Foolhardy Faith

What is that flatSome of the things I’ve done or experienced in my life as a missionary would probably be seen by some people as virtually foolish and even a bad testimony. I wrote about “It’s a gun, isn’t it?” and how the Lord protected me and my friend with 5 drunken east European miners in our train car on a Saturday night. But we were traveling on a mission for the Lord, trying to go forward for Him.

ItsAGun_04F fixed flatI can tell you of another time, perhaps more miraculous, while also probably more of a testimony of my youthful zeal but without wisdom, which the Lord forgave and seemingly blessed anyway.

I’d been married a little over a year and my Norwegian wife and I were desperate to leave Stockholm, Sweden, where our first son had been born, and to somehow get ourselves to Vienna, Austria, where we both strongly felt that God was leading us. We felt called to the then-Communist lands of eastern Europe. And to get ahead of the story a little, we did ultimately get to Vienna and had nearly 6 wonderful years there as we aimed with other young missionaries back then to reach the be-darkened people “behind the Iron Curtain”, as it was called then.

But before we ever got there, I’ll tell you of a story of God’s infinite mercy and provision, in spite of our zealous inexperience and almost foolhardy attempts to obey Him and go forward.

north European map flatIt was barely spring in the Stockholm, Sweden. My wife and I were desperate to move on from there, towards what we hoped would be an “open door” (I Corinthians 16:9) to Vienna, Austria, almost 1800 kilometers (1100 miles) to the south. Our first move was to get ourselves back over to Norway, my wife’s home country. We believed in “living by faith”, that is trusting God to “supply all our needs according to His riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19)  if we were “seeking first His Kingdom” (Matthew 6:33).  A solidly Biblical belief but certainly not one you’ll hear taught from most churches.

Here comes the hard part. You’re gonna think this is really “out there”. We were desperate and believed the Lord wanted us to go forward in our faith and obedience to Him. We had very little money at that time so we decided to “hitchhike” from Stockholm to Oslo, Norway in early spring. This was somewhat more normal back then, not as dangerous as it is nowadays and somewhat more acceptable. Still, we had our 2 month old son with us so it was still pretty close to foolhardy. And it’s not like there’s some 500 kilometer (300 mile) super highway between Stockholm and Oslo.

The first evening my former wife and I were at a highway rest stop, not actually too far from Stockholm. We’d made very little progress in hitchhiking, had virtually no money and we were eating a plate of French fries, praying together, reading our Bibles together and  were pretty desperate.

Fool hardy faith 1 editedTo make a long story short, we saw a man looking at us from across the restaurant who seemed to be a truck driver. As he left to go out to his truck, my wife went out to talk to him and ask if he was driving to Norway to see if we could get a ride. (I didn’t speak the language there at that time.)

Fool hardy faith 2 flatThe man was already in his truck by the time my wife got there. He said that, no, he wasn’t driving to Oslo. But then he said, “Are you guys Christians?” Perhaps that was slightly more normal back then in that part of the world than it is now. But still, it was a very unusual question to have a stranger ask in Sweden. He’d seen us praying and reading our Bibles in the restaurant.

So my wife said that we were and he asked, “Well, do you need help?” She explained our situation and he then helped with a generous donation. This made it possible for us to have a normal meal there as well as to pay for a room to stay at an adjoining motel over night.

The next day, we were able to hitchhike, in fits and starts, across Sweden to Norway and Oslo, to friends and loved ones where we grew in the Lord in those early years of our faith.But, it took another 3 years of travails in Scandinavia before we finally made it to Vienna.

They say, “It takes an impossible situation for God to do a miracle.” For us, that was one of the most outstanding and appreciated miracles we ever experienced. Perhaps it was foolhardy for us to “step out on the water” (see Matthew 14:28) like that with a young baby. But the Lord somehow forgave and overlooked our naivety and lack of wisdom and saw instead our desire to go forward for Him.

on our field flatAre you young in the Lord? Are you desperate to follow your faith and what you believe God is calling you to do? I would certainly say, try to have wisdom in what you do. “Wisdom is the principle thing” (Proverbs 4:7). But also, if God is giving you the faith to follow Him and trust that He will provide and supply, I can tell you that He did that for me, in spite of my indiscretions and being pretty much “a fool for Christ” (I Corinthians 4:10).

