Battles or Harvests, Swords or Seeds?

swords or seeds flat-2So many of us know that we need to “fight the good fight of faith” (I Tim. 6:12). We heed the admonition to “put on the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:11) and “war a good warfare” (I Tim. 1:18). But I know times when this analogy, that paradigm is not the best one.

I’ve written a lot recently about the current refugee crisis in Europe and the West. Many of you know that I spent years in Islamic countries and I don’t accept the hatred and fear of Muslims that’s so often heard in our times. And when I think about or write about my interaction with those people, I believe I’ve gotten a strong check from the Lord that the terms of “battle” are not the ones that should be used.

crusadorsWhy? If you know history, you’ll know that the interplay between Christianity and Islam has been fraught with conflict, almost always violent. When we in the West think of the Crusades, it brings thoughts of virtually ancient times and Catholic at that. We just don’t relate to it. But for Muslims, the history of the Crusades is almost like still a living memory. And all bad.

For me at least, and I think it’s true for many of us, I just need to draw back, way back from all this. I’m not an ethnic Christian, I’m a born again Christian. There should be no race, people or nationality that I think of as my enemy. I do want to have the attributes of a soldier of the Lord, that dedication, that sacrifice, that character. But when it comes to wining people to the Lord, approaching my interaction with lost souls is not best helped if I go at it with the mindset that I’m a solder going to defeat an enemy.

Jesus gave us a much better way of looking at this. He spoke of harvests, of sowers, reapers and vine-dressers. And I find that a much better mindset to approach all this with. Let me say it again, Muslims are not my enemy. They are individuals who need the love and truth of Jesus Christ , just as much as the Jews do or any other people on earth.

sowerJesus said something so rich and poignant in Luke 8:15. “That on the good ground are they which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it. And bring forth fruit unto life eternal.” That to me describes very many people who have been born into a Muslim culture and religion. Many people who minister to Muslims are finding very “good ground” among these people.

So what is needed? Sowers of the seed which “is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11).” That’s you and me. That’s our job, to be sowers. There’s no harvest without a sowing and sowers. While we hear of many Muslims coming to the Lord now, for the most part it’s more a time of planting, rather than harvesting just yet.

If you’re concerned about all that we’re told to be concerned about, and you want to know what you can do, I implore you to take on the mindset of a sower of the seeds of God. He wants His love and truth to be planted in fertile, tilled, broken ground. And many Muslims are that fertile broken ground right now.

As so often happens, we come back to the simple words of Jesus in the Gospels. multitudesThink about these verses again and keep in mind the plight and challenge of these millions of Muslims who God has allowed to come from their lands to ours.

But when He saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion upon them. For the fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plenteous but the laborers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)

This is a whole lot more fitting an analogy to use that anything having to do with warfare right now. In the Spirit, if you can see it, this can be an incredible springtime of sowing precious seeds in a fertile field of people eager to learn of Him.

He that goes forth, weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:6)

Obi-Wan Kenobi In His Cave

Obi WanThere he is, Obi-Wan Kenobi in his cave. Remember him? When you first saw him there in that movie, what did you think? “Hmm. Old has-been. Failure, washed up, driven into the wilderness.”

But as we watched further, we found that he was an incredible guy. He had supernatural powers. He was extremely wise but also good. He was a survivor, a warrior, a master. Maybe he was in the wilderness but he still had some life in him, some purpose, fight and even destiny ahead of him.

But I think there are a lot of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s in caves nowadays. Maybe that’s not you but on the other hand, maybe you’re one of a few I know who are. Seasoned disciples of Jesus Christ, years of Christian service in faraway lands, crowns already laid up for them in heaven from just what they’ve done with their lives already. But some are now in “caves”, for one reason or the other.

“Oh, it’s all over!” “That was then!” “I’ve made mistakes!” or “Others damaged my life.” “So I’ve retired; the war is over! God can’t really use me anymore. And besides, there’s not really anything to do anymore. Those fields are now harvested so I’m back home now and just taking it easy till I die. That may be 20 or 30 years from now. But I’ve gone as far as I want to go.”

no discharge flatObi-Wan in the cave. But along comes a new day, a new generation, a new need for Jedi masters. I’m convinced that this is the situation for perhaps quite a few people. I believe it was Solomon who wrote “There is no discharge in this war.” (Ecclesiastes 8:8) Or, another way of looking at it is what Paul said, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11:29) When Obi-Wan Kenobi met Luke Skywalker, he seemed to come out of retirement. And from what I am seeing, there are a lot of Luke Skywalker Christians around nowadays who could really use some Obi-Wan Kenobi’s.

