Sharing your faith and seeing miracles

Sharing our faith with those who don’t know the Lord is not only “the Great Commission”, it’s an incredible way to experience the thrills of heaven and be right immediately where miracles of God happen. It’s a crying shame that so few Christians regularly share their faith with others, or “witness”, as it is called. There are virtually no churches who teach their congregations that they should actively share their faith with others, much less teach them how to do so.

Most of us would like to see more miracles in our lives. We know the Lord is there and that He can do “exceeding abundantly, above all we ask or think.” (Ephesian 3:20) But how can we be part of that? I’ll tell you, if you take the step to launch out and share your faith, you’ll often see some truly amazing and supernatural things happen, things that are impossible without God.

I’m blessed to be part of a weekly Christian fellowship, folks who almost all are active daily witnessers here in Texas. Many of these have backgrounds similar to mine, a lifetime of Christian service which was mostly spent outside the USA. So mostly these friends are not beginners to witnessing. And with this example I’m going to share, some of you might feel these friends have a lot more holy boldness than you feel you have right now. Their method of witnessing is perhaps not what you feel you’re ready for. But they told us recently of an incredible experience that happened to them while they were out sharing their faith and I thought to pass it on to you.

These friends told us of an afternoon when they were witnessing in restaurants. [“Oh, Mark. I COULDN’T POSSIBLY do that! What would people think? I’d just be making a fool of myself!”] OK, like I said, this is not a beginner’s witnessing testimony and an example everyone would feel they can immediately emulate. But here’s what they said happened.

“We were in a restaurant and we approached a table where two women were talking intensely. We had some Christian material with us that we usually offer to people in order to start a conversation. So we offered the first lady something that highlighted a Bible verse, Isaiah 41:10. And just looking at it she started crying. At first we didn’t actually see that the woman had started crying and I offered the other woman material having to do with the serenity prayer. Then that woman started crying. And we couldn’t talk to them for a minute or two because they both were crying.”

“We apologized to them that we made them cry and the first woman said that it wasn’t really us, it was just that her grandson is in the hospital with cancer. And his name is Isaiah. And then it turns out that Isaiah’s little sister is named Serenity. These women had just come from the hospital where little Isaiah was  and after lunch they were going back. We were able to pray with them and they said they knew the Lord sent us to them right then to comfort them and to be like a sign to them. They said, ‘We know God sent you to us right now’.”

My freinds went on to tell me, “When you are out there, it really isn’t like hard work. So often people say, ‘When I met you, it’s like I feel I’ve met the Lord in you.’ Often there’s this incredible timing to things, even though we don’t know it ourselves. It’s like a flow to be in and we take on the mantle of the Lord. This is how He’s ordained it and when you make yourself available, then His miracle working power is done through you, right in front of you and you are as amazed as the others. A person said to us today, ‘How does this work? Does God know this and then He told the angels to send you to this restaurant so you can talk to me? It must be because it’s not an accident that you came to see me today.’”

“Mark, these folks must really be saints. Probably no problems but just barely in this world they’re so spiritual.”

Well they just told me that not long ago, when their children were really not doing good, having troubles with growing up, that the only way they got through it was to go out daily and share their faith with others. Thinking about the needs of others and pouring out to others was a way to keep putting first the things of the Lord when their own situations were going over their head, even after they’d been doing everything they could for their kids.

They said “It just helped us to go out and talk to and help others as so many have so many problems and we were just there to be a blessing and help to others. One time we were driving down the street and I said, ‘I don’t even know how I can talk to people today, so many things and problems are going on.’ But then the first person we talked to said almost immediately, “Wow, I know God sent you to me today.”

One more thing they shared, I just can’t leave this out. They had been in Beirut, Lebanon during the time of the war when there were the militias and the Green Line. So they had witnessed to the Christian militias which often were teenagers. Late one afternoon they were coming back from downtown Beirut through the Muslim section and they were about to cross the Green Line to the Christian side of the city. But some Muslim militiamen came up to them and asked them what they were doing, pointing their Kalashnikovs at them. They were there to prevent people crossing back and forth.  Then out of a side street came the Christian militia they’d witnessed to and, pointing their guns at the Muslims, told the Muslims to let them pass over into the Christian section, that they were with them. But their witnessing to the Christian militias earlier was what keyed them to stand up for my missionary friends when they we were stopped by the opposing militias.

Whew. This is a lot better than sports bars, virtual reality or Netflix, no? I sure think so. Witnessing and sharing our faith is where it’s at.