Your best bet is to truly follow Him, no matter how “crazy” it may seem. If it’s truly of Him, He’ll reach out His hand and get you across to the other side, no matter what outlandish way He has to do it. Like He did for me, my wife and little boy so many years ago. God bless you.

With Muslims in Tragedy

me&AcehKids-2 croppedTen years ago this week was the beginning of perhaps the most heart-wrenching experience I’ve ever had in ministering to others. You may have read that around this time is the 10th anniversary of the Asian Tsunami disaster of late 2004. I’d been living in Jakarta, Indonesia for over a year and when the disaster happened, we quickly found that the worst hit area was Aceh Provence at the northwest tip of Indonesian.
Those of us who were working in Jakarta at the time knew almost immediately that some of us had to go the disaster area to do what we could. After much prayer, a team of four of us left for the capital of the province, Banda Aceh. The city had suffered the death of 155,000 people. Below I’ll add parts of a newsletter I sent to friends from Banda Aceh a few days after we arrived, 10 years ago this week.

Far Country Photos #4-A  picture for blog post flatFar Country Photos #4-B  picture for blog post flatFar Country Photos #4-C  picture for blog post flatFrom that time in Banda Aceh, I made a 30 minute video of my experiences there that week in those camps and in other parts of the city. One thought I came away with from that time was what the famous lines from the Bible say: “Love never fails.” In spite of ethnic, geographic and even religious differences, love, the Love of God in this instance, made it so that people could work together to help each other in such a devastating tragedy. It changed my life to be a part of that and to see the Love of God in such a miraculous way. Below is the video of that time.

Christmas, 2014

Bethlehem-at-ChristmasIt’s that time of year again, Christmas. Last year around this time I wrote an article “Well, it’s Christmas” which told a lot about my thoughts and feelings about Christmas, which isn’t perhaps a totally mainstream, traditional approach. I also included in that article a song that has always been the one I associate with Christmas, more than any other, “Oh Holy Night”.

I’ve had a pretty good year and I hope you have too. I’ve seen my kids twice this year, once here in Texas when my dad, Bonner McMillion, passed away in February and then again when I was “Visiting Europe” in October. I think the thing I might be the most thankful for this year is that the Lord made it so that I was able to cross a finish line on the video series on the prophecies of Daniel. I feel I’ve gone far enough with the work on those in English and now the challenge is to get them into a number of foreign languages. The whole thing reminds me of the verse that says, “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly, above all that we ask or think…”  (Ephesians 3:20) All my Christian life the book of Daniel and the truth there has been so precious and meaningful to me. That the Lord has made a way so that the classes I’ve taught on it for years are now made into a video series is just astounding and I’m so thankful for that.

My dad, with my mom, on his 92nd birthday, November, 2013

My dad, with my mom, on his 92nd birthday, November, 2013

I’ve been blessed with good hearth this year, my mother turned 93 earlier this month and she is doing very well for her age. And for me personally there are some very inspiring and challenging things which are growing clearer on my near term horizon, including what I hope will be a trip soon to southeastern Europe and the Middle East. Please pray for that, it’s not certain yet but I believe it is God’s will for me.

Last year I added a song that means a lot to me and I included a version done by Celine Dion. Here’s another one from her, also about Christmas, with the text. I wish the very best for you, for us all and for those who are suffering and in fear, tread, darkness and in terror in our world. May we all do our best for Him and His Father to bring their Light and Love to this world.

Your friend in Him, Mark

Where is a Saladin?

Saladin I have a number of links and/or experiences in and with the Islamic world including some near relatives. From this I’ve come to a generally different view, as compared to what is considered the normal North American Christian view of Islam and Muslims.

So even writing about this is kind of “skating on thin ice”. But I’ll share my heart, while realizing that this will upset people on both sides of the divide, so to speak.

