Suicide Bomber sees The Light

bomber dressingI received this letter from a friend in Europe recently. It was just astonishing. I’ll add it here as I received it; the English isn’t perfect but you’ll understand. Some names and places have been changed a little. Here’s what my friend wrote:

I know a man who lives in [West Europe] who used to be a “hodja”.  That is a Muslim priest (you know, those who serve in a mosque and sing in Arabic). He has a wonderful testimony of how he became a Christian.

saying goodbyeHe was very ill of a kidney disease and had pain all over his body and a terrible infection. He couldn’t get any help from doctors and finally decided to commit a suicide by blowing himself up at a public place and kill many others with him, especially people from other religions .

So, he prepared everything for this “kamikaze” they call it and went to kiss his little daughter for the last time. But when he left her room and was in the living room, he heard a voice, “Is there only one religion in the world that can help you?”at the door

He said to himself, “Of course not.” Since he was a religious figure, he knew there were more than 3,500 religions in the world. He had been praying to Allah to heal him but nothing happened. So, before going on, he decided to pray to another god from a different religion. “Who knows”, he said, “maybe I can get some help.”

He decided to pray to the Christian God because this is the second largest religion from their point of view, after Islam. So he prayed to Jesus and asked him to help him and heal him.

Immediately all the walls and the floor and the ceiling disappeared and he found himself in the middle of the universe and a great Light was standing in front of him. He knew that the Light knew everything about him but loved him so much. He felt like an empty bucket in front of the Light; he couldn’t give anything in return to this great love.

seeing the lightThe Light said, “I am Jesus who you called for help and I’m healing you.”

Then great light came out of the Light and came over him, flowed though him and he felt warmth and peace. Immediately all pain and weakness disappeared and he found himself well and happy in the living room again.

He changed his mind about killing himself and decided that there was point in living now since he was well and somebody heard his prayer. From that day on, he started proclaiming that Jesus Christ healed him.

At first his family and friends thought that because of his illness he had gone insane. But he was getting better and better. He was gaining weight again and strength and went on talking about Jesus. So they decided to kill him because he betrayed his religion and turned to the enemies of God.

Then he took his wife and daughter and escaped to [West Europe] where he found plenty of other people like himself from his country – converted Christians and joined a Christian church there. This happened about 10 years ago.

Now he is well and healthy, full of zeal for the Lord and weeps for his lost relatives to whom he went back again last year and gave them Bibles and urged them to read and get saved. When we prayed for his relatives in his country to be saved, he started crying dearly. He said, “You folks are happy. You have freedom and you do not appreciate what you have. Talk to the people, talk so that they get saved.”

It’s hard to know what I could add to that. This story affects me in so many ways. I’m thrilled and glad to hear of such a miracle like that. But I am aware that this kind of experience is something that is happening throughout the Islamic world. Not “en masse” but if you keep up with these things, there are many testimonies of Islamic men and women having incredible experiences in finding Jesus this way in recent times. Instead of fearing and hating Muslims, it seems far closer to the ways of God to realize that very many of them are turning out to be the “sheep” of God, rather than the monsters we are so often told that they are.

Many of us have known the verse, Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But the next verse says, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” And in these times, the preacher most likely to reach out to the millions of Muslims in western lands around the world is you and me.

“The Whites of Their Eyes”

whites of thier eyes-flattenedThere used to be an old saying, “Don’t shoot till you see the whites of their eyes!” Maybe that was what was said by military commanders 200 years ago or so. But the idea I guess was that you don’t shoot your gun till the target is close enough that you can actually see what you’re shooting at.

And that principle could certainly apply to modern pronouncements on Bible prophecy. I’m appalled at times by how many people are convinced without a doubt that… (take your pick) …Obama is the Antichrist? The Pope… no, wait; Islam is the seedbed and fountain head of all evil, the primordial force of Satan in the last days? And on it goes.

“They” are out to get us. Five years ago in Houston I was in a gathering of sober and sincere Christians and we were told that the roads out of Houston would be blockaded within 6 months… 6 months I tell you!… and everyone would be corralled in FEMA camps. A very serious Christian brother was telling this to us. That was in 2009. And on it goes.

New Wolf Wolf-flatttenedAs a person who utterly believes in the coming of the Lord and that we’re very likely living in the endtime, it interests me and also saddens me that there are so very many “Wolf, Wolf” calls coming from so many Christians at this time.

The Apostle Paul said, “Judge nothing before its time…” (I Corinthians 4:5) But this admonition is rejected or forgotten by so many Christians today as they jump on their soap box or band wagon to shout the latest “warning” which ends up being another false pronouncement and false dawn of troubles to come.

Invariable there is no accountability for the false proclaimer of immediate doom. But without hesitation or twinge of conscience they’ll re-proclaim their next declaration of imminent doom for a date another 6 months away. And virtually no one calls them on it or takes note of these ones who constantly proclaim imminent woe and it doesn’t come to pass as they’ve told us it would.

