Friendly

FriendlyOne of the things I like about living in Austin is that, so often, people here are simply friendly. The Bible says, “A man that has friends must show himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother”. (Proverbs 18:24) Friendliness and friendship are things that are easy to take for granted and not notice much. But for so many people, friendship is really important and often very lacking.

park bench 1-fixedToday I was out at my favorite bench where I often go to get away from things a little. And also to have a little prayer time. Some people walked by that I didn’t know and they smiled and we exchanged a few words. What’s so unusually about that? Well I can tell you that doesn’t happen just everywhere. Some places people don’t greet each other on the street and there’s just a good deal less open friendliness in some parts.

But friendship is actually a big deal. Jesus told His disciples, “I have not called you servants but friends” (John 15:15). The Lord wasn’t some austere, ascetic, hyper-spiritual  guru. Evidently Jesus was an exceptionally warm and kind man. And still He was the Son of God. So that whole thing of warmth, friendliness, being approachable, being “without guile” has always seemed to me to really be important.

I’m all for spirituality. “To be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) But there’s a temptation there for some to get really “spiritual” and somehow this can turn into a lofty, cold aloofness or spiritual attainment. Inadvertently it can leave behind the simplicity of friendship, spontaneous kindness and inclusiveness.

made my day flatI heard someone say onetime about how they loved someone but they didn’t like them. And then I heard another man who said, “We not only loved you, we really liked you.” I  thought about that. Have you ever had someone who you felt “loved” you but they actually didn’t like you? It’s a funny feeling. It almost seemed like they were fulfilling some kind of religious obligation they felt to love you. But personally they didn’t like you. It’s uncomfortable to be in situations like that and it’s happened to me as a Christian.

Paul in the Bible was not only a towering spiritual presence, it seems like he was a genuinely warm and friendly person. He said to the Thessalonians, “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted to you not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because you were dear to us.” (I Thessalonians 2:8) Paul really liked them. It wasn’t just a religious duty that drove him.

For me, friends are important. I just hate to lose friends, for whatever reason. Sadly that kind of thing does happen. Solomon said, “A brother offended is harder to be won that a strong city, and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” (Proverbs 18:19)  Friendship is such a precious thing and I think therefor the devil just loves to throw a monkey wrench into the city of our fellowship and our friendships, sowing misunderstands, contention and just the division that is Satan’s specialty.

But friendship is of God; it’s important and very precious. It even says of Abraham, that he was “the friend of God” (James 2:23). Imagine that, to be God’s friend. That’s actually a good way to look at God. We need to fear, respect and reverence the Lord and treat him like the king He is. But also, for me at least, I often just need to talk to God as my best friend, someone I can be honest with and real.

I think that for many in this world, simple warmth, friendliness and friendship are getting harder and harder to find. Of course you can say that friendships like that can be sometimes shallow and trivial. Well, we need both kinds.friend no more flat We need just simple friendliness like I encountered in the park today. But we need the kind that Solomon spoke of, “the friend that sticks closer than a brother”. (Proverbs 18:24)

Maybe it’s because we live in the endtime. Jesus said of those times, before His return, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12) It sure seems like that’s how it is in many places today, the love of many has grown cold. And friendliness also is just less present than in the past.

What to do? Be friendly, “show yourself friendly”, don’t drop or forget your friends who may need you more than you realize and be deeply hurt if you stop communicating with them. I heard someone say one time something so simple, but so true, “What everybody needs is love. If they don’t find it here, where are they going to find it?” And certainly the same can be said for friends and friendliness. It’s in decline. Lord help us to be warm, loving and friendly.

Forgive?

forgiveness flatA long time friend from Scandinavia wrote me: “Should we as Christians forgive those who’ve hurt us, even when they don’t care and would do it again? I’m familiar with the Scriptures and the standard answer. But is it supportable if you look deeper into the issue? God does not seem to forgive before there’s been an admission of guilt.

