“I have my doubts.”

I have my doubts flatYou hear folks say that sometimes, “I have my doubts.” And nobody says anything about it, it’s as normal as can be. But how about that? If you profess to believe in the God of three faiths, then you probably know that doubts, at least some kinds of doubts, are not just something to slough off as nothing, though mostly everyone does.

On the one hand, you’ve got “the father of faith”, the patriarch Abraham. What was the big deal about him? Well, for one, he kept hearing the voice of God telling him that he was going to have a big family when both he and his wife were like really getting up in years. And evidently the thing that pleased God about Abraham was his faith. Here are some especially poignant verses in the book of Romans that speak about the special faith of Abraham concerning this unusual promise God made to him which seemed to go unfulfilled for so long. Abraham for blog postHe (Abraham) staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief but was strong in the faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:20-22)

Did Abraham have his doubts? I don’t remember reading about them, although his wife Sara did evidently laugh once when an angel was with them and told them about their future family. And let’s be honest, do you ever sort of secretly sympathize with them? After all, there are oodles of times in the Bible where God and/or His prophets have foretold some extremely outlandish, almost impossible-to-believe things. And you and I might feel that if we’d been there, we’d be pretty challenged indeed to believe what was said at the time.

In fact, do you ever feel that way about the book of Revelation? My gosh. “The stars fall from heaven” and “the heavens departed as a scroll” (Revelation 6:13 & 14). It says during the time of the trumpets, just before the return of Jesus that “hail and fire, mingled with blood” will be cast upon the earth. “And a third part of trees was burned up, and all green grass” (Revelation 8:7).  Whew. No wonder some of the big time preachers in the churches here are still telling the believers on Sunday morning that none of them will ever see any of the events spoken of in Revelation. According to the main line evangelical denominations of this day, they will all be wonderfully swept away at any moment and will experience nothing of the endtime tribulation that’s so spoken of in both Daniel and Revelation.

bundle of faith flatMaybe a thing to do with some of this is what I’ve heard before, to “wrap it up in a bundle of faith and put it away somewhere”. When the time comes, the Lord will take it, unwrap it and make it all clear and plain.

Some folks think they have to understand something to believe it. But that’s not true. It’s a real liberation to realize that even if you don’t understand something, that doesn’t have to mean you cave in to unbelief. You can still believe something, even if you don’t understand it.

But I’m going to confess that at times, when I just look at the prophecies of the future with my carnal mind and worldly reasoning, it does become easy to be tempted to doubt that the strange, mighty things of Revelation can actually happen. But that’s a precarious place to be, being tempted to doubt the stupendous things God has foretold us about the future.

Maybe it’s like the famous preacher from over 100 years ago said to the two ladies who asked him, “Dwight L. Moody, do you have dying faith?” To which he said, “No, I don’t.” When they gasped at his apparent unbelief, he went on to say, “I’m not dying yet.” That’s how things work.dying faith flatAs thy days, so shall thy strength be” . (Deuteronomy 33:25) I really don’t have to worry or even totally understand some of the most awesome, intriguing mysterious of the future that Revelation tells us about. I’m not there yet. God gives us what we need for today, not before.

I do study these things and even teach about it. But as I wrote about in “Daniel First”, I really believe it helps a lot to start with an understanding of the book of Daniel, which Jesus Himself pointed us to, before we try to comprehend the book of Revelation. But what do I do with the almost incredible things found in Revelation? One thing is to simply look back at the already fulfilled prophecies of the past, many of them just as seemingly incredible but nevertheless fulfilled by the Lord. So I have every reason to believe that the stupendous things of the future that we find in Revelation will be fulfilled just the same.

And as much as I enjoy the study of these things, I do feel that my most important calling is that of a disciple, soul winner and a feeder of sheep, a teacher of babes. It can end up just being a trip off if you get so lost in the intricacies of the prophetic future and you abrogate your calling of full time Christian discipleship. Maybe this is what King David meant when he said “Lord, my heart is not haughty or my eyes lofty, neither do I exercise myself in great things or matters too high for me.” (Psalm 131:1)

truth and humility flatI do strongly believe that more people need to have a much better understanding of the events that we’re told about in Daniel and Revelation which have not yet happened. But I think any teacher who seriously makes an attempt to teach the book of Revelation to others must have the honesty, humility and candor to say at some points, “I don’t really know what this means here or at least I don’t understand it enough to be certain about it.”

