Smart

smartSome people are just smart. They really are. You can feel it from the way they talk and communicate. Maybe they’ve been to school a lot or maybe they are self taught. But you just hear all that erudition, all that knowledge, all that evident enlightenment every time they speak.

But sometimes there’s a problem with that. Some very smart folks have a real hard time listening to or learning from others. They just don’t think they need to. Since they know they are smarter almost always than everyone else around them, they just inherently feel that they have little or nothing to gain from listening to the counsel or ideas of others. So, inadvertently, they actually become sort of dumb in a very important area of life.

The apostle Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up.” (I Corinthians 8:1) There’s just so much more to life than having a lot of knowledge and a sharp, clear mind. In fact, a sharp, clear, intelligent mind can really act as a hindrance to you and keep you from a whole bunch of things that are better than being real smart. Like friendship, for example.

yes I know flatHave you ever had a friend and anytime you say something to that person, they retort with something that makes you feel that they already total know what you are saying, a lot better than you do? So you come away feeling put down and belittled because your friend is just so smart and on top of it? That’s one of the ways that smart can actually be dumb.

Is there any hope for a condition like this? Well, yes. Actually, all this is a little autobiographical here. Some people have said they think I’m smart but actually I came to learn that I’m really dumb. My smarts didn’t help me when the chips were down and the serious issues of life I was facing were not being figured out by my supposedly smart brain. So I learned by very hard experience that I wasn’t as smart as I might have thought and that there were worlds of things I was dumb as a rock about.chosen the foolish flat

Again quoting the apostle Paul, he had some very profound things to say to the erudite but babbling babes in Christ, the Corinthian church. He said to them, “You see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” (I Corinthians 1:26 & 27) Speaking in another place of his own background of intelligence and the higher social standing he came from, Paul said, “Those things that were gain for me were loss for Christ.

In fact, great intelligence or other natural abilities at times can virtually be, in the Lord’s service, a handicap. When you are so smart, or rich, or beautiful, or handsome, or capable, you’re so much more prone to pride, self-righteousness and a cold independence that makes you difficult to be around or to work with others unless you personally are in charge and telling everyone what to do.

Well, thank God, “They that walk in pride He is able to abase.” (Daniel 4:37) talk went well flatFor any of us who may have natural talents or abilities in any area, it strongly behooves us to not get lifted up in pride about it so that our abilities actually become handicaps when it comes to our relationship with the Lord and others.

Of course it’s not hopeless. There are plenty of gifted, intelligent, beautiful folks around who have learned that the smartest thing to do is to know that they are nothing without the Lord and that they have to continually throw themselves on the mercies of God if they’re going to be a success in any way or get along with their friends and family. When you are going that direction, then you begin to become really smart in the things of the Lord, not just in your worldly intelligence and intellect.

If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any many loves God, the same is known of Him.” (I Corinthians 8:2&3) How often I have clung to those verses. The smartest thing you can do is to love God and others.Without me you can do nothing,” Jesus said (John 15:5). Nothing good, that’s for sure.

So, smart or dumb, we all need to cling to the Lord and ask Him for guidance, wisdom from above, and the blessed fruits of the Spirit which so far surpass our snappy intelligence. That’s what we really need, “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:17 & 18)

good people nice flatIt reminds me of what the little girl prayed one time, “Dear God, please make all the bad people good. And all the good people nice.” You may be good. Or smart. But without the Lord being able to be above and more than your intelligence or goodness, you may sadly often turn out to not be a very nice person. Lord help us all.

They that walk in pride…

Nebuchadnezar for blog postNebuchadnezzar must have been an amazing person. It seems like the fourth chapter of the book of Daniel was basically written by him. It’s an incredible story of how this virtual “ruler of the world” at that time essential went crazy for 7 years but then came back to his senses through the allowance of God. But it all came down to what evidently was his besetting sin: pride. Perhaps the most stirring verse in the chapter ends with Nebuchadnezzar speaking about the God of Daniel and saying of Him, “…they that walk in pride He is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:37)

If you are familiar with the God of Abraham, then you’ll know that there just isn’t much of anything good that He’s said about pride. Someone challenged me one time to find even one verse in the entire Bible, Old Testament or New, that had anything good to say about pride. Think about that.

