Christmas Miracle, 1875 and now

It was Christmas Eve, 1875. Ira D. Sankey, one of the most famous Christian singers of those times, was traveling by steamboat up the Delaware River. It was a calm, starlight evening and there were many passengers gathered on deck. Mr. Sankey was asked to sing. He stood leaning against one of the great funnels of the boat and his eyes were raised to heaven in quiet prayer.

It was his intention to sing a Christmas song but he was driven almost against his will to sing “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us”. There was a deep stillness. Words and melody, welling forth from the singer’s soul, floated out over the deck and the quiet river. Every heart was touched.

After the song ended, a man with a rough, weather beaten face came up to Mr. Sankey and said, “Did you ever serve in the Union army?” “Yes”, answered Mr. Sankey, “in the spring of 1860.” “Can you remember if you were doing guard duty on a bright, moonlight night in 1862?”   “Yes”, answered Mr. Sankey, very much surprised.

“So did I,” said the stranger, “but I was serving in the Confederate army. When I saw you standing at your post, I said to myself, ‘That fellow will never get away from here alive.’ I raised my musket and took aim. I was standing in the shadow, completely concealed while the full light of the moon was falling upon you.”

“At that instant, just as a moment ago, you raised you eyes to Heaven and began to sing. Music, especially song, has always had a wonderful power over me and I took my finger off the trigger. ‘Let him sing his song to the end,’ I said to myself. ‘I can shoot him afterwards. He’s my victim in all events and my bullet can’t miss him.’ But the song you sang then was the song you sang just now. I heard the words perfectly:

We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,

Be the guardian of our way.

When you had finished your song, it was impossible for me to take aim at you again. I thought, ‘The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty’ and my arm of its own accord dropped limp at my side.

“Since that time I have wandered about, far and wide. But when I just now saw you standing there praying as on that other occasion, I recognized you. Then my heart was wounded by your song. Now I ask you to help me find a cure for my sick soul.” Deeply moved, Mr. Sankey threw his arms about the man who in the days of the war had been his enemy. And that night the stranger found the Good Shepherd as his savior.

Well, Merry Christmas to you. I read this story this morning from “Streams in the Desert”, one of the books I read for my daily devotions. It really got through to me as not only a beautiful story but another striking miracle from the God of miracles and His Son, Jesus.

I guess I’m a person of my times and easily jaded by hype and razzle-dazzle. And I’ve heard the Christmas story so many times and seen it presented so many ways that I’m probably cloyed by it all, as probably many are. But this that I read just now, of an outstanding miracle happening at Christmas to two men, one of whom who went on to reach many thousands with his voice and music, was the jolt I needed to remind me again of the God of miracles.

Miracles have been a mainstay of my life in many ways. I’ve written about some of them and they continue to fascinate me. In this day of cynicism, postmodernism and demonic darkness, the good God is still doing miracles as much as ever, perhaps even increasing them.

So thank God for Christmas, a day in the year when we earthlings are almost forced and dragged, kicking and screaming, to remember the birth of, not only the greatest man that ever lived, but the eternal Son of God come down to earth as a poor helpless baby. Parents have to, often reluctantly, explain to their curious children what Christmas is all about. And in some fumbling way they’re almost forced to try to give a decent reason to their own kids why the whole world stops to remember the birth of a baby in Palestine two thousand years ago.

But that wasn’t God’s last miracle. Jesus’ life was more full of miracles by far than any other man that ever lived. And God is still doing miracles, at the time of Jesus, at the time of Ira Sankey and the Civil War and in our times as well. This is what I needed to hear today, not just something that happened 2000 years ago but that the miracle-working power of those times is just as alive today as it was then. That’s been my experience over and over, thank God, of a caring, loving Savior and Father, a “very present help in the time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

I hope you have a great Christmas and that we all keep in mind that it’s all still as real as it was in Bethlehem way back then. God’s not dead or even sick. He loves us and will protect and provide for us just as he did for dear Ira Sankey on Christmas Eve in 1875. God bless you, Merry Christmas.