This has been prompted by the murder this week of over 100 children in Pakistan. It was perpetrated by the Taliban, Muslim against Muslim. But the shear barbarity of the massacre, the utter heartless, meaningless slaughter of innocents is beyond anything that qualifies in any way whatsoever as justified, in any form or theory or even more so, in any religion.

I’ve entitled this post, “Where is a Saladin?” Very few will have any idea what that means. Perhaps those of the Muslim faith will. I’m not hugely informed on these things, only marginally so. But to those who don’t know who Saladin was, he was the leader of the Muslims forces at the time of the Crusades, when the Crusaders came down from Europe to try to retake “the Holy Land” for “the cause of Christ”.

Saladin, magnanimous in victory against the Crusaders

Saladin, magnanimous in victory against the Crusaders

It was such a time of infamy that I won’t get into it here. But from almost all historical accounts, the nominally Christian crusaders encountered in the leader of their foes, Saladin, a man more humane, gentlemanly and civilized than they themselves were. No, I’m not siding with the Muslims against the Christians here; this is the verdict of historians and the people of those times. The “heathen, barbarian infidel” had more character, maturity and even Godliness than the marauding Crusaders.

The Frenchman René Grousset, who wrote a history of the Crusades, wrote of Saladin, “…his generosity, his piety, devoid of fanaticism, that flower of liberality and courtesy which had been the model of our old chroniclers, won him no less popularity in [European Christian] Syria than in the lands of Islam.

My question is, and I pose this as a friend and in acknowledgment of the many good qualities I’ve experience in my interaction with Muslims and Muslim nations: where is a Saladin today? You could be quick to say that I should be taking to task my own people instead of those of the Muslim faith. I’ve done that on occasion, you can read about one example here in this article, Hawks and Doves.

But sincerely and with hope, I so much wish to see a strong … is “uprising” the word?… or something coming from the decent, concerned Muslims of the world to truly stand up with horror and outrage at some of the things that are being perpetrated in the name of your religion. And some of my Christian friends may wonder at this point:

“Mark, are you calling on the Muslims to follow their Mahdi? The one the Koran prophesied would come?”

No, actually I’m not. It’s a matter of empathy with a battered and almost defeated people, a people not my own, who are being defeated from within at this time, not really from without. In our times there have been Churchill, Gandhi and even Nelson Mandela who arose to, in a sense, save their peoples in times of great distress. These Islamic people, with devotion towards the God of Abraham, need leaders to help save them from their enemies within at this time

Malala flat croppedMaybe here in the insular bubble that’s imposed by the American media upon its people, we’re just not hearing about the outrage and the groundswell rising in the Islamic world against these unspeakable outrages that are committed daily by people calling themselves religious and Islamic. If this is already going on but I’m just unable to find out about it since the American media doesn’t tell us about it, please get in contact with me. I do want to know about it.

But if there is apathy, fear, fatalism or indifference in the Islamic world to what has virtually taken over the name of Islam and religion in our times, then my question rises again. Where is a Saladin? Where is some mature, compassionate yet angry and animated leader within the Islamic world who will lead his (or her) people to stand up against this horrible filth that is done in the name of the God of Abraham?

Someone has said one time, “All that’s necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Why do the evil men of our day have more faith and boldness than those who stand for love and brotherhood, compassion and the higher things of the God of three faiths?

It really saddens me. Satan must be laughing with glee that not only is innocent blood being spilled every day, but that he is able to have it perpetrated in the name of the God of Abraham. What a defeat and besmirchment of the name of God for those who say they stand for and hold high the standard of God.

I don’t have an answer to my question. It reminds me of what one of the ancient prophets said, Ezekiel. As the mouthpiece of the God of Abraham, he said, “I sought for a man among them to stand in the gap and make up the hedge, that I should not destroy the land. But I found none.” (Ezekiel 22:30)

God looked for someone to “stand in the gap”, to lead God’s people to victory. But He couldn’t find anyone. People like this are not only needed in the Islamic world. They’re needed all over. To rally the people of faith out of their numbness, often their ignorance, out of their immaturity and up the mountain of faith, love and the light of God that could make them beacons to the nations.