Here in America you see a lot of bumper stickers on the back of cars and a very popular one a few years ago simply said, “The power of pride”. I really thought about that. Being a Christian, and living in a traditionally Christian nation, “it gave me pause”, as they say. Because, pride is considered a sin. The power of pride-flattenedBut on bumper stickers all over America it was being extolled as a virtue. Something’s wrong with this picture. Did you ever see a bumper sticker that said, “The power of humility”? No? Me neither.

Well,” you say, why does it matter? Everyone’s proud. It feels good to be proud! If folks aren’t proud, they’ll get discouraged and feel bad about themselves.

Hmm. As often happens, it’s so easy to leave the Lord out of the picture. It’s one thing if agnostics and unbelievers do that. Certainly in a worldly sense, in the ways of this world as it is now, pride is king. But not if you believe in God. And that’s supposed to really make a difference.

But what about pride? Don’t we all need pride? If you don’t know the Lord, if you don’t have faith in God, probably all you have left is faith in yourself, or your country, or your job or car or… And you want to feel proud about them, right? But knowing the Lord and realizing there is a God has (or should have) an incredible transforming effect. It humbles you. But in a constructive and good way, not in a destructive, humiliating way. But in a way that sets things right and changes our hearts from being insecure, war-like, hardened animals into what God intended us to be: humble, loving, friendly, kind human beings.

But some would vehemently say,Oh, Mark! It’s not that easy! I know lots of people who believe in God and they are just as proud and cruel as can be!

New Humility picture-flattenedYou may be right. But for me personally, and many thousands of people I know or who I’ve read about, there was a unique transforming experience that came when I realized and accepted that the God of Abraham is real, cares about us and can change our pitiful nature, remaking it into something we ourselves could never be: warm, real, truthful, loving, humble human beings. It seems like that’s what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. And even king David.

But you might say, Nah, I don’t believe that! Pride is good! Pride motivates me. I depend on it every day.

If you don’t believe in God (and that’s how I used to be) then I can understand that. It’s how most people are. But if you do know that God is real, let’s check out a few things it says in the Bible. The apostle Peter said, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:5). Solomon said, “Only by pride comes arguments” (Proverbs 13:10) and “Pride precedes destruction and an arrogant spirit appears before a fall ” (Proverbs 16:18).  And if you are a person that believes in the prophetic future revealed in Scripture, one of the greatest characteristics of the Satanic Antichrist to come seems to be his overweening pride.

little in your own sight flatMaybe it helps to use words like that, “arrogance” or “haughtiness”, rather than pride. Many people will agree that arrogance and haughtiness are not so good. However, they’re still comfortable with pride. But again, just see if you can find any place where pride pays when it comes to our relationship with God. Jesus said of Himself that He was “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:30) and it was said of Moses in the Old Testament that he was “the meekest of all men.” (Numbers 12:3).

All this works on a micro or macro level. If an individual or a nation cultivates a humble spirit before God and others, they just seem to draw down the blessings of God. The prophet Samuel told Israel’s first king, Saul, saul & Samuel 4 blog postWhen you were little in your own sight, God made you king over Israel.” (I Samuel 15:17) And there was a time in his early days when king Saul received the blessings of God. But when he became proud and depending on his own sense of righteousness, he lost his kingdom to a more humble man, King David.

So, it’s a choice, isn’t it? Pride? Or humility. If you believe in God, the answer could hardly be clearer and the warnings any more stark. It’s a little scary to be where the sin of pride is so clearly acclaimed. God helping me, I really feel I don’t want to have any part of that.

Drawing circles

FriendlyI don’t know about you but some of the times I’ve felt the most hurt in my life have been when I’ve felt rejected and not welcomed in the fellowship of others. Conversely, some of the most encouraging and heartfelt moments have been when others opened their arms and lives to invite me and include me within their circle of fellowship.

It’s like something I heard one time that went something like, “He drew a circle that left me out. But love and I had a wit to win. I drew a circle that drew him in.” Maybe you could say I’m immature or there’s something that got mixed up early in my life that has made me that way. But that time when you feel rejected, not wanted, not included, ostracized from the ones you wish to be with, it can be an extremely disheartening time.

Thank God I found Him and Jesus so many years ago and of course They don’t do that to us. He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) On the other hand, like the Bible says of some people, “Your sins have separated you from your God.” (Isaiah 59:2) But that’s a different story. Because “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7) Nevertheless, loneliness, feeling left out and actually being left out are still at times very real realities for many people, even people of faith.

