Serving God or Mammon

God and Mammon flatOne of the more striking and perhaps perplexing things that Jesus said was this: “No man can serve two masters for he will either hate the one and love the other or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) Determining how that plays out in the life of each individual has been a huge question for Christians through the centuries.

Examples in the four Gospels are numerous. Jesus said to the fishermen Peter and Andrew, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The Bible goes on to say, “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:19 & 20)Follow me and I flat Matthew the tax collector is another example. “And as Jesus passed forth from there, he saw a man named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9)

Of course there are those who will rightly say that Jesus didn’t say that to everyone. But it might surprise you to see how many He did say that to. It is clear, though, that the concept of serving God, being a true follower and disciple is what the Bible has taught from beginning to end. God told Moses to say to Pharaoh, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.” (Exodus 8:1)

But what does that mean? How can we serve God? Are we serving God as we go about our secular employment? The daily “affairs of this life”?  (II Tim 2:4) In the history of Christianity, there was a time when a very large number of people were in what was considered Christian service. The lived in monasteries, abbeys and various religious houses throughout Europe. It got to where these religious orders owned as much as 30% of the land of some nations. friarsThey accrued vast wealth in obligatory tithes and enforced offerings which all levels of society felt impelled to pay to these vast numbers who were ostensibly “serving God”.

And some of them were. They, some of them, ministered to the poor and did other things such as offering prayers or works of righteousness. But it got to where it was increasingly obvious that so many were just living off the fat of the land, laying a heavy yoke of religious bondage and servitude on society while doing little or nothing to serve God or man.

Actually, the place I’m writing this in was once a rectory of a Catholic church in Normandy, France, built in 1760. But at the time of the French Revolution, this property was seized by the government from the church and turned over for secular uses. Caen house frontThis kind of thing had been going on in fits and starts since the 1500’s throughout Europe when kings and governments increasingly saw many if not most religious orders (those who said they were serving God) as being not much more than leeches on the body politic, neither truly serving God or rendering much of any service to mankind.

With Protestantism and the Reformation, the whole concept of serving God swung radically the other direction. Martin Luther said that one could faithfully and adequately serve God as a cook or plowman. And that to this day is the prevailing view of those whose roots are in Protestant Christianity.

But how about now? It’s pretty well known in modern Christian circles throughout the world that spiritual and moral darkness has precipitously increased in the lifetimes of many of us. It’s increasingly difficult to be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (II Corinthians 6:14). Very many are forced to compromise and even renounce their Christian convictions in their workplace in order to conform to the mores of “post-Christian” society throughout the Western world. Or simply hold their job. Millions are finding they must put their children in Christian schools or home school them in order to preserve some atmosphere of Godliness that their children can be safe in.

And I feel this trend is only likely to increase and accelerate. I’m still of the opinion that what Jesus said is true when He told His disciples just before His crucifixion, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself.” (John 14:2 & 3) That Jesus said He would return to this world at the end of this age is indisputable. Mark of the BeastAnd it says in the Bible that in the times just before His return, that a worldwide economic system will be in place so that “no man might buy or sell except for those who had a mark in their hand or forehead”. (Revelation 13:17) The choice between serving God or Mammon is already becoming increasingly stark. And in the future to come, believers worldwide will literally have to choose the satanic world government to come or to throw their trust utterly on the Lord and to serve Him only.

I feel there’s a strong stirring in the body of Christ worldwide. So many sense that modern Christianity is insufficient for present times and certainly so for times to come. One of the most glaring deficiencies is how individual Christians are not being challenged or prepared to truly serve God in the way Christ taught and the way the early Christians lived.

Daniel 11 32b for blog siteIf there is any happy ending to this post, it could be that I do feel the Bible indicates that in the prophetic endtime future, there will be a called out, vibrant, fruitful body of Christian believers who’ll stand up as some of God’s strongest witnesses in the world’s darkest time. “The people who do know their God shall be strong and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many.” (Daniel 11:32&33)

Live class audio on Daniel chapter 11:31 to 12:13

man on horseIn Texas in October I was able to complete the final live class in the series I’ve been doing with Sunday school friends there on the book of Daniel. The live class audio on Daniel 11:31 to 12:13 can be heard here.

With all the fears and foolishness that weigh on our weary world in these times, it’s still a thrill to delve into God’s Word and get “back to the future” of what Bible prophecy tells us will be how things will all end up. I personally am looking forward to not another change of regimes of earthly governments but the literal setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth. Yes, I’m “millenary”. And for all of us who know and believe in God and His Son Jesus, we all ought to be having the same hope and vision of the future to come: His return to save us from the mess this world is increasingly becoming under unregenerate, renegade mankind.

