At the Camp of the Saints (Part 1)

fellowship first photo croppedAs many of you know, I moved back to eastern Europe a few weeks ago after living 6 years in Texas. It’s been a bit of a transition and it’s an ongoing process to let the Lord transform me back to how He wants me to be in this part of the world.

Right now I’m up in the mountains at an informal get together of a few dozen people who have similar backgrounds and Christian calling to me. It is very revitalizing to be in this atmosphere, it’s hard even to describe it. But there’s just something about being around fellow disciples and committed Christians, many of whom are like the Lord talked about ones who had “born the burden and heat of the day.” (Matthew 20:12) A number here have had lives of Christian service for decades. So being here is a lot like the verse, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1)

One of the best things for me has just been the depth of communications and heart-to-heart contact that goes on here. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty” (II Corinthians 3:17) and sometimes that’s manifested in wonderfully deep, clear, heart-sharing with friends.

So I thought to share with you some about some folks I’ve met here, ones I never met before who’ve deeply impressed me with their Christian witness and the lives they’re living. I’ll leave out their names and some specifics as that’s probably for the best. But their lives are fascinating and resonate with how I feel we all can be, and should be, in the way the Lord can lead and use each of us.

One of the first I talked to was a man half my age. He grew up in a missionary family. But that of course doesn’t really count for all that much when one has to personally choose what they believe and want to do with their lives. Someone has said, “God has no grandchildren.” In this case, this dear brother, after a few years of “sowing his wild oats”, put his life firmly back in the Lord’s hands and has found a way to be a very effective witness in what I consider one of the more “post Christian” countries in all of Europe.

I feel that Western and Northern Europe is not a place in these times where sharing your faith and witnessing for the Lord is often met with receptivity. “Nah, that’s not for me” is a phrase often heard, or worse than that, if you speak up for the Lord there. But this dear brother is working and studying in a country I know pretty well, one that I don’t at all consider a receptive part of the world to the Gospel. From what he’s told me, he actually pretty bold about it.

He’s often worked as a waiter or other things like that so this brings him in contact with a lot of people. And he’s learned how to wisely and gracefully bring the Lord and the things of faith into conversations. But he also keeps in contact with people, drops by for a visit sometime, gives little gifts to ones he knows and overall cultivates his friendships. This has often brought comments like about how they don’t know anyone else like him who’s as friendly and concerned as he is. Rather like Solomon said, “A man that has friends must show himself friendly. And there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

fools for christBut another thing I noticed from what he said was how he just seems to have a lot of love for the Lord and others. So much so that he’s wiling at times to be “a fool for Christ” (I Corinthians 4:10), like Paul said. Most of us who witness for the Lord in any way know that we will get opposition from time to time and even have folks think we’re crazy or eccentric. But it was the same for Jesus, “When his friends heard of this, they went out to lay hold on him, for they said, ‘He is beside himself’.” (Mark 3:21)

So this was very inspiring to meet this new friend and to hear of someone regularly witnessing on his job and in university, standing up for Godly values and unafraid to call a spade a spade when confronted with the atheist/agnostic morals and ethics of modern Northern and Western Europe. I got the verse for him, “The  Lord didn’t leave Himself without witness” (Acts 14:17) in that He has strengthen and raised up this young man to be His light in what is often the atheist darkness that prevails in many parts of that area of the world.

(In part two, I’ll tell you about a Bible study I held with the young people at the fellowship and how afterwards a 20 year old friend of mine shared an amazing story that changed her life and faith in God.)

Freedom and Following

Promised_Land fixed flatSometimes there’s a real balance, or even tension, between freedom and just following orders. Neither one is absolutely the best and only way to do things in God’s work. Some folks work better under some conditions and some under others.

Warsaw Pact forces

Warsaw Pact forces

Before the fall of Communism I was living in Europe and read a fascinating article on why the West European and US forces of NATO would inevitably win any ground war with Communist East European and Russian Warsaw pact forces in any major battle. The article said it came down to one thing: the Warsaw pact forces were under orders that their moves were to come directly from their headquarters in Moscow. They had no freedom at the tactical level to make decisions within a battle. The NATO forces on the other hand were given authority to make battlefield decisions without needing to wait for clearance from NATO headquarters in some place far off from the battlefield.

This was fascinating for me. I saw an analogy in this of how things can work in Christian’s endeavors to go forward for the Lord. Some Christians, including some missionaries, are pretty much under orders to follow directions from their organization or their mission board which may be thousands of miles away.

