Hebrew Roots—Why Bother?


I was recently challenged by someone who follows my blog.  He wanted to know why I am studying Hebrew, and why I’m fascinated with Jewish celebrations.  He saw it as a form of legalism from which Jesus has freed us.

If we’re not careful, following the Jewish traditions could lead to legalism: no pork, no driving or any other kind of work on the Sabbath, keeping two sets of dishes, etc.  But, really, legalism is something we risk any time that we seek to get closer to God.  Our meat brains try to boil faith down to methods: go to church every week, recite the Lord’s Prayer, and abstain from certain foods or drinks in order to please God.  Methods don’t bring us closer to God.  If you use a method with your spouse or friends, you might fool them for a little while, but not for long.  And you will never, ever fool God.  God isn’t really interested in whether you attend this church or that, or whether you pray the Lord’s Prayer once a week or every day.  If you’re just going through the motions, substituting a method for your relationship with God, guess what, you won’t ever get closer to Him than you are right now.

Are you satisfied to stay where you are right now in your spiritual walk?  You shouldn’t be!  You should never be satisfied to let your relationship with the Lord stagnate.  We were made to be in relationship with our Creator.  It’s not about what you do, it’s about being with Him.  Enoch walked with God.  He didn’t plant churches all over Asia, preach to 10,000 people in a stadium, or drive all the snakes out of Ireland.  He pleased God so much that out of all humanity, God raptured Enoch (and later Elijah).  Jesus said:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven.  Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name and in Your Name drive out demons and in Your Name perform many miracles?”  Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23, emphasis mine).

Works are good, and we each have our own works that God has assigned to each of us to do.  But works alone will not get you into Heaven.  Likewise, saying the prayer of salvation and continuing to do the things you’ve always done.  Sorry, but that’s not going to get you into Heaven, either.  If you need clarity on the need to stop sinning (even though we all do sin from time to time), read 1 John.  It’s short enough to read all in one sitting, and if you don’t understand it the first time through, read it again.  John explains how we must live as children of the light (not sinning), but that if we do sin, we have Jesus as our defense attorney.  It’s all about your heart attitude, and your heart attitude will bring a change in your life if you’re really seeking God and His Kingdom.

So what does all this have to do with Hebrew roots?  I’m glad you asked!  The first century Church (don’t think building, think people) met in people’s houses.  They ate meals together.  They read the scriptures together.  The Holy Scriptures in that time was the Old Testament.  They also passed around and copied the letters of Paul (and Peter, John, and others) and the Gospels, which were understood to be inspired, and therefore holy.  But they didn’t do as some churches do nowadays and discard or give the Old Testament less significance.  They understood the Gospels and the entrance of Messiah (Jesus) to be a continuation and a completion of what had been written in the Old Testament.

Jesus, Himself, said: “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished,” (Matthew 5:18, emphasis mine).

The word “Law” in Hebrew is Torah—the five first books of the Bible.  And, remember, Jesus was a Jewish man talking to Jewish men.  Is everything accomplished?  No.  There are still prophecies yet to be fulfilled—Old Testament prophecies.

But let’s go back to the issue of legalism: Jesus addressed the issue of legalism many times.  The Pharisees were always complaining about Him healing on the Sabbath, claiming that He was doing work and violating God’s Law.  They complained that His disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating, as all Jews were supposed to do.  And after His resurrection, Peter and others went into the house of Cornelius, when entering a gentile’s house was strictly forbidden and would make a Jew ceremonially unclean.

Does any of this contradict what Jesus said about Law in Matthew 5:18, above?  No.  A Messianic friend explained to me that the Jews were so afraid of accidentally violating the Law that they built rules around the Law that protected the Law by serving as a sort of virtual fence.  Then just to be sure, they built another set of rules around that first set of fence rules, and then another around the second set of fence rules.  That is how the Ten Commandments became 613 Rabbinical Laws[1].  Here is what Jesus had to say about those Rabbinical Laws:

Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?  For God said, “Honor your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.”  But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it.  Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.  You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.  They worship Me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules,” (Matthew 15:3-9, emphasis mine).

So, in fact, Jesus was declaring the Jews free from the legalism of rabbinical tradition.  And He gave us a way to simplify the letter of the Law into two easy-to-remember principles: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40).  If you let love motivate you, then you will not break the Law.  But we are often fickle and weak, so sometimes we can’t sustain the level of love for God or for others or even for ourselves.  That’s where the Holy Spirit is indeed our Helper.

Aha!  The Holy Spirit, mysterious Third Person of the Godhead.  The Holy Spirit is not often named in the Old Testament as God, but given the things that Jesus told us about Him, it is easy to see the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit at work.  For example, He hovered over the face of the deep in the first chapter of Genesis.  He led Israel out of Egypt as a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night in Exodus.  He told Moses when to call the Holy Convocations in Leviticus.  He had Balaam bless Israel when he had been paid to curse them in Numbers.  He transferred His anointing to Joshua in Deuteronomy.  The Holy Spirit was in the whirlwind and was the still, small voice of God speaking to Elijah.

