Should we forget the past?

Someone just told me I should write about forgetting the past. Should we? Especially the really sad, rough, ungodly things that others did to us? Let’s face it: it’s easier said than done. Of course forgiveness is the key but it may not be the only one. I guess some folks who don’t have the Lord can “forgive and forget” but I’m sure it’s much easier if we have His grace for it all.

You’d think that with the life I’ve had as a missionary, living for decades on foreign fields, working with dedicated Christians, that it must have just been one big bed of roses and strawberry fields forever. Sometimes it was like that. But there also were some shocking, heartbreaking, soul-stumbling events that transpired between Christian brethren that were just unspeakably pitiful and should have never happened. Talk about “deceiving the elect” (Matthew 24:24), sadly the elect of God can be deceived, tripped off and just led about by their carnal reasoning, selfish lusts and desires for dominion over others, except for the intervention of God. And sometimes it seems like that didn’t even help.

Israel of old was mightily blessed by God but ultimately defeated and destroyed by their enemies but not before they had already been defeated from within by their own sins. And so it can still happen just the same to believers in our times. I’ve been a victim of some things like that in the past and, Lord help and forgive me, I may have not done enough to intervene when I saw things that were wrong where I was.

And there’s a question to be asked, “When is the past not the past?” When are the sins and cruelty of the past still affecting us today, especially in our memories that we carry or the things we’ve heard from others that happened? Are we doomed to carry with us these memories, even decades after some event happened?

Well, thank God there is hope. Thank God for Him, for His Son, Jesus and the unspeakably mighty power they have in our lives. For me, the mightiest force in the universe is the Word of God. I’ve experienced its healing and deliverance in situations where the circumstances were utterly hopeless. But the Bible says, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work.” (II Timothy 4:18) And that’s the truth.

Maybe you were touched, affected, singed and even damaged by some evil work, some atrocity and it even was from some Christian. I’ve had that happen to me, actually a few times. It was wrong, it was mean, it was personal and it was intentional. So what do I do? What did I do?

The first thing was I had to keep my eyes on Jesus, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith“. (Hebrews 12:2) I turned my attention to situations in the Bible where people of God in the past went through similar things. Of course the greatest injustice in history was the crucifixion of Jesus. A righteous and perfect Man condemned to a cruel death.

It’s good to remember that when we are mulling over the horrible things that have happened to us. Or like Joseph in Egypt, sold as a slave by his brothers but he found the grace of God to say to them, “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)

It’s like King David said in Psalm 77, he went over so many bad things that were happened so that it was nearly killing him. But then he said, “But I will remember the years of the right hand of the most high, I will remember…” (Psalm 77: 10 & 11) Actually he said “I will remember” 3 times in a row in that Psalm. Maybe that’s a key and answer. We have to just not let the horror, atrocities and injustice become our fixation. Because that will insure the final victory of those sins against you, that they will permanently defeat you.

We just can’t allow that. I just couldn’t allow those things to snuff out my life, no matter how bad it was. JobI even thought of the book of Job and how evidently righteous he had been and but then some really almost crazy things happened to virtually destroy him. As it turned out, Job actually did have a few things that the Lord was dealing with. And in my experience, during the very worst times that went on actually for close to 2 years, the Lord was dealing with me about a few things, as well as just breaking me and making me into a better vessel, like it says in Jeremiah 18

But, certainly, there comes a time where we can take to heart what Paul said in Philippines 3:13 and 14, “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth to the things before, I press towards the mark for the price of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Some things that we still don’t understand just have to be wrapped up in a bundle of faith and put away somewhere till the day that it’s explained to us by the Lord.

Ultimately, if we’re to stay alive for the Lord, we have to find and claim healing and forgiveness for whatever happened, whoever sinned against you. This is what I wrote about in “Ghost”.

Rehashing the past, if you feel you just have to, should be done in private with someone strong in the Lord. Otherwise it can easily be an avenue for the enemy to spew out on others all the old horrors you experienced from long ago. Lord help us all, as wounded as many of us are, to cast our cares on Him, to forgive those who’ve sinned against us and to keep our eyes on Jesus and the future He has for us all.