Love is flatSo for me, one of the very greatest manifestations of God is the true warmth, genuine loving inclusion and sincere human love that He can put in the hearts of His people. Sadly, it’s not always there but then sometimes it is. You can just feel it. They don’t only “love you” in an officially required Christian sense; they actually like you and want to hang around with you and include you in what they do. All the spirituality in the world won’t replace genuine Christian warmth and inclusiveness. And so often that manifestation of love is what people need and respond to more than anything else.

I love God’s Word, I’m keenly interested in Bible Prophecy, I believing in serving the Lord in this world. But some of the things I’ve treasured the most have been brethren who drew a circle that counted me in. You’d think that would be how it would be all the time but of course it’s just not, for some reason or the other.

People are busy. People are carrying their own burdens. I hate to say it but it can somehow even happen that some of us can not like others of us. Maybe it’s a personality thing, maybe there’s some little quirk we see in others, maybe we heard something through the grapevine about someone else that has turned us off to them. Lord help us.

freedom fellowship flatWhat everybody needs is love. Some people are surrounded by a big family and have lots of loved ones and relatives nearby. Others for one reason or the other are more or less on their own. But everybody needs to be loved and of course everyone needs to love. And you can just feel it, one way or the other. Being a Christian and being part of the flock of God should make it much more possible and likely that you are loved and can feel the warmth, inclusion and camaraderie that almost everyone needs.

I know this isn’t the kind of thing I usually write about but it’s still at the basis of the teachings of Jesus. “This is my commandment, that you love one another.” (John 15:12)  “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35) But Jesus spoke about the last days before His return saying, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.”  (Matthew 24:12) Perhaps that’s referring to the times we now live in. Travel and knowledge have certainly increased, as the angel told Daniel would be one of the signs of the last days. (See Daniel 12:4) But the coldness, loneliness, exclusion and hard-heartedness of the endtime are also very prevalent in so many places.

friend no more flatSo for those who are active in trying to expose the New World Order and all the works of the enemy and darkness in these endtimes, it would also be good to remember that a loveless, friendless barrenness is also a manifestation of the endtimes. We need to do all we can to expose and counteract that, just as much if not more than all our exposé of false systems and governmental intrigues that take so much of our attention.

dont deserve this-flattenedMaybe it helps to talk about this. Maybe it helps to remember, in all our commitment to serve the Lord and to win others to Him that part of our greatest witness, as well as the greatest commandment, and our own greatest need often is to love and to be loved, to feel that a circle has been drawn that has included you. Or that you are drawing circles that include the ones on the outside looking in, the ones who don’t have others in their lives and may die today for lack of friends and fellowship. Let’s all be on guard against not opening our hearts and lives to those around us who may be perishing today for lack of love and friendship. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Is God like Helium? Or Hydrogen?

colored ballonsI was talking with someone about the many crises the world is in now. We agreed on a lot about the dire straits that are these times and the likely increase in the dangers soon to come politically and environmentally. But as the conversation got gloomier and more forebodingly hopeless, I spoke up to say that I see a time when God Himself will have to step in to rescue humanity from taking things right over the precipice.

But the one I was speaking with said that, while they weren’t an atheist, they didn’t believe that God could or would do anything like that. God in their view is a rather distant, aloof, somewhat inert and unknowable entity, dwelling we know not where. I’ve been told it’s incorrect to say “He” about God in some parts of the world. So “It” is just not in the picture when it comes to things, people and problems on this earth. It’s just up to us. God doesn’t get involved. God doesn’t give a damn and couldn’t care less, I guess would be the view. Or perhaps His hands are tied.

I said that my personal experience had really been contrary to that. I’d held that view before and actually took it a step further to say, back in my teenage years, that there was undoubtedly no God at all. But life proved me wrong. It wasn’t something I learned in church or even from others since I was so sure I was right, god of the universeI wouldn’t begin to listen to anyone about this. However, as it turned out, I found that there is “Something”. And I found that it was the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham. Months later I found that Jesus was sent to earth by God to redeem us and save us, just as the Bible explains.