When you’ve had a call of God in your life, when God has gifted, called and trained you for His purpose, He doesn’t take that away. He needs every worker He can find. It’s another thing for those who “put their hand to the plow and look back”. (Luke 9:62) But even then some return to that plow and return to that field because they know it was “the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

These thoughts came to me today on a phone call with some dear friends in Western Europe. They presently are very engaged in trying to do what they can to minister to the hundreds of thousands of refugees in their country. And you’d probably be surprised how well it’s going and how receptive and thankful they are finding these refugees to be. They themselves are not really physically young. But their spirits are just tingling with excitement and expectation at the amazing things that are happening where they are. They aren’t Obi-Wan Kenobi’s in caves. They are fully energized Jedi Masters for Jesus, if you know what I mean.

We talked about ones we know, folks who have incredible gifts, experiences and unquestionable callings as disciples and servants of the Lord, some of whom are not really active or engaged in the things of the Lord in the way they were before. But for many that we could think of, they seem to be like Obi-Wan Kenobi in his cave. Alone, away from the arena of Christian discipleship where they spent years. They are gifted, inspired, anointed people but many are hardly using their spiritual gifts at all anymore.

The story is told that Alexander the Great died of a broken heart because he thought there were no more worlds to conquer. Of course he’d gone so far to the east but towards the west, he had hardly ventured and it wasn’t too many more years before the Roman empire of the west conquered the Greeks.Esther flat When we think there are no more worlds to conquer, that’s not good. And when we lose the vision of God for our place and calling in this world, that’s not good.

Mordecai told Queen Esther, “You are come into the kingdom for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) Esther recognized the truth of this; she saw the reality of how important she was to His work. She seized her calling and crown and was the instrument God used for a mighty deliverance for her people at that time.

What can I say? God needs every one of us, but perhaps especially the ones who have served him for so many years, who ben & Luke skywalkerhave so much experience, so much they could teach and use and put to His service right now in the events we see unfolding here in Europe. Can you please pray with me that if there are any Christian “Obi-Wan Kenobi’s” who have retired to their caves, that they will hear the calling of God again and get back on the wall of His Will, to “die daily” (I Corinthians 15:31) in this incredible hour here in Europe when the need for experienced, grass roots Christian leadership in the field is very great. Thanks so much.

Bucharest Tragedy

nightclub fireI just got off the phone with a dear Christian sister here in Bucharest. She’s not only been the faithful Romanian translator of the videos I’ve been doing, she’s a real friend and someone I greatly respect. She called to tell me that her oldest son was at the club in Bucharest late last night where the fire happened that took the lives of 27 young people.

She told me that her son had phoned her to tell her that he was ok, that he had been in the club until 10 minutes before the fire broke out but that he’d wanted to leave as he didn’t like it. After the fire blazed and then was contained, he was back there at the scene to identify bodies, many of whom he knew. The son of my translator friend’s sister is a teenage musician here; he and his band were scheduled to play at that club last night but it didn’t work out.

My friend here, let’s call her “Patricia”, said it was a big Halloween party at the place and it was full of plastic decorations that burst into flames. 500 people were there and around 300 got out. Buch tragShe said it’s being said that a number of the ones who were injured are not expected to make it. Also, the song that the band was playing when the fire broke out is called “This Is The Day You Die”.

Needless to say, this is a tragedy and traumatizing on many levels. I couldn’t stop crying on this call from my friend as I know her and her kids very well, as do probably some of ones reading this blog. And since “Patricia’s” teen age son, let’s call him “Ernest”, may perhaps later read what I write here, I want to respect his privacy and to be circumspect in what I write.

But the thought that came to me is that, as they say, “God has no grandchildren.” It can’t be your parents’ faith and experiences that you build your life on. Each individual ends up having their own experiences that are the formative ones in their lives. That certainly is true with how I came to faith in God from an atheist background. It’s often the deepest, darkest, most overwhelming experiences of our lives that are the crucibles in which we are shaped and molded.

Death for a Christian should be a different experience from that of an unbeliever and we who are the people of faith should really view it differently. communion-fixedIt’s like what I wrote in “Tales from Trondheim”, about the young man in Norway who was getting Christian training with my wife and I who went to be with the Lord around 48 hours after he left us. It was very traumatizing for us, very sobering, but we had peace and joy to know that he went to be with the Lord.

I don’t know how it is for those young people who died here last night. This is a very Christian country in many ways and most of the ones I’ve met here have a deep reservoir of faith in God and in Christ. This country had a strong wave of Christian revival here during the 90’s, after the fall of Communism.

I guess it’s just hard to talk about right now. Emotions are raw and these are the children of people here in this city, some of whom were laid out of the sidewalks for identification as the hospitals were overwhelmed.

