How “the End” may begin (Part 1)

the-endtimeSome of my friends feel it’s ludicrous and in very poor taste to talk about anything having to do with “the end”. They feel is smacks of religious insanity. I have other friends who are ardent students of Bible prophecy and followers of current events. Some of them are preparing for a breakdown of society on perhaps a worldwide level. They feel I’m not alarmed enough at the signs they see that the very Last Days are now upon us.  I’ll try to address this subject of how “the end” may begin without probably satisfying either edge of that spectrum of my friends’ views.

Pres ObamaAt a Bible study recently I was asked what I saw happening in the world on the short term and how it all fits into the final endtime picture that we see in Scripture. This is a huge subject. There are oodles of people writing their opinions on how we’re already utterly within the very words of the book of Revelation. They say the Antichrist of Scriptures is President Obama. Or that the current Pope is the embodiment of Lucifer. Or that the President of Turkey is. And it goes on. What could I add to any of this?

While I believe in the return of Jesus and I believe we’re already in “the last days” in many ways, I don’t feel I can identify the Antichrist of Daniel and Revelation in the headlines we read today. But perhaps a look at earlier figures in history who were strong forerunners of the ultimate Antichrist could give us some idea of how the final one will arise.

HitlerIn trying to answer my friends at the Bible study about how “the end” could begin, I told them how two forerunner, prototypes of the final Antichrist came to power in their day. Perhaps the greatest antichrist in modern history was Adolf Hitler. Another was Napoleon Bonaparte. Joseph Stalin could be added to the list. (And hopefully my German, French and Russian friends will find no reason to be offended in any of this.)

What conditions preceded the rise of those 3 men who came to dominate so utterly their people and even the world of their times in many ways? One common condition these earlier antichrists arose in was the extreme instability of their times. Their countries had already been in a period of prolonged chaos, leaderless and rudderless. There was a vast vacuum, an emptiness of certainty and direction; people were starving literally, desperate to find a way out of the morass their nations had fallen into. When things are generally sailing along and all’s well for many if not most, you don’t usually see Antichrist-like figures taking over.

the great depressionSo I told my friends at the Bible study that I personally feel we won’t really see the final events of the endtime as long as the overall stability of the national and world order is intact. Some will say that things are very bad now, lots of folks say that. But a background of history will show that the way things are at the moment is not nearly as bad as how things have been at times, even in the last 100 years. The Great Depression of the 1930’s was virtually world-wide and was very serious stuff; what we have today is not to be compared to that. The Ukrainian famine, the “Holodomor” of the 1930’s was so bad, with 1 to 3 million people starving to death, that many Ukrainians at that time welcomed in the Nazis, believing that they would be saved that way. World War I, World War II and other such events make our times today look like the Easter Parade.

But what could begin the end? Societal collapse, internationally. Economic collapse, worldwide. Prolonged martial law, virtually everywhere. Vast international financial ruin. I believe that for a real “New World Order” to arise, it will not happen by evolution, osmosis or from the major international leaders we see on the scene at the moment.

I expect that a time of social disorder, most likely on an international scale, will make it so that the peoples of the world will willingly accept some form of dictatorship, just to stop the anarchy and chaos that the world will have descended into. This has happened many times before.

big brother2So many here complain about the government. But times will come when there will be a cry out for some form of strong government to protect the masses from roving bands, gangs and the loss of ever vestige of civilization that we now enjoy. This is the atmosphere in which ones like Hitler and Napoleon arose in. And I feel that it will take something like that to set the stage and provide the atmosphere within which the final Antichrist will be able to seem to be the savior of the world, bringing back civilization from the chaos it will have descended to.

(More on this in Part 2 of “How ‘the End’ May Begin”)

Acts 24 Live Class Audio

Paul before FestusIn our live class on Acts 24, we started out by setting the stage for where we had come to in the story. Paul had been delivered from the 40 men in Jerusalem (whom we saw in Acts 23) who had “bound themselves with a curse” (Acts 23:14) that they would kill Paul at a judicial hearing they were engineering to have the Romans hold. The full audio class on Acts 24 can be heard here.

The point was made in the class that, nowadays, we can think of the Romans as being the persecutors of Christians and the bad guys. But at this point in the early days of Christianity, Paul was safer with the Romans than with his brethren who were persecuting Christians at that time. As Jesus had told His disciples, “The time will come when whosoever kills you will think he does God service.” (John 16:2) That’s how Paul had been before his conversion and plenty of his fellow countrymen were still adamantly that way.

