his experiences. I told him that I too considered myself, in a sense, a freedom fighter. Of course, as Paul said, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the tearing down of strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4) The warfare I have been engaged in all my adult life has been spiritual warfare but it has no less been warfare. We are to “fight the good fight of faith”, we are to “war a good warfare”, “as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (I Tim. 6:12, 1:18, II Tim. 2:3)

Elisha 1And certainly in these seemingly peaceful times, we need another “French Resistance” as well as a resistance in a good many other counties also. I’m reminded of the post I wrote about “They that be with us…” where Elijah and his young helper were surrounded by the armies of their enemies. Elisha 2But then Elijah prayed that the young man would see the heavenly forces surrounding them who were protecting them and were much greater than their present earthly enemies.

At this time, so many “post Christian” countries have repelled their former invaders and now enjoy relative stability and outward peace. But if there were to be an opening of the eyes of the young man now, it would be to see the flood of godless darkness that has seeped in like a poisonous gas under the door and now benights so thoroughly so much of Europe and even north America.

resistance fighters flatThe Bible says, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19) Well, the enemy of truth and love has and is continuing to come in with wave after wave of putrid lifelessness which is put forward as modern enlightenment. But so often it’s exactly like what Jesus said, “If the light that be in you be darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Mathew 6:23)

Turning pointsPlease pray that God will open the eyes of young men, like he did in the time of Elijah, to see things as God sees them and that “resistance fighters” as bold and brave as the one I spoke with tonight will be raised up to fight the good fight of faith and “hold forth the Word of life” (Philippians 2:16) for the lost and truthless nations of these times.

Normandy Landing

normandy landing

Today a friend and I drove to Arromanches on the Normandy coast of France to visit one of the main sites of the Allied landing in 1944 to liberate France and Europe from the Nazis. I don’t normally do much sightseeing; living people and eternal souls are more interesting to me than monuments and places of the past. But we ended up viewing a short film of clips at a World War II memorial there about the troops who’d come ashore just a few hundred meters from where we were watching the film.

I became quite emotional. There were so many close-ups of the soldiers and the people of those times some 72 years ago and it was so clear how very human they were, how the horrid events of those days had caught up and captured them all in a hideous grasp. After the movie clip was over, we went outside. And directly in front of us and below was the very panorama we’d seen so much of in the movie, the now quiet town of Arromanches where such a major event of World War II played out some 7 decades earlier.

For a while I could hardly talk. I thought about my life, how blessed it’s been in so many ways, how long I’ve lived already compared to so many of those very young men who died in the vicinity of where I was standing. I thought about the utter foolishness of the whole thing,me on normandy coast what a complete waste of so many millions of lives that World War II was, utterly pointless.

That war is at least one in which just about everybody agrees that the good guys won and the bad guys lost. Of course I’m not talking about the Germany or Japan of today. The people who perpetrated WW II are long gone and the peoples of those counties have turned and moved far away from the thinking of their forefathers who started that war.

But I thought of how each of us, either now or someday will have to answer, “What have I done with my life?” “Have I given anything or only taken?” French country laneAnd, in my walks down some of the country lanes here that I’ve taken in the last week, I was already thinking like that. Such an idyllic and beautiful place this is now but how very much bloodshed this area has seen over the centuries. I thought how blessed I am to have lived a life in which much of the world I’m from has not seen the toll of death in my lifetime that former generations saw.

atomic bomb drillWe were thinking we would. As a boy in school, we’d repeatedly have drills to prepare us for atomic war, crouching under our desks in elementary school to learn how to shield ourselves from atomic blasts and the heat that would come through the shattered windows of our school. In October of 1964, there was a weekend when it really did look like that would be it, full atomic war would break out because of the Cuban missile crisis. But God in His mercy kept that from happening.

So what have I done with my life? What have any of us done? No credit to myself, I can thankfully say that I’ve lived my adult life as a Christian missionary, endeavoring to bring the saving message of Jesus Christ to this often tattered and dazed world. I honestly can’t think of anything better I could have done. Politics isn’t going to save this world; commercialism certainly isn’t going to either. Or selfishness, culture or even science.

Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of offenses, for it must needs be that offences come. But woe to that man by whom the offence comes.” (Matthew 18:7) For those of us who know and love the Lord, we posses such truth and power to influence others for good. We can introduce others to the Man who “went about everywhere, doing good,” (Acts 10:38) Jesus of Nazareth. prince of peaceI’m convinced that the only real way to change the world is to change the heart of man, one person at a time. And that can only really happen with the power of God through Jesus, to change our darkened, war-filled heart to a heart of love, given by Him.

From where come wars and fightings among you? Do they not come from your lusts that war within you?” (James 4:1 & 2) In the end, the only way to prevent war is to have it overcome in our heart by the only One who can ultimately defeat the war that is in every heart. Who’s that One? Jesus Christ, “the Prince of peace”. (Isiah 9:6)

Budapest Stories

Hungarian JewsPresently I’m in Budapest, Hungary to do recordings of some of the prophecies of Daniel videos that I’ve done in English. Through the years, I’ve lived for perhaps a total of 5 years in this interesting central European capital and I consider this country to be one of my favorites that I’ve been in.

Tonight I met again the father of a dear Hungarian friend of mine here; it’s been nearly 20 years since I last met him. And I was thinking how much many of my friends back in the States would enjoy knowing this man. He is ethnically fully Jewish and was raised Jewish. But he’s been a Christian for years. He was born in central Budapest during some of the very worst of the early days of World War II.

planes over BudapestYears ago I knew his mother, my Hungarian friend’s grandmother. When I knew her, she was in her late 80’s and was still a clear-eyed active skier in the snows of wintertime here. Twice during World War II she was marched down to the Danube River that flows through Budapest to be shot because she was Jewish. Twice Allied bombers appeared over the city to bomb it and she escaped.

It’s hard to describe how these things affect me when I meet these people. It’s a strong feeling in me of respect and almost awe in what they’ve experienced, juxtaposed with the incredibly stable and safe life that I and so many have lived in my lifetime.

Then later this evening my friend who does the Hungarian voice-over for my videos was telling me about the circumstances under which his mom was born in Budapest in the last days of World War II. His grandmother had been sheltering with others in a downtown basement for weeks as battles raged house to house throughout the city between the occupying Germans and the Russians who were liberating Hungary.

Budapest batlesMy friend told me tonight that his grandmother had gone upstairs from the basement and lay down on the kitchen table to give birth to his mom in 1945. There were firefights on the grounds of the property and soldiers running and firing back and forth just outside when she gave birth. He said his newborn mother didn’t cry or make a noise when she was born. She was taken back down to the basement by her mom and spent the first two weeks of her life there.

shopping mallMany of us are concerned about our Wi-Fi connection, how our sports team is doing and if we’ll be able to take advantage of the upcoming sale at the shopping mall. We’ve seen nothing but relative stability and prosperity all our lives and it’s no wonder that almost all of us just really take it for granted that it will always be this way. So I often get really quiet and sober around people like I met tonight or when I hear stories from my friends about their parents who went through things like I heard today.

I know people in Holland who ate tulip bulbs to stay alive in World War II. Or a friend whose grandmother was being marched out of Warsaw, Poland by the Nazi’s when she asked permission of them to lay down in a haystack on the side of the road to give birth to my friend’s mother. It was granted. Or a friend in South Africa whose dad was on a prisoner train on the way to a German prison in World War II when he jumped off in the night into the snow and survived on turnips till he could get to safety. I could tell you more and it all affects me deeply.

