Preserve the Pillars

pillarsHolding on to our faith is paramount. Paul said, “Holding faith and a good conscience”. (I Timothy 1:19)  Because a loss of faith can be a terrible, almost indescribable thing. I know because I went though it to the nth degree and was in profound despair when faced with the fact that I had nothing, I knew nothing, I could hold onto nothing. I wrote about this experience recently in “Hell”.

me 72 fixed-ABut coming out of that, I was brought by the love and mercy of God to come to know, “Whom to know is life eternal”, Jesus Christ. But not right away. At the very first it was just an experience with the forces of darkness, a presence that tried to claim me and extract me from this world. I thank God from the bottom of my heart that somehow He gave me the grace at that moment to have the presence of mind and heart to recognize the spirit of Satan and to turn from him to the Spirit of the God of the Bible. Those experiences were the beginnings of the turnaround and life I’ve lived since that time, going back to when I was 20 years old.

But I feel I know what it is like to be without faith, in the most tangible and disturbing way one can possibly experience. And I’m sure hundreds of millions, if not billions of people are more or less in that condition in our world every day.

That’s why it’s so important what the Bible says, “Cast not away your confidence which has great recompense of reward.” (Hebrews 10:35) Oh my gosh, how many people every day cast away their confidence? We worry about ISIS. But so many people every day abandon their faith, turn their back on their birthright and “do despite unto the Spirit of grace.” (Hebrews 10:29)

light and certainty flatThat’s why it is vital to “stablish, strengthen, settle” (I Peter 5:10) the foundations of our faith and the faith of others. Faith works. Faith will move mountains, we’ve heard it said. “But without faith, it is impossible to please Him”. (Hebrews 11:6) It might be added, without faith, it is impossible to survive the storms and vicissitudes of the world we live in. By His grace I’ve lived a life of faith by holding on to His Word which has sustained me for 45 years through 40 countries and innumerable “trials and tribulations” which I never would have been able to survive without supernatural faith.

It’s those pillars of faith, founded on the solid rock of God’s Word, that we have to maintain and strengthen, both in our own lives and the lives of others. I’ll quote that verse again, “Cast not away your confidence which has great recompense of reward”. How often that truth has been a personal experience for me. I won’t get specific here as some of this is personal and there are perhaps ones reading this who would be hurt or offended if I got too specific. But I can tell you that the Lord has let me experience heartbreak that has taken me to depths I could have never survived without the pillars of faith that I found in His Word.

Save me oh lord flat-AI was in Silkeborg, Denmark back in the late ‘70’s and I woke up one morning, thinking that was going to be the day I would finally say “uncle” to defeat and death. I really didn’t think I would survive that day with my faith and soul intact. There had already been many like it and I was at my wits end. Before I even got out of bed, the verse came to me, “Save me oh Lord, for the waters are come into my soul. I sink deep where there is no standing.“ (Psalm 69:1 & 2) That’s how it felt: just completely drowning in hopelessness. But later that same day, just out of nowhere, in my time of being past hope, the Lord came though and did things so that the winds of misfortune and hopelessness gave way to a new spring of better times.

Hope. Faith. Knowing. In Him we don’t just have to have ”hope”, or even “have faith”. We can know. That’s what the Bible says. “Faith” can seem kind of weak at times. But the Bible speaks of knowing.For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” (II Timothy 1:12)

Paul preaching in Athens

Those pillars of faith, those absolutes that we have staked our lives on are not irrational, as the secularists say they are. They are faith in the God of love and His Son who died for us and was raised from the dead. Yes, it doesn’t make sense to the agnostic minds of our world today. But we have more than that. We have what the people of faith have had for 1000’s of years. Deliverance. Truth. Joy. A power unknown by unbelievers. Pillars of faith that are strong enough to get us through whatever this life may throw us. “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and shall preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory for ever and ever.” (II Timothy 4:18)

Hell

The-devil-and-hopelessnessMaybe I should write more about hell. I’m tempted to say, “If anyone could write about hell, it’s me”. I wrote an article about my experiences which ultimately brought me to faith in God, called “Lucifer and the White Moths”. It was perhaps the seminal experience of my life, in which Satan came to claim my soul.

The seed and the eggBut when the Bible talks about hell, what the experience is like, it’s not as strange and foreign to me as it might seem to some people, perhaps many. But it’s hard to describe because it is such a different experience from what we have here. Another place I wrote about this is “The Parable of the Seed and the Egg”.