Fighting the fight of faith

determined to go forward full flatLet’s say you are determined to go forward for the Lord. Maybe you’re determined to share your faith more with others. Maybe you’re determined to get the victory over some “besetting sin” (Hebrews 12:1)  in your life, alcoholism, gluttony, lethargy, materialism or whatever. But you’ve set your face to go forward to greater obedience, to overcome and really gain ground in the Spirit for the Lord.

Well, I almost hate to tell you this (and you probably know it anyway) but it’s like this: if you do it the right way, the enemy will fight you. The hellish, fiendish “god of this world” (II Cor.4:4) doesn’t plan to give up territory he thinks is his and perhaps actually is his at this time. So you can expect that, one way or the other, the enemy will fight back and do all he can to thwart your plans, your dreams and your desires to go forward for the Lord.

you are a mess flatHow does he do that? He sends ISIS or some radical Muslim to destroy your life? Usually he’s more subtle than that. I think the vast majority of the time the enemy uses words and thoughts to deter us from our determination to more greatly obey the Lord. And folks, I’ve seen it happen recently and I’ve seen it happen when I was in my 20’s and every step in between.

The devil is the accuser of the saints. The Bible even talks about “false accusers in the last days” (II Tim. 3:3). And the pitiful thing is, the devil can tell you a lot of truth about yourself (or your friends, coworkers or loved ones) not to mention all the lies he tells. But whatever he can find in his dirty bag of tricks, his awful arsenal of evil, he’ll throw it your way. And, sadly, it’s not like it never works. Lies, fears, discouragement, the past, the future, confusion, division, discord, accusations, “revelations”, the list is almost endless of what starts coming at you when you are starting out to climb the mountain of God’s higher will and calling in your life.

turning backPaul the apostle said of the devil “we are not ignorant of his devices”. (II Corinthians 2:11) But it can be downright disheartening how many of the Lord’s sincere saints are sidetracked from the direction the Lord has led them when the enemy pulls out his big guns and starts shooting. And for the most part, it’s all in a battle of the mind. If the devil can persuade you to quit and give up, he doesn’t need to waste his time with any violent persecution of you. You’ve already been eliminated by being overcome by his confusion, fears, false narrative or whatever.

A real doozy is when the devil can pull up something that is actually true and use it against you. It may be something about your life, your weaknesses, your past, someone else’s past, some mistake you or someone else has made, things like that. And he just keeps playing that song and that “fact” in your head without ceasing, if you let him. After all, it is true, you can’t deny it.

I showed you flat-1But the deal is, there are other things that are much more important that are also true and are what the Lord wants you to focus on. It’s like the verse in the Bible, “this wisdom descends not from above but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” (James 3:15) But it is some form of wisdom, just that it’s not the wisdom from above. Some facts are like that: things that are true but if you focus on them, they’ll lead you right out of the will of God and the mindset He wants you to have. I’ve seen it happen, recently.

Paul said one time, “None of these things move me” (Acts 20:24). He said to the Galatians, “But though we or an angel of heaven preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)  Later on he said to the Galatians, “You did run well, who has bewitched you?” Galatians 3:1 & 5:7)

Often we learn these things through very hard experiences. We learn some of this when we have fallen for this type of device of the enemy, whatever it may be. “The fear of man brings a snare.” (Proverbs 29:25) We are afraid of what people will say and their opinions of us. Or our heart condemns us and tells us that God can’t use us. Or there’s some division that the enemy works among brethren to stop the progress of God’s troops.

But whatever it is, I can guarantee you that it will happen if you are truly going forward to win the battles of the Lord and regain ground from the enemy, in whatever form it may take. So just expect it, don’t fear it or let it frighten or deter you but be prepared, have on the armor of God, and trust that the victory that is needed has already been won for us on the cross when Christ there defeated the enemy of our souls. May He help all of us to be winners in the battles He is leading us into, not victims but victors. God bless you to be fighters for Him.