Tie up in port?

launch out flatThere’s just something about going on the initiative to the attack that brings victory. This isn’t specifically a Christian teaching but actually it’s known and spoken of across many platforms and schools of thought. But certainly for the people of faith, you really have to keep wanting to make progress or you’re well on your way to becoming an “old bottle” (Luke 5:37), like Jesus talked about.

A lot of Christians think they should be conservative when actually they really should be progressive. OK, here in the States both of those terms are thickly slathered with extra added meaning. So let’s unpack that and break it down. What do you mean by conservative and progressive? If conservative means timid, supine, hesitant, hold-the-fort, old-fashioned and both critical and fearful of change, then I really don’t think true Christians should be conservative. If progressive means a desire to go further, to achieve enduring positive progress, to dream dreams that can become the Godly reality of tomorrow, then progressive sounds the best bet to me.

And yes, I certainly know that in the superheated socio-political atmosphere in America now, “conservative” and “progressive” are virtually fighting words. But what saith the Scriptures? Are Christians actually supposed to be ultra conservative and to abhor progress? As the Lord said, “I trow not.” (Luke 17:9) In fact I suggest that the propensity to think that we believers are supposed to be “conservative” rather than “progressive” is a serious impinging drag on millions of individuals as well as the body of Christ as a whole.

jesus on horseJesus told His followers to “Launch out into the deep”, (Luke 5:4) He didn’t tell them to tie up in port. Jesus “went a little further and fell on His face”. (Matthew 26:49) Solomon said “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might”. (Ecclesiastes 9:10) And Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) But sadly, the vast majority of Christians today, if they go to church at all, are being taught that God’s highest and best is to tip-toe through life, ever watchful of sin lurking at every corner which will suddenly jump out and devour the hapless, virtually defenseless sheep that they are.Conquering

What a travesty. Is that the picture of the Early Church? Is that how Christianity and the knowledge of salvation in Him spread throughout the earth? By holding the fort? This is what I wrote about in “Conquering”. Frankly, I believe with all my heart that modern Christianity needs a whole lot more progressives than it does conservatives, a whole lot more gas pedals and fewer brakes.

Where are the soul winners? Where, oh where, are the pastors, imploring and engaging their flocks in the business of personal evangelization? Where are the pastors and church leaders who are actively training their flock in the basics and essentials of salvation itself so that their congregation can turn around and personally win souls in the coming week?

How many people in your church can lead a soul to Jesus? Do they even know they should? Do they personally know the plan of salvation? Or do they think that’s just for the preacher or the Apostles of the Book of Acts? How many people in your church can quote John 3:16 and/or know how to find it in the Bible they carry with them at all times and share that verse with those looking for His truth?

you need Jesus flatIt was 17 year old and 18 year old “Jesus people” who knew their bibles well enough many years ago who showed me on the street the plan of salvation. Verse after verse, John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8 & 9, John 1:12, Revelation 3:20 and others, showing it to me right out of the Bible, that convicted my heart and opened my eyes to the plan of salvation, that changed my life utterly and set me on the path of Christian service for decades now.

Do you know how to do that? If you’re a pastor or preacher, do the people of your congregation know how to share verses like that with ones they meet? We are to “be always ready to give an answer of the hope that lies within us.” (I Peter 3:15). But for so many, if they know they’re supposed to do that at all, it’s mostly some sweet little weak squeak rather than any kind of bold, Scripturally educated testifying and opening of the Word to those who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Is your pastor or preacher teaching you and others how to witness and win souls? If not, I suggest you ask him why he isn’t.

While Christians are blindly drawn into political, secular, worldly hostilities, thinking that this is doing their “conservative” duty to God, the unsaved lost continue to go unreached. How it must break the heart of God that His people are so misled and distant from the original pattern of Christianity that we see in the book of Acts and the Early Church. The “great commission” (see Mark 16:15) was not to be fuddy-duddy, hold-the-fort, Sunday-go-to-meeting “conservatives”. Jesus still calls those who will to “launch out into the deep”, not to tie up in port, rot away and die. May God have mercy and help us all.

Four months abroad

Istanbul market for FacebookI’ve just gotten back to my base in Texas from a rather amazing 4 months abroad, in Africa and Europe. Some of you will know that I left the US back in October, mainly to do a series of recordings in languages around Europe of the prophecies of Daniel video series that I’ve had in English for the last few years. These recordings had been planned for a while and I would have done this last summer except that my mom suddenly passed away back in April so I had to return to the States for that.