It was actually difficult to get through this class because so many of these verses are just outstanding and drenched in significance for those of us in these times. This is particularly true of Daniel 12: verses 1 through 4. But many other verse in the classes could have used much more attention that we were able to give them in the time we had. For example Daniel 12:1 seems to be important enough that it was paraphrased by Jesus in Matthew 24:21 and Mark 13:19.

Daniel at deskDaniel 12:1 says, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

As we got into chapter 12, we saw that the dialogue changes and it goes back to how it was in chapter 10 with the conversation back and forth between Daniel and the angel or angels. In chapter 10 the angels were just barely able to get Daniel strengthened enough to be able to handle the incredible truth that was to be shared with him. But then by chapter 12, Daniel was so invigorated by his experience then that the angel had to tell him “Go your way, Daniel.” (Daniel 12:9) Daniel still had a stout heart, even if his flesh was beginning to flag in his 80’s by then.

And I’ll just mention that I was glad it worked out in the class to make it through to the last 3 verses in chapter 12. Because they are some of the more surprising in the book of Daniel and seem to segue into events beyond the second coming of Jesus, giving us a glimpse beyond the period beyond the last 7 years and especially the last 3½ years that the messages Daniel received focus on so much.

But I won’t give it all away here. It was an inspiring time and I personally was having a really good time sharing the class with my friends as it’s a subject that is very dear to my heart. I hope you’ll be able to listen to the class. And please do pray for me that I’ll be able to complete videos on these last 3 chapters in Daniel, hopefully within the next year. GBY, the live class audio on Daniel 11:31 to 12:13 can be heard here.

Budapest Stories

Hungarian JewsPresently I’m in Budapest, Hungary to do recordings of some of the prophecies of Daniel videos that I’ve done in English. Through the years, I’ve lived for perhaps a total of 5 years in this interesting central European capital and I consider this country to be one of my favorites that I’ve been in.

Tonight I met again the father of a dear Hungarian friend of mine here; it’s been nearly 20 years since I last met him. And I was thinking how much many of my friends back in the States would enjoy knowing this man. He is ethnically fully Jewish and was raised Jewish. But he’s been a Christian for years. He was born in central Budapest during some of the very worst of the early days of World War II.

planes over BudapestYears ago I knew his mother, my Hungarian friend’s grandmother. When I knew her, she was in her late 80’s and was still a clear-eyed active skier in the snows of wintertime here. Twice during World War II she was marched down to the Danube River that flows through Budapest to be shot because she was Jewish. Twice Allied bombers appeared over the city to bomb it and she escaped.

It’s hard to describe how these things affect me when I meet these people. It’s a strong feeling in me of respect and almost awe in what they’ve experienced, juxtaposed with the incredibly stable and safe life that I and so many have lived in my lifetime.

Then later this evening my friend who does the Hungarian voice-over for my videos was telling me about the circumstances under which his mom was born in Budapest in the last days of World War II. His grandmother had been sheltering with others in a downtown basement for weeks as battles raged house to house throughout the city between the occupying Germans and the Russians who were liberating Hungary.

Budapest batlesMy friend told me tonight that his grandmother had gone upstairs from the basement and lay down on the kitchen table to give birth to his mom in 1945. There were firefights on the grounds of the property and soldiers running and firing back and forth just outside when she gave birth. He said his newborn mother didn’t cry or make a noise when she was born. She was taken back down to the basement by her mom and spent the first two weeks of her life there.

shopping mallMany of us are concerned about our Wi-Fi connection, how our sports team is doing and if we’ll be able to take advantage of the upcoming sale at the shopping mall. We’ve seen nothing but relative stability and prosperity all our lives and it’s no wonder that almost all of us just really take it for granted that it will always be this way. So I often get really quiet and sober around people like I met tonight or when I hear stories from my friends about their parents who went through things like I heard today.

I know people in Holland who ate tulip bulbs to stay alive in World War II. Or a friend whose grandmother was being marched out of Warsaw, Poland by the Nazi’s when she asked permission of them to lay down in a haystack on the side of the road to give birth to my friend’s mother. It was granted. Or a friend in South Africa whose dad was on a prisoner train on the way to a German prison in World War II when he jumped off in the night into the snow and survived on turnips till he could get to safety. I could tell you more and it all affects me deeply.