The idea of they themselves being responsible to size up the situation and hear from our ultimate Headquarters in Heaven is not a concept that some would feel comfortable with. Missionaries on far off fields can be rendered immobile, like the Warsaw pact forces of old, in that they’re not encouraged to take initiative, hear from heaven themselves and follow our true leadership, Jesus Christ and the instructions of the Holy Spirit.

megachurchA few days ago I spoke with a very friendly and engaging Christian who is the head of the missionary department of a large, fruitful church here. I made a short presentation about my work in the past in order to see if this church could in any way help my soon coming departure to my mission field. And I should tell you that the whole time with this man was nothing but warm, friendly and sincere.

There are things about this church that have been eye-openers for. I’ve always been for “David” more than “Goliath”. I feel that God can be limited by large numbers and heavy logistics. But this mega-church in many ways is really rolling and getting things done that I wish at times my friends had been better at in some places.

But when I presented myself to this friendly head of the missionary branch of this church, he was totally encouraging about my missionary efforts. But he said they wouldn’t be able to help. He said they were legal required to give full account of where their funds went, who they went to and how it was all used. Those sent on mission were in close communication and coordination with the church. It did seem that there’s a good deal of supervision of the parameters of the missionaries by the ones who sent them abroad and who support them on the field.

on our field flatThis is all understandable and I don’t mean to fault it. But I did explain to my friend why I’ve felt it best to be a “live by faith” missionary, looking to God to “supply all my needs” (Philippians 4:19) as I “seek first His kingdom” (Matthew 6:33). My experience at times in the past has been that initiative is quenched and even fear is instilled when those on mission are not free to follow God and hear from him fresh every day as to what He would lead them to do. Instead there’s an apprehension against initiative and you come to simply wait for instructions and permission from headquarters which can easily be halfway around the world.

In the history of the Church, at times the most progress has been made with a minimum of organization and supervision. In those circumstance brave pioneers of the faith have forged forward and accomplished amazing feats for the Lord, simply by following the One who’s way out in front and knows what’s going to happen and is able to lead His servants moment by moment to victories in winning the world for Him.

Much of the time in the history of Christianity, His pioneers have gone further under their own steam than they ever would have under the control of some distant administrative board. Instead of a situation where everything is organized and controlled from the top down, some of the most fruitful endeavors in the history of the Church have happened when the only controlling power was God, the only central headquarter, His Spirit.

So I left my meeting slightly sad that my way of operation doesn’t fit with the way this large church supports missionaries. Happily I’ve found friends here who’ve gotten to know me personally and I’m communicating with these ones about helping towards my future plans for Him abroad.

onlyYouJesus flatBut I feel this insecure liberty of having no organization but His Spirit, no earthly commanders but only His heavenly leadership, no financial support but the faithfulness of His promises and a few good friends, this all can turn out to be His best, for me and for Him. The seeming safety of some agency which regularly supports me can also trim the wings of the Spirit and hinder or detour from the path of following Him first and foremost.

Honestly, it’s a bit of an uncertain stand, if I look at it with the eyes of this world. But in Him it’s steadfast. Thanks for your prayers for me and others like me to get our orders from heaven and our provison from Him and His as well.

 

When prophecy dawns on you

Prophecy fulfilled flatI had so many amazing experiences on my recent trip to southeastern Europe. One night the ones I was staying with had a Bible study for their close friends at their house. The idea was that since I was there and I’ve made a series of videos on the book of Daniel, that we could watch one of those with the visitors who often come there.

Most of the people in the room were a generation younger than me and the majority were not brought up in a Christian family. Several of them were brought up Muslims. Another was a young woman from Western Europe, from a traditional Catholic background, who’d come to do volunteer work in the country I was in. She’s been working with my friends who minister to needy people and she’s gradually gotten to know the things of the Lord and the Lord Himself in a stronger way over the last months.

Prophecy dawnsA-fixedWe watched what’s perhaps the simplest introduction to prophecy in the Bible: Daniel chapter 2. For many years and in many lands I’ve seen how Daniel 2 is the most understandable starting point for anyone who’s never had any idea about the phenomenon of Bible prophecy.

For me it was something of a reward in itself to just be there and watch the ones who were watching the video I’ve done on Daniel chapter 2. I therefore watched the viewers more than the video itself to try to gauge their reaction and interest in it all. The best part for me was at the end.

The young West European woman from the Catholic background was (… how shall I describe this…) well, she was trying to find what she wanted to say after the video. But for several of us, we could tell she’d been surprised and almost stunned by what she’d seen.

It certainly seemed that she’d perhaps become aware for the first time of the phenomenon of Bible prophecy, that God has in history used His prophets to give us definite signposts that will occur “up the road” of history. And for those of us who are now “in the future”, so to speak, we can look back and see that some key points in history were clearly foretold before they happened.