But do we pay attention to that still, small voice?  Because the Holy Spirit is so quiet and gentle, it is easy to ignore Him in the midst of the clamor of unholy voices (both demonic and human) and our own screaming fleshly desires.  Here’s what the Apostle Paul had to say about the Holy Spirit:

Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit; do not spurn the gifts and utterances of the prophets [do not depreciate prophetic revelations nor despise inspired instruction or exhortation or warning].  But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast, (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, AMP).

So you can see that it takes your cooperation, remaining alert and teachable, to learn how to hear the Holy Spirit’s instruction and exhortation.

Now, what I say next might not sit well with those who question the value of exploring the Hebrew roots of our faith, so I say this only for myself, and not as a commandment that all Christians must do: I feel the tug of the Holy Spirit to study Hebrew, to visit Israel, and to celebrate the Lord’s festivals.

More on all this later.  God has hidden treasure within His Word for those who will search for it.  God is good!

[1] In thinking of the 613 rabbinical traditions, consider the Biblical significance of the number 613:

Six is the number of man, and carries with it the taint of humanism.  Man was created on the sixth day.  Goliath had a brother who was also a giant and had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot (2 Samuel 21:20).  For more see: http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/6.html.

Thirteen is the number of rebellion and lawlessness.  Nimrod, the giant who built the Tower of Babel to initiate rebellion against God, was the thirteenth in Ham’s line after the flood.  For more see: http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/13.html.

When God is Your Collaborator

rain market

I’m letting a smile be my umbrella–well that and this umbrella!

Now, I’m not saying that I’m perfect—far from it!  But on those days when I make the deliberate decision to cooperate with God and really do as His Word says, things always go better.

Take this morning, for example.  I started out by telling God, “I know that You already know all the people and things that are important to me.  So, instead, I want to hear from You, to know what’s on Your mind, and what’s important to You.”  Now, when you say something like that to God, expect to have your plans derailed.  But know this: even if your plans get derailed by God, it’s always because there’s something better.  You might not even know it until years down the road, but you can trust it because you can trust Him.

So I left the house with my list and some of the papers I knew that I would need along the way.  I opened my umbrella and walked to the tram stop for my first errand: buy Icelandic currency for my trip.  I had already gotten Danish Kroner, but the Icelandic money was not available when I got the Danish money.  Now it was available.

The tram pulled up within 30 seconds of when I arrived at the stop.  I always say that I have a tram/bus anointing, and arrive at just the right time.  Even if I have to wait, there is always a good (which is to say a God) reason.  On the tram, I realized that my transport pass was about to expire.  I took it out of my purse and looked at the date: tomorrow it expires!

Since I was going to the train station for the currency, I might as well take a swing by the transport office in the metro station and renew my pass.  But I will probably need a new picture for the new card, so I also planned to pop into a photo booth for passport pictures.

Then I heard an announcement on the tram’s PA system that there was going to be a public transportation strike tomorrow.  So I wrote a quick text message to Dimitri, just in case he was planning on going out tomorrow, he might be able to do it today instead.  But the message didn’t go through.  I checked and found that my credit was exactly zero.  So I added a stop by the phone store to buy credit for my phone.

When I arrived at the train station there was a miracle: nobody was in line at the currency exchange booth.  In all the years that I’ve been buying currencies there, this was the first time that there was nobody ahead of me, and no line.  But a man walked up just as the girl was starting to wait on me.  He was standing way too close, and it got on my nerves.  Then I noticed that he had money, a bill, in his hand—all he wanted was change.  So I stepped aside so that he could ask for change.  They refused him.  Apparently they don’t do a Euros-for-Euros exchange.  That was a moment when I could feel God smiling on me because rather than just get angry, I let the man go ahead of me.  A kindness to him hadn’t cost me anything (I’ve gotta remember that!).

After getting my money, I went into the metro, bought credit for the phone, sent Dimitri the message, got passport photos taken, and got a ticket for my turn to renew my transportation pass.  Again, there is usually 20 or more people ahead of you at the transportation office, but this time, there were only 2 ahead of me.  When my number was called, a girl rushed up to my window to muscle me out and jump ahead of me.  The man at the window saw the number ticket in my hand and understood what was going on.  He told her to go get a number from the machine by the door.  She didn’t understand, so I repeated his instruction to her in English, which apparently she did understand.  Again, all this was done without the usual temper flare and muttering under my breath about line jumpers.  And again, I felt God smile on me.

The man at the window told me to fill out a form, but I assured him that none of my details had changed.  Then he looked at the photos I had handed him.  He said, “I don’t need these.”  I told him that the only thing that had changed in the last year was the color of my hair.  He replied with a smile, “You look younger like this.”  This might be the first time ever that a transportation employee (besides the train driver—see The Train God) has even made a joke (or possibly flirted!) with me.