Sometimes it’s the Lord’s wisdom for us to just stay simple, to admit it when we don’t exactly know what some things are and to not get spooked out about some seemingly foreboding future event foretold in God’s Word. Maybe that’s the correct time and place to apply what Jesus said, “Take no thought for the morrow for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:34)

Compression

Lago de GardaYears ago I lived in northern Italy for 4 months. It was a very interesting time. I was working together with Christian friends who had a very wealthy Italian businessman who wanted to help and support them. (And to all my Italian friends, in case I say something wrong in any of this, please forgive me.) So I don’t want to stereotype but this dear man was really an interesting character.

For one, he always carried a pistol with him. His office building was equipped with state of the art security, especially in the area of preventing break-ins. One reason for this was that in the garage of his office building he had a stable of around a dozen ultra-high performance sports cars. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lotuses, and more; millions of dollars worth of sports cars is one place where he’d put some of his fortune.

Ferrari F40One day he had his Ferrari F40, pretty much the ultimate sports car at the time, which he’d often drive down to Rome in, and he and I were talking about the car. I’d once been a sports car buff but I was delivered from that, rather like a deliverance from drugs or drink. But while we were talking, he said something that I guess the Lord rang my bell on and gave me a glimpse into an area of human life that I had not seen before.

Ferrari F40 engineHe was talking about the motor of the Ferrari, a 500 horsepower V-8 engine. And he said “the compression” was like 7.7, referring to the ratio of the volume of its combustion chamber from its largest capacity to its smallest capacity. It seemed like the Lord was wanting to get some mileage out of that with me as I mulled over the idea and saw some spiritual parallels in my life and the lives of all of us.

Truth be known, there’s an element of an engine in each of us, our motor. Some have more capacity, a stronger motor, even sometimes more complex and harder to keep in tune. It’s not a matter of good or bad, God has made us each differently. On the other hand, the Lord needs laborers and He needs those who will run the race and finish the course. Some of this relates to our fruitfulness and how much we really go the extra mile in laying down our lives for Him and others.

How do you see Jesus? Was He a really a tightly wound, tense, high pressure guy? I don’t think so. But on the other hand, neither was He some ethereal, aloof spiritualist, given to long naps and endless hours of contemplative solitude. He told His mom, “I must be about my Father’s business.” (Luke 2:49) He said, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) He “set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) and He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with and how am I straightened till it be accomplished.” (Luke 12:50) I imagine that the personality of Jesus, if we can use that phrase with Him, was one of some measure of zeal and determination.

And certainly it was that was with the Apostle Paul. He said of himself, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was bestowed on me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I but the grace of God with was with me.” (I Corinthians 15:10) Was he boasting there? On a works trip? No, he was just stating what he knew was right, that he’d been given a strong motor with relatively high compression and he intended to be used by the Lord to the furthest of his ability.

I guess in some ways I’m a little like that or at least I can see that it can be a good thing. Paul also said, “…not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9) but he was speaking there about salvation. If you have zeal and a determination to work with vigor for the Lord, you’re probably not doing it to earn your salvation but in plain thankfulness for the salvation you have, as well as to share His love and truth with as many as you can.

But sometimes it takes compression. It takes being able to, in some ways, take a lot of pressure, “rpms” (revolutions per minute), movement, acceleration and de-acceleration and through it all to be dependable and useful in His service. The Lord needs us all, there’s a harvest to be reaped, there’s a world to go into, there are glad tidings to publish and He needs us to have our motors in good shape, tuned up and available for His calling for each of us. And that may even mean we need to be a high compression version that can get somewhere when we are letting Him be in the driving seat.

Convicted

convicted of fraud flatThe word “convicted” is not quite in the same category as some of the other words that have recently come to mind for me. “Worship”, “repentance”, “sin”, those words have little or no modern usage except for those who are Christian. But you do hear about “convicted”. The only problem is, it’s almost always something like “He was convicted of fraud and sent to prison.”

Again it’s a case of important words fading out of usage. Would it be right to say “convicted” is a really important word? In John 8 it says of some that they were “convicted by their own conscience”. (John 8:9) The Greek word used there in other places is translated as to correct, convince or reprove. Speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said that he would “reprove the world of sin…” (John 16:8)

so convicted flatAll this comes to mind when I was thinking about how sometimes friends of mine will say, “I really felt convicted about that.” But then, that’s not a normal thing to say, perhaps even within Christian circles. Maybe it should be. If we were more tender-hearted, especially in our relationship with the Lord, He could more easily convict us by the Holy Spirit to do things according to His leading.

