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.

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)

“Mark, you said sadness is a sin?”

I recently started a blog post by saying that sadness is a sin. I got a couple of responses from two friends who disagreed with me. Actually most seemed to agree with the post but these two friends brought up some points. So perhaps others felt the same. For one, I hope that they didn’t only read the first line. Here’s the blog post I wrote on “Sadness.

I’ve thought about what I wrote and I do feel that I believe it to be true. As I wrote in the article, I fight and pray against sadness every day. I’ve had a very blessed life but there are also things that have happened, prayers that have not been answered up till now and just things that I won’t go into here.

Actually, sadness is sort of a big word, a little like “love”. You can love your car, your dog, your sports team, your country or perhaps your Lord and God. But in English it just all boils down to that simple little word, love. So often “love” needs to be understood within the context and sometimes explained. I think it’s the same with sadness.

I made it clear in the blog post I wrote that I was not just making some sweeping, blanket statement that all sadness is sin. That certainly cannot be supported by Scripture and it’s just not true. But I’ve found in these things that at times we press the limits of how much language can work for us. Have you ever tried to say something that there’s just not words for? Maybe with someone you love deeply, it seems that the language just isn’t full and complete enough to match what you’re trying to say?

So it is with sadness. I went on in the article to explain that senseless sadness, Godless sadness, destructive sadness, empty sadness are the things that often try to befriend us and become our constant companions. I’ve had several people write me to say that they had never had someone understand this the way they read it in the blog post and they were glad to have it explained.

Godly sorrow works repentance to salvation, not to be repented of” (II Corinthians 7:10), and I brought up this side of things that “Godly sorrow” is similar to pointless sadness, only it’s not pointless. So, all in all, there are times where we just need to have a greater discerning of things, of what is facing us and what is trying to take root in our hearts. Is it from God and working a good work in us? Or not?

I just yesterday heard of an incredible story of some dears friends who had a loved one come to their room and breakdown in tears, apologizing for the extremely rough time they’d been going through because of the harshness and unloving attitude that this one had displayed towards them for a long time. There was real remorse, real sorry and sadness that there had been such divisions and acrimony for so long. So there was sadness, but it wasn’t pointless, empty, destructive sadness.

As Paul said of one situation he knew of with the Corinthians in II Corinthians 2 of someone who had a mighty repentance and change but also great sadness and remorse was also involved. He told the Corinthians they ought to “forgive and comfort him lest he be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow”, going on to bring in what often happens in these things, “lest Satan get an advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (II Corinthians 2:7 & 11)

As Paul alludes to here, Satan just loves to pile on us when we are down and sadness is one of his favorite tools. Like I wrote about in “Conviction or Condemnation”, the devil will stop at nothing to destroy us and if he can’t get us lifted up in pride, then he tries to keep us in perpetual defeat through condemnation or maybe what could be called “condemnation-lite”, that pointless destructive sadness that we’re talking about.

So I will stick to my guns when saying that sadness is, or certainly can be, a sin. No, not every single time anyone is sad is that sin. But it’s probably good to really take a closer look at it to see what kind of sadness it is. Some of them really aren’t your friend or are good for you.

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.

Sadness

Sadness is one of the greatest of sins. It turns us from the heavenly vision and contradicts the promises of God. Hardly anything so strips us from the power of God as does sadness. Yet it seems so reasonable, so “normal”, so acceptable. Maybe that’s why it so successfully defeats so many of the people of God.

I pray hard against sadness every day. The Bible talks about “the sins that do so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12:1); well sadness just wants to keep me as its friend forever, if I will. Maybe you had a friend when you were a kid, someone in your neighborhood you hung out with. Seemed like a nice guy and you had fun together. But as you got older, that fellow began to get worse and worse. Started fights, did petty crime at the shopping center and began to get into drinking, drugs and wild parties. That’s how sadness can be. It seems almost innocent at first. “Just feeling a little sad”, you say. But then if you stay in that state, along comes other similar feelings and it just gets worse and worse.