Is God like Helium? Or Hydrogen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With what body do they come?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thimbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Live class audio on Daniel chapter 11:31 to 12:13

man on horseIn Texas in October I was able to complete the final live class in the series I’ve been doing with Sunday school friends there on the book of Daniel. The live class audio on Daniel 11:31 to 12:13 can be heard here.

I guess, with all the fears and foolishness that weigh on our weary world in these times, it’s still a thrill to delve into God’s Word and get “back to the future” of what Bible prophecy tells us will be how things will all end up. I personally am looking forward to, not another change of earthly governments, but the literal setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth. Yes, I’m “millenary”. And for all of us who know and believe in God and His Son Jesus, we all ought to be having the same hope and vision of the future to come: His return to save us from the mess this world is increasingly becoming under unregenerate, renegade mankind.

It was actually difficult to get through this class because so many of these verses are just outstanding and drenched in significance for those of us in these times. This is particularly true of Daniel 12: verses 1 through 4. But many other verses in the classes could have used more attention that we were able to give them in the time we had. For example Daniel 12:1 seems to be important enough that it was paraphrased by Jesus in Matthew 24:21 and Mark 13:19.

Daniel at deskDaniel 12:1 says, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

As we got into chapter 12, we saw that the dialogue changes and it goes back to how it was in chapter 10 with the conversation back and forth between Daniel and the angel or angels. In chapter 10 the angels were just barely able to get Daniel strengthened enough to be able to handle the incredible truth that was to be shared with him. But then by chapter 12, Daniel was so invigorated by his experience then that the angel had to tell him “Go your way, Daniel.” (Daniel 12:9) Daniel still had a stout heart, even if his flesh was beginning to flag in his 80’s by then.

And I’ll just mention that I was glad it worked out in the class to make it through to the last 3 verses in chapter 12. Because they are some of the more surprising in the book of Daniel and seem to segue into events that follow the second coming of Jesus, giving us a glimpse beyond the period of the last 7 years and especially the last 3½ years that the messages Daniel received focus on so much.

But I won’t give it all away here. It was an inspiring time and I personally was having a really good time sharing the class with my friends as it’s a subject that is very dear to my heart. I hope you’ll be able to listen to the class. And please do pray for me that I’ll be able to complete videos on these last 3 chapters in Daniel, hopefully within the next year. GBY, the live class audio on Daniel 11:31 to 12:13 can be heard here.

 

Daniel 11: verses 1 to 35 live class audio

Daniel at desk for D9 blog postWe continued, last Sunday, the Bible study I’ve been doing with friends at an adult Sunday school class on the book of the prophet Daniel. This time we went over perhaps the most difficult but also significant passage in Daniel, chapter 11. I took some time in prayer the night before to really look to the Lord about the class and to try to find the best approach in sharing it. The live class audio on Daniel 11: verses 1 to 35 can be heard here.

D11 picture of angel touching DanielThe three last chapters in Daniel seem to be one continuing event, unlike the other chapters before them. So Daniel 11 picks up the narrative from Daniel 10 of what happened next after Daniel’s incredible experience with an angel or possibly angels who had a real job on their hands in strengthening Daniel sufficiently enough to be able to receive this final mighty revelation in the book.

In prayer the night before the class, the Lord laid it on my heart to start out by stepping back a bit at the beginning in order to try to share with the ones in class what are actually the most important pillars that make up the framework of yet-to-be-fulfilled Bible prophecy. I won’t go into the details here but we started out with the greatest Teacher of them all, the Lord Himself. When asked about His second coming, Jesus gave three very distinct points of importance. Those can be found in Matthew 24:15, 21 and 29-31. I went over these before in the video on Daniel 9:27, how that they could be boiled down to “When…”, “Then…” and “Immediately after…”.