One of the plagues upon the world now is that so many hearts and consciences are so hardened. And for some, they are proud of it, proud of their hardened hearts. But it says of Jesus, “He looked about with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” (Mark 3:5) angry JesusIt’s very difficult to get through to someone with a hardened heart, they don’t get convicted by their own conscience and they often mock when others try to reprove them or bring them to their senses. But being able to be convicted, being sensitive enough in your heart to have a strong sense of right and wrong, even of being able to feel it when the Lord is leading in some situation, this is how it’s supposed to be within societies and each individual.

Sadly, we’ve come to the place in time where even the principle, the word itself “to convict” has all but disappeared from our language except in criminal courts. It goes without saying that if more folks felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit, there’d be far fewer criminal convictions.

The word “reprobate” comes to mind, another virtually extinct word. It means a person who has gone so far away from the truth that they no longer even know the difference between right and wrong. This is written about in Romans chapter 1, “even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” (Romans 1:28) That’s where we are today in so many countries. The very words of God, not only the Word of God but the words of God, “convict”, “repentance”, “worship” “sin” and many others are hardily even in our vocabulary anymore. We have not liked to retain God in our knowledge. And the result? God has given such vast multitudes of people in many nations over to a reprobate mind. I wrote about our conscience in “What is a conscience?” But for multitudes, it’s like the Bible says, they’ve “had their conscience seared with a hot iron.” (I Timothy 4:2) They are “past feeling” (Ephesians 4:19). It’s as pretty bleak picture.

“Any solution?” you might ask. I guess, for those of us who know these things, who want to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit and who don’t want to have our “hearts hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13), it behooves us to “let our lights shine before men” (Matthew 5:16) with all our hearts. Love is flatHopefully those who know the truth of these things will show in their words and deeds daily that society has lost so many integral parts of what God would have us to have. So much has been stripped away from the pattern God original gave to us all of how things should be, how we should follow His instructions and operating manual for mankind, the Bible.

Somehow society and the world sputters along but so many feel a sense of foreboding that something is deeply wrong. They are right; our world has gone far away from God’s Will, so much so that we don’t even have the vocabulary anymore to understand ourselves. It reminds me of the obscure verses in I John, “Let that therefore abide in you which you have heard from the beginning. If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son and in the Father.” (I John 2:24)

Left, Right and Center

David CameranAs probably everyone knows, the big news is that the British people have voted in a referendum to exit the European Union, “Brexit”, as it’s called. It’s a pretty big deal if you’re European and of course especially if you are British. The vote was followed last night almost like it was a general election and in some ways more than a general election since the British electorate was having a once-in-a-generation chance to express their views on such a major issue affecting the future of their nation. And they voted to leave Europe. It’s a big deal.

But the thing I’ve noticed today actually is how… I’ll use the term “freaked out” the main stream media is about this event. I have been keeping up with politics, news events and reporting since I was around 6 or 7 years old. I was brought up in a family of politically active journalists and newspaper people. And to me, the thing that probably most people aren’t aware of is how unhappy and evidently angry almost all the news agencies are that report in English about this British vote. I’ve seldom seen the media so incensed, emotional, negative and whining against the British electorate for voting the way they did. To me, it’s a real news item itself how the press is reacting, mostly really overreacting to what’s happened. Examples of this are everywhere but this is one small sample here. And here’s a lead editorial in the New York Times on the subject.

They just can’t understand it. “How could the Brits do such a thing? Don’t they know how much this is going to cost them? Don’t they appreciate all the progress their European integration has brought to Britain?” Evidently the common people have not looked at it that way, even though they’ve been having a solid barrage from every European institution you can think of which has been lambasting them with how important it is that they continue to keep to the path of greater and greater European integration and less and less of the sovereign independence New York timesand identity that has marked the Brits as who they are for the last 500 to 1000 years.

You get the impression the British have thought it through and are willing to take an economic hit if it means they feel they can have more say again in the direction of their country, as well as a feeling of dignity and identity that has been eroding day by day for decades.

“Mark, you don’t know what you are talking about! Go back to your Bible verses and your little platitudes!”

Well, maybe I relate a little to the Brits who voted to exit, just as I do with people across Europe who are wondering where things are going and how much say they have left in their nations and heritages that have roots so many hundreds of years deeper than we have here in the States.

Does that mean I am a neo-Nazi? That I have far right tendencies? For me, once I became a Christian and entered on the path of discipleship and a missionary life, the whole thing of worldly politics turned into a much smaller place in my life that it did before. This is what I wrote about in “Citizenship in Heaven”. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But now it my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36)

citizenship-in-heavenSo most of the time I just don’t get involved, especially not in political activism like I did before. But at the same time, I live in this world. The people I need to reach for the Lord go through these things and are affected by the twists and turns of politics. And this vote in Britain was a pretty big deal with ramification that may go a long way, for a long time.

