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.

 

What Is A Conscience?

I got an interesting letter from a friend in Romania, telling me that someone had told him that our conscience is virtually a hindrance and a counterfeit of the presence of God. So he was asking me what actually our conscience is and where it might fit into the plan of God and God’s Word.

I wrote him back and said that, as with so many things like this, I always feel the first place to look is in the Word. The light of God’s Word can shine on and clarify things of the spirit, soul and heart that our own understanding can only try to grab at in our darkness.

That specific word, “conscience”, doesn’t seem to be used in the Old Testament but it’s found one place in the Gospels, “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one,” (John 8:9) Actually, the first verse that came to mind for me was where Paul made his defense to the Jewish elders in Jerusalem. The first thing he said was, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” (Acts 23:1) Whereupon he got a big slap on the mouth for saying that to them.

gyroscopeBut when I was looking to the Lord about this question, I got some interesting pictures. The whole principle of gyroscopes and compasses came to mind. And I think maybe our conscience is like those things in some ways.

The Bible says we have a heart, a soul, a mind and a spirit. But it seems like our conscience is something that is sort of built into us and that we’re born with, almost like a rudimentary “on board navigation system” that each person has. Gyroscopes, in the physical, help provide ships and other things with a balancing system. How exactly that works with a gyroscope is a little mysterious; I can’t explain it but I’m sure some scientist can. And the same with compasses: they provide direction, always pointing to the north, although again, it seems almost spooky how they work. But they do.

compassSo maybe our consciences are a little like a gyroscope and a compass within our souls, providing us some rudimentary “balance” and “direction” in the affairs of our moral and ethical decision-making.

But like the person who was talking to my Romanian friend said, our consciences are far from foolproof and certainly not themselves devices that bring us salvation. Paul talked about things that “wound their weak conscience” (I Corinthians 8:12) or even where some “Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron…” (I Tim. 4:2)

So just as gyroscopes and compasses are relatively fragile instruments, it seems our consciences can be weak, even become damaged and in some cases dysfunctional. A word you don’t hear much anymore is “reprobate” (Romans 1:28), a good Bible word for someone who has moved so far away from the voice of their conscience that they literally don’t know the difference between right and wrong anymore.

But to the questions or statements about our conscience, the person told my Romanian friend that “The biggest lie, even before evolution, that the devil was able to push on the World was that our conscience is God’s presence in us. “

stopI think a thorough Word study on our conscience would show that it’s certainly something that we’re born with and is some form or type of guidance and balance system that is imbued in each soul born, or so it seems. And that it comes from God.

So I understand what that person is trying to say there. But I think they’re being a little too hard and critical of our God-given conscience. I understand what they want to get across is that our conscience is not going to save us and actually our sinful nature can and often does overrule our conscience. I think that’s what Paul meant when he said, “The good that I would, I do not, but the evil that I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19)

The power of sin in the life of the unsaved can and often will overcome their conscience. That’s certainly what happened to me. That’s why that verse in John has always seemed to encapsulate what happened to me, “As many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name.” (John 1:12) Until I received Jesus, I just didn’t have the power to resist the sins that were increasingly destroying my life. My conscience was there. But I increasingly listened to other voices, the voices of friends, social pressure and just “the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2). And the voice of my conscience became fainter and fainter.smoking flat-a

That’s why God provided a better “guidance system” than our weak “onboard” conscience. And that is “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) “A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you, I will take the stony heart out of our flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

Our consciences are not bad and I believe they’re part of the gift and grace of God. But they alone won’t really provide the guidance and certainly not the strength we need to turn against the course of this world and to follow the Spirit of God into “the path of life. (Psalms 16:11)

So is that guy right or wrong? A little of both, I think. He does have a point. But your conscience doesn’t have to be seen as your enemy and again, a good Word study in the New Testament will repeatedly speak of our conscience as being a good thing.