Addictions

I was a drug addict. It was a long time ago and I got delivered but still, it was a major part of my life. And in these times it seems to be more and more a scourge on society worldwide. I just got word now of a friend whose son died last night of an overdose. He’d been in rehab, been incarcerated and had been revived many times. But last night he passed on, after another overdose.

It’s a sad time for his family and loved ones. But also it can be a time of reflection and even for some of us it can underline the militancy and determination we need to have to do what we can to help our fellow human beings.

I don’t know all the details of what happened but I know this young man had a Godly father who loved him and did all he could to try to help him. But this has caused me to reflect on what happened to me because I very easily could have died on drugs and in fact very nearly did. It was near death experiences before I came to Christ which so fundamentally shook me up that ultimately lead me out of atheism and towards the God of Abraham.

What can any of us do? How can we help someone in the grip of addiction, no matter what its form? In some states in America now the morgues are so full of the overdosed dead that they evidently can’t bury them fast enough or find a place to store bodies until they can be buried.

But if there’s anything I can add that can help in any way, it’s to say again that for me personally there was an escape from addiction. Because, at its root is the explanation the Bible gives for the nature of human beings, that we are fallen creatures who are in thrall to sin, in whatever way it has manifested itself in our lives.

(Did you roll your eyes when you read what I said there?) “Sin”, you said, with perhaps a smirk? You have my sympathies because that’s exactly the way I used to feel but actually the joke is on any of us who “make a mock at sin”. (Proverbs 14:9) Here’s a blog post I wrote specifically on “Sin”.

I never got deliverance from my addiction until I finally accepted what the Spirit of truth was hammering into me, that the explanation from the Bible is the most fundamental, elemental account of human existence that there is. So I’m going to take a few thoughts from the Bible that were absolute revelations to me and share them with you. Actually these truths were what reached into the darkest dungeon of my life and brought me out, even before I knew the actually textual verbalization of these truths that existed in God’s Word.

Here’s what Paul said and perhaps you can think of addiction in relation to this. “The good that I would, I do not. But the evil that I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19) That’s a short explanation of how sin works in addiction, whatever the form of addiction it may be.

In another place Paul said to Christians, “Sin shall not have dominion over you…”. (Romans 6:14) But, folks, let me tell you from my excruciating experiences and the bottom of my heart: if you don’t have Jesus Christ, sin will definitely have dominion over you. And drug addiction is just one of the clearest manifestations of that. Sin has dominion over you and as James, the Lord’s brother said, “Sin, when it is finished, brings forth death”. (James 1:15)

I’m convinced I was only hours, days or weeks away from death, insanity or prison when I finally was rescued by God. But how? John the beloved disciple said, “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things.” (I John 3:20) I certainly deserved death, insanity or prison. The police were literally at my door to arrest me as a teenager and I would have been two years in prison. Here’s the story of how the Lord rescued me out of that. But, ultimately, God in His love gave me an opportunity to see things as they were and to choose Him and His ways. As Joshua told Israel of old, “Chose this day whom you will serve”. (Joshua 24:15)

I just didn’t personally have the power to stop using psychedelic drugs. I’d make a resolution to stop, I had all the intentions but then a few weeks or months later I’d go back to drugs. Sin had dominion over me. But here’s the Bible verse that best sums up the miraculous deliverance I experienced. Perhaps it’s my favorite verse.

From the first chapter of John, verse 12, it says, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” That’s what happened to me. I received Jesus. I asked Jesus to come into my heart and save me from my sins. And He did. And He gave me that “power” spoken of there, power over sin that had so wrecked my life.

That still is the final solution against sin and addiction, in whatever form it may take. Yes, you may not be able to quit. But God is greater than you and your heart and even your flesh and your addictions. You can’t, but He can. It’s a simple as that. That’s what happened to me as an addict.

Christmas Miracle, 1875 and now

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

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

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

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

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

We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,

Be the guardian of our way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believe in Truth

A lot of people today are so skeptical that they hardly believe anything is true. To me that’s pitiful. Maybe it’s because I grew up around newspapers and worked for two years in the newsroom of a large daily newspaper here in Texas that I just feel, for the most part, all the news is not staged and false, as so many (even Christians) now believe.

I believe in truth. I’m pretty sure I always have. In my university years I didn’t believe in God or Jesus because I just didn’t believe they were the truth. I very surprisingly found out I was wrong.

Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37) It is written of the final world dictator to come, the “Antichrist”, that he will “cast down the truth to the ground.” (Daniel 8:12) In a very real sense right now in the world, there’s an onslaught against every vestige of the presence and Spirit of God.

Truth is under attack so much that I think most folks have really no idea what to believe. Love, both God’s love and even natural and beautiful human love are also under attack. The Bible talks about “the author of confusion” (I Corinthians 14:33) and that’s what we seem to have more and more. The author of confusion and lies, Satan himself, is rolling out ever evil machination and foolish falsehood imaginable.

And, believe it or not, the Bible seems to indicate that in the End Time this will be happening. In Revelation 12:15, speaking of the very last days, it says “the serpent” released a stream of water out of his mouth. This “water” from the serpent is the putrid, stench-filled essences of Satanic falsehood unleashed on the world.This is the symbolic opposite of the pure living waters of truth that Jesus said would flow out of the belly of believers in Him (John 7:38).

But then what does the Bible say will happen? This is hard to believe. Revelation 12:16 goes on to say “the earth” opened her mouth and drank the waters of the dragon. And isn’t that what’s happening now already? So, so many are only too ready to gulp down the latest filthy, enticing falsehood, the latest dirt and exposé of someone, the latest unfounded conspiracy theory. It gets to where everyone just reverts to their shell and has become fatally numbed to the world around them, “deer in the headlights”, stunned into stupor and unable to any longer even discern truth from a lie.

Talk about zombies. The Bible has a phrase for it, “Because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” (Romans 1:28) “A reprobate mind.” A mind no longer able to discern truth from falsehood, good from bad, right from wrong. And, folks, this is not coming; this is not what may happen. We. Are. There.

“Mark, what’s the solution?! This is so discouraging, Mark!”

It’s like what Jesus said in the book of Revelation to one of the mostly fallen churches at the time of the writing of that book, around 90 AD. To some of them He said, “You have a name, you live and are dead.” (Revelation 3:1) Christians, the saved, but who were so far fallen from the living presence of the Lord that He called them both alive and dead. To these ones He said, “Strengthen the things that remain.” (Revelation 3:2)

This may be radical and extreme for some of my fellow Americans but maybe it’s worth saying here: I’m not trying to save my country. And I don’t know how apt the comparison is but I don’t think Jesus, when He was here on this earth, was trying to save His country. He knew what was to come, that in the lifetime of many of those who saw and heard Him would come another mighty judgment on Israel, greater than that brought by Babylon 600 years before.

Forty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, in 70 AD, the Romans basically destroyed Israel. And Jesus, in His divine omniscience, knew while He was on earth that this judgment was to come and spoke of it. So He spent His energy in trying to win and save individuals to Himself and to bring a new heart and new soul to His lost countrymen.

For me, that’s the only battle worth fighting. For individuals. How? By sharing, pouring out and witnessing to as many as I can and as many as I can help others to witness to. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.” (John 10:27) And His voice is the voice of truth. He even said that he was “the truth”. (John 14:6)

So many are “multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision.(Joel 3:14) For those of us who know the Lord, God help us to be like beacons and transmitters in the gross darkness of these times, pulsing out the light, truth, love and sincerity that we have from Him, out into the teeming masses in the mists of this earth, to draw those seeking truth and the things of God, to be the Light to the World He has called each of us to be. “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me and he that comes to Me I will in no wise caste out.” (John 6:37)

Redeeming the time because the days are evil

What does the Bible mean, “Redeeming the time because the days are evil”? (Ephesians 5:16)  Actually there are so many deep truths in the Bible, often wrapped up in just a few brief words. This here is one of the really good examples of this.

