Early Mourning People


My dad and my son–grandparents are important in a child’s life.

My dear friend, Suki, is a very bold evangelist who is not intimidated about talking to people that truly scare other evangelists.  I had gone to see her earlier this year when she spoke to a group in Turin.  At that time I had hardly gotten to speak with her for five minutes.  So when she told me that she was feeling low and needing encouragement, I knew that I had to go see her.

I was traveling to Rome on Sunday, and since she lives about halfway to Rome from Milan, I suggested coming to visit her on Saturday before continuing on to Rome Sunday, as planned.  She was thrilled at the idea—we both were.

On Friday, Suki contacted me, saying to pray for Lincoln, her husband, because his mom just died.  Of course I prayed for him and for the whole family.  I could just take my original train to Rome on Sunday, but I knew that the timing, the day before my planned visit, was no accident.  If she didn’t want me to come, Suki would tell me.

The rest of the day, I marveled, thinking about how God had done this before, having me visit a family in mourning very soon after their loss.  A few years ago Nina and I had made plans to return to visit friends in Bulgaria.  Five days before our visit we got the news that their youngest child had drown in the swimming pool.  My heart broke for them, and I asked if they still wanted us to come.  They said yes.  And instead of us comforting them, they comforted us.  Plus I think it helped in some way to have sympathetic ears to tell about the tragedy—and how God had both prepared them for it, and His grace carried them through it.

So I am not a stranger to visiting people early in the mourning process.  Here’s the thing: you don’t have to have the right words to say because no words can take away their pain or speed them through the grief process.  Job’s friends modeled the right way early in his mourning (Job 2:13).  Sitting with your friend in silence is the most loving way to help them through the process.  Unfortunately, when they heard him curse the day of his birth, they spent most of the rest of the book blaming him for his misfortune, thus modeling the wrong way to help a mourning friend.  Sometimes your friend has no words.  You don’t have to fill the silence.  Sometimes silence is the most healing thing they have.

In both cases, my friends while deeply saddened by their losses, were also filled with the joyful assurance of their loved one’s reception into Jesus’ presence.  They wanted to talk, and I did the other important thing: I listened.  Sometimes talking about it helps the person to process their loss.  They don’t need you to solve their problem—you can’t!  So just listen attentively and sympathetically.  Don’t offer them advice—they don’t need it.  If they want your advice, they will ask for it.

If the deceased was dear to you, too, in other words, if you’re mourning the loss, too.  Always give precedence to your friend who was closer to the person than you were.  In other words, if the deceased was your friend, but your friend’s spouse, parent, or child, then you need to be there for them, and not the other way around.  They might appear to be handling the loss better than you are, but remember that sometimes a smile is hiding a broken heart.  Be there for them.

When I arrived in their little town, I saw Suki at the other side of the station.  We waved to each other.  She came to help me with my luggage.  She told me about a large group of South Africans that she had met just minutes before.  I said, “What on earth are South Africans doing in your town?”  She said, “That’s exactly it!  I was feeling so sad, and then I heard one of them say [something that sounded to me like] ‘buy a donkey[1],’ so I asked her if she was from South Africa.  They all were!”  Their being there precisely when Suki was at the train station was definitely an unexpected gift and a divine appointment for the purpose of comforting her.  And it did.  I didn’t get to meet the South Africans because they had gone to their track to catch their train while Suki was helping me with my luggage.

Suki told me that Lincoln was taking it very hard.  He’s the oldest son, and he can’t leave Italy right now because they’re in the process of getting their permits to live in Italy.  If he left, he would run the very real risk of not being allowed back into the country.  Thankfully his youngest brother is still living with their father, so he’s not alone.  The other siblings and family members are returning to South Africa for the funeral, but Lincoln cannot.

Throughout the day Suki baked, doing the thing that comforts her most.  Both of them took turns fielding calls from various family members.  Angelina, their eldest daughter, showed me some family pictures.  I have always loved looking at family pictures, so I enjoyed looking at pictures of her grandmother, and of herself and younger sister, Kerrie, when they were little.  At one point Angelina told me: I don’t have any grandmothers now.  She said it like the thought had only just crossed her mind, which it might have.  It’s one of the saddest milestones in growing up.  My response was a simple: “Hmm,” with a sad smile and eye contact.  Meanwhile Kerrie busied herself with schoolwork, preferring to lose herself in math problems.  I didn’t intrude.

At one point, Lincoln’s sister called and asked him to send her a something to say on his behalf at the funeral.  He agreed, but then the “what to say” weighed on him the rest of the day.  And then he got the craziest news of all: they can’t bury her for two weeks.  South Africa is suffering so much violence these days that the cemeteries are having trouble keeping up with the number of dead that need to be buried.  He told me: they’re going to have to keep her in the fridge for two weeks.  I said, “That’s horrible!”  I know it’s only the shell that her soul had lived in, but I can’t imagine the suspension of closure as her body rests in a refrigerated drawer at the mortuary (of course, I didn’t say that to Lincoln).

Our day together also had many lighter moments, sharing stories, catching up with each other’s lives.  Because it was September 23, Lincoln asked me about the Rapture.  We discussed some ideas and pretty much came to the same conclusion: it looks like it’s not going to be this year.  And you know, I’m okay with that.  Lincoln said that he feels like he’s done.  I didn’t know how to react, so I just listened.  I understand.  I’m ready to go home to Heaven.  But more time on earth means that there is more work to be done.  I want to see it through to the end.