Stunned_Surprised-fixedWhen I personally first found out about this, I was in my early 20’s. And I too had the same experience of amazement, wonder, and almost unbelief that there was something like this that I’d never been told of before. For me back then, I was also mad because I’d gone many years to good schools and to university but nowhere had anyone ever told me anything about the truth of Bible prophecy. And in her words and expressions after the video that night, this young woman was evidently having the same experience of joy, mixed with amazement, and at the same time many questions. It’s just hard to believe that something like this exists.

It was noticeable to most of us that this dear young woman had just had a very strong experience, “the eyes of her understanding being opened” (Ephesians 1:18), that she’d seen something she’d never seen before. She had questions but she almost didn’t know how to ask them. She thought she was understanding what she’d seen but she wanted to be sure she did. Perhaps for the rest of us, the best part was that we could tell that she’d just had a real experience with the light of God’s Word, kind of like when it says about the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection, “they believed not for joy” (Luke 24:41).

It’s experiences like this that turn us from everyday, bored, dull, worldly people into His turned-on, inspired, joy-filled Christians and even disciples. Sometimes it has very little to do with others. It’s just those moments when the Lord Himself somehow personally shines into our innermost heart and mind, revealing Himself to be the Savoir and King that He is.

For some of us, we’ve had experiences like that off and on for many years. We know the thrills and joys of that heavenly realm and the world to come. But for me that night it was especially encouraging. This young woman is still new to the things of the Lord, someone who’s still growing into the fullness of a Christian disciple. And that night she got a strong jolt from the Lord through His Word to see the world as He sees it and as He’s made it.

Bible studies flatAs the Bible says, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). Or as King David prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your Word.” (Psalm 119:18) It was a joy that night to see this young woman beholding wonderful things from His Word.

Hearing from God, like your life depended on it

danger is near flatLast month I was in a situation where it was desperately important that I heard from God right then. My friend and I were driving the next morning to visit a school in Reyhanli, Turkey, about 200 meters from the border with Syria. I wrote about this visit in my blog post “Visiting Syria part 1”.

But we were realistic enough to know that real danger was possible. We’d phoned ahead to several ones who knew the situation and were involved and they all said that it was safe to make the trip. But in the final analysis, as believers in God and in Jesus, the most important guidance and green light, or red, needed to come from Him.

So we really prayed. And for both of us we just kept getting the witness of the Spirit in our hearts and Bible verses that it was His Will that we go, verses like “When He puts forth His sheep, He goes before them”. (John 10:4) And “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

Reyhanli mapWe took these from the Lord and we made the trip. Of course we were aware that the radical religionists right across the border in Syria would gladly pay a very large bounty for someone to kidnap us and turn us over to them. So we were keeping a good watch out on our way there for any funny business. But it all went really well and there was miraculous protection and blessing.

It reminds me of another situation, almost exactly 10 years earlier, when I was in Jakarta, Indonesia, immediately after one of the worst natural disasters of the last hundred years when the Asia Tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean.

The city that suffered the worst was Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province on the northern tip of Sumatra. The friends who I was working with at the time in Jakarta knew immediately that some of us would have to go there to help. And I knew strongly in my heart that one of the first ones who needed to go was me.

me&AcehKids-2 cropped

Teaching kids at a refugee camp in Aceh, 2005

But this was again a place where very serious, life and death prayer was a necessity. Probably there was more danger in this recent trip to the Syrian border. But in going to Banda Aceh, we were going to be faced with over 150,000 dead who were still left to be found, bagged up and carried off to mass burial grounds.

The infrastructure of the city of 450,000 was virtually gone. The fact that it was one of the strictest Muslim parts of Indonesia didn’t seem to be as big a deal as just the overall danger of aftershocks, extreme living conditions and would we be able to live with the shock to our emotions that all the devastation had wrought? It was a time when we needed to be certain we were in the will of God; otherwise it would be extremely unwise to go there.

But also in that situation the Lord came through clearly and blessed our time there immensely. Here’s a newsletter I sent to friends while I was in Banda Aceh 10 years ago, called  “With Muslims in Tragedy“. God hears all our prayers, including the simple little ones that we often pray throughout the day. But at times we must be desperate and get answers from Him, sometimes as a matter of life and death.

which way-aI’m thinking about this a lot currently as I’m at something of a personal crossroads. I’m facing some decisions involved with possibly pulling up roots and going to a new country I’ve very seldom ever been in before, more or less starting out from scratch in what would be a major change of direction and a completely new chapter in my life.

common sense flatI really need to know what God’s will is. Like Paul said, “Be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesian 5:17) Common sense doesn’t help a lot in these situations. Common sense would not have agreed with the trip to Reyhanli, Turkey or the time spent in Banda Aceh. But the life of faith and following the directions from God almost always goes contrary to common sense. “By faith Moses forsook Egypt”. (Hebrews 11:27) “Abraham went out not knowing whether he went”. (Hebrews 11:8)

For me it’s a time I need to know  that I’m on the right track, moving with the flow of His Spirit, having no will of my own and that my thoughts and leadings are of Him. Otherwise it could be a real disaster. Thanks for your prayers for me in these decisions at this time.