But I would like to ask you to please pray for my translator friend, “Patricia”, and perhaps especially for her 17 year old son, “Ernest”. There’s a lot I won’t share here about them as it’s their personal life and the things they’ve already gone through in the past which have bordered on the unique. And now this. Please pray for them that the foundation they both have in the Lord will sustain them through this time as never before and that this tragedy, this darkness, will be a time when the light of God’s truth and love will be more evident than ever before. Please pray for Bucharest and my friends here at this time. Thanks so much, Mark

 

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

syria war mapThey say, “The fog of war”. “Truth is the first causality in any war” is another one like that. I’m not a professional political pundit. But I have kept up with the situation in the Middle East for several decades and I visited the border with Syria back in February. So I feel led to write something here about factors that most of you won’t be hearing about concerning all this. Nope, this won’t be conspiracy theory. I’m not going to bash Obama or Putin. But many people just don’t quite understand what’s going on with Syria and the war there. I’m not saying I have all the answers. But there are a few obvious things that most of you won’t find on the evening news or very many “alternative” or conspiracy theory sites.

Why hasn’t America and the West solved the Syria crisis? How has this gotten so bad? Is it malfeasance on the part of the American government? If a Republican was President of the United States, would it all be totally solved by now? What’s holding things back? Let’s talk about that.

First, let me speak of the unspeakable, “our allies in the Middle East”. Most of the time, commentators don’t even touch on this. They work for news agencies or media outlets that have their internal rules about what can and cannot be said. And what few ever tell you is that the most major influence on Western strategy in the Middle East is the wellbeing of Saudi Arabia and Israel. That’s just reality and the way it is. And Saudi Arabia and Israel in these times have converging interests in their part of the world. They both want a continuation of the status quo. And anything that would threaten the status quo is seen as a threat to them.

Shiite crescentHow does that factor into the Syrian conflict? You may have heard of the Iran (Shiite)-Syria-Hezbollah crescent or axis. This is the coalition that has held together for years who are seen as the greatest threat to both Saudi Arabia and Israel. So, just viewing things as Machiavelli would have us to do, the fall of Assad in Syria would break the link in that axis or arc. So both the Saudis and Israel have been quietly making their views known and doing what they can do bring about the downfall of Assad, at virtually any cost.

Those two nations are the main allies of the West in the Middle East. So this is a major reason you hear so much about the need for Assad to be removed. Yes, they give you all that hoop-la about what a tyrant he is. But then they said worse about Sadam Husain and Muammar Gaddafi. You probably know how that turned out. Actually not too bad for the Saudis and Israel but not so good for many others.

The hands of the West are tied in many ways because of the need to curry favor with our allies in the Middle East. You hear a lot nowadays about how the US government has “thrown Israel under the bus” in recent times, diplomatically. This reminds me of a phrase I heard about the condition of Germany some years back when they were going through something of a recession. It was said, “Germany is not tightening its belt. It’s just not letting it out quite as fast.” That’s how the West’s policy is towards Israel and the Saudis right now. They aren’t cutting back, they’re just hesitating on signing our acquiescence on more blank sheets of paper on which our allies can fill in their instructions to us.

“Mark, you are so cynical! Don’t you believe our world leaders care about the suffering millions of refugees who need help and humanitarian relief?!”

Well, sadly, I don’t think those things really come to the top of the list for those who lead us. Maybe if millions were in the streets and there was a threat of revolution because of the inaction of governments, that might make them take notice, like in the days of the Viet Nam war. But that kind of thing doesn’t really happen anymore. And let’s also remember that another major factor in all this is that the American people have really soured on foreign military involvement after the wars in Iraq. That’s another reason why there is no mandate from the America people for involvement in Syria or anywhere else for that mater

Putin AssadThen, along comes Russia. Those are the bad guys, right? Everyone knows that, you see it on the news all the time. But, strangely, it might just be that Putin and his troops may be free to take action where the West just can’t. Assad, and his father before him, have been allies of Russia at least since the ‘70’s. Putin doesn’t have any of the restraints on him that I’ve mentioned here that the West does. He does have some restraints but they’re not as hindering as what holds back the West now. He’s going in there to shore up an ally, just the same we would expect the States to go in to protect Israel or Saudi Arabia if they needed it the way Assad does.

Russian tankAnd Putin just might pull it off. People have been saying for a long time that a strong, sustained ground attack against ISIS would do the trick. You hear countries like Turkey mentioned, that they could do it. But then the Turkish government has its own reasons for wanting the fall of Assad. You hear that Iranian forces could do it. And if a few of those got together, like Putin’s troops, what’s left of Assad’s and also Iran’s, then most commentators say that this would be what it would take to destroy ISIS.

Maybe that’s what’s developing. And maybe that’s why you hear a huge amount of squawking from the talking heads in the Western media about how bad this all is. Because it’s really not what the West or their allies in the Middle East want at all. They want the status quo. And they want the fall of Assad, at whatever cost, including a prolonged state of anarchy like what’s now going on in Iraq or Libya.