It’s not even exclusively a Christian truth or teaching. You can be an atheist and still believe in the basics of diligence and making the most of your time. But when this thought is brought into a Christian context, as an injunction for Christian living, it takes on so much more meaning. Jesus said to His disciples, “I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day. The night comes when no many can work.” (John 9:4)

One of the Devil’s greatest wiles is “Wait a while.” If the devil can’t defeat you any other way, he tries to get you to procrastinate and get busy with a little here and there. There’s even an obscure verse in the Old Testament that says just that. Someone was commanded to watch a prisoner but he escaped and the excuse was given, “While I was busy with a little here and there the man was gone.” (I Kings 20:40)

Oh, pitifully, sadly, how many of us may have to say the same to the Lord at the Judgment seat of Christ. We were “busy with a little here and there.” We didn’t redeem the time. Perhaps the most precious thing any one of us has, besides our souls, is our time. This was such an indelibly etched lesson on my soul during the times where I had life after death experiences which sadly were basically on the dark side. I had a foretaste of hell and one of the greatest impression was the time I’d wasted and frittered away, never to be recovered. I believe that was a foretaste of eternal hell and separation from God and the agony that can be felt of a wasted life, squandered in vanity.

The Lord so clearly commands us to “lay up treasure in heaven”. (Matthew 6:19) The Bible says, “He that sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly and he that sow bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” Yes, that doesn’t mean you have to be out passing out tracts on the streets or you’re not in God’s highest and best. But I think if we’re all honest, there are a lot of things that are pretty much worldly, mundane tasks that will flow into our lives like some infectious weeds on a lake so that nothing grows or even swims there anymore because of the weeds.

Jesus spoke of the seed sown on thorny ground that was chocked by “the cares and pleasures and riches of this life and brings no fruit to perfection.” (Luke 8:14) For so many, any thought of “redeeming the time” to “seek first His kingdom” gets further and further down their list every day. This is what I wrote about in “They Began to Make Excuse.” But it’s just not how things are suppose to be.

I guess it can come down to a lack of vision. “Where there is no vision the people perish”, (Proverbs 29:18) and I think for so many, this is what happens. They don’t even begin to redeem the time because they have lost the vision of the Lord’s commandments and teaching and His call on their lives.

It just all goes together, doesn’t it? I’ve written about so many aspects of this and they all tie together. I wrote about “Keep Your Heart with all Diligence”. I wrote about “The  Heavenly Vision” and this is also part of it, “redeeming the time”. If we keep these things, they’re some of the key components in staying alive spiritually and pulsating for Him. We are to be “not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)

But of course for Christians this isn’t just a matter of constant, feverish physical work. Redeeming the time can mean “continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).Redeeming-the-time It’s a manifestation of a God-given inner awakeness that is engendered by the Spirit of God, a godly urgency to make the most of the precious life we have and the moment in eternity we have in the world to live for him and bring others to Him.

There’s more than enough for us to do in  this world, harvests to reap, seeds to sow, sheep to feed, prayers to pray, friends who need love, to keep us alive and busy in Godly service for Him and others till He returns or we pass on to our reward. It’s imperative that we “redeem the time” and not be caught like the unwise virgins at the return of the bridegroom, our lights gone out and we be found wanting for lack of our love for Him and our vision of His calling and will.

On human love and affection

One of the things I’m most thankful for is how the Lord has helped me over the years to become a more well-rounded, healthy-hearted human being. Becoming the kind of “normal” that’s no longer normal has been a goal of mine. Being warm, free, real, genuine, “without guile”, things like these were what I would catch glimpses of in my grandparents’ generation. I knew I didn’t have it. I didn’t know the word “sin” but in truth sin was a big part of my heart and mind.

Since coming to Christ, I’m thankful for the depths of the spiritual experience I’ve had in Him. But perhaps more precious is to find that He’s made me, over many years, to just be simpler, to live from my heart and even to react in a kinder way when things happen. It’s hard to explain and I know it’s a direct act of God, as well as the results of cleaving to Him, His Word and ways for many years.

It seems to me that this is missing more and more in society today. The Bible talks about “natural affection” and that one of the signs of the final days is that people will be “without natural affection” (II Timothy 3:3). Does this mean that affection, actual touching, hugging and all that sort of thing is actually ok in the Lord? We aren’t supposed to be so “holy” that we’re really freaked out at the idea of giving someone a spontaneous hug? Isn’t a hug a prelude to sex? That’s what it seems to now be thought of. And it’s just pitiful.