Tales from Trondheim (part 2): “the day of small things”

tales from Tronhiem2-a-flatAs I wrote in the first post of this series, the time my former wife and I spent in Trondheim, Norway back in the mid 70’s was actually somewhat rough. It’s no reflection against Trondheim; it’s an interesting place with an interesting history. But for us, it was really kind of a “Gethsemane”, ha!

But besides the amazing experience we had with the young man who went to be with the Lord a few days after leaving our fellowship, another experience was very strong in our lives, one that mainly had to do with my former wife.

She was, and is, a gifted soul winner and personal witness. At this time she was well along with her pregnancy of our first son and so she was often staying back in our meager little flat during the day. But her zeal for souls was such that she somehow struck up a contact with a young little girl in our neighborhood.

This little girl was around 8 years old and had virtually no friends. Her mom was single and the little girl herself was not really “pretty” but was sort of plain and also overweight. So she ended up getting teased a lot by kids her age and it was really weighing heavily on this little girl’s life. Her mom was at work all day and this little girl was actually at a severe crisis point in her life.

tales from Tronhiem2-b flatWell, my former wife ended up praying with this precious little girl to receive Jesus and the new life in Him that He could give. She told me about it with joy when I came home from a day of witnessing and taking care of business things on the streets of Trondheim.

Some weeks later this little girl’s mother called on us. Basically she said, “I don’t know what you did but I want to thank you”. She went on to say that her little girl had become totally different from before, with more confidence and strength, able to stand up to her bullying friends and just had really become “a new creature in Christ Jesus” (II Corinthians 5:17). This of course brought us immense joy as we felt we hadn’t been seeing a lot of fruit in our efforts to evangelize Trondheim during that winter.

And it was a real eye-opener for me. At that time my focus was still on the hippy generation my former wife and I had come out of. But here was a little 8 year old who was in the biggest crisis of her life, her light almost snuffled out through bullying and just being alone so much. So salvation had come at the time she needed it most, even though she was younger than I figured folks needed salvation… a lesson I hope I never forget.

tales from Tronhiem2-c flatIt’s rather like the verse from Zachariah, “despise not the day of small things”. (Zechariah 4:10) That’s certainly how we looked at our time in Trondheim, as a day of small things. But looking back, the Lord was working and changing lives, even through us in those dry times.

Not long after that we journeyed south and ended up having our first son in Stockholm, Sweden in the spring of ‘75. But even in that difficult time, He still helped us to bear some fruit, to touch some lives and to help a few people.

And the amazing sequel to all this is that 25 years later I met, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, an American missionary and his Norwegian wife. He’d been led to the Lord in Trondheim by ones we’d left in charge of our fledgling efforts there back in the ’70’s. He had been a backpacking young American who was met and witnessed to by our friends in Trondheim and had receive the Lord right there on the street. He had gone on to marry a dear Norwegian sister in the Lord I also knew and had since moved to the interior of Brazil to serve the Lord there.

So the ways of the Lord can at times seem strange. But here were at least these three lives that were strongly changed for Him during those months we were there and immediately after, even though for ourselves it was some of the most difficult months of our lives.

It’s like that verse, “In due season we shall reap if we faint not.”(Galatians 6:9) I can tell you, it sure felt like we fainted a lot back then and we were claiming the verse “he will make a way of escape that you be able to bear it.” (I Corinthians 10:13) But all the while He was still using us “in season and out of season” (II Timothy 4:2) and there was “fruit that remained” (John 15:16), even from that difficult time.

Somehow all these things were crossing my mind tonight. Maybe someone needs this, to know “your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58) and that He will always bring people into our lives who need Him and all that He has bestowed on us. God bless you.

 

“Fleeing into the wilderness”… in Bulgaria

Bulgarian town scene-aDuring my recent trip, an intriguing verse came to mind about where I was in Bulgaria and it’s possible place in the future, especially related to the events prophesied to come before the return of Jesus. A few of you know this verse well but probably most will have little or no idea what it means. It’s Revelation 12:6 “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there one thousand, two hundred and sixty days.