So my experience has shown me that God is not inert, untouchable and unknowable, unable to interact with this world. God’s not like Helium, He’s like Hydrogen. Those two invisible gases are right next to each other on the periodic table of the basic elements. Hydrogen is number 1 because it has one electron in its outer shell. But Helium has two electrons in its outer shell so it is complete and pretty much can’t and doesn’t interact with anything else.

h2oBut Hydrogen? It interacts with just about everything. Take water, if you will. What is water but a lonely Oxygen atom with 6 electrons in its outer shell and thus having room for two mates to drop by and join up? So along come two Hydrogen atoms to connect up with the oxygen and … voilà! You’ve got water! Hydrogen does that kind of thing a lot.

And so does God. He (It) is like it says about Jesus, “going about everywhere doing good.” (Acts 10:38) God is not not like Helium: static, inert, aloof and unmoved. He’s like Hydrogen, going everywhere there’s a place for Him and where He is received. He’s “a very present help in the time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

So this concept of God as a smug little selfish Helium atom, just sticking with His own and not reacting to the rest of us is not how things really are. Maybe Helium atoms are like the Simon and Garfunkel song that said, “I touch no one and no one touches me.” But not Hydrogen. And not God. The simplest of all elements, Hydrogen is just everywhere but always willing to get involved and join up to get things done and form molecules.

God in spaceAnd it’s been like that for a long time. God has had a plan all along and He’s been involved and active on this earth since way back when. It wasn’t only shown when finally He sent His own Son to be a manifestation of Himself to us here on earth. He’d already been speaking, acting, doing and intervening on the earth for thousands of years before that through the prophets and men of God whose lives He had touched.

So if you’ve somehow been caught up in this view that God (“if He is there at all” right?) is just sort of “the man in the moon”, a cold, distant and uncaring, inactive formula or equation out beyond the galaxies somewhere, then I’ve got news for you, if you will receive it. God’s not like Helium, He’s like Hydrogen.

God is present, interactive, interested, contactable and can change our lives, just like the Hydrogen changes the Oxygen when they hook up and become a whole new thing. And He’s not just a local phenomenon but He works on a global scale too. In fact He’s way out in front and knows what’s going to happen and is able to lead us and guide us and show us what to do, both individually and as societies and nations. Oh, that each of us, and this world we now live in, would open to Him to know Him better.

Trembling at the Word

trimble at Word flatAs many know, there’s just a lot more going on in this world than meets the eye. Forces, influences, impressions, nudges, just a cloud of unseen pressures and powers have sway over us in ways we often don’t even realize. One of those that perhaps very many don’t even know about is what is called “the Word of God”. By this I mean the Bible and what’s written there. I was thinking about this today and how powerfully it has fundamentally altered my life for good. Falling in love with the Bible has been perhaps one of the greatest factors in the life I’ve lived now for many years.

But it saddens me how very many people don’t have any idea of the healing, thrilling, creative, almost unimaginable effect the Bible can have on any individual. And the Bible itself says this in so many places. King David said, “The entrance of thy Words gives life, it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130) But somehow it can happen that people can read the Bible and they just don’t get it. That actually happened to me at the very beginning of my journey of faith. I read through the whole Bible and just got virtually nothing from it. I wrote about this is in “Isn’t God Enough?

Im fine flatAnd I’ll admit, I don’t totally know how this works. In one place the Bible says, “The Word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Hebrews 4:2) Maybe it’s like what Jesus said, “They that seek shall find.” (Matthew 7:8) Some people aren’t really seeking, they are satisfied with their life and the truths of the Bible just don’t appear to them as they’re not really looking for more or greater truth than they think they already have.

Martin LutherBut then some people are actually “born again” through the Word. The apostle Peter said, “being born again…by the Word of God which lives and abides forever.” (I Peter 1:23) If you know the life of Martin Luther, it was a conversion experience that happen to him while reading the Bible that was one of the most formative experiences in his life, specifically when the truth of Romans 1:17 dawned on him, “the just shall live by faith.

God told Isaiah one time, “But to this man will I look, even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My Word.” (Isaiah 66:2) Why would God want someone who trembles at His Word? Because He’s as monster on some vast power trip? No. Because He knows that the very best for any person is to recognize the unfathomable riches of His truth and the eternal certainty of His guidance.