But for the most part, we plebeians at the bottom of the food chain are not told about these finer nuances of Middle Eastern circumstances. We will continue to be told that Russia and Assad are the bad guys and that our nations must do our part to liberate Syria from its tyrant, as we have done in Iraq, Libya and many other nations before that. Like the old song said, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

 

Now the end begins?

prophet of doomQuite a few aficionados of Bible prophecy are getting excited when they view current events in the Middle East. Most of them have believed that at some point in the future, Russia will come to play a very major role in the region. A dear friend sent me a letter and blog article about this. The article declares emphatically that the Russian buildup in Syria is a prelude and pretext for Russia to invade Israel, virtually at any time. My friend wanted to know what I thought about the article. Here are parts of what I wrote back to him.

Most everyone agrees that Ezekiel 38 and 39 sure look like potentially major Scripture on the endtime. From reading those chapters, it does sound like what’s been identified as the land area of Russia will “invaded Israel” or something similar to that in some future time. Only, no one really knows exactly where these verses in Ezekiel fit in the endtime picture.

Are they a part of the finally events of the 42 months of Antichrist rule during the Great Tribulation? (Revelation 13:5-7)The Pact flat Or are they events occurring before the signing of the Pact or Covenant and the Last 7 Years? (Daniel 9:27) Or does Ezekiel 38 & 39 cover material mentioned in Daniel 11:21 to 45? Some even cite Psalm 83 nowadays as being an endtime prophecy when it was actually a historical prayer written during the time when ancient Israel was at war with its neighbors.

It does seem very significant that Russia has gotten suddenly involved in the Syrian war and evidently they have the top hand in the Middle East now.  I wrote a blog post about all this with some factors having to do with the move by Russia which probably a lot of people don’t know or understand. You might find it interesting, especially since you served in that part of the world. It’s called “What’s Wrong With This Picture?

whites of thier eyes-flattenedBut I sadly feel another one I wrote summarizes the more sensationalist articles that come out on sites like “Before It’s News”, “Now the End Begins”  “Armageddon News” and others like this. What I wrote about this is called “The Whites of Their Eyes”.

When I hear about clear, unequivocal events happening in the news that we can directly connect with endtime prophecies, that’s when we can really place it in prophetic Scripture that is known to precede the Great Tribulation. Otherwise, it’s just very fertile ground for the many criers of “Wolf! Wolf!” with abundant speculations about prophetic fulfillments that so often just turn out to be duds. It kind of bugs me how many people are claiming Bible prophecy has been fulfilled every time a car bomb explodes.

But what could be something on the horizon that would clearly be an event predicted in Scripture? If and when I see the building of a third Jewish temple in Jerusalem and particularly the beginning of animal sacrifices there, then I think we’ll have some real specifics to take serious note of. Where we are at on the Trumpets and Seals of the book of Revelation, or the specifics of Ezekiel 38, can be rather hazy now.

Mosque of OmarAnd yet so very many commentators endlessly try to find where we are presently in those things. They usually end up in farfetched, emotional speculation that borders on confusion. Lots of heat but not much light. However, if there’s a third temple built in Jerusalem and then sacrifices start, that will be some concrete, Biblically predicted endtime events happening in real time. And of course even the subject of the third temple in Jerusalem is also now in the news every day, with present events on the Temple Mount and the whole thing.

It may be getting very near and I certainly am keeping up with it all. But I’m not ready to start hanging labels on things like, “That country is the bear or ram” and “That one is the goat”. Those verses in Daniel were fulfilled long ago and don’t apply to endtime prophetic events. In Daniel 8, the angel Gabriel specifically told the prophet Daniel what the goat was. “The rough goat is the kingdom of Greece.”  (Daniel 8:21) But still today, you’ve got oodles of experts telling us that the goat of Daniel 8 directly refers to some modern nation today. That is not teaching “sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)

I covered all that in my videos on the subject. Perhaps the best one on the final years of the endtime is the one about Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24, called “The Last 7 Years”.  But a lot of things are happening that quite possibly are major steps towards final endtime events and it really bears watching.

Studying current events in relation to Bible prophecy about the final days is a little like looking through a kaleidoscope. We look at God’s Word and then we look at current events and we can see a lot of similarities. But every time there’s some slight changing of events, like when a kaleidoscope is moved ever so slightly, then the whole picture changes. That’s what’s happening with Russia’s current move. I agree with so many others that the change in the picture we see now is another move towards the picture we are shown in Scripture of how it will be at the beginning of the most specific events that are predicted, preceding the return of Jesus. But being overly specific with dramatic proclamations of prophetic fulfillment when it really hasn’t happened yet is just not good Bible teaching, no matter how anxious anyone is to see prophecy fulfilled.

In summary, yes this big move by Russia does very much look like a foretold piece of the prophetic puzzle that we see in Bible prophecy. But I don’t think we should be standing by in expectation that Russia is about to invade Israel at any moment. That’s getting ahead of the music and jumping the gun. And web sites that continue to delude Christians in that way should be noted and held accountable for their sensationalism and lack of credibility.

