“Famous Failures of Prophetic Interpretation”

Manor house & people new try YouTube front page-flattenedI guess everyone has heard about times in history when someone has pointed out something they thought was just about to happen, because they felt Biblical prophecy was just about to be fulfilled. That happened one time as a direct result of misunderstanding something that’s in Daniel chapter 8.  (This article is the text of a video on this subject. The video can be seen here.)

The 1840’s was a time of tremendous change. The Industrial Revolution was changing the order of society as it had been for many hundreds of years. Science was making tremendous strides in understanding God’s creation. And politics and nationalism were bringing huge change around the world.

One new religious movement at that time saw the changes going on as a sign of the soon coming of God’s Kingdom on earth. This group often talked about the return of Jesus. And you could say, “Well, Mark, that sounds a good deal like what you’re doing.” And you might be right. So, I’m sharing this with you as a warning in some ways, both to you and to me. Because, as much as I believe in prophecy, I also know it’s possible to misinterpret things in the Bible.   So this group, back in the 1840’s, looked at some of these verses we’ve been reading, specifically Daniel 8:13 and 14, which say

Then I heard one saint speaking; and another saint said to that certain one who spoke, “How long will be the vision, concerning the daily sacrifice and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” And he said to me, “Unto two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.”

These verses are rather mysterious and I’m not in any way wanting to make fun of what happened. But these folks back then misinterpreted those verses and ended up being embarrassed and needing to make some difficult explanations. Here’s what happened.

A very key event occurred in the history of the Jews, during the time of their captive in Babylon and the beginning of their return to Israel. Some historians have set the date of that event at 544 BC. Setting the exact date on this and explaining the details and specifics are complicated and I won’t go into it here since it’s part of the class on Daniel chapter 9.

1844-merged-for blog postBut this Christian religious movement in the 1800’s came to the incorrect conclusion that “2300 days” in Daniel 8:14 actually means 2300 years. So they did their math. Using an approximate date of 544 BC, adding an additional 2300 years would mean that these verses in Daniel 8 tell us that the Kingdom of God would be set up in …1844!

The 1840’s were not a particularly traumatic time for people living in the United States. But for Europeans, the 1840’s were a time of revolution and major social dishevel in many countries. Well, this religious group I mentioned, spread out in many lands, came down to a fateful night in October of 1844 when they went up on their housetops to welcome the return of Jesus.Manor house & people-flattened

But, Jesus didn’t come back that night and that whole denomination was mocked and ridiculed.  It didn’t end there. Years later a new denomination was started. They looked over the mistakes the other group made and came up with a new idea. They saw places in the Bible that used the number “70”. And they added 70 more years onto 1844. That would mean that the coming of the Lord would actually be in…1914!

1914-merged- for blog postWell, 1914 was a very significant, turbulent year to say the least. It was the beginning of World War I, a war unlike any other before it. Also, in the fields of science, culture, business and technology, things were changing incredible fast. But, the Lord didn’t return in 1914. So they ended up saying that actually Jesus did return that year to the earth. But that He’s now presently “in the clouds”, looking over the judgment books. And honesty, if you keep up with these kinds of things, this type of prophetic interpretation is happening in our times just as much if not more than it was 100 years ago.

Sadam Hussein2-for blog postRemember Saddam Hussein? At the time of the Iraq war, there were all kinds of web sites and commentators saying that Saddam Hussein was the Biblical Antichrist. And the modern nation of Iraq was the fulfillment of Babylon the Great from Revelation 18. Websites and airwaves were full of those kinds of twisted, opportunistic interpretations of Bible prophecy, often for political motives and secular agendas.

We believers are supposed to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But that doesn’t mean we’re to be naive, gullible and easily manipulated.

I believe it’s important to be very realistic and cautious about interpreting God’s Word. There’s just a real danger in getting overly specific about soon-coming events through a misapplication and misinterpretation of ancient Bible prophecy, especially if politics or nationalism is using Bible prophecy for their own secular ends. Not only can you just being totally wrong, you can do enormous damage to the faith of millions of people, the “multitudes in the valley of decision”, as the Prophet Joel talked about.

There are so many people today “in the valley of decision” who sense the truth and want to learn more. But when they’re stumbled by false teaching and prophetic interpretations that prove false, they turn away from God and search elsewhere for the truth they’re seeking.  That’s heartbreaking and must grieve the heart of the God of Abraham for any of us to do that. On the other hand, simply because mistakes like this have been made, it doesn’t take anything away from the certainty of prophecy. But it’s a serious, sober warning to us all to not teach speculation and hypothesis as something that we should take as absolute gospel truth.