Only, Salvation is a better thing. Salvation is God’s final solution and answer to the darkness and sin in our lives.Who has delivered us from the power of darkness and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son, in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13 & 14) Gyroscopes and compasses are good and they have their place. But it’s far more important to get God’s full package of “upgrades, hardware and software” that can truly make us “new creatures in Christ Jesus”. (II Corinthians 5:17)

 

Conspiracy Theory and/or Bible Prophecy

John KennedyWhen John Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Texas, I was a young teenager, living 100 miles away. He was a major hero and role model to me and his death had a heavy impact on my heart and life. Later, as the info came out about the details of his death, it seemed clear to me that it was not just a lone gunman who got off some amazingly “lucky” shots. I saw the Zapruder film and from that it seems clear that the shot that killed Kennedy didn’t come from the direction of Oswald.

Lee Harvey Oswald

Lee Harvey Oswald

So I guess that makes me a conspiracy theorist. And since that time the whole genre of conspiracy theories has grown to a full industry and major phenomenon of our times.

Some years later I surprisingly came to find out that there actually is a God in heaven, as well as the devil, angels and the whole thing. It in some ways was the climax of a series of shocking, eye-opening experiences that caused me to see the world in a totally different way. And I guess you could say, “Well, if you can believe in conspiracy theories, it’s probably easy for you to believe in that God stuff too.

But they are different. Admittedly there are some similarities. Conspiracy theorists see a lot of things going on that most people don’t know about. They see unseen forces, organizations and individuals, working behind the scenes to shape the destiny of man to go the direction they want them to. They see entities which want us to view things a certain way, to believe things that aren’t true and to basically enslave the human race. Is that all true? I’d say some of it is true and even verifiable to some degree.

But also there’s a difference. From my experience, conspiracy theorists seem to get mad a lot and there’s virtually no stopping place at where they will see “them” at work. Everything that happens is somehow not as it seems. “They” are active, everywhere and just about to take over our lives, our nation and our world.

What I don’t find in conspiracy theory is answers. There’s fear, there’s what is said to be a revelation of what is real, but there really isn’t much offered to alleviate all this. Also I feel that following a strong, steady line of conspiracy theory doctrine will come to make someone rather paranoid overall, distrustful, cynical and afraid of virtually everyone, even their best friends.

It reminds me of the verse in II Timothy, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7) I came out of a lot of atheist, worldly darkness and that verse was like a promise I held on to for years that the Lord would create in me a “sound mind”, not burdened with confusion, fears and misunderstand.

Conspiracy Theory or Bible Prophecy flatThat’s another good verse that could be applied to conspiracy theories” “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” (I Corinthians 14:33) I guess in some ways it is good what those folks do since so many people walk in such dullness and blindness. Conspiracy theorists might wake some of those ones up that there’s some serious stuff going on and that common people are being deceived daily on a massive scale.

sharing the Word with joy-2 flatBut this is all really different from what the study of Bible prophecy does. Bible prophecy not only exposes the systems and evils of man, which has been around for millennia, but it gives clear answers about what the solution is that God Himself has provided and is in the process of bringing to pass. Bible prophecy is a real eye opener. But it doesn’t carry that “spirit of fear”, as well as confusion that so often seems to accompany conspiracy theory teaching.

So I suppose those who avidly follow conspiracy theories might be woken up somewhat to the depth of evil in the world and shaken somewhat out of the general stupor that is upon so much of mankind. But then what?

God told Jeremiah that he was ordained to “root out, pull down, destroy, throw down” (Jeremiah 1:10) Conspiracy theory does that, sort of a general deconstruction of almost everything. But then God told Jeremiah two more things he was to do, “to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10) I haven’t seen any way that conspiracy theory builds and plants. But Bible prophecy does. It tells how bad it is and how bad it will still get. But then it tells of God’s solution and the happy ending to all this mess that He will bring in His coming Kingdom on earth.

jesus on mount reduced

Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, as Peter, James and John watch. (Matthew 17:1-8)