To me, it’s particularly pitiful currently what is triumphing within the Islamic world which (and they will know this) is so far distant from the many great accomplishments and heights of civilization and benevolence that have been seen in their history. With sincerity and respect, I hope your people will rise above the heart-wrenching times that are upon so many parts of your society.

May God, the compassionate, the merciful, raise up warriors of faith, love and humility to fight against the darkness that’s engulfing their people now. Not with carnal weapons but with spiritual weapons of love and truth, drawing men away from evil. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”.

Aliens and Astronauts

not of this world flatI’m an astronaut but I am not an alien. Let me explain. In a sense the first Christians were called to be astronauts, other-worldly citizens of a world to come. Not aliens, but no longer really earthlings either.

But many Christians today just fly kites. Some fly little Cessna’s, a few fly airliners and can carry God’s people from one place to the other. Even fewer are in God’s army air corps, really fighters in the battles of the Lord. They fly military aircraft at 50,000 feet. And a very few actually get all the way into space; they escape the gravity of this planet and our world.

You can hear it in the way people talk. I know someone at church. I can tell she is a pilot. She has the demeanor of a millionaires’ wife. But she talks in the first personal and sincerely about persecution.rise above flat How many American Christians can talk convincingly and passionately about suffering persecution? Usually it’s only a very few who somehow have the marks of Christ upon them; they have somehow stood up, stood out and suffered for His name personally.

This person I know is like that, that’s what made me first notice her. She has a good degree from a top university. But she struggles to find a job in a city where there is virtually no unemployment. She is personable and speaks several languages. What could be wrong? She is “over qualified”, they say.

But actually, it’s worse than that. She belongs to God. God is opening and closing doors. She is “in the world but not of it” (John 15:19). She is a child of the King, more than a child of this world. So God is somehow staying very involved in her life. At a time when she should be basking in all the glory of man, have a trophy husband, a SUV and a mansion by the lake, she struggles and has been struggling for a while now.

But she’s cheerful. She is keeping the faith and taking care of herself, expecting God to do a miracle when for a worldly woman, the doors of this present world would have already opened for her. But God is keeping them shut for her, it seems.

Like the verse says, “God having provided some better thing for us.” (Hebrews 11:40) Since she is not of the world, these normal things are more difficult, doubtless because God Himself is leading her by a way not known.

We are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth“. (Hebrews 11:13) It’s interesting to meet others who fly the friendly skies of God Himself, the heavenly realms, who rise above the mundane “course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2) and are willing to “suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season”. (Hebrews 11:25)

I hardly know this person. But I recognize in her a kindred spirit, a sister in the Lord and not only that, but a person who’s suffered for her commitment to Him and has suffered personal lose for her faith and discipleship. I was giving a talk in Sunday school recently about witnessing and I talked about passing out tracts. She was the only one in class who pulled a tract out of her purse. She keeps those there so she can pass them on to people she witnesses to.

angel in heavenIt’s not a very big herd of folks like this, precious little and precious few. She and I are just passing acquaintances. But I recognize in her that she flies the skies of the Spirit and that a crown awaits her at the end of her flight and this life we live now.

Have you seen enough to know that “the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2) is not for you? And you’re trying to get airborne? Trying to break out of the gravity of this old world? To get away from the pull of this planet and to rise into the heavenlies? You’ve got to start somewhere. “Go fly a kite”. “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” (Psalm 55:6)

It’s going to cost you. Maybe you already feel a little different from the norm. But if you aim for the heavens, many will really think you are strange. Maybe you won’t fit in, or even be able to find a job, like my friend. But you’ll know heights of knowledge, experience, otherworldliness and intimacy with the Lord that will be more than anything you’ve ever experienced before. There are not very many of us right now. But we can begin to recognize each other in a crowd after a while, just by the way we talk and how we talk about life. “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:16)

Ultimately, “the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ”. (Revelation 11:15) A few of us are already getting ready for this. For people of this world, we can almost seem like aliens. But we’re not; we’re astronauts.