So I wrote him back: Hi and thanks for your note about forgiveness. It’s a huge and deep subject, like an 800 pound onion you just keep peeling back layers of. Like you said, you know the verses, even in the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive… “ (Luke 11:4)

But then also, as you said, there are other verses like where Jesus said, “If your brother trespasses against you, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3) It seems from that verse that there’s supposed to be a repentance involved.  It’s not meant that we can just sweetly let someone walk all over us while we just keep forgiving them and doing nothing. Like I said, it’s deep. Jesus said, “A strong man armed keeps his goods in peace.” (Luke 11:21)

And just on the human level, all those facets from the Word do come into play. I know that forgiveness in general is the first reaction we should have. Holding grudges and bitterness is very human but it’s not the Godly path.

forgive me-flatBut what happens if someone wants to take advantage of our conviction to forgive? They have no repentance at all or twinge of conscience and they briskly tell us that we should just forgive them as they continue doing real wrong. Well the Lord did say that “if they repent, forgive them.” It’s like another verse, “Godly sorrow works repentance to salvation, not to be repented of.” (II Corinthians 7:10) If folks are genuinely sorry and ask for forgiveness, then of course we’re bound to forgive them; that’s clear.

But I do understand where you’re coming from. Some folks just have no twinge of conscience at all and then they can even have the gall and nerve to tell us that we should just forgive them. Often this just seems to be a ploy or device they try to use to try to get us to drop our guard so they can whack us again with their painful actions or words. What do we do then?

tar baby 1Well, for one, like I wrote in “The Tar Baby”, some things and even some people seem to be nothing but a kind of human “black hole” which just will suck the entire life out of us if we don’t watch out. At times like this, I feel this is where the verse applies, “Go from the presence of a foolish man when you don’t perceive in him the lips of knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:7) Sometime you just have to withdraw yourself from someone’s company or circle when they’re continually doing things that are wrong and hurtful to you and they have no intention of stopping it, repenting and asking for forgiveness.

And on a deeper level, here’s another reason why it’s still good to forgive and move on. Because if you don’t forgive, those folks will not only have messed up your past and present, they’ll have stolen your future too. If you don’t forgive and move on from that situation, you will quiet possibly keep mulling it over in your mind, rehearsing the injury and hurt you received. Then often the next thing that happens is that you’ll be bitter about it. And that way you have that poison working around in your system which can last for years and ruin your future because of the sins against you committed by someone in the past.

Ghost characterSo even just for your own sakes, even if you feel they don’t deserve it and haven’t begun to repent at all, it’s still good to forgive and move on, just for your own sakes. I could add here that I wrote (what was for me) a pretty major and personal article on this subject some while back about how that, if you don’t forgive and you carry that unforgiveness with you into the afterlife, it could be pretty bad. The article was called “Ghosts”. It was kind of scary.

But you may say, “They don’t deserve forgiveness!”

Maybe not. But in the final analysis, God is the judge, not us. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay” (Romans 12:19). If they deserve judgment, God has ways of seeing that this happens, either here or in the hereafter. “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Number 32:23)

There’re easily another 20 pages that could be written here but perhaps this is a short synopsis. I’ve sure had some folks who have been mean and cruel to me and just plainly didn’t like me. But if I kept all those things in my heart, then that would crowd out the good things the Lord wants to be there so I can continue to live for Him and to go forward in His service. I just don’t want to let those past experiences define my life and thoughts for years to come; that would be a double dastardly deed and I don’t want to let that happen. I hope this is some help. Thanks for writing. Your friend in Him, Mark

 

The Serpent and the Dragon

The serpent said flatSo many Christians nowadays are talking about the Dragon, violent physical attacks of the Devil. But it seems the Serpent, with his lies, fears and confusion, is the one who’s really doing the most for the Evil Kingdom.

Doing great work flatThe book of Nehemiah shows how that works, perhaps more than any other in the Bible. During the entire time of Nehemiah, the Enemy never actually attacked God’s people openly and physically. It was all in words: lies, fears, distractions, threats and whatever else it took to persuade them to stop the work God had called them to.

But, thankfully, Nehemiah saw through it all and recognized the hand of his spiritual enemy in those things. “I am doing a great work and cannot come down“, he told his enemies. (Nehemiah 6:3) He and the people of God back then remained persistent and focused in the calling they were given and didn’t get persuaded or scared into coming down from the wall of God’s will and calling.

However, so often in history this hasn’t happened. You can find so many people today who are terrified of some foreign attack on these shores; they are electrified with the vision that “Sheriah law” will be established in the United States. Admittedly, I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point there is some outside attack from Islamic extremists or even extreme American nationalist here, however big or small that might be.