All the main stream media, I mean everything I have seen, has really been castigating the Brits for the way they voted. Just everything you read says that the British people have made a very big, bad, stupid almost evil decision. There are even voices of foreboding that this portends to be an omen that a similar tide of discontent will sweep Donald Trump to power here in the States.

Donald TrumpBut I strongly, strongly doubt that. Maybe there are some vague similarities to conditions in Britain that brought on the “Leave” vote and conditions here in the States that have helped to make Donald Trump into the presumed Republican nominee for President in this fall’s election. But there’s a big, big difference between a long disgruntled majority of Brits voting to leave the European Union and an American election where a man like Donald Trump, now leader of a deeply fractured Republican party, would assume the mantle of the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.

But how much will the powers that be, including the main media in the West, make the Brits to suffer for their decision? It would be a great story in itself if someone dug into why the press is currently so freaked out and angry at the British people. There seem to be some folks who are really upset about this and they may be able to make some repercussions happen, as a warning to any other electorates in Europe who may be tempted to come to the same conclusions and actions as the British have. This all bears watching.

Пророчества в истории (Russian)

русский

На русском языке я сделал пока одну из серии передач о пророчествах
библейского пророка Даниила. Эта передача на английском называется
«Пророчества в истории. Введение». Здесь вы можете посмотреть её на
английском языке.
Многие люди не знают, что такое библейские пророчества. Я тоже не
знал, пока в моей жизни не произошла большая перемена – я обнаружил,
что Бог реален, и что духовный мир существует. Потом я стал
христианином, начал читать Библию и открыл для себя много удивительных
вещей, среди них – чудесные откровения библейских пророчеств.
Я начал снимать серию передач о пророчествах Даниила и подумал, что
для начала хорошо было бы рассказать о феномене библейских пророчеств,
а также дать краткий обзор истории древнего Израиля. На историческом
фоне пророчества из Библии подобны дорожным указателям и маякам,
проливающим свет на будущее.
Следующая передача на русском языке будет посвящена 2-й главе книги
пророка Даниила. Я надеюсь, что она будет готова через несколько
месяцев. Благослови вас Бог.

English

I’ve been able to complete the first video in Russian of the Prophecies of Daniel series. This one in English is “An Introduction to Prophecy in History”. This can be seen in English here.

Many people don’t know what Bible prophecy is. I didn’t until I had a big change in my life when I found out that God is real and the spiritual world really exists. Later I became a Christian and was so surprised when I read the Bible, especially the marvelous revelations of Bible prophecy.

So, in doing this series on the prophecies of Daniel, I felt it would be good to first present the phenomenon of Bible prophecy, as well as a brief background of the history of ancient Israel. History is the backdrop against which the prophecies of the prophets stand out as beacons and signposts of the future to come.

The next Russian video will be about chapter 2 of the book of Daniel. I hope to have that video out in the next months. God bless you.

What is sin?

so what is sin flatYears ago a dear loved one asked me, “What is sin?” Unfortunately, the question was more of a challenge about if there was even such a thing as sin. And certainly, in our “modern world”, the idea of sin is ridiculed and usually rejected out of hand.

But, is there such a thing as sin? Does sin exist? Is it a prevailing force on humanity and each individual? If so, then what is it? Can it be measured, quantified, observed, detected? Admittedly, in this day when the mind of man is supreme in so much of the world, to talk about sin seems antiquated and passé. There’s no app for that. No college course and, besides, it can be plain discouraging to even talk about sin. It sounds so religious, like something you heard your grandmother talk about one time.

But, what if? What if sin is actually real, “alive and well”, and is daily wrecking destruction across the planet and probably in your own life also? It’s insidious. A pervasive, all encompassing phenomenon that prevails in its destruction throughout the planet, yet remains for the most part undedicated and unrecognized.

report on sin flatWhat an enemy sin is and yet only a tiny few even know of its existence while it daily destroys lives, nations, families, dreams and innumerable souls. There will be no speech today at the UN about sin, no 30 minute special on CNN or BBC about sin. In fact, I challenge you to do a search of material found on any major news outlet to see if you can even find once in a day the word “sin”.

But why? Well, sin, like love, is one of those things you don’t pick up readings on with your Geiger counter or spectro-analysis. Sin works in the realm of the heart and soul. And the mind. But like they say about the devil, one of the devil’s main jobs is to convince you that he doesn’t exist. The same could be said of sin. One of the more cleaver deceptions of sin is to tell you that sin doesn’t exist.