This morning I had to leave early to catch my train to Rome.  Lincoln carried my suitcase down the stairs and put it into the waiting cab for me.  Both of he and Suki hugged me and thanked me for coming.  I’m glad I did.  It was good for me to be there for them.  I know that God set it up every bit as much as He had set up the meeting of Suki with the South Africans.  I was His arms to hug them and ears to listen to them and heart to understand them.  God is good!

[1] I have no idea what she actually said.  This was the closest I could approximate the Afrikaans.

Dipping our Apple in Honey

Image result for free rosh hashanah clipart

On Friday I have several friends coming over to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, so I needed to prepare.  My friend, Mai[1], is one of them.  She had lived in a Jewish neighborhood here in Milan, so we decided to go on an excursion across town to buy some challah bread for the celebration.

But since neither of us is from a Jewish background, we weren’t aware that the shops close down several hours before the holiday.  I had thought that the holiday started tonight, but it actually started last night[2].

So we were disappointed to find shop after shop closed.  When we found the coffee shop also closed, I stopped to read the sign on the door, which explained about the holiday.  A woman at the bus stop in front of us began talking to us, but with the glass between us and her, we couldn’t understand what she was saying.  So we went to the bus stop and she said it again, but she was speaking Hebrew.

Seeing the puzzled looks on our faces, she said, “English?”  And she told us that the coffee shop was closed for Rosh Hashanah.  She asked about our backgrounds.  I introduced myself, and when I said Texas, she responded “Houston?”  It was the only city in Texas that she knew because she has a relative there.  When Mai told her that she’s from Brazil, she stood and did her best attempt at a Samba and spoke a few words in Portuguese.  Then she introduced herself: Rivkah.

Then she wondered why we wouldn’t know that the shops all close early, and figured out that we weren’t Jewish.  So she asked why we were there.  We told her that we had come to buy challah bread for the celebration.  She said, “But why?  I saw Jesus . . . somewhere. . . .”  I pointed to the Jesus label on my purse.  That was what she had seen.  “So why do you celebrate Rosh Hashanah?”

We explained that we are Christians who celebrate the Hebrew roots of our faith.  She understood immediately that this is because Christianity came out of Judaism.  She stood and invited us up to her apartment.  She had been out sunning herself at the bus stop before she had to leap into action before the holiday starts.

Her husband and son were sleeping.  We entered quietly and she went to the freezer and got out two small loaves of challah and gave them to us.  As we thanked her, she waved it off, saying that she was doing a mitzvah, a good deed that will go on her record before God[3].

She explained that she had grown up in a non-religious Jewish family in Israel.  But some years back, she decided to become religious.  She had found her husband on a dating website and now they are married and both orthodox Jews.

Then she asked us a favor: pray for her and her family.  Of course we said yes.  She wrote their full names out for us: son, self, and husband, and specified the prayers we were to pray for them, which I dutifully wrote down because writing English is a chore for her.

We left quickly, knowing that she had a lot of work to do before the holiday starts.  We were both astonished at how God had set this whole thing up just so that we could meet Rivkah.  And since she had converted to orthodoxy, this says to me that she’s a seeker.  God promised that those who seek Him will find Him[4].

And when I got home, I prayed for them according to Rivkah’s request, and concluded with the Aaronic blessing:

Y’varekhekha Adonai v’yishmerekha (Hashem bless thee, and keep thee);

Ya’er Adonai panav eleikha vichunekha (Hashem make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee);

Yissa Adonai panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom (Hashem lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee shalom), (Bamidbar (Numbers) 6:24-26, OJB[5]).

Shana tova, everyone!  Happy New Year!  God is good!

[1] Her name is a nice one in her native Brazil, but doesn’t work so well in Italy, where it means never.

[2] Note to self: Google calendar only shows the first full day of the holiday, not the evening it actually starts!

[3] This time of year, the Jews do good deeds before the Day of Atonement, when God writes their name in the Book of Life.

[4] Jeremiah 29:13.  See also Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 28:9; & 2 Chronicles 15:2.

[5] Orthodox Jewish Bible.

Cosmic and Atmospheric Confirmations

My Last Sermon Mocking REV 12 SIGN Hurricanes MARIA & Jose CONFIRM Sep 23, 2017 - YouTube - Google Chrome 20-Sep-17 073310

And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars.  And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides, (Luke 21:25, emphasis mine).

We are coming up on the date of the cosmic birth sign in Revelation 12: September 23, 2017.  And many of us believe this birth to be the Rapture—our birth into Heaven.  Then I came across something interesting.  Take a look at that verse from Luke, above.  Jesus is talking about the End Times.  He talks of strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars, which we have had in the past few years with the Blood Moon Tetrad of 2014-15 and the American eclipse.

Then the next thing Jesus speaks about is roaring seas and strange tides here on earth.  Hurricane Harvey hit Texas hard just four days after the eclipse, followed immediately by Hurricane Irma, and now Jose and Maria.