With the pass renewed, I had one last errand: the Post Office.  There were a couple of things that I needed to do there, and these were usually not fun errands.  But with the determination to enjoy the day and whatever God brings, I went to the Post Office with a different attitude than usual.  And even those Postal errands went off without a hitch—and a Postal Worker actually joked with me, too.

Finally it was time to head for home, but the rain had suddenly started to come down hard.  I made my way to the tram stop and found that my tram said 15 minutes, while the tram that stops a few blocks farther from the house was coming in 5 minutes.  So I got on the other tram, ready just to walk a little farther and enjoy one of the more pleasant streets in the whole city—the far end of my own street.

At the stop where the trams go in different directions (this one from my usual tram), just one stop from my home stop, I noticed only after the driver had shut the doors that my tram was being announced.  I looked behind our tram and saw that indeed, my usual tram was right behind us.  If I had hopped off then, I could catch my usual tram home and save the walk.  But the driver had already shut the doors and edged to the corner, ready to go.  Rather than beat on the door, insisting on being let off, I decided to just enjoy the walk anyway.  On the way to the next stop, where I would be getting off, I noticed a little mom and pop stationary shop.  Of all the things to love about Italy, my favorites are street markets and stationary shops.  Amazingly enough, this one was open right now—on a Monday morning.

So I got off the tram and walked back to where I had seen the stationary shop.  On the door was a sign about the importance of supporting the small neighborhood shops.  I couldn’t agree more.  Inside was a lively little woman.  She was eager to engage in conversation and very pleasant to talk and joke with.  She told me that she’s 77, which is my mom’s age.  I told her that she certainly looks like a very young 77.  She said that she owes it all to having a happy heart, which she indeed does seem to have.  As I made my purchase she said her first and only words of complaint.  She was suffering from back and neck pain.  So I told her that I would like to pray for her.  And I did.  As I opened my eyes after the prayer, I found that she had apparently been watching me the whole time.  She thanked me for the prayer, and we wished each other a nice day.

Then I was aware that this was what God had wanted to show me, why I had been lead to take the other tram: He had wanted me to meet Lucia and pray for her.

In the meantime, the rain had let up and I enjoyed that pleasant walk home from the far end of my street.  Now if only I could keep this attitude of cooperation with God whenever He comes in and wrecks my plans with blessings soaking me like rain from Heaven.  He never fails to amaze me with new discoveries of just how amazingly good He is.  God is good!

Encouraging Bulgarian Believers

Bulgarian Bible

Dimitri is staying in my house while he is looking for a job.  We’ve been friends through a mutual friend over the computer for several years now, and I finally got to meet him in person a couple of weeks ago.  Dimitri and his wife are from Bulgaria, but they have lived in Sardinia for the past fifteen years.  Alexandra remains in Sardinia with their three children.

Dimitri has been unemployed for almost six months now, but he has remained busy.  At the beginning of the year he went home to Bulgaria to take courses for getting his commercial license.  He returned to Italy with three new licenses for driving passengers, trailer trucks, and hazardous materials.  He was certain that with these licenses he would quickly find work, but that has not been the case—so far.

Dimitri has also remained busy by helping out at a little Bulgarian church here in Milan.  I was surprised to learn that there is a Bulgarian church.  Milan has lots of little ethnic congregations, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.  When I learned about this church, and about Mikhail, its pastor, and heard how highly Dimitri spoke of him, I decided that I wanted to visit this church.

The church meets in a strip mall storefront at the edge of town.  The storefront is owned by an Italian Assembly of God church that meets there on Sunday evenings.  When we arrived, the service had already started.  Mikhail plays guitar and is accompanied by a young man on the bongos.  Half the songs were in Italian and the other half were in Bulgarian.  Where I knew a song in either Italian or English, I sang in those languages.  During the unfamiliar Bulgarian songs, I sang in tongues (something I have come to really enjoy).  Since Bulgarian sounds rather like tongues that I’ve heard, it felt very natural to do that.  More than that, it also felt like a good and joyful thing to do.

After the announcements, I was recognized as a visitor.  Actually, it would be hard not to notice visitors, since the church is very small.  There were 13 adults, including Dimitri, myself, and the pastor.  I was invited to come up front to introduce myself to the congregation.  I can imagine that this kind of thing could be very intimidating for most people, and I really wonder why some churches do this.  To me, this is the opposite of “seeker sensitivity.”  Anyway, there was a time when it would have terrified me to stand in front of 12 people and their kids and explain who I am and why I’m there.  And many times when I am scheduled to speak to churches, it still scares me, but it no longer terrifies me.  The difference is that the fear has been faced and conquered.  But I am very aware of how much I need for the Lord to show up.  So when I know that I will be speaking to a church, I spend at least an hour in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to come and speak through me.