And yet I don’t disagree with much of what they are saying; just the continual over-specific-ness of their declaration, plus the fact that so often they just end up plain wrong. That’s the problem.

famous failures pictureVery many see and realize that we live in dire times. But the common thing to do for many Christian commentators is to personally declare that some very short and specific length of time will expire before “the very end” is upon us. Actually I did a 7 minute video on this subject, called “Famous Failures of Prophetic Interpretation”, the link to that is here.

Like the guy said, “Don’t shoot till you see the whites of their eyes”. Jesus actually gave us some very specific things to look forward to, in the gospels, concerning the times leading up to His return. In my video series on the book of Daniel I have gone over some of those specific points, such as the appearance of “the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place”. (Matthew 24:15)  This was the sign Jesus said to watch for which would mark the beginning of the “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21) which is said to be in a surprising number of places a length of time of 3½ years. Jesus said, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matthew 24:29) is when He would return to gather His elect, His people.

I utterly believe this and numerous other things that are solid, bedrock doctrines that completely hold up to scrutiny. But present Christian dialog among believers on the coming of the Lord is cluttered, strewn and clogged with false declarations and false declarers. It seems the gullibility of His sheep is successfully taken advantage of over and over again.

Does it matter? Can’t we just go on enjoying the latest shout of woe, regardless of whether it is founded in God’s truth and actual reality? Jesus said “It would be better that a millstone be hung about your neck and that you be drowned in the sea than that you offend one of these little ones” (Matthew 18:6), one of His searching sheep, longing for the truth and looking to what they can find in Christianity to see if the truth is there. How many are stumbled and turned away by the sensationalists with their latest announcement when they see that their prophecy of imminence fell through and they were just another empty vessel?

God help us to have a higher standard. Jesus said He was the truth. (John 14:6) The Holy Spirit is “the spirit of truth” (John 16:13). So many who are involved with teaching prophecy would do well to heed the warning of centuries ago when it comes to foretelling the future.

Don’t shoot till you see the whites of their eyes”. Don’t keep proclaiming things that must imminently occur when you really don’t know that for certain in Him. If you have a record of yelling “Wolf, Wolf” to the extent that you stumble the weak and are a pitiful testimony of the Lord’s Word and truth, please stop for your own sake, for the sake of His sheep and for the witness of Christ that is besmirched.

Visiting Europe

This won’t be a normal blog post, just a short update. I’ve been on the other side of the Atlantic from where I am normally.The Twizy-1 Right now I’m in Gothenburg, Sweden, visiting two of my sons and their families. I landed in Oslo, Norway around 10 days ago and visited with my daughter and son and his family who all live there. And I’m planning to visit friends in Hungary before flying back to Texas.

I’d better explain about that picture there. It is actually a car, made by the French car maker Renault, called a “Twizy”. My youngest son drives it to work; it’s electric and really a novelty. I rode in the “backseat” all the way into town from the suburbs with him and it was fun. Actually, it’s closer to being like an advanced electric go-cart than a car but it’s in the classification of a motorcycle and parks in motorcycle places. People stare at you and come to talk when you get out of the car.

I’m having fun. The visit with my kids has gone really well and we’ve had a continual good level of interaction. I guess we just grow up and want to have a better time when we are together than at times in the past. Also the opportunity to get to know my little grandsons has been really nice; they are at a very sweet age in their lives and it’s been fun to be able to have time with them.

Panoramic in church-1One interesting thing that happened today was that I went with my youngest son and his wife and little boy to the kindergarten that my grandson goes to. They have recently been taking him to one run by a local church affiliated with the state church of Sweden. I was actually rather surprised as I have perhaps been a little negative or hopeless about what I have known of Christianity in this part of the world.

If you read what I wrote in “A flock of whooping cranes” last year, I mentioned in there how that for what I knew, Christianity was on its knees or beyond that in this part of the world. Well, this morning I saw that it’s not quiet that bad.young priest I ended up having a short chat with a local Swedish priest in his 30’s who is a very dedicated and committed guy who said he was called by the Lord to his place of service, almost reluctantly.

The kindergarten was full of young couples with very small children as there was a short service of children’s songs in the small church connected to the kindergarten. It was encouraging and surprising to see faith in God to be more prevalent in Scandinavia than I had thought it was.

If all goes well, I’ll be back in Austin soon and then will have more time to give to blog posts and communications. I hope you are all dong well, thanks so much for your prayers. Your friend, Mark

Acts 19 Live Class

map of EphesusI was thinking about it, there’s not hardly one chapter in the book of Acts that is not significant, full of momentous verses and truth. But perhaps Acts 19 is one of the chapters that is most like that. The audio recording of our Acts 19 live class can be heard here.

One of the first things we talked about was Acts 19:2. When the apostles first came to Ephesus, the main city of this chapter, they said to some they had met, “Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” And we stayed on that subject for a while because it strongly seems to indicate that the experience of being born again (the experience of salvation) and the experience of receiving or being filled with the Holy Ghost are not necessarily the same things and can be two different experiences.

Ephesians burned their occult books after becoming Christians.

Ephesians burned their occult books after becoming Christians.

If you are really new to the Lord or maybe don’t even know if you believe in God, this could sound like something that is over your head or not even interesting. But for those who are at least a bit further along, what exactly the Holy Spirit is, which Jesus spoke so much about, is really a major thing.