Jose and Maria are predicted to do a strange and extremely rare thing on September 23, 2017.  They are supposed to do a rare dance called the Fujiwara Effect in which the two storms pinwheel around each other[1], and one may ultimately absorb the other.  In July this year Hurricanes Hilary and Irwin danced the Fujiwara in the Pacific Ocean.  The Fujiwara Effect hasn’t been seen in either the North Atlantic or the North Pacific since 2001—interesting date!

Now take a look at the names of these hurricanes: Jose and Maria.  In English they would be called Joseph and Mary.  And they are predicted to interact on the day of the cosmic birth sign: September 23, 2017.

Here’s another interesting thing to notice: the numbering of the verse above, Luke 21:25 exactly coincides with the dates of the eclipse and Hurricane Harvey.  The eclipse was on August 21 and Harvey on August 25.

Also, consider this: from the date of the first Blood Moon, April 15, 2014 to September 23, 2017 is exactly 1260 days.  The exact same number of days as in Revelation 11:3[1].

[1] Which is also the exact same amount of time given in Daniel 7:25 & 12:7.

Sceptics explain away all these things, saying that Blood Moon Tetrads have happened before, also the Revelation 12 alignment.  And that solar eclipses happen, and hurricanes happen, and sometimes they do the Fujiwara.  I’m not saying that these things have never happened.  But:

  • Having exactly the same prophetic timeframe from the first Blood Moon to the Revelation 12 sign,
  • All of these being rare occurrences,
  • All happening one right after the other,
  • And the eclipse and hurricanes happening in the exact sequence that Jesus foretold in Luke 21:25,
  • Being that Jesus used the word strange to describe both the signs in the sky and the signs on earth (strange meaning rare), and
  • Happening on key dates that are reflected by the numbering of that verse. . . .

This is monumental, and it merits attention.

Now, does this mean that the Rapture is upon us?  It could mean exactly that.  Jesus instructed us the watch[2].  This is what I’m doing.  I’m also trying to help you be prepared, too.  If it’s not this year, it could be next year, but in any case the time is getting very close.

One thing I want to clarify: when I write about End Times, I’m not saying that this is the end of the earth—not at all!  This is the end of the defeated enemy’s reign on earth.  Although Jesus won the victory over him at the cross, he has not yet been fully and completely evicted.  But he soon will be.  Then Jesus will give the earth a total makeover, abolishing the reign of entropy[3] and death, and restoring its original life and beauty[1].

[1] Isaiah 11:6-9.

What Jesus did in my life, He will do for the earth, too.  God is good!

[1] To read more about this weather phenomenon, see: Fujiwara.

[2] Matthew 24:42 & 25:13.

[3] Entropy is the tendency for all things to decay and fall from order into chaos.  Entropy is the main proof that the Theory of evolution is a crock: because things don’t evolve into higher forms.  Mutations are always difficult or disastrous for the organism.

Resurrection – Hallelujah!


The picture Laurie took of her autumn wreath.

This morning I was looking at Facebook while waiting for my oatmeal to cook—always a dangerous thing to do because a glance at Facebook and half an hour is gone.  I saw a post by my ministry partner (and friend of about 40 years), Laurie.  She had made a lovely fall wreath for her front door.  Laurie has an artistic gift for making wreaths.  So I commented on it, noting that her dog, visible in the picture, seemed to approve, too.  She made some remark about the dog and making a trip to Wisconsin to scatter Don’s ashes.  Don is Laurie’s husband, a genuine seeker of God with a brilliant mind.

I turned off the stove before making my reply: “Wait!  What?  I hope it was the ashes from Don’s BBQ that you scattered.”


Wisconsin seems a long way to go to get rid of BBQ ashes!

Then Laurie messaged me to explain that she had inadvertently omitted the word “dad’s” so it was his dad’s ashes, not Don’s.  I had wondered how on earth I could have missed such life-changing news, but happily, Don is still with us.

In fact, Don commented on the post, saying that he was the one who did the driving for the Wisconsin trip.

I don’t think I’ve ever had such low and high emotions in the space of just a few minutes—and all before breakfast.  I had been devastated at the news of Don’s demise and then not just relief, but sheer joy at knowing that he hadn’t died after all.

I pondered these emotions as I ate my oatmeal: for me this had been like a resurrection because in my mind Don’s death had been very real—at least for a few minutes.  More than most people now I believe that I can say that I know how the disciples felt at Jesus’ resurrection: joy unspeakable.

So I posted on Don’s wall: Congratulations Don!  You’re the first person I’ve ever witnessed being raised from the dead.

To which Don responded: Ha!  That was so funny and at the same time kind of disturbing to read.  Be well friend.

I hated that he had been disturbed about being thought dead.  I imagine that it is sort of creepy to have someone out there who is convinced that you’re dead.  So I responded: Hey!  Having lost you and gotten you back in the same day, I treasure you all the more!  You stay well, OK.

Laurie has edited Don’s “death” out of the original post, so there’s no record of it any more.  But for me it was very real—even if only for a few minutes.  But equally as real for me is Don’s resurrection.  And someday all the dead in Christ will rise and we will meet them in the air[1].  I’ve already tasted just a little bit of how joyous that reunion day will be.  God is good!

[1] 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, NIV.