This time, however, I didn’t know ahead of time that I would be asked to speak, so there had been no time to prepare in prayer, but also no time to become scared, either.  Dimitri speaks only Bulgarian (and some Russian) and Italian, so I had to introduce myself in Italian, while he translated into Bulgarian for me.  I briefly explained that I’m an American missionary living in Milan for most of the last 15 years, with a calling for Europe.  I told them about my ministry of missionary support and encouragement through Prayer, Hospitality, and Collaboration.  And pointed out that hosting Dimitri was part of that ministry.

Bulgarian Bible open

Then Mikhail gave a sermon as Dimitri translated into Italian for me.  It was very obvious to me that Mikhail has a gift for preaching the Word of God.  Even with translation into my second language, the sermon moved me to tears as Mikhail preached about God’s love and care for each of us and our children (whether they are walking with the Lord or not).

After church, I was invited to join them for lunch in the Sunday school room.  One of the women (who turned out to be Mikhail’s daughter) had made a seafood pasta dish that was absolutely delicious.  All 13 of us scrunched together around the table.  A couple of people spoke to me in Italian, and tried out a few English phrases on me, too.  Then the conversation switched to Bulgarian and became much more animated.  This left me free to allow my thoughts to wander.  Whenever I heard a word or two in Italian, it was easy to guess that I was the one being addressed.

After lunch the church was cleaned and put back into order for the AoG hosts.  Then we went our separate ways.  It was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday morning, and it was obvious to me that once again, I had been able to encourage this body of believers just by showing up.  Never underestimate the power of presence—God can use you, too, if you will just make yourself available.  God is good!

A Sticky Situation

Arabic Bible

Today I went to help an organization that reaches out to Muslims.  They have put hundreds of Euros into materials for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.  My job was to help put sticker labels onto the materials, which included tiny Bibles in Arabic, the Jesus Film, and Arabic Bibles on flash drives.  Some of these items are so cleverly disguised that unless you knew what to look for, you would never guess that they contained Christian materials.  The whole idea is to make these materials safe to carry into countries where they would otherwise be confiscated and destroyed, and the person transporting them would be in danger of his or her life.

The first thing that Kitty and I did was to pray over the materials, that they would find their way into the right hands; and that the recipients would be ready to receive both the materials and Jesus as Lord.

As we worked, we prayed and talked.  Kitty is one of the most interesting and fully committed missionaries I’ve ever met.  Her calling is for Muslim women, so a few years ago she moved to a Middle Eastern country as a student of Arabic.  She threw herself into the language study, not just during school hours, but also during her leisure time.  She started out in the large city where the language school was, but then moved to a small suburb.  Why?  Because in the big city all the shopkeepers wanted to practice their English with her, but she wanted the opportunity to put her Arabic into use.  She watched only Arabic TV, and got to know her neighbors so that she could have friends who spoke only Arabic.

Friendships between Muslims in the Middle East and westerners are not easily built, but Kitty was persistent.  Because of her sweet and open nature, the Muslim women did accept Kitty as a friend—but only after she had been approved by the husband.  Even friendships with children are difficult, Kitty told me.  She said that the same small child who had been hugging you in his living room would often follow you down the street, throwing rocks at you.  One four year old sweetly asked Kitty, “Are you really an infidel?”

Now Kitty has returned to Italy, and teaches Italian to Muslim women.  Outside of their own culture, the women are more open to building friendships, but some still need the husband’s approval.  Many Muslim men doubt the importance of education for their wives, so many of them are illiterate, even in their own language.

The wives buy groceries mostly in the halal (literally permitted) shops, where the meats have been butchered according to Muslim tradition—much like kosher groceries.  Sometimes her students will bring her a packet of cookies or snacks and ask if they are clean to eat.  The problem for Muslims is usually the presence of pork or pork fat.  Once a student brought a bag of popcorn to class, asking if there was pork fat in it.  Kitty looked at the ingredients and found the fats to be clean, but one other ingredient was unacceptable for Muslims: gin—in popcorn from the UK.  The woman was very grateful to have been advised about the presence of alcohol in the popcorn.

Kitty’s love for the Muslim people was obvious.  And she is very excited about the prospect of many Muslims coming to Milan for the Expo.  Brother Andrew, the famed Bible smuggler of the Iron Curtain era, would surely love these clever new devices for transporting Bibles in miniature.  But rather than packing up his little VW bug and crossing the borders with Bibles, the people are coming here.  The theme of the Expo is sustainability—with special focus on food.  People will come, eager to learn how to feed their hungry countries, but will leave with much more than that.  They will return home with the Bread of Life, which will sustain them forever.  God is good!

If you are interested in helping share the Gospel with a hungry world this summer, please register at GoMissions.  There are lots of opportunities for English speakers to share the love of Jesus with people from all over the world.


