“Don’t ever ask again.”

Dont ever ask again-flattenedI was 20 years old, kneeling on the floor of my apartment in the dark at 3 AM, overwhelmed with emotion. As I wrote about in “The Radio Miracle, I’d just had a completely amazing answer to prayer, in response to my utter desperation to try to find out if God was really there. Out of nowhere my clock radio had come on and at that moment the song on the radio was saying,

“Lift up your fellow man, lend him a helping hand, Put a little love in your heart.”

Put-a-little-love-in-your-heartThe song instead could have been, “Sympathy For The Devil”, a hit song at that time. But it wasn’t. I really knew it was an answer from “outer space”, from another realm I hardly knew existed. It was an answer from God. So there on my knees I was saying, “Thank you God, thank you God.”

But then I heard a voice. Was it the voice of my mind or was it the voice of the devil?  I’d been on the devil’s frequency so long that it was almost like they’d intertwined. But clearly the thought was,devil

“That was just a coincidence. Your radio just happened to come on right then and it just happened that that song was on right then. Just happenstance.”

God pictureBut then, immediately there was another voice. I knew it wasn’t my voice or my thoughts. And that changed my life. The Voice said,

“Don’t ever ask again.” 

I wish I could let you hear how that voice sounded. Because those words themselves can sound hard or harsh. But they really, really weren’t. The voice was kind, warm, friendly and almost pleading. It was rather like I’d been in elementary school and had failed 1st grade twice.

It was like the voice of a kind, concerned father telling me that I really needed to get a grip and to get the victory in this, to get over the hump and to learn this lesson that was evidently so hard for me. What was the lesson? Unbelief.

I just over and over would default to doubt and not accept that the spiritual world was real, had worked in my life and made itself manifest on many occasions. I’d been in the grip of unbelief,UpAgainstTheWall_02-reworked even though God had really done a lot to show me that the world of His Spirit is real. If you want just one example of that among many, you can read about how God supernaturally warned me moments before the police raided my apartment about a year before what I’m talking about here. I wrote about that in “Up Against the Wall!

God was lovingly charging me and instructing me to not keep asking if it was all real. It was. And this was it; it was time to accept that His explanation for things, His way of seeing things, was the real one and the more powerful one, the truest explanation of the world I lived in. I was of course really shocked to hear those words. But also it sunk so deep in my heart that I really shouldn’t keep defaulting to my doubts which had been so entrenched in my heart for so many years.

The Bible talks about “besetting sins” (Hebrews 12:2). My besetting sin had been unbelief. And God wanted me to come to where I accepted what He’d been showing me and to repent of my doubting, to stop doubting and to come firmly down on the side of belief in Him and all that He has done and said.

Happily for me, that experience and those words changed my life. I made a real commitment right then to turn away from the reflex to doubt that had gripped me for so long. It was something I had to do. I had to resist those thoughts and recognize that it just wasn’t true. What was true was that there is a God, there is a spiritual world, and there is a devil. I had to adjust my life to these new realities that I’d discovered. It was a huge and total break with the life I’d had till that time.

As it says so clearly and so many times in the Bible, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him. For he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) If you know much about God’s Word, you know how much importance He attaches to simply believing Him. All the way back 4000 years ago, “Abraham believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

“Good works” are important. Helping the poor, loving your neighbor, not being selfish. But the rock bottom essential in our spiritual lives comes down to belief in God, acknowledging that He is real, He is there, not just in our minds, not just as a concept but as a real Essence and Being, a Spirit that we can’t really understand and can’t see but whose spiritual world and working is all around us.

Thankfully I can say that I don’t think I’ve had that problem any more since that time. I haven’t battled doubt about the existence of God and the spiritual world. And that acceptance of faith and heeding His personal commandment to me to not doubt has been part of the foundation stone of the wonderful, incredible life of service for God that I’ve experienced since that time.

Distracted

fight distractions flatI was trying to have my morning prayer time, something I often do by going out somewhere in nature.  But this morning, as has happened at other times, it was a real battle to focus on prayer and not to be distracted.