“It can’t happen here!” they say. But of course it can. If you read history or get to know some of the people I’ve known, you realize how easily the world so many take as the only real world can actually crumble and be blown to dust, never to return again, in a matter of hours or days. So often we don’t realize how fragile and fleeting the things of this world are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against wealth or prosperity. Moses of old said, “You shall remember the Lord your God, for He it is that gives you power to get wealth.” (Deut. 8:18) But then King David said of prosperity, “And in my prosperity I said, ‘I shall never be moved’. Lord, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong. You did withdraw your hand and I was troubled.” (Psalm 30:5 & 6)

rich man flatJesus told the story of the man who had much wealth laid up for many years and he was confident in his stability and prosperity. But then God spoke to him and said, “You fool, tonight your soul shall be required of you. Then whose shall those things be that you’ve lain up.” Jesus went on to say, “So is everyone who lays up treasure for themselves and is not rich towards God.” (Luke 12:20 & 21)

If you’ve ever had it all taken away from you, and I have a few times, you may begin to realize how fleeting and tenuous all our present prosperity and progress can turn out to be. Maybe it will continue for decades and generations to come. But more often than not, good times can vanish into the worst of barbarianism, no matter what country you’re in or society you are from. So many rant about the evils of government. But how many are truly trumpeting Jesus’ warning about “the deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22) which has extinguished the light of so many.

Solomon said, and he should know, “There is that makes himself rich, yet has nothing. And there is that makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” (Proverbs 13:7) It’s been a happy but sobering evening for me with these friends here and in this presently prospering place. But it’s been good to remember how it has been for even those here who are still with us and, except for the undeserved mercy of God, how it could be again. Anywhere.

Daniel 11: verses 1 to 35 live class audio

Daniel at desk for D9 blog postWe continued, last Sunday, the Bible study I’ve been doing with friends at an adult Sunday school class on the book of the prophet Daniel. This time we went over perhaps the most difficult but also significant passage in Daniel, chapter 11. I took some time in prayer the night before to really look to the Lord about the class and to try to find the best approach in sharing it. The live class audio on Daniel 11: verses 1 to 35 can be heard here.

D11 picture of angel touching DanielThe three last chapters in Daniel seem to be one continuing event, unlike the other chapters before them. So Daniel 11 picks up the narrative from Daniel 10 of what happened next after Daniel’s incredible experience with an angel or possibly angels who had a real job on their hands in strengthening Daniel sufficiently enough to be able to receive this final mighty revelation in the book.

In prayer the night before the class, the Lord laid it on my heart to start out by stepping back a bit at the beginning in order to try to share with the ones in class what are actually the most important pillars that make up the framework of yet-to-be-fulfilled Bible prophecy. I won’t go into the details here but we started out with the greatest Teacher of them all, the Lord Himself. When asked about His second coming, Jesus gave three very distinct points of importance. Those can be found in Matthew 24:15, 21 and 29-31. I went over these before in the video on Daniel 9:27, how that they could be boiled down to “When…”, “Then…” and “Immediately after…”.

And we saw from Matthew 24 that Jesus clearly and emphatically pointed us back to something in the book of Daniel , telling us “whosoever reads, let him understand”. (Matthew 24:15) And what Jesus was pointing us to is found most clearly in Daniel 11:31, from the chapter we went over on Sunday. Well, if I get into too much detail here, it will become quite a long blog post. But I’ll add the four other pillars of prophecy that I shared with the class on Sunday: Daniel 8:11, Daniel 9:27, II Thessalonians 2:3 & 4 and Revelation 13:5-7.

I’m very aware that for some people this can just be too much. Bible prophecy is not everyone’s cup of tea. I think the Lord has to bring it to someone’s attention and show them the importance of it. Otherwise it can seem tedious and just too difficult to understand. So I’ve really tried in these classes to break it down to bite-sized pieces as much as possible and to continue to aim at those who are new to the subject, rather than the ones who’ve been studying it for years.

Also in working on this Daniel 11 class, I realized again that the best way to present this is in the format I’ve used for the videos on the prophecies of Daniel series. The live class format, like on Sunday, has the advantage of spontaneity and the interaction that goes on between the teacher and the class. But for this chapter, the material is so meaty and yet so significant that I’ve been realizing that Daniel 11 really needs to have a class that is scripted beforehand so that the very best way can be found to present the chapter to the general public.

When I read again the buildup to Daniel chapter 11 that was to been found in Daniel 10, the effort in prayer by Daniel and the effort in the spirit by the angels, as well as the opposition of Satan to this message even getting through, it was even clearer that this is an incredibly important part of the prophetic picture that God has given to us in His Word. And to top it off, Jesus Himself points us to this chapter.

For now, this live class audio hopefully will be a blessing to those who are ready for this rather advanced Bible prophecy class. And this has also been a tug on my heart to try to get the last 3 chapters in Daniel into video classes at some point in, hopefully, the not too distant future. The live class on Daniel 11, verses 1 to 35 can be heard here.