Bitterness is a strongman of the enemy.  Just as there are ranks of angels (like in the armed forces), there are also ranks of fallen angels and demons.  Bitterness is a high-ranking evil spirit, but it comes in so subtly and so gradually that we’re unaware that we have even strayed into the enemy’s territory.  Here’s how it all works:

Unforgiveness – It all starts with unforgiveness.  Someone hurts you.  They say or do something that hurts you.  You must understand that people were not made to hurt, betray, or be mean to each other.  It is not in our original design.  But under the influence of the demonic voices all around us, we can inadvertently say or do something that hurts another person.

You are probably not even aware of it, but there are voices speaking to us all the time.  There is the voice of God, and there is the voice of the enemy—and we don’t even realize that we are listening to the enemy and being influenced by him.  So when someone says or does something to hurt you, they are acting on what they are hearing from the enemy.

Then you respond, acting on what you are hearing from the enemy.  The enemy says, “How could she say that about me?” and you repeat it as if it was a thought born from your own mind: “How could she say that about me?”

Every time you think you might be over the hurt, the enemy reminds you of it so that you have a very hard time getting over that hurt.  Unforgiveness is a small spirit, but now that it has been welcomed into your heart, it becomes very hard to forgive.

Resentment – Then resentment joins unforgiveness.  Under resentment’s tutelage you vow never to speak to that person again, to never allow that person to hurt you again.

Retaliation – The spirit of retaliation goads you into getting some satisfaction for the hurt you’ve suffered.  Retaliation promises to feel so good, but in fact can get you into a whole lot of trouble.  Retaliation actively seeks to prevent blessing from coming into the offender’s life.  Now, ask yourself, who exists to prevent blessings from coming into people’s lives?

Anger, Wrath, & Murder – When unforgiveness is finally joined by its bigger, stronger brothers, it is very difficult to go back and forgive.  Of course, not all unforgiveness ends in physical murder, but it can often end in character assassination.  We’ve all heard of an unforgiving father say to his son: “You’re dead to me.”  In his mind, the father has murdered the son, and the relationship is as good as dead from then.

People think that negative emotions, such as anger, depression, and unforgiveness, are merely emotions.  In fact, they are not emotions at all.  They are demons that can be cast out or sent away.  I have suffered lengthy very profound bouts of depression.  I was unaware that depression was a spirit at the time, but during the worst depressions I suffered suicidal thoughts and even suicidal hallucinations that I knew were not originating from my own mind.  I wasn’t possessed, but rather, I was suffering terrible demonic oppression.

Bitterness wants to produce fruit in your life: hatred, cruelty, revenge, self-pity, hypocrisy, jealousy, competition, frustration, and confusion.  Yes, even a little thing like competition, which American culture says is healthy, is in fact a foothold for the enemy.  Think about how many times you’ve seen someone get frustrated that the game didn’t go their way, and they turn the board over, scatter the cards everywhere, or they let the game’s physical side become too violent.

Self-pity is not an emotion, it’s a spirit.  It brings thoughts of entitlement—entitlement that has been violated.  Once we become aware of the enemy’s tactics, we can guard ourselves from jumping to the enemy’s camp.  I don’t want to give the enemy even the smallest victory over myself.

Bitterness can be present in your life without you even being aware of it.  And once this process is begun, it is very difficult to reverse it.  Sometimes you will have lived under the influence of bitterness for such a long time that you might not even believe that you are bitter.

Let me show you how bitterness can enter in: the offender, under the influence of the enemy says or does something that is truly wrong, evil, and bad.  The spirit of bitterness has been standing by, and takes that moment of offence to push its way into your heart.  Were you wronged?  Absolutely.  That is how the enemy works: by pushing his way in.  There’s no waiting for an invitation.  When you’re at your most vulnerable, he pushes his way in and begins speaking poisonous thoughts to you, playing on outrage, embarrassment, humiliation, hurt pride, physical suffering, violated boundaries, etc.  You believe these thoughts to be your own, when they are not.  And thus, piece by piece bitterness builds until it has become anger.  Anger can be so strong and so swift that it is literally just a heartbeat away from murder.

Forgiveness is a decision, not an emotion.  You can decide to forgive.  And that decision takes follow-through.  There were some people in my life that I have had to forgive all over again every time they came to my mind.  And I always did so, hoping for the day when that decision to forgive would finally become an emotional fact.  But true forgiveness did not come until I went back (in my mind and memory) to the time of the offense and forgave it there.  In that final act of forgiveness, I had to consciously give up all my rights to be angry or outraged at the offense.  The next time that person came to mind, the thought that came almost reflexively into my mind was: how could she possibly have known how precious I am to God?  My only feeling toward her, even remembering what she had done to me was pity that she hadn’t known how precious I am to God.