But most of the time, the Devil doesn’t need to send the Dragon if the Serpent will do. And the Serpent seems often to be far more effective, so that the Dragon isn’t necessary.

see it this way flatIf the Serpent can keep whispering in your ear his lies, his fears, his prejudices, lifting you up in pride, casting you down in hopelessness and fear, filling your mind with confusion and double-mindedness, then the victory is his. You may be a Christian. But you have become a completely defeated Christian, stopped in your tracks along the path of faith and rendered virtually worthless to the cause of Christ.

Of course he doesn’t only do this to Christians. The Deceiver is active across the land, propagating his bedarkened views which mostly are supposed to be “enlightened” and modern. Jesus said, “If the light that be in you be darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Matthew 6:23) That’s why the Devil is called “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). It even says that the Devil showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time” and then the Devil told Jesus “all this power I will give you, for it is mine.”(Luke 4:6) How often Christians forget this. They think they’re living in “a Christian nation”. It’s sad. But perhaps more are waking up a little as the darkness rapidly deepens.

“Mark, this sounds pretty hopeless. You’re really being Douglas Downer here.

My experience is that sometimes you have to be shocked enough to see the spiritual reality around you. And while I see some progress here in American Christianity, I see a lot of people who are still focused on their fears of violent, outside attacks on the USA, the work of the Dragon. But all the while the effects of the Serpent on them and the rest of the country progressively weaken millions from within.

Most students of history have seen that the decline and fall of great empires mostly happens from within, not without. And the same can be said of great people or people who had great possibilities. “It was not an enemy that had done this. But it was you, my familiar friend. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart. His words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.” (Psalm 55:21)

The-fight-of-faithSo it is with the workings of the Serpent, “the father of lies” (John 8:44). What’s the solution? Pray sincerely and desperately. Baptize yourself with God’s Word. Obey God’s Word first and foremost. Paul said to “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). But the only offensive weapon he listed was “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)

When Satan mightily came against Jesus in a prolonged temptation, Jesus didn’t quote Socrates, He didn’t pull out His pistol. He just quoted the Word of God to Satan. And after doing that a few times, “the devil departed from Him and angels came and ministered to Him.” (Matt. 4:11) Even Jesus Christ Himself knew the power of the written Word of God in battling and defeating the Devil.

How many know how to do that today? How many even know that the Serpent has beguiled them and rendered them useless and a reproach to Christ? ISIS didn’t do that. The government didn’t do that. Our foreign enemies didn’t do that. But millions of Christians struggle with the Serpent while they’re fixated on some distant Dragon. May God, and the dear Lord Jesus, have mercy on us all.

“Justifying Yourself” (Racism part 3)

job justifies flatThere’s an incredible Bible verse from the book of Job, check this out. Job said, “If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me. If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.” (Job 9:20) About 1800 years later Jesus told one man to love his neighbor. Here’s what it says was the man’s response. “But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:29)

It’s just the hellish, inborn sinful nature of man to “justify himself” and struggle mightily to ever be able to admit guilt and confess sins. Adam did it. “It was the woman that You gave me!” Eve did it. “The serpent beguiled me!” King Saul did it. “The people made me do it!

And it’s probably worse today that it’s ever been. But right now it may be that the Lord is dealing with a lot of people here in America and perhaps around the world with racism, as a result of the mass murder of the 9 African-Americans in South Carolina recently.

If you’re already a Christian, then some of these concepts shouldn’t really be new to you. The Bible says, “He that covers his sins shall not prosper but he that confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) There may be some right now who know in their hearts they’ve harbored racism and nurtured racism all their lives. They know it’s not of God; but it’s just something some hold on to, for whatever reason.

And here’s what can happen. “But Mark! What about the liberals, Mark! Look at the evil Muslims, Mark!” “I’m actually a really good person! I go to church! I…” This is just the nature of sin and it’s something we all do. We all want to turn the spotlight to someone or something else. We want to say how good we actually are. “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness.” (Proverbs 20:6) But what does the Bible say? “He that covers his sins shall not prosper but he that confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.”