“It can’t happen here!” they say. But of course it can. If you read history or get to know some of the people I’ve known, you realize how easily the world so many take as the only real world can actually crumble and be blown to dust, never to return again, in a matter of hours or days. So often we don’t realize how fragile and fleeting the things of this world are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against wealth or prosperity. Moses of old said, “You shall remember the Lord your God, for He it is that gives you power to get wealth.” (Deut. 8:18) But then King David said of prosperity, “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 30:5 & 6)

rich man flatJesus told the story of the man who had much wealth laid up for many years and he was confident in his stability and prosperity. But then God spoke to him and said, “You fool, tonight your soul shall be required of you. Then whose shall those things be that you’ve lain up.” Jesus went on to say, “So is everyone who lays up treasure for themselves and is not rich towards God.” (Luke 12:20 & 21)

If you’ve ever had it all taken away from you, and I have a few times, you may begin to realize how fleeting and tenuous all our present prosperity and progress can turn out to be. Maybe it will continue for decades and generations to come. But more often than not, good times can vanish into the worst of barbarianism, no matter what country you’re in or society you are from. So many rant about the evils of government. But how many are truly trumpeting Jesus’ warning about “the deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22) which has extinguished the light of so many.

Solomon said, and he should know, “There is that makes himself rich, yet has nothing. And there is that makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” (Proverbs 13:7) It’s been a happy but sobering evening for me with these friends here and in this presently prospering place. But it’s been good to remember how it has been for even those here who are still with us and, except for the undeserved mercy of God, how it could be again. Anywhere.

Buckruds or Huvrumps

Huvrumps flatYou need to buy a car and your choice is between a Buckrud or a Huvrump. You like Buckruds or at least you know of some things that would tilt you that way. But currently the main thing you virtually only hear from the Buckrud company is just how utterly bad Huvrumps are. “They Are BAD!” So the main reason to buy a Buckrud is just how bad the other company is?

All the Buckrud advertisements are mainly exclaiming the supposed faults of Huvrumps. “They are virtually diabolical.” “Your life will be ruined if you get a Huvrump”, you are told. But for me, I just feel like I’d like to know more about the Buckruds themselves and what’s in their product, what they are offering, rather than just hear this constant harangue of how bad the other product is.

OK, I’m speaking in parables, right? And maybe you in the States will know what I’m talking about. But honestly, who buys anything from anybody if their main line of advertising is not what they are offering, what are the details, specifics and advantages of their product, but just how horrible the other guy’s product is? Do you buy things that way? I don’t think so.

Actually, in 2000 I was in the Buckrud camp. I had a ’92 Huvrump and admittedly there were some disappointments. But my 2000 Buckrud, although it looked pretty good at first, turned out to really be a lemon. It drove itself into a ditch. It actually was scary after a while to be in my Buckrud, and I didn’t feel safe at all. I just wondered what in the world was going on with that company; they seemed to have so many struggles at their headquarters, you didn’t know who was running it. So in 2008 I shifted back to a Huvrump.

OK, everybody tells me how bad they are but I don’t know. I’ve had it 8 years and it seems at the end of this 8 years it’s better than at the end of the 8 years with the Buckrud. People almost scream at me if I say that but that’s just how it seems to me. Maybe I’m too simple? Or old fashioned?

look Daddy flatBut don’t you out there also want to know more about a product than just how bad the other guy’s product is? Do you buy stuff like that? I don’t. I want to know about the mileage it gets. I want to know what’s under the hood. How are the brakes? Is the airbag going to pop out and kill me someday? How about the warranty?

just a lemon flatIf Buckruds are so good, why can’t they lay out a coherent explanation of their product that is a clearly better option than Huvrumps? “We will have World War III and you will personally go to hell if you buy a Huvrump!” So I am  told.

Really, what have we come to that the only way someone wants to sell you their brand is by a full campaign of mainly telling you how bad the other guy’s product is? Honestly, I feel almost insulted. Can’t they do better than that? Do they think that’s all they have to do and they have me over a barrel that I have to swallow that shallow, empty presentation? I don’t know, I think I’ll just stick with my bicycle for now.

“Neither have I desired the woeful day”

the woeful day flatThe prophet Jeremiah knew he would see the day when it was all going to happen. He wasn’t prophesying something for the centuries to come; he knew this was it. God was about to bring His powerful judgments on backslidden Israel. And Jeremiah suffered terribly for the message of judgment and doom he gave to the people of Israel. If anyone could have looked with glee at the day of God’s impending judgment and by-in-large destruction upon Israel, it was Jeremiah.