Merkel’s Call

Angela MerkelAccording to my German friends, the Prime Minister of German, Angela Merkel, was asked the other day by reporters about what horrors would come from the influx of people from the Middle East into Germany and Europe. What I’ve been told is that the Prime Minister replied that the people of Germany should get out their Bibles and share their faith with the refugees coming to (at least nominally, somewhat) Christian Europe.

How can you respond to that? Stunned silence? Probably that was the response of a number of people there. But someone should have jumped up on a chair and yelled, “Give that woman a cigar!” putin and text flatMaybe you’re not from Europe and don’t have the perspective to realize how unusual that is, at least in my opinion, to be coming from the leader of the most powerful country in Western Europe.

Of course she’s totally right. I certainly think so. It’s kind of like stating the obvious. But it also sadly reminds me of a Bible verse I read shortly after I became a Christian that seemed to sum up what my life had been like for years before I had the stunning experiences that brought me out of my unbelief.

Psalm 10:4b says “God is not in all his thoughts.” That was how I was for years; any thought about God never entered my mind. And sadly it seems that for many west Europeans, they’ve been in that condition for decades. God has not been in all their thoughts. That’s why it’s been called “Post Christian Europe”.

So it’s against that backdrop that Angela Merkel has called for Christians to get out their Bibles in response to the challenge of Islam that’s come with the influx of refugees. But, here’s something else I didn’t know till yesterday. Angela Merkel, who’s originally from what was Communist East Germany, is the daughter of a Christian pastor. And if you’re the daughter of a Christian pastor during the time of Communism in East Germany, then your faith in God and in Christ was not something cheap or frivolous. It cost something to have faith in God in those times. And it especially cost something to be a pastor there.

But of course the question is, will anyone respond to Merkel’s call? I’m sure some will. A few dozen, a few hundred even. Maybe more? Actually, you’d be surprised. God can do, and has done in the past, some real miracles with even a few dozen or a few hundred. not limited w text flatJonathan and his armor bearer took initiative against the greater Philistine forces and were the initiators of a great victory for the people of the God of Abraham. Jonathan famously said, “God is not limited by many or by few.” (I Samuel 14:6)

But, honestly, I’d like to interject here that I don’t even like to begin to use any terminology on this subject that is infused with terms of battles and wars. The whole sad story of current events now with these poor people is so drenched in terms of conflict. Also history itself is packed with the terminology of the Crusades and all those wars so that it really colors the whole dialog on Christian-Muslim experience. As a Christian, I find that thinking of “fields”, of “sowing” and “seeds” is much closer to the words of Jesus than all our analogies of warfare and victory, even if we know we’re speaking spiritually.

lift up your eyes with text flatIt says of Jesus, “When He saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion upon them, for they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep, having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Then He turned to His disciples and said to them, “The harvest truly is plenteous but the laborers are few. Pray, therefore, that the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37 & 38) At another time in another place, He said to His disciples, “Do you not say that in four months will be the harvest? I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest.”  (John 4:35) And of course we all know that in those times, Jesus was not talking about wheat, barley and rye. He was talking about the harvest of souls that were fainting and scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. He was talking about a harvest of human souls that was already “white unto harvest”.

refugee in fieldIt may very well be, and I am convinced that it’s true, that this migration of people out of the Middle East into west Europe is an unprecedented opportunity. The Christians of Europe can get out their Bibles and their tracts, fill their hearts with the love of God and go out to meet these ones who have come here. One time Jesus said, “Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, that My house may be full.” (Luke 14:23) And that’s literally where thousands of these people from the Middle East are now, in the highways, hedges and open fields of Europe as they trudge north to try to find peace.

Boy, that would be news, wouldn’t it? If bands of Christians rose to this occasion and “let their light shine before men“? (Matthew 5:16) Do you think God would be with Christians who went out to share His love with these ones? So the question seems to be, “Who will answer Merkel’s call?”

“I have seen the affliction of My people. Come, I will send you.”

refugees 2If there is anything that should mark a person with faith in God, it should be love. “God is love.” (I John 4:8) and if you know and believe in God, that nature and essence of love should dwell in you too. It says of Jesus, “When He saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion upon them, for they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) And let’s face it, that scenario is playing out before our eyes this very day here in Europe as unprecedented waves of displaced migrants sojourn across mountains and borders in whatever way they can to reach what they hope will be safer lands than the ones they come from.

