O încadrare a profeției în istorie (Romanian)

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-Daniel Chapter 9-a “The 69 Weeks”

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Daniel Chapter 8

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Daniel Chapter 7

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Daniel Chapter 2

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-La Profecía Bíblica de la Historia (Spanish)

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Friendly

friend no more flatMaybe it’s because we live in the endtime. Jesus said of those times, before His return, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12) It sure seems like that’s how it is in many places today, the love of many has grown cold. And friendliness also is just less present than in the past.

One of the things I like about living in Austin is that, so often, people here are simply friendly. The Bible says, “A man that has friends must show himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother”. (Proverbs 18:24) Friendliness and friendship are things that are easy to take for granted and not notice much. But for so many people, friendship is really important and often very lacking.

park bench 1-fixedToday I was out at my favorite bench where I often go to get away from things a little. And also to have a little prayer time. Some people walked by that I didn’t know and they smiled and we exchanged a few words. What’s so unusually about that? Well I can tell you that doesn’t happen just everywhere. Some places people don’t greet each other on the street and there’s just a good deal less open friendliness in some parts.

But friendship is actually a big deal. Jesus told His disciples, “I have not called you servants but friends” (John 15:15). The Lord wasn’t some austere, ascetic, hyper-spiritual  guru. Evidently Jesus was an exceptionally warm and kind man. And still He was the Son of God. So that whole thing of warmth, friendliness, being approachable, being “without guile” has always seemed important to me.

I’m all for spirituality. “To be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) But there’s a temptation there for some to get really “spiritual” and somehow this can turn into a lofty, cold aloofness or spiritual attainment. Inadvertently it can leave behind the simplicity of friendship, spontaneous kindness and inclusiveness.

made my day flatI heard someone say onetime about how they loved someone but they didn’t like them. And then I heard another man who said, “We not only loved you, we really liked you.” I  thought about that. Have you ever had someone who you felt “loved” you but they actually didn’t like you? It’s a funny feeling. It almost seemed like they were fulfilling some kind of religious obligation they felt to love you. But personally they didn’t like you. It’s uncomfortable to be in situations like that and it’s happened to me as a Christian.

Paul in the Bible was not only a towering spiritual presence, it seems like he was a genuinely warm and friendly person. He said to the Thessalonians, “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted to you not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because you were dear to us.” (I Thessalonians 2:8) Paul really liked them. It wasn’t just a religious duty that drove him.

You might wonder “What does friendship have to do with the endtime?” I can tell you, from my years on the mission field, that in some of the tensest moments crossing borders or responding to hostile situations, it was the warmth, love and friendliness that the Lord moved me and others to have in those situations that defused anger and melted hearts. And of course there was some pretty strong but silent prayers that were going up at the same time.

For me, friends are important. I just hate to lose friends, for whatever reason. Sadly that kind of thing does happen. Solomon said, “A brother offended is harder to be won that a strong city, and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” (Proverbs 18:19)  Friendship is such a precious thing and I think therefor the devil just loves to throw a monkey wrench into the city of our fellowship and our friendships, sowing misunderstands, contention and just the division that is Satan’s specialty.

But friendship is of God; it’s important and very precious. It even says of Abraham, that he was “the friend of God” (James 2:23). Imagine that, to be God’s friend. That’s actually a good way to look at God. We need to fear, respect and reverence the Lord and treat him like the king He is. But also, for me, I often just need to talk to God as my best friend, someone I can be honest with and real.

FriendlyI think that for many in this world, simple warmth, friendliness and friendship are getting harder and harder to find. Of course you can say that friendships like that can be sometimes shallow and trivial. Well, we need both kinds. We need just simple friendliness like I encountered in the park today. But we need the kind that Solomon spoke of, “the friend that sticks closer than a brother”. (Proverbs 18:24)

What to do? Be friendly, “show yourself friendly”, don’t drop or forget your friends who may need you more than you realize and be deeply hurt if you stop communicating with them. I heard someone say one time something so simple, but so true, “What everybody needs is love. If they don’t find it here, where are they going to find it?” And certainly the same can be said for friends and friendliness. It’s in decline. Lord help us to be warm, loving and friendly.