Left, Right and Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lies, confusion and the truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Back again in Ukraine

Ukraine mapFor the last week I’ve been back visiting where I lived in 2008 and 2009, in eastern Ukraine. I guess it depends on what you are looking for. This isn’t Monaco or Hawaii. But for me, it is now (and was 6 years ago) a very nice place to be, among friends who hold the same views and beliefs as I do and who’ve dedicated their lives to serving the Lord.

But it can be a tough place to be in some ways and it’s a challenge for me to write this blog post and to keep it upbeat and cheerful. Because this place can be “not for the fainthearted”. It’s not a matter of violence or crime, the statistics on that are probably pretty low. And it’s not the simmering border war with Russian separatists that is still happening about 200 miles (@320 kilometers) to the east or the Russian takeover of Crimea 200 miles to the south. At one point these things did look like they would spill far into the country but it no longer really looks like that.

No, the overarching narrative here that affects nearly every life is the extreme deprivation, resulting from years of severe economic hardship, already prevalent before the worldwide crash of 2008. And I’m at a juncture here because the Bible teaches us, “Whatsoever things are true, righteous, pure and lovely, if there is any virtue or praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) In brief, we should aim to stay positive. And at the same time, Solomon said, “Sorrow is better than laughter for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” (Eccles. 7:3)

So I’ll tell you the good news first. My friends here have continued to stay on the wall of Christian service during the 6 years since I left here. There are not a whole lot of them but they’ve worked tirelessly in this country, often focusing on what they can do in the vast numbers of orphanages and places for the mentally challenged. Someone has said, “A little bit of love can go a long, long way.” It sure needs to here and it does. Besides delivering physical aid to these places which just barely get by, a surprising ministry for my friends here has been what’s called clowning.

fixed-Dom Malutki 12“Clowning” might not sound like a great idea to some. You may think we have too many clowns around already when we look at the politicians and so many other sources of light, frivolous froth that seems so prevalent nowadays. But this is Ukraine, not the “rich-and-increased-with-goods” West. Here I find that the clowning my friends do in orphanages and detention homes is closer to being like what Solomon said about these things, “A merry heart does good like a medicine but a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

patch AdamsIf this still seems strange to you, perhaps you’ve heard of the movie starring Robin Williams, “Patch Adams”, about the true story of a famous doctor who used clowning to cheer up his patients and how much this helped them. That’s what my friends do here and it’s been both successful, as well as much appreciated by the authorities in these parts. Of course my friends are dedicated Christians and are doing all this to bring light, love and joy to a part of the world that really does need it very much, increasingly so.

horse wagonOK, that’s the good part; now let’s talk about the bad, ha! It’s the economics. And you could think, “Oh, Mark, at least it’s not violence, crime or diseases.” Hmm. Let me give you some statistics and you can see how this would work for you. You’re retired and draw a pension from your government? Millions here do and they receive… $45 a month. That’s $ 1.50 per day. An average wage in Guatemala is about twice that, I’m told. Are you going to buy medicine on $1.50 a day? No. You’re just barely going to avoid starvation if you somehow have some place you can grow some potatoes, have an apple tree and a few chickens you feed.

woman plowingYou’re a teacher in your prime, not retired? Let’s see. You’ll receive… about $55 a month. At 40 hours a week that would be about $.25 an hour for your efforts. Your tops in your field, medicine, and are #2 at a large city hospital? You’ll be getting less than $200 per month. So it’s all kind of indescribable. Almost like a sci-fi movie where all that you’ve taken for normal is deeply distorted so that things are surreal, Kafkaesque.

I could tell you much more but I won’t. It’s against this backdrop that my friends here work daily to try to bring hope, love, truth and a little happiness and joy amidst such grim deprivation. It moves me and affects me. Verses like “Unto whom much has been given, much shall be required” (Luke 12:48) and “They that be strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak” (Romans 15:1) have always under-girded my life as keystones of how I should respond to the gross darkness that is upon so much of our world. Being here has been a reminder of how much I and many of my friends have and how much we have to give (in so many ways) to help others.

 

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.

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.

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.