You may ask, “How in the world could that verse have anything to do with southern Bulgaria where you were?”

Let’s see if I can simplify this to where most everyone can get the idea. According to Scripture and His Own words, Jesus will return to earth at some future time to establish His rule in our world. But, again according to Scripture, there are a number of things we’re told will happen in the time very near to this return of the Lord. And things get particularly specific about the last 3½ years, leading up to His return.

Some of you know all this like the back of your hand but the vast majority of folks don’t. So, speaking to that vast majority, I can tell you that Jesus called that last 3½ years before His return a time of “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world”. (Matthew 24:21) Not good news at all, it seems. But at least we’ve been informed about it and can prepare in the ways we can, as He leads.

And that verse which came to my mind in Bulgaria, Revelation 12:6, is actually talking about that last 3½ year period. The “1260 days”, spoken of in Revelation 12:6, when divided by 360 days (the length a year was considered to be in ancient times) comes out to 3½ years. So who is “the woman” who is “fleeing into the wilderness” during that final 3½ years before the return of Jesus?

can we stay- flatA large group of people who study these things feel that “the woman in the wilderness” is the Christian “body of Christ”, the believers and receivers of Him and His love who will be persecuted like never before during that last 3½ years. The Bible calls God’s people His Bride, both in the Old and New Testaments. (Isiah 62:5, Revelation 19:7) This woman fleeing into the wilderness represents what we could call the collective church and overall congregation of believers throughout the earth.

“Mark, why would the Christians be ‘fleeing into the wilderness’ during that last 3½ years?”

One major reason will be that, by that time, a world-wide economic system will be in place, according to Revelation 13, where each participating citizen will be required to have some kind of “mark in their hand or forehead.Mark of the Beast(Revelation 13:16 & 17) This is what I was talking about the with the Kurdish women on my trip that I wrote about in “Tea and Endtime with the Kurds.” In my visit with them, they were telling me that they could see how they would have to flee out to their villages in order to escape the bestial totalitarian Anti-God, Anti-Christ government and its Satanic leader. So even those Muslim women could see a time where “the woman fled into the wilderness” would be the best path for them in this time to come.

“But Mark, it says, that the womanhas a place prepared of God that they should feed her there 1260 days from the face of the serpent.’ God has some place prepared and ‘they’ shall feed her there?”

time to flee- flat-1That was what I was seeing and feeling in those towns in rural Bulgaria [Here’s a link to a blog post that tells more about the details of my recent trip to there.] They were already almost totally self-sustained and self-sufficient economically. From where I was, it was close to a three hour drive through the mountains to even get to a city of 100,000. In the final endtime, the Antichrist world government will aim to control every nation and every city they can.

But they won’t be omnipotent. The eleventh chapter of Daniel speaks of a number of wars the Antichrist and his forces will be having, even during the last 3½ years. I believe God will lead multitudes of Christians to flee into the wildernesses of their nations where they’ll be helped by the simple, Godly people who so often live in places like that. “They” shall “feed her there” during this last horrific time in the history of mankind before the return of the Lord when “the cities of the nations fell” (Revelation 16:19) and then His Millennial rule will begin. It’s like the verse “the people that were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness.” (Jeremiah 31:2)

Bulgarian town scene-2God always cares for His own. Even during this future time of great tribulation, when so many Christians will be uprooted from the comfortable surroundings they live in now. They still will be helped, through God’s pre-vision, by the simple, Godly rural peoples around the world to whom we will flee for help and shelter during that time.

 

The story and pictures from Bulgaria

me and vaska in church-2Of the three countries I have been in recently, the one where there’s been the most to do in the way of teaching and ministering has been in Bulgaria. So I think it would be interesting for many of you if I shared more of the main thing I was doing there and also include some of the photos from those times.

Bulgaria map 2As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I first heard from my friend Vaska when she wrote me over a year ago, after she began viewing my videos on the prophecies of Daniel. Last year I wrote about my contact with her in two articles, “Good News from Bulgaria” and “More Good News from Bulgaria”. She also was the one who sent me the story about the former Muslim priest who visited her church and told his about his experience which I wrote about in “Suicide Bomber Sees the Light”.

church crowd compositeSo when I arrived at the little church in the small town in southern Bulgaria where Vaska and her friends have their base, it was already a little familiar to me. The first night I felt led to just share my life story of how I went from being an atheist to becoming a Christian. It seems like the apostle Paul, in his journeys, often started his ministry in an area by just sharing the conversion he had experienced.