Well, I’ll try to be careful with throwing out too many superlative adjectives here but it is tempting. I’ve already used “amazing” and many other similar words come to mind. What I’ll do here is to try to give a little synopsis of what happened on the trip. In some ways it was, and is, a little humbling as the Lord blessed it so much and everything I had in mind to do on the trip worked out. Amazing grace.

me in Durban classI started out by going to South Africa. More about that in another blog article. But I was able to meet two dear friends from my previously years in Europe, both of whom are pouring out their lives and hearts to that needy and precious country and people. Here are two articles I wrote about my time in South Africa, “Working in an HIV Seminar in South Africa” and “They that will not work…

Hungarian JewsNext, after a brief visit to Norway for the birthday of one of my kids, I traveled to Budapest, Hungary to begin the recordings of the prophecies of Daniel videos. Three were recorded there and I was able to meet again some precious friends from my time in the 90’s when I lived in Hungary for 4 years. While there I wrote a blog about some of my friends and their family’s experiences during World War II called “Budapest Stories”.

French awardNext was a trip to France to record three videos in French. I stayed with missionary friends in Normandy and it was a visit rich in experiences, not to mention the audio recordings that were done. I wrote two articles there, one about a day trip to the nearby coast where I ended up having a very moving experience after viewing a film of the terrible events that happened there during World War II. It’s called “Normandy Landing”. I also was able to interview the 92 year old father of my friend there who was a teenaged French commando leader in World War II. That article is “The French Resistance”.

Then it was Christmas and I returned to Scandinavia, first to Gothenburg, Sweden where two of my sons live with their mates. After a week there we drove to Norway to have Christmas with my other two kids. My former wife and her husband were there as well and it was a wonderful time to be together with the ones up there, as well as to see my two grandsons.

In January I went to Romania to continue the recordings. It turned out in some ways to be the most difficult leg of my travels but the Lord really came through. For one, the temperature stayed between 22 (-5 Centigrade) and 0 (-18 Centigrade) for nearly the whole 12 days I was there. Also there were 6 trips to the dentist to get two root canals done. But the Lord worked a little miracle and it ended up that 4 videos were recorded in Romanian when it looked like at one point that none would be done.

The last recording work, in Italian, was done in Croatia where  some dear friends have an amazing work they’ve been doing for years, ministering in the aftermath of the Bosnian war, as well as doing programs for schools and generally lifting the spirits of people in that part of the world. Three videos were done in Italian there. And, an example of how the Lord was leading and protecting, the next morning after the last video was recorded (the 14th video on the trip) my hard drive crashed. What a blessing of the Lord’s protection to keep it till after the recordings were done.

Shot_6_fixed for Facebook cover flatThe last place I visited in Europe was Istanbul, Turkey for a few days. That in some ways was the most blessed part of my time abroad. Meeting friends there and also some new people for the first time made it so that some things were started which have a very fruitful potential for the near future. Also during my travels in Europe it was possible to record one of the prophecies of Daniel videos in Turkish which I’m really looking forward to see finalized and up on YouTube.

Well, there’s more, much more, but it’ll have to wait for now. Next for me is several months’ work to finalize the 14 videos recorded on the trip and to get them available for viewing. Like I was saying earlier, I’ve at times been at a loss for words to describe all that happened on the trip, and all that is ahead this year for me, Lord willing and blessing. I do thank the many of you who upheld me in prayer during this time; the Lord has done “exceeding abundantly, above all we can ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

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”.

The French Resistance

french resistance fightersLast night I talked with a man who was a commander as a teenager of French resistance forces during World War II. Now in his 90’s, he was a young student when war broke out in 1939. It was fascinating to hear his stories of those times and how he ended up working in the French underground. At first, he would do things like clandestinely distribute underground newspapers which counteracted German propaganda, as well as those French who were collaborating with the invasion forces.

french women on bicyclesHe told of a blind man back then who would mostly be overlooked by the Germans who would carry about a large suitcase, often with radio equipment inside which the French resistance forces could use. There were women on bicycles who’d convey messages to bands of French freedom fighters who were on the constant move in the woods or fields. Those he worked with would focus on trying to help downed airmen from the Allied forces fighting the Germans, ones whose planes had been shot down over France. There was like an “underground railroad” to get the Allied pilots either to Spain or across the English Channel and back to Britain.

He said their specific goal was not to engage in combat with German forces but to make things difficult for them by blowing up bridges, planting bombs on roads and whatever it took to slow down and hinder the occupation. We laughed at one point when he smilingly said how that he’d been known as a terrorist back then and we talked about how it so often happens that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

But there was combat and lose of life. His older brother had been in the underground as well but was betrayed and ended up dying in a concentration camp in Germany. He told of times where he had to react instantly to save his life before someone shot him. This had come down to the reality of whether it would be his life or theirs.