There’s the phrase that’s used in some places, “middle earth”. Although it comes from the fantasies of J. R. R. Tolkien, it’s a useful phrase because it is a little bit accurate. In this world, we are somewhat in a middle zone. We can be raised through faith in God and Jesus to the glories of heavenly experience and that has happened for some, recording in the Bible and other places.Lowest Hell flat But at the same time, we are susceptible to the magnetism of hell, the unutterable horrors, the hopelessness, the eternity, the indescribable remorse, the reality of eternity without hope of ever being able to undo the mistakes that you made and the damage you did.

King David said to God, “You’ve delivered me from the lowest hell.” (Psalm 86:13) Many of the preachers from years gone by really dwelt on hell. And it seems they actually scared a lot of people into heaven. We today look down on that approach. But it sure worked back then. And that was the only way that God could get through to me. As I’ve mentioned before, “others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23) has always been a verse that I’ve felt has described my experience.

“Oh, Mark, that’s so horrible! How could a “God of love” do such a thing to you! You poor, poor thing!”

Friends, how could a person so alienated from the life of God, so hard-hearted, so obstinate and continually in resistance of the Holy Ghost find pardon and forgiveness in the infinite mercy of God? Truly, I can find no fault in God.

first road picture-flattenedAnd then, as I wrote in “Lights on the Road“, even after He delivered me from my soul being seized and taken to hell by Satan, a few months later I was back doing my own thing on drugs in my sports car with my girl friend, utterly impudent in my returning to my vomit of my former druggy ways.

“So this time He’d had enough and He allowed you to have what justice would allow, a just reward for your foolishness and backslidden nature after He had kept you from death a few months before? Right?”

No, He was merciful again, when I really, really didn’t deserve it.

But what about hell? How bad is it? It’s so bad that I’m always hindered from writing about it because truly, words fail me. And also it’s just so unutterable and hopeless, so much a condemnation of my own sins, so clear that I deserved every bit of it and so final and complete. I just don’t write about it as it’s just no fun and utterly something else from this world of “middle earth”. But I do feel this is what the Bible has described and when I first read about hell in the Bible, I immediately related it to what I’d experienced and come out of.

In my first months as a Christian, I memorized a few verses from the Old Testament that most reminded me of my experiences in hell. Here’s one. “There is one alone and not another. (The utter, utter alone-ness of hell was so vast and complete. I was alone, in solitary confinement, with only myself) yea, he has neither child nor brother (just nothing, nothing. No one in your universe. You are cut off.) Yet is there no end of all his labor (you are constantly striving to get out of that situation, your very being is intensely trying to “find a way out of there”, as Bob Dylan sang) neither is his eye satisfied with riches (no matter what you had, riches, intelligence, beauty, potential, whatever, it’s all utter vanity in the hereafter without the salvation of God) Neither does he say, for whom do I labor and bereave my soul from good? (You know something is terribly, terribly wrong, but you just don’t know what it is. You are in utterly dazed and confused and perplexed, but you can’t find the answer. And that is your eternal state,) this also is vanity, it is sore travail”. (Ecclesiastes. 4:8)

It sure is. “There must be some way out of here, say the joker to the priest. There’s too much confusion here, I can’t get no relief” Amen to that. Even Bob Dylan somehow had some glimpse of the reality of hell.

Honestly, maybe I should talk more about hell; maybe I would help more people if I really dwelt on this subject. Even the Apostle Paul said, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”  (II Corinthians 5:11) It ultimately took a repeated series of experiences like this with eternity without God to finally get through to my hardened heart and reprobate mind that I was an utterly hopeless sinner, that life went on in one form or the other after death, and that I was ripe for “the grim reaper” of Satan to claim my soul, unless I turned in repentance to God.

I sure hope you’re not in that condition or situation. Friend, it is so utterly horrible that I may have failed to testify of its reality and its unspeakable horror. Get right with God. Even better, call out to Jesus; He’s the “mediator between God and men.” (I Timothy 2:5) Even if you just have a little faith and a lot of doubts, call out to Him. Hell is indescribably bad but you don’t have to go there. “Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart.”(Psalm 95: 7 & 8) Call out to Him now. “Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you know not.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

Speaking Truth to Evil

I heard recently, “People need to see more heroes.” Well, here’s one, as far as I can see. She may not be “one of us”. But then that depends on how you see what “us” means.