The Horizontal

portrait-of-jesus (1)

Becoming Christlike is the goal.

In my post A Lesson in Holiness I wrote about keeping a repentant heart before God by using the Word of God to separate who you are in Him from the sin nature that is in your flesh.  That’s the vertical beam of the cross:

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments, (Matthew 37-40, emphasis mine).

For some of us the vertical is much easier than the horizontal because God is perfect and never changes.  Our neighbors are quite another thing.  The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God[1].  All means all.  And if all the people around you sin, then sooner or later some of them will sin against you—even other Christians.  Even those dearest to you.

The defeated enemy loves to pit us against each other.  He will whisper in your spouse’s ear to say or do something that will push your buttons.  For me it was being accused of lying.  When I was a young wife, I worked very hard at overcoming habitual lying, so this was a hot button issue for me.  I can just imagine the glee as the defeated enemy watched the fireworks when my husband would accuse me of lying.  Then one day he came home from work and asked if it had rained at home.  I said no.  “You’re lying!”  The absurdity of being accused of lying about something as trivial as the weather made me realize the true situation: that this was the voice of the defeated enemy echoed in my husband’s voice.  I said, “look out the window,” and left the room, no fight.

The defeated enemy will goad those who you love and trust into sinning against you.  And it is your sense of having been betrayed (even in the smallest ways) that makes it so hard to forgive—especially when you have to forgive them again and again and again: seventy times seven[2].  And even harder when they don’t apologize.  Yes, of course you’re supposed to forgive whether the person apologizes or not.  Forgiveness, in the end, is not for them.  Forgiveness is for yourself.  You’re letting yourself have peace when you forgive others.

Now here’s the really cool thing that will help this process: as I wrote in A Lesson in Holiness, you learned to separate your view of yourself (as God sees you) from the sin nature that continues to live in you.  Now do that same separation for your neighbor.  Learn to see them as God sees them: separated from their sin nature, too.

This is part of your personal sanctification process, too.  As you learn to do this separation, forgiveness will flow much easier.

I had a teacher who was very cruel to me.  For some reason she picked me from the whole class to verbally abuse and humiliate.  When I became a Christian I knew that I had to forgive her, but it was so hard because I was still wounded.  Then I read something that said that forgiveness is not something that you do when you’re feeling better.  Forgiveness is a decision you make.  So I made the decision to forgive her, even while not feeling like doing it.  In fact, I took Jesus’ words about forgiving seventy times seven seriously, and every time she came to mind, I forgave her.  Then one day several years ago she spontaneously popped into my mind, and my immediate response was: “How could she possibly have known how precious I am to You, Lord?”  When I heard myself say those words, I knew that forgiveness had done its work, and the wound had completely healed.

My teacher was not a Christian.  But what do we do when a Christian treats us cruelly?  The exact same thing.  Because again, forgiveness is not for them.  Forgiveness is letting yourself off the hook.

If we can get both the vertical and the horizontal right, then we will be truly Christlike.  And that is the goal.  God is good!

[1] Romans 3:23, NKJV.

[2] Matthew 18:22.

Today I took a Walk


You never know who you’ll run into on a walk in Milan.

I’ve been getting out and walking in an effort to build my strength back up after this summer’s bout with pneumonia (see Barking Hell).  I intended to go to the street market, so I headed out the door in that direction.

About a block from home I saw a woman talking on the phone.  As she approached me I saw something tiny fall.  At first I thought it was a piece of trash, like the foil pop-top to a juice container.  But as I got closer I saw that it was something valuable.  I only recognized what it was because of living part time at Bella Vista[1] with Mom: it was a hearing aid.  They are very tiny these days.  So I picked it up and caught up with the woman who had continued past me.

She was shocked at first, she hadn’t realized that she had lost it.  She asked me where I found it and I showed her, saying that I had seen it fall from her.  Then joy spread across her face as she realized that I had saved her a loss of a few thousand Euros.

As I walked on, I thanked God for allowing me to be her angel.  It felt really good!  And I just happened to be the right person to see that and to know that it was valuable.  And the Lord responded: “This is prophetic.”  Yes!  I get it!  Helping to open up peoples’ ears to hear.

Then I realized that I didn’t really need to go to the street market.  Where I did need to go was the Asian food store, which is the best place to buy coconut oil, spices, and peanutbutter.  So I changed direction and headed in a slightly different direction.

When I got there, I was shocked.  The Asian food store where I’ve been shopping for 15 years is gone.  Not only is it gone, but it’s never coming back because the shop next door has busted through the wall to expand into their space.

I remembered an Asian food store by the train station, and being right by a train station, I entered to catch a train.  When the train arrived, the door didn’t open—perhaps the people inside didn’t know that you have to push a button to open the door.  So I pushed the button and made the door open.  Again the Lord spoke: “This is also prophetic.”  And I understood that God wants to use me to set people free.

I got my items and returned home.  I realized that I hadn’t gone where I had originally intended to go—not at all!  I had left home with the intention of going to the street market, but wound up at the train station instead.  And I understood that God had spoken to me because I was willing to give up my idea of where to go, and to follow Him instead.