Society has lost so much in so short a time but one thing that’s been lost is just our natural love and humanity, to be warm, real, unafraid and unsuspicious. I heard a sad joke one time, “You can tell when you’re in the third world. Children are respectful to their parents.” Well, there are a lot of things in the third world where those folks have more light and Godliness than some of the more “advanced” nations. I’ve been there, lived there for decades and I was there again recently. People greet one another with a touch and it’s not considered a sexual come-on. In some ways, believe it or not, there’s less fear and suspicion in many of those places. Often there’s a simple genuineness and Godliness still there that’s not been eroded by the kind of thing that passes for progress in our more advanced countries.

You could think, “Well, Mark’s just longing for the past like people do, always thinking the past is better.” Maybe, but I don’t know if that’s it. I do think it’s a God thing. And I’m not sure all Christians really catch it. It’s so easy now to be caught up in the latest wave of fear and alarm over the many examples of sexual predators and people going very far beyond the bounds of civilized decorum.

Another one of the signs of the end is that people will be “incontinent” (also II Tim. 3:3). In this case it means “without restraint”, unable or unwilling to restrain themselves from their emotions and lusts. Doubtless that is widespread currently. I wrote about this recently in “Rampant, predatory males“.

But I don’t hear much if any at all about how the middle has just been hallowed out in the way of what is still considered the proper, happy medium. We’re so afraid and affected by the extremes that the Godly middle of “natural affection” and healthy wholesomeness is now an endangered species.

We can’t do that. And if we do this, what would people think? And if I do that, she’ll suspect I really mean the other. So it’s safest just to do nothing. Just play it safe.” And slowly at first but more and more you find that “the love of many shall grow cold” (Matthew 24:12), as Jesus said would happen in the future to come.

The solution? Fight back. Keep loving your neighbor, ardently. Keep giving hugs. Keep being childlike, simple in your love, and “without guile” (John 1:47). Think a bit less about what the other person might think. Fear begets fear but also love begets love. Christian-loveOne person walking in love and, I might add, the freedom and childlike genuineness of the Spirit, will beget the same in others. It was actually the sincere, visible love that was manifested among Christians that had one of the greatest impacts on the ancient Roman world.

Right now it seems everyone is heading for the door. Not only “truth has perished” (Jeremiah 7:28); in our times, love has perished too. So while you’re all into fighting the Devil and spiritual warfare, don’t forget to “condescend to men of low estate” (Romans 12:16). Don’t let the present climate of fear, suspicion and extremism rob you of your crown of genuine Christian love which includes hugs, touches, “natural affection” and the type of behavior that used to be “normal”, rich and real, but is now virtually extinct.

Love! “Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another…” (Ephesians 4:32) Don’t let this present climate of sexual stalking, followed by an excessive swing of the pendulum to extreme apprehension and prudery draw you into this current worldly maelstrom of post modern emotional deadness. “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1) “Whom the Son has made free shall be free in deed.” (John 8:36)

“When he came to himself…”

It says of the Prodigal son, “When he came to himself he said… ‘I will arise and go to my father and say unto him, ‘Father I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.’” (Luke 15:17).  I think that today those words have had more meaning for me than they’ve almost ever had. Because some dear folks I know told me of an astounding victory and breakthrough in the life of one of their children who’s suffered for years from what has seemed to be mental disorders.

My friends told me today that their adult child, who’s been diagnosed with what is called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), came to their room today and asked if he could talk with them. That in itself was highly unusual. Basically he told them, weeping, that he didn’t want to be mad at them anymore. He didn’t want to stay alone in his room and to isolate himself the way he’s been doing for years.

The magnitude of this event is perhaps not easily seen unless you know how it’s been for this family for so long. Just last week this young man was emotional and accusing his parents again of all kinds of horrible things when the reality has been that they’ve gone to the nth degree and extra mile to try to help and be patient with his troubled mind and heart. And the parents, being former missionaries and still active Christians, have taken this all to the Lord countless times as well as going to a number of healthcare professionals about it and also help groups.

But in the end, it seems like the Lord just was somehow able to break through in this young man’s life, very similarly to how it was for the Prodigal son that Jesus told about in Luke 15. There, a young man from evidently a good upbringing decided to leave it all to pursue his own way. The end result was that his life was basically ruined and almost over as the result of his rebellion against his father.

But, “he came to himself”. What an incredible way to describe it. The Bible calls it repentance but even that has to be given by God in a sense, a realization in the deepest place in one’s heart of the huge error of your ways and a “metanoia”, a complete change of heart, mind and direction.

