The Sky Is Falling, the Sky Is Falling

Well, the sky is actually not falling but the reputation of the Christian faith around the world is. All because one man – a student of the Bible – had declared today, the 21st of May, the end of the world as we know it. He declared for every nation to hear that Jesus would be coming back at 6:00p Eastern time today and rapturing His Church – you know, up, up and away …

Well, I didn’t shave today and was dressed is sloppy “office clothes” because I was 100% sure that Jesus was not coming back and so did what I always do on an office day – go sloppy. I did not spend extra time in prayer or praise; I did not spend more time reading God’s Word than normally. You see, I may not be the scholar that the founder and leader of Family Radio is but I do know that Jesus told us – His disciples – that no man knows the season, the day, nor the time of His return. Even He does not know – only the Father knows.

So, Jesus did not come back, many of the false prophet’s followers are now disappointed but will probably continue to follow him anyways. Afterall, this is not the first time he has predicted the end of the world as we know it and been wrong. These followers are deceived and they will continue to be deceived because really they are being deceiving by demonic forces and not simply by one man who leads a ministry. Many of them quit their jobs, sold their homes and cars, cashed in their retirement funding, and simply waited for Jesus to take them off the planet. Jesus told us that in the end times many would fall away and that many would be deceived by the doctrine of demons. So, I am not surprised, just saddened.

But, as I watch the news today I notice signs of the impending disaster in many languages including Russia. I recognize some of the places these signs were hanging. I have been to those places and preached in those cities. And here we have a man who is destroying the reputation of good churches that care for and love people because of his misguided zeal for the Lord and lack of basic Bible knowledge. We have a man that has now given many non-believers a reason to write off those who are sincere and true disciples of the Lord by lumping everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord togther and labeling them lunitics and frutcakes.

Sad that this one man who rakes in millions a year for his ministry can destroy in one short campaign the work that many have done over the decades – and can, by his actions and words, turn off many in this generation who need to know the Lord and be truly converted and saved, born again.

2 Corinthians 11:4-5 states that many, in these last days, will believe another gospel, have a different spirit than the Holy Spirit, and will follow a different Jesus. And, it has happened once again. The god of this age – the devil – does not want this age to end because then he would no longer have power over those still living who are not believers. Only as solid, mature believers reach out with the true Gospel and the real Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, will we usher in the end of the age. When all nations have heard the true Gospel and the hope that comes through believing in Jesus He can return, not before.

Oh how quickly and easily we, like Eve of old, can be deceived and drawn away from the sincerity, simplicity and purity found only in the true Christ

The Little Things

Mother Teresa offers us that brilliant glimpse of hope that lives in little things: “We can do not great things, only small things with great love. It is not how much you do but how much love you put into doing it.” A community of believers in the U.S.A. have a sign above their door: “Today…small things with great love (or don’t open the door).”

It is easy to fall in love with great things. It is difficult to do the little things and do them with great love. Everyone wants to be noticed and to be thought of as important, even treated as such. Everyone likes to be the center of attention and be served and pampered. But Jesus wants us not to be served but to serve – the same as He did during His three years of personal ministry.

Today – look for some little things that you can do with great love. Talk to the person who makes your coffee at Starbucks; chat with the university student who rings your groceries through at the food store; stop for the one who is asking for a handout – and put your hand out and touch them with His love (and then with your money). Hug that single person who may not have received a hug or even a touch in a week or more. Pray with the person who needs to see God work on their behalf. Touch the world one person at a time, one little act at a time and serve with love.

While serving, remember that you need to also speak about Jesus. Do so in love – but do so! Good deeds do not win anyone to the Lord. But words accompanying actions can accomplish much and move people closer to the line of faith in Jesus Christ. You don’t need to share every detail of the Gospel – eventually they will hear it. You simply need to share that Jesus loves them and died for them. If they see the love you have and then hear of the love God has – that’s enough. The seed is planted but remember to go back and water it and watch for the time when it is breaking through to the new birth (1 Peter 1:23).

The Bible states that the world will know we are disciples of Jesus by our love. The Bible states that we have been loved and so must then love others letting His love overflow. In fact – this is how we can know for certain that we are born again (1 John). The Bible states that love covers a multitude of sins and His love through us will as it will lead many to Jesus and salvation.