Forgive?

forgiveness flatA long time friend from Scandinavia wrote me: “Should we as Christians forgive those who’ve hurt us, even when they don’t care and would do it again? I’m familiar with the Scriptures and the standard answer. But is it supportable if you look deeper into the issue? God does not seem to forgive before there’s been an admission of guilt.

So I wrote him back: Hi and thanks for your note about forgiveness. It’s a huge and deep subject, like an 800 pound onion you just keep peeling back layers of. Like you said, you know the verses, even in the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive… “ (Luke 11:4)

But then also, as you said, there are other verses like where Jesus said, “If your brother trespasses against you, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3) It seems from that verse that there’s supposed to be a repentance involved.  It’s not meant that we can just sweetly let someone walk all over us while we just keep forgiving them and doing nothing. Like I said, it’s deep. Jesus said, “A strong man armed keeps his goods in peace.” (Luke 11:21)

And just on the human level, all those facets from the Word do come into play. I know that forgiveness in general is the first reaction we should have. Holding grudges and bitterness is very human but it’s not the Godly path.

forgive me-flatBut what happens if someone wants to take advantage of our conviction to forgive? They have no repentance at all or twinge of conscience and they briskly tell us that we should just forgive them as they continue doing real wrong. Well the Lord did say that “if they repent, forgive them.” It’s like another verse, “Godly sorrow works repentance to salvation, not to be repented of.” (II Corinthians 7:10) If folks are genuinely sorry and ask for forgiveness, then of course we’re bound to forgive them; that’s clear.

But I do understand where you’re coming from. Some folks just have no twinge of conscience at all and then they can even have the gall and nerve to tell us that we should just forgive them. Often this just seems to be a ploy or device they try to use to try to get us to drop our guard so they can whack us again with their painful actions or words. What do we do then?

tar baby 1Well, for one, like I wrote in “The Tar Baby”, some things and even some people seem to be nothing but a kind of human “black hole” which just will suck the entire life out of us if we don’t watch out. At times like this, I feel this is where the verse applies, “Go from the presence of a foolish man when you don’t perceive in him the lips of knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:7) Sometime you just have to withdraw yourself from someone’s company or circle when they’re continually doing things that are wrong and hurtful to you and they have no intention of stopping it, repenting and asking for forgiveness.

And on a deeper level, here’s another reason why it’s still good to forgive and move on. Because if you don’t forgive, those folks will not only have messed up your past and present, they’ll have stolen your future too. If you don’t forgive and move on from that situation, you will quiet possibly keep mulling it over in your mind, rehearsing the injury and hurt you received. Then often the next thing that happens is that you’ll be bitter about it. And that way you have that poison working around in your system which can last for years and ruin your future because of the sins against you committed by someone in the past.

Ghost characterSo even just for your own sakes, even if you feel they don’t deserve it and haven’t begun to repent at all, it’s still good to forgive and move on, just for your own sakes. I could add here that I wrote (what was for me) a pretty major and personal article on this subject some while back about how that, if you don’t forgive and you carry that unforgiveness with you into the afterlife, it could be pretty bad. The article was called “Ghosts”. It was kind of scary.

But you may say, “They don’t deserve forgiveness!”

Maybe not. But in the final analysis, God is the judge, not us. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay” (Romans 12:19). If they deserve judgment, God has ways of seeing that this happens, either here or in the hereafter. “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Number 32:23)

There’re easily another 20 pages that could be written here but perhaps this is a short synopsis. I’ve sure had some folks who have been mean and cruel to me and just plainly didn’t like me. But if I kept all those things in my heart, then that would crowd out the good things the Lord wants to be there so I can continue to live for Him and to go forward in His service. I just don’t want to let those past experiences define my life and thoughts for years to come; that would be a double dastardly deed and I don’t want to let that happen. I hope this is some help. Thanks for writing. Your friend in Him, Mark

 

How “the End” may begin (Part 1)

the-endtimeSome of my friends feel it’s ludicrous and in very poor taste to talk about anything having to do with “the end”. They feel is smacks of religious insanity. I have other friends who are ardent students of Bible prophecy and followers of current events. Some of them are preparing for a breakdown of society on perhaps a worldwide level. They feel I’m not alarmed enough at the signs they see that the very Last Days are now upon us.  I’ll try to address this subject of how “the end” may begin without probably satisfying either edge of that spectrum of my friends’ views.