With this dear one, it seems like so much of the problem hasn’t actually been as much mental as it’s been a matter of an angry heart, unhappy about how life was going. In this case, where the parents have had very little communication with their son for years besides matters involving physical things, suddenly they’ve had intense, long and sincere talks that have ended in their son asking if he could hug his dad, something that was just unthinkable for years.

So for me I’m just blown away by all this as these friends have been worn down by the burden and grind that this has all been for a long time now. I and others are praying that this miracle will be every bit as much as it seems to be and that there’ll be a real consolidation of this marvelous breakthrough.

As someone has said, “When the heart’s right, all is right.” Many of the mannerisms that have been normal for so long evidently have virtually vanished overnight. This absolutely miraculous regeneration in this young man’s heart, to have the grace to see what part he has played in it all and to sincerely want to change and amend his ways, seems to be a mighty act of God’s grace and mercy on this dear family.

So I just wanted to let you know the good news, how that God and Jesus are still working deeply in the lives of people today , doing the humanly impossible, answering prayer and healing souls and hearts in our days and times, every bit as much as we’ve read about in His Word that was done in past. Oh, happy day!

 

Living by faith that God will supply all your needs

For those serving the Lord in mission work, you sometimes hear them speak of “living by faith.” This usually has an economic meaning. The Scriptural principle behind it is that if you’re “seeking first the Kingdom of God” as Jesus said, then “all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) Another well known verse that’s claimed by those who live by faith is what Paul said, “But my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

As you might figure, it can be a controversial doctrine. Some would say, “But what if everyone did that?!” Others will quote Paul who said, “Those who shall not work shall not eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10) And it should go without saying that “living by faith” and serving God, seeking first the Kingdom of God, in no way implies any lack of work. It’s just that it’s work like you see in the four Gospels and the book of Acts. Folks who take this direction have verses that become much more alive to them than when they didn’t live by faith before.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) Those living by faith and serving the Lord feel they’ve come to a full-time service for the Lord which has delivered them from daily serving mammon and the systems of this world.

Is all this mandatory? Will a person go to hell if they’re not living by faith, fully serving the Lord? No. But a deeper look at the New Testament does pretty clearly show that this was the nature of the lives of the early apostles and disciples of Jesus. Let’s face it; so much of our lives is described in what Jesus said,

Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what you shall eat; neither for the body, what you shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment…  …If then God so clothes the grass, which is to day in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith? And seek not you what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, neither be of a doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after and your Father knows that you have need of these things.” (Luke 12:22-30)

Such famous, familiar words from the Lord. But how much they’ve been glossed over and set aside by so many believers as having no real message, meaning or promise to us practically in the real world of this day.

But when you’re “living by faith” on the mission field and all you have is the Lord (since you’ve gone into all the world and win souls), you very much see the promises and provision of God utterly come through for you, even in some of the strangest and most trying times. I wrote about one experience like that which my former wife and I had in Sweden when we first got married . You can read about that in “Foolhardy Faith”, an amazing time of miraculous provision, here.

“Well, Mark, that’s great but it’s not for me. And not for most of us, as you surely know. I need to have a normal job and a normal life like the rest of society. I’m a Christian, I go to church. But all this fanatical missionary stuff is just too far out.”

What I’ve found is that God has ways of sifting His people. He’s not trying to be mean to us. It’s just that we have more safety, security and even provision as well as meaning and happiness in serving Him, even full time, than we do in having a worldly job six days a week and then going to church on Sunday. Admitted, this is the way virtually all Christians live in these times.

Another simple thing Jesus said about this which is so often overlooked is “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust do corrupt and thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth or rust corrupt or thieves break through and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-20) Heard all that before? Certainly. But how many understand it or take it to heart and try to put it into practice.

To end with, here’s some good news. In the final days before the Lord’s return, we’re not really going to be able to serve Mammon the way most Christians do now. The Bible says that “no man will be able to buy or sell” (Revelation 13:17) unless they have the mark of the Beast of the final Anti-Christ government. The sifting will be pretty strong then.