And we saw from Matthew 24 that Jesus clearly and emphatically pointed us back to something in the book of Daniel , telling us “whosoever reads, let him understand”. (Matthew 24:15) And what Jesus was pointing us to is found most clearly in Daniel 11:31, from the chapter we went over on Sunday. Well, if I get into too much detail here, it will become quite a long blog post. But I’ll add the four other pillars of prophecy that I shared with the class on Sunday: Daniel 8:11, Daniel 9:27, II Thessalonians 2:3 & 4 and Revelation 13:5-7.

I’m very aware that for some people this can just be too much. Bible prophecy is not everyone’s cup of tea. I think the Lord has to bring it to someone’s attention and show them the importance of it. Otherwise it can seem tedious and just too difficult to understand. So I’ve really tried in these classes to break it down to bite-sized pieces as much as possible and to continue to aim at those who are new to the subject, rather than the ones who’ve been studying it for years.

Also in working on this Daniel 11 class, I realized again that the best way to present this is in the format I’ve used for the videos on the prophecies of Daniel series. The live class format, like on Sunday, has the advantage of spontaneity and the interaction that goes on between the teacher and the class. But for this chapter, the material is so meaty and yet so significant that I’ve been realizing that Daniel 11 really needs to have a class that is scripted beforehand so that the very best way can be found to present the chapter to the general public.

When I read again the buildup to Daniel chapter 11 that was to been found in Daniel 10, the effort in prayer by Daniel and the effort in the spirit by the angels, as well as the opposition of Satan to this message even getting through, it was even clearer that this is an incredibly important part of the prophetic picture that God has given to us in His Word. And to top it off, Jesus Himself points us to this chapter.

For now, this live class audio hopefully will be a blessing to those who are ready for this rather advanced Bible prophecy class. And this has also been a tug on my heart to try to get the last 3 chapters in Daniel into video classes at some point in, hopefully, the not too distant future. The live class on Daniel 11, verses 1 to 35 can be heard here.

Daniel chapter 10 live class audio

Last Sunday I shared a class on Daniel chapter 10 with an adult Sunday school group I attend in Austin, Texas. I made an audio recording of the class and an edited 35 minute version of it can be heard here. In the class we have been going through the prophets in the Old Testament and they wanted me to do the prophetic chapters in Daniel. We completed the prophetic chapters through Daniel 9 and the Sunday before we watched the video I did in 2014 on Daniel 9:27. As some of you know, Daniel 9:27 is one of the most important verses in the whole book of Daniel and, perhaps it could be said, in the whole Old Testament.

I’ve often shared in my video classes what Jesus said in Matthew 24 when He was asked about His return.Matthew 24 21-a for blog post One of the most pivotal verses in the chapter is Matthew 24:15 where Jesus said, “When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, whoso reads, let him understand.

And He went on to say in verse 21 that “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world”. But what exactly is Jesus referring to there in Matthew 24 that we should read in the book of Daniel? It seems this is not too often spoken about or pursued, even though the Lord put so much emphasis on it.

The video on Daniel 9:27 explains about this a good deal. But specifically, the clearest verse on this is found in Daniel 11. And as we found in our class on Daniel 10 last Sunday, the last 3 chapters in Daniel, 10, 11 & 12, seem to be all one event, unlike the first 9 chapters. The narrative flows from one chapter to the next in these last three. It seems that since it was all so much longer than the other narratives, the people back in the 1600’s or 1500’s who divided the Bible up into chapters and verses made this section into 3 chapters.

Actually, this is not specifically a prophetic chapter. But Daniel chapter 10 sets the stage for the archangel Michael’s message to Daniel in chapters 11 and 12. And it contains one of the most amazing glimpses in the Bible into the spiritual world and the battles going on there between the angels of God and the demons of hell.