Of course a big thing with these new Bulgarian friends was the vast difference in culture, background and nationality between them and me. So one of the first things I did was to let them know that in the Lord’s eyes, He sees us as one in Him, brothers and sisters, equals through His working in our lives. That seemed to help that I wasn’t trying to come there as some exalted one from a foreign country. Jesus “made himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7) and it’s important that we do that as well.

The main little church I spoke in. My room was upstairs.

The main little church I spoke in. My room was upstairs.

And they really took good care of me while I was there, almost too much, ha! I was brought breakfast, lunch and dinner at the little room I stayed in above the church and most of the time it was way more than I could eat. A real specialty of Bulgaria is a salty white cheese and there was a lot of that, as well as olives, fried chicken, fresh vegetables and lots of fruit. The church was within site of the mountains of northern Greece and many of the locals in the church go to Greece in the summer to work in the harvests.

Vaska and Avram

Vaska and Avrim

Another thing that impressed me was how Vaska worked with the local pastors in the towns in the area. I met at least a half dozen of these men and it was clear that they all really were appreciative of her ministry to them and to their people. Vaska is a good guitar player and singer and she has been working with a very interesting, unusual young man, Avram. Actually, he ended up being the one to do the voice for the audio tract of the first Bulgaria video in the prophecies of Daniel series. In the beginning I was hesitant to have Avram be the voice as I felt he was just too young. But Vaska said his diction in Bulgarian plus his understanding of the material was really good so we ended up going with that.

I guess, in a sense, “running in the background”, I was amazed to see how the Lord’s Spirit was working in this place, the interaction between Vaska and the ones she ministers to, the mentoring and coaching of some of these ones as they discussed situations and people in the churches, and the time she spent with Avram to help him grow in grace and maturity.

I could see from my room a church, a mosque and a solar panel, all in daily use.

I could see from my room a church, a mosque and a solar panel, all in daily use.

It’s seemed to pay off in their communities as there was overall a tranquil atmosphere and cooperation in the places I saw there. Very many of these ones were originally Muslim before becoming Christians. Their towns are mixed between these two religions but there seemed to be little to no open hostility between the two groups that I heard about.

It reminded me of the verse, “The things that you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2:2) This is such an essential part of the vision of those of us who want to see the Lord’s work grow and His flocks to prosper, in Bulgaria or anywhere. There has to be training of those who are called to be shepherds and teachers themselves, to be able to take care of the multitudes that so often are coming to Him. Without “labor leaders”, you can end up with vast flocks of bleating sheep but no grass roots Christian leadership, trained to feed and guide the flocks into green pastures.

It was a wonderful time. If the Lord leads and provides, I do want to be back there again sometime before real long. I hope this has helped to fill out the view of what was going on there in Bulgaria and also that the pictures included here help as well. And thanks again for your prayers during this time; it went really well. It will be exciting to go back there, Lord willing, to see how things have grown and also to see what were the fruits and results of my visit there. God bless you.

Tea & Endtime with the Kurds

My friend and I were sitting in the office of a Kurdish business woman. We were over in her neck of the woods, not in the West. And my friend had told me that in his conversations with her at other times, quite often the subject had turned to the events of the endtime, predicted in prophecy. By the way, the picture here is one I found on line of Kurdish women, not of the ones we met.

“So, Mark, the Kurdish woman was an evangelical Christian?”

No, she wasn’t. In fact when we first got there, we had to wait for her as she was having prayer, something many Muslims do 5 times a day.

“Were she and her friends covered from head to toe in black and all you could see of her was where there was a slit for her eyes?”

No, actually they were all dressed completely casually and looked like everyday folks from northern Italy.

“Mark, that doesn’t make sense! How could she be someone that carries on a conversation about the endtime if she was a Muslim?!”

My friend who took me to her office said that all she knows about the prophetic endtime is what she’s learned about it from the Koran and what my friend has shared with her. Yes, there’s plenty about the future to come in the Koran that has some definite parallels to the same narrative we find in the Old and New Testament, and quite a few Muslims know about this.

I spoke about this in my video on Daniel chapter 7, how that Muslims know specifically about “the dejjal”, the name in the Koran for the Antichrist, spoken of as a demonic world leader who will arise in the final years before the return of Jesus. AC figure-2This is also explained in the Koran. That may be surprising news to some who read this. Here’s the text and illustrations to the Daniel 7 class if you’re interested in knowing more about this.