This is the kind of news you won’t see normally on American news media. But it shows us something of the little people, the unheard of’s, the forgotten of this world who still stand up to evil in their land, among their people, and in these times. May the gracious God of Abraham see and bless this dear soul and all those like her.

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Seeking Truth, without a spin

Free at last flatAll my life, truth has really been important to me. I haven’t believed in God all my life, but I have believed in and reverenced the truth. That’s one of the reasons why, when I came to God, the God of the Bible, it had such an overwhelming impact on me.

Here was raw, pure truth to have and love and swim in for free. At last I had found it. I soaked in it, reveled in it, memorized it daily and shared it thrillingly with everyone I could.

But it also underlined to me, even more, the darkness that the world and the nations live it. I already knew this in many ways but this just made it clearer. I come from a family of journalists, grew up around the media and worked in the newsroom of a large daily newspaper when I was going to university. This was all before I came to know the God of Abraham and then Jesus. And being back here in the States after 36 years abroad, it’s a heavy feeling of sadness to see the degree of constant disinformation that most Americans consume each day. And then think they’re informed.

“You are what you eat” and you are also what you read, listened to and believe. It grieves and saddens me so much to know how very many Christian brethren here are less than fully informed of the world we live in, by their choices of where they get their information from.

If your going to tell flatLies can come in many forms. It was Hitler that said, “If you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one that no one would believe you would say unless it was true”. But there are other kinds of lies, where the truth is shaved and shaped to fit an agenda that doesn’t want you to know the full truth. So there’s some truth there, it’s not a totally unadulterated lie.

But it’s not the unbiased, unvarnished, “unspun” truth. It’s “brought to you” by someone. It’s “genetically modified” truth from the sponsors of the broadcasting network or the owner of the publishing empire. So it fits their desire that you see things a certain way. It looks pretty much true; handsome men and beautiful woman are there to tell you how it is. But much of the picture is left out.

In a few weeks I’m (by God’s grace) going to be taking a trip to a part of the world that is in the news every day. I have many hopes for this trip. But one of them is to be able to come back to my friends here in the States and to tell them plainly, first hand, “This is what I saw and what I learned”. Because they seldom if ever hear that. We’re told what the powers that be want us to know.

And I’m not talking about the government here since we have an ostensibly free press. But I’ve had to, over and over again, speak to my Christians friends to tell them my personal experiences outside the United States. And often this has meant I’ve had to break the stereotype my friends have been feed through the media and the websites they get their info from.

What can we do? “Hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6), that’s what the Bible says. Be desperate for the truth, like the Berean’s were in Acts 17. “These were more noble that those of Thesallonica in that they searched the Scriptures daily whether these things are so.” (Acts 17:11)

Let me tell you, friends, “we” are not always right and “they” are not always wrong. If you want the truth, strive to get a full picture, even if you have to go to websites and news agencies that may not be what you would consider part of your group or your people.

You told me the truth-a-flattenedHave you ever had someone you thought was your “enemy” say something to you that hurt, but you knew there was some truth to it? Something your buddy-buddy friends didn’t or wouldn’t tell you? That’s sometimes how you have to find truth, even from someone not of your camp or group. And today America is so very divided that most folks won’t begin to believe anything they hear unless it comes from “their side”. That’s a bad sign.

In Old Testament times, Isaiah said of the people of his day, “Who say to the seers, ‘See not’; and to the prophets, ‘Prophesy not to us right things, speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.’” (Isaiah 30:10). Just before the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah said of those then, “The prophets prophesy falsely and My people love to have it so.” (Jeremiah 5:31) Probably there are many millions like that today. They don’t even want the truth; they’d rather have the pleasing lies, the “smooth things” and so they remain in their stupor.

“Hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Realize that you are being heavily propagandized every single day. You may be concerned about the food you eat; how about the news you believe?

I look forward to being back here here from my trip and being able to share with my friends first hand experiences from real people that are in the middle of what we see on the news every day. I hope to be able to share what is really happening, what also can be done, what God is doing there and what those people really need.

Truth is a precious thing. Without truth, we may not be lost when it comes to our souls, if we are saved and believing in Him. Is of the truth-a- flattenedBut we can be walking in darkness and deceived in a major way if we just drift with the tide of what we’re told here daily, not only by the main stream media but by extremists with their own agendas.

Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth, hears my voice.” (John 18:37) May we all be desperate and searching for what is actually true and real in these dark and desperate times.

History, prophets and progress

It happens over flatI read a lot of history, basically almost every night. Most of it is in relation to the history of Christianity and faith over the last 2000 years. It fascinates me. I’ve already written elsewhere about Saint Patrick, one of the most influential people in the history of Europe and certainly of the Irish and Scottish people that my ancestors come from.

But over and over again I’m struck by how it so often came down to change. Would the (what we now call) “religious people” make spiritual progress, expand and be renewed with what God was trying to do in their lives? Would they change with the new day or hold on to their old ways?

It’s such a hideous trap. Hideous! People of faith think they have to hold on to the basic tenets of their faith, which often is true. “Let that therefor abide in you which you have heard from the beginning.” (I John 2:24) But some of these can be just religious traditions, rather than really make-or-break absolutes of the faith.

This is why Jesus said, “Well has Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, ‘This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from Me; howbeit in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men’.” (Mark 7:6 & 7) Some of those folks perhaps originally were, to some degree and measure, genuinely worshiping God.no man ever spoke flat But when Jesus came along, His reality, His warmth, His truth and His miracles were a manifold greater witness of God’s power than the vain traditions they’d come to mostly be holding on to.

What happened? Some people quickly caught on that “No man every spoke like this man.” (John 7:46) They knew that “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 7:29) But some people, the majority, held on to their “old wine”, as Jesus called it.“No man, having drunk old wine immediately desires the new; for he says the old is better”. (Luke 5:39)

Cant put old wine-flattened-againAnd this is such an incredible truth; you can see this repeated down through the centuries and the fate of nations and civilizations hung on it. Some folks were confronted with the “New Wine” of the presence of God in the apostles He sent to the nations. Some pagan kings had the grace and the wisdom to recognize the hand of God and the presence of God in the apostles of their day and they received them and worked with them. The result? Their nations converted from heathen darkness to the God of Light. Read about Boniface and his work to bring Christianity to what we now call Germany.Martin Luther Or the incredible effect Martin Luther had on the history of Europe in the 1500’s. Luther brought change, not with the sword or economics or science, but simply in leading his generation to return to the original truth of the Word of God. And Europe was never the same after so many nations received the truth of God through Luther.

But the sad thing is the times when the people or the rulers were presented with a new message from God, an exposure of their lapses or a call to take a further step in the path of faith and righteousness.

Jerusalem destroyed; 586 BC

Jerusalem destroyed; 586 BC

History is full of examples of both leaders and the masses who shunned the voices of God that He sent, rejecting His messengers and His truth that was sent to deliver them from the troubles they were in. This was never more clearly happening than with the people of Israel, before their destruction and subjugation by Babylon around 586 BC. “They mocked the messengers of God, and despised His Word and misused His prophets til the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, and there was no remedy.” (II Chronicles 36:16)

The history of Europe is strewn with examples of these times, some of which went well and many which didn’t. Multitudes of blog articles could be written regarding these things when the subject of the French Revolution comes up. Or the history of Russia, leading up to the fall of the Czar and the overthrow of Orthodox Russia, bringing in the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist Empire of the Soviet Union.

There were opportunities in all these things where a leader could have arisen to courageously lead his people out of their dilemmas by taking the higher ground of God’s will, truth and Word. But so often, this just didn’t happen. It reminds me of the heartbreaking verse in Ezekiel, “I sought for a man among them that might stand in the gap and make up the hedge, that I might not destroy the land, but I found none.” (Ezekiel 22:30) How often in history this has happened! God sought for a man among them to stand up for God and His ways in their desperate times. But He “found none .

Joan of ArcNo leader of stature could be found by God to “stand in the gap” of the broken wall of God’s will and protection. No leader or even a commoner, like Joan of Arc was so dramatically for the French in the 1400’s, could be found to lift up the message of God, to rally the people to spiritually higher ground, greater obedience, further truth and to continue in the paths God was leading them. So He could no longer protect them.

They that wander out of the way of understanding and shall remain in the congregation of the dead.” (Proverbs 21:16) God didn’t fail to send them His truth in many forms. When you read history, you can see this over and over. Sometimes it was heeded and the nation was saved from what looked like was doom. Many other times it was rebuffed and mocked. As the martyr Stephen cried to his brethren the Jews in Acts 7, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?” (Acts 7:52) And so destruction and even annihilation came.