Christians, if they want to remain Christians, will have to trust God then and probably even be serving the Lord much more than they do now. And their economics? God’s got that covered then, just as He already does now. Revelation 12:6 & 14 speaks of the believers of those times, “The woman [the believing body of Christ on earth, the bride of Christ] fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there [3 ½ years] from the face of the serpent.In the end, before the Lord’s return, there’ll be a sifted, separated, fruit-bearing body of believers throughout the earth, living by faith and trusting Him to supply all their needs.

Conquering

ConqueringThat word probably leaves a funny taste in the mouth for most of us 21st century folks.  “Conquering” sounds like the war-mongering, triumphalist people we just don’t like or want to be. We’re mostly the peace loving, “can’t-we-get-along” types. But that’s where those of us who believe in God would do well to remember that we need to not look to our personal preferences or the currently most accepted view of “right and wrong”.

As much as we peace-loving people would like it if the whole world was just like us, reality has a way of jumping up and biting us in the butt from time to time. Like King David said, “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalms 120:7). The same King David prayed to God, “Scatter the people that delight in war.” (Psalm 68:30) It’s a sad, reluctant realization that war is an integral part of the reality we now live in. In the golden age of peace that will come with the return of Jesus, “They shall beat their sword into plow shares. Neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isiah 2:4) But we’re not there yet; far from it.

We desire peace, long for it and don’t naturally incline to war (many of us anyway). But we can’t get away from the Scriptural injunction that is part of the definition of the times and age we live in, that we should “war a good warfare” (I Timothy 1:18). Paul said, “No man that wars, entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who has called him to be a soldier.” (II Timothy 2:4)

Persecution picture-flattenedReluctantly, we have to admit that we’re called to be soldiers. We may be peacemakers and that’s our desire. But we face an Enemy who wants to defeat us. And we face continually our Enemy’s forces and loyalists who defy and mock our Commander and who want to destroy our faith.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it wasn’t that way? Yes, it would be nice. But we can’t just sit around and “imagine”.  We have to be realists. Our dear Lord Jesus is the future ruler of this earth, physically. He told us “I will come again.” (John 14:3). Daniel told us in that most simple first chapter of his prophecies that Jesus’ Kingdom to come will “break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms” and nations of this earth that His Kingdom will replace at His coming. (Daniel 2:44)

We must conclude that to conquer is part of the calling we have when He told us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) If we are to “win souls” (Proverbs 11:30), who are we to win them from? The answer is clear: they’re to be won from the powers of Darkness that rule this earth right now. Paul said that God, “has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” (Collossians 1:13)

Jesus conquered. Maybe He used me or you as his tool or instrument to help “win a soul” for Him. The forces of darkness were defeated. A battle took place. If you’ve ever been involved in personal witnessing and winning souls, you know how totally real that can be. It’s often an incredible fight and you can sometimes almost literally know, see and contend with dark forces that hold people in a grip of unbelief and pride, restraining them from reaching out to receive the new life Christ offers. And, lest there be any room for misunderstanding, how do we conquer? How do we win? Through love, like our Commander did.

jesus on horseRevelation chapter 6 talks about a rider with a crown on a white horse who “goes forth conquering and to conquer.” (Revelation 6:2)  In our times, modern church scholars have somehow attributed this figure to be a picture of the Satanic Antichrist of the endtime. But from the Early Church up till modern times, this figure on the white horse in Revelation 6 was always considered to be Jesus of Nazareth. The forces of God from the first century till now have followed Him into all nations, winning through His leadership the lost souls of this earth, gathering them into His eternal fold and contending with the devil and the forces of darkness who now hold sway over the nations.

We’re to be conquerors with Him. He defeated death on the cross of Calvary. He is the risen Savoir, the mighty Conqueror who now leads the forces of His saved ones, through the Holy Spirit, in this time of battle for the hearts and souls of the people of the earth. We’ve already passed the point in time which He spoke of when He said “This gospel shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14) That’s already happened over the last 100 to 150 years.

Soon the crowned Rider on the white horse that we see at the beginning of the Christian era in Revelation 6 will become the visible Lord from heaven in Revelation 19, leading the forces of heaven in a reconquering of the earth as He retakes this world from the clutches of the Devil and we experience the first days of His Kingdom come on earth.