I dont sin flatAnother loved one many years ago told me, “Mark, I don’t sin.” This was said very sincerely and I knew what they meant when they said it. To them, sin was robbing banks, murder, adultery, that kind of thing. And this person never was like that. But of course the reality is that sin is a whole lot more than that. That’s the kind of thing that some religious teaching will leave you with. Some religionists have conversations like, “Is it a sin to…” and then they bring up some things that are “classic” sins.

It’s like the story about the two little old ladies on the front row of the church and the reverend was preaching a hell-fire sermon. “IT’S A SIN TO DRINK WHISKEY!”, yelled the reverend. “Amen!”, affirmed the two little ladies. “IT’S A SIN TO RUN AROUND ON YOUR WIFE”, the reverend went on. “Amen!” shouted the little ladies. The preacher lowered his voice, looked down at the two ladies on the front row and said, “It’s a sin to dip snuff!” The two ladies gasped, looked at each other and one said, “He ‘dun stopped preaching and gone to talkin’!”

Sin is a lot bigger than the classic sins that most folks know not to partake of. The Bible says, “The thought of foolishness is sin.” (Proverbs 24:9) Every time you entertain foolish vain thoughts, that’s sin. Maybe that’s why King David said, “I hate vain thoughts, but Your law do I love.” (Psalm 119:113) Folks, sin is so vast, so overwhelming, so pervasive and so intertwined with our very being that it’s the ultimate dominating conqueror of every individual ever born. It’s that bad. And I’m not exaggerating.

Well, volumes and encyclopedias probably have been written on the subject of sin and am I going to do the subject justice in one of these short blog posts? I guess, if you don’t acknowledge that there’s a problem, how will you search for a solution? And sin, as hated and vilified as the concept is in modern times, is as much a scourge of mankind as it has ever been. And my guess is that it will only get worse since virtually everyone is looking for solutions other than the ones God has given us to free us from sin.

How can we be free from sin? That’s what Jesus did. When He died on the cross and “God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 13:30), He not only defeated death, He gave us power through Himself to overcome sin. Do I understand it all perfectly? No. But I have experienced it. It is through Jesus, His act of atonement at His crucifixion that any person on earth can have power over sin in their lives.

for our sins flatNow the biggest challenge for all the intellectuals, like I sort of used to be, is that this doesn’t seem to “make sense.” I’ve told some people before, “You are 18 inches from heaven” and then indicated that I was talking about the distance between their head and their heart. At some point, especially for those with a lot of education and worldly wisdom, they just have to make the jump and “go with their gut”, in other words go with their heart. I know this because it’s what I had to do and it worked for me.

Sin is the greatest enemy of mankind and every individual. It’s running rampant in its destruction across our planet and actually it always has been. But there is an antidote, a solution, a champion and deliverer. And that’s Jesus. It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s just the truth. Give it a try.

Repentance

repent for flatRepent. It must be something we can do because it was one of the first things Jesus taught. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) But what is repentance and how do you do it? Well, repentance is sort of on the “endangered species” list of words and even ideas, as has happened to so many other words that once were clear and understood by all.

This means a lot to me because repentance was an essential step in my life that brought me out of indescribable darkness and death and into this (most-of-the-time-anyway) happy life I’ve had for decades. Probably most English speaking people have at least some inkling of what repentance means, even if they don’t fully understand it or even like the idea.

Simply put, “repentance” means to change direction in your life but from your innermost being, to have a change of heart. And it also implies that the direction you’ve been going has been wrong and that some at least of what you’ve harbored in your heart needs to be abandoned and turned against. But there are a few more utterly essential ingredients that go into repentance if it’s to be real and lasting.

Never do this flatI know this because I repeatedly tried to repent when I was using drugs in university. It was like I was vowing a vow, “I’m NEVER going to do this again!” But a few months later I did. What went wrong? I was sincere and desperate; I was really trying to repent. This is where another of those “endangered species” words comes into play: sin.

“Oh, Mark, please! It’s just insane to bring up these ragged, old, tired, unscientific concepts that belong to the dustbin of history! ‘Sin’! Mark, really? No one believes in that kind of thing anymore; you’re making a fool of yourself!”

And yet, this is the very best terminology to describe what happened to my life and how I survived to live beyond my 21st birthday. It’s like Paul the Apostle said, “The good that I would, I do not. But the evil that I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19) That’s exactly how it was with me. Although I was not familiar with that word yet, I really wanted to “repent”. But I just didn’t have the personal power to resist what I was into. That’s why Paul went on to say, “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I do that do it but sin that lies in me.” (Romans 7:20)

Of course there’s a sense in which, in the big picture, God allows us to really go down the wrong path so that we will learn firsthand what the difference is between right and wrong. “The way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15) and often we have to learn the hard way. whapHe even uses our wrongdoing to be His instrument of correction to bring us back to His highest and best. As unpopular a concept as it may be among the worldly, the Lord does chasten and punish His children and even those who aren’t His children to bring them back to a better way.