I’ve recently moved and now am able to go out in a secluded wooded area, away from the bustle of the city. You would think that would be a great place to pray and I suppose it is. So the problem isn’t with the surroundings, it’s me. I seem to get easily distracted. “Oh, look at that butterfly! Those trees need pruning. The clouds are nice today.” Just on and on it goes. Repeatedly I have to snap out of it and turn my attention back to why I came out there: to pray and “pour out my heart before Him.” (Psalm 62:8)

lead and guide me flatMaybe my problem is that things are more or less going OK right now, that I’m not face to face with some ominous crisis. That may be a part of it. Sometimes situations you’re facing can drive you to desperate prayer. But what about when you need to do today what you did yesterday and will be doing for probably a few more weeks and months? Well, we still need to pray. We still need to “in all our ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:6) We need to “commit our way unto the Lord, trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5)

It’s just so easy to lapse into lethargy and it can often begin with our prayer life. Jesus said to His disciples at perhaps the most desperate hour of His life, “Can you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) But they were asleep in the garden of Gethsemane while it says of the Lord in prayer, “and being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat was it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)

Maybe we don’t “feel” like praying, maybe we’re tempted to think of it as drudgery or some kind of daily ritual we’re called to. But this can all be so much clearer if we shine the light of the Word on it. When I was going out to pray this morning, a verse came to me that I’d reviewed earlier. “Through desire, a man having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddeth with all wisdom.” (Proverbs 18:1) I’ve heard folks say that verse is talking about something bad, separation from God and going after evil wisdom. But it equally can be taken the other way.

watch and pray flatHaving a desire to get alone with the Lord and to connect with Him, we separate ourselves from the world around us and its distractions so that we can seek and intermeddle with the wisdom, love and Spirit of God. That was my verse I claimed as I went out to pray today. But it was a battle. Another verse that came to me was what the Lord told His disciples when He said to them, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

Temptation? You mean one of them had brought a bottle of whiskey or some other sin of the flesh? I don’t think so. I think the temptation was the same kind I was facing in our garden here this morning. Distractions, lethargy, fainting in our minds. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10) And that “day of adversity” doesn’t only have to be when you’re faceing ISIS or your neighbor’s dog.

It’s a battle every day with our besetting sins, the “weights and sins that do so easily beset us.” (Hebrews 12:2) And one of those besetting sins is to just grow weary in well doing, to get our eyes off the Lord and the goal before us. “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, (Proverbs 29:12) and in some ways it takes vision to take prayer time.

For me that vision is strengthened and enhanced by quoting the Word of God I have memorized. Otherwise I will just stroll along, doing my own thing and thinking my own vain thoughts. King David said, “I hate vain thoughts, but your law do I love.” (Psalm 119:113) Or it’s like Paul said, “Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. ” (II Corinthians 10:5) That says a lot there, bringing every thought into captivity. Maybe that’s what that verse in the Old Testament meant when it said, “He did evil because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.” (II Chronicles 12:14) We have to not only get in prayer; we have to get in the Spirit.

dont have to pray flatIt can all seem tedious. The devil and our own carnal mind can tell us that this isn’t really so important. “What you’re doing today doesn’t really have to be prayed about. You can handle this on your own.” Boy, what a lie. The Lord said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)  Well, we can do a lot of wrong and useless things. But to do His Will, we need His strength and power.

So even if this day may look a lot like the one yesterday, it still needs to be hemmed in at the beginning and end with focused, undistracted prayer. Lord help me, I’m almost writing this to myself as much as I am to anyone else. These are things I need to really remember, do and hold on to. I hope it’s something that others may be facing and need help with as well.

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.

Freedom

freedom pictureI’ve had a conversation with a new friend and some of it has been about freedom. My gosh, what a subject.  Are you free? Free from what? How can we tell? How can we measure and quantify freedom? Everybody talks about it, most everybody wants it, a few people say they have it and some say that others don’t have it. But some people just really feel and know they aren’t free. They are bound. Sometimes they feel like a slave, either to some other person, to some system, to their families, their egos or whatever.

you shall know the truthBut Jesus talked a pretty good amount about freedom. In fact, He promised it. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed”. (John 8:36)  The university I went to has at the top of its main building, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Of course it was Jesus Who said that. But the university appropriated that Bible verse to apply it to the secular education received at the university.