Who I am flatBut some may say, and I’ll admit I’ve said this, “But I just can’t forsake it. It’s a part of me; it’s who I am and what I am, even if I know it’s wrong!” I even quoted a verse to justify myself, “Can a leopard change his spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23)

I’ve been there and been through that. There was a time in my life when the Lord exposed a deeply-rooted sin and I knew it was true. But I just honesty didn’t know how to get over it. It wasn’t like drinking, drugs or violence. It was a deeper thing and not something I could just stop doing physically or by an act of my will. So the Lord gave me this verse as a promise.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

When the Lord opened my eyes to that verse, it was like a new beginning in my life; it gave me hope when I had none. It was like a contract between me and God. In so many words God said to me through that verse, “If you confess it, I’ll cleanse it.” And that happened. I confessed my sin and the Lord did the work of cleansing me of it. It was a process but I’ve moved on from that very dark period in my life. And I should add that Proverbs 28:13 says, “…he that confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” You’ve got to not only confess it, you have to forsake it. You have to hate it and really turn away from it.

Juan Im sorry-flatAnd perhaps millions of people today need to do this. They don’t need to justify themselves.  They don’t need to tell everyone how wonderful the Confederate flag is. They don’t need to point fingers at all their old enemies on the Left or beyond our shores. Like another Bible verse that many of you know, “Judgment must being at the house of God” (I Peter 4:17). He will start with His own children before He deals with those not His. Jesus told us “to get the beam out” of our own eyes. (Matthew 7:5) And let’s face it, there are a lot of beams in the eyes of many Christians today. Racism and hatred may be near the top of the list for some.

Don’t justify yourself. “The jig is up”, as they say. Confess it, just like you would if it was adultery or some other sin that’s more censured in Christian circles today. Racial hatred has been a blight and a plague on the soul of Christians, especially those from the southern States, for centuries. And I know what I’m talking about because my family lived in Alabama and Mississippi before they migrated to Texas in the 1870’s.

you confessed flatHow can God bless hatred of our fellow man? “Ye were sometimes darkness but now are you light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8) The deliverance is there. But if you go with the prevailing tide of self righteously justifying yourself which is still so common, you’ll never get the deliverance you desperately need. “He that covers his sin shall not prosper.” (Proverbs 28:13)  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

We’ve all got something like this. I’ve sure had to do this many times. “The times of this ignorance God winked at but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30) Get right with Him (and with others) today. You’ll be glad you did.

Rainbow White House?

Rainbow WhitehouseA lot of folks feel some real serious stuff is going on right now. One very surprising thing has been that the White House, one of the most iconic symbols of the United States of America, was suddenly seen a few days ago to be illuminated in “rainbow” colors.

tar baby 2I don’t like to get into politics, that’s the background I come from and I feel it can be a dead-end street, a “tar baby” for many Christians. If you don’t know what a tar baby is, you can read about that here. But some pretty noteworthy things are going on and the dust hasn’t settled yet at all.

Of courses almost everyone by now knows that the rainbow has been taken by the homosexual movement as part of their imagery. But I’m pretty sure I can say without a doubt that it’s unprecedented in the history of the United States that some political or cultural movement has been allowed to display their “victory colors” on the White House. I’m almost certain this is unique in the history of the United States.

So coming from a family of journalists and political activists, I’ve just really wondered if someone out there will be following this up and getting the objective story about how this came to pass. Obviously it was planned and prepared for days in advance. There must have been discussions, decisions, agreements, the whole thing that goes into something as significant and ground-breaking as this.

I mean to write this without sarcasm or innuendo but, really, if any of you find a story online somewhere, done by reputable and balanced journalists who give us the story on how this happened, please do let me know about it. Was this President Obama’s inspiration and doing? Was it presented to him by others and he agreed? Who were those people? How did this happen? Was there any pressure or trade-offs? Did anyone raise questions about the implications and the message it sent to the world? Just from an objective and detached perspective, I can say I’ve never heard of something like this and I’ve talked with others, some of whom who favor the President, and they too say it seems unique to them.

At the same time, I would like to say that this is not a direction or theme I’m intending to stay on. It reminds me of another post I wrote a while back called “Cannot Come Down”. Nehemiah in the Bible was called by God to direct the rebuilding of the derelict city of Jerusalem. But his enemies and the enemies of God’s people at the time wanted Nehemiah to “Come down to the plain of Ono and talk to us” (Nehemiah 6:2). They wanted to get him away from his calling, into some distracting controversy.