It sounds really hopeless and in a sense it is. But let’s bring in another of those “endangered species” words: Jesus Christ. No, not the words so many use as a loud and profane curse, but the man of the Bible. To cut to the chase here, I never was able to really repent until I accepted the saving power of Jesus by asking Him into my heart. I didn’t understand it all, in fact I didn’t understand very much of it at all. But it came down to instincts and my gut, as they say. I knew I needed help desperately. I met people who’d been in the same fix and they said it had all changed when they’d prayed to become new creatures through His forgiveness and regeneration. So I tried it.

Up until that time, I had stopped using hallucinogenic drugs but I was still smoking marijuana sometimes. I’d come to believe in the God of Abraham and I read my Bible every day. But I still had a lot of fears and confusion and I had no idea who Jesus was. But as I’ve shared elsewhere, the Bible verse that best summed up my experience is this, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” (John 1:12)

Jesus in heart-flattenedOnce I received Jesus, I had power I’d never had before. With that new power within me, I not only repented of using drugs at that time (and have never touched them since), I had a whole regenerative experience in my innermost being, in my heart, mind, soul and spirit.

So, from my experience, repentance without the power of Jesus in your heart… well it didn’t work or happen for me. But with Him, “all things are possible to him that believes.” (Mark 9:23) There have been other things over the years I’ve had to repent of, as the Lord brings them up in my life. Usually it’s been deeper things of my heart rather than physical sins like drugs. But the point is, through Jesus repentance is really possible, no matter what you’re facing.

Are you feeling doomed, defeated, utterly overwhelmed by aspects of your personality or life that you just can’t get on top of and overcome? As old fashion and out of style as it may sound, taking these things of your life and heart to Jesus Christ, through personal prayer, may very likely be the only way you’ll ever get a lasting victory over things that may end up being your total downfall and even death. It is possible, it does work and and I hope you’ll try it : repentance through the power of Jesus. God bless you.

Worship

worship flatWorship. How can you make sense of that? Well, maybe someone might say to their wife or husband sometime, “I worship you.” But that would be pretty extreme. Mostly we’d be fine with just saying “I love you” to them, that’s going pretty far already. But perhaps that means that “worship” is like an extreme, advanced form of love?

And “love” is not one of those things that always makes sense anyway. So worship must be like that: it just doesn’t make sense. It’s a “heart thing” rather than a head thing and most people get a little tripidatious when it comes to the heart in the first place. No university course about the heart. Sometimes people just think, “Don’t go there”. You don’t know what you’re going to find; might be something you don’t like, ha!

Hispanic prayerWell, probably hundreds of millions of people look at things this way, especially in the “post-Christian” West. Actually, “worship” still has a pretty good name in many parts of the world and perhaps billions of people feel right at home with the concept of worship. But, for the most part, that’s not how it is in much of Western Europe and North America.

“And what does it matter anyway?” some would say. Well, you’re really missing something. If a life is devoid of love, most folks would think that would be an empty life. But in the same way, a life without worship is missing one of the highest and most fulfilling emotions that exists. But the rub is, most of us know that worship is not really associated with our spouse, dog or sports team. It’s something we think of in relationship to God.

I was having my morning walk and I thought about the Bible verse, “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2) And it dawned on me what a special concept worship is, often unknown to so many. love the Lord flatJesus was asked what the greatest commandment was and He answered from the Hebrew Scriptures, saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.” And He went on to say, “The second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30 & 31)

And I thought how He could have said, “You shall worship the Lord your God with all your heart…” That could have worked and fit just fine. But if He’d then said, “You shall worship your neighbor as yourself…”, somehow that doesn’t have the best ring to it. Still, worship and love are probably pretty close to each other. Maybe worship is like love on steroids? Or maybe love is like a single stage rocket that can get you from the ground into space. But worship is like the second or third stage of a rocket that works best in the upper atmospheres?

One thing I know, worship has greatly enriched my life since I came to know and believe in the God of Abraham and His Son, Jesus. I was like so many people, my heart was like a dark basement, full of all kinds of musty, dusty, often dank and dark things. But when Jesus came into my life, He not only cleaned out my basement, He redid my whole house plus added some rooms and a new floor or two. Now I don’t feel uneasy in the basement or the attic or anywhere else in between. So many things of the heart that were awkward to me are now either not that way or much less so.