“…but now they are hid from your eyes.”

jesus weptThe Bible says of Jesus, “When He beheld Jerusalem, He wept over it saying, ‘If you had known, in this your day, the things that belong to your peace! But now are they hid from your eyes’”. (Luke 19:42) His entering Jerusalem right then was the very day when prophecy was being fulfilled, Zachariah 9:9, which said to Jerusalem that “…behold, your King comes to you: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Jesus wept because the very Word of God was being fulfilled that day before them. But for so many, they just couldn’t or didn’t see it.

That’s kind of scary in some ways for me: Jesus wept because God worked right in front of people and they didn’t recognize it. On the other hand, He said one time to His disciples, “Blessed are your eyes for they see and your ears for they hear, for many prophets and kings have desired to see the things you see and have not seen them and to hear the things you hear and have not heard them.” (Luke 10:24)

How does this all work? Is it just random? God in heaven simply decides who can perceive His mighty works and who can’t? I was thinking about these things this morning while on a walk and pondering my recent trips around Europe. In several places in the last month I spent the day among Muslim refugees, helping them physically but also talking with them about the things of God. And I was just thinking this morning how thankful I am that the Lord has shown me that these people need His love and truth, not our Christian hatred. Because, let’s face it, it certainly seems that the vast majority of Christians evidently feel that our religious obligation before God is to be some of the most vehement voices of hate and fear when it comes to these people.

angry JesusAnd that just grieves me and perhaps it grieves the Lord too. You don’t often hear about Jesus being angry. But in one place it says of Him, “He looked about with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” (Mark 3:5) He was angry and grieved for their hardness of heart. And I’m figuring that a hardened, hateful heart in His people must grieve and even anger Him today just as much.

My thinking on this continued, “How can any of us ‘see’? Are we all doomed to be spiritually blind like so many people of Jesus’ day?” And I’ll speak here to those of us who are already Christians. I think if there’s any secret to this, it’s in doing all we can to take on “the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16) which comes so much through reading His Word.

cleans my mind flatKing David said, “Your Word is a lamp into my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) The fact is that we need to continually let God’s Word wash us. And yes, that does sort of mean a Godly “brainwashing”. We need to be “renewed in the spirit of our minds.” (Ephesians 4:23) He must “sanctify and cleanse us through the washing of water by the Word.” (Ephesians 5:26) Jesus even prayed to the Father in Gethsemane for His disciples, “Sanctify them through Your truth; Your Word is truth.” (John 17:17)

And perhaps a caveat is needed here. Some, perhaps all of us need to pray the prayer of David, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) Because the sad fact is that folks can be reading the Bible and it still may not get though to them , perhaps because of  some religious rut they’ve been in for years. Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63) God’s Word has incredible power to reach down to our hearts but still we need to pray for that and want it as well.

wolf sheep flatIf we let God’s Word be the eyes with which we see the world, even the current events and seeming dangers and threats we’re so told about, then He can give us a perspective that’s of Him, not of the world. But it’s something we have to want to do and decide to do. Because there are oodles of wolves in sheep’s clothing, determined to implant fear and hatred in your heart in the name of Christ.

Millions of Christians are already on the Enemy’s channel because they imbibe and espouse fear and hatred first and foremost. Jesus said, “The times come that whosoever kills you will think that they do God’s service.” (John 16:2) How many Christians today daydream about killing those they consider their enemies, rather than winning their souls to Christ? Very many; too many.

Jesus “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38) And He can still do the same in us today if we have eyes to see things the way He wants us to and the way His Word shows us. I think for many of the people of faith in our times, it’s like what Joshua said to Israel long ago, “Choose this day whom you shall serve.” (Joshua 24:15) I’m convinced that love is the will of God, not hatred and fear. My hope is that more of His people will turn from the prophets of Baal of our day, the false prophets of hatred and fear, and will choose instead to have the mind of Christ through God’s Word and win even our seeming enemies to Him.

 

The Swelling of Jordan

refugee marchThis month-long road trip around Europe to do recordings, visit friends and work with refugees has been great. But also at times it’s pushed me near to my personal frontiers of endurance and strength. It’s reminded me of what the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Israel long ago, “If you have run with the footman and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace in which you trust they have wearied you, what will you do in the swelling of Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5)

For a few days last week I was at a refugee camp of about 1000 people, serving lunch there. My fellow food servers were from Tikrit and Kirkuk in Iraq, Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Khan Yunis refugee camp in Gaza. We had a pretty good conversation about life and God when we had lunch together afterwards. I gave out Gospels of Luke in Arabic to the ones of them who hung around and with whom I had deep conversations.