Again in Acts 24 it’s a court scene and a whole gaggle of accusers had journeyed to Caesarea to stand in condemnation against Paul, accusing him of sedition (a very serious crime against the state in the eyes of the Romans)  “throughout the world” (Acts 24:5) and “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes”. (Acts 24:5)

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

We mentioned briefly how that this is one of two places in Acts where the early Christian movement was called a “sect” by its detractors. Virtually every move of God, the early Christians, the followers of John Huss and later of Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation, the Baptists of the 1500 and 1600’s, John Wesley and the Methodist, William Booth and the Salvation Army, all were called a sect in their earliest days. But many of those went on to be the major established religious of our times.

Then Paul stands to speak for himself, explaining that he’d actually barely been in Jerusalem a week and that the numerous false accusations made against him were just that: false. But he then did confess that he’d lived his life in full faith in the teachings of the Jewish Law and prophets. Paul defends himself by referring to his faith, saying that he believed in a coming “resurrection of the just and the unjust”  (Acts 24:15). He didn’t attack his accusers, he didn’t pander to Roman ways; he just basically stood up for Jesus, for his faith and what he had been doing in his life, taking the conversation into the things of the Spirit and away from politics, nationalism and secularism.

And here again, when the chips were down, Paul would refer to how he had lived in a good conscious. In fact, that was one of the first things he said at his hearing in Acts 23:1, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” And he immediately was slapped by order of the high priest. But to Paul, living from a clean conscious was of utmost importance.

Paul and accussorsAnd there’s a great verse around here that sums up some witnessing experiences that we have. Paul “reasoned with him of righteous, temperance and judgment to come,” (Acts 24:15), at which point the Bible says Felix “trembled” and then kind of gave Paul the nervous brush-off by saying. “Go your way Paul; when I have a convenient season, I will call for you.” (Acts 24:15)

There’s a real lesson for us all here. Paul didn’t argue doctrine, he didn’t get into politics; he often just shared what had happened to him. Our own personal story and testimony are one of the most powerful things we can share with others.

happened to me“This is what happened to me.” When you tell people your own personal experience, and if you share it with sincerity in the power of the Holy Spirit, people will believe you. And if they believe it happened to you, then they’ll realize it can happen to them also.

So Felix got really under conviction. But he didn’t want to yield to the nudging and urgings of the Holy Spirit so he basically asked or told Paul to leave. This kind of thing still happens today when some people recognize the tug on their heart and soul but don’t want to yield to the Lord.

Then also we find out in the next verse that it seems like Felix was kind of holding out for or expecting some kind of bribe before he would release Paul. Things haven’t changed much, have they? And the chapter ends around there, Paul still in bonds, his fate still undecided by the Roman authorities. But in Acts 25, things come more to the climax as the “buck stops here” head of the Romans in that part of the world, King Agrippa, gives Paul an audience.

Paul and soldierWe’ll see in the next class that King Agrippa would actually have pretty much wrapped up the case against Paul. But instead, the seemingly “cruel hand of fate” had Paul end up being shipped off to Rome and ultimately to his martyrdom. Was it “the cruel hand of fate”? Actually no, since the Lord had already told Paul “Be of good cheer Paul. For as you have testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must you also testify of Me in Rome.” (Acts 23:11) It was all part of God’s plan, His much greater vision for Paul’s life and ultimately for the world as a whole.

Exciting stuff, no? The live class audio on Acts 24 can be heard here.

Divisions

Youre people flatPardon me but I may rant a little here. It was just almost overwhelming this morning to see how much division is pushed at what seems like almost every level and subset of society. Blacks against whites, women against men, old against young, rich against poor. And on and on it goes.

Like Rodney King said after the horrific Los Angeles riots of 1992, “Can’t we just get along?” I really don’t think most people realize the dangers of hatred, intolerance and division; what a black hole and bottomless precipice these things can be.

It’s so much more “natural” to tear down than it is to build; the default position for so many is to find fault, rather than to value virtue. Yes, God told Jeremiah to “root out, pull down, destroy, and throw down.” But He also told him to “build and plant” (Jeremiah 1:10). And in Jeremiah’s case he was dealing with a nation so far gone in its apostasy that it was to receive God’s strongest judgments in Jeremiah’s lifetime.