So while drinking tea with her and her friends, one of the things we talked about was “the mark of the beast”, predicted in Revelation 13:16 & 17 as being a part of the world economic system of the final days. We talked about how this type of thing was not really possible for 2000 years. But now in our times virtually every product has a bar code. And we shared with our friend how that it would be just as easy to implant some kind of chip in each individual so that he could be scanned for each economic transaction and kept up with electronically in an almost complete way. We told her that this was prophesied many centuries ago as a sign of the final years at the time of the “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21), before the return of Jesus.Mark of the Beast

This was not the first time my friend had talked with this Kurdish business woman and her friends about this. But it was a way to share with her the vision of the future from the Bible which she already knew a good deal about, from her study of the Koran. She said, as we discussed the overall endtime picture of possibly needing to draw back from the large cities if a world government took over, that she felt she could be safe in some of the smaller villages she knows where Kurds are the majority. And that’s a similar conclusion to what many in the West have come see as a way to survive if an Antichrist world rule comes in our lifetime. Some may need to “flee into the wilderness” (Revelation 12:14), as the Bible says some will.

Another of my friends later told me that this is one of the easiest ways to enter into conversations with Islamic people, by talking about the vision of the future to come and what the prophets and writers of the Old and New Testament were shown by the God of Abraham about that time. So it was a wonderful day, sharing faith and truth that I’ve learned with someone hungry and receptive to the same truth.

By the way, you might wonder why I’m not being more specific and detailed about the name of the woman, her city and things like that. The reason is that in some parts of the world, a “Christian” way of looking at God, Jesus and the Bible is pretty controversial and even outright dangerous.

In some countries you can be thrown out of them if you’re known to be sharing your faith in that way. In other countries, it can get much worse, not always from the governments but just from local people who “take the law into their own hands” or who are motivated by ancient animosities to see you as an enemy of their society. In those circumstances you learn quickly to be a good deal less specific when sharing news of what the Lord has done, both for your own sake but also for the sake of your friends.

But it’s a wonderful life. It’s a wonderful and thrilling to have a conversation with people like my friend and I spoke with today, ones who have such a genuine hunger for the things of the Lord and such believing hearts to grasp and retain what we shared with them.

So I’d encourage you to not be afraid to step out and share your faith and what you know with your friends who might have an Islamic background. You might find it a very interesting and rewarding conversation, just like we did, even if you have to wait till they finish praying.

Visiting Syria (part 2)

Reyhanli kids in classI mentioned in the first post on my visit to the city bordering Syria, how that the school we visited was a surprise. Clean, organized, a real testimony to the people who are running it. It just struck me as a sign of the resilience of these folks who have almost all suffered personally, often physically, or have had members of their families who’ve suffered. But they seem very determined to make an environment for their children so they can continue their education and to not be defeated by the horror and destruction going on in their country.

I took some photos of some of the drawings the kids had done which were posted in the hallways of their school. Often they were in English. One of them said:

Peace poster -1Peace is part of love.

Peace cannot be controlled but it can only be made.

Peace is there.

Peace is here.

Peace is all over the world.

 

And another one said:

Peace poster -2“P” Peace is calm and friendly.

“E” Everyone is joyful.

“A”  Always have a smile.

“C” Careful and nice, no hate is allowed.

“E”   Evil is not right

But what could we do in the time we had there? We visited several classrooms, including where they were learning English. There were 4 of us; 3 spoke Turkish and 2 also spoke Arabic. We told them that we loved them and that we were so amazed by their happy smiles and joyful spirits. It wasn’t an opportunity or appropriate right then to speak on religious topics to these kids in their classrooms. But they knew we were different and had come to show love and solidarity with them.

Some of the Syrian kids with school supplies we brought for them.

Some of the Syrian kids with school supplies we brought for them.

With the head teachers and administrators, we talked more. We asked what we could do to help. They asked if we meant financially, materially or psychologically. We said we didn’t come from a large aid organization but were primarily volunteers. We brought with us several hundred dollars worth of school supplies for the children there, as well as clothes and goods they could pass on to the most needy in their community. We also gave a cash gift.

But we said we felt our strongest help could be in the realm of the heart, to let them know that millions are praying for their people, that they’re not forgotten and that our hearts were broken for them and their people at this time. When we asked what we could do, one of them spoke up emphatically to tell us to stop the bombing of their villages and cities and to stop the killing. We said we would if we could but that was beyond our abilities.

At one point in our talk with the administrators, I somehow shared how I’d come to faith in God as the only solution that was able to help my life and that we all felt the ultimate solution to the crises that griped their nation was to somehow find the love of God and love for each other. These were things that they all agreed with, even though I got the impression that some of them had seen such horrible examples of vilely twisted religiosity in their country that they’d swung towards secular solutions and views as they rejected the twisted religious views they’d seen. Then again later we were able to speak with other members of the school staff and to take the conversation in the direction of faith and a loving God who can heal and deliver us from the worst of circumstances.