Worship for me is a wonderful thing, not something I have to do as some ancient ritual or in some building on a certain day but just spontaneously, from my heart on a Saturday morning as I walk down the street. It’s a wonderful life. Reminds of the verse, “For the creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption unto the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

 

 

Lies, confusion and the truth

believe me 2 flatDon’t you just hate it when someone lies to you? It’s one thing when you catch it right away but even worse when they’ve lied to you for a while and you finally find out. I always figure the Lord gives us a measure of discernment and often we’ll detect a lie immediately. But not always.

Years ago in Scandinavia I’d begun meeting together with (what I thought was) a young man, perhaps around 20. “He” seemed interesting in the things of the Lord and we met together a few times before I didn’t see them anymore. Later I found that this was actually a young woman who’d probably had a great time deceiving me into thinking she was a male. I have to admit this somewhat stunned me that I’d been tricked like that and also that someone would be so deceptive.

really true flatI’ve had one other experience like that in another part of the world. A young man befriended me and my Christian friends and began to come regularly to our classes. He came from a wealthy, prominent family in the capital and seemed to have it all when it came to the physical. He helped us in our work with the poor and in many ways began to work besides us for months. But somehow this dear man seemed to find joy in telling stories of his past accomplishments that just were not true. He was pretty good at it and because of his background, none of us thought to just really dig into it and find that he was lying.

It was really pitiful because this young man had many good qualities and there was no need for him to try to pull the wool over our eyes with tall tales. But he did. At length it was all found out and he was embarrassed, ashamed and left our company. It was again kind of startling to me that someone would tell lies for so long to people who had sincerely become his friends and who really loved him. Also he had been through many Bible lessons and prayers and had been treated as someone who wanted to pursue a path of Christian discipleship.

King David desire truth flatAs I’ve written elsewhere, truth has always been important to me. King David in Psalm 51, said to God, “Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts, in the hidden parts you shall make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)  It’s almost like an unspoken given among Christians that we speak the truth with each other. We may not tell everything of our lives to every person. But at least we realize that truth is the true coinage of the realm of Heaven and that lies, deception and confusion should have no part in our lives.

I was thinking about this tonight in relation to being back here in America and (seemingly at least) how very hard it is to find the real truth here on so many things. Of course we who have the Lord have the truth of His Word and through prayer we can access Him and “the Spirit of Truth” (John 16:13), as Jesus called the Holy Spirit. But once you’re anywhere outside the realm of heavenly things, knowing what the truth is here is not easy. The Bible says, “God is not the author of confusion” (I Corinthians 14:33). But here there’s a tremendous degree of confusion and deception as so many news outlets compete to tell you their brand of facts and truth.

It really seems like a great confusion has settled upon this nation, so much so that most people no longer even try to dig down to find the unbiased reality and veracity on any subject. It’s just seems too difficult. So most choose some source to get their information from, often knowing that what they’re being told is almost always seriously tainted with a bias from some special interest group, trying to influence and control the population through their particular narrative.

I met a friend yesterday, a former missionary, who now really rails against the government here and how “they” are out to get us and to enslave us all. Fear of powerful unknown interests who control and orchestrate virtually everything from behind the scenes is a viewpoint held by many millions here, including many sincere Christians. But in talking with this friend, almost immediately there were some things he’d say about current world conditions or this country that I knew to be just plainly not true from a facts-based assessment. But I didn’t engage him on it as I knew he would just get mad at me for not agreeing with this point of view he felt so strongly about.

no truth flatFriends, I don’t have a really great “happy ending” to this article. We who believe in God and the Bible know where to get our eternal truths and verities from: His unfailing Word. But when it comes to the truth as to what’s happening in our world or our nation …well it reminds me of what Jesus said, “If the light that be in you be darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Matthew 6:23) We seem to be the most informed and knowledge-saturated people on earth. But so much of what we are “fed” through the media and on line is just as insidious as the worst junk food bought at the sleaziest restaurant.

I’ll try to end this with at least some ideas and hope. Get your information from more than one source. If you know your main news source is predominately “left wing” or “right wing”, try to find what the more reputable sources of the other viewpoint are saying, just in order to try to find objective facts that your favorite sources aren’t telling you. I even access the “main stream media” which is so often so reviled. The reason I do is simply because they have some reputation to uphold and they’re held accountable in ways that many fly-by-night, shoe-string budget alternative information sources never are.

Maybe it’s like Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?”  (John 18:38) In this day and hour, finding credible sources of truth about our current world and its condition is often a real labor. But it’s worth the effort. Don’t settle for the “shock jocks” and the spin masters to be your info source. You could even ask the Lord to help you discern these things and to help you not settle for news and info that you feel may be much less than “24 carat gold”. May God bless you as you search through the confusion of these times to try to find accurate information on which to make the decisions needed in these perilous times. God bless you.