I don’t know, maybe some find the truth there. I’m afraid I found some knowledge there but knowledge is not really the same thing as truth. While I was acquiring knowledge at university, I was literally nearly dying for a lack of wisdom that comes from the truth that comes from God. And I certainly wasn’t free. I guess I could have thought I was, going to university, cool sports car, apartment, pretty good job, nice clothes. But inside I was like a person with a terminal disease in its last stages. I was sick and starved of the knowledge, wisdom, truth and freedom that come from God.

From the early 70's. London, England

But when I came to that point where I received Jesus and was born again, I truly in so many senses became “a new creature in Christ Jesus”. (II Corinthians 5:17) Was I free then? I sure was; but it was something so totally in the middle of my soul that it might not have been apparent right away. Or maybe it was. I’m sure my countenance was different, my words began to be different, my lifestyle changed and I just had a complete change in my heart and soul from the inside out.

For one, I was free from addiction to psychedelic drugs, something that had a grip on me till then. But it was much more than that; it really was like what Jesus meant when He said those words written in stone at the top of the building at my university, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”(John 8:32)the truth will make flat I began to have a freedom, a peace, a joy and even words that there may be no words for, maybe close to the word “ecstasy”. But I don’t find the word that fits, really. Simply put, it was a form of freedom and deliverance from the fear, confusion, bondage, lack of direction, just the overwhelming lack in every area that was the essence of my life before my coming to God.

You may say, “I don’t know. I went to church one time and those folks didn’t look free at all. It all seemed pretty formal, traditional and, frankly, dead.

The good news is that some churches are not like that anymore. They are drinking deeply of the things or God, or are trying to, and people pushing the envelope to find those spiritual realities that Jesus promised are ours in Him. For example, some people are singing songs together, powerfully and from their heart and they are being exhilarated with the freedom that comes sometimes through song. I personally have been in places where the songs even turned into dance and went on for hours. No, people were not jerking around like rodents; it was smooth and beautiful, heavenly and free like we’d been transported up from this world or the essences of heaven had come down to us. It was an indescribable experience.

Another form of freedom I’ve experienced was in the midst of one of the worst natural disasters on earth in our lifetime, when I was in refugee camps in Aceh province, Indonesia in the immediate aftermath of the Asian tsunami of 2004. It wasn’t some out-of-body experience but a very practical freedom of stability, sanity and focus in a time when most people were utterly stunned and overwhelmed in the aftermath of such devastation. There was an infusion of freedom and peace on me and my friends that made it so that we could minister for many hours each day, giving and pouring out in every way we could when almost all the local and state infrastructure had been destroyed and we were surrounded by devout Islamic people who couldn’t help wondering how in the world we got there and why we were there.

For a Christian, we’re not just given freedom like some lottery prize but as something useful and practical that brings us joy. But His freedom also strengthens us for the task at hand in this present world, of bringing people to God and His Son Jesus. And I’ll admit, it does seem like many Christians have not gone so far in experiencing the freedom we have in Jesus.

passing litMost churches are so “afraid of wild fire”, that they have little or no fire of the Spirit at all. Besides, only a few are beginning to tell the sheep in their congregations that actually they are responsible to not just “lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2), but to “bear much fruit” (John 15:8), to witness and win others personally to Him. So they need to experience the freedom we have in Him and then start using it to get going for God and others.

sharing wordWe’re free, free, free; free to do God’s will. Free to “follow the Lamb, whithersoever He leads“. (Revelation 14:4) And for those few who are beginning to awaken to the fact that the dear Lamb of God has work to do for each of us in this world, they are finding that His freedom will help so that we can do so much more, dream so much more and accomplish so much more than most of us ever did before when our life in the Lord consisted of Sunday church service and perhaps a little more.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”. (II Corinthians 3:17) “The creature itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God”. (Romans 8:21) How many people of God have really experienced that “glorious liberty” personally in their lives? where the spiritHow many people are daily living in that glorious liberty to the full in the action-packed, thrilling, significant destinies His saved children can have right now in this world, if we seek first His kingdom. Oh, that the Lord would be able to help more of His people to drink more deeply of His freedom and the things of Him now in this lifetime. “Eye has not seen, neither has ear heard the things that belong to them that love Him. But God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit for the Spirit searches the deep things of God.” (I Corinthians 2: 9 & 10)

Pilot lights

got something flatHave you ever had someone get something from the Lord for you? Maybe they had a dream about you or some verse came to them that was just the word of the Lord for you? It doesn’t happen all the time and probably we can quickly get too much of something like that, it can go to our head. But I had something like that happen to me when I was in my 20’s and it’s always stuck with me as a source of encouragement.