Citizenship in heaven

Citizenship in heaven-flattenedPaul told some folks, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). That may be a strange concept to some. And it may hit a raw nerve for others. Our citizenship, our nationality is for many people everywhere perhaps their most cherished identity. But then at the same time they will say they are Christians. Or Jewish. Or Muslim. And most, let’s say many, don’t see any clash at all between their professed faith in God and their nationality.

Patriotism is a very strong force in the USA, probably more than in many countries. I’ve met a number of new friends here over the last 6 months who are both extremely patriotic while at the same time being exceptionally serious about their Christian faith. They are very aware of current events here. Many feel the USA has already moved far towards a totalitarian state. They believe the original freedoms and rights that the country was founded upon are being eroded or are just plain gone. There’s talk of taking a stand, of fighting for liberty.

But this is where the discussion turns intense and focused. What exactly should one fight for? What are we? Is it a matter of just standing up for a cause? Which one? And for many of us, it comes back to our identity. What are we?

my kingdom is not flatPilate asked Jesus if He was a king. And Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36) And this is where our conversations turn to when my friends and I discuss these things. Where are our loyalties and our basic allegiances supposed to belong to?

You don’t have to be a Christian in America to be extremely patriotic. Certainly there are millions of exceptionally patriotic Americans who are not Christians or for whom their faith is a distant second place to their allegiance to their country. But what about for a Christian, one whose life is centered around their faith in God and in Jesus?

I’ve written a few articles on this web site previously on this subject. I wrote “Proud to be an American” about my experiences while outside the USA for 36 years as a missionary and some times when I felt proud of my nationality. consumer citizen or disciple-flattenedAnother article was “Consumer, Citizen or Disciple” which traced the history of our identity and how people in America and elsewhere see themselves now.

Roman persecutionBut this dilemma, this conflict of interests has in history brought some believers in God to stark, immediate choices. If you read the history of Christianity, many early Roman Christians were brought to the place where they had to show allegiance to the Roman Empire or face death. Immediately. Countless numbers chose to take their stand with Jesus Christ and the God of Abraham, rather than to an earthly king and country. Of course we always can think, “That can’t happen here, not in my country! We’re too advanced for that, too intelligent, too sophisticated, too modern.”

For me personally, over 40 years ago I had to decide what would come first in my life and how I would see myself. I had to know that my allegiance to Jesus Christ and my citizenship in heaven had to be the most precious thing for me and what I felt was worth living and dying for. Since that time I have lived in over 40 countries as an ambassador of the kingdom of God and I have no regrets about that.

But for many here, this is a time of deep heart searching. Some even question if they should take up arms to defend what they see as their inalienable rights. But I don’t think I’m supposed to do that. That’s not the battle I’m supposed to fight. And I question if any sincere, consecrated Christian is supposed to take up earthly weapons to fight an earthly war for worldly goals. I don’t believe that’s the battle I’m called to and I feel many American Christians are going to be sadly shocked if they go that direction, to take up arms against their country.

Prophecy fulfilled flatOur calling is to stand up for the truth of Scriptures and perhaps especially to use the weapon of the truth within Bible prophecy to share with all we know the condition the world is in today and the soon possibly beginnings of the final events of the endtime. I feel it is there that the Lord will meet us, is even waiting there for us, to be His salvation army of true witnesses to what has been foretold in prophecy for over 2000 years, of the final events of the endtime before His coming. Yes, we are supposed to fight but it should be “the good fight of faith.” (I Timothy 6:12)

That’s a battle worth fighting that we’re destined to win. Those with true faith in God will find their strength and calling and victory, not fighting earthly political battles to save their nation but fighting the good fight of faith for the truth and for lost souls everywhere. It is written, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11)

Daniel chapter 10 live class audio

Mighty Angel pictureLast Sunday I shared a class on Daniel chapter 10 with an adult Sunday school group I attend in Austin, Texas. I made an audio recording of the class and an edited 35 minute version of it can be heard here. In the class we have been going through the prophets in the Old Testament and they wanted me to do the prophetic chapters in Daniel. We completed those chapters through Daniel 9 and the Sunday before we watched the video I did in 2014 on Daniel 9:27. As some of you know, Daniel 9:27 is one of the most important verses in the whole book of Daniel and, perhaps it could be said, in the whole Old Testament.

I’ve often shared in my video classes what Jesus said in Matthew 24 when He was asked about His return.Matthew 24 21-a for blog post One of the most pivotal verses in the chapter is Matthew 24:15 where Jesus said, “When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, whoso reads, let him understand.