 

“Let both grow to the harvest”

Let both grow flatSometimes you have to give things time. And that’s not easy to do. You just wish you could wake some people up and even shock them into realizing how things really are, how much God’s will and Word are the overarching realities of all we experience. But it just doesn’t seem to work, at least much of the time. We are to share the love and truth of the Lord with everyone. But often it seems to fall on “stony ground” (Luke 8:13). I’m sure that’s what folks thought who shared their faith with me.

“What a goat!”, they probably thought. Even “What a devil!” I was a real case. But often things just take time and that’s not easy for us.Judge nothing before its time” (I Corinthians 4:5), Paul said. Or as Bob Dylan sang years ago, “Don’t start talking while the wheel’s still in spin…”

Prodical sonIt takes time for some people, many people, to really realize how things are. Sometimes it takes a lifetime. And that’s difficult for us who pray for them, love them and watch as they seem to be wasting their life away. The prodigal son, at length, “came to himself” (Luke 15:17) and realized he was seriously on the wrong track. You get the feeling that this didn’t take many years to happen. But it saddens some of us when you see years go by with friends and loved ones living a life like the prodigal son but never really “coming to himself”, as Jesus called it.

Nevertheless, “Let both grow unto the harvest” (Matthew 13:30). That’s a fascinating verse. It’s from the parable of the wheat and the tares, about wheat and a type of poisonous weed, “tares”, that starts out looking very similar to wheat in its early stages. But, at length, wheat turns more or less white while full grown tares turns dark. Symbolic, no? So “at the harvest” it’s pretty easy to see what is the good, healthy wheat and what’s the poisonous weed, tares.

And that’s how life is too.  Sometimes on the short term there are “The pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). But as Moses said, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). jerimiah questions flatOnly thing is, sometimes that doesn’t even seem to happen in this life. Ones in the Old Testament from Job to Jeremiah questioned the Lord about why He seemed at times to allow the sinful and Godless to live out their lives and not suffer for their evil. Jeremiah prayed, “Righteous are you, oh Lord; but let me speak to You of Your judgments…” (Jeremiah 12:1)

I guess it’s like Paul said, “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment and some men they follow after. Likewise the good works of some are manifest beforehand and they that be otherwise cannot be hid.” (I Timothy 5:24&25) That’s a New Testament way of saying that some folks don’t get their reward in this lifetime for the good and Godly lives they live here. But they will up there. Likewise some people who mock God and live selfish, hellish lives in this world seem to never really suffer for it here. But they will in the hereafter.

And since some reading this don’t really know what I’m talking about with “wheat and tares”, here’s what Jesus said about this in the Bible.

sowerAnother parable He put forth unto them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a man which sowed good seed in his field. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? From where then does it have tares?’ He said unto them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said unto him, ‘Will you then that we go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, because while you gather up the tares, you may root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. And in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘Gather together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them. But gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house. And His disciples came unto Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field”. He answered them, “He that sows the good seed is the Son of man. The field is the world and the good seed are the children of the kingdom. wheat & taresBut the tares are the children of the wicked one and the enemy that sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth His angels and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and them which do iniquity and shall cast them into a furnace of fire. There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:36-43)

The good news is that, “He left not Himself without witness” (Acts 14:17). I’m convinced and have seen it in my own life that, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” (Titus 2:11) God is not unfair, everyone has some kind of chance. Many have really a lot of changes, have seen a lot of truth and love from Him and they are very accountable. But often, it really takes the almost literal fires of hell experienced in this life for some people to say “uncle” to God.

That’s totally how it was for me; I was just a tough nut and resistant to the realities of the things of God. Back then you would have probably thought for sure that I was part of “the tares”.I choose Him flat But through God’s incredible, undeserved mercy, I somehow “came to myself” and joined the wheat. I personally was very nearly at “the harvest”. The Grim Reaper was before me, literally, and my life was hanging by the barest thread when I finally “figured it out” and turned to the God of Abraham.

But for many, it just seems to really take time. In a sense, so many are “resisting the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51) every day. And Solomon said, “He that is often reproved and hardens his neck shall suddenly be destroyed.” (Proverbs 29:1) It’s difficult to know of friends and loved ones who’ve seen and heard so much of the love of God and the truth of God who still walk their willful way. But, “Let both grow to the harvest.” “For we are like water spilled on the ground. Nevertheless the Lord devises ways that His banished be not expelled from Him.” (II Samuel 14:14)