I suppose one of the greatest witnesses of one of the greatest miracles on earth was the Apostle Peter. The Bible says he was there when Jesus was transformed on the mountain into His glory and shined like the sun in front of 3 of His disciples. And God the Father spoke to them as well. Peter said of this experience, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables but were eyewitnesses of the majesty of Jesus Christ. For He received honor and glory from God the Father, when there came a voice from the excellent glory, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice from Heaven, being with Him in the holy mountain.” (II Peter 1:16-18)

But then Peter goes on to say an amazing thing. He tells us of something that’s even greater than what he personally saw with his eyes and heard with his ears. Here’s what he says next. “We also have a more sure Word of prophecy, to which you do well to take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Daystar arises in your hearts. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture came into being of its own private interpretation. For prophecy didn’t come in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (II Peter 1:19-21)

Peter says that the prophecies of the Word of God are more sure than even what he personal saw and heard at perhaps one of the most seminal moments in his life. That’s good truth for us today when we are at times “tossed and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14), by conspiracy theories with their adjacent fears and uncertainties. For believers in God and in Christ, we have a “more sure word of prophecy.” (II Peter 1:19)

 

A little further

Jesus in gardenMathew 26:39 says of Jesus, “He went a little further and fell on His face.” This was Jesus’ time in the garden of Gethsemane, just before His arrest and subsequent crucifixion. But how many of us need to follow Jesus’ example here in “going a little further and falling on our face” in desperate prayer? Sadly, many of us are more like what it says of the Apostle Peter, an hour or two after Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane.

Peter afar off flatIt says of Peter, “he followed Him afar off” (Mathew 26:58). Well, at least he followed. But I wonder sometimes how many believers in God nowadays even know what it means to “follow”, much less to “go a little further”.

Maybe some do, I don’t want to be less than magnanimous or fail to give people the benefit of the doubt. But if there’s any hope for our nation, much less our world in these times, it’s that the people of faith have an awakening in their hearts to endeavor to truly obey and follow God more than they ever have before.

Sadly, I feel so many churches don’t teach this or hardly know what it means. In a recent blog post, I shared the story of how four of us were a team in the immediate aftermath of the South Asian Tsunami of late 2004. We’d each prayed desperately and felt individually called by the Lord to go to the horrific disaster area that we were hearing about. It was truly like being in another world in so many ways. All social structures had been swept away in that tsunami, the police, the hospitals and the survivors in city of nearly half a million were probably all in some state of shock, stress and suspended belief, mixed with great grief.

airport in Aceh

Four of us with 2 helpers. Banda Aceh, Indonesia. January, 2005

But it was the fact that the four of us had working in us strongly the operating system of the Lord, providing us unity between ourselves, peace, wisdom, compassion and as well leading and guiding at a time when many aid workers coming there couldn’t stay more than a few days. Many said it was just too much for them. But this principle of following the Lord, being a disciple of Jesus was the underpinning and stability that gave the four of us the strength, wisdom and grace we needed each day in what were traumatic, unstable and potentially hostile situations.

Are we going a little further and falling on our face in desperate prayer, like Jesus? Or are we “following afar off”? Or worse, are we “at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1)? Sadly, the nature of our world today (and maybe it’s always been this way) is that the words Jesus spoke to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3 seem to hold a heavy significance for many believers today.I traded Gods will-flattened

Because you say you are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing, but know not that you are wretched and blind and miserable and naked. I council you to buy of Me gold tried in the fire.” (Rev. 3:17 & 18) This wasn’t spoken to unbelievers; it was spoken from heaven by the Lord to His own followers which He was addressing in the book of Revelation.

Often it just finally takes some kind of persecution or affliction to wake people up, both individually and also as a nation. And even that doesn’t always work. I guess it comes back to that verse, “Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart“. (Psalm 95:7 & 8)

I believe that the voice and Spirit of God is active daily in the lives of believers, calling them, instructing them, pleading with them, offering Godly choices and alternatives to them. But sadly I think so many folks have become dull to the voice of God. They “follow afar off”. Or not at all. They believe in the Lord, but they barely know what it means to “take up their cross daily” (Luke 9:23) and follow Him. Definitely they believe. Definitely they pray, read their Bibles and make some efforts and even sacrifices to face the direction that God would lead. But it often doesn’t go too much further than that.