But for Christians, we are just not supposed to allow that, any more than we would the more well known and recognizable sins. This isn’t just about being cheerful and staying upbeat. This is about the fundamentals of obeying God and “walking in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Jesus said, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” (John 13:17) Back in the Old Testament, Nehemiah told the Jews who’d come back to rebuild Jerusalem, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b).

But, boy, the devil tries to fight that. And of course it isn’t always even the devil that prompts you to be sad. Our own natural human nature is prone to all kinds of things that are just how things are in this world. But for a child of God, we are no longer under the control of this world and its darkened tendencies. Paul said that we are “set down in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6)  If you’re a saved, born again Christian, then Christ dwells in your heart right now. You have heaven in your heart right now and the truths, influences, reality and essences of heaven are already very firmly the reality you live in. King David said to God in Psalm 16:10, “In Your presence is fullness of joy and at Your right hand are pleasures for ever more.” Not empty, hopeless sadness.

Senseless sadness is not part of the reality of heaven.God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17) We are to “rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.” (I Peter 1:8) And yet, still, sadness is so often and so easily with us. If someone offered us drugs or wanted to get us to commit illicit sex, my how we’d stand up against that! But sadness? We can almost look at it like an old friend, if we don’t watch out. Like the famous song by Simon and Garfunkel with the opening words, “Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk to you again…” Well, I’ll tell you, darkness better not be your friend.

OK, is there any balance due here? Sometimes we feel what the Bible calls “contrite”. (Psalm 51:17) We are sorry for our sins, for our foolishness and that brings us to what looks very much like sadness. But here’s a very significant verse about that which I hope you’ll take note of. II Corinthians 7:10 says, “For Godly sorrow works repentance to salvation, not to be repented of. But the sorrow of the world works death.” Such light from the Word of God there. Two kinds of sorrow and it could be said, two kinds of sadness. Is your sadness or sorrow one that works repentance in you to salvation? You are sad at your foolish mistakes and you, in your contrition and repentance, strive all the more to walk in the Spirit and to follow the Lord more closely?

Or do you have “the sorrow of the world” which works death? That’s why when folks talk about the gift of discerning of spirits, I always figure the greatest discerning of spirits is to discern your own spirit. Jesus said to His disciples, “You know not what manner of spirit you are of.” (Luke 9:55) Well, sadness can be one of the most unhealthy and even contagious atmospheres that you can entertain. Like that old friend from childhood that you finally had to distance yourself from, sadness needs to be recognized for what it is and to be fought against as soon as it raises its deceitful head.

What do you do about Godless sadness? First, recognize that it’s not your friend. Not reasonable or acceptable or deserved or inevitable. It’s a subtle, dangerous enemy that needs to have the light of the Word of God and Spirit of God shined on it. Why are you sad? Did something happen? Someone said something that caused this? Even, did the Lord just point out something that you need to change in?

I wrote about that in “Conviction or Condemnation”. If the Lord is convicting you and you feel contrite, that’s where you may be feeling “Godly sorrow”. Or did the Devil try to bring you into condemnation? Was it just an old impulse that’s been a part of your nature all your life? Whatever its source and reason, Godless sadness is dangerous to your heart and is not in the least one of the fruits of the Spirit.

Sing a song, quote a verse or Psalm from the Bible, praise God with your voice or if nothing else, start thanking the Lord for all His goodness to you. Plainly put, the Bible says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) And, yes, sadness can often be straight from the devil.

Otherwise that seemingly innocent little sadness, if left to fester in your heart and mind, will take you down the path of hell and get you utterly defeated and out of the will of God. Don’t let it happen. Recognize it as soon as it raises its hellish head. Resist it, turn from it, go the other direction, stand on His promises and fight the good fight of faith. “Be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Does God use organizations? Or individuals?

Ever wondered how God works best, with a group of organized individuals? Or with individuals alone? It does kind of mater. Should we endeavor to find a group of like-minded folks who share the same vision, goals and understanding of the Lord as we have? Or should we concentrate on our personal relationship with the Lord and just follow as best we can the Word and the directing of God’s Spirit?