I love street markets, and especially this one.  There was a time not so long ago that I would have resolved to go anyway and just hit the Asian market on the long way home.  But by staying sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, I had the privilege to hear the Lord speak to me—twice—and also to understand His intention for my life: to help open peoples’ ears, giving value back to their lives; and to set people free.  A simple walk turned into a lesson from the Holy Spirit.  God is good!

[1] Gracious Retirement Living.

A Lesson in Holiness


Be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect, (Matthew 5:48).

Jesus didn’t tell us to be good, He said to be perfect.  But how?  I try!  I really do try!  But I keep doing the things that I don’t want to do.  Paul explains it beautifully:

The trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good.  The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.  I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate, (Romans 7:14-15, emphasis mine).

That explains the problem, but how, then, can we ever hope to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect?  And realize that this is the Apostle Paul speaking.  I am not alone in my struggle against the flesh, and neither are you.  Even Paul[1] struggled.

And realize that struggling against your flesh is a sign that you are truly His.  Those who aren’t struggling have given up the fight and surrendered to their flesh.

But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good, (Romans 7:16, emphasis mine).

Struggling against your flesh proves that you know that what you’re doing is wrong, and that you agree that the Law is good and right.  So when we sin we are choosing another law over the perfect Law of God.  Sin is rebellion against God’s perfect Law.

Christians are not perfect.  Even with the help of the Holy Spirit we struggle against sin.  I believe that most of us are truly grieved that we’re not perfect.  How can Jesus tell us to be perfect when logically it’s impossible?

The word perfect is τέλειος, teleios in the original Greek, meaning:

Perfect, (a) complete in all its parts, (b) full grown, of full age, (c) specially of the completeness of Christian character[2].

So it’s not a matter of having no flaws, but one of completeness and maturity.  And those words of Jesus echoed for me something that God said to the children of Israel in the desert:

I am the Lord your God.  You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy, (Leviticus 11:44, emphasis mine).

The word holy is: קּדּוּשּׂ, qadosh, meaning:

Set apart, dedicated to the service of God.

Holiness, therefore, is a matter of separation.  We’ve got to separate ourselves from the sin nature that continues to dwell within us[3].  Remember, we’ve got an enemy that wants to draw us back into the old life when he had us[4].  But remember also that he is a defeated enemy.  His defeat has been sealed because as Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth[5], so is the enemy defeated from the foundation of the earth.

He’s tenacious and sneaky, though.  He will try to trick you out of your salvation any way that he can—or at least try to make you unfruitful.  God has given us everything we need to have the victory and to keep the victory.  Check it out:

For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account, (Hebrews 4:12-13, NKJV, emphasis mine).

The Word of God can help you separate yourself from the sin nature that is within you—and any creature that is using it to tempt you, too.

Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin.  But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know Him or understand who He is, (1 John 3:6, emphasis mine).

Understand that John is not saying that we will never sin.  Instead what he is saying is that we cannot happily keep on sinning.  This is the key to personal holiness: using the Word of God to separate yourself from sin and everything that causes you to sin.  And when you sin (not if, but when), run to Jesus:

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.  So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.  But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts, (1 John 1:5-10, emphasis mine).

Like Paul, John also understood the dichotomy we are living under.  And John also understood our standing with Jesus:

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate who pleads our case before the Father.  He is Jesus Christ, the One who is truly righteous.  He Himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.  And we can be sure that we know Him if we obey His commandments, (1 John 2:1-3, emphasis mine).

And what about those sins?  The guilt might torment you.  But once you’ve made confession, you have put all those sins under the blood of Jesus.  God no longer sees the sin, but sees the righteousness of Jesus.

If, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people, (Romans 5:16-18, NIV).

And God put your sin far, far away from you:

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west, (Psalm 103:12).

When you keep your heart clean before God, He doesn’t remember your sins at all[6].

So to live a holy life:

  1. Struggle against sin. Do your best to live a sinless life.  Don’t ever give up and let sin win.
  2. When you sin, run to Jesus and confess. Understand how God sees you: that when He looks at you He sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
  3. Use God’s Word to separate yourself from the sin nature. Resist the defeated enemy[7]!
  4. Start to see yourself as God sees you. And then walk in it.

Holiness is simple, but powerful.  God is good!

[1] The greatest apostle: apostle to the gentiles and writer of most of the New Testament.

[2] Strong’s Greek Concordance.

[3] Romans 7:17.

[4] Ephesians 6:12.

[5] Revelation 13:8.

[6] For more about this, see Divine Forgetfulness.

[7] James 4:7.

The Value in the Negative Message

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Just when it looks darkest is where hope shines brightest.

When you tell the people all these things, they will ask, “Why has the Lord decreed such terrible things against us?  What have we done to deserve such treatment?  What is our sin against the Lord our God?”

Then you will give them the Lord’s reply: “It is because your ancestors were unfaithful to Me.  They worshiped other gods and served them.  They abandoned Me and did not obey My Word,” (Jeremiah 16:10-11, emphasis mine).

Dear friends, I tell you that there is value in the “negative” message of warning about judgment.  As a person filled with the Holy Spirit and specifically gifted with the supernatural gift of encouragements[1], let me explain about my gifting.  Encouragements (called exhortations in the older versions of the Bible) is not a gift of holy cheerleading.  Though often there is that aspect to it.  Sometimes encouragement involves a good swift kick in the rear.  It gives me no pleasure to deliver that kick, but if I yield myself to the leading of the Holy Spirit and obediently deliver that kick, I often see a good result from it.