Yes, there are a lot of things to criticize, there are a lot of wrongs to be righted and there are a lot of people who need to have things pointed out in their lives. But how can we do that constructively, rather than just venting our criticism and getting things off our chest? First, and last, it comes down to love.

Love is flatIf you love that person, or nation, or society or racial group, you’ll instinctively want to try to help them, even if you feel you need to point out something that’s lacking. Love has creative power. “Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:8). And with love comes wisdom.

I’ve had times in my life where it’s been so frustrating because I felt I had something to say that was legitimate and had substance. I was trying to help someone or a situation. But then somehow, in my delivery or choice of words, it was rejected by the one I was speaking to. Or it even made things worse. Of course some people, or societies or any group can be what’s called “sensitive”. They can’t take the slightest hint of criticism. They just never get the idea of being able to be admonished and to learn from others.

You told me the truth-flattenedBut the Bible says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6). It says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) “To the councilors of peace there is joy.” (Proverbs 12:20) There’s much more like that in the Proverbs of Solomon, how to talk to people, how to say something that needs to be said in love and in truth, kind of like what people nowadays  call “tough love.”

It saddens me and perhaps even scares me a little how much division there is in society nowadays. Maybe it’s a sign of the times we live in. Pew Research here in the States said recently that this nation is more polarized than at any time since the Civil War, 150 years ago. One of the things Jesus said about the very last days was “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12)

If there was more humility, we’d more easily accept an admonition from others. If there was more wisdom, folks would be better at how to say things in a constructive way. This verse has always been a goal for me,

The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakens morning by morning, he wakens mine ear to hear as the learned.” (Isiah 50:4)

So poignant, so significant:”the tongue of the learned to know how to speak a word in season”. But that seems so rare now. Everyone seems to have a chip on their shoulder. Everyone’s “not going to take it anymore”. Everyone’s quick to belligerence and a kind of independence that’s so divisive and cold.

more unity flatIndependence is great, “being your own person”, holding your head up; great and wonderful. But there’s also something to be said for old fashion unity. The Bible says, “Behold how good and how precious it is for the  brethren to dwell together in unity”. (Psalm 133:1) Some of the most joyous, fulfilling moments in my life have been in the unbridled liberty and joyous fellowship I’ve experienced with my fellow Christian missionary disciples in places I’ve been around the world. But Paul warned, “Now I implore you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (I Corinthians 1:10)

Shouldn’t we “call a spade a spade”? Shouldn’t we “reprove, rebuke and exhort? (II Timothy 4:2) Shouldn’t we “have not fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them”? (Ephesian 5:11) Yes, yes and yes. But how does God’s Word teach us to do that? “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted”. (Galatians 6:1) The Bible even says God has “committed to us the ministry of reconciliation”. (II Corinthians 5:18)

Conversation between 2 flatPeople who can build bridges, people who can close gaps, people who can restore friendships, people who can unite and rally others to fight for the common goal and lead others to fight the real and greater enemies are few and far between. Love is needed. Great wisdom is needed. So many today are tossed to and fro, battling each other or in some little skirmish that’s actually not as important as the much greater battles that the world is facing today.

Like the guy said long ago, “While I was busy here and there, the man was gone.” (I Kings 20:40) Many are busy here and there with what they perceive as some injustice that needs to be addressed; many fight brush-fire wars when the greater needs of both individuals and mankind press upon us. The greater good is lost while we are “busy here and there.”

mans problemsA solution? I don’t know. It’s always the same but its popularity seems to have really waned. “Love God. Love your neighbor. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness“. (Matthew 22:37-39; Matthew 6:33) As Jesus said, “If you continue in My Word, then are you My disciples in deed. And you shall know the truth. And the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31 & 32)

Acts 23 Live Class Audio

Paul on stepsIn our previous class, on Acts 22, we read about the traumatic moments in Jerusalem when Paul addressed his countrymen after he’d almost been torn in pieces by a religious mob there. In our class on Acts 23, we see the continuation of Paul’s new condition of being incarcerated by the Romans, almost as much as anything for his own protection and safety. The live class audio on Acts 23 can be heard here.