This is what happened with ancient Israel, so clearly recorded in God’s Word so long ago. And it didn’t just happen with the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 586 BC. This has happened again and again to societies and nations over the last 2500 years .

Like the old song said, “When will they ever learn?” Well, some do. But the warning to us all is fearful and awesome. “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall you prosper.” (II Chronicles 20:20)

“Get quickly out of Jerusalem”

Get quickly out flatSometimes I get some really interesting responses to the blog articles I write. Yesterday I published the article that goes with the live class on Acts 22. It’s a very moving chapter and has always been of interest to me. A major highpoint in the chapter is the moment when the Lord appears to Paul in Jerusalem to emphatically direct him to immediately get out of Jerusalem, that Paul’s brethren the Jews would not accept his teachings. But Paul didn’t do that.

Today I got this response back from a fellow missionary. I’ve edited a few things to keep some of the unnecessary details to a minimum. It’s an incredible story of how God can use what He said 2000 years ago to speak vehemently to our hearts today when it applies to us. Here are parts of what she wrote:

Hi Mark, I just read your latest live class Acts 22. This is for me a very special class, with a very special verse in my personal life with Jesus.

Years ago I was on a foreign mission field that I loved very much. But, as can happen, the denomination I was working with began to receive some relatively severe persecution there. Those of us who labored on that field could see that it was time to get out of the country as things were getting serious.These articles flat

But I was so attached to that country, their ways and those sweet people. I felt proud that I’d served the Lord there, witnessing almost every day to those people and so I said: “I will stay here till I die! I gave my life for this country, and if I have to go underground and there are just a tiny number of us, so be it.”

Many others were preparing to move on to other fields or back to their home countries. But I was still sure I was going to stay, till one day while sitting on a bus, I opened the New Testament and my eyes immediately fell upon the verse, Acts 22:18!

Make haste and get quickly out of Jerusalem for they will not receive your testimony concerning me.

So the Lord was saying that my beloved field and city was my Jerusalem! When I read the verse, I really didn’t just read it — it screamed at me! So it was a turning point in my life and I decided to leave. But one thing I didn’t do. The Lord had said, “Make haste!” But I didn’t.

There were so many things to prepare, passports and paper work, so I took it easy. And then, not long after I got that shock and warning from the Lord, anti-Christian forces had been able to stir up the media and authorities so that some of us were actually detained and arrested!

Eventually, when the truth came out that it was nothing more than religious persecution by the dominate religious powers of that country against a minority denomination, we were set free and exonerated from all charges. Meanwhile some officials had “lost” my documents in the institution we were detained in. But I got new ones in just one day. Normally it took like 2 months to get new documents for foreigners.

Then I had gone to confirm the tickets with my son —and got robbed in the very busy train station of the capital! All my tickets, my documents and some money were gone. I had exactly enough to pay for the ticket home.

To make a long story short, I finally did leave the city and country the Lord had clearly told me to leave. But it was a long and rough time we experienced and sometimes it was tough. Kind of like the verse, “The way of the transgressor is hard.”  (Proverbs 13:15) In this thing that I had gotten that verse from the Lord about, I didn’t really obey it. And so I was a transgressor in this and it was a hard time in a number of ways.

The Lord had made it super clear: “Okay, so you wanted to stay in this place forever? Just to make your mind up, I will help you and make you feel so fed up with the place that you won’t want to come back, unless I tell you!” And that is what happened.

So, that was my story from Acts 22:18. God bless you, much love,  L.

Isn’t that amazing? God is alive and well and communicating with His children. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but that He reveals His secrets to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) And that doesn’t always mean you have to be an Old Testament prophet before God reveals what He will do or what sometimes we need to do.

God has His times. When God says “now”, you’d better obey God in that split second of that golden opportunity when the conviction of His Spirit is hot and heavy upon you. “He that hesitates is lost” and it can even cost you your life, or at least months of hardship that could be avoided if we’d just obeyed the Lord when He says to do something.