I was in London and preparing to move to Scandinavia. I’d been working with friends in England for close to 2 years and it was a big thing for me to leave and go off into what for me was the unknown. Someone came up to me and said they’d gotten something from the Lord for me. They said that the Lord had shown them a vision of a pilot light and said that this was what I was. It wasn’t some long prophecy, just a simple vision, but to me it said a lot.

pilot lightSome might even ask, “What is a pilot light?” Well, on gas stoves, maybe only on older ones now, there was beneath the surface of the stove a small flame, a pilot light, that stayed on constantly. Then, when someone turned the knob to get the stove to come on, the pilot light was there to light the flow of gas so that it provided flame on the burner on the stove.

So I was thinking of what that could mean, how could the Lord pictured me as a pilot light? I guess the thing that’s most singular about a pilot light is that it’s always on. It reminds me of the verse about the flame at the altar of the Lord at the ancient Hebrew temple.fire on the altar It says in the Word about this, “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” (Leviticus 6:13) And of course this is symbolic of how it should be with each of us. We are to be lights to the world and to “let our light shine before men” (Matthew 5:16), as Jesus admonished us in the Sermon on the Mount. Of the ten virgins, 5 had let their lights go out but the other 5 kept theirs burning.

And in the case of a pilot light, it isn’t even usually visible on the stove; it’s just there behind the scenes, always burning and ready to provide a start to other larger flames. So this was a very encouraging vision this friend received for me and one I needed as I was going through a lot of spiritual battles at the time.

Of course, in a sense we all can or should be pilot lights. We should all be having our lights burning at all times, “it shall never go out” as it is said of the fire on the altar in the Old Testament. And a pilot light has one function, to help start other, often larger fires. There are so many stories in history of insignificant people who led someone to the Lord who turned out to be really world-changer disciples.

Moody & Livingstone flatWhen Dwight L. Moody was an insignificant shoe clerk over 100 years ago, someone witnessed to him and led him to the Lord. And Dwight L. Moody went on to become one of most successful evangelists in American history. Or there’s the preacher who was speaking to a small gathering of ladies in a Scottish church on a gloomy, rain-drenched day about the need for missionaries to Africa. Unbeknownst to him, up in the balcony was a young man who was adamantly taking in every word of the preacher. That young man was David Livingstone, one of the greatest missionaries who ever went to Africa.

But for Livingstone and Dwight L. Moody, for all the great lights and flames that they were, there still had to be those pilot lights , those unsung, unknown ones who were there when the Lord needed them, faithful in “the day of small things” (Zachariah 4:10) that God had placed them in.

Jesus said, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much, and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” (Luke 16:10) One of the most important things to the Lord is our faithfulness and commitment to Him. Having our lights burning and being ready to be of service to Him is something that anyone can do and is at the bedrock of our Christian existence.

Compression

Lago de GardaYears ago I lived in northern Italy for 4 months. It was a very interesting time. I was working together with Christian friends who had a very wealthy Italian businessman who wanted to help and support them. (And to all my Italian friends, in case I say something wrong in any of this, please forgive me.) So I don’t want to stereotype but this dear man was really an interesting character.

For one, he always carried a pistol with him. His office building was equipped with state of the art security, especially in the area of preventing break-ins. One reason for this was that in the garage of his office building he had a stable of around a dozen ultra-high performance sports cars. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lotuses, and more; millions of dollars worth of sports cars is one place where he’d put some of his fortune.

Ferrari F40One day he had his Ferrari F40, pretty much the ultimate sports car at the time, which he’d often drive down to Rome in, and he and I were talking about the car. I’d once been a sports car buff but I was delivered from that, rather like a deliverance from drugs or drink. But while we were talking, he said something that I guess the Lord rang my bell on and gave me a glimpse into an area of human life that I had not seen before.

Ferrari F40 engineHe was talking about the motor of the Ferrari, a 500 horsepower V-8 engine. And he said “the compression” was like 7.7, referring to the ratio of the volume of its combustion chamber from its largest capacity to its smallest capacity. It seemed like the Lord was wanting to get some mileage out of that with me as I mulled over the idea and saw some spiritual parallels in my life and the lives of all of us.