Paul and all the Jews in Israel were living under Roman rule but then he had been accused by the Jews. So the Romans held a local court in Acts 23 to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jewish authorities. It all doesn’t really start so well. Paul opened by saying, “I’ve lived in all good conscious to this day.” (Acts 23:1) It’s hard to believe what happened next. “The high priest ordered those standing by Paul to slap him on the face.” (Acts 23:2)

Paul before the councilIt quickly became a very tense situation and Paul was accused of speaking evil against the ruler of the people when he somewhat hastily answered back to the high priest that he was breaking the laws of Moses by having him slapped. We talked about how Paul not only had a strong heart and spirit in the Lord but also he had a good mind. And when he had to use it, even to outwit his adversaries in emergencies like this one, he did.

We talked about the background of the Sadducees and the Pharisees and how those two groups developed during the period of the Jewish return to Israel from Babylon and later during the rule of the Greeks over the Jews who’d returned to their land and city. Actually it was the Pharisees who ended up coming to faith in Jesus after the resurrection, more than the Sadducees.

In our class we had a pretty large discussion as to whether or not Paul was in the highest will of God by going to Jerusalem where he got arrested. The way I’ve seen it and taught it is that Paul was first directly told “by the Spirit” (Acts 21:4),  that he should not go up to Jerusalem. Then later the prophet Agabus bound Paul’s hands and feet and told him that would happen to him in Jerusalem. Then there was the scene in Jerusalem where the Lord told Paul, “Make haste and get quickly out of Jerusalem for they will not hear thee”. (Acts 22:18)

True and rightious-flattenedBut some in the class felt there were other ways of looking at all this. They asked why the Lord stood by Paul in Acts 23 if he’d not been in God’s Will. So we talked about how “a just man falls seven times and rises up again”. (Proverbs 24:16) We talked about other examples in the Bible of men of God who made big mistakes, John the Baptist and King David to name but two, but who still were servants of the Lord who God didn’t abandon. It got to be a big discussion and not everyone saw it the same way.

In fact this whole discussion became a major subject of the class. One verse we looked at was “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29). Some people have incredible gifts from God, gifts as soul winners and witnessers. Some have the gift of music and can play and sing in such a way that they melt and break hardened hearts and inspire people to draw closer to the Lord. Some have the gift of not only winning souls for the Kingdom of God, they have the gift of challenging people to serve the Lord and dedicate their lives to Him. They’ve won people to the Lord who went on to a lifetime of Christian service themselves.

Looking back flatBut sometimes these ones with such incredible gifts can somehow drift out of the beam of light that shines in the direction of His highest and best. They even have “put their hand to the plow and looked back” (Luke 9:62) or been discouraged or “grown weary in well doing”. (Galatians 6:9)

But those gifts and that calling are still there. And I’ve seen a few like this come back from turning aside from His will for a while to again take on His high calling. And they find that those gifts from Him are still there and functioning when they turn back to full commitment to Him

But there just was a lot of discussion about whether or not Paul was in the will of God in going to Jerusalem. If he wasn’t, why did the Lord stand by him and say, “Be of good courage, Paul”? (Acts 23:11) Because we all fall, we all make mistakes, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isiah 53:6). And my view is that Paul, because of his zeal and love for his countrymen, was determined to go to Jerusalem when the Lord repeatedly told him that that was not His highest and best. But Paul was still a disciple and pretty much the top apostle for the Lord when it came to reaching the Gentiles. So He stood by him, even when he’d not kept to the very highest path that the Lord would have had him follow. That’s what I believe and taught in this live class audio. But not all of my friends were totally on board with me on that, ha! The live class audio on Acts 23 can be heard here.

 

“The whirlwind and the storm”

tornadoYou may have read about the very severe storms in Texas over the last few days. Yesterday we had here in Austin one of the stronger rain events ever I think. Or maybe it wasn’t that much but it’s just that the ground has been so soaked already from the rain over the last month or two that the heavy rains almost immediately created a lot of flooding.

But with this I wanted to write you about another of “God’s little miracles”. Sometimes we don’t know what God does until after He’s done it. I read online today that there had been a tornado that touched down in Austin on Saturday night. So I looked up the info and it turns out that this was around a mile from where I live. And from the direction the storm was going, I was able to see that this tornado went over our house about a minute or two before it touched down.