Daniel tells us that he had been fasting for 21 days. In the class we took note of the fact that almost certainly Daniel was well into his 80’s by this time. Michael the archangelThen appeared to him an angel in all his glory to speak to him and bring a message to him about the future. It doesn’t say definitively who this angel is but my thought has always been that this was Gabriel, as he was the angel coming to Daniel in earlier chapters.

But then the angel explains that he had been hindered in answering Daniel’s prayer because “the prince of Persia withstood me 21 days. But then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” (Daniel 10:13) What an incredible flash of revelation into the behind-the-scenes workings of the spiritual world. A demon prince had fought against this angel getting his message through to Daniel until Michael, the archangel, came and intervened to turn the tide to the favor of the Lord’s will and His servant, Daniel.

It’s just an incredible chapter and vividly visual. Hopefully someday I can make a video of this one and continue the prophecies of Daniel video series. Meanwhile, here’s the link to the 35 minute audio of the class we had on Daniel 10 last Sunday. I hope it’s a blessing to you.

Your friend, Mark

“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.

The stones would cry out

jesus on donkey 3Jesus had taught, healed and preached throughout Israel for 3 years. As He neared Jerusalem, His disciples brought a young donkey to Him and sat Jesus on the donkey. Then, as they approached Jerusalem, the Bible says,“And when He had come near  the descent of the Mount of Olives, all the multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King coming in the name of the Lord! Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:37 & 38)

Pharises with Jesus 1 flatAlmost always in any crowd that followed Jesus were His detractors and antagonist. In this case the next verse says, “And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Him, ‘Master, rebuke your disciples.’” (Luke 19:39)

The Pharisees were a prominent sect of the Jews at that time and were the primary religious leaders of the Jewish people back then.  A few of them, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea recognized Jesus for who He was. But the vast majority of the Pharisees felt that Jesus was a false prophet and they often hounded and harassed Him, as in this case. They called out to Jesus, out of the rejoicing crowd, that He should rebuke His disciples.

Jesus answers 1 flatAnd Jesus said to them, “I tell you, if these should hold their piece, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40) Honestly, the first time I heard that, it seemed a little far out. In fact, if you’re like me, maybe the first time you read the Bible there were a number of things that really kind of seemed strange. Why would Jesus tell the Pharisees right then that if His rejoicing, happy disciples had not been rejoicing and praising God, that the stones would start doing it? You gotta admit, it kind of sounds “out there.”

But as you read further and find out more, it becomes quickly much clearer. This very moment in history had been prophesied to happen by the prophet Zachariah over 500 years previously.  Zachariah 9:9 says “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, your King comes to you. He is righteous and victorious, meek and riding on an ass, even on a colt, the son of an ass.

So that very event of Jesus riding in to Jerusalem on a young donkey, surrounded by His rejoicing disciples, was something that was directly prophesied and recorded in Hebrew Scriptures centuries before.

And Jesus was so sure that those Scriptures and that prophesy was going to be fulfilled that He told the Pharisees, “If these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out.” Jesus called Himself “the son of Man” when He was on earth. But He was the Son of God and He knew that the Word of God would not and could not fail. It’s a certainty that eludes many of us as we read God’s Word and think on these things. In John 10:35 Jesus said, “the Scriptures cannot be broken.” In three places in the Gospels Jesus said, “The Scriptures must be fulfilled.” (Matthew 26:54, Mark 14:49, Luke 24:44)

Jesus’ love for mankind is perhaps what He is best known for. God is love, if He is anything, and perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16) It’s about love. But if we are to study and to emulate Jesus, the perfect Man, then grasping His certainty that prophecy will be fulfilled is vital.

Prophecy fulfilled flatWe look about us at the foolishness and horror of our times and gaze with perhaps a good deal of apprehension towards the future. But for those with faith in the God of Abraham, we could do well to have that depth of confidence and certainty that Jesus had in the unbreakable veracity of Bible prophecy. I believe He wants each of us to have that certainty in the Words of God that are yet to be fulfilled, for the troubled times each of us now have and for the tribulations that may yet come.