So when they asked the ones in Ephesus if they had received the Holy Ghost, their reply was, “We’ve not even heard that there is a Holy Ghost!” So then the apostles asked them, “Unto what were you baptized?” And they said, “Unto John’s baptism.” (Acts 19:2&3)

To me this is fascinating stuff. It shows how fast and how far Christianity and the knowledge of Jesus had been spreading, much further and faster than the apostles themselves were moving. But in this very rapid spread, it was a somewhat hazy and incomplete gospel. The truth of the resurrection of Jesus and the name and power of Jesus were spreading like wildfire. But the full message, understanding and teaching of it all was not really there until the apostles of the Lord began to catch up with the wave that was spreading so fast.

Each city seemed to have different characteristics. This chapter deals with the witness at Ephesus and it could easily be said that this group of people and this place seemed to be one of the most spiritual that Paul ministered to. The book of Ephesians is filled with references to the spiritual world and our lives within it. Like Ephesians 6:12, for example: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

We talked in the class about a little of early church history and how that one of the earliest offshoots of Christianity, which was deemed a sect at that time, sprung up in the area of Ephesus around 115 AD. The Montanists were a group of people with beliefs and customs that many see as being similar to the modern Charismatic movement, with an emphasis on spiritual gifts and prophecy. But at the time they evidently broke away from what was becoming the main body of believers, even though in later times other movements seemed to try to bring back the earliest days of the Church where the manifestations of the Holy Spirit were more a part of life of the lives of the believers.

An idol maker stirred up a city-wide riot against Paul’s teaching.

An idol maker stirred up a city-wide riot against Paul’s teaching.

This chapter has a number of somewhat “out there” verses in it. Later in the chapter there is the part where some “exorcists”, people who attempted to cast out evil spirits but were not saved Christians, attempted to try to do the same thing Paul did, but without the power and protection of God. It says in Acts 19 “The man in whom the evil spirit dwelt leapt on them and said, ‘Jesus I know and Paul I know but who are you?’”. (Acts 19:15) This is all so deep, a whole class or more could be made on just those verses. And again it’s a subject that hardly any modern church will even touch. But it’s in the Bible.

A reading of Acts 19, along with a study of the book of Ephesians, can be a really deep study and give you a perspective on how different were the places that Paul visited in his journeys. I hope you’ll be able to listen to the live class on Acts 19; it can be heard here.

The Government?

Pres ObamaI don’t usually like to write about secular and especially political things. But the other side of the coin is that many, if not most people, are largely concerned with secular and political “affairs of this life”. (II Timothy 2:4) So I’m going to share something here that’s mainly going to go against the grain of modern American Christian thinking. Because so very much talk by Christians now here in America is about how very bad our government is and how very bad our society is.

From one perspective, it’s refreshing in some ways because for generations Christians here were some of the most “Pollyanna” pro-American society folks you could find. But now so many Christians can hardly start a conversation without cursing the President and our government, saying they think this is about as bad as it can get.

You think America right now is really bad? Let me tell you about my experiences abroad for 36 years. I have utterly no regrets concerning my calling as a Christian missionary. But I can tell you, as much as I love the countries I’ve lived in and the people I’ve ministered to, the things I’ve seen and experienced can make me really appreciate the things that are in the USA right now.

Let’s say your house catches on fire. I lived 5 years in a wonderful country where, if your house is on fire, you will negotiate in your front yard with the fire department for how much you’ll pay to save your house while it burns down behind you. This was just business as usual and how it was done.

They’re doing good: pencils and paper! So many don’t have that. And it’s 60 students, sitting on the floor.

They’re doing good: pencils and paper! So many don’t have that. And it’s 60 students, sitting on the floor.

I’ve lived in at least 3 countries, large, famous “third world” countries where, if you’re an adult with children and you had any money at all, the first thing you did was put your children into private schools. The government schools in those countries, I won’t name them, were so utterly failing that it was virtually a curse to your children if you let them go to government school.

You make $3 a day to support your family.

You make $3 a day to support your family.

You as the bread winner make $3 a day. You, your wife and kids live in a two room house. You, your wife and kids ride on your 125 cc motor scooter, all 5 of you, as you wind through traffic in the capital of 20 million, but you actually are definitely middle class. And your goal is to get your kids into private school so they can get some kind of education.

American house

Lower middle class in America

How does that compare to us living here in the US? Makes you feel you have it pretty good? Many, if not most folks here, live in a house with 3 bedrooms, two baths, a front yard and a back yard, and probably you’ve got two cars. That would be in the upper 1% of so many countries worldwide. But it’s virtually lower middle class here. And yet we often complain about our society and government and think we’re really suffering.

A sin often mentioned as grieving God in the Bible was murmuring. “Neither murmur, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” (I Corinthians 10:10) Griping, belly aching; we’re all prone to it. But it seems to be rife today among Christians, especially towards our government. Many seem to think that the democratically elected officials of this county are all that’s standing in the way of this nation’s greatness. As if changing the political party in power is what’s needed for God’s blessings to be poured out on the nation.