Acts 21 Live Class Audio

If the Apostle Paul is one of the main characters of the book of Acts, then Acts 21 is one of the most pivotal chapters in his life. Up until Acts 21, Paul was a free man and had done an incredible amount of work to win souls and establish churches throughout the part of the world he was from. From Acts 21 on, he was a Roman prisoner. This focus on the life of Paul was the main subjects of our live class audio on Acts 21. The recording can be heard here.

Paul, protected by Romans from the Jerusalem mob

Paul, protected by Romans from the Jerusalem mob

In our class we discussed how we found that the Holy Ghost was clearly speaking to Paul through prophets that “he should not go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:4). And unlike other times in the Bible where Paul was very yielded and sensitive to God’s voice and will, it seems here his steadfastness and zeal was at cross purposes with the revealed will of God in His life.

Reacting to the plea of the brethren not to go up to Jerusalem, after a prophet had again warned Paul of his plans, Paul said, “What do you mean to weep and break my heart? I am ready to die at Jerusalem.” (Acts 21:13) Very commendable indeed and Paul was such a light and testimony to his generation and to all generations after that. But it seems in this case his willingness to lay down his life as a martyr interfered with God’s specific instructions for him to not proceed in the direction he was going.

“What do you mean to weep and break my heart? I am ready to die at Jerusalem.”

“What do you mean to weep and break my heart? I am ready to die at Jerusalem.”

We talked briefly before the class started on what it might have been that caused Paul to miss the Lord’s highest and best, what He was leading. For David it was Bathsheba, for Samson it was Delilah. But with Paul, it seemed to be something totally different.

Rather than being a “traditional” temptation like a woman, alcohol or something like that, it seems it had to do with Paul’s loyalty to his physical nation and Jewish heritage that caused him to miss what the Lord was calling him to do at that time, which was to remain true to the calling of God in his life to be a light to the Gentiles.

And on another subject we discussed in our class (when we got to the place in the chapter about Philip the evangelist and his 4 daughters that prophesied) about prophets and prophetesses of the early church and of the culture of those times, as well as the verse, “On my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:18)

That of course raises the question of where Paul wrote, “Let the women keep silent in the churches.” (I Corinthians 14:34) How can the women keep silence in the churches if God has poured out His Spirit on them and given them the gift of prophecy? Which then led on to a large discussion about women in the Bible and the different ones who’d been used of God in Bible times, Deborah, Ester, Rehab the harlot and others.

So in Jerusalem Paul ran into something that had been coming on all the time and growing, but he’d been far away from it. James and the elders of the church in Jerusalem told him, “Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law.” (Acts 21:20)

Zealous of the laws of Moses? Do think those Christians he’d just left in Ephesus or the ones in Corinth and Philippi were zealous of the law? In case you don’t know the answer to this, it’s “no”.

This small blog article won’t suffice for space to delve into the very deep implications of those Jews who’d been converting to faith in Jesus in Jerusalem but were still fully holding on to the Jewish laws of Moses. But we did get into this more in our live audio class. For those who don’t know about this, this subject of whether Christians are obligated to keep the Mosaic Law is one of the most continuous issues there is, certain among many Christians today and it’s been that way off and on for 2000 years.

This is one of the somewhat longer live classes we had and the reason may be that it contains some of the most significant, personal and far reaching lessons in the book of Acts that we can see and learn from concerning Paul’s life and even his mistakes.

There’s more. Actually there are passages in this chapter and the next that are some of the most heart breaking in the Bible and to me reveal the heart of God and of Jesus, more than almost anything anywhere else does. We talked about this towards the end of our study. I hope you’ll have the time and a chance to listen to the class, it can be heard here.

God bless you, thanks for your prayers and the comments some of you have sent.

Your friend in Him, Mark

“Shaken, Not Stirred”

James BondWhen I was 16, I read “James Bond” books. You may laugh but the books were pretty different from the later movies. Well, I won’t go off on James Bond here. But if you know much about the character, one of his most famous lines was always how he’d describe how he wanted his martini, “Shaken, not stirred”.