French awardSomething he felt proud of is that the group of men he led had a relatively smaller loss of life than that experienced by many other similar groups. He mentioned that his own dad had somewhat miraculously survived as a combat soldier throughout the First World War when 1.2 million French soldiers were killed. He told me that at the end of the war, at the age of 20, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his service in freeing his nation from the occupiers.

I asked him what kept him motivated, what he drew his strength from during those times. It was clear that the main thing was what we would call nationalism. His ancestry has been part of the French aristocracy for many centuries and he felt there was no question of what he should do to defend his nation against the invaders of his youth.

I asked him if he ever saw anyone pray in those times and he said he hadn’t. The conversation turned briefly to “religion” and, as some of you know, that word has a very bad ring to it in France, arising in part from the French Revolution and the impact that formal religion was seen to have had on the nation and society.

I told him at the first that part of my reason for wanting to hear about his life was to try to find what I could learn from his experiences. I told him that I too considered myself, in a sense, a freedom fighter. Of course, as Paul said, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the tearing down of strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4) The warfare I have been engaged in all my adult life has been spiritual warfare but it has no less been warfare. We are to “fight the good fight of faith”, we are to “war a good warfare”, “as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (I Tim. 6:12, 1:18, II Tim. 2:3)

Elisha 1And certainly in these seemingly peaceful times, we need another “French Resistance” as well as a resistance in a good many other counties also. I’m reminded of the post I wrote about “They that be with us…” where Elijah and his young helper were surrounded by the armies of their enemies. Elisha 2But then Elijah prayed that the young man would see the heavenly forces surrounding them who were protecting them and were much greater than their present earthly enemies.

At this time, so many “post Christian” countries have repelled their former invaders and now enjoy relative stability and outward peace. But if there were to be an opening of the eyes of the young man now, it would be to see the flood of godless darkness that has seeped in like a poisonous gas under the door and now benights so thoroughly so much of Europe and even north America.

resistance fighters flatThe Bible says, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19) Well, the enemy of truth and love has and is continuing to come in with wave after wave of putrid lifelessness which is put forward as modern enlightenment. But so often it’s exactly like what Jesus said, “If the light that be in you be darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Mathew 6:23)

Turning pointsPlease pray that God will open the eyes of young men, like he did in the time of Elijah, to see things as God sees them and that “resistance fighters” as bold and brave as the one I spoke with tonight will be raised up to fight the good fight of faith and “hold forth the Word of life” (Philippians 2:16) for the lost and truthless nations of these times.

Normandy Landing

normandy landing

Today a friend and I drove to Arromanches on the Normandy coast of France to visit one of the main sites of the Allied landing in 1944 to liberate France and Europe from the Nazis. I don’t normally do much sightseeing; living people and eternal souls are more interesting to me than monuments and places of the past. But we ended up viewing a short film of clips at a World War II memorial there about the troops who’d come ashore just a few hundred meters from where we were watching the film.

I became quite emotional. There were so many close-ups of the soldiers and the people of those times some 72 years ago and it was so clear how very human they were, how the horrid events of those days had caught up and captured them all in a hideous grasp. After the movie clip was over, we went outside. And directly in front of us and below was the very panorama we’d seen so much of in the movie, the now quiet town of Arromanches where such a major event of World War II played out some 7 decades earlier.

For a while I could hardly talk. I thought about my life, how blessed it’s been in so many ways, how long I’ve lived already compared to so many of those very young men who died in the vicinity of where I was standing. I thought about the utter foolishness of the whole thing,me on normandy coast what a complete waste of so many millions of lives that World War II was, utterly pointless.

That war is at least one in which just about everybody agrees that the good guys won and the bad guys lost. Of course I’m not talking about the Germany or Japan of today. The people who perpetrated WW II are long gone and the peoples of those counties have turned and moved far away from the thinking of their forefathers who started that war.

But I thought of how each of us, either now or someday will have to answer, “What have I done with my life?” “Have I given anything or only taken?” French country laneAnd, in my walks down some of the country lanes here that I’ve taken in the last week, I was already thinking like that. Such an idyllic and beautiful place this is now but how very much bloodshed this area has seen over the centuries. I thought how blessed I am to have lived a life in which much of the world I’m from has not seen the toll of death in my lifetime that former generations saw.

atomic bomb drillWe were thinking we would. As a boy in school, we’d repeatedly have drills to prepare us for atomic war, crouching under our desks in elementary school to learn how to shield ourselves from atomic blasts and the heat that would come through the shattered windows of our school. In October of 1964, there was a weekend when it really did look like that would be it, full atomic war would break out because of the Cuban missile crisis. But God in His mercy kept that from happening.