We are sheep. And He has said He is our Shepherd. But we look forward to the Lion of Judah, the conquering King of Kings who will lead us as conquerors with Him in His soon return. In the meantime, we need to remember that we are, perhaps even reluctantly, called to be conquerors, fighters and triumphant (but still meek and humble) fighters with Him at this time. “The meek shall inherit the earth, and delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psalms 37:11)

Rampant, predatory males

There’s a lot in the news about predatory males and a culture of rape. Doubtless, this is real but it’s hardly even news until some big shot really gets caught with his pants down. ( 🙂 ) But, you’re right, it’s no laughing matter at all. Cyberspace is abuzz with discussions about what can be done and who is to blame. I read an article in the New York Times that actually it’s just all men who are to be blamed; all of them are like that.

Well, this can get pretty wild, discouraging and extreme real fast. Again, there’s no doubt that this is a problem, there’s no doubt that countless people have been more than just hurt. They’ve been damaged, they have been ravaged not just in their bodies but in their souls and virtually irreparably messed up. And, as some bring out, it’s not just men doing this to women. Men, some at least, sexually attack other men also.

“Oh Mark, nice people don’t talk about things like this! You shouldn’t even be writing about things like this!” Well, it’s very real, very timely and it’s like one of the many onslaughts of the devil that engulfs our present world. Calls are ringing out for change. Guilt is being liberally apportioned and abundant shaming of males is the order of the day.

But, honestly, do you think it will change anything? I sort of don’t think so. Greater hate and division in society will likely come of it but positive change? I don’t think so. But let’s look at two factors in this. First, the man who’s so much in the news now had the job of being virtually the high priest of Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and the abominations of the earth” (Revelation 17:5), as Revelation 17 and 18 say in the last book in the Bible. The modern American “entertainment industry” is the epicenter of satanic filth and immorality that was predicted in Revelation. It says there, “all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich through the abundance of her delicacies.” (Revelation 18:3)

American “entertainment” has permeated all nations with its evil, Godless, satanic “wine of the wrath of her fornication.” So it almost goes without saying that one of the men who was at the pinnacle of the entertainment industry would have the nature that this man has had, a heartless, marauding, animal-like sexual predator. The Bible talks about “men of the world, who have their portion in this life.” (Psalm 17:14) And there are plenty like that in every field.

Satan showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And Satan said to Jesus, ‘All this power I will give you for it is mine. If you will worship me, all shall be yours’”. (Luke 4: 5 & 6) Thankfully our dear Lord and King rebuked the devil at that offer. But there are plenty of folks around who’ve taken that offer with glee. The devil has given them all this world has to offer and they’ve served the pleasure of Satan in return. The “casting couch” has been a known part of the Hollywood path to stardom for many decades. Why anyone is surprised about any of this is itself a surprise.

But is there any solution? First you have to get to the root of the problem. And as I wrote in “What is Sin?“, basically no one will go there. Because the problem (I know some of you will hate it when I say this) is sin. It’s not males. It’s not sex. It’s sin in the heart. Without the regenerative salvation of Jesus Christ, coming into our hearts to save us from our sins and our powerful sinful nature, it can be said that any one of us are capable of almost any kind of horrendous sin. It’s like Tennessee Ernie Ford used to sing, “If the right one don’t get you, the left one will.” If your sex urge doesn’t get you, gluttony will. If gluttony doesn’t get you, violence will. If violence doesn’t get you, depression or drugs will. And on and on it goes.

Jesus said of the last days before His return, that  “men’s hearts failing them for fear” would be one of the signs of those times. But, more on our subject, He also said of the Last Days, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12) Natural God-given human love between a man and woman is waning as demonic interactions abound. Or like Paul said about the Last Days that people would be “without natural affection”. (II Timothy 3:3) People need warm, loving, “natural affection”. They need love, even the Godly, wonderful love between a man and woman.

So, again, is there solution? Probably not one that most people will recognize and accept. The only way to empower men to bring their bodies and desires into subjection is through the power of “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”  (Colossians 1:27) That’s the only thing that ever gave me the power over the sins that were destroying me. I hope you have that saving power through Jesus. Then you “can do all things through Christ which strengthens you” (Philippians 4:13), including becoming a loving, mature, carrying man who can truly find and love the woman of your dreams, who God prepared for you. That’s the only hope. Jesus saves.