Hmm. That phrase came to me this morning in a deeper way. In the last 5 weeks, my life has twice been rather strongly “shaken”. And this has been to a degree that I’ve also been “stirred”. So for me, it’s recently been a case of “shaken and stirred”, rather than not stirred.

But for Christians, this is something than can happen somewhat often. And it can (and should be) good. First, shakings happen. Paul said to the Corinthians, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed. We are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (II Corinthians 4: 8 & 9). Like the old song said, “a whole lot a’ shaking going on.”

neither know we flatCan we do anything about it? Should we? Well, admittedly, most of us don’t look forward to shakings. I don’t. These recent things haven’t looked like good news to me. But we certainly don’t have control over all aspects of our lives or the lives of our friends and loved ones. Things just happen that sometimes can really bring a shaking and a shakeup in our lives.

But, “All things work together for good to them who love the Lord, to them who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) And one of the good things in shakings is that, if we’re Christians and know the foundations of our faith, we get stirred. And we should. That may be one major reason the Lord brought the shaking: so we’d get stirred.

There have been some days in the last few weeks where virtually the only thing I could do was go out and pray. My life was being shaken up and some foundations seemed to have slipped like a tectonic plate.

In Isaiah it says, “No man stirs himself to call upon Me.”(Isiah 64:7)  It’s just so easy for us to get lethargic and settled in our routines or the blessings He has given us. He has ” cast our lines in pleasant places.” (Psalms 16:6) So sometimes He “dries up the brook and stops the ravens”, like he did with Elijah. (I Kings 17) He shakes us up by withdrawing His blessings and sometimes even protection. One of the worst traffic accidents I was ever in was in southern Norway back in the 70’s when I was riding with some folks I didn’t know and our car went off an icy road at night, into the air and down a snowy embankment.

Miraculously we landed some 30 feet (ten meters) down the cliff, unhurt, and were able to climb back up to the road. This was one of the Lord’s major shakeups for me because my former wife and I were called to the mission field of central Europe and we’d been delayed and waylaid in our obedience to His call. That wreck really shook me up. I saw it as a form of the Lord withdrawing His protection as we weren’t really in the center of His will anymore. So we got very “stirred” and desperate. And less than 6 months later we were finally on our way towards our new mission field and base in Vienna, Austria.

For a Christian, when you get shaken, it’s time to be stirred. But some seem to never get stirred. They harden their hearts. Paul got stirred. It says that “his spirit was stirred within him” (Acts 17:16) when he saw the whole of Athens given over to idolatry.

Daniel kneeling for D9 blog post

Daniel, pouring out his heart to God. (Daniel chapter 9)

And what’s the good thing about being stirred? When we pour out our heart to the Lord, He always comes through. We have to do our part, to sometimes vehemently seek His face and “pour out our hearts before Him” (Psalm 62:8). He told Jeremiah, “And you shall seek me and find me when you shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) That verse was probably one that stirred the prophet Daniel in his famous ninth chapter and the prayer he prayed which brought one of the most significant answers to prayer that was ever given, the prophecy of the 70 weeks.

So, shaken, not stirred. But in our case, shaken and stirred. Like Jesus said, “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken. But on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21:44) If you “fall on the Rock” in the time of trouble, if the shaking of your life brings the stirring of your soul and the pouring out of your heart to Him, then all things will have worked together for good. On the other hand, if you are shaken but unstirred, the Lord there said that ultimately the Stone you should have fallen on in prayer will ultimately fall on you. If you’re being shaken, get stirred.

Blessed Is He That Considers The Poor

Lord help flatI’d like to ask for your prayers for some dear friends who’ve been a tremendous help to me. I was praying for them today and got the verse from Psalm 41:1, “Blessed is he that considers the poor, the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.

I’ll explain. About 18 months ago a man I hardly knew at the time invited me to coffee. The result of that meeting was that he and his wife began to support me in my producing the prophecies of Daniel videos to the degree that I was able to work on them full time. Since then 6 videos have been done, 3 full length and 3 supplementary one. And there’s been a good start on getting these videos into several foreign languages. Also I’ve been able to post articles on my two web sites around once or twice a week during that time.