Working in Denmark, I drew minimum wage and still paid 50% income tax.

Working in Denmark, I drew minimum wage and still paid 50% income tax.

On the other hand, I’ve lived in “Post Christian” quasi-socialist societies in Northern and Western Europe where I had a job for a while and drew minimum wages at that job. Nevertheless I paid 50% taxes on that income as that was the minimum tax rate in that country. And yet virtually no one in that country complains about the tax rate or hardly even the government. They feel they have it pretty good and the society at large has agreed to that level of taxes. Almost all Americans pay way below 50% taxes. But it’s probably the single most  harped on issue that’s the source of unhappiness for so many Americans. We here virtually have a heart attack about the taxes we pay and make that the center of our conversations and focus in life.

The point is, for my American Christians friends, we have it really pretty good. Many now look forward to what they expect to see soon: a complete breakdown of law and order in the USA and a police state imposed after the collapse of American society and government. Maybe that will happen; I wouldn’t be real surprised.

I ate beans-flattenedBut you may come to wish that you had the days we have right now, with a government that’s trying to maintain law and order, schools that children can go to, a President that is flawed but sincere and trying, institutions that were set up over 200 years ago which have been the envy of the world since that time.

There’s a lot that is wrong here. But on the other hand, there’s really a lot that’s not as bad as others have it. And yet so many Christians bad mouth, complain and go on and on with how bad we think it is and how bad our leaders are.

Maybe some of them are. The gridlock in our government has been really disturbing and concerning. But constantly complaining and leading the charge of negativity and hatefulness should not be the place of godly Christians. “Let no corrupt communication proceed forth out of your mouth, but that which is good, to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

We’ve got a lot to be thankful for. The day may soon come when we look back to these times as absolute days of heaven which will never be able to return. I suggest we count our blessings, including our government, and stay busy trying to bring souls to Him, rather than being constantly heard to be a fountain of negativity about our lot and our society.

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  (Philippians 4:8)

It could be worse. It is in so many places around the world. It may very well be that way here before long. May we all count our blessings while we have them and not be heard to gripe and complain.

Text to “The Last 7 Years” video

[This is the text to the video “Daniel 9:27—The Last 7 Years”. To view this video, click here. Also, this blog post is longer than normal.]

D9b video text post headingHi again, I’m Mark. This video is going to be different from the ones I’ve done before. Up till now, the videos have mostly been about prophecies that have been fulfilled. This one will be about prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Also, we’ll mainly be focusing on just one verse, the last verse in Daniel chapter 9.

You might wonder why a whole video would be centered around one verse. Well, we’re first going to have a short review of what we’ve seen already in Daniel chapter 9. That way, we’ll see how much prophecy is still to be fulfilled in this last verse in the chapter. At the beginning of the chapter, we found Daniel reading the prophecies of Jeremiah which predicted a 70 year captivity for the Jewish people who’d been carried away to Babylon. Daniel had read in Jeremiah 29:10,For thus says the LORD, After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”

Daniel hands raised for D9 blog postAnd then we read that Daniel was moved to pray a very heartfelt prayer to God, for the Lord to forgive the Jews and for Him to fulfill His Word. While praying, Daniel had a visitation from the angel Gabriel who touched Daniel and then began to give him one of the most significant prophecies in the Bible. Gabriel told Daniel, “Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24)

Gabriel told Daniel of a mysterious “70 weeks” “to make an end of sins”, “to bring in everlasting righteousness”. In our last class, we saw how that this “70 weeks” spoken of here is not what we would think of in our times. The meaning seventy weeks was “70 sevens of years”. And we saw this “70 weeks” was speaking about a period of 490 years.

I’m going over this somewhat quickly and you may want to review the class that was done before this if you have questions here. After Gabriel told Daniel about the 70 weeks, he broke this down and spoke of a period of “69 weeks”, 483 prophetic years. This was to be the period of time between “the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” and “Messiah the prince.”

the commandment to rebuild for D9 blog postThe commandment to restore Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes in 444 BC and Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in 33 AD. We saw in our class that the length of time between these two periods, “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” and “Messiah the Prince”, amounted to “69 weeks”, 483 prophetic years, just as Gabriel had said would happen. [For an explanation of “prophetic years”, go to the text of the previous class on Daniel, about “The 69 Weeks” which can be read here.]

Going further, the prophecy said that “after” “Messiah shall be cut off”, Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed again. This happened in 70 AD. But we still haven’t come to the conclusion of this prophecy. The 69 weeks of this prophecy were fulfilled at the crucifixion of Jesus. But Gabriel’s prophecy of 70 weeks, 490 years, to bring in everlasting righteousness hasn’t happened yet. There’s still one “week” left. One last 7 year period is yet to be fulfilled in this prophecy in order to bring in God’s Kingdom on earth.

And that brings us to Daniel 9:27. But this is such a key verse; it’s fundamental to most of the prophetic verses in the Bible which are still not yet fulfilled. So I think at this point we should take a brief review of the chapters we’ve studied up till now. Because, in each of those chapters, we found things that are not yet fulfilled. And each one of those parts is an integral component, a piece of the picture that Daniel 9:27 is going to help us put together.