So, today, like God, go out and “so love…” that you will give of yourself, your time, your energy, your money … to simply touch another person. And, remember that the task we place our hands to does not need to be large – just accomplished with great love.

Jesus Never Talked to a Prostitute

Someone once said, “Jesus never talked to a prostitute.” Is that true or is it not? Well, actually it is true. He never did talk to a prostitute. Before you jump all over me, quote Scripture like a good Bible-believer – just think for a moment…

Jesus never talked to a prostitute because He didn’t see a prostitute. He just saw a child of God He was madly in love with. Jesus saw the potential in people. Jesus saw their strengths. Jesus saw their future … His Father’s plans and purpose for their lives. Jesus saw people as they could be and not as they are right now. He still looks at us this way.

And, when we have new eyes as believers, we too can look into the eyes of those we don’t even like and see the One we love. We too can look at people and not see the drunk, the addict, the prostitute, our enemy, those who hate us and persecute us. We can simply see what Jesus sees – a person created in God’s image who needs to know deep in their heart that God loves them and accepts them and forgives them. We need to tell them that we, as His disciples, love them, accept them and forgive them. It might even help to hug them. Let them know they are valuable and important to God and to you.

I meet a lot of people as I minister in various nations, different settings, and travel from place to place interacting with fellow travellers and weary people waiting for their next flight. So many of them simply have no idea that God sees them as precious, important, and valuable. They are amazed when, in discussion and conversation, I tell them how important they are to God. Many times it leads to an in-depth sharing of their heart because they found a person who treats them with dignity and respect in spite of ‘whatever.’ And, there are many ‘whatevers’ that make people feel less than important and so very unlovable.

Recently I visited a rehab center in Kazakhstan that was less than a year old and talked to some of those who lived there. They were in various stages of recovery and were in serious need of knowing they were loved by someone. I listened, I hugged, I prayed, I cried. They felt God’s love and knew they were valuable. No longer rejects and failures – but children of the living God. I saw them that way – more importantly, God sees them this way.

Later in the week I spoke to several young people – one who lived in an apartment with his parents without heat, lights, water … and often food. There is simply no money. He is a believer because one of the leadership couples of a small house church “adopted” him and they allow him to eat with them, use their computer, talk with them and, in the process, he is becoming a part of their family. Not a young man from a poor and destitute family but a child of the living God. God really blessed him with a powerful prophetic word as well. (Daniel – you and your story really blessed me)

Another, a university student, needed to know that He was loved. Between an afternoon conversation and meeting again in an evening service – he exchanged hugs at least 10 times. He needed to know he was important and that God loved him – and that I did to.

It is time to see as Jesus sees – and realize that people need to know that God sees them differently than the world does and that we too see them differently – and thus treat them as valuable and important – because they are.

A Great Meal and Your Enemies

Read Psalm 23 through slowly…
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The psalm states that a table is prepared “in the presence of my enemies.” What are our enemies doing there as we walk with the Lord through to death and life-after-death? What if after we die, God brings our enemies to the table and asks them how we treated them? What is Jesus asks them. “YOUR NAME here claims to follow Me. Did he/she love you? Did they feed you and pray for you like I taught them to? Did he/she pray with you?”

What would your enemies say? How awkward would dinner be?
I believe that the Lord is speaking to His Church and telling us that we need to, once again, take all of His Word seriously and “love our enemies” and “bless those that persecute us.” Oh! It is so much easier to “love our neighbors” or is it? Loving others begins with loving ourselves and even that is hard at times because we live with ourselves and know the real person inside that hides behind the mask.

I was speaking in a seminary recently in Kazakhstan and one of the students was saying that it is impossible to live your life in such a way that you are real, open, and honest with people and no longer living with one or more masks. In other words, he was saying that all people, including Christians, are hypocrites. I strongly and publicly disagreed with him.

I really believe that if we have received the love of God, which the book of Romans states was given to us when we were born again, that we can come to love ourselves as God loves us. This means knowing who we really are and experiencing God`s personal love, acceptance and forgiveness. Then we can be so secure in who we are in Him and in what He thinks of us that we can be totally ourselves with others and no longer have to wear various masks and pretend to be someone we are not.