But some people just don’t get it very much. I was with someone like that recently. They have had a good amount of time around people who are deeply and passionately into the study and living of God’s Word. Their friends talk about it, read it and try to live it in their lives to the utmost. But this person just doesn’t at this time find a great deal of interest in these things. They are fairly satisfied with their life as it is, their surroundings, culture and this present world. So they, I guess, must be hesitant to have the Word have more sway and power in their lives. Perhaps they recognize there’s a beckoning in the Word of God to not only listen to it but to obey it and follow it out of one’s present attachments and loyalties into a fuller experience of the Lord and His eternal certainties and instruction.

they that are whole flatBut knowing this person has had me pondering how this all works. Somewhere there has to be a spark and part of that I think it realizing one’s own lack, our weakness, our… I’ll use the word “sins”, our darkness as compared to the light of God and His Word. Jesus said, “They that are whole need not a physician but they that are sick.” (Luke 5:31) If we feel sufficient and satisfied with ourselves and our life as it is, it makes it less likely that we’ll look for something like the touch of God and His truth to bring light into our darkness.

But while there’s life, there’s hope. If ever someone was “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18), it was me as a teenager. But the Lord somehow was able to bring me to a place where I was able to receive all the truth that I was looking for but in all the wrong places. Maybe it’s even like the story I heard, almost a parable of popcorn.

popcorn 1When you make popcorn, you put the oil in the pot and heat it up. Then when the time is right you pour in the popcorn and start shaking it over the fire. At first one or two corns pop. Then soon a lot of them do. At the last there’s still a few that pop kind of late. And yes, a few just don’t pop. Maybe it’s like that with life and with trying to bring people to the Lord. You just have to keep shaking them and keep them over the fire. Or perhaps that’s what the Lord does with us.

popcorn 2And many of us do eventually pop. Like a popcorn, we suddenly pop and turn inside out, from a hardened little corn to a big white popcorn, to realize the potential that was there all the time. It has to be the Lord. Thank God for His patience to keep shaking us and even keeping the fire under our lives to help us to end up being what He knows we are meant to be.

So I need to have patience with this friend and pray that they will eventually get the point and see the wonders and convicting truth of God’s Word so that they can get the breakthrough and deliverance from the somewhat hard shell of their life right now. With enough heat, oil and shaking, the Lord can find a way to crack some of the hardest shells and out pops a “new creature in Christ Jesus”.

“With what body do they come?”

Jesus and ThomasA friend wrote me to ask, “Why is a resurrection necessary if those who died in Christ have already gone to be with the Lord?” So I wrote back, “The best answer I know of is that God’s plan is that we have new bodies like the Lord had after His resurrection. That’s what I Corinthians 15 is about.”

That may raise some big questions for some people. “New bodies?” “Jesus’ body after His resurrection?” Well, it’s all in the Bible. Many people have heard of “doubting Thomas.” What was he doubting? He was doubting the resurrection of Jesus and that the other apostles had seen Jesus literally, up close and personal, after He’d been crucified and buried.

But then what happened? The Bible says a few days later Jesus again appeared to His disciples, this time when Thomas was there. So Jesus told Thomas to “Reach here your hand and thrust it into my side [the wound He’d received from the soldier while He was on the cross] and be not faithless but believing.” (John 20:27)

On another occasion around the same time after Jesus’ resurrection, He told His disciples when He was visiting them. “Touch me and see for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see Me have.” (Luke 24:39) I know this can severely strain the brains of unbelievers and even those who are weak in faith. But this is what the Bible says so it might be good to look a little more at what all this means and signifies.

For one, the Bible clearly teaches that we, the saved believers, will have a body like Jesus at His coming. In I Corinthians 15:51 and 52, Paul said, “Behold, I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep [meaning die here] but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of the eye, at the last trumpet.” This is the 7th trumpet, spoken of in other places as the sign or signal of the return of Jesus bodily to this earth. The verse goes on to say, “For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Jesus after resurrectionThis is one of the best verses that touches on this subject of the eternal bodies we’ll receive at the return of Jesus, at the end of this age and the beginning of the Millennium. Just to throw in one more verse on this, Paul wrote to the Philippians about Jesus who would “change our vile body that it may be fashioned like to His glorious body…” (Philippians 3:21).

But what kind of bodies will they be? Here’s what John wrote in his old age to the church at that time. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2) We shall be like Him; we’ll have a similar-like physical existence to that which Jesus now has.