One of my goals in being at the camp has been to do as I did on the Macedonian/Serbian border 3 weeks earlier, to mix and mingle there and to find ways to pass out Gospels of Luke in Arabic to these ones.refugees at tables After serving lunch a few days ago, I was later sitting at a dining table, talking to some Syrian refugees. One young man told me he’d graduated with a law degree from a university in Damascus and he asked how it could or would work out to use this in Germany. I told him I didn’t really know but it would take time and patience for him to be able to do that here. The young lawyer told me that his brother had been shot dead by ISIS troops and that he himself had been shot twice but survived.

Sometimes when there are 5 or 6 Arab men you’re talking to, it’s not perhaps the easiest and best time to pull out Gospels of Luke and give them out. On the other hand, maybe your confidence would run that way and you’d have the faith for that. My experience is that when there’s a group like that, they react differently than when you’re in a one-on-one conversation with someone. So as much as I wanted to turn things more towards the spiritual, it just didn’t work out. But I determined to remember their faces and see if I could find some of them later when they were not all together.

And I was feeling tired, really tired. So often “the spirit of a man will sustain his infirmities” (Proverbs 18:14) and the Lord just keeps you going by the Spirit long after the flesh would like to stop. On the other hand, it can happen that you just run out of steam and the Lord in His wisdom pulls things back a little as you really are at the end of your resources. For me, the days and weeks of living out of a backpack and moving from place to place a lot during winter in Europe have been catching up with me a little. And I just could really feel it yesterday that I needed to pull back a bit and “quit while you’re ahead”, as they say in some places.

Gosple of Luke

The Gospel of Luke in Arabic

But also I wanted to do a little more to get out the Gospels of Luke I’d brought. Then, as I got ready to go, I saw one of the Syrian men who’d been sitting at the table with me earlier. He was an older guy and spoke no English. But he was sitting by himself now and he just kept looking at me. So I took that as sign from the Lord and went over and gave him a Gospel of Luke. He took it in his hand, looked up at me with a deep look and then put it in his pocket. I felt better.

And again, literally going towards the door leading out of the camp, I saw another Syrian man who’d sat at the table with me. I was able to give a Gospel of Luke in Arabic to him also. And again I felt better. I was pretty exhausted as I walked back to my place here. But like Solomon said, “The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul”. (Proverbs 13:19)

This morning I feel better physically. And I was thinking about that verse, “the swelling of Jordan”. That’s how it is now, the swelling not only of Jordan but much of the Middle East, fleeing the terrorist insanity of their lands, looking for refuge here. And like the verse says, “what will you do in the swelling of Jordan?”

Angela MerkelI’ve been really surprised by the response of the Germans, both their Prime Minister (I wrote about her in “Merkel’s Call”) and the people themselves. Even with all these refugees who’ve come here, they took in 1.1 million last year, they say the number of those who’ve volunteered to help in Germany is more than equal to the need. I’ve had to “eat crow” a bit with some of my thoughts about Germans that I’ve said in the past. They’ve shown a Godly civilization and compassion that in some ways astounds me in this day and age.

As weakened and fragile as Christianity and humanity have seemed to be in our times, some at least are responding with vigor and empathy to this great event and opportunity now happening. Hopefully it won’t only be with food and blankets but also with the saving truth of Jesus Christ and God’s Word which is the only thing that can really reach down and bring a new, transformed life to all those in direst need.

Terrorist Infiltrators

[On November 14th I was going to publish this. But the sad events in Paris, France a few hours earlier were so vivid and visceral that it seemed to not be the best time. I’ve left it unchanged. It’s definitely a “minority report” but, I believe, very needed to challenge us to turn the evil tide of these times.]

migrant boatHave you seen all the articles and posts about the fear of terrorist infiltrators among all the refugees coming to Europe? You can’t really miss it. And, don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt that there are ones like that among all those coming to the West right now. I don’t doubt that at some point there will be attacks in the West, perpetrated by Islamic radicals.

But allow me to give you something even greater to fear and be shocked at. Where are the people of God who feel challenged by all this, to rise up as His true witnesses and to win as many of these people as they can to Him?

Most people love fear, rage and nationalism/racism far more than they love to be challenged to live their faith in God. Fear and hatred sell and are sadly popular. People need to be told who their enemies are, right? But this gets even more personal; bear with me.