Truth be known, there’s an element of an engine in each of us, our motor. Some have more capacity, a stronger motor, even sometimes more complex and harder to keep in tune. It’s not a matter of good or bad, God has made us each differently. On the other hand, the Lord needs laborers and He needs those who will run the race and finish the course. Some of this relates to our fruitfulness and how much we really go the extra mile in laying down our lives for Him and others.

How do you see Jesus? Was He a really a tightly wound, tense, high pressure guy? I don’t think so. But on the other hand, neither was He some ethereal, aloof spiritualist, given to long naps and endless hours of contemplative solitude. He told His mom, “I must be about my Father’s business.” (Luke 2:49) He said, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) He “set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) and He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with and how am I straightened till it be accomplished.” (Luke 12:50) I imagine that the personality of Jesus, if we can use that phrase with Him, was one of some measure of zeal and determination.

And certainly it was that was with the Apostle Paul. He said of himself, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was bestowed on me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I but the grace of God with was with me.” (I Corinthians 15:10) Was he boasting there? On a works trip? No, he was just stating what he knew was right, that he’d been given a strong motor with relatively high compression and he intended to be used by the Lord to the furthest of his ability.

I guess in some ways I’m a little like that or at least I can see that it can be a good thing. Paul also said, “…not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9) but he was speaking there about salvation. If you have zeal and a determination to work with vigor for the Lord, you’re probably not doing it to earn your salvation but in plain thankfulness for the salvation you have, as well as to share His love and truth with as many as you can.

But sometimes it takes compression. It takes being able to, in some ways, take a lot of pressure, “rpms” (revolutions per minute), movement, acceleration and de-acceleration and through it all to be dependable and useful in His service. The Lord needs us all, there’s a harvest to be reaped, there’s a world to go into, there are glad tidings to publish and He needs us to have our motors in good shape, tuned up and available for His calling for each of us. And that may even mean we need to be a high compression version that can get somewhere when we are letting Him be in the driving seat.

Left, Right and Center

David CameranAs probably everyone knows, the big news is that the British people have voted in a referendum to exit the European Union, “Brexit”, as it’s called. It’s a pretty big deal if you’re European and of course especially if you are British. The vote was followed last night almost like it was a general election and in some ways more than a general election since the British electorate was having a once-in-a-generation chance to express their views on such a major issue affecting the future of their nation. And they voted to leave Europe. It’s a big deal.

But the thing I’ve noticed today actually is how… I’ll use the term “freaked out” the main stream media is about this event. I have been keeping up with politics, news events and reporting since I was around 6 or 7 years old. I was brought up in a family of politically active journalists and newspaper people. And to me, the thing that probably most people aren’t aware of is how unhappy and evidently angry almost all the news agencies are that report in English about this British vote. I’ve seldom seen the media so incensed, emotional, negative and whining against the British electorate for voting the way they did. To me, it’s a real news item itself how the press is reacting, mostly really overreacting to what’s happened. Examples of this are everywhere but this is one small sample here. And here’s a lead editorial in the New York Times on the subject.

They just can’t understand it. “How could the Brits do such a thing? Don’t they know how much this is going to cost them? Don’t they appreciate all the progress their European integration has brought to Britain?” Evidently the common people have not looked at it that way, even though they’ve been having a solid barrage from every European institution you can think of which has been lambasting them with how important it is that they continue to keep to the path of greater and greater European integration and less and less of the sovereign independence New York timesand identity that has marked the Brits as who they are for the last 500 to 1000 years.

You get the impression the British have thought it through and are willing to take an economic hit if it means they feel they can have more say again in the direction of their country, as well as a feeling of dignity and identity that has been eroding day by day for decades.

“Mark, you don’t know what you are talking about! Go back to your Bible verses and your little platitudes!”

Well, maybe I relate a little to the Brits who voted to exit, just as I do with people across Europe who are wondering where things are going and how much say they have left in their nations and heritages that have roots so many hundreds of years deeper than we have here in the States.