And He went on to say in verse 21 that “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world”. But what exactly is Jesus referring to there in Matthew 24 that we should read in the book of Daniel? It seems this is not too often spoken about or pursued, even though the Lord put so much emphasis on it.

The video on Daniel 9:27 explains about this a good deal. But specifically, the clearest verse on this is found in Daniel 11. And as we found in our class on Daniel 10 last Sunday, the last 3 chapters in Daniel, 10, 11 & 12, seem to be all one event, unlike the first 9 chapters. The narrative flows from one chapter to the next in these last three. It seems that since it was all so much longer than the other narratives, the people back in the 1600’s or 1500’s who divided the Bible up into chapters and verses made this section into 3 chapters.

Actually, this is not specifically a prophetic chapter. But Daniel chapter 10 sets the stage for the archangel Michael’s message to Daniel in chapters 11 and 12. And it contains one of the most amazing glimpses in the Bible into the spiritual world and the battles going on there between the angels of God and the demons of hell.

Daniel tells us that he had been fasting for 21 days. In the class we took note of the fact that almost certainly Daniel was well into his 80’s by this time. Michael the archangelThen appeared to him an angel in all his glory to speak to him and bring a message to him about the future. It doesn’t say definitively who this angel is but my thought has always been that this was Gabriel, as he was the angel coming to Daniel in earlier chapters.

But then the angel explains that he had been hindered in answering Daniel’s prayer because “the prince of Persia withstood me 21 days. But then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” (Daniel 10:13) What an incredible flash of revelation into the behind-the-scenes workings of the spiritual world. A demon prince had fought against this angel getting his message through to Daniel until Michael, the archangel, came and intervened to turn the tide to the favor of the Lord’s will and His servant, Daniel.

It’s just an incredible chapter and vividly visual. Hopefully someday I can make a video of this one and continue the prophecies of Daniel video series. Meanwhile, here’s the link to the 35 minute audio of the class we had on Daniel 10 last Sunday. I hope it’s a blessing to you.

Your friend, Mark

“Neither have I desired the woeful day”

the woeful day flatThe prophet Jeremiah knew he would see the day when it was all going to happen. He wasn’t prophesying something for the centuries to come; he knew this was it. God was about to bring His powerful judgments on backslidden Israel. And Jeremiah suffered terribly for the message of judgment and doom he gave to the people of Israel. If anyone could have looked with glee at the day of God’s impending judgment and by-in-large destruction upon Israel, it was Jeremiah.

But did he? Jeremiah spoke in prayer to God, “Neither have I desired the woeful day.” (Jeremiah 17:16) Jeremiah had the maturity and Godliness to not wish for and look forward to the horrific judgement that was about to fall upon his people by their God. And, frankly, it should be the same for those of us today. But I wonder if it is?

I’ve believed since I was in my 20’s that some kind of judgment would be coming from God, not only on my country but on the countries of the North and West which were founded in a strong Christianity but have progressively fallen away from that, for decades and even centuries. At times over the years I’ve looked forward to the judgments of God being poured out on some societies and nations whose cup of iniquity must be truly full by now.

But also, in living in many lands, as well as reading history, I’ve come to see that it’s a very sobering thing to actually be where the judgments of God, the horrors of war or natural disasters are being experienced at the moment. In the 1300’s, a time when there was a falling away from the Godliness of earlier centuries, the Black Plague struck Europe and 1/3 to 1/2 of the population died.

That might be hard to comprehend but 11 years ago I worked as an aid worker and trauma councilor in a city that had just experienced that. An Indonesian city of 450,000 had lost one third of its population in one hour of gigantic tsunami waves.

body bagsWhat was it like? Every day we’d see many teams of young men who’d been given plastic bags, boots and gloves. Their assignment was to go into the large buildings downtown that were on their list to bring out the dead. All day they stacked bags, with bodies inside, out on the street in front of the buildings all over the city.

dumping bodiesAt 5 PM large trucks came by and they threw the bags up into the trucks which took them out to a huge mass grave near the airport. That particular mass grave ended up holding 55,000 bags. There were many teams like this; they started again the next day and this went on for 3 weeks. That’s the kind of reality that can come with the horrors of war, the judgments of God or even natural disasters. I spent 5 weeks there during that time, working daily in refugee camps and I never could have made it without the mighty grace of God sustaining me for what was needed to be done.