I will send you 1 flatOver 3000 years ago, God spoke to an 80 year old shepherd who’d lived in a desert for 40 years, “I have seen the affliction of My people. Come now, I will send you.” (Exodus 3:7 &10) God didn’t send angels to deliver His people from their severe affliction. He called one of us, a flesh and blood human to be His instrument. And that man responded to the call, howbeit with some questions, with some trepidation. But it resulted in the freeing of the Hebrews from their affliction, one of the mightiest works in history where God and man worked together to “set the captives free”. (Luke 4:18)

But sadly it’s perhaps more common in history what was said 1000 years later. Speaking to those who observed the desolation of Jerusalem by Babylon, Lamentations 1:12 says, “Is it nothing to all you who pass by?” Foreigners passed by the destruction of the Hebrews and it meant nothing to them. Rather like the Pharisees who “passed by on the other side” (Luke 10:31 & 32) when they saw the beaten man on the road to Jericho. But the Good Samaritan stopped to help and he’s been remembered for his kind deed ever since.

good samaritan 1Are there any good Samaritans today? Or will the people of our generation just “pass by on the other side”? This is one of the things that drove me to visit the Syrian border that I wrote about a few months ago in “Visiting Syria”. Now I’ve moved back in Europe, for a number of reasons. But one of them is to try to do what I can in this historic and heartbreaking time.

Jesus said of one woman, “She has done what she could.” (Mark 14:8)  I can tell you with joy that I know already of some friends, people of faith, who are beginning to do what they can here in Europe. I have a friend in Sweden who’s taken the initiative to start passing out tracts to refugees who’ve come to that country. Another long time friend in Austria is now doing the same thing with her husband. Others I met recently from Berlin, as well as friends in Hungary, are stirred in their hearts to take action there at this time. We can’t just pass by the man on the road to Jericho. Paul said, “The love of Christ constrains us.” (II Corinthians 5:14)

But you can think or even say, like they did long ago to Jesus, “What are these among so many?”  (John 6:9) There was a multitude to be feed but they only had five loaves and two small fishes. So they said, “What are these among so many?” Well, in that case, the Lord multiplied those loaves and fishes and fed the multitude.

Conversation between 2 flatToday, what difference will it make if a few dear souls, scattered out around Europe, go out to visit refugee camps to help in what way they can and to also share the hope of the Gospel with those people? Well, it’s a start. They’ll help someone today if they do that. They won’t turn the tide and solve the problem. But they’ll help someone today. And they will be obeying God and His admonition and commandments that are the foundation of the Old and New Testament: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. (Mark 12:31)

And who knows? Maybe the efforts of those few will inspire others. Maybe they’ll be so blessed by God for doing what they can that others will catch the vision. Maybe they’ll start communicating among themselves, sharing how things have gone in their witnessing, what’s working in these situations and what isn’t. Maybe this is one of the most golden opportunities in our generation to share the love of God with folks we’d never be able to be in contact with any other way.

Esther flatSo I’ve been happy to hear from friends around Europe in this first month I’ve been back here that, for many, their hearts are being touched by God in this time. They feel, like it was said of Esther of old, “You are come into the kingdom for such a time as this.” (Ester 4:14)  This may be the time when the grace and calling they’ve had in their lives comes to the fore more than ever before, when they are the instruments of God’s peace to reach a people who could have never been reached any other way. At a gathering of east European Christians I was at last week, this was a subject that many felt strongly about.

For some, this may be their finest hour. But many are saying what a horrible time this is, what a danger, what a conspiracy, what a doom. But perhaps in God’s eyes, for some of His people, this is an opportunity that’s never happened before to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

What Jesus said 2000 years ago to the believers is still true, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) . But He has no hands but your hands, He has no voice but your voice, He has no feet but your feet in this day and age. Jesus said to His disciples during a very rough time when so many were leaving Him, “Will you also go away?” And Peter said, “To whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67 & 68)

Except perhaps today, these pitiful multitudes coming to Europe will say to the Christians here, “To whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” May the mighty God of Abraham stir up His saints to rise to this occasion and pour forth His love and truth to these multitudes, coming to the shores and lands of Europe.

(I’d like to hear from Christians in Europe who’ve been moved by God to “do what you can”. Have you found some way to help and even to bring the truth of His love to these ones pouring into this part of the world? If so and you have time, please send me a note about it. Thanks.)

The Serpent and the Dragon

The serpent said flatSo many Christians nowadays are talking about the Dragon, violent physical attacks of the Devil. But it seems the Serpent, with his lies, fears and confusion, is the one who’s really doing the most for the Evil Kingdom.

Doing great work flatThe book of Nehemiah shows how that works, perhaps more than any other in the Bible. During the entire time of Nehemiah, the Enemy never actually attacked God’s people openly and physically. It was all in words: lies, fears, distractions, threats and whatever else it took to persuade them to stop the work God had called them to.

But, thankfully, Nehemiah saw through it all and recognized the hand of his spiritual enemy in those things. “I am doing a great work and cannot come down“, he told his enemies. (Nehemiah 6:3) He and the people of God back then remained persistent and focused in the calling they were given and didn’t get persuaded or scared into coming down from the wall of God’s will and calling.