In Daniel chapter 2, we found Daniel as a young teenage who’d been carried away to Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had dreamed a dream that he couldn’t remember. In his fury the king commanded to kill all the wise men of Babylon and Daniel was in training to be one of those. After he prayed desperately, God revealed the secret of the king’s dream to Daniel.

Dan & Neb for D9 postSo Daniel went before the king to tell him his dream. The king had seen a statue with a head of gold, arms of silver, a belly of brass, legs of iron and feet of iron and clay. Then in his dream the king saw a stone which hit the statue on its feet so that the whole statue crumbled to dust and was blown away. And the stone became a great mountain that filled the earth. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the head of gold was his kingdom of Babylon. After him would come another kingdom, then a third and then a fourth. We now know from history that those coming kingdoms represented Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.

But here’s the part that’s really for us in this class. What did that strange stone represent when it hit the statue, causing it to crumble to dust, and then the stone became a great mountain that filled the earth? What was that? Here is Daniel’s explanation of this to Nebuchadnezzar. “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. And the kingdom shall not be left to other people but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44)

The 4 beasts of Daniel 7

The 4 beasts of Daniel 7

Those kingdoms that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream have come and gone. But that final kingdom, the coming kingdom of God on earth has not yet happened. Then, many years later Daniel himself had a similar vision, but different. In Daniel’s vision in chapter 7 he saw 4 beasts rising out of the sea: a lion, a bear, a 4 headed leopard and then a great and dreadful beast. These four represented the same 4 kingdoms, seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream decades earlier.

But we’ve found that each prophetic chapter builds on the revelations of the previous prophetic chapter and then also introduces important new elements of the future to come. In Daniel 7 we were first told of “the little horn”, the future endtime dictator that’s spoken of more clearly in Daniel 8 and then also in the book of Revelation. It says of this “little horn” (Daniel 7:8) …“he shall speak great words against the most high” and “shall wear out the saints of the most high.” And a length of time was given for this period. “They shall be given into his hand …for a time, times and half a time” (Daniel 7:25).

But Daniel 7 also, like chapter 2, had a happy ending. Verse 27 ended the angel’s explanation to Daniel when he said, “And the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the most high, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

[This blog post is longer than average ones. To continue reading this article, click on “Continue reading” below this text here.]

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Weapons to Pakistan

taj mahal(Even before I tell what happened, let me say that this is in no way a negative article about anyone in the Subcontinent at all. I spent 18 happy months there in the 1980’s. It’s full of wonderful people and what I’m going to tell here could have happened in Burma, Bulgaria or Bolivia. The heart of man is the same the world over.)

 

In the late 1980’s I was in Delhi, the capital of India, for a few weeks. As my custom was, I decided to go personal witnessing one afternoon in an area where there were some high rise apartments. At one door I rang the bell to, the woman opened the door and I began my greeting and explanation, as I usually did.

She looked at me silently, long and hard, and then the first thing she said was, blurting it out, Weapons to Pakistan 1-flattened

I paused, shot up a quick prayer to the Lord and then told her with peace in my heart,Weapons to Pakistan 2-flattened

There was a brief silence as we looked at each other. Finally she smiled slightly and explained what she meant. And I answered that I understood what she had meant.

Weapons to Pakistan 3She recognized from my looks and accent that I was an American. At that time it was a very topical subject in the society as to how America seemed to be supporting Pakistan in its disputes with India and that it evidently was sending weapons to Pakistan. It was a very big subject in India and in Delhi at the time.

So when this woman saw me at her door, all she could think about was how, at an international level, my country seemed to be arming her country’s opponents. But of course the reality was that I personally had nothing to do with it at all. We ended up having a good talk there that afternoon.There was a little touch of humor to the experience and it somewhat brought us together as we talked.

And you might say, “So what?” For me, that experience was a perfect illustration of what so often goes on in human contact around the world which is damaging and wrong: stereotypes, prejudges, nationalism, racism, and the multitude of divisions and hatreds that plague and divide our world, wherever we go.

I’ve actually very seldom ever, in my 36 years outside the US, experienced anything approaching hatred toward me as an American or a white or a Christian. [And just to mention it, that woman in Delhi didn’t hate me; it was just a brief misunderstanding that cleared up right away.] I think it’s helped that I learned very early on to not bring with me the outward show of Americanisms and the mannerisms that some folks bring with them if they travel outside the USA. I went aboard, not to represent America but as a representative, God helping me, of Jesus Christ.

But to me, that woman’s initial judgment of me strictly along the lines of nationalism and secularism was a perfect example of human nature, worldwide: the sad, imperfect, divisive side of human nature.

“Chauvinism” is not a word in the Bible. But it means “an excessive or prejudiced loyalty or support for one’s own cause, group, or gender”. It’s a temptation for everyone, everywhere. But it’s opposed to the spirit of Christianity and the spirit of love.