And what did Jesus say about His body? “A spirit has not flesh and bones as you see me have.” So it sounds pretty much like the body we have now. We have flesh and bones. But what does it seem Jesus didn’t have? Blood. Because “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). And also sin is in the blood.

jesus eats fishSo Jesus was able “to eat and drink, after that He rose from the dead.” (Acts 10:41) He asked His disciples as He was with them after His resurrection, “Have you any meat? And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and a honeycomb. And He took it and did eat before them.” (Luke 24:41-43) So it’s pretty clear that He wasn’t like some ethereal ghost or spirit but was a tangible living man, the Son of God, in His new body, like the one we will ultimately have.

But it must be that it will in some way really be sustained in a new way, utterly by the Spirit since it seems that blood may no longer be involved. He could appear and disappear, evidently pass through walls and finally ascend up into heaven. But He said of Himself that He still had flesh and bones and He could and did eat with them, even in this utterly new physical condition.

heaven on earthThis is fascinating for me. This is our ultimate destiny and destination, to still retain many of the attributes of the life we have now, but in a new, eternal, upgraded condition. We’ll be utterly changed but it won’t be all so different that we can’t understand it or work within it. The Corinthians had asked Paul about the resurrection and about “with what body do they come?” (I Corinthians 15:35), referring to the eternalized saints. I Corinthians 15 is a whole chapter on that subject. It’s just natural that we all are curious about some of these things and that we need and want some answers for it all to make sense. Wonderfully, it does. We’ve got a lot to look forward to.

Thimbles

thimblesYou don’t hear much about thimbles anymore. Possibly a lot of younger people don’t even know what one is. But thimbles came to mind tonight when I was thinking about how utterly vast is the Lord’s ocean of truth, revelation, beauty, His whole indescribable universe of the spiritual world He created and lives in, and our tiny capacity to receive and grasp any of it.

lightningOver the years, from time to time it’s happened that the Lord has brought light to my soul in one way or the other.  As wonderful as this world is, often we are just ensnared within the carnal and physical experiences we have, a kind of abiding darkness. But then at times we catch or are shown some brief glimpse of the eternity of the spiritual world that exists like a parallel universe to our own. I’ve heard someone say it’s like lightening lighting up a landscape on a dark night.

For me, those times when that happens are like if I could only just take a thimble worth of truth and light from His realm before my capacity to receive was reached. Just as if I ate one little cracker from the table of a great banquet and that was like all I could take. Still, it was incredibly satisfying and often those experiences have stayed within me as a tiny morsel of eternity. But I just couldn’t take very much in one helping. Funny how that is.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to start teaching the book of Daniel again in a live class setting. For me, that’s something I always enjoy tremendously. And this time it’s happened that I went further than I have in the video series I’ve done on that book. I’ve actually gone over the last 3 chapters in Daniel in a live class with dear friends who’ve really hungered to know more about it all. Here’s a link to the audio recording of the Daniel 10 class that was done in September of 2016,

And it was an opportunity to look again at the life and even the personality and character of Daniel, the prophet. Hopefully I’ll be able to “crack the whip” on myself, so to speak, and to make videos of the last three chapters in Daniel, to finish off the series. Please do pray that can happen as Daniel 10 through 12 are so important; so much so that Jesus Himself pointed to a verse there and specifically said to His disciples. “Whoso reads, let him understand”. (Matthew 24:15)

art for verse 18 on D8 blog post clippedBut in going over these chapters, I was struck again but what must have been Daniel’s incredible capacity to receive, way way more than my little thimble’s worth. I won’t go into it all here but, when Daniel was well into his 80’s, he received what evidently was the last major revelation of his life. It didn’t happen though until one or more angels had to almost literally prop up Daniel like a scarecrow in order for him to be able to take the revelation they had for him.

But then he really came through. Daniel was somehow able to take what must have been a prolonged revelatory experience and to grasp, receive and (even more surprisingly in some ways) to remember all that was being shown him. Pretty big thimble, no? Well, it nearly killed him, it seems, but at the last he evidently really got into it. So much so that the angel finally had to tell Daniel that he was winding things up, telling him, “Go your way Daniel…” (Daniel 12:9) when the aged prophet just kept coming back with more questions about all he was being shown.