So what have I done with my life? What have any of us done? No credit to myself, I can thankfully say that I’ve lived my adult life as a Christian missionary, endeavoring to bring the saving message of Jesus Christ to this often tattered and dazed world. I honestly can’t think of anything better I could have done. Politics isn’t going to save this world; commercialism certainly isn’t going to either. Or selfishness, culture or even science.

Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of offenses, for it must needs be that offences come. But woe to that man by whom the offence comes.” (Matthew 18:7) For those of us who know and love the Lord, we posses such truth and power to influence others for good. We can introduce others to the Man who “went about everywhere, doing good,” (Acts 10:38) Jesus of Nazareth. prince of peaceI’m convinced that the only real way to change the world is to change the heart of man, one person at a time. And that can only really happen with the power of God through Jesus, to change our darkened, war-filled heart to a heart of love, given by Him.

From where come wars and fightings among you? Do they not come from your lusts that war within you?” (James 4:1 & 2) In the end, the only way to prevent war is to have it overcome in our heart by the only One who can ultimately defeat the war that is in every heart. Who’s that One? Jesus Christ, “the Prince of peace”. (Isiah 9:6)

They that will not work…

Grandma Helen flatI’m having an amazing time in South Africa, there’s a lot to tell you. This post will mainly be about a story I heard of an 80 year old woman who is poor herself but ministers to the poor in one of the “townships” here, as they are called. I think another word that fits for these areas is “shanty towns”. But they can be very huge.

me and JosefFirst I’ll tell you who told me this. I have a friend here, Josef from Austria, who lives in Johannesburg. He has a similar calling to the friend I told you about who holds HIV seminars in schools here. But Josef and his wife often are “up country”, actually spending a lot of time in neighboring Malawi where he has quite a work going in having seminars with local pastors there on basic subjects of Biblical faith and shepherding the flock of God.

When Josef told me about an octogenarian woman he helps in Johannesburg, I was amazed at her faith. Also I was amazed at her vision to not just minister physically to the desperately poor around her, but also to minster to them spiritually as well, sometimes even with a little bit of “tough love.” Maybe it’s like Jesus was. He certainly was kind, giving and sympathetic, more than any man. But also when it was the time for it, the Lord could be pretty frank and candid with people who needed to hear perhaps surprising truth.

townshipGrandma Helen has been living in squatter camps for the last 20 years but she’s also faithfully shared what little she had with those there, as well as sharing her faith in God. Josef said that he and his wife began helping Grandma Helen when she lost the little support she had. They started giving her gospel literature to share as well as of course food they’d received from businesses who donated it.

Josef encouraged Grandma Helen to use Christian literature in her caring and ministering to people. Before she passes out the food parcels, she has a short Bible study and prayer with ones who come for help. After that she passes out the food parcels and the gospel pamphlets with them. She and Josef wanted to teach the people in her area more about the things of God and one idea that came up was to have them memorize Bible verses when they received the food parcel.

But they learned that it was difficult for the people there to memorize Scripture, as it often is for most. So to make it easier for them and to be sure they were taking in the Word, Grandma Helen had them write out the Scripture verse and give it to her before they received a food pack. And if they hadn’t done so, they could do it when they got the food pack. As I’ve written about elsewhere, there’s just something powerful about memorizing Scripture. “Lay up His Word in your heart”, the Bible says. (Job 22:22)

Josef told Grandma Helen about the verse that says, “They that will not work should not eat” (II Thessalonians 3:10) and that we owed it to the Lord and the people they were giving the food to to teach them the principles of God. So besides some of the most basic tenets of Biblical faith, Grandma Helen also shared with those that came for food that “They that will not work should not eat.”

But also she knew that in these camps it’s often very difficult to get or hold a job. Basically almost all of them there are unemployed or under employed. So Grandma Helen suggested they could offer their services to others in their community by doing chores, running errands, helping the elderly and those generally worse off than them.

Helen weeding flatAt one point she had a younger man come by who asked for food and she helped him. Then on another day he came by when she was in the garden and she asked him to help with weeding. He said he was too busy. So next time he came around for a food pack, she told him, “Sorry, they that will not work should not eat.”