It’s been an incredible blessing to have their help in this way. And actually, if any of you have gotten something out of the videos or articles I’ve been doing, it’s this couple who’ve helped me to be able to have the support so I’d have the time to work on these.

It’s easy to have some type of stereotypical picture of the greedy, selfish, capitalist rich, gobbling up the poor and destroying the world. Maybe there are some like that. But my experience with these folks has been that they’ve been some of the more generous people I’ve ever known, concerned about others on an international scale and also on an individual scale. I’ll tell you one more testimony about them and then share my prayer request for them.

Gift a blessing flatThey’d been helping me for months to get the work done on the video series. Then one day my friend said, “You know a lot of missionaries, don’t you?” I paused and said that, yes, I did. So he said, “Well, do they need any help?” I paused again and again said yes, they did.

And it took me about a week for the idea to get through to me but my friend was wanting to share his prosperity with those on the mission field and he was asking if I’d be a conduit for that. The Lord one day almost had to prod or rebuke me for my slowness to catch on.

But since that time I’ve been able to be in contact with friends in many countries, mostly Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe and a relatively large amount of mission gifts have gone out to folks. As a result, thousands of Bibles and 10’s of thousands of Gospels of John have been made available throughout those areas, as well as mission gifts to those doing seminars in Uganda and other things like this. These people are like what the Bible talks about “cheerful givers”  (II Corinthians 9:7). In their eyes they have “freely received” and so they “freely give” (Matthew 10:8).

These friends of mine now need our prayers.

I don’t know how much you keep up with it but there have been some recent drastic upheavals in some sectors of the international business outlook. This new economic turbulence has had a major impact on their company. There’s actually a question mark over whether they will still be able to be a help to me at all and we’re going to meet together soon.

Heres a gift flatBut I thought that the least I could do is to bring this dear couple before you and ask for your prayers. They themselves have done mission work and have been to some pretty risky places that I’ve never ventured to, where they were passing out tracts there in order to win souls. They are a brother and sister who’ve willingly shared their abundance to help the work I’ve been involved with and also to help missionaries and the poor in many countries.

You don’t really need to know their names or more details than this. They remind me of another article I wrote a while back, called “Texas People”, about people from Texas that most folks don’t know about. But this is a time of trouble for them. They have people they employ, they have a family and they’ve constantly been trying to give to others. Could you please support these dear ones in prayer at this time? Their industry is going through strong upheavals and they’re seeking to find a way through this storm that’s upon their company and their lives. Thanks so much.

And perhaps you could also pray for me at this time. I’ve been aiming to make a mission trip to Romania, to visit churches in Bulgaria and to be in Christian refugee camps in the Middle East in around 3 months. These new changes bring uncertainly over this possible trip. Thanks so much for your prayers for my dear friends and supporters and for my ministry as well at this time.

Your friend in Him, Mark

Putting Out To Sea

putting out to sea-fixedLast month I had an interesting conversation with a young lady around 12 years old. She’s full of faith and, in some ways, wise beyond her years. And I felt inspired to tell her (thinking about how things can go between the ages of 13 and 21) that it’s a little like she’s in a harbor right now. But soon she’ll move out into the full ocean where the waves are stronger and the shore further away.

Jesus and little girl-flatThen last night, after I was already down for the night and nearly asleep, a poem was coming to me about her and about how others like her are at that poignant point in their lives, on the cusp of… not adulthood but whatever that change is that is so marked as we enter into our teen years.

So I virtually woke up, turned on the lights and computer and wrote this little poem. I don’t have that kind of thing happen often. But I’ve learned from experience that it’s best to stop what I’m doing and just write it down if something like that or some train of thought comes to me which should be turned into a post or article.

Maybe you know some ones like my young friend; actually I know a good number who are at that point in life where they are at the edge of the harbor, putting out to sea.

Putting Out To Sea

There you are in the harbor,

Putting out to the sea in your skiff

Away from the calm of the haven

Towards the billows you saw from the cliff.

 

It won’t be long ere you feel them,

The surges and big waves ahead.