It would not really be correct if I said, “I once was a terrorist”. me 72 fixed-ABut when I was going to university, I was getting real close to circles of people who would today be called that. It was the height of the anti-war movement in the late 60’s. I was in university but working as a writer and editor on the most well-known “underground newspaper” in the state of Texas. I helped write it, put it together with a group of about 10 people, drove a van across central Texas to get it printed and then sold it on the street.

“Mark, that’s so innocuous. Mark, Muslims HATE us and want to KILL us!”

At one point there was a major riot/demonstration at my university. Thousands of students stormed the main building. The police came, then the National Guard surrounded the campus and it was on all the national news services.demonstrators I was one of 6 people who were inside the main administrative building, negotiating with the president of the university.

During that fall, the organization “Students for a Democratic Society” held their nation conference just off our campus. I went to their meetings and to the private parties afterwards. I met the top leadership, some of whom were soon to end up on the FBI top 10 wanted list as leaders ofThe Weathermen. I was very drawn to these people as I was very grieved by the events of the times.

Back then two guys approached me who said they were soldiers at nearby Fort Hood, one of the main US Army staging posts for the Viet Nam war. They said they were part of the underground movement. “Give us the LSD and we’ll give you the machine guns”, they told me. Almost certainly they were undercover FBI guys. But that’s how my life was back then.

“What does this have to do with Islamic migrants and terrorism?”

This. I wasn’t into killing people or violence. I was just desperate for truth, justice and the triumph of good over evil. And through it all, the God of Abraham saw my heart and brought me first to Him, and then months later to His Son.

I believe and know with all my heart that within this multitude of people coming to Europe and the US from the Middle East, there are many, perhaps very many who are as desperate and heart-sick as I was in my youth. refugee in fieldAnd somebody witnessed to me back then. Somebody didn’t look at my longish hair and strange ways; they looked into my heart and saw a desperate, needy soul.

But my question is, will there be people in our times who can look past all the propaganda, hatred and fear about Muslims and see instead a multitude of people who God Himself has allowed to come to our lands?

Paul on the road to Damascus

I was virtually on the road to being a “terrorist” in my youth but God intervened and brought me to Him. Saul of Tarsus sure must have seemed like a terrorist to the early Christians. But God saw his heart, knocked him off his high horse and called him to be His servant. But there had to be Christians back then who could see the hand of God in this and who accepted Paul as their new brother, rather than the “terrorist” he had been.

Is it Scriptural to share our faith with terrorists? Is it in the Word? First, for those who keep up with these things, it’s common knowledge that Jesus Christ has been way out in front of all of us on this for years. 01For years, Muslims all over the Middle East have been having living, life-altering experiences with the Son of God. This is what I wrote about in “Suicide Bomber Sees the Light”.

And it was the same way at the time of the Early Church. Christ Himself was way out in front back then as well and dramatically appeared to one of the very worst “terrorists” of the Early Church. But then what happened? Let’s have a short Bible study on that and see if it applies to today.

Saul had been blinded by the Light of the Lord and had been led into Damascus where he was for the next 3 days. We pick up the story at Acts 9:10

And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias. And the Lord to him said in a vision, “Ananias”. And he said, “Behold, I am here, Lord.

And the Lord said unto him, “Arise and go into the street which is called Straight and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus. For, behold, he is praying and has seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.”

Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to Your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Your name“. But the Lord said unto him, brother saul flatGo your way; for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.

And Ananias went his way and entered into the house. And putting his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, who appeared unto you in the way as you came has sent me, that you might receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales. And he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

We hear so much about Saul and his Damascus road experience. We are all thankful for Paul. But when Saul became Paul, God needed an Ananias. Today that should be you and me. How would it have gone if there had not been ones like Ananias and others who were willing to be led of the Lord to minister to this man who had been their feared, fearsome enemy until then? This can be one of Christianity’s finest hours if there are those who will see God’s hand and this opportunity from Him to share our faith with these ones.

Could there be danger? Yes. Will they all become Christians? No. But, I challenge you here: watch not only for some future terrorist attack from Muslims coming to Europe. Instead, watch to see to what degree Christians rise up to love, welcome and share their faith with these ones in this hour.

If the Christian response is anemic, halting and virtually non-existent, then that in the realms of heaven may be far bigger news and a greater disappointment than any terrorist incident. If God’s people are so defeated and uncaring that they don’t let Jesus in them be the Light, Love and Truth that so many of these poor souls coming to these lands so desperately need, then God help us all.