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”)

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.