Love doesn’t look at the outward appearance. That’s why God told Samuel, “Look not on his appearance, for God sees not as man sees. For man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7) And doubtless He would have us to do the same.

broken down wall-flattenedIt says in the New Testament that God has “broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:14), in this case speaking of the division between the Jews and the Greeks of those days, through the love of Christ. But God has been in the business of breaking down prejudices, hatreds and divisions for many centuries.

It says of Jesus, He …will gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad.” (John 11:52) And to do this, He wants us to not look on the outward appearance, the nationality, the race, the age, the sex, the social status of ones we meet. He wants us to look at others they way He does, to look at the heart with love.

Hateful prejudices, chauvinism, nationalism, these are things that must grieve the heart of God. It says of Jesus, “He looked about with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their heart” (Mark 3:5). Jesus of Nazareth was not often recorded as being angry. But one time there it says He was angry at the hardness of hearts.

Demitri-flattenedAnd just think how many people today, often people who consider themselves to be very Godly, are full of fear and hatred through the hardness of their hearts, encouraged by false shepherds to hate and fear others, to nourish division and hatred of those not of their faith, nation or culture. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was exactly the very opposite of that.

Happily that afternoon, the woman I met at the door and I were able to laugh at the thought that I’d sold weapons to Pakistan. May God help His people to realize their foolish labels and prejudices against so many are anathema to His loving Spirit and ways. And that they grieve and hinder His work in His people, unless they repent of them.

Acts 18 Live Class

Acts 18Our live class on Acts 18 actually went on longer than almost any of the other classes before that. Which is only fitting as Paul wrote more to the Corinthians than to any other church. And there’s just really a lot there, in Acts 18, in the books of Corinthians and in our live class. The audio recording of our Acts 18 live class can be heard here.

And it says Paul stayed there a year and a half, the longest he’d stayed in any one place till then. But it must have been a special time and place as the Lord did something He didn’t usually do, specifically instructed Paul to stay on there in Corinth. Act 18, verses 9 & 10 say,  “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.’”

One of the things we talked about for a while is where Paul said, “Your blood be upon you, I turn to the Gentiles” (Act 18:6). This It’s a very big and sober subject about our responsibility to “deliver our souls”, something that is never taught in church but is definitely in the Bible. Paul may have been thinking or referring to something that is found in Ezekiel 3:17-19, “His blood will I require at your hand.” Paul evidently felt he had that much responsibility to deliver his soul and to preach the whole council of God to those he met.

Another aspect of Christian discipleship that we talked about was how Paul, almost more than anyone else, was able to blast off from the “gravitational pull” of his own background, his own heritage and cultural and even his own religion, to truly follow God into a new “universe”, delivered from his old “planet” and way of life.

Jesus said “If you love father or mother more than me”(Matthew 10:37), or even “your own land” (Matthew 19:29), then He said you are not worthy of Him. Not the kind of thing you’ll hear in church on Sunday, is it?

Paul on the road to Damascus

Paul on the road to Damascus

And we talked somewhat about some strange web sites and folks who will tell you that Paul “was not really an apostle of the Lord”. Why would they say that? Well, they figure that “Paul didn’t respect the laws of Moses enough”. “He went astray from the laws of Moses. So that Light he saw on the road to Damascus?? Well, …. Maybe… “

So it’s pretty far out and delusional what some folks get into in order to preserve the necessity of keeping the old Mosaic Law. Even to the extent of sowing doubt about the Godliness of the Apostle Paul. Like we said in our class, if Paul hadn’t followed the Lord into all the world, witnessing faithfully to the Gentiles, Christianity might have been just another sect of Judaism and would have perished with the crushing of Israel and the scattering of the Jews in 70 AD.

Aquila & Priscilla with Apollos

Aquila & Priscilla with Apollos

We talked about that and if (and how much) the Early Church leaders had really obeyed the Lord to “go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Obviously they were doing that some, as we can read about Peter witnessing to and converting the Gentiles in Acts 10. But the impression is that Paul took the whole thing much further and much more rapidly than had been happening up till that time.

And we read about Apollos in Acts 18 and how he “knew only the Baptism of John” (Act 18:25). We talked about how, when we witness, that sometimes we meet people who really love the Lord and are doing what they can to walk according to the light they have. But like Apollos in this case, they sometimes are missing some major pieces of the puzzle when it comes to the things of the Lord.

teaching Apollos

Teaching Apollos

So like the Aquila and Priscilla did here with Apollos, they built upon what was really a partial foundation in him and he became an even stronger Christian and worker for the Lord from it. It can happen that we run into similar situations in our witnessing and ministering to people.

In relation to this, I shared a personal story of a good friend of mine from 30 years ago who flew in to Moscow in the early 80’s, at a time when Russian Communism just couldn’t have been more serious, and he there just happened to met up with a strong young leader of a budding “Jesus people” movement in Moscow. My friend and this Russian hit it off completely and my friend told him and taught him everything he could in the days he was there. But this all was similar to how these ones in the book of Acts found Apollos who went on to be even much more a witness than he had been up until the time the early church brethren met him in Alexandria.

So, the Book of Acts. It’s an incredible study but many people really have almost never read it. What we see there of how the early Christians were powerfully led of the Lord, as they gave their lives to Him, should inspire us to do the same in our generation. The audio recording of our Acts 18 live class can be heard here.