Does that mean I am a neo-Nazi? That I have far right tendencies? For me, once I became a Christian and entered on the path of discipleship and a missionary life, the whole thing of worldly politics turned into a much smaller place in my life that it did before. This is what I wrote about in “Citizenship in Heaven”. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But now it my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36)

citizenship-in-heavenSo most of the time I just don’t get involved, especially not in political activism like I did before. But at the same time, I live in this world. The people I need to reach for the Lord go through these things and are affected by the twists and turns of politics. And this vote in Britain was a pretty big deal with ramification that may go a long way, for a long time.

All the main stream media, I mean everything I have seen, has really been castigating the Brits for the way they voted. Just everything you read says that the British people have made a very big, bad, stupid almost evil decision. There are even voices of foreboding that this portends to be an omen that a similar tide of discontent will sweep Donald Trump to power here in the States.

Donald TrumpBut I strongly, strongly doubt that. Maybe there are some vague similarities to conditions in Britain that brought on the “Leave” vote and conditions here in the States that have helped to make Donald Trump into the presumed Republican nominee for President in this fall’s election. But there’s a big, big difference between a long disgruntled majority of Brits voting to leave the European Union and an American election where a man like Donald Trump, now leader of a deeply fractured Republican party, would assume the mantle of the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.

But how much will the powers that be, including the main media in the West, make the Brits to suffer for their decision? It would be a great story in itself if someone dug into why the press is currently so freaked out and angry at the British people. There seem to be some folks who are really upset about this and they may be able to make some repercussions happen, as a warning to any other electorates in Europe who may be tempted to come to the same conclusions and actions as the British have. This all bears watching.

Repentance

repent for flatRepent. It must be something we can do because it was one of the first things Jesus taught. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) But what is repentance and how do you do it? Well, repentance is sort of on the “endangered species” list of words and even ideas, as has happened to so many other words that once were clear and understood by all.

This means a lot to me because repentance was an essential step in my life that brought me out of indescribable darkness and death and into this (most-of-the-time-anyway) happy life I’ve had for decades. Probably most English speaking people have at least some inkling of what repentance means, even if they don’t fully understand it or even like the idea.

Simply put, “repentance” means to change direction in your life but from your innermost being, to have a change of heart. And it also implies that the direction you’ve been going has been wrong and that some at least of what you’ve harbored in your heart needs to be abandoned and turned against. But there are a few more utterly essential ingredients that go into repentance if it’s to be real and lasting.

Never do this flatI know this because I repeatedly tried to repent when I was using drugs in university. It was like I was vowing a vow, “I’m NEVER going to do this again!” But a few months later I did. What went wrong? I was sincere and desperate; I was really trying to repent. This is where another of those “endangered species” words comes into play: sin.

“Oh, Mark, please! It’s just insane to bring up these ragged, old, tired, unscientific concepts that belong to the dustbin of history! ‘Sin’! Mark, really? No one believes in that kind of thing anymore; you’re making a fool of yourself!”

And yet, this is the very best terminology to describe what happened to my life and how I survived to live beyond my 21st birthday. It’s like Paul the Apostle said, “The good that I would, I do not. But the evil that I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19) That’s exactly how it was with me. Although I was not familiar with that word yet, I really wanted to “repent”. But I just didn’t have the personal power to resist what I was into. That’s why Paul went on to say, “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I do that do it but sin that lies in me.” (Romans 7:20)

Of course there’s a sense in which, in the big picture, God allows us to really go down the wrong path so that we will learn firsthand what the difference is between right and wrong. “The way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15) and often we have to learn the hard way. whapHe even uses our wrongdoing to be His instrument of correction to bring us back to His highest and best. As unpopular a concept as it may be among the worldly, the Lord does chasten and punish His children and even those who aren’t His children to bring them back to a better way.

It sounds really hopeless and in a sense it is. But let’s bring in another of those “endangered species” words: Jesus Christ. No, not the words so many use as a loud and profane curse, but the man of the Bible. To cut to the chase here, I never was able to really repent until I accepted the saving power of Jesus by asking Him into my heart. I didn’t understand it all, in fact I didn’t understand very much of it at all. But it came down to instincts and my gut, as they say. I knew I needed help desperately. I met people who’d been in the same fix and they said it had all changed when they’d prayed to become new creatures through His forgiveness and regeneration. So I tried it.