But did he? Jeremiah spoke in prayer to God, “Neither have I desired the woeful day.” (Jeremiah 17:16) Jeremiah had the maturity and Godliness to not wish for and look forward to the horrific judgement that was about to fall upon his people by their God. And, frankly, it should be the same for those of us today. But I wonder if it is?

I’ve believed since I was in my 20’s that some kind of judgment would be coming from God, not only on my country but on the countries of the North and West which were founded in a strong Christianity but have progressively fallen away from that, for decades and even centuries. At times over the years I’ve looked forward to the judgments of God being poured out on some societies and nations whose cup of iniquity must be truly full by now.

But also, in living in many lands, as well as reading history, I’ve come to see that it’s a very sobering thing to actually be where the judgments of God, the horrors of war or natural disasters are being experienced at the moment. In the 1300’s, a time when there was a falling away from the Godliness of earlier centuries, the Black Plague struck Europe and 1/3 to 1/2 of the population died.

That might be hard to comprehend but 11 years ago I worked as an aid worker and trauma counselor in a city that had just experienced that. An Indonesian city of 450,000 had lost one third of its population in one hour of gigantic tsunami waves.

body bagsWhat was it like? Every day we’d see many teams of young men who’d been given plastic bags, boots and gloves. Their assignment was to go into the large buildings downtown that were on their list to bring out the dead. All day they stacked bags, with bodies inside, out on the street in front of the buildings all over the city.

dumping bodiesAt 5 PM large trucks came by and they threw the bags up into the trucks which took them out to a huge mass grave near the airport. That particular mass grave ended up holding 55,000 bags. There were many teams like this; they started again the next day and this went on for 3 weeks. That’s the kind of reality that can come with the horrors of war, the judgments of God or even natural disasters. I spent 5 weeks there during that time, working daily in refugee camps and I never could have made it without the mighty grace of God sustaining me for what was needed to be done.

So I now say, like Jeremiah, “Neither have I desired the woeful day.” But sadly, it does seem like some believers in God here look forward to some kind of showdown with the government of the United States. Or they look forward to the fall of America. They talk about taking a militant stand against the government like it was the will of God to participate in armed conflict and that this would be the high calling of God for them and other Christians. Some really look forward to this, they “desire the woeful day.”

citizenship-in-heavenThis deeply saddens me. And I’m not just going on hearsay; I’ve been in Christian gatherings where the details and specifics of this have been discussed. I did express my sentiments that what was being talked about does not reflect Biblical Christianity and that I strongly believe that approach to be anathema to the high calling of God.

gun & Bible pictureSome think that in taking up weapons against the United States government they are defending themselves against the very forces of the Antichrist spoken of in Revelation and Daniel. This is the pitiful result of a politicized twisting of Scriptures to fit a secular political agenda and it’s amazing that so many Christians have bought in to this. I too believe in a final Antichrist and a final endtime government that he will head. But I don’t believe the present government of the United States is the final fulfillment of what Daniel and Revelation speak of.

Our job, the job of fervent and dedicated Christians of these times is to stand up as some of God’s greatest witnesses, to explain to people everywhere what is happening and what is to come.behold these Christians flat It’s not our job to overthrow our government, any more that it was the job of Peter, James and John to try to overthrow either the Roman empire of their day or the hellish Pharisaical religious system that held the Jews in its power. It was love, truth, light, miracles and the acts and witness of heaven that overthrew both the religious system of the Jews and ultimately even the secular system of the Romans. “Not by might or by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6)

If you’re being influenced to turn your attention and your hatred against our modern government and it’s failing political ploys, I sympathize with you. It’s pitiful how things are now. But our job is not to take up arms against the government or even to spend precious time fretting, fuming and hyperventilating about it all.