What a lesson. God help us to obey those checks from His Spirit, even if they sometimes seem strange or there doesn’t seem to be any visible reason in front of us that “confirms” what the Lord is urging us to do through the voice of His Spirit in our hearts. “He gives His Holy Spirit to them that obey Him.” (Acts 5:39)

Acts 22 Live Class Audio

Paul and Jewish mobIn our class before this, on Acts 21, we saw that this chapter was one of the most pivotal in the life of Paul. From this time, he was never a free man again, at least according to the rule of the Roman Empire. Acts 22 is an immediate continuation of the narrative of the events that began in Acts 21. The live class audio can be heard here.

The chapter begins with Paul addressing his brethren the Jews who had just before this almost torn him limb from limb in the temple compound in Jerusalem. But as he was led away, after being saved from death by the Roman garrison there, he asked if he could be allowed to address the mob from whom he had just been rescued. The leader of the Roman band granted his request and Paul turned to address the crowd, as he had done so many other times in other circumstances.

To me, it is one more example of Paul’s ability to “share his testimony”, simply to quell the crowd by telling them “this is what happened to me”. Everyone loves a story and most people will listen if you tell them what happened to you. This is still a lesson to us all of how to win souls or at least to try to, by sharing what happened to you in your coming to the saving knowledge of a relationship with Jesus.

Paul on stepsDid they all repent, like what had happened in the same neighborhood many years before, as recorded in Acts 2, 3 and 4? Not at all. That was an earlier time and hearts had very much hardened in Jerusalem towards the people who were by now called Christians.

One of the things we spoke about in our live class on this chapter was how Paul was able to shift from language to language and even culture to culture and this was a great advantage to him in his calling as a missionary. In this particular situation in Jerusalem, it may have helped save his neck as he was able to speak to the Roman centurion that was overseeing his arrest and his protection from the Jews and then to immediately shift into speaking Hebrew as he addressed the crowd.

It’s another example of something that’s always spoken to me from I Corinthians 9 when Paul said, “To the Jew I became as a Jew and to the Greek as a Greek. I am become all things to all men, that I might by all means win some”. (I Corinthians 9:20-22) We can learn from this to be adaptable from one culture or society to the other in order to be understandable to all people and to share the love of God with them.

Another subject we talked about in our live class was how Paul was told he was to be a witness. (Acts 9:15) We talked about how that’s seldom emphasized in most churches and how so many Christians don’t know how to witness or how important it is. We talked about how the Bible says that the endtime church, before the coming of the Lord, will be a witnessing church. (Daniel 12:3). We also talked about Ezekiel 3:17-19 and “delivering our souls”. Paul said “I am clean from their blood” (Acts 18:6) So he knew he had a responsibility to delivery his soul as a witness.

Paul surroundedAnd we had a lively discussion about what Paul tells us in this chapter when he literally argued with the Lord when he was in Jerusalem. The Lord told Paul to “get quickly out of Jerusalem” (Acts 22:18), that the Jews would not listen or hear his testimony.

But Paul talked back to the Lord and disagreed with Him. The question came up, was this something that happened in Acts 9 or had it just happened right then when Paul had come back to Jerusalem when the Lord had been telling him not to go back there? If it had happened years before, why was Paul then going back there again, even as the Holy Spirit had been admonishing him not to? One way or the other, something certainly seemed amiss. And the normally ultra-obedient Paul we find in conflict with the Lord who appeared to him and commanded him to quickly leave Jerusalem and go “far hence to the Gentiles“. (Acts 22:21)

I feel these two chapters, Acts 21 and 22, are some of the most significant and poignant ones in the New Testament. Our beloved Paul, who probably did more to further the cause of Christ than any other disciple who ever lived, is taken captive and it appears as if some disobedience of his at least in part is a factor in it all. These are very emotional chapters for me and our live class on the subject was a reflection of the feelings that come from reading about these events, as well as the seriousness of the lessons that are there to be learned. I hope you’ll be fed by the things we discussed; the live class audio can be heard here. God bless you.

Heat to Light

isis fixedSo we were talking about the Middle East, about Islam and Islamic fighters, extremism and the phrase that was used back in the 70’s, “hearts and minds” came up.

Yesterday on the national news a German reporter was telling about his experiences in the radical Muslim camps in the Middle East and how new volunteers from the West came every day to join the forces there.

US forces fixedThe reporter said that even the very best combat troops from the West would not really be able to defeat the Islamic fighters. The reason he gave was that all the Western forces basically still hoped they would finish their tour of duty and get back to their families. But the Islamic fighters, they were fully ready to die for what they were fighting for.