Nehemiah-On-the-WallBut Nehemiah told them, “I’m doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should I come down to you and the work cease?” (Nehemiah 6:3) I feel that’s how it is for me. Personally I’ve got more to do that get embroiled with political turmoil here in the US. And actually, if you’re a Christian, you too might consider if the Lord has more for you to do with your life than be inflamed with secular, political controversies. We’re called to serve the Lord on the wall of His will, wherever He has placed you. We have a great work to do and it’s not centered on secular politics.

But we are here in this world, many of us here in this nation, and some pretty big things are happening that are clear, unmistakable signs that this nation is moving rapidly in the opposite direction of a Godly nation. How the White House was turned into a billboard for homosexuality is a story some journalist would do well to investigate and tell us about. If you read something about this, please let me know. God bless you and help us all in these times.

The real “Supreme Court”

Jesus on ThroneMost people, at least here in the States, have heard about the Supreme Court ruling clarifying that homosexual and lesbian marriage is legal under United States law. Needless to say, it’s a very big news item and a very big issue in these times, almost everywhere.

As a Christian and someone who has aspired to Christian discipleship and service for all my adult life, this subject is one I have strong feelings about. Almost all born again Christians here in America see this as a shocking, ominous day for their nation. I can certainly see how they feel that way and in some ways I do too. But also I feel some good things can come out of this for the cause of Christ and humanity.

First, to be clear, I’m not a homosexual. Also, as provocative and incendiary as some may find this, I will say that there’s no place in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, where homosexuality is condoned or tolerated at all. So for those whose faith is in the Bible, Old or New Testament or both, this issue comes down to whether we hold on to the Word of God or not.

I think that’s one of the reasons why, for me, I somewhat renounced my earthly citizenship some 45 years ago at the time I received Jesus as my Savior and took up the call of a missionary. Paul told the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” (Phil. 3:20) And that’s the way I’ve had to look at things in order to have the freedom and peace in my heart to “forsake …lands” (Matthew 19:29), as Jesus said we should do in order to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

my kingdom is not flatAs I’m sure you know, in these days that’s a rather unusual, even “extreme” form of faith and Christianity. Some surely would call it fanatical. But one of the many advantages I’ve gained from this is that the to and fro of political events and tussles have lost the impact they once had on me. 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 is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36)

But sadly and very significantly for most American Christians, their ties to this world and this nation are totally wrapped up together with their Christianity. They talk of “bringing the nation to repentance” when I’m personally almost sure that just isn’t going to happen. “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (II Timothy 3:13) God on ThroneSo if the Supreme Court of this worldly, physical nation declares that homosexuality is accepted, I’m all the more confident that there’s a higher court than that: the court of heaven that now is and is to come, “the Judgment Seat of Christ” (II Corinthians 5:10) and “the Great White Throne Judgment”  (Revelation 20:11)

Christians and believers for millennia have struggled with this but often they pretty much saw the eternal truth in it all. Solomon said, “I council you to keep the king’s commandment and that in regard to the oath of God.” (Ecclesiastes 8:2) Yes, keep the laws of the land. But keep the laws of God before that. ought to obey flatThe apostle Peter had to stand up to the Jewish rulers of his day when he told them, “We ought to obey God, rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

But here’s what I see as some real good in all this. So very many Christians have tried to rock along in what’s mostly a compromised limbo relationship between themselves and God and the Godless world we live in. That’s getting harder to do. This Supreme Court ruling is going to cause more Christians to be forced to a decision. Will I allow my children to go to school where “gender choice” is taught to little children and where basically homosexual teaching is presented to children as a requirement in public schools? Will you go against your conscience as homosexual activists force you into business decisions that to you are clearly a sin?

As the darkness deepens in these times, the lines in the sand have become much more distinct and many millions are finding they have to come down more clearly and strongly for the Lord. Or just declare their allegiance to the morals, ethics and gods of this present evil world and abandon their Christian convictions, their relationship with the Lord and faith in His Word.

ca. 1850 --- An illustration from a mid-19th century copy of Grand Catechisme des Familles (Christian Doctrine for Families). --- Image by © Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis

Lot & family flee Sodom

This recent Supreme Court ruling is just another road marker, howbeit a very clear one, that we are now where Jesus said things would be shortly before His return, “As the days of Lot…” (who the angels pulled out of Sodom and Gomorrah shortly before its destruction) “…so shall also the days of the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Luke 17:28-30)

As Joshua of old told his people and followers, “Chose you this day whom you shall serve”, meaning the gods of the Egyptians they’d been delivered from or the God of Abraham. And then he said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Straddling the fence with our heads in the sand is becoming less of an option.