So I now say, like Jeremiah, “Neither have I desired the woeful day.” But sadly, it does seem like some believers in God here look forward to some kind of showdown with the government of the United States. Or they look forward to the fall of America. They talk about taking a militant stand against the government like it was the will of God to participate in armed conflict and that this would be the high calling of God for them and other Christians. Some really look forward to this, they “desire the woeful day.”

citizenship-in-heavenThis deeply saddens me. And I’m not just going on hearsay; I’ve been in Christian gatherings where the details and specifics of this have been discussed. I did express my sentiments that what was being talked about does not reflect Biblical Christianity and that I strongly believe that approach to be anathema to the high calling of God.

gun & Bible pictureSome think that in taking up weapons against the United States government they are defending themselves against the very forces of the Antichrist spoken of in Revelation and Daniel. This is the pitiful result of a politicized twisting of Scriptures to fit a secular political agenda and it’s amazing that so many Christians have bought in to this. I too believe in a final Antichrist and a final endtime government that he will head. But I don’t believe the present government of the United States is the final fulfillment of what Daniel and Revelation speak of.

Our job, the job of fervent and dedicated Christians of these times is to stand up as some of God’s greatest witnesses, to explain to people everywhere what is happening and what is to come.behold these Christians flat It’s not our job to overthrow our government, any more that it was the job of Peter, James and John to try to overthrow either the Roman empire of their day or the hellish Pharisaical religious system that held the Jews in its power. It was love, truth, light, miracles and the acts and witness of heaven that overthrew both the religious system of the Jews and ultimately even the secular system of the Romans. “Not by might or by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” (Zachariah 4:6)

If you’re being influenced to turn your attention and your hatred against our modern government and it’s failing political ploys, I sympathize with you. It’s pitiful how things are now. But our job is not to take up arms against the government or even to spend precious time fretting, fuming and hyperventilating about it all.

Our job is to give this tired old world the answer we know we have:stands at the door flat the Son of God and the judgments of God which will be poured out on this world, leading up to the worst time the world has ever known, just before the return of the Lord. If you have fallen prey to the haters, the “Christian militants” and to those who gleefully look forward to destructions to come, I suggest you powerfully pray and ask the Lord to cleanse your heart and to use you to His highest and best purpose. “Herein is my father glorified that ye bear much fruit, so shall you be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

I know God’s judgments will come on this world and nation, perhaps soon. But I don’t look forward to it. All the present conditions that so many hate in society today may someday be looked back on with longing for the relative stability of these times. The future soon to come may be unsolvable continuing chaos, leading to a hardcore martial law which will be embraced by multitudes in those times. Jeremiah prophesied of the deserved judgments of God that were imminent. But he didn’t desire the woeful day.

Consumers, Citizens or Disciples

People in America nowadays are often referred to as “consumers”. That sort of bothers me. When I read in history books about how folks in times past thought, it doesn’t seem like they viewed humanity as consumers. Certainly I didn’t get that feeling from my grandparents and their families.

If you go a little back in history, people more often thought of themselves as “citizens”. This was a popular term in the times of the French Revolution and the first generations of the United States. People more and more realized their individuality and the need to participate in their society as citizens. Still in our times people talk about being citizens.

Certainly my parents’ generation was strong on the idea of our democracy and the equality and rights of the citizens of this country. It seems like it’s only been in the last 30 years maybe that the concept of seeing ourselves as “consumers” has come to compete with our sense of being a citizen.

But there was a time when neither of these concepts was supreme. In times past the vision of being a disciple was what was esteemed to be the highest identity we should espouse to. Let’s face it, even the word “disciple” itself is pretty out of vogue nowadays. Sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? “Disciple.” Really old fashion and rather suspect.

hogsBut how about that? What should be our priorities? How do you feel about being considered a “consumer”?  lt makes me things of hogs jostling around a trough. Sickening thought? Yes. But isn’t that how a lot of modern living in the consumer society is becoming?

carnaval barker flat“Your responsibility is to consume things in order to help boost the economy. You’ll find satisfaction and fulfillment in your next acquisition, your next huge meal at the restaurant, purchase of a new gadget or whatever material fulfillment has captured your heart!”

That’s the bottom line that is pandered incessantly in our times. And unless you make a conscious effort to turn away from that vision, it will claim your heart and that’s what you’ll be: a consumer. You might say, “What else is there?” Well, for centuries one thing came first for a large part of this world: discipleship. The concept of being followers, disciples of God, and specifically of Jesus Christ.

George WashingtonNow your reaction may be, “Oh but they were all hypocrites! There were all those wars!” You can sure get that impression if you read many books on the subject, written in our times. But if you read others, especially older ones or histories written in those times, you may be struck by the devotion and single-mindedness that comes across as being so prevalent then.

praying peopleHypocrites? There always have been those. Wars? When and where have there not been wars? But again and again from reading history (or even the contact I remember with my aged relatives from when I was little) it’s how their faith in God, their desire to seek the ways of God and to keep their heart right with Him, in a good spirit, this was the paramount ideal to so many then.