Up until that time, I had stopped using hallucinogenic drugs but I was still smoking marijuana sometimes. I’d come to believe in the God of Abraham and I read my Bible every day. But I still had a lot of fears and confusion and I had no idea who Jesus was. But as I’ve shared elsewhere, the Bible verse that best summed up my experience is this, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” (John 1:12)

Jesus in heart-flattenedOnce I received Jesus, I had power I’d never had before. With that new power within me, I not only repented of using drugs at that time (and have never touched them since), I had a whole regenerative experience in my innermost being, in my heart, mind, soul and spirit.

So, from my experience, repentance without the power of Jesus in your heart… well it didn’t work or happen for me. But with Him, “all things are possible to him that believes.” (Mark 9:23) There have been other things over the years I’ve had to repent of, as the Lord brings them up in my life. Usually it’s been deeper things of my heart rather than physical sins like drugs. But the point is, through Jesus repentance is really possible, no matter what you’re facing.

Are you feeling doomed, defeated, utterly overwhelmed by aspects of your personality or life that you just can’t get on top of and overcome? As old fashion and out of style as it may sound, taking these things of your life and heart to Jesus Christ, through personal prayer, may very likely be the only way you’ll ever get a lasting victory over things that may end up being your total downfall and even death. It is possible, it does work and and I hope you’ll try it : repentance through the power of Jesus. God bless you.

Worship

worship flatWorship. How can you make sense of that? Well, maybe someone might say to their wife or husband sometime, “I worship you.” But that would be pretty extreme. Mostly we’d be fine with just saying “I love you” to them, that’s going pretty far already. But perhaps that means that “worship” is like an extreme, advanced form of love?

And “love” is not one of those things that always makes sense anyway. So worship must be like that: it just doesn’t make sense. It’s a “heart thing” rather than a head thing and most people get a little tripidatious when it comes to the heart in the first place. No university course about the heart. Sometimes people just think, “Don’t go there”. You don’t know what you’re going to find; might be something you don’t like, ha!

Hispanic prayerWell, probably hundreds of millions of people look at things this way, especially in the “post-Christian” West. Actually, “worship” still has a pretty good name in many parts of the world and perhaps billions of people feel right at home with the concept of worship. But, for the most part, that’s not how it is in much of Western Europe and North America.

“And what does it matter anyway?” some would say. Well, you’re really missing something. If a life is devoid of love, most folks would think that would be an empty life. But in the same way, a life without worship is missing one of the highest and most fulfilling emotions that exists. But the rub is, most of us know that worship is not really associated with our spouse, dog or sports team. It’s something we think of in relationship to God.

I was having my morning walk and I thought about the Bible verse, “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2) And it dawned on me what a special concept worship is, often unknown to so many. love the Lord flatJesus was asked what the greatest commandment was and He answered from the Hebrew Scriptures, saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.” And He went on to say, “The second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30 & 31)

And I thought how He could have said, “You shall worship the Lord your God with all your heart…” That could have worked and fit just fine. But if He’d then said, “You shall worship your neighbor as yourself…”, somehow that doesn’t have the best ring to it. Still, worship and love are probably pretty close to each other. Maybe worship is like love on steroids? Or maybe love is like a single stage rocket that can get you from the ground into space. But worship is like the second or third stage of a rocket that works best in the upper atmospheres?

One thing I know, worship has greatly enriched my life since I came to know and believe in the God of Abraham and His Son, Jesus. I was like so many people, my heart was like a dark basement, full of all kinds of musty, dusty, often dank and dark things. But when Jesus came into my life, He not only cleaned out my basement, He redid my whole house plus added some rooms and a new floor or two. Now I don’t feel uneasy in the basement or the attic or anywhere else in between. So many things of the heart that were awkward to me are now either not that way or much less so.

Worship for me is a wonderful thing, not something I have to do as some ancient ritual or in some building on a certain day but just spontaneously, from my heart on a Saturday morning as I walk down the street. It’s a wonderful life. Reminds of the verse, “For the creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption unto the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

 

 

Lies, confusion and the truth

believe me 2 flatDon’t you just hate it when someone lies to you? It’s one thing when you catch it right away but even worse when they’ve lied to you for a while and you finally find out. I always figure the Lord gives us a measure of discernment and often we’ll detect a lie immediately. But not always.