Then, loving ourselves, we can actually love our neighbors as we love ourselves … and then, reaching out past our comfort zones we can love our enemies and bless those that persecute us.

I believe God is looking for people who are so secure in who they are in Him that they will live differently than those who do not know Him. I believe that if we would live differently and love our enemies and those who persecute us, love our neighbors, love ourselves … that we will truly change the world.

Radical or Acceptable?

God is giving His people a choice today – we can either be radical or we can be acceptable. We can either be powerful or popular. We can either be natural or supernatural. As believers we can no longer simply look like, act like, and live like those who do not know God. We try so hard to fit in, appear normal, and hang out with those we like and who think like us.

But listen to the words of Jesus – He is not yelling or preaching so you will need to listen carefully. In a gentle whisper Jesus is saying that even the pagans hang out with those who are just like them. And, He goes on to explain that He expects better from His disciples. He wants us to be extraordinary not ordinary. He wants us to hang out with those who are not like us, people we are not comfortable around, folks who sit alone at work during the coffee breaks, the one who has a distinct aroma, the old person sitting by himself and talking to himself in the coffee shop…

Oh, I know it is “cool” to be with those who are like you and with whom you fit in. And, everyone wants to feel cool and accepted and “with it.” No one wants to stand out as different and something of a nerd or a geek. But listen to Jesus – His words are strong words … The book of Revelation warns that we must be either hot or cold, because if lukewarm (cool) we will be spit out of God’s mouth. (Revelation 3:16) The end of “cool” – left in the smoke of people set on fire by God.

French theologian Jacques Ellul once said, “Christians should be troublemakers, creators of uncertainty, agents of a dimension incompatible with society.” Jesus would agree. He was never “cool.” You don’t get crucified for being cool: you get crucified for living differently, living radically different from the norms and all that is cool in the world. But be warned ahead – it is usually the cool people who get the most ticked off, since you are disturbing their order, for it was indeed the cool religious leaders and the cool politicians who killed the Lover from Nazareth.

I am praying that the Lord will continue to raise up young men around the world who are willing to give their lives for Him – give their all. Young men who are not trying to fit in, don’t want to fit in, and are willing to hang out with others who are different but need Jesus. Young men who are radical revolutionaries and who are preaching a life-changing message both with words and deeds – as they walk in the presence, power, and fire of their God. After all, Jesus did come to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Converting Your Executioner

James – the Bible character who along with his brother John wanted to call down fire from Heaven to destroy the Samaritans because of their treatment of Jesus – was seriously rebuked by the Lord for his desire to destroy those he believed were enemies of Jesus. Over the next few months he watched Jesus love His enemies and actually die for them. Apparently this example by Jesus had a profound impact on young James.

One day a few years later James faces his own death – he was to be executed because he had followed the One who loved His enemies unto death. He was imprisoned and was set to die the next day. Before his execution, he spoke to his executioner about God’s love and grace as found only in Jesus. The executioner was so deeply moved that he asked for forgiveness and surrendered his life to Christ. James forgave him, and they embraced. Then he and the executioner were put to death together.

I have seen the love of God transform lives just like this. Over and over again I see drug addicts and alcoholics, overseas where I work, totally transformed by the love and grace of Jesus. Laying their lives down for Jesus – every day they now minister His love and His grace without thanks, without fanfare, and often without pay. They were forgiven of so much and they realize that they need to give what they have received and so often begin rehab centers based out of local churches and even begin to plant and build a local church which then develops and births another rehab center (house).
Total, radical life-change.

Paul talks about this indirectly when writing to Timothy – his son in the faith. Paul states that there are some who “hold to the outward form of godliness but deny the real power thereof…” In context it means power to bring permanent life change. Salvation, true conversion that follows conviction of sin and repentance with godly sorrow, will always result in life change. Radical life change. A change in heart resulting in a change of perspective, priorities, and purpose. Real and tangible change that can be measured.