However, so often in history this hasn’t happened. You can find so many people today who are terrified of some foreign attack on these shores; they are electrified with the vision that “Sheriah law” will be established in the United States. Admittedly, I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point there is some outside attack from Islamic extremists or even extreme American nationalist here, however big or small that might be.

But most of the time, the Devil doesn’t need to send the Dragon if the Serpent will do. And the Serpent seems often to be far more effective, so that the Dragon isn’t necessary.

see it this way flatIf the Serpent can keep whispering in your ear his lies, his fears, his prejudices, lifting you up in pride, casting you down in hopelessness and fear, filling your mind with confusion and double-mindedness, then the victory is his. You may be a Christian. But you have become a completely defeated Christian, stopped in your tracks along the path of faith and rendered virtually worthless to the cause of Christ.

Of course he doesn’t only do this to Christians. The Deceiver is active across the land, propagating his bedarkened views which mostly are supposed to be “enlightened” and modern. Jesus said, “If the light that be in you be darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Matthew 6:23) That’s why the Devil is called “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). It even says that the Devil showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time” and then the Devil told Jesus “all this power I will give you, for it is mine.”(Luke 4:6) How often Christians forget this. They think they’re living in “a Christian nation”. It’s sad. But perhaps more are waking up a little as the darkness rapidly deepens.

“Mark, this sounds pretty hopeless. You’re really being Douglas Downer here.

My experience is that sometimes you have to be shocked enough to see the spiritual reality around you. And while I see some progress here in American Christianity, I see a lot of people who are still focused on their fears of violent, outside attacks on the USA, the work of the Dragon. But all the while the effects of the Serpent on them and the rest of the country progressively weaken millions from within.

Most students of history have seen that the decline and fall of great empires mostly happens from within, not without. And the same can be said of great people or people who had great possibilities. “It was not an enemy that had done this. But it was you, my familiar friend. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart. His words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.” (Psalm 55:21)

The-fight-of-faithSo it is with the workings of the Serpent, “the father of lies” (John 8:44). What’s the solution? Pray sincerely and desperately. Baptize yourself with God’s Word. Obey God’s Word first and foremost. Paul said to “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). But the only offensive weapon he listed was “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)

When Satan mightily came against Jesus in a prolonged temptation, Jesus didn’t quote Socrates, He didn’t pull out His pistol. He just quoted the Word of God to Satan. And after doing that a few times, “the devil departed from Him and angels came and ministered to Him.” (Matt. 4:11) Even Jesus Christ Himself knew the power of the written Word of God in battling and defeating the Devil.

How many know how to do that today? How many even know that the Serpent has beguiled them and rendered them useless and a reproach to Christ? ISIS didn’t do that. The government didn’t do that. Our foreign enemies didn’t do that. But millions of Christians struggle with the Serpent while they’re fixated on some distant Dragon. May God, and the dear Lord Jesus, have mercy on us all.

“Justifying Yourself” (Racism part 3)

job justifies flatThere’s an incredible Bible verse from the book of Job, check this out. Job said, “If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me. If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.” (Job 9:20) About 1800 years later Jesus told one man to love his neighbor. Here’s what it says was the man’s response. “But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:29)

It’s just the hellish, inborn sinful nature of man to “justify himself” and struggle mightily to ever be able to admit guilt and confess sins. Adam did it. “It was the woman that You gave me!” Eve did it. “The serpent beguiled me!” King Saul did it. “The people made me do it!

And it’s probably worse today that it’s ever been. But right now it may be that the Lord is dealing with a lot of people here in America and perhaps around the world with racism, as a result of the mass murder of the 9 African-Americans in South Carolina recently.

If you’re already a Christian, then some of these concepts shouldn’t really be new to you. The Bible says, “He that covers his sins shall not prosper but he that confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) There may be some right now who know in their hearts they’ve harbored racism and nurtured racism all their lives. They know it’s not of God; but it’s just something some hold on to, for whatever reason.

And here’s what can happen. “But Mark! What about the liberals, Mark! Look at the evil Muslims, Mark!” “I’m actually a really good person! I go to church! I…” This is just the nature of sin and it’s something we all do. We all want to turn the spotlight to someone or something else. We want to say how good we actually are. “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness.” (Proverbs 20:6) But what does the Bible say? “He that covers his sins shall not prosper but he that confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.”