Isn’t God Enough?

I believe in God-flattenedThere was a 7 month period of time when I strongly and sincerely believed in God, but I just didn’t know who Jesus was. I wrote about my experience in “Lucifer and the White Moths” where I very nearly died and was carried by Satan into the spirit world to be his. But by the mercy of God, I called out to Him at that time. That’s how I came to know that God was real. As the Bible says, “some saved by fire” (I Corinthians 3:15) . That was me.

But was I saved? I don’t know. I’d had an utter change in my life. I went from being a hardened, mocking atheist to being a stunned, almost speechless believer. I believed in the God of the Bible. I had personally experienced the God of the Bible and the Satan of the Bible as well. But I had no idea who Jesus was. I totally didn’t know the difference between Jesus and Moses and Paul and Abraham. A verse I read a few months later, after I became a Christian, was “God is not in all their thoughts.” (Psalms 10:4) Boy, I could relate to that verse. When I read that, I immediately felt, “That’s just the way I was before all these things happened to me”.

And yet, I didn’t know Jesus. I didn’t pray to Jesus or have any knowledge of Him. I went to a couple of churches in Austin during those months in order to try to find out from them about Jesus. But I guess I looked like a hippy at the time, although I wasn’t a hippy. And in those days, churches were not too friendly to hippies.

But I’ve often wondered, “What would have happened to me if I’d died during that time?” Would I have gone to heaven? I wasn’t a Christian. In many ways actually I was like a Muslim or Jew who believes in the God of Abraham and prays to God from their heart. That’s how I was. If I had died right then, would I go to hell? It’s actually a rather deep question and brings up a lot of pretty touchy theological questions, which can lead to some very heated debates.

For me at least, the good news was that the Lord was preparing a way for me to meet some people who could tell me about Jesus. Just after New Year of 1970, I met some Jesus People. And they really knew their stuff.

SDS demonstration

Student demonstrations, 1969

Earlier that year, the SDS, the Students for a Democratic Society, had had their national meeting in Austin. I went to that convention and also to some of their private parties afterwards. I met people informally who were part of the Weathermen who ended up on the FBI’s Top Ten wanted list. So I had been in some pretty radical and serious circles in the last months.

But those Jesus People had more certainty and just plain answers than anything I’d ever seen. They could answer me with Scriptures. I was 21 by then but a lot of them were no more than 19 or even 17 years old. But they showed me verse after verse from the Bible to answer my questions and to show me that I needed to receive Jesus and to be born again.

When I did that, after several talks with them, I didn’t suddenly have a swirling heavenly feeling and saw the gates of paradise opened. I’d already had a lot of experiences and I think the Lord figured that I just didn’t need any big emotions right then. But something really did change mightily. All during that last 7 months, I’d been reading the Bible every day. I read all the way through it from cover to cover and was on my second reading. Had I really gotten a lot out of it? No. Virtually nothing. I was convinced that God’s will was that I should be sacrificing chickens and goats since there was so much of that in the Bible and it was obvious that this was God’s will for mankind. That’s how be-darkened I was.

3-D GlassesBut the strongest thing that happened to me when I received Jesus was that it was almost like those 3-D glasses that are given to people when they see a 3-D movie. Without them the movie is all a blur. But when you put them on, it all becomes clear, in 3-D. When I was born again through receiving Jesus as my Lord and asking Him into my heart, that was when the Bible suddenly began to flood my mind and heart as it had not done at all before that time. I really fell in love with the truth that was there and that love is still with me till now.

Before I recieved Jesus-flattenedWas God enough? For me, I can say that it wasn’t till I received Jesus that I truly was what I needed to be. Even during that 7 months when I prayed to God every day, I was still a little afraid of the Devil. I still was weak through my sins and at one point even started using some light drugs again. But when I recieved the Lord, I was no longer afraid of the Devil. Also like the verse says, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power…” (John 1:12) that was really, really true for me.

I had the power now to resist sin. I had experienced a change of heart and I knew that I was just not the same person or even the same thing as I’d been before. What would have happened if I’d died with only believing and praying to God? I really don’t know. But I know I was like what the Old Testament calls, “a half baked cake” (Hosea 7:8), I wasn’t fully what God wanted me to be and what God planned for me. Yes, I did believe in the God of Abraham, vehemently and sincerely. But I was not complete till I came to Jesus. That’s why the Bible says, “We are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10) and why, if you only believe in God, there’s really more for you that you’ve not experienced yet. Just like what happened to me.

Mighty Angels

mighty angels first scene-flatttenedWhat I’m going to tell you here is the truth. But it might be hard to believe. I’m pretty sure this is the most supernatural experience I’ve ever had, at least when I was wide awake and on my feet.

In an earlier blog post I told you about “That’s not how to talk about Jesus.”, during a time in the early 70’s when I was witnessing daily at or near the University of California at Berkley campus. This is something that happened during that time there. My friends and I would daily take our “hippy bus” that we’d converted into something like a mobile coffee house and drive to a place near the Berkley campus. witnessing Jesus Rev 1

We’d break up into teams of two, like when Jesus sent his disciples out “two by two” (Mark 6:7). Then everyone would be off with their guitars and Bibles, witnessing to the students as well as the thousands of drop-outs and travelers that were everywhere around there at that time.