Today, we have many who have said a sinner’s prayer but whose lives have not been radically changed – unlike the executioner in the true story above. They are truly “holding to the outward form of their religion but denying the power thereof….” and God is about to shake His Church and remove all the religious junk and traditional garbage – along with offering those who are false converts the opportunity to be truly and gloriously saved and converted.

Love changes lives and God so loved and first loved and, as a result, we can change and we can help others to change as well.

The World – Blind and Toothless

In the Old Testament we see a standard rule for survival in the world of people – “an eye-for-an-eye.” I believe that this was God’s attempt to keep things from getting out of hand as His people tried to integrate back into the outside world after 400 years in slavery in Egypt. The Egyptians were not a good example to follow so God was setting a new standard for them.

The new standard was an attempt to keep things under control. His new rule about an eye for an eye was a boundary for people who lashed back. Remember Israel was now free to hit back and get even – seeking revenge for whatever a neighbor might do to one of them. As a young exodus people they were trying to discover a new way of living outside the empire. And, God made sure that there were some boundaries. If someone breaks your arm, you cannot seek revenge and break their arm and then their leg too. Just like in old feudal wars and gang wars on our streets today, things tend to escalate.

As one author states, “A shock-and-awe bombing leads to a shock-and-awe beheading. A Pearl Harbour leads to a Hiroshima. A murder leads to an execution. A rude look leads to a cold shoulder.” So, there were boundaries or limitations – “an eye for an eye.”

But Jesus states in Matthew 5:38-42 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

In other words, for Kingdom people – believers – there is another way. And it is a good thing, since as Gandhi and King used to say, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves the whole world blind” (and with dentures).

Jesus sets a high standard for the daily, every-day life of His followers; we would do well to follow His example and His teachings. After all, as disciples of Jesus we are called to become like Him and love the world and the people of the world with a higher standard than those who do not believe and do not follow.

So, today – remember to “stop for the one” and love them as Jesus would love them. Remember to give someone a hug, a kind word, a smile, some of your time, and a lot of your love. You have more than enough love to go around – and the more you give it away the more the Lord’s Spirit continues to pour in. It is an absolute win-win situation.

A Source of Great Comfort

I like what Bono states in the introduction to a book of selections from the Psalms: “The fact that the Scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me. Now it is a source of great comfort.”

It is also, for me, a great source of hope, not just comfort. It means that with Jesus no one needs to be written off, everyone can become someone, and no one need be left behind. With Jesus, there is always opportunity to change, to grow, to be and to become … always. No one is beyond redemption.

As I work with people in my own country and elsewhere in the world I realize how important it is to remember this. I see so many cases of people who have given up, lost hope, see no future for themselves, have tried and failed and no longer have what it takes to try again.

Recently I ministered prophetically in a church in Kazakhstan. The building was nothing to write home about – in need of being torn down and hauled away. The rooms that were still usable were cold and damp and poorly lit. The facilities were simply inadequate by any standards and even the main door into the sanctuary lost its handles during the day of worship, teaching and ministry. It was not a building that would lift your spirit nor give you a sense of hope and optimism.

During the day there was a young man in a wheelchair – suffering, I believe, from cerebral palsy – who was strapped in and listening intently to the teaching of God’s Word. We had met the day before during a day off and a boat ride with some church leaders. During one of the breaks I heard and then saw some well meaning Christian Church leader laying hands on him and yelling – I assumed he was trying to cast out a demon (there are none there) or trying to get God’s attention by yelling – you know, like the prophets of Baal when confronted by Elijah.

In the evening service (the third of the day) I was ministering prophetically to a fair number of people and as I was drawing the ministry time to a close I was scanning the faces in the congregation (all leaders) of 80+ to make sure that I had given all the words that the Lord was asking me to. My eyes fell on Artem in his wheelchair. He was sitting right up front by the pulpit as we had, by this time, added a heater at the front and without being able to warm himself by moving he had taken the liberty of being placed right next to this new source of heat.

I heard the Lord say to go up to him, kneel down to look into his eyes, and prophesy. I had no idea what I was going to say but God knew what this young man needed to hear. The prophetic word was amazing, wonderful, powerful, loving, and full of hope for the future. He needed to hear what God had to say and he certainly needed hope. Did God promised to heal him and free him from the wheelchair. No! But God spoke very powerfully – deep into the heart and spirit of this young man and brought great hope for a terrific future as he continued to relate to and “walk” with His Lord.