Of course the best way to find the answer to this is to look to God’s Word. But the answer that comes back may not be conclusively for one side or the other. If you were to say that God blesses and usually wants us to work within some larger organized structure, you could use the example of Israel of old and how He raised them up and blessed them as a nation for centuries. It was their unity, their cohesion and their subjection to His laws and prophets that made them what they were. Or in some cases what they were not. “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall you established; believe His prophets, so shall you prosper.” (II Chronicles 20:20)

But there were times when this wasn’t the way the Lord blessed or delivered His people. The Lord raised up the shepherd boy David, virtually a child, to deliver Israel from Goliath and the Philistines in his day. Before that, Saul’s son Jonathan famously said, “God is not limited by many or by few” (I Samuel 14:6) and then he and his armor bearer routed the Philistines and turned the tide of battle when the larger army and forces of Israel were bottled up and tied down.

“Mark, you’re wrong. God prefers organizations and the safety of the flock.”

Yeah, sometimes He does work that way. But equally, some have traded their insecure liberty in following God individually for safety and security but ultimately bondage in Christian organizations that stopped truly follow God generations ago.

It looks like you can’t make a really solid case that God only works one of these ways or the other. But what about in Christian times? Was the Early Church a highly organized, structured, top-down outfit, demanding subjugation and dominion over all the multitudes who came to Christ in the first century?

Well, back at the time of the Early Church, they did have some organization and they did try to shepherd and feed the tremendous wave of people who kept coming to the Lord from all over the known world of that time. But it was centuries before there was the kind of stultifying, soul-quenching “organization” that the Catholic Church, as well as the various Orthodox churches, came to be by the time of the so-called Dark Ages.

Maybe it’s just because there are so many kinds of people. Some, perhaps the majority, are more followers than they are pioneers and spirit-led disciples who can really forge ahead on their own. Admittedly, not everyone is going to turn out like the Apostle Paul or some of the famous missionaries and pioneers of history who just couldn’t be tied down in some daily routine that was supposed to be the fulfillment of their obligations to the Lord’s call to discipleship.

But maybe we should note that the Lord did call individuals to personal discipleship and to even leave behind their present life to be “fishers of men”. (Matthew 4:19) He said we should pray to the Father that He would “send forth laborers into the harvest” (Matthew 9:38). Is that best done on a huge scale with much leadership attention to detail, where the laborers need to constantly be checking back with headquarters far away to make sure every move they make is ok with the council of the elders? Or is it best portrayed by Spirit-filled and called individuals who go out, even “not knowing whether they went”? (Hebrews 11:8) I suggest, and I’ve experienced, that this second mode seems to work better, even though it’s rarer and some folks just think it’s almost dangerous.

“How can we just let these individuals out there to roam around, saying whatever they will and with no accountability to anyone?!”

But if you look at the record of God’s Word, as well as Jewish and Christian history, some of the greatest things God ever did, some of the greatest works He ever started were where there was no controlling head but God , no organization but that supplied by the Holy Spirit, no directors or direction except His Word and the leading voice and presence of the Lord.

Sometimes, alone and outnumbered, people of God have had to utterly depend on Him for support, direction, inspiration and just the whole caboodle. But the Lord came through wonderfully time and again. Isn’t that what happened with Noah? With Abraham? With the Apostle Paul and the pioneers of the Early Church? In some situations that might seem weak and unorganized by man, God had some of His mightiest works done through His frail but yielded individuals. I might add that ones like Saint Patrick and many of the highly effective early Celtic Christian apostles were like this. Could we add ones like Dr. Livingstone and Florence Nightingale to this list?

And is there a reason I’m even writing this? Perhaps because in my own life I’ve come to feel that at times when I had no one but God to lean on and direct me, that at those times some of the most amazing things happen. So if you’re feeling quenched and subdued in some kind of Christian organization that is supplying your need for fellowship but is slowly sapping your faith, fire and initiative, perhaps you might find greater blessings in simply doing and living the truth you know in your heart that you realize your religious organization is just not following. Perhaps you need to follow God into greater fruitfulness, greater faith and a closer relationship to Him as you follow and obey the Lord, where so often modern Christian organizations just won’t be taking or directing you.