 

Raised Racist? (Part 2)

colored maid 1If anyone tries to tell you, “Oh, it really wasn’t so bad in the South”, I can tell you from experience, yes it was. Did any of my friends ever do anything violent towards blacks? No, but that wasn’t the kind of thing that was done. They were all from pretty good families, looking towards a future at some university and job. We didn’t know any African-Americans and would probably have felt uncomfortable around them. Heck, we were a little uncomfortable around Catholics! There were no Hispanics on our side of the city, no Vietnamese were really in the States yet, India might as well have been Mars and it was just a white, white world.

It’s not that racism filed our minds at all times; but it was just “par for the course”, as they say in golf. All my friends had “colored ladies” who came to their house each day to help their moms with the cooking, washing and ironing. Everyone’s mom, mine included, stayed home while the dads worked and the “maids” got on buses and went across to the white part of town to work.

A sign on buses

A sign on buses

They weren’t slaves at all but it was a totally segregated society. There were white schools and then there were “negro” schools. The facilities for African-Americans were supposed to be “separate but equal”. But of course, truly they were not. This was just the way it was and virtually no one said anything against it.

Blacks sat at the back.

Blacks sat at the back.

When you got on a city bus to take you across town, there was a little sign that said “coloreds to the rear”. African-Americans were required to sit in the back of the bus. If you were at the bus station or some other public place, there were not 2 public toilets but 4: “white men” and “colored men”, “white women” and “colored women”.

seperate water fountainsThey couldn’t eat in the restaurants that my family could. They couldn’t use the public restrooms I could or drink at the same water fountain. Need a sip of water? Make sure you go to the right water fountain, the one for whites, not “coloreds”. This was just life, a fully segregated life and this is what I grew up in, over 100 years after the Civil War was over.

I don’t know how my life as a missionary would have been if I’d been brought up as a racist. I’ve lived in many countries and a lot of them have not been “white folks”. But I was never taught to think and feel that way and I’m really glad for that. I’d already been taught to love my fellow human beings, even though I wasn’t raised a Christian.

no to racismAnd just in case any of you non-Americans out there are feeling a little smug right now, thinking how horrible these hate-filled Americans are, you might want to take a look around where you are. Yes, things have been bad here and in many ways still are. But I’ve seen some pretty bad cases of racism in my travels around Europe and also in other places. Some of you probably know what I mean.

I guess the only real solution in the long run is the love of God.

And salvation by Grace, I might add. It takes the love of God to really love people. And if you say you can do it without the love of God, ok, I’ll admit some people seem to be able to resist racism without the power of God. But then they often end up like I used to be when I was a kid. My family and I were self-righteousness because we weren’t racists when we had other problems and sins, lots of them. Just that for me, racism wasn’t one of the big problems I had.

finally freed flatI’ve just come to find out and experience that it takes a reborn heart through the love of God in Jesus to help us to love and be all that we need to be. If you’re a Christian but still think it’s OK to be a racist, (shall I be blunt here?) I strongly suggest you read God’s Word and let it change your heart. Here’s something from the laws of Moses, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart.”  (Leviticus 19:17)

And on the other hand, if you’re smugly satisfied with yourself like I used to be because you think you’re better than some Christians because you’re not racist, that’s just another dead-end, going-nowhere viewpoint. There are a lot of other evils in the world besides racism and you too need the power and love of God to overcome your weaknesses and vices. And we’ve all got them. That’s what I found out by hard, bitter experience. Lord help us all, Amen? God deliver us from hatred and racism. And smug, self-righteous unbelief as well.

Raised Racist? (Part 1)

flag 1A major subject in the news now is the aftereffects of the mass murder in Charleston, South Carolina of 9 African-Americans. One focus has been on the continuing use of the Confederate flag, used by the Confederate States during the American Civil War 150 years ago. It’s now beginning to be banned in some places but much talked about everywhere.