I don’t know about you but I find this an amazing and encouraging story. Godly principles completely transcend borders, time, social strata and just everything. Jesus told us, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) But often also the Spirit of God calls us to some action, not only as a test but also as a lesson that our soul needs to grow in and be fed spiritually in. Sometimes these things can seem like “hard sayings” but it’s actually just God’s wise and life-giving love which is actually more needed that simple food. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Or like wise Job said, “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” (Job 23:12) It’s a lesson everyone needs.

And please do say a word of prayer for dear Grandma Helen. Josef and his wife help her, as they do very many, but sometimes she has to get around in her wheel chair. Also her grandson reads the Bible to her because her eyes are failing. But she continues to minister to these people. Makes you feel that most of us have it pretty good.

Working in an HIV Seminar in South Africa

me in Durban classI’ve been in Durban, South Africa for over a week and it’s been wonderful. I never saw this coming, never foresaw a time I’d be in this part of the world but it has gone really well. I know several people here from my times in Europe. One dear friend is Andras Namenyi, a Hungarian who actually was my translator when I shared classes with young Christians in Budapest back in the late ‘90’s.

Andras has been in this part of the world for years and the Lord has given him an amazing ministry. It’s by no means the only thing he does. But his main outreach is to visit schools here to do a presentation on the subject of HIV prevention which has to do with being informed, being wise and simple abstinence.

I was astounded and floored to hear the statistics about HIV in this country. In this province, KwaZulu-Natal, out of a population of 11 million, 40% of the people are HIV positive. Think about that. Those are numbers like the worst of the Black Plague that hit Europe in the 1300’s. But it utterly underlines the importance of what my friend is doing in these seminars in the schools here.

Durban school crowd sceneI was with Andras for a seminar earlier this week and I’ll include pictures I took there. We were addressing 8th graders in a “colored” part of Durban. [“Mark! That’s racist!”] I’ve had to adjust to the English language that’s spoken here being slightly different from the USA. When I was a kid in Texas, “colored” was the word used at the time for those we now in the US call “African-American”. But here “colored” basically means “mixed race”.

We first talked to the principal; the seminar had all been arranged beforehand. The kids filed into the room with the guidance of their teachers, not really knowing what to expect. Andras has addressed around 90,000 students over the last years with this ministry.

3 colored pitchersAs the presentation started, Andras in his opening was switching back and forth between English and Zulu, the main language spoken in this province. The kids were of course laughing and impressed that he was comfortable with them that way. But probably they were also curious about the props he had set up for the presentation. Several kids behind him had been given various colored balloons. And on the table in front of him were 3 pitchers with distinctly colored liquids. By the way, this was all done in English as the school is a fully English speaking school, even though many there have another language as their first.

Basically the idea was to highlight the consequences of risky behavior. He told me later that almost certainly there were kids in the audience who were already HIV positive. Andras held up the first pitcher with red liquid and said this represented risky behavior, out partying, drinking, drugs and of course promiscuous sex. Then he held up the pitcher with green liquid. This represented someone “on the fence”, not really totally living a risky life but someone who was near the edge of it. Then he held up the pitcher with yellow liquid, representing morals and a moral life with vision, goals and a purpose.

pouring pitchersAfter that he poured some of the yellow liquid into the green and red pitchers. The red turned to a murky brown almost immediately but the green liquid began to turn yellow, representing a changed and more moral life. As Andras continued to speak on this subject, the liquids continued to change from their original colors and soon the green pitcher changed to yellow liquid. Eventually even the red liquid turned yellow.

It was all a huge object lessons in the visual realm for these few hundred 13 and 14 year olds of how morals and self-restraint could change a life and in this case even save their own physical life. Of course I’m only giving you the highlights here of the 45 minute talk. At the end, Andras explained to them how much we all need the saving power of Jesus to come into our hearts and give us the strength we need to essentially resist sin, which is what this is in many ways really all about. He led the kids in a prayer to receive the Lord and they all prayed.

watching intentlyIt even worked out that I was able to address the kids for a few minutes, telling them about my life and how it was changed through Jesus and the truth and power of God. Afterwards we were able to pass out gospels of John in Zulu to the students; these are booklets I helped to have shipped to Andras here in Africa about 18 months ago.

me and AndrasIt was an astounding afternoon, being involved in something so important, life changing and even very much life saving. For me, this is all better than any worldly or earthly riches: being a part of something that’s reaching into young lives who are so often right on the precipice of good or bad, sin or salvation and even life or death. It was another moment to confirm just how thankful I am for a life of Christian discipleship. I hope this testimony is a blessing to you of how people in our times can be used of the Lord to impact this world for Him and to let their light shine before men.