Who I am flatBut some may say, and I’ll admit I’ve said this, “But I just can’t forsake it. It’s a part of me; it’s who I am and what I am, even if I know it’s wrong!” I even quoted a verse to justify myself, “Can a leopard change his spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23)

I’ve been there and been through that. There was a time in my life when the Lord exposed a deeply-rooted sin and I knew it was true. But I just honesty didn’t know how to get over it. It wasn’t like drinking, drugs or violence. It was a deeper thing and not something I could just stop doing physically or by an act of my will. So the Lord gave me this verse as a promise.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

When the Lord opened my eyes to that verse, it was like a new beginning in my life; it gave me hope when I had none. It was like a contract between me and God. In so many words God said to me through that verse, “If you confess it, I’ll cleanse it.” And that happened. I confessed my sin and the Lord did the work of cleansing me of it. It was a process but I’ve moved on from that very dark period in my life. And I should add that Proverbs 28:13 says, “…he that confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” You’ve got to not only confess it, you have to forsake it. You have to hate it and really turn away from it.

Juan Im sorry-flatAnd perhaps millions of people today need to do this. They don’t need to justify themselves.  They don’t need to tell everyone how wonderful the Confederate flag is. They don’t need to point fingers at all their old enemies on the Left or beyond our shores. Like another Bible verse that many of you know, “Judgment must being at the house of God” (I Peter 4:17). He will start with His own children before He deals with those not His. Jesus told us “to get the beam out” of our own eyes. (Matthew 7:5) And let’s face it, there are a lot of beams in the eyes of many Christians today. Racism and hatred may be near the top of the list for some.

Don’t justify yourself. “The jig is up”, as they say. Confess it, just like you would if it was adultery or some other sin that’s more censured in Christian circles today. Racial hatred has been a blight and a plague on the soul of Christians, especially those from the southern States, for centuries. And I know what I’m talking about because my family lived in Alabama and Mississippi before they migrated to Texas in the 1870’s.

you confessed flatHow can God bless hatred of our fellow man? “Ye were sometimes darkness but now are you light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8) The deliverance is there. But if you go with the prevailing tide of self righteously justifying yourself which is still so common, you’ll never get the deliverance you desperately need. “He that covers his sin shall not prosper.” (Proverbs 28:13)  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

We’ve all got something like this. I’ve sure had to do this many times. “The times of this ignorance God winked at but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30) Get right with Him (and with others) today. You’ll be glad you did.

Rainbow White House?

Rainbow WhitehouseA lot of folks feel some real serious stuff is going on right now. One very surprising thing has been that the White House, one of the most iconic symbols of the United States of America, was suddenly seen a few days ago to be illuminated in “rainbow” colors.

tar baby 2I don’t like to get into politics, that’s the background I come from and I feel it can be a dead-end street, a “tar baby” for many Christians. If you don’t know what a tar baby is, you can read about that here. But some pretty noteworthy things are going on and the dust hasn’t settled yet at all.

Of courses almost everyone by now knows that the rainbow has been taken by the homosexual movement as part of their imagery. But I’m pretty sure I can say without a doubt that it’s unprecedented in the history of the United States that some political or cultural movement has been allowed to display their “victory colors” on the White House. I’m almost certain this is unique in the history of the United States.

So coming from a family of journalists and political activists, I’ve just really wondered if someone out there will be following this up and getting the objective story about how this came to pass. Obviously it was planned and prepared for days in advance. There must have been discussions, decisions, agreements, the whole thing that goes into something as significant and ground-breaking as this.

I mean to write this without sarcasm or innuendo but, really, if any of you find a story online somewhere, done by reputable and balanced journalists who give us the story on how this happened, please do let me know about it. Was this President Obama’s inspiration and doing? Was it presented to him by others and he agreed? Who were those people? How did this happen? Was there any pressure or trade-offs? Did anyone raise questions about the implications and the message it sent to the world? Just from an objective and detached perspective, I can say I’ve never heard of something like this and I’ve talked with others, some of whom who favor the President, and they too say it seems unique to them.

At the same time, I would like to say that this is not a direction or theme I’m intending to stay on. It reminds me of another post I wrote a while back called “Cannot Come Down”. Nehemiah in the Bible was called by God to direct the rebuilding of the derelict city of Jerusalem. But his enemies and the enemies of God’s people at the time wanted Nehemiah to “Come down to the plain of Ono and talk to us” (Nehemiah 6:2). They wanted to get him away from his calling, into some distracting controversy.

Nehemiah-On-the-WallBut Nehemiah told them, “I’m doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should I come down to you and the work cease?” (Nehemiah 6:3) I feel that’s how it is for me. Personally I’ve got more to do that get embroiled with political turmoil here in the US. And actually, if you’re a Christian, you too might consider if the Lord has more for you to do with your life than be inflamed with secular, political controversies. We’re called to serve the Lord on the wall of His will, wherever He has placed you. We have a great work to do and it’s not centered on secular politics.

But we are here in this world, many of us here in this nation, and some pretty big things are happening that are clear, unmistakable signs that this nation is moving rapidly in the opposite direction of a Godly nation. How the White House was turned into a billboard for homosexuality is a story some journalist would do well to investigate and tell us about. If you read something about this, please let me know. God bless you and help us all in these times.