Electric heat

Electric heat

It really gives one pause for thought. I told my family that it’s almost like spectrums, how scientists say that in a sense, light and heat are the same thing, just different frequencies and ranges. In the same sense, it’s like the motivations that motivate someone when it comes to patriotism, nationalism and pride could be compared to heat that motivates us and even inflames us.

Electric light

Electric light

But further up the frequency is the realm of light, or what some people call religion. So many Islamic people worldwide today feel strongly about their faith in God, which incidentally they will tell you, if you ask them, is in the God of Abraham, regardless of what some American Evangelicals will tell you otherwise.

But it’s like the phrase again, “hearts and minds”. The early Christian movement in the first centuries started out with a band of 70 to 100 young Jewish men and women in an obscure province of Rome. And in around 200 years, it had mostly taken over the Roman Empire.

behold these Christians flatHow did they do that? With weapons? Technology? Education? Culture? Entertainment? No, it was what today is called religion. But back then it was more a matter of what was totally believed to be truth, love and a revealed reality. They reveled in the light that the promised Messiah of the Jews had indeed come, had risen from the dead and was now at the right hand of God, ready to forgive sins and to give eternal life to those who came to Him in prayer.

You may not believe that. Certainly 100’s of millions of people in the West think that’s not really true or relevant anymore. But Islamic people have not had the falling away from their faith that Westerns have had. They don’t separate out religion from the rest of their lives, like most Westerns do. Even that is as fairly recent event in our history.died in faith

Usually, in some sense, you could say that light will generally trump heat. Back at the time of Rome, the Christians had so much light, they didn’t physically attack the Romans, but the Romans attacked them. And it became clear over the first two centuries or so that the Christians were so full of their light and faith that they would joyously die for their faith, rather than renounce it. And eventually the light of Christianity defeated the heat of the Roman civilization of that day.

Mark, are you trying to say that the Muslim’s faith in what they believe is the light in their religion will not be overcome by the strength of our patriotism, our nationalism, our advanced civilization?

I don’t know. I do know from my experiences that I found the faith of many Muslims is often pretty strong and intact whereas the faith-foundation of many Westerners is kind of flimsy at best, if you really test it. People have souls and spirits. And patriotism, materialism and nationalism are just not really designed to enlighten our souls the way the God of the Bible and His Son can and will, if we let Them.

So I was telling my family tonight that I feel what’s really needed is to move out of the spectrum of heat and move towards the spectrum of light. For me, it wasn’t till I came to “the Light of Israel”, Jesus Christ, that I had the transformation of soul, spirit, mind and character that has carried me through my last 40 plus years. The Western world, what overall could be called “the Christian world”, is really pretty weak in spirit right now. So very few are strong in their faith, strong in its tenets, strong in a personal experience with God and with Jesus. And it’s just a law of nature that weakened, confused, unmotivated forces will loose to more highly motivated, envisioned, inspired forces of what are seen to be the enemy.

Most experts on international affairs and the intelligentsia of all that will openly admit that tactical, physical warfare can only do so much. If “hearts and minds” are not won, then you’re just chopping weeds without rooting out the cause. What of course is truly needed worldwide is for the people of Lord to be strengthened mightily in their innermost being, not with military weapons, foreign aid or patriotic pageantry but in the utter fundamentals of the faith of their forefathers.

Paul said, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but might through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4)  “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) This is a Biblical way of stating what folks were saying at the time of the Viet Nam war that “hearts and minds” needed to be won, not just to do battle in the physical.

But how many Christians today know how to fight with the spiritual weapons of His Word and love to bring this world to Him? Most of them seem to default to “send in the troops” or just to collapse in fear of Islam, rather than knowing how to move to the “higher frequencies” of the light of the Lord to win souls and win this world to Him.

Without a knowledge of God, a relationship with God, the protection of God and the salvation of God, no amount of carnal, mental machinations of man will stand up to stronger spiritual forces, if God deems it time to unleash them on a backslidden people. Heat has its limits and weaknesses. We must all get further up the frequency, into the realms of Light.

Matches, when I was 5

I was 5 years old in Marlin, Texas. My parents both went to work every day so I was left alone with a “Negro maid”. I was pretty much on my own so I was out on my tricycle a lot, riding around the neighborhood and just checking things out.