Our job is to give this tired old world the answer we know we have:stands at the door flat the Son of God and the judgments of God which will be poured out on this world, leading up to the worst time the world has ever known, just before the return of the Lord. If you have fallen prey to the haters, the “Christian militants” and to those who gleefully look forward to destructions to come, I suggest you powerfully pray and ask the Lord to cleanse your heart and to use you to His highest and best purpose. “Herein is my father glorified that ye bear much fruit, so shall you be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

I know God’s judgments will come on this world and nation, perhaps soon. But I don’t look forward to it. All the present conditions that so many hate in society today may someday be looked back on with longing for the relative stability of these times. The future soon to come may be unsolvable continuing chaos, leading to a hardcore martial law which will be embraced by multitudes in those times. Jeremiah prophesied of the deserved judgments of God that were imminent. But he didn’t desire the woeful day.

Consumer, Citizen or Disciple?

People in America nowadays are often referred to as “consumers”. That sort of bothers me. When I read in history books about how folks in times past thought, it doesn’t seem like they viewed humanity as consumers. Certainly I didn’t get that feeling from my grandparents and their families.

If you go a little back in history, people more often thought of themselves as “citizens”. This was a popular term in the times of the French Revolution and the first generations of the United States. People more and more realized their individuality and the need to participate in their society as citizens. Still in our times people talk about being citizens.

Certainly my parents’ generation was strong on the idea of our democracy and the equality and rights of the citizens of this country. It seems like it’s only been in the last 30 years maybe that the concept of seeing ourselves as “consumers” has come to compete with our sense of being a citizen.

But there was a time when neither of these concepts was supreme. In times past the vision of being a disciple was what was esteemed to be the highest identity we should espouse to. Let’s face it, even the word “disciple” itself is pretty out of vogue nowadays. Sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? “Disciple.” Really old fashion and rather suspect.

hogsBut how about that? What should be our priorities? How do you feel about being considered a “consumer”?  lt makes me think of hogs jostling around a trough. Sickening thought? Yes. But isn’t that how a lot of modern living in the consumer society is becoming?

carnaval barker flat“Your responsibility is to consume things in order to help boost the economy. You’ll find satisfaction and fulfillment in your next acquisition, your next huge meal at the restaurant, purchase of a new gadget or whatever material fulfillment has captured your heart!”

That’s the bottom line that is pandered incessantly in our times. And unless you make a conscious effort to turn away from that vision, it will claim your heart and that’s what you’ll be: a consumer. You might say, “What else is there?” Well, for centuries one thing came first for a large part of this world: discipleship. The concept of being followers, disciples of God, and specifically of Jesus Christ.

George WashingtonNow your reaction may be, “Oh but they were all hypocrites! There were all those wars!” You can sure get that impression if you read many books on the subject, written in our times. But if you read others, especially older ones or histories written in those times, you may be struck by the devotion and single-mindedness that comes across as being so prevalent then.

praying peopleHypocrites? There always have been those. Wars? When and where have there not been wars? But again and again from reading history (or even the contact I remember with my aged relatives from when I was little) it’s how their faith in God, their desire to seek the ways of God and to keep their heart right with Him, in a good spirit, this was the paramount ideal to so many then.

And it often impresses me when I compare it to how we are taught to be today. If we all do our best to be good consumers, is that going to make a better world for everyone? Or if our goal is only to be a good citizen, how’s that going to help when we meet people of another culture, country or faith?

There was a time in my life when I really was a consumer. Also I thought the end goal was to be a good citizen and make a better society. But both of those things, through no effort on my part, came to where they were “weighed in the balances and found wanting” my eyes. (Daniel 5:27) But discipleship, to be a follower of God and Jesus of Nazareth has been my quest and the beacon before me for over 40 years now. And I’m so glad for that.

Consumerism, nationalism and citizenship are all systems of thought that inherently are weak and fail because they fail to acknowledge the essential truth of our existence. We’re not merely physical or social beings, we are spirits and souls who are made to love and live in the light of the God of Abraham and His Son. Anything short of that is doomed to failure.

run to GodBut truly loving and following God is destined to find a happy ending. If you’re unfulfilled by materialism or disappointed with politics, I suggest you establish a relationship with the one true God. There’s real fulfillment in that.