Since I was already one of the “older ones” in the Lord, as well as already being into my 20’s, I was the one who stayed back with the bus to take care of it, as well as to pass out sandwiches to anyone who came up and asked for one.

So this “person” came up to me. He seemed to be around my age and size. He had long red hair and a red plaid shirt. So far, so good; right? No big deal. But next I’m going to have to do some explaining. Because things quickly got different from anything I ever experienced, before or after that.

guardian-angelsFirst, let me give you a verse that is important. We are “sealed by the Holy Ghost” (Ephesians 1:13). Someone may attack us physically and even hurt us, if God allows that. The devil can tempt us mightily. But the plain spiritual truth is that we are now the Lord’s, if you are one of His. We belong to a mighty God and no one can enter into our spirits and souls, except of course the Lord Himself. Or one of His messengers.

I started talking with this “guy” and rather quickly things got very different. I’ll try to explain it but it may not be as clear as you’d like. Of course we were speaking English. But what happened was that this being, also speaking English, had such weight, depth and significance in what he said that it was like I was quickly being taken by an elevator up into much higher levels of spirituality. I would say something and then he would respond. But each time, what he said dwarfed what I had said, leading our conversation into depths of spirituality that are hard to describe.

glowing angelI probably should have written down every single thing I could remember from the experience, immediately after it was over. Sadly I didn’t do that. But the impact of it all was so overwhelming that I might not have even been able to do that.

After our conversation went on for a little bit, basically it got to where it transcended language and English. I guess we were speaking English but our communication was on a higher, more heavenly level than normal English can transmit. And actually, this was all more than a little bit disconcerting. Basically I was facing a being that was much more powerful than me, which could get through any kind of defense or normal ways of man that I might throw up.

I had faced demon-possessed people before and I’d had some spiritual experiences of different kinds. So I was aware at the time that this was an extremely spiritual experience I was having there in the parking lot. There was some fear on my part. But at the same time I could tell and feel that this being was benign, not malevolent. And the fact that basically it was able to get past everything of me and to be speaking and interacting with my innermost soul and spirit was disturbing and a little scary. I guess if I’d wanted to, I could have run off. I was not forced to be there. But basically what ended up happening can only be described as some kind of energy transfer.

He didn’t look like this. But this is what he was.

He didn’t look like this. But this is what he was.

This angel was very serious and sober. It’s a shame I don’t have anything I wrote down from that experience but back then I didn’t know I should do that. But my strongest remembrance of the experience was that it was like he reached out, gripped my soul and spirit and just sent a strong surge of spirit and energy into me.

The message, if there was one, was that I’d been shown and knew a lot. And that I was very accountable. That I should be very sober and should very much “walk worthy” (Ephesians 4:1) of all that had been shown me and done for me. It wasn’t that this angel was mad at me. But it was just an extremely sober, serious moment and the presence of the fear of God and the knowledge of how important all of this is was just immense.

In many ways, words kind of fail me to be able to describe this experience much more than this. It was in broad daylight in a parking lot near the Berkley campus. I felt like that “being” could have tossed me 100 feet in the air or struck me dead on the spot if that had been his will. Also, I guess it’s like another blog post I wrote “Fear God“, where I talked about the verse “the fear of the Lord is clean”. (Psalm 19:9)

I was afraid. But there was nothing destructive happening with this. If anything was destroyed, it was my shallowness, wavering or anything other than just utter commitment to serving the Lord. I guess I wasn’t thinking that I was shallow or wavering at that time. But the Lord wanted to really strongly impress upon me the imperative of commitment and focus to put Him and His will first.

Actually I was in the first weeks of getting ready to move abroad, to Europe to be a missionary there. So maybe this visitation was a strengthening and sobering message and experience from the Lord to prepare me for the times and battles to come as I left my home country to be a missionary abroad.

It was almost like an umbilical cord. This guy never touched me but he didn’t have to. His spirit and words got passed my mind and my own spirit and just infused me with a warning, with power, with spirit and with thoughts I can’t even put into English. It’s a little like it was pictured in the movie “Matrix” where the Keanu Reeves character, Neo, got a link into his neck and got a data transfer of knowledge. Except in this case, it was real, it was face to face and it was like the angel’s spirit infused my spirit and soul with things of the Lord that I can’t really explain as well as I would like.

mighty angels second scene-flattenedAnd then he left. I was ok, very shaken up but all the better for it. I’ve never had an experience like that again. I’ve had one or two other angel experiences, I’ve shared some of those in these posts and I’ll try to tell about the others. I know, if I was someone reading this post, I might be tempted to think that guy is lying or just making this up. But I’m not.

Angels are out there. “The angel of the Lord camps round about them that fear Him and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7) They’re there to keep us on the straight and narrow for the Lord. But it’s all not even really easy to write about as it just is above our normal experiences so much that the words used don’t seem equal to the experience.