Pres ObamaAt a Bible study recently I was asked what I saw happening in the world on the short term and how it all fits into the final endtime picture that we see in Scripture. This is a huge subject. There are oodles of people writing their opinions on how we’re already utterly within the very words of the book of Revelation. They say the Antichrist of Scriptures is President Obama. Or that the current Pope is the embodiment of Lucifer. Or that the President of Turkey is. And it goes on. What could I add to any of this?

While I believe in the return of Jesus and I believe we’re already in “the last days” in many ways, I don’t feel I can identify the Antichrist of Daniel and Revelation in the headlines we read today. But perhaps a look at earlier figures in history who were strong forerunners of the ultimate Antichrist could give us some idea of how the final one will arise.

HitlerIn trying to answer my friends at the Bible study about how “the end” could begin, I told them how two forerunner, prototypes of the final Antichrist came to power in their day. Perhaps the greatest antichrist in modern history was Adolf Hitler. Another was Napoleon Bonaparte. Joseph Stalin could be added to the list. (And hopefully my German, French and Russian friends will find no reason to be offended in any of this.)

What conditions preceded the rise of those 3 men who came to dominate so utterly their people and even the world of their times in many ways? One common condition these earlier antichrists arose in was the extreme instability of their times. Their countries had already been in a period of prolonged chaos, leaderless and rudderless. There was a vast vacuum, an emptiness of certainty and direction; people were starving literally, desperate to find a way out of the morass their nations had fallen into. When things are generally sailing along and all’s well for many if not most, you don’t usually see Antichrist-like figures taking over.

the great depressionSo I told my friends at the Bible study that I personally feel we won’t really see the final events of the endtime as long as the overall stability of the national and world order is intact. Some will say that things are very bad now, lots of folks say that. But a background of history will show that the way things are at the moment is not nearly as bad as how things have been at times, even in the last 100 years. The Great Depression of the 1930’s was virtually world-wide and was very serious stuff; what we have today is not to be compared to that. The Ukrainian famine, the “Holodomor” of the 1930’s was so bad, with 1 to 3 million people starving to death, that many Ukrainians at that time welcomed in the Nazis, believing that they would be saved that way. World War I, World War II and other such events make our times today look like the Easter Parade.

But what could begin the end? Societal collapse, internationally. Economic collapse, worldwide. Prolonged martial law, virtually everywhere. Vast international financial ruin. I believe that for a real “New World Order” to arise, it will not happen by evolution, osmosis or from the major international leaders we see on the scene at the moment.

I expect that a time of social disorder, most likely on an international scale, will make it so that the peoples of the world will willingly accept some form of dictatorship, just to stop the anarchy and chaos that the world will have descended into. This has happened many times before.

big brother2So many here complain about the government. But times will come when there will be a cry out for some form of strong government to protect the masses from roving bands, gangs and the loss of ever vestige of civilization that we now enjoy. This is the atmosphere in which ones like Hitler and Napoleon arose in. And I feel that it will take something like that to set the stage and provide the atmosphere within which the final Antichrist will be able to seem to be the savior of the world, bringing back civilization from the chaos it will have descended to.

(More on this in Part 2 of “How ‘the End’ May Begin”)

Raised Racist? (Part 1)

flag 1A major subject in the news now is the aftereffects of the mass murder in Charleston, South Carolina of 9 African-Americans. One focus has been on the continuing use of the Confederate flag, used by the Confederate States during the American Civil War 150 years ago. It’s now beginning to be banned in some places but much talked about everywhere.