 

“Neither have I desired the woeful day”

the woeful day flatThe prophet Jeremiah knew he would see the day when it was all going to happen. He wasn’t prophesying something for the centuries to come; he knew this was it. God was about to bring His powerful judgments on backslidden Israel. And Jeremiah suffered terribly for the message of judgment and doom he gave to the people of Israel. If anyone could have looked with glee at the day of God’s impending judgment and by-in-large destruction upon Israel, it was Jeremiah.

But did he? Jeremiah spoke in prayer to God, “Neither have I desired the woeful day.” (Jeremiah 17:16) Jeremiah had the maturity and Godliness to not wish for and look forward to the horrific judgement that was about to fall upon his people by their God. And, frankly, it should be the same for those of us today. But I wonder if it is?

I’ve believed since I was in my 20’s that some kind of judgment would be coming from God, not only on my country but on the countries of the North and West which were founded in a strong Christianity but have progressively fallen away from that, for decades and even centuries. At times over the years I’ve looked forward to the judgments of God being poured out on some societies and nations whose cup of iniquity must be truly full by now.

But also, in living in many lands, as well as reading history, I’ve come to see that it’s a very sobering thing to actually be where the judgments of God, the horrors of war or natural disasters are being experienced at the moment. In the 1300’s, a time when there was a falling away from the Godliness of earlier centuries, the Black Plague struck Europe and 1/3 to 1/2 of the population died.

That might be hard to comprehend but 11 years ago I worked as an aid worker and trauma counselor in a city that had just experienced that. An Indonesian city of 450,000 had lost one third of its population in one hour of gigantic tsunami waves.

body bagsWhat was it like? Every day we’d see many teams of young men who’d been given plastic bags, boots and gloves. Their assignment was to go into the large buildings downtown that were on their list to bring out the dead. All day they stacked bags, with bodies inside, out on the street in front of the buildings all over the city.

dumping bodiesAt 5 PM large trucks came by and they threw the bags up into the trucks which took them out to a huge mass grave near the airport. That particular mass grave ended up holding 55,000 bags. There were many teams like this; they started again the next day and this went on for 3 weeks. That’s the kind of reality that can come with the horrors of war, the judgments of God or even natural disasters. I spent 5 weeks there during that time, working daily in refugee camps and I never could have made it without the mighty grace of God sustaining me for what was needed to be done.

So I now say, like Jeremiah, “Neither have I desired the woeful day.” But sadly, it does seem like some believers in God here look forward to some kind of showdown with the government of the United States. Or they look forward to the fall of America. They talk about taking a militant stand against the government like it was the will of God to participate in armed conflict and that this would be the high calling of God for them and other Christians. Some really look forward to this, they “desire the woeful day.”

citizenship-in-heavenThis deeply saddens me. And I’m not just going on hearsay; I’ve been in Christian gatherings where the details and specifics of this have been discussed. I did express my sentiments that what was being talked about does not reflect Biblical Christianity and that I strongly believe that approach to be anathema to the high calling of God.

gun & Bible pictureSome think that in taking up weapons against the United States government they are defending themselves against the very forces of the Antichrist spoken of in Revelation and Daniel. This is the pitiful result of a politicized twisting of Scriptures to fit a secular political agenda and it’s amazing that so many Christians have bought in to this. I too believe in a final Antichrist and a final endtime government that he will head. But I don’t believe the present government of the United States is the final fulfillment of what Daniel and Revelation speak of.

Our job, the job of fervent and dedicated Christians of these times is to stand up as some of God’s greatest witnesses, to explain to people everywhere what is happening and what is to come.behold these Christians flat It’s not our job to overthrow our government, any more that it was the job of Peter, James and John to try to overthrow either the Roman empire of their day or the hellish Pharisaical religious system that held the Jews in its power. It was love, truth, light, miracles and the acts and witness of heaven that overthrew both the religious system of the Jews and ultimately even the secular system of the Romans. “Not by might or by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6)

If you’re being influenced to turn your attention and your hatred against our modern government and it’s failing political ploys, I sympathize with you. It’s pitiful how things are now. But our job is not to take up arms against the government or even to spend precious time fretting, fuming and hyperventilating about it all.