Forgiving was made easier once I understood the enemy hiding behind the person used to hurt me.  In truth, I have also been used by the enemy to hurt other people.  When you truly can grasp the realities hidden from our eyes, it becomes so much easier to give people the mercy and grace that we hope for from them, too.

Giving in to a spirit of bitterness or forgiving as generously as God has forgiven us is a life-changing decision.  Bitterness can prevent blessings in your life.  And through bitterness, the enemy might use you to prevent blessings in the lives of others.  Worse than all that, it can bring curses, especially in the form of physical illness.  Anger, hatred, and bitterness go coursing through your veins like a caustic, like poison.  If you’re aware, you might even feel it burning in your veins.

Giving up your right to be angry at an offense can feel like dying to yourself—in fact, that’s exactly what it is.  But you won’t truly begin to live until you do die to yourself.  It’s part of God’s upside-down logic that turns the world’s logic on its head.  Why is it so hard?  Because you are making a frontal attack on your own pride.

Make a decision to begin seeing people the way God sees them—ask God to help you to see people the way He sees them.  You will find that you have more love and mercy for them, and forgiveness will flow easier and easier.  More than that, blessings will flow in your own life as never before.

So let go of your anger and bitterness!  God is good!

BBQ Becomes Ministry

dance BBQ

There was music and dancing at the BBQ.

I was invited to a grigliata in Biella.  A grigliata is a barbecue.  This was for Pasquetta, which is Easter Monday.  I had just met Caroline, a missionary who I immediately thought could turn out to be a valuable collaborator.  Caroline is a sweet little Italian-American with a big smile and a bigger heart.

The day after Caroline arrived, I had a young missionary coming to visit from Prague.  It was exhilarating to watch Caroline in action with Debbie: now cheering her, now helping her, now questioning her false assumptions—and all done in love.  Debbie was here overnight, and after we saw her off, we made our plans to go to Biella.

When we got there, the BBQ was in full swing.  There was lots of food, music, dancing, and games, in other words: fun.  Even though I had already visited Biella a few weeks ago, the greeting I got was as warm as if I had been gone a year.

There was a young woman at the BBQ who I knew slightly: Bo.  She greeted me, then sat with Caroline, sharing her story for the next half hour or so.  I already knew a little of Bo’s story, but learned more from hearing her pour out her heart to Caroline:

I’m a gypsy from Albania.  Well, OK, my mother was a gypsy and my father was a Serb.  My father left before I was born and my mother died when I was five years old.  A nice neighbor took me in and raised me as her own.  At fifteen I was sold in a marriage contract to another gypsy.  He raped me, and I became pregnant with my daughter.  He was very cruel and controlling.  I can’t tell you all the ways that he abused me sexually.  So I ran away from him and came to Italy.

Bo told Caroline all this with no trace of emotion in her voice or on her face.  This much of the story, I had already heard.  Then Caroline asked for more details about her daughter and step-mother.  It turns out that they were in hiding in a town just across the border in France.  And the ex-husband?  He was looking for her in a larger town in France, where she had put her daughter in school back at the beginning of the school year.  Somehow, he had tracked her down there.  “He is waiting there for my daughter to go back to school after the holiday, but he doesn’t have the right to take her from the school.”

Many years ago, when I worked at a daycare center, I had seen a father under a restraining order snatch his child right from the yard, just by calling him to come to the fence and talk.  So I knew that the school’s rules didn’t mean that the daughter was safely out of reach.

But how had he tracked them down here—and why had he gone to the expense and trouble of following them?  The answer to the second question is a repeat of history: Bo had been sold in marriage, and the daughter, though still too young to marry, could still be promised in a marriage contract to be sold when she turns fifteen.  A more sinister possibility is that the daughter might be sold even now to traffickers for a life of prostitution.  Either way, losing the girl was a financial loss for the father.  Bo said that a virgin girl could be sold for as high as €10,000 for one night.  But whether traffickers or marriage, Bo wanted a better life for her daughter.

It turns out that the father had tracked Bo down simply by watching her posts on Facebook.  Her posts and pictures on social media, intended to keep family and friends informed of her whereabouts, had also kept her husband informed.  Now he was threatening to take the girl, with the help of the French police.  If she doesn’t show up at school, then she will be truant.  Being a gypsy, the girl already has a lot going against her.  Truancy could jeopardize her asylum in France and cause the girl to fall even farther behind in school.

Caroline sensed that she was holding something back because she could just as easily bring the girl into Italy, apply for asylum here, and put her into an Italian school.  Bo said that God had told her to go back to Albania and get the gypsy divorce there.  But when questioned, she broke down and admitted that it was her step-mother that was pressuring her to go back to Albania.  The step-mother was convinced that this would solve the problem and get the husband off her back.  And Bo admitted that she was considering it.  But if she did that, she would have to take her daughter back to Albania with her, and there was a possibility that the gypsy council could decide that the daughter belongs to her father.