Racism is not just something I’ve read about, I grew up with it. In fact it had a major impact on my life. I went the first 10 years to school in a small city in central Texas that was very evangelical, fundamentalist Christian. And it was also virtually totally racist.

all my friends flat croppedNowadays we have the phrase, “the N word”. You probably know what that is. If not, I’ll let you look it up. But I can tell you that every single one of my friends (all of whom were white and almost all were Christian) used that word. But my family didn’t. I was taught that it was wrong and mean to use that word. My parents taught me to say “negro”, the more proper and acceptable, non-racist word back then for the people we now call African-Americans.

Some people reading this are from outside the States. So for those who don’t know it,  “the N word” was and is an extremely powerful, extremely hate-filled word. I can’t think of anything to compare it to. Back at the time of World War II Americans would call Germans “Krauts” or the Japanese would be called “Chinks” (or maybe that was the Chinese). And there were some for Mexicans which also were racists and hate-filled.

But none of those equaled or got near “the N word”. And, believe me because I was there, virtually everyone, over 99%, regularly used “the N word”. And this was in central Texas in the 1950’s and early 60’s. So you can just imagine how much worse it got the further east you traveled towards what’s called “the Old South”.

Give an inch flatThe use of “the N word” was based on a strong hatred of African-Americans. “Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile” was a phrase I heard countless times from my friends, speaking of African-Americans. But my parents were different. And the irony of all this was that my parents weren’t Christians, they were Unitarians. They didn’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God. But all my friends who used “the N word” were all Christians of one kind or the other. This is just the way it all was.

So in a strong way, this racism and hatred I saw in my friends caused me to disrespect them and thus disrespect Christianity. And my parents encouraged that view. I was taught that we were better than the Christians because we didn’t hate black people. We weren’t Christians but we were better than the Christians because we weren’t racists. And we weren’t.

It goes way back in the history of my family. My great-grandfather over 100 years ago was a wealthy landowner in northeast Texas who sheltered a black man in his house when a lynch mob came there to take him and lynch him after he had gotten into a fight with a white man. My great-grandfather stood up to the lynch mob in front of his house and refused to hand over the “negro” to them. That’s a pretty unusual story for northeast Texas from 100 years ago.

In my heart I just always felt that I and my family were better. We were more righteous because we weren’t racists like all the Christians I knew when I was growing up. Of course that didn’t really help me in my spiritual life because, in spite of the bad sample I saw of racial hatred from Christians as I grew up, the fact remained that actually Jesus was and is the Son of God. I was “throwing the Baby out with the bathwater”. I was rejecting Christ because of the bad example of hatred I saw from His people. So when I finally came to Him, it was after some really rough times as I had come to just be sure, I thought, that there was no God and no Jesus. I was wrong on that. But I think my parents and my upbringing was right in that we didn’t accept or take part in the totally racist society that was around us.

integrationWell, in some ways, that was long ago. I remember the first day my school “integrated”, when I was 17. All the white kids were looking at the African American kids that were now beginning to go to our school. Everyone was a little on edge. But also by that time it was the strong “prevailing wind” in America in the later 1960’s and it just wasn’t cool anymore to be racists, at least not overtly. So school integration went ok and the USA made some strides toward a less racist society.

Credit where credit is due, it really isn’t as racist as it used to be. But on the other hand, the cancer’s still there. Like a cancer victim who has to endure operation after operation to try to root out the malignancy, racial hatred is still around, 50 years after the schools were integrated and 150 years after the South lost the Civil War.

Like the Bible says, “Brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:10) It says of the barrier between the Jews and Gentiles of old, “He has broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” (Ephesians 2:14) In another place it says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond or free but we are all one in Christ.” (I Corinthians 12:13) At least, if nothing else, the love of Christ and the Spirit of God should help us overcome this entrenched hatred that’s so besmirched the people of God, especially in the southern USA for so long. God help us and have mercy.

“God is not the author of confusion.”

Its a hoax-5 flatUmm, I’m a little bit mad. Truth is important to me, I believe there is truth. It’s not always clear and there can be subtleties and all that. But fundamentally some things are true and some are not. Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice“. (John 18:37) He said that He was the truth.(John 14:6) He said the Holy Spirit is “the spirit of Truth”. (John 16:13) If you’re a Christian (or perhaps just a believer in the God of Abraham), then truth really should be important to you.