One thing we learned from the situation in Reyhanli and from other areas nearby is that there are a number of volunteers coming from various parts of Europe and even farther afield. Most of these are young people and it often has to do with things like teaching music, sports activities, trauma counseling, computer training, art and just finding ways to help young people to still be able to get on with their lives in spite of the collapse of their society at this time. The motivation of these volunteers ranges from simple humanitarian concern to spiritual/religious convictions of different types.Mts syrian kids 4-fixed

As classes were being dismissed, we were able to gather with a large group of young students in the activity area in front of the school. One of us had a guitar and we got going with some good songs, both in English and in Arabic. Some of the kids really got to rocking out with us. They knew some of our songs and gather round to sing loudly. At this time we also brought in the school supplies and materials that we’d brought with us to distribute. Later we talked more with some of the administrators and got more familiar with the situation, as well as finding out possible opportunities to come back and do more.

Singing with the school kids, hills of Syria in the background.

Singing with the school kids, hills of Syria in the background.

Afterwards it was still daylight and we considered visiting some other places. But we felt what had happened already was a real answer to prayer and had gone well. So we agreed that we should “quit while we were ahead.” Then one of us paraphrased that idea to fit our situation, that we should “quit while we still have a head”. We laughed, somewhat quietly.

At the end of the day, as we headed back to our city, there was a feeling of peace and joy that we’d been able to go there, do what we’d been able to do, and then to get safely back out of a relatively dangerous situation. It seems like it is very rare for folks there to get visitors like us to their city and their people. My friends here will continue to be contact with similar groups and initiatives along the border where people with love and Godly concern in their hearts are doing what they can to bring light, love and practical help to what is one of the worst humanitarian crises I’ve seen in my lifetime.

Work? Or Prayer…in Bulgaria

Kornitsa group photoI’m in Bulgaria right now, such an interesting place and I’m having amazing experiences. I’ve been working with friends during the day to get a Bulgarian version of the first video I did on my series of videos on the prophecies of Daniel. Then at night I’ve been speaking at small churches and cell groups in this area.

For example, Saturday night my hosts said we would be going to a “radical Muslim” town to speak in a church there. I didn’t know what to expect. Well, for one, the “church” turned out to be someone’s medium sized kitchen. But “the church was packed”, or in this case the kitchen was packed. The picture above shows about half the people there. But they were all hungry and sincere Christians within this Muslim district who’d come to hear what I had to share with them.

That morning I had felt I could work on finalizing a blog post. But it just wasn’t flowing. One big thing I’m finding here is that prayer is a vital essential in what I’m doing. On Friday we had worked much of the day on the recording of the Bulgarian audio for the video. But it was so much effort that at night, when it was time to teach and share testimonies with the 70 or so that came to the church, I could feel I was somewhat drained and had not taken enough time in prayer earlier to be fully strengthened in the Lord for the evening’s activity. I still went ahead but I could just feel that it was not as full and flowing as it could have been and should have been, if I’d take more time alone with the Lord and not tried to cram so much into the day in the way of work.

Tell them I need them flatSo Saturday morning I knew I really needed to come to the Lord in desperation for His strength and even to try to get something from Him that would be in some way a message or theme that would be what He’d want me to share with these ones. Also at that time I sent a prayer request out to some of you to please pray for me to have wisdom and strength for this opportunity here.

Then, after that time of desperate prayer, a somewhat surprising thing happened. I felt led to just go to my computer and I wrote up something that wasn’t really a prophecy, in the literal sense of the word. But it was something I felt the Lord definitely laid on my heart right then, as a result of my earnest prayer to be a better channel and witness for Him in this situation. I’ll try to write that up into a blog article soon but the main idea was that “God needs us”. This is the message I shared with the Christians in the Muslim town that I visited Saturday night.

Now this morning also, as I nearly plunged back into a routine that usually worked ok for me back at my home base, the Lord instead led me to not start work but to get back on the wall of prayer. In this situation, it seems that I may be “doing” less each day. But it’s important to really spend quality time alone with the Lord, pouring out my heart to Him that He will help me to “raise the floor” so to speak and to be higher in the Spirit so that what’s being done will be from a time that’s really been brought before Him first.

So…, work or prayer? Of course both are needed. But in my case in this situation, spending more time in prayer has evidently become an essential for me if I’m to be in His highest will here and to be effective and fruitful in this time. A real lesson for me, and I thought to pass it on to you.

And I should mention that the place I am working from now is the same one that I wrote you about a year ago in “Good News from Bulgaria” and “More Good News from Bulgaria”. You can click on those links to get some background to how I ended up visiting these friends here.