“Why would you even consider going back?” I wanted to scream the question.  Bo shrugged, having no answer.

I realized later that probably, having been the one who had sold Bo to this man in a marriage contract, the step-mother was pushing the gypsy divorce to save face in the gypsy community back home.

Caroline, seeing that there was a lot of cultural issues and some underlying issues that Bo was still hiding, made the wise suggestion that we all just stop and pray.  So we prayed and put the whole thing into God’s hands.  As we prayed for her, Bo’s shoulders shook as weeping erupted from within her.  Then we left her.

I don’t know what Bo will do or what will happen with her.  But we have done all that we can to help her make a good decision that will keep her daughter and herself protected.  I know that if Bo will depend on God for help in making those tough decisions, He will protect her and her daughter.  However, these are Bo’s decisions to make.  In the end, we each have to decide whether to trust God or not.

But I know this much: although God will not save you from the consequences of your bad decisions, He can be trusted to guide you and protect you when you surrender your life completely to Him.  God may take you by some ways you do not want to go, but His way is always better.  God is faithful.  God is trustworthy.  And as I always say: God is good!

Revival is Coming!


Today has been an amazing, great, fabulous, fun, wonderful day in the life of this missionary.  It started about 6:30 this morning, when Giorgio, a young man from our church, arrived after an all-night prayer vigil.  He needed a place to sleep, and offering hospitality is what I do—part of what I do.

So basically, I was waking up just as he was coming in to sleep.  Good timing on his part, since the first thing I do is to enjoy some quiet time with the Lord and read the Bible over a cup of coffee.  Being Saturday, I wanted to honor the Lord’s Sabbath by not doing any work.  But I work for the Lord, so it’s kind of hard to know what’s really work and what’s OK to do on the Sabbath.  I asked the Lord to help me to honor Him today, and He gave me a one word answer: delve.  I understood this as delving deeper into His Word.

I did spend more time than usual reading the Bible, then over breakfast, I watched one of Jim Staley’s Hebrew Alphabet teachings—delving some more.  Absolutely fascinating!  I encourage you to check it out.  The language of God is like none other on earth.  It is a supernatural language, it is a multi-dimensional language, this is the language God used to create the universe by speaking it into being.

I was watching the video about the letter Hey, and about three quarters of the way through the video, my calendar popped up with an appointment I had thought was next Saturday.  I had responded that I would go, and it was something I really wanted to go to.  So I got myself into gear, dressed, left notes for Giorgio, and went across town to the meeting.

This meeting was concerning Expo on 4 Wheels, a bus that’s basically a mobile church with a coffee bar and a library.  The bus is a joint effort between local churches and missionary organizations to focus on sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ at the Expo (1 May through 31 October) here in Milan.

It turns out that there are three major ways that you can help Expo on 4 Wheels:

  • Pray – The Expo will draw an estimated 21 million visitors from more than 130 different countries, many of whom have likely never heard the Gospel message. This is a unique opportunity to share the love of Jesus with millions of people.  But for this, they need prayer support.
  • Participate – The bus won’t be very effective without people getting out there and reaching people with the love of Jesus. Groups of any size are invited to participate.  To sign up, contact Missione REM.
  • Donate – As you can imagine, an operation like this costs a lot of money. If you want to invest in the Kingdom of God, you can do so on their website using PayPal or making a wire transfer: Donation.

So there was a lot of good information about reaching the world while there are lots of visitors here in Milan.  But when we started to pray, was when God really showed up and blew my mind.  The Holy Spirit reminded me of a vision that I had seen ten or more years ago:

I saw a lighthouse grow up out of Milan, and it gave light to the city.  It kept growing and gave light all over Italy.  It kept growing and gave light all over Europe.  And finally it grew so big that it gave light all over the world.

I understood the vision to be about revival.  But revival didn’t come, and didn’t come.  Friends said that revival would start in Sicily, in Naples, and other parts of Europe, wherever they were from.  One even told me that the big End Times Revival had already started in Sicily.  Finally I simply forgot about the vision.  Until today.

So when the prayer ended, I said that I had a vision to share, and told them about this vision, and about how I had actually seen it years ago.  A man immediately came forward and shared that he also had the same vision—and had it years ago, just like I had.  My excitement doubled with this instant confirmation.

Then we went out to look at the bus.  It is still being worked on, but it’s going to be beautiful.  There’s a very cozy and welcoming sitting area, a library area, and a coffee/snack kitchen.  I know the Lord is really going to use this bus, and all the people, churches, and organizations connected with it.  Revival is coming!

Then I came home and found a message from Suki, introducing me to an American woman (Italian-American in heritage) who is moving to Italy.  She doesn’t know exactly where or what she’ll be doing, but she knows that God has called her here.  Suki is God’s beautiful networking tool, and He has used her several times to connect people.  But it was the Holy Spirit inside of me, even more than Suki, that convinced me that I need to meet this woman.  So I’ve invited her to come for a visit.  But that’s a post for another time.