And it often impresses me when I compare it to how we are taught to be today. If we all do our best to be good consumers, is that going to make a better world for everyone? Or if our goal is only to be a good citizen, how’s that going to help when we meet people of another culture, country or faith?

There was a time in my life when I really was a consumer. Also I thought the end goal was to be a good citizen and make a better society. But both of those things, through no effort on my part, came to where they were “weighed in the balances and found wanting” my eyes. (Daniel 5:27) But discipleship, to be a follower of God and Jesus of Nazareth has been my quest and the beacon before me for over 40 years now. And I’m so glad for that.

Consumerism, nationalism and citizenship are all systems of thought that inherently are weak and fail because they fail to acknowledge the essential truth of our existence. We’re not merely physical or social beings, we are spirits and souls who are made to love and live in the light of the God of Abraham and His Son. Anything short of that is doomed to failure.

run to GodBut truly loving and following God is destined to find a happy ending. If you’re unfulfilled by materialism or disappointed with politics, I suggest you establish a relationship with the one true God. There’s real fulfillment in that.

“No man knows the day and hour”

no man knows flatIf you are a student of the future events predicted in the Bible, you’ve almost certainly heard the verse quoted, “No man knows the day and the hour” (Matthew 24:36). My experience is that this is often brought up by folks who want to negate the revealed plan of the future that Bible prophecy presents. And I suppose a light reading of that verse could persuade some people to look at things that way. In other words, “No man knows the day and hour” so therefore “Forget about the whole thing! Don’t even try to understand it.” Or so they say.

why try flatBut I don’t think that’s the meaning or the intent the Lord had. For one, I certainly agree with the verse that, at that time and probably for now, no man knows the day and the hour of the Lord’s return. For one, back then, they didn’t need to know that because that wasn’t the main thing that was happening right then. Jesus Himself was the one Who said that no man knew the day and hour of His Return. He said this near the end of His ministry on earth, before His crucifixion. His return was still far off in the future. Also, if we just take literally what Jesus said, He said that no man knows the day and the hour of his coming. But that doesn’t mean that at some point in the future we will know perhaps the year, the month or even the week of His coming.

Revelation 11 3D-d for D9 blog postWhy do I say that? If you’re a student of prophecy, one of the most often-prophesied events in the Bible is the coming 3½ years of “Great Tribulation” that Jesus Himself spoke of. (Matthew 24:21). This three and a half year period is also mentioned in Daniel chapters 7 and 9 and extensively throughout Revelation. Over and over again we’re told about this period of “42 months”, “1260 days” and “time, times and half a time”.

Matthew 24 21-a for blog postThe Lord doesn’t waste His Words. This wasn’t put there for effect. While I believe that we won’t know the specific hour of the Lord’s coming, it is one of the clearest subjects of Bible prophecy that this period of 3½ years will come. Even the specific sign of the beginning of this 42 months is pointed out by Jesus Himself. In Matthew 24:15 and 21, He said, “When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the Holy Place….then will be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time…”. I’ve made a video specifically on this subject of the Great Tribulation that Jesus spoke of and which is revealed in Daniel. The video can be seen here.

At the time of Jesus, no man knew the day and the hour. But the people of the future will be able to have a pretty good idea of how much time there is left, those ones who will pass through the last years and months before the Lord’s return.

Why? Why would the Lord want anyone to know when He was coming back? I believe there are several reasons. For one, it’s going to be a time of tremendous hardship for believers and worshipers of the God of Abraham. But for those who know these verses in the Bible, it will be an anchor of their faith that it’s only for an appointed time, that it will have an end and that end will be the Lord’s coming.

few more months flatAlso it will be something that can be used as a witness to the waverers and the undecided. When the believers in God can tell the undecided what is going on, that it’s the time of the Antichrist and that all those things have been predicted for centuries, it will be a witness and testimony to millions. That’s why it says in Daniel 11:33 “And they that understand among the people shall instruct many”. This comes only two verses after the verse that Jesus Himself pointed to in Daniel when He was teaching about the time before His coming, Daniel 11:31.

The Pact flatYes, “No man knows the day and the hour”. No one knew it at the time Jesus said that and no one knows it right now. But I believe that there will be those of us in the last 3½ years before His return or even in the last 7 years before His return, who will have a pretty good idea of the year, the month and perhaps even the week of the Lord’s return. And it will be a tremendous help and blessing to know that as the believers at that time will face troubles unparalleled in history.