God is so good. As I sit in an airport writing this blog I am, once again, brought to tears just thinking about how the God of the universe stopped for this one young man, blessed him, and spoke words that brought hope to his heart. Others ignored him; some tried with good intentions to deliver him and/or bring healing … but God brought hope. A much better and more precious gift. Please pray that God would totally heal Artem.

A Radical Extremist Converts

There is no one on the face of the earth that cannot receive God’s grace and become converted and thus a believer. No one! No one is beyond hope and redemption. Even an extreme Muslim terrorist can receive the love and grace of Jesus, be forgiven, and be born again. I have recently heard of several stories of radicals being confronted with their sin and converted by His grace. Powerful stories from Turkey, Iraq, and Iran (thanks Sargon in Almaty, Kazakhstan).

Made me think of Saul, the terrorist who went about killing believers and thinking he was doing the will of God and thus somewhat proud of his accomplishments. Standing next to those stoning the first Christian martyr, Stephen , as a Pharisee and religious leader he approved of the death and rejoiced in it. Stephen asked God to forgive those who were stoning him – in the same way Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Then, in the very next chapter – Acts 9 – Saul meets Jesus and is converted and becomes Paul, the apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is very powerful – opening hearts to receive all that God has for a person.

If we truly believe that terrorists are beyond the hand of God and the forgiveness found in Jesus who is full of grace … then we need to rip up half of the New Testament because it was written by a redeemed terrorist who became an extremist, a radical, for Jesus. You see God has a desperate love for losers like Saul – and you and I – and, out of love, offers us the opportunity to be someone different, better, more loving and more like Jesus.

There is an historical note in one of the books I read recently – it states that there was another major conversion in the early church. This time of an old man named Gamaliel – Saul the Pharisee’s teacher. Early Christian writings tell us that before his death in AD 50, Gamaliel converted and was baptized by his former student, Paul. Don’t you just love Jesus.

So, if you have given up on someone recently – thinking they will never come to the Lord and experience His grace and His love – rethink your decision and override your feelings. Nothing is impossible with God and we, as believers, need to begin to truly, really, absolutely believe that. And, when you do – begin to pray for the Muslim terrorists around the world … that they would experience the Love and the grace of God as found only in Jesus and that they would bow their knee and confess Jesus is Lord. It really is possible and more powerful than hunting them down and killing them.

Precious Men Being Changed By God – Kazakhstan #16

I spent some brief time at a rehab center during my last few days in Kazakhstan. I ministered to many men who are working through the program at a number of rehab centers during services at various local churches but managed to actually visit only one. During these many services I did manage to pray over several directors of these rehab centers. And on Tuesday I visited a ladies “half-way house” where women and their children go after successfully completing the rehab program while they integrate back into regular society.

The picture above is part of the facilities of a rehab center that I did visit. It was a small house with three small rooms and one larger room (all bedrooms) and a small kitchen indoors. And, outside they had this extra kitchen (picture) to help cook for and feed the 17 men staying in a house that would be small for a family of three. There was an indoor washroom but also an outdoor shower where the water is heated by the sun (summer use only I suppose).

The house is located in a neighborhood where everything is seriously run down but they are so proud of this home they are making for themselves. A year ago it was simply a dumping ground for people’s garbage. Now it has some yard, a small house with plans to expand, a shipping container to store things in and a few sheds and shacks for their rabbits and hens. This is home for those recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.

These homes run strictly on donations and whatever the men – many of them who have jobs in the city – pay to stay in them. Each man has a bed (they are literally side-by-side and stacked two high) and a place to put their few belongings – key word being few. Each day they pray together, study the Bible as a group, do their chores and report for work. Here they learn how to live without drugs and alcohol, how to live with others in community and how to walk with the Lord every day.

The presence of the Lord was tangible as we visited and talked with the men who were there because they started work later in the day or had just arrived to begin their recovery program.

Please pray for all the wonderful guys I met and ministered to over the past few weeks who are battling to get free and stay free of drugs and alcohol and doing so with the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer. I thank you – and they thank you.