Think of it like riding a horse.  A horse that has been correctly broken and trained will speed its pace at a simple flick of the reins.  But a horse that has not been thoroughly broken and trained will sometimes respond to the reins and sometimes need to be goaded with the spurs.  And it takes an understanding of that particular horse to know how hard to goad it.  Too hard and it could buck you and bolt.

I know that I have a wide readership.  Some have been broken and trained.  But not all of them.  This is why I seek God for wisdom before I write a word.  So when God gives me a word about impending judgment, I know that the word is important.

A word of warning is like surgery.  I am very squeamish and cannot watch surgical shows where they show the scalpel cutting into the flesh—even if I know that the surgery is going to save that person’s life.  But what if I stopped the surgery because I know that being cut open is going to be very unpleasant for the person.  My interference could ultimately cause that person to die.

In sharing the Gospel one-on-one, it’s important for the person to know that they have sinned.  If you ask them, most people will tell you that they are a good person.  But that is not true from God’s holy perspective:

People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart, (Proverbs 21:2).

No one is righteous—not even one.

No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God.

All have turned away; all have become useless.

No one does good, not a single one, (Romans 3:10-12).

As the old hymn asks and answers:

What can wash away my sin?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Jesus spoke harshly to the Pharisees—even to Nicodemus who became His disciple[2].  But He spoke tenderly to the tax collectors and prostitutes, who were well aware of their sin.  Nowadays with all the sin that our society has tolerated (and permitted, accepted, legally-sanctioned, and even celebrated), our personal moral compasses can tend to lose the way—yes, even Christians!

George Whitfield said:

It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.

And D.L. Moody said:

No unrepentant sinner will ever get into Heaven; unless they forsake their sin they cannot enter there.  The Law of God is very plain on this point: “Except a man repent.”  That’s the language of Scripture.  And when this is so plainly set down, why is it that men fold their arms and say, “God will take me into Heaven anyway.”

Things haven’t changed much since Moody’s day.  No, they’ve only gotten worse.  And we’re so afraid of giving offense because somebody might go all P.C. Police on us.  The Word of God is absolutely and unashamedly not politically correct.  It will offend.  And sooner or later they will start throwing us into jail (and worse!) for speaking the truth in love[3].

When I give a negative message about the coming judgment that is exactly what I’m doing: speaking the truth in love.  The whole point and purpose is to save souls.

If we tolerate a person’s sin it might seem like love, but we are actually “loving” that person right into hell.  And there are some Christian denominations that are actively doing this.  They think they’re being loving representatives of Jesus.  But Jesus who tenderly told the cowering leper, “I am willing [to heal you]” is the same who tied a whip out of ropes, turned over tables, and drove the money-changers out of the Temple[4].  Jesus has a passion for holiness.  The first century Christians had a passion for holiness, and so should we.

The bottom line is that the Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance[5].  Don’t make repentance a dirty word.  Do your sins make you feel bad?  Good!  Because Godly sorrow leads to repentance[6].  Without repentance, church is just a motivational feel-good club.  You might as well just stay home and watch a romantic comedy on TV.

But if you’re willing to honestly face your sins and to put yourself under the holy scalpel of Jesus, He can remove the tumorous growth of iniquity in your heart.  It’s the ultimate life-extension surgical procedure because you’ll come away with life everlasting.  Your personal judgment will be eternally settled in your favor.

But the corporate judgment concerning America?  We, the American Christians, must pray for our country because the prognosis right now is not good.  The warning of the hurricanes did get people praying, and that’s a good thing.  But we can’t stop now.  We should be praying daily for our country and specifically for Revival because that is God’s will for our country.  And I believe that there will be a Great End Times Revival.  Why?  Because it’s prophesied in God’s Word[7].

You may not have the spiritual gift of encouragements, but if you’re called to preach the Word of God, preach the whole Word.  If you’re called to teach, teach the whole Word.  All Scripture is inspired by God[8], even the parts we perceive as negative.  God is good!

[1] Romans 12:8.

[2] John 3:10 seems rather harsh: “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things?”

[3] Ephesians 4:15.

[4] John 2:15.

[5] 2 Peter 3:9.  Read the whole chapter to understand that the context is End Times.

[6] 2 Corinthians 7:10.

[7] Zechariah 10:1 & Joel 2:28-29.

[8] 2 Timothy 3:16.

Stop it with the Judgment Messages!


Look up!  Lift up your head!  Your redemption draws near!

Once again a message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, give your people this message: ‘When I bring an army against a country, the people of that land choose one of their own to be a watchman.  When the watchman sees the enemy coming, he sounds the alarm to warn the people.  Then if those who hear the alarm refuse to take action, it is their own fault if they die.  They heard the alarm but ignored it, so the responsibility is theirs.  If they had listened to the warning, they could have saved their lives.  But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity.  They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.’

“Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel.  Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me.  If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths.  But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself, (Ezekiel 33:1-9, emphasis mine).