Years ago in Scandinavia I’d begun meeting together with (what I thought was) a young man, perhaps around 20. “He” seemed interesting in the things of the Lord and we met together a few times before I didn’t see them anymore. Later I found that this was actually a young woman who’d probably had a great time deceiving me into thinking she was a male. I have to admit this somewhat stunned me that I’d been tricked like that and also that someone would be so deceptive.

really true flatI’ve had one other experience like that in another part of the world. A young man befriended me and my Christian friends and began to come regularly to our classes. He came from a wealthy, prominent family in the capital and seemed to have it all when it came to the physical. He helped us in our work with the poor and in many ways began to work besides us for months. But somehow this dear man seemed to find joy in telling stories of his past accomplishments that just were not true. He was pretty good at it and because of his background, none of us thought to just really dig into it and find that he was lying.

It was really pitiful because this young man had many good qualities and there was no need for him to try to pull the wool over our eyes with tall tales. But he did. At length it was all found out and he was embarrassed, ashamed and left our company. It was again kind of startling to me that someone would tell lies for so long to people who had sincerely become his friends and who really loved him. Also he had been through many Bible lessons and prayers and had been treated as someone who wanted to pursue a path of Christian discipleship.

King David desire truth flatAs I’ve written elsewhere, truth has always been important to me. King David in Psalm 51, said to God, “Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts, in the hidden parts you shall make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)  It’s almost like an unspoken given among Christians that we speak the truth with each other. We may not tell everything of our lives to every person. But at least we realize that truth is the true coinage of the realm of Heaven and that lies, deception and confusion should have no part in our lives.

I was thinking about this tonight in relation to being back here in America and (seemingly at least) how very hard it is to find the real truth here on so many things. Of course we who have the Lord have the truth of His Word and through prayer we can access Him and “the Spirit of Truth” (John 16:13), as Jesus called the Holy Spirit. But once you’re anywhere outside the realm of heavenly things, knowing what the truth is here is not easy. The Bible says, “God is not the author of confusion” (I Corinthians 14:33). But here there’s a tremendous degree of confusion and deception as so many news outlets compete to tell you their brand of facts and truth.

It really seems like a great confusion has settled upon this nation, so much so that most people no longer even try to dig down to find the unbiased reality and veracity on any subject. It’s just seems too difficult. So most choose some source to get their information from, often knowing that what they’re being told is almost always seriously tainted with a bias from some special interest group, trying to influence and control the population through their particular narrative.

I met a friend yesterday, a former missionary, who now really rails against the government here and how “they” are out to get us and to enslave us all. Fear of powerful unknown interests who control and orchestrate virtually everything from behind the scenes is a viewpoint held by many millions here, including many sincere Christians. But in talking with this friend, almost immediately there were some things he’d say about current world conditions or this country that I knew to be just plainly not true from a facts-based assessment. But I didn’t engage him on it as I knew he would just get mad at me for not agreeing with this point of view he felt so strongly about.

no truth flatFriends, I don’t have a really great “happy ending” to this article. We who believe in God and the Bible know where to get our eternal truths and verities from: His unfailing Word. But when it comes to the truth as to what’s happening in our world or our nation …well it reminds me of what Jesus said, “If the light that be in you be darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Matthew 6:23) We seem to be the most informed and knowledge-saturated people on earth. But so much of what we are “fed” through the media and on line is just as insidious as the worst junk food bought at the sleaziest restaurant.

I’ll try to end this with at least some ideas and hope. Get your information from more than one source. If you know your main news source is predominately “left wing” or “right wing”, try to find what the more reputable sources of the other viewpoint are saying, just in order to try to find objective facts that your favorite sources aren’t telling you. I even access the “main stream media” which is so often so reviled. The reason I do is simply because they have some reputation to uphold and they’re held accountable in ways that many fly-by-night, shoe-string budget alternative information sources never are.

Maybe it’s like Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?”  (John 18:38) In this day and hour, finding credible sources of truth about our current world and its condition is often a real labor. But it’s worth the effort. Don’t settle for the “shock jocks” and the spin masters to be your info source. You could even ask the Lord to help you discern these things and to help you not settle for news and info that you feel may be much less than “24 carat gold”. May God bless you as you search through the confusion of these times to try to find accurate information on which to make the decisions needed in these perilous times. God bless you.