Four years old; Marlin, Texas

Four years old; Marlin, Texas

I guess it was summer because a friend of mine who was 7 and I were out in a vacant lot and we decided to start a fire. I knew enough already to clear all the dead and dry grass around in order to make a little clearing and a circle of stones to make the fire in. But we needed a way to start it. We decided that I would go back home and snitch a box of matches which I knew were in a place in the kitchen, without our maid knowing of course.

So I got back with the matches and we were all ready to make our little fire. Boy, did I learn some lessons. First one was that, strange as it may seem, 7 year olds are not always smarter than 5 year olds. My friend suddenly started striking matches and throwing them out into the dry grass, rather than to light a fire in the circle of stones that we’d agreed on. I was yelling at him not to do that but to no avail. The next thing we knew, the grass was on fire and a right good grass fire was suddenly started up in the neighborhood.Striking matches-a-resized

Heading out into the neighborhood, looking for adventure

Heading out into the neighborhood, looking for adventure

And, would you believe it, the fire department had to come out with two fire trucks and put out the blaze. Good they did, since the vacant lot was surrounded by bungalows on 3 sides.

I really got in trouble. I got some serious discipline which I remember I didn’t fight much as I had enough conscience to know I’d done wrong by going back to the house and sneaking off with those matches. But my 7 year old friend? Nothing happened to him. His dad had been a pilot and was killed in the Korean War; his mom was a nurse at the Veterans’ hospital. He didn’t get any discipline.

I thought it wasn’t fair, he was the one that was stupid, it seemed to me. But I knew what I got was fair as I’d done wrong and I knew it. But it was good in a sense that nothing really bad came of this beyond a grass fire in a vacant lot that the Marlin fire department had to come and put out.

What in the world of a lesson can be found in this? Well, like Moses said, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23) I didn’t know that verse back then but I had an active enough conscience that the principle was certainly clear to me. Also, like Job said, “Great men are not always wise. Neither do the aged understand judgment.”  (Job 32:9) I was really surprised at my 7 year old friend that he didn’t have more wisdom than that to just start throwing matches out into dry grass. Even I knew that and I was 5.

And then I was thinking tonight, “Well, son-of-a-gun, it’s in some ways like I’m throwing matches out into dry grass.” Only in this case it’s not to do mischief but in hopes to start fires for the Lord in a positive way, a little like the verse, “Cast thy bread upon the waters for thou shalt find it after many days.Give a portion to seven and also to eight.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1 & 2) Some of the things I write, it’s like, and “Who needs this? strike a match flatThis is kind of ‘out there’”. But maybe it will catch fire in a good sense somewhere. Someone will be moved by it; someone will respond to it, someone will be inspired and inflamed by it, just like a match on dry grass.

That incident when I was 5 was a very memorable moment for me. The whole episode could have gone much worse. The fire could have caught the houses nearby on fire and injured people. I was doing something I knew in my heart was wrong. The older kid didn’t seem to have the knowledge and conscience that I did, although he was two years older than me. That was a surprise.

But it was a memorable moment on many fronts. I never saw anything good in it at all that I did; it was just wrong. “A child left to himself, brings his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15). I’d been left alone to ride my bike around the neighborhood at the age of 5 almost every day and I got into mischief.

But tonight I was thinking about these blog posts and the thought came to me that it’s like throwing matches out into dry grass. Only in this case, it is in an attempt to do good, not mischief. It’s an attempt to help other Christians ignite for the Lord and be a light for Him.Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

La Profecía Bíblica de la Historia video

Español

Este video presenta el fenómeno de la profecía bíblica en la historia del antiguo Israel. Es el primer film producido sobre las profecías de Daniel. Muchas personas no saben qué es la profecía bíblica. Desde luego, yo no lo sabia hasta que tuve un gran cambio en mi vida. Descubrí que hay un mundo espiritual y que yo estaba equivocado al ser ateo. Me convertí al Cristianismo  y estaba tan sorprendido cuando estudié la Biblia.

Espero que este film explique la historia de Israel y el milagro de la profecía bíblica. Esta es la versión en inglés de este documental. Mi siguiente video español será el libro de Daniel capítulo 2. Debería estar listo muy pronto. Dios los bendiga.

English

I’ve been able to complete the first video in Spanish 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.

My next Spanish video will be Daniel chapter 2. That video should be ready soon. Meanwhile, I’m working on several other foreign language videos on Bible prophecy and I hope to have those out in the next few months. God bless you.