May the Lord help us all. May we “lay aside every weight and the sins that so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12:2). May we “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:2). Not as spectators, sitting in the grandstands of faith, but active participants for the Lord, disciples, servants of Him and others, moving with the white hot fires of the Spirit of God. Don’t follow afar off, go a little further.

Addicted to hate

I hate them-2 flatYears ago in Denmark my former wife and I were ministering to a recovered morphine addict. We read the Bible with him and tried to help him in his recovery. But a thing that both of us noticed was that, although he no longer used morphine, he was drinking up to 20 cups of coffee a day. In some sense, he’d traded one addiction for another.

It seems that’s how it is for multitudes of people when it comes to hatred. Vast numbers of people think of themselves as good citizens, faithful to their wife or husband and keeping the law. But, boy, they love to hate.

Around a year ago my dad passed away and I wrote a post about him, Bonner McMillion. One of the main things I mentioned there was how my parents taught me not to hate African-Americans at a time when virtually every white person I knew in our city was filled with racial hatred to one degree or another.

But today, hatred of blacks by whites is much less than it was when I was growing up. It’s not in vogue anymore, it’s less accepted. But it’s surely still ok to hate, perhaps more than in the past. Pew Research recently made a study and found that the USA is more divided as a nation than any time in the last 150 years. I wonder how much of that has to do with a thriving cultural acceptance of hatred.

fear them not-3- flattenedThe most popular hatred here in the States seems to be hatred of Islamic people. “They” are here. “They” will destroy us. But some people feel that way about Catholics. Years ago it was popular to hate Jews. That was normal and accepted. We just seem to stop one addiction but move on to another.

You could say a lot of things in support of hatred, at least if you are not a Christian. Shouldn’t we hate “them”? Here’s what the Bible says, even the Old Testament. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” (Leviticus 19:17) It’s one of the greatest truisms of Christianity that it teaches love. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you.” (Matthew 5:44)

If you’re a Christian, and your life and words are full of hatred, then you’re living in sin, just as much as if you were an adulterer or whore monger. You’re just as defeated by your addiction to hatred as that man was that I ministered to years ago who was addicted to morphine first and then switched to coffee.

But, in a sense, you have my sympathies because “everybody else is doing it.” You’re mostly right on that; they are. But that surely doesn’t make it right if you’re trying to follow the light and path of the God of the Bible.

But Mark! Surely all hatred is not wrong!

Right again. Let’s look to God’s Word about that. Psalm 97:10 says, “You who love the Lord, hate evil.” Does it say to hate Muslims there? Or Catholics? Blacks? Jews? “Dagoes”? “Spics”? “Wops”? “Krauts”? “Chinks”? “Ragheads”? Obama? Or whatever your favorite hatred is? No. It says to hate evil, not people. God even “sends His rain on the just and the unjust”. (Matthew 5:45)

Does God hate? Yes, He does. Here’s what God’s Word says He hates. These six things does the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:16-19) We are to hate sin, as God does. But not people. We are to love people, in our hearts.

But Mark! I really hate them! All my friends hate them! TV commentators hate them! They are evil, Mark!

Conversation between 2 flatMy friend, this is a modern, virulent, satanic mindset that’s blinding and will snuff out God’s blessing and presence in your life, if it hasn’t already. You need to be “renewed in the spirit of your mind.” (Ephesians 4:23) You might need to turn off the TV, make new friends and move away from the old ones, just as if they were drug dealers or criminals.

If you love to hate, if you cultivate and nurture hatred, if you propagate hatred and start conversations with words about your hatred, then please don’t call yourself a Christian. If you’re doing this, you’re a reproach to the cause of Christ; you’re a mockery of what it is to be a Christian, no matter how outwardly righteous you appear to be. The evil you should hate is the hatred that has gripped your heart. Call out to the Lord Who can break every chain and cleanse ever stain. Flee hatred as you would drugs and ask the Lord to replace it with His love in your heart for all men, as He had.