Well, thank God, even if we just can only take a thimble’s worth. Jesus said to His disciples, “Blessed are your eyes for they see and your ears for they hear.” (Matthew 13:16)  It’s pretty clear that God wants to talk to us. He has a lot for us and wants to get our attention so He can transmit His truth into our frail little receptacles, our feeble thimbles, as much as He can and as much as we can take. A thimble is better than nothing. And of course what we receive from Him is so soaked and running over in eternal vitality that it’s like an electric shock or some supercharged vitamin shot you can get from your doctor.

ocean sunsetHow’s your thimble? Been getting any sips from the ocean of His truth and love? “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, ask and it shall be given unto you.” (Matthew 7:7) “Call unto me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you know not.” (Jeremiah 33:3) “Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.” (Romans 11:33)

 

Spiritualizing Prophecy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surrendering Truth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Serving God or Mammon

God and Mammon flatOne of the more striking and perhaps perplexing things that Jesus said was this: “No man can serve two masters for he will either 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) Determining how that plays out in the life of each individual has been a huge question for Christians through the centuries.

Examples in the four Gospels are numerous. Jesus said to the fishermen Peter and Andrew, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The Bible goes on to say, “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:19 & 20)Follow me and I flat Matthew the tax collector is another example. “And as Jesus passed forth from there, he saw a man named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9)

Of course there are those who will rightly say that Jesus didn’t say that to everyone. But it might surprise you to see how many He did say that to. It is clear, though, that the concept of serving God, being a true follower and disciple is what the Bible has taught from beginning to end. God told Moses to say to Pharaoh, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.” (Exodus 8:1)

But what does that mean? How can we serve God? Are we serving God as we go about our secular employment? The daily “affairs of this life”?  (II Tim 2:4) In the history of Christianity, there was a time when a very large number of people were in what was considered Christian service. The lived in monasteries, abbeys and various religious houses throughout Europe. It got to where these religious orders owned as much as 30% of the land of some nations. friarsThey accrued vast wealth in obligatory tithes and enforced offerings which all levels of society felt impelled to pay to these vast numbers who were ostensibly “serving God”.

And some of them were. They, some of them, ministered to the poor and did other things such as offering prayers or works of righteousness. But it got to where it was increasingly obvious that so many were just living off the fat of the land, laying a heavy yoke of religious bondage and servitude on society while doing little or nothing to serve God or man.

Actually, the place I’m writing this in was once a rectory of a Catholic church in Normandy, France, built in 1760. But at the time of the French Revolution, this property was seized by the government from the church and turned over for secular uses. Caen house frontThis kind of thing had been going on in fits and starts since the 1500’s throughout Europe when kings and governments increasingly saw many if not most religious orders (those who said they were serving God) as being not much more than leeches on the body politic, neither truly serving God or rendering much of any service to mankind.

With Protestantism and the Reformation, the whole concept of serving God swung radically the other direction. Martin Luther said that one could faithfully and adequately serve God as a cook or plowman. And that to this day is the prevailing view of those whose roots are in Protestant Christianity.

But how about now? It’s pretty well known in modern Christian circles throughout the world that spiritual and moral darkness has precipitously increased in the lifetimes of many of us. It’s increasingly difficult to be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (II Corinthians 6:14). Very many are forced to compromise and even renounce their Christian convictions in their workplace in order to conform to the mores of “post-Christian” society throughout the Western world. Or simply hold their job. Millions are finding they must put their children in Christian schools or home school them in order to preserve some atmosphere of Godliness that their children can be safe in.

And I feel this trend is only likely to increase and accelerate. I’m still of the opinion that what Jesus said is true when He told His disciples just before His crucifixion, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself.” (John 14:2 & 3) That Jesus said He would return to this world at the end of this age is indisputable. Mark of the BeastAnd it says in the Bible that in the times just before His return, that a worldwide economic system will be in place so that “no man might buy or sell except for those who had a mark in their hand or forehead”. (Revelation 13:17) The choice between serving God or Mammon is already becoming increasingly stark. And in the future to come, believers worldwide will literally have to choose the satanic world government to come or to throw their trust utterly on the Lord and to serve Him only.

I feel there’s a strong stirring in the body of Christ worldwide. So many sense that modern Christianity is insufficient for present times and certainly so for times to come. One of the most glaring deficiencies is how individual Christians are not being challenged or prepared to truly serve God in the way Christ taught and the way the early Christians lived.

Daniel 11 32b for blog siteIf there is any happy ending to this post, it could be that I do feel the Bible indicates that in the prophetic endtime future, there will be a called out, vibrant, fruitful body of Christian believers who’ll stand up as some of God’s strongest witnesses in the world’s darkest time. “The people who do know their God shall be strong and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many.” (Daniel 11:32&33)