Our job is to give this tired old world the answer we know we have:stands at the door flat the Son of God and the judgments of God which will be poured out on this world, leading up to the worst time the world has ever known, just before the return of the Lord. If you have fallen prey to the haters, the “Christian militants” and to those who gleefully look forward to destructions to come, I suggest you powerfully pray and ask the Lord to cleanse your heart and to use you to His highest and best purpose. “Herein is my father glorified that ye bear much fruit, so shall you be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

I know God’s judgments will come on this world and nation, perhaps soon. But I don’t look forward to it. All the present conditions that so many hate in society today may someday be looked back on with longing for the relative stability of these times. The future soon to come may be unsolvable continuing chaos, leading to a hardcore martial law which will be embraced by multitudes in those times. Jeremiah prophesied of the deserved judgments of God that were imminent. But he didn’t desire the woeful day.

Turning Back

will you also flatThere is an incredible joy in becoming a Christian, I certainly experienced that and continue to experience it. But most of us know that there also can be some serious times of difficulty, challenges and even wrenching heartbreaks that come in our life along the road of faith. One of the heartbreaks that I’ve experienced a lot in recent years is seeing dear brethren in the Lord who’ve turned back from their convictions and life of faith they once held and are now no longer believers or who are overcome and defeated with “the affairs of this life.” (II Timothy 2:4)

It’s a bit of a delicate subject. Jesus said to the self-righteous religionists, “He that is without sin, cast the first stone.” (John 8:7) So definitely the idea here isn’t to cast stones and condemn those who, for whatever reason, have “cast away their confidence” (Hebrews 10:35) in the Lord, His Word and the life we’ve been given.

Demas has forsaken flatBut it is heartbreaking. It’s even discouraging to have contact with ones who once were not just believers but soul winners, disciple-makers and missionaries at the ends of the earth who now question the basic tenets of the Bible and have sunk back into the morass of humanity and the mire of the multitude. Paul said in one place, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” (II Timothy 4:10) Or like it says in the Old Testament, “The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.” (Psalm 78:9)

It’s almost like being in one of those dreams where you see someone in mortal danger and you try to reach out to them or rescue them. But, in your dream, you can’t reach them or save them from their plight. I suppose it’s similar to what solders experience in the heat of war when a comrade falls at their side. Except this is not exactly the same because it may be closer to what the Bible says about being “wearied and faint in your mind.”  (Hebrews 12:3) Or even what happened with John the Baptist and Jesus.

are you he flatJohn the Baptist was the herald and forerunner of Jesus, preparing the way before Him. But something must have happened because he later sent his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you He that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3) It’s hard to read that any other way than that John had really fallen back from his faith in Jesus. So the Lord said to “go show John again those things which you see, the blind see, the lame walk, the dead are raised.” (Matthew 11:4 & 5) And then the clincher, “And blessed is he who is not offended in Me.” (Matthew 11:6)

Evidently something the Lord did or said must have offended John the Baptist. And in our times as well something can happen that offends us, something we never thought would happen.  “Surely the Lord wouldn’t let that happen!” But it did. And we are offended, stumbled and sometimes, if we don’t get back to standing on the Rock and trusting Him, it can take us all the way out of our realm of faith rewards in heaven-flattenedand land us in the outer darkness of unbelief. It happens to a lot of people, maybe you know some. That may be why the Lord said, “Hold fast to what you have that no man take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11)

Paul wrote a whole epistle which was around this theme, to the Galatians. “Oh foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1) Some “false brethren” had come to the Galatians after Paul had left them and had sown major doubts and questions about the faith and freedom Paul told them they had in the Lord. Repeatedly in Galatians you can see Paul trying to restore these ones back to the foundation he’d laid for them which had been challenged and attacked by “brethren.”  “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19)

I dont believe flatIt’s an ongoing occupational hazard of being a disciple of the Lord to have ones you love and who stood with you on the battlefronts of the Lord to somehow later turn back from their faith and convictions and to even be used of the enemy at times to try to sow doubt in your mind that has entered theirs.

And I can hear some say, “Well, they just got tired or discouraged”. There’s a difference between that and turning back on the Lord. I know a lot of people in their 60’s who can’t carry the physical load they once did but who still are keeping the faith. Some are even witnessing in parks and on the streets, doing what they can, even when their bodies can’t do as much as they did before.

Prodical sonIs there a happy ending to this? I don’t know. We can hope and pray that some of these will be like the prodigal son and return to the Father’s house and their original calling. But perhaps for all of us, it’s good to remember the admonition, “Cast not away your confidence which has great recompense of reward.” (Hebrews 10:35) “Now the just shall live by faith, but if any man draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:38)

We all need encouragement and the help and love from fellow brethren. It is a battle and the darkness deepens steeply in our times. My prayer and hope is that each person reading this will keep the faith and continue to be a helper of others in order that we continue to let our lights shine before men as we lift Him up and all will be drawn to the Lord.