I have been told to stop saying things about God judging America.  People I respect have said this to me.  People in authority have said this to me.  I actually lost a friend because I said that God was about to judge America.  He thought I was anti-American and unfriended me.  I have this question for them: do you think I am happy about the message?  Apparently they are not hearing my broken heart.  Maybe they think that because I live in Italy, I don’t care about America.  People: all my family live in America!  My precious grandchildren live in America!  Of course I care about my country!

People said the same things to Jeremiah.  And when judgment fell, Jeremiah was grieved.  I don’t want the same thing to happen here.  I love my country, but the government has made some really messed-up decisions that have led the people astray.  When I give the message about the coming judgment, I am very aware of Ezekiel 33:1-9.  If I give the warning, perhaps the people will repent, but maybe not.  But if I fail to give the warning, I will be held responsible for their deaths.

And it’s not just America that is facing judgment.  Judgment is coming upon the whole earth.  But judgment starts at the house of God.  America, founded as a Christian nation, has sent more missionaries out into the world than any other country[1].  But when the government prohibits prayer in school, permits abortion, and actually celebrates sin, God’s patience will eventually come to an end.

My critics have no idea how many hours I have sat up at night, praying for my country.  Pleading with God to have mercy; begging Him to wake the American Christians to pray for our country.  Do they think that judgment is a message I enjoy giving?  Why don’t you ask Jeremiah how much he enjoyed giving the message of judgment?

Am I looking forward to the Rapture?  Absolutely!  What bride doesn’t look forward to her wedding day?  Perhaps they read my joyful anticipation of the Rapture as enjoying giving the message of judgment.  I see it this way: God has sweetened the bitter message of judgment with the promise of being taken into His wonderful Presence.

I do tend to keep straying back to the Rapture because it brings me solace.  Maybe I should just keep the Rapture to myself.  But I can’t do that, either because I have been called as an encourager to the Body of Christ.  What’s more encouraging than the Rapture?  Paul told us to encourage one another about the Rapture[2].

So I can’t neglect the negative message of judgment.  Nor can I neglect the positive message of the Rapture.  Both are prophetically accurate and Biblically sound.  But I do think that some people have made assumptions.  I mentioned the American eclipse as a warning of judgment and pointed out that the path of the eclipse continued out into the Atlantic Ocean to the very spot where Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were brewing.  But never, not once did I say that the hurricanes were judgment.  No!  When God brings judgment, there will be no doubt because there will be few survivors.  The hurricanes were warnings, too.  And look, didn’t they get people praying?  You see, I still have hope!  And here’s my hope in a nutshell:

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land, (2 Chronicles 7:14).

If you see that as a negative message, then I suggest that you get on your knees, too.  God is good!

[1] According to Christianity Today.

[2] 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 & 5:1-11.

America Eclipsed – Part 11


I didn’t get to meet all of the speakers, but Josh Tolley, L.A. Marzulli, and Russ Dizdar are very likeable and approachable.

In April I came across a thing on the internet advertising Hear the Watchman prophecy conference in Boise, Idaho.  End Times Prophecy is a subject that interests me very much—and if you follow my blog or have read my books, you already know this about me because I write about it a lot.  Plus it was featuring some of my favorite prophetic speakers: Scottie Clark, L.A. Marzulli, Russ Dizdar, Derek Gilbert, and others.  So I was interested, but when I saw that it was in August, I knew I wouldn’t be going.  It’s expensive to cross that ocean, but more so in the summertime.  It’s not my money, it’s God’s.  But still, I’ve got to be a good steward of the resources that He’s given me.

When word of the conference came across my computer again a few days later, I saw something intriguing: they were offering to bus us out to the edge of the mountains to watch the eclipse shadow go racing across the plains at 600 miles an hour.  Now that had me even more intrigued.  I’ve been in 80 percent totality, but this would be 100 percent.  And that perspective of watching the shadow was fascinating.  In my mind, I was picturing something like in this video: Shadow.

Now I really wanted to go.  But I don’t do anything without God’s blessing.  So I asked Him?  In fact, I think I must have sounded something like a little kid begging to go to the park: “Can I go?  Huh?  Please!  Can I go?  Please!  Please!  Pleeeeeeeese!!!!”  Finally God answered: “Why do you think I showed it to you?”  So I booked tickets to the conference, the eclipse bus, the airlines, and a room.  Then I did a little joy dance around the living room.

Because I had booked rather late, there were no more rooms available at the nice hotel where the conference would be.  So I got a room at the Budget Inn instead.  It was not a nice room, but I’m a missionary.  I’m used to roughing it.  Besides, it turned out to be strategic because just before my trip to the US at the end of July I was hospitalized with pneumonia[1].  By the time of the conference a month later, I was completely healed and needing to rebuild my strength and stamina.  The half-mile twice daily walk to and from the conference helped me do exactly that.

The conference was great, I heard some new information, and I made lots of friends there.  And I really enjoyed Boise, which has none of Milan’s humidity.  And even though I was staying in a ratty place, I never felt unsafe.