It was not a real gigantic one like they can be; this one uprooted trees and tore off roofs a mere walk from where I live. I later remembered that Saturday night I was downstairs next to our fire place and it was making a whistling noise, not normal. So I figured the wind must be pretty strong outside. I went to the front door and it was not only raining hard, there was really a strong wind that was blowing the trees around. Bad, but not greatly unusual for Texas. But this must have been right at the time when this tornado cloud was going over us.

So it was a shock this morning to realize that we’d nearly been hit by a tornado, one of the stronger residual fears that everyone in this part of the world has somewhere in their mind. When I was a child, the city I was born in had an “F5” tornado that killed 114 people including my father’s cousin and the dad of one of my friend’s. So it’s just something that everyone in this part of the country knows you have to take seriously.

guardian-angelsI later thought about a verse I memorized years ago which I saw fulfilled in this deliverance and protection that we experienced here a couple of days ago, “The Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm”. (Nahum 1:3)

When prophecy dawns on you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O încadrare a profeției în istorie (Romanian video)

Romanian

Această înregistrare prezintă fenomenul profeţiei biblice, dar şi istoria Israelului. Este prima înregistrare dintr-o serie de materiale pe tema profeţiilor lui Daniel. Mulţi oameni nu ştiu ce este profeţia biblică. Şi eu sunt unul dintre cei care nu avea habar până când nu a survenit o schimbare majoră în viaţa mea, când am aflat că Dumnezeu este real şi că există o lume spirituală. Mai târziu am devenit creştin şi am fost intrigat când am citit Biblia şi mai ales când am aflat despre descoperirile minunate din profeţiile biblice.

Acest material video în limba engleză se numeşte “An Introduction to Prophecy in History”. Poate fi accesat în limba engleză aici. Următoarea înregistrare în limba română va fi Daniel capitolul 2. Va fi şi aceea gata în curând. Sper ca acest material să fie o binecuvântare; sper să fie o încântare şi o sursă de hrană spirituală pentru fiecare dintre voi, datorită minunăţiei care este Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu.

English

I’ve been able to complete the first video in Romanian of the Prophecies of Daniel series. This one in English is “An Introduction to Prophecy in History”. This can be seen in English here.

Many people don’t know what Bible prophecy is. I certainly didn’t until I had a big change in my life when I found out that God is real and the spiritual world really exists. Later I became a Christian and was so surprised when I read the Bible, especially the marvelous disclosures of Bible prophecy.

So, in doing this series on the prophecies of Daniel, I felt it would be good to first present the phenomenon of Bible prophecy, as well as a brief background of ancient history and the history of ancient Israel. History is the backdrop against which the prophecies of the prophets stand out as beacons and signposts of the future to come.

The next Romanian video will be Daniel chapter 2. My hope is that this video and perhaps others in Romanian will be ready this year. Meanwhile, I’m working on several other foreign language videos on Bible prophecy and I hope to have those out in the next months. God bless you.

Still

Solomon musingI’m really thankful that God has made it so that the Bible has had such an impact on my life. Like someone said one time, “When all else fails, you’ll still have Jesus.” And equally it can be said, “When all else fails and you seem to have nothing and no one, you’ll still have God’s Word.”

Often individual Bible verses are almost like my friends, ones that I’ve been through experiences with, ones that have gotten me through those experiences when I might not have survived. And occasionally even just one word in a verse has huge significance for me. One place like that is in the last chapter of Ecclesiastes.

Solomon writingIt’s mostly assumed that this book was written by Solomon, although it doesn’t explicitly say so. It’s similar to the Proverbs of Solomon in many ways. But also it has a few places in it which made it so that it’s possibly the book in the Bible that was closest to being left out when the canon of Scripture was competed so long ago.

As you may know about Solomon, he’s said to be the wisest man that ever lived. But then also it says that Solomon “loved many strange women” (I Kings 11:1) and that “his wives turned away his heart” (I Kings 11:4) . Strange as it may seem, there was no specific law against having more than one wife in the laws of Moses.Solomon and wife It says that you shalt not “multiply wives to thyself.” (Deuteronomy 17:17) Several of God’s greats in the Old Testament had more than one wife and nothing was said about this. But the Bible says Solomon had “700 wives and 1000 concubines” (I Kings 11:3). And it seems many of these were foreign women who worshiped other gods and got Solomon to build temples to those gods in Israel.