Racism is not just something I’ve read about, I grew up with it. In fact it had a major impact on my life. I went the first 10 years to school in a small city in central Texas that was very evangelical, fundamentalist Christian. And it was also virtually totally racist.

all my friends flat croppedNowadays we have the phrase, “the N word”. You probably know what that is. If not, I’ll let you look it up. But I can tell you that every single one of my friends (all of whom were white and almost all were Christian) used that word. But my family didn’t. I was taught that it was wrong and mean to use that word. My parents taught me to say “negro”, the more proper and acceptable, non-racist word back then for the people we now call African-Americans.

Some people reading this are from outside the States. So for those who don’t know it, “the N word” was and is an extremely powerful, extremely hate-filled word. I can’t think of anything to compare it to. Back at the time of World War II Americans would call Germans “Krauts” or the Japanese would be called “Chinks” (or maybe that was the Chinese). And there were some for Mexicans which also were racists and hate-filled.

But none of those equaled or got near “the N word”. And, believe me because I was there, virtually everyone, over 99%, regularly used “the N word”. And this was in central Texas in the 1950’s and early 60’s. So you can just imagine how much worse it got the further east you traveled towards what’s called “the Old South”.

Give an inch flatThe use of “the N word” was based on a strong hatred of African-Americans. “Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile” was a phrase I heard countless times from my friends, speaking of African-Americans. But my parents were different. And the irony of all this was that my parents weren’t Christians, they were Unitarians. They didn’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God. But all my friends who used “the N word” were all Christians of one kind or the other. This is just the way it all was.

So in a strong way, this racism and hatred I saw in my friends caused me to disrespect them and thus disrespect Christianity. And my parents encouraged that view. I was taught that we were better than the Christians because we didn’t hate black people. We weren’t Christians but we were better than the Christians because we weren’t racists. And we weren’t.

It goes way back in the history of my family. My great-grandfather over 100 years ago was a wealthy landowner in northeast Texas who sheltered a black man in his house when a lynch mob came there to take him and lynch him after he had gotten into a fight with a white man. My great-grandfather stood up to the lynch mob in front of his house and refused to hand over the “negro” to them. That’s a pretty unusual story for northeast Texas from 100 years ago.

In my heart I just always felt that I and my family were better. We were more righteous because we weren’t racists like all the Christians I knew when I was growing up. Of course that didn’t really help me in my spiritual life because, in spite of the bad sample I saw of racial hatred from Christians as I grew up, the fact remained that actually Jesus was and is the Son of God. I was “throwing the Baby out with the bathwater”. I was rejecting Christ because of the bad example of hatred I saw from His people. So when I finally came to Him, it was after some really rough times as I had come to just be sure, I thought, that there was no God and no Jesus. I was wrong on that. But I think my parents and my upbringing was right in that we didn’t accept or take part in the totally racist society that was around us.

integrationWell, in some ways, that was long ago. I remember the first day my school “integrated”, when I was 17. All the white kids were looking at the African American kids that were now beginning to go to our school. Everyone was a little on edge. But also by that time it was the strong “prevailing wind” in America in the later 1960’s and it just wasn’t cool anymore to be racists, at least not overtly. So school integration went ok and the USA made some strides toward a less racist society.

Credit where credit is due, it really isn’t as racist as it used to be. But on the other hand, the cancer’s still there. Like a cancer victim who has to endure operation after operation to try to root out the malignancy, racial hatred is still around, 50 years after the schools were integrated and 150 years after the South lost the Civil War.

Like the Bible says, “Brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:10) It says of the barrier between the Jews and Gentiles of old, “He has broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” (Ephesians 2:14) In another place it says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond or free but we are all one in Christ.” (I Corinthians 12:13) At least, if nothing else, the love of Christ and the Spirit of God should help us overcome this entrenched hatred that’s so besmirched the people of God, especially in the southern USA for so long. God help us and have mercy.