The day of the eclipse I arrived at the conference hotel half an hour early.  They had advised getting onto the road early because there was likely to be traffic.  It turned out that there was very little traffic going out to Smith’s Ferry.  But this was not the edge of the mountains.  It was a big flat area surrounded by mountains in the distance.  Still, it was a beautiful day with a clear sky.  There were lots of other busloads of people and people who had come in campers.  There was a definite tailgate party feeling.  There were two teenaged boys with homemade wooden swords.  The put on a play fight for me, and their mother confided: “This is how autistic males celebrate the eclipse—with wooden swords!”  I hadn’t realized that they were autistic, but maybe that’s because I’ve always made friends with the people who were a little different.  Anyway, I thought it was a nice way to have fun.


Don’t worry, the swords are wooden.

As the sun rose, the temperature also rose.  When the sun was almost straight overhead, it began.  I put on the eclipse glasses, but couldn’t even tell where the moon was yet.  A friend took my picture as I gazed up at the sun.  I took off the glasses and went to see what others were doing.  I saw a couple, seated by their camper.  They had made paper plate covers for their eclipse glasses—very clever!  I had worn a baseball hat and long sleeves to protect me from the sun’s rays.

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My friend pointed the phone at me while I was focused on the sun and the moon in their cosmic dance.

By another camper I saw a computer that had been hooked up to a video camera.  I asked permission to take a picture of their setup.  Their camera had a solar filter, so now it was obvious the bite that the moon had taken out of the disk of the sun.  In fact it’s called Pac-Man.  My phone couldn’t capture Pac-Man, but I saw a man who had borrowed a solar filter.  It wasn’t attached to his camera, being about 3 times too big.  He was holding the filter with one hand and taking pictures through it with the other.  I asked if I could try taking a picture through the filter.  I tried.  The first just looks like a distorted mirror showing me, my phone, and him behind me.  Then I held my phone flush with the filter and tried again.  But it also didn’t show Pac-Man, either.


The solar filter was just a funny mirror as far as my phone could tell.


And even held flush to the filter, I couldn’t capture Pac-Man.



So when the lights went out (the sun’s light that is!), I tried again to take a picture with my camera, and it worked.  I also looked around, and saw that there really was a 360 degree twilight.  The temperature went down fast and the crickets started to sing.  I began to pray for my country, hoping that others were also taking this opportunity to pray for God’s mercy on America.  After all, this was why God had me come here.  Not just to see a total solar eclipse, but to pray for our country during this cosmic harbinger of judgment.  This was a Secret Weapon assignment.

Is God judging America?  It rather looks that way with the worst hurricane ever to hit the US[2] following immediately after the eclipse.  But I believe that Harvey is another warning sign for people who are too scientific and sophisticated to read signs in the sun, moon, and stars.  When judgment comes it will be harsh and swift and there will be nobody to come to the rescue.  So why pray if God has already made up His mind?  Because there is still a chance that people will repent and humble themselves before God.  And God has promised to relent and to heal our land if we humble ourselves and repent.

Then if My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land, (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Our duty as the ambassadors of Jesus is to pray for our country and to tell people of their need for a Savior and the Good News of God’s free gift of salvation.  Sin has made our country sick, but many aren’t even aware of the sickness.


Totality as caught by my phone.

Then as the sun burst through on the other side a cheer went up throughout the crowd.  This effect is called the wedding ring.  When I learned that, I got holy goosebumps, thinking how our Heavenly Bridegroom is as anxious for our wedding as we are.  He even put the wedding ring in the sky!

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The wedding ring!

The next day I returned to North Carolina, where I had spent a month working on my book.  I finished up the book and flew back to Milan the following day.  I had booked 2 separate flights: Milan to Atlanta—Atlanta to Milan and Atlanta to Asheville—Asheville to Atlanta.  I did it that way so that I could do the Atlanta to Asheville leg using Skymiles.  I was going to have an 8 hour layover in Atlanta.  So when they asked for volunteers to give up their seat for a $500 voucher, I volunteered (after finding out that there was another flight in 3 hours).  The gate agent took my ticket and I went to the bistro next to our gate to get some lunch.  Just as I was finishing up the gate agent came rushing in and said that I would be on this flight after all.  I shouted: “Check please!” and paid.  The gate agent gave me a different seat assignment.  This seat was next to a pastor who had been to a conference at Lake Junaluska.  I saw his conference materials, and showed him the Christian book that I was reading.  I said, “It looks like we’ve got something in common.  He wanted to know all about my missionary work, and going to the prophecy conference.  When I got to the part of the story where God spoke to me he said, “And how does God speak to you?”

So I explained about quieting yourself in prayer to listen for His voice.  He was fascinated.  Being a Lutheran, he hasn’t been encouraged to listen for God’s voice.  But he was very encouraged to hear that it’s not complicated and it’s not freaky.  He was most encouraged to learn that I hadn’t had that seat to begin with.  I showed him my original seat assignment and the new seat assignment.  His eyes popped and the smile spread across his face as he understood that this had been a true divine appointment.  God had sent His Secret Weapon Encourager to encourage this dear servant who felt like he was stuck in a rut.


My original and new seat assignments–this was a divine appointment!

Whether the assignment is as big as praying for your country during an eclipse or encouraging your seatmate on an hour long flight, the key to being God’s Secret Weapon is just this: obedience.  Will my prayers turn the tide for our country?  I sincerely and deeply hope so.  Will my encouragement turn the tide for Pastor Brian?  Again, I sincerely and deeply hope so.  God is good!

[1] See Barking Hell.

[2] See Part 10.