You’re looking ahead with excitement

But also perhaps with some dread.

 

Soon the waves and storms of adulthood

Will just start to rock your wee yacht.

And now, away from the shoreline,

You’ll be needing the Lord, quiet a lot.

 

Your mom and your friends are still with you

The home, the hearth and the love.

But as you get older it is clearer

That the best help does come from above.

 

So what can we who do love you

To help you be strong and survive?

Can we always be right there beside you

And stay there the rest of your life?

 

No, only the Lord in His mercy

Will guide you through the strong squall

Which come to all on life’s ocean

And tests the faith of us all.

 

Dear friend and young sister, we love you.

There’s love, joy and peace in your soul.

You’re off to a great start and beginning

Your eyes seem fixed on the goal.

 

To trust Him, to serve and believe Him

To ride the waves that roll on,

To follow His light from above us

To hold on through night till the dawn

 

When the time on the ocean has taught you

To be full and complete in His love.

When more years have passed and you find then

That you yourself have been taught from above

 

That He will always be with you

That no wave or storm will surpass

The power and wisdom He gives you

To be His disciple and lass.

 

The Tar Baby

tar baby 1Some things are just a “tar baby”. Never heard that phrase before? I’m not surprised. There was a man named Joel Chandler Harris who was a famous writer from the southern states after the Civil War in the United States in the 1860’s. There was even a movie made years ago, called “Song of the South” which was about some of his stories. I guess you could compare them a little bit to Hans Christian Anderson and things like “The Ugly Duckling” But let me tell you the story of the Tar Baby, maybe you can relate to it.

So there was this fox and this rabbit. The fox was forever trying to catch the rabbit, it was all about that. The fox hit upon the idea of catching the rabbit by making a “tar baby”. You could think of it like a snow man, except that instead of using snow, the thing was made with black sticky tar, like they use in some places to make streets with.

tar baby 1The fox made the “tar baby” and set it beside the road. So the rabbit comes along. And as he passes by, he says ever so congenially, as people in the South will do, “Good morning to you.”

The tar baby was silent.

tar baby 2The rabbit said again, “I said, ‘Good morning to you’”. The tar baby is still silent.

The rabbit, irritated by the unfriendliness, said, “If you don’t say, ‘Good morning’ to me, I’m gonna hit you!

Nothing came back from the tar baby.

Take that!” the rabbit said and punched the tar baby. But the rabbit’s hand got stuck.

You let go of my hand!” the rabbit screamed. “If you don’t let go of my hand, I’m gonna kick you!” And he did. But then his foot also got stuck on the tar baby.

And on it went till the rabbit was totally and utterly captured and stuck to the tar baby.

The moral of the story? Some things are really just best left alone, no matter how bad it seems or how much you feel you need to get further involved. They’re a “tar baby”.

There is no victory in getting involved. All your efforts will only yield a further unfruitful involvement where you will get further and further tied up in something that you can’t get untangled from and can get no satisfaction from.

So this extremely simple, childish story has a deeper meaning and lesson for actually everyone. There are things in which the best thing you can do, the wisest move you can make, is to just not get involved.

Jesus Himself even said of one situation, “Leave them alone, they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14). In another place He said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6) This can sound almost harsh from the Lord of Love. But He knew what He was talking about.

For some things and some situations, they’re just “tar babies”. Paul said to the disciples of his day, “Foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing they do gender strife.” (II Timothy 2:23) Or Solomon, 900 years before Paul, said, “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you perceive not in him the lips of knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:7)

Certainly this is not the first reaction we would have to difficult situations or even difficult people. The vast majority of the time, we who are Christians should be the ones to get involved, go the extra mile and give to them that ask of us. This should be our default position, to be like the Good Samaritan and how Jesus Himself was.

But at times the Lord will confirm to you that it’s just not a place where the Holy Spirit is going to get a victory as the people there are intractable and rejecting of the things of the Lord. Or even a trap of some kind, set up by the enemy of God to sidetrack us, to get us bogged down in some fruitless endeavor that’s never going to go God’s way or ours. It could be a tar baby. Gotta watch out for those.