So if someone tells you “No man knows the day and the hour”, don’t let that rattle your faith. Know what the Word says and what is repeated again and again in Daniel and Revelation about the specifics of the Last Days. Then you’ll be strong, prepared and you can “instruct many”. (Daniel 11:33)

“Famous Failures of Prophetic Interpretation”

Manor house & people new try YouTube front page-flattenedI guess everyone has heard about times in history when someone has pointed out something they thought was just about to happen, because they felt Biblical prophecy was just about to be fulfilled. That happened one time as a direct result of misunderstanding something that’s in Daniel chapter 8.  (This article is the text of a video on this subject. The video can be seen here.)

The 1840’s was a time of tremendous change. The Industrial Revolution was changing the order of society as it had been for many hundreds of years. Science was making tremendous strides in understanding God’s creation. And politics and nationalism were bringing huge change around the world.

One new religious movement at that time saw the changes going on as a sign of the soon coming of God’s Kingdom on earth. This group often talked about the return of Jesus. And you could say, “Well, Mark, that sounds a good deal like what you’re doing.” And you might be right. So, I’m sharing this with you as a warning in some ways, both to you and to me. Because, as much as I believe in prophecy, I also know it’s possible to misinterpret things in the Bible.   So this group, back in the 1840’s, looked at some of these verses we’ve been reading, specifically Daniel 8:13 and 14, which say

Then I heard one saint speaking; and another saint said to that certain one who spoke, “How long will be the vision, concerning the daily sacrifice and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” And he said to me, “Unto two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.”

These verses are rather mysterious and I’m not in any way wanting to make fun of what happened. But these folks back then misinterpreted those verses and ended up being embarrassed and needing to make some difficult explanations. Here’s what happened.

A very key event occurred in the history of the Jews, during the time of their captive in Babylon and the beginning of their return to Israel. Some historians have set the date of that event at 544 BC. Setting the exact date on this and explaining the details and specifics are complicated and I won’t go into it here since it’s part of the class on Daniel chapter 9.

1844-merged-for blog postBut this Christian religious movement in the 1800’s came to the incorrect conclusion that “2300 days” in Daniel 8:14 actually means 2300 years. So they did their math. Using an approximate date of 544 BC, adding an additional 2300 years would mean that these verses in Daniel 8 tell us that the Kingdom of God would be set up in …1844!

The 1840’s were not a particularly traumatic time for people living in the United States. But for Europeans, the 1840’s were a time of revolution and major social dishevel in many countries. Well, this religious group I mentioned, spread out in many lands, came down to a fateful night in October of 1844 when they went up on their housetops to welcome the return of Jesus.Manor house & people-flattened

But, Jesus didn’t come back that night and that whole denomination was mocked and ridiculed.  It didn’t end there. Years later a new denomination was started. They looked over the mistakes the other group made and came up with a new idea. They saw places in the Bible that used the number “70”. And they added 70 more years onto 1844. That would mean that the coming of the Lord would actually be in…1914!

1914-merged- for blog postWell, 1914 was a very significant, turbulent year to say the least. It was the beginning of World War I, a war unlike any other before it. Also, in the fields of science, culture, business and technology, things were changing incredible fast. But, the Lord didn’t return in 1914. So they ended up saying that actually Jesus did return that year to the earth. But that He’s now presently “in the clouds”, looking over the judgment books. And honesty, if you keep up with these kinds of things, this type of prophetic interpretation is happening in our times just as much if not more than it was 100 years ago.

Sadam Hussein2-for blog postRemember Saddam Hussein? At the time of the Iraq war, there were all kinds of web sites and commentators saying that Saddam Hussein was the Biblical Antichrist. And the modern nation of Iraq was the fulfillment of Babylon the Great from Revelation 18. Websites and airwaves were full of those kinds of twisted, opportunistic interpretations of Bible prophecy, often for political motives and secular agendas.

We believers are supposed to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But that doesn’t mean we’re to be naive, gullible and easily manipulated.

I believe it’s important to be very realistic and cautious about interpreting God’s Word. There’s just a real danger in getting overly specific about soon-coming events through a misapplication and misinterpretation of ancient Bible prophecy, especially if politics or nationalism is using Bible prophecy for their own secular ends. Not only can you just being totally wrong, you can do enormous damage to the faith of millions of people, the “multitudes in the valley of decision”, as the Prophet Joel talked about.

There are so many people today “in the valley of decision” who sense the truth and want to learn more. But when they’re stumbled by false teaching and prophetic interpretations that prove false, they turn away from God and search elsewhere for the truth they’re seeking.  That’s heartbreaking and must grieve the heart of the God of Abraham for any of us to do that. On the other hand, simply because mistakes like this have been made, it doesn’t take anything away from the certainty of prophecy. But it’s a serious, sober warning to us all to not teach speculation and hypothesis as something that we should take as absolute gospel truth.