To make a long story short, God spoke to Solomon that, after his death, Israel would be divided and that only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin would stay loyal to the house of David. (See I Kings 11) So Solomon knew in his later years that, as we say here in the States, “the jig was up”. The glory days were gone. Things were not anywhere near as they had been under his father David or perhaps in the early years of his own rule.

Solomon thinkingIn Ecclesiastes 12 there’s almost a haunting melancholy to the chapter. “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when you shall say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’.” (Ecc.12:1) It sounds so much like the plea of a broken and failed father to his children to make the most of the life they have before the evil days come, which it sounds like Solomon knew he was already living in. Over half of chapter 12 has that sound to it, a little mournful, a little sad, a little defeated.

But then we come to verse nine. It says this. “And because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he sought out and set in order many proverbs.”(Ecc.12:9) And it goes on to describe this preacher, Solomon was almost certainly talking about himself, still “seeking out acceptable words”. (Ecc.12:10)

Solomon sadThis has always spoken to me so much. To me I see Solomon in his later years. Maybe, probably he knew and felt that in some ways the glory had departed from his life and from Israel and that tough times were coming. But that one word almost haunts me in a good sense: “still”. He still taught the people wisdom, even after he’d committed major sins and had been exposed. He still stayed faithful to his calling and gifts. He still fed the Lord’s sheep. In his case, his gift was to recognize wisdom and to collect bits of wisdom into proverbs.

But how does that work for us? How does that work for me? Paul said that we were to be “instant in season and out of season” (II Timothy 4:2). He also talked about “patient continuance in well doing.” (Romans 2:7) This in some ways reminds me of the story of Ruth and Naomi that I wrote about a while back. It sometimes feels like we are finished, used up, passed over, just a shell of what we used to be. The fruitful years seem to be gone and we are depleted, good for nothing except to go off somewhere to die. But that’s not true. Solomon “still taught the people knowledge”. Still …, even though it was not like the glory years, he stayed faithful to his calling and ministry.

Would to God that each of us would be like that. Solomon kept on being faithful to his skill and gifts and calling, perhaps because he knew even back then what Paul would later write, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11:32) And this was true, even after his sins had gotten the best of him in many ways. How many of us feel our sins have gotten the best of us? Or perhaps the sins of others have gotten the best of us? If you feel like that, remember Ruth and Solomon. “Still.”

Пророчества изпълнени в историята

(Bulgarian video)

Български [Bulgarian]

Това видео представя феномена на Библейското пророчество, както и историята на древен Израел. Това е първото видео, което съм направил от серия върху пророчествата на Даниил. Много хора не знаят какво е Библейско пророчество. И аз не знаех, докато не се случи огромна промяна в моя живот и разбрах, че Бог е реален и духовният свят наистина съществува. По-късно станах християнин и бях толкова изненадан, когато четях Библията, особено удивителните разкрития на Библейските пророчества.

Това видео на английски се нарича “An Introduction to Prophecy in History” . Може да се гледа на английски тук. Моето следващо видео на български ще бъде Даниил 2 глава. То ще бъде готово скоро. Надявам се това видео да бъде благословение за вас и да се нахраните духовно от чудесата на Божието Слово.

С уважение, Марк

English

I’ve been able to complete the first video in Bulgarian of the Prophecies of Daniel series. This one in English is “An Introduction to Prophecy in History”. This can be seen in English here.

Many people don’t know what Bible prophecy is. I certainly didn’t until I had a big change in my life when I found out that God is real and the spiritual world really exists. Later I became a Christian and was so surprised when I read the Bible, especially the marvelous disclosures of Bible prophecy.

So, in doing this series on the prophecies of Daniel, I felt it would be good to first present the phenomenon of Bible prophecy, as well as a brief background of ancient history and the history of ancient Israel. History is the backdrop against which the prophecies of the prophets stand out as beacons and signposts of the future to come.

The next Bulgarian video will be Daniel chapter 2. My hope is that this video and perhaps others in Bulgarian will be ready this year. Meanwhile, I’m working on several other foreign language videos on Bible prophecy and I hope to have those out in the next months. God bless you.

Hearing from God, like your life depended on it

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

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

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

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

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

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

me&AcehKids-2 cropped

Teaching kids at a refugee camp in Aceh, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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