Emmanuel Church; Charleston, South Carolina

Emmanuel Church; Charleston, South Carolina

Here’s why this has come up for me. At the moment, one of the main things in the news is the murder of 9 African-Americans in a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina. But in the last few days, numerous web sites and articles are popping up to tell us “it ain’t necessarily so.” “Those murders didn’t happen at all. It was all staged by sinister forces. Actors were used!” This was also said in the same way at the time of the murder of the 20 children and 6 adults in Connecticut in 2012.

The Bible says, “God is not the author of confusion.” (I Corinthians 14:33)

One thing I believe about this: either those murders happened or they didn’t. If the main stream media is being used to deceive the multitudes and the hoax-callers are right, then I firmly believe that some grass roots reporter for a local newspaper or TV station could be able to sift out the evidence on this pretty easy.

Folks, truth is not that hard to find out. Nine people were killed a few days ago. You say that didn’t happen? Someone go interview the relatives. Go to the morgue. This truly isn’t rocket science. Will the caskets be open at the funerals? Come on!

It just gets my goat that someone is really telling us a whopper. And sadly very many Americans are likely to be affected by this. Very many now feel that the main stream media has zero credibility. They say they don’t believe anything they see on the main media outlets anymore. I’m certainly not unsympathetic to some of those views. So much is just tripe and hogwash, “brought to you by” unscrupulous mega-powerful folks with agendas that are not for the best of society.

Conspiracy Theory or Bible Prophecy flatBut then, what are you going to do? Are you going to believe the plethora of websites that have sprung up offering you what they say as “really the truth”? And you think those sites are going to tell you the truth? They don’t have an agenda? My experience with many of those sites is that they’re actually usually worse than the main stream media that they’re supposed to be the alternative to.

Do you know how easy it is to set up a web site and then suddenly become some acclaimed pundit? All you need is Microsoft Word, maybe a little Photoshop experience, the basics of a WordPress web site and… presto! You are an international commentator! And if you’re sensational enough, you’re articles will go viral and you’ll really be making believers of people, no matter how loony and “out there” your ideas are.

May God truly help us all. The Bible says, “Be not carried about with every wind of doctrine.” (Ephesians 4:14) How very much so many people here are exactly in that condition. They don’t know what to believe. “There was a mass murder!” “No, there wasn’t! It was all staged!” “There is a crisis!” “No, there’s not! It’s just a fiction made up by the folks on the other side!” Like the Bible says of the days of old, “Truth is perished.” (Jeremiah 7:28)

confused flatIt’s heart breaking. It’s infuriating. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalms 11:3) But when we don’t even know what the truth is anymore, we don’t know who, if anyone, we can believe, then we are ripe for the picking of the Grim Reaper, in whatever fashion he may come.

Our local newspaper here has what they call a “truth-o-meter”. It seems to be something nationally syndicated and it investigates what’s being said by noted figures, usually politicians. The worst rating is “pants on fire”, just something that is utterly false, like the saying, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” But then they do find some things to be true. Certainly we don’t have to be thrown into confusion by a question of whether or not this recent mass murder in South Carolina actually happened.

For me, I’ve come to find that just because the main stream media say something, I can’t just utterly discount that. And when some two-bit, fly-by-night website tells me some alarmist, extremist “news”, I certainly should take that with a huge grain of salt, if at all. I sure hope other people are doing the same. Actually a lot of times we should be calling a solid “BS” on some of these extremist sites that are just disseminating alarmist, often racist or some other hate-filled screed. May it not be said of us, as it was said of Israel of old, “My people love to have it so” (Jeremiah 5:31), when falsehood and deceit were loved and they ruled so rampantly that Israel back then was ultimately destroyed for her sins.

And just to be clear, I’m certainly not saying the main stream media is always right. At times some “voice in the wilderness” tells us the truth that others won’t. Like with Watergatethe Pentagon Papers or Edward Snowden. Or John the Baptist.

Is of the truth-a- flattenedDemand truth. Resist confusion. Get to the bottom of the thing. Don’t be “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14)  but “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) . Don’t let these false websites play to your prejudices, your fears and hatreds. When we lose our love for, and recognition of the truth, there really isn’t much left before our final surrender and defeat, as an individual or a nation.

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”)