Revival is coming!  This is it: The Big End Times Revival!  If you want to be a part of it, you can follow the links above, get more information, register, get a team together and come to Milan.  You can also register on GoMissions.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on what God is doing.  God is good!

Will the Jews Finally Rebuild their Temple?


One of the keys to End Times Prophecy is that the Jews must have a Temple—something they haven’t had since it was destroyed in 70 AD.  That’s because during the last 2000 years since that time, the Muslims built and took total control of the Temple Mount.  If you want to start World War III, put a shovel into the ground on the Temple Mount and see what happens.

Well guess what: I don’t believe that the Temple was ever on the Temple Mount.  There is compelling evidence to suggest that the Temple was actually in the City of David, below the Temple Mount.  Back in the fourth century, long after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, people sought the location of the Temple, and finding the Western Wall, believed it to be the remains of the Temple.  And, being the highest place in the city, it seemed to make logical sense.

In fact, the only thing that doesn’t make sense just on glancing at it is the fact that the Romans would have left a wall of the Temple standing.  When they destroyed a rebellious people’s culture, they started by completely destroying their indigenous worship.  So why would the Romans have left that wall standing?

A careful reading of the scriptures reveals a few things that place the Temple elsewhere:

  • As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones!  What magnificent buildings!”  “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus.  “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down,” (Mark 13:1-2, emphasis mine).

If the Western Wall is part of the Temple, then Jesus’ prophecy in Mark 13 hasn’t been fulfilled, which, as I pointed out, doesn’t fit the Roman way of dealing with rebellious people—they would have destroyed their religious building as a way of defeating both the Jews and their God.

  • Historian Flavius Josephus wrote that the Temple was so completely destroyed that if he had not personally been in Jerusalem during the war and witnessed the demolition of the Temple, he wouldn’t have believed it ever existed.

The foundation wall that we call the Western Wall was most likely the remains of the Roman fortress.

Josephus also wrote that from the north side of the city of Jerusalem it was impossible to see the Temple.  The Temple Mount is visible from everywhere in Jerusalem, but the City of David and Mount Zion are to the south, and would therefore be impossible to see because the Temple Mount blocks the view of the City of David from anyone in the northern part of Jerusalem.

  • Now look at 2 Chronicles 3:1:

Now Solomon began to build the temple at the house of the Lord at Jerusalem…at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

According to this verse, the temple was to be built in the City of David at the place of the threshing floor—it cannot possibly have been on the Temple mount.

  • As a practical matter, because of washing rituals and large amounts of blood, the Temple had to have a plentiful and reliable source of water. The Temple Mount didn’t have any source of water until the Romans came in and built two aqueducts to it, coming from south Bethlehem.  But the City of David has always had the Gihon Spring, a natural spring, giving it a good source of water.

The Bible confirms that the Temple has a plentiful source of water in Joel 3:18 and also in Ezekiel 47:1.

  • The Bible says: “David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David,” (2 Samuel 5:7, emphasis mine). Again and again the Bible says that the Temple is in Zion (Psalm 2:6, 9:11, 65:1 & 4; Isaiah 2:3, 24:23, Joel 3:17 & 21,
  • 1 Kings 1:33 says: “Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon,” (emphasis mine). Why would David have Solomon taken down to Gihon to be anointed king and thwart his brother’s uprising?  Only one reason: that’s where the Temple was.
  • Acts 21:30-35 places the Temple below the Roman fortress:

The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions.  Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.  While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar.  He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

The commander came and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done.  Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks.  When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers.

Where could the Roman commander run down from if the Temple was on the highest place in Jerusalem?  And he takes Paul to the steps.  What steps?  The steps leading back up to the Roman fortress.

  • You can see some fascinating images of an excavation in the City of David that could be the ancient Temple: Search for the Temple.

If all this is true, then there is nothing to prevent the Jews from rebuilding the Temple.  And like I said, there has to be a Temple during the Tribulation.

Of course, there doesn’t have to be a Temple before the Rapture.  The Rapture could literally come any day now, and I believe that it will be very soon.  If you aren’t ready, watching, and waiting for the Rapture, you won’t go in the Rapture.  That’s all there is to it.

If you want to go in the Rapture, the first step is to get right with God.  If you’ve never made Jesus your Lord and Savior, it’s as simple as making that decision.  Just tell Him: “I believe You died for me on the cross, and I want You to be my Savior.  Please help me to live for You and to be ready for the Rapture.  Thank You, Jesus!  Amen.”

If you want to know more about the Rapture, I’ve written a lot about it on my blog and in my books.  Don’t let anybody deceive you.  Just because a giant, worldwide Rapture has never happened before doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.  Be ready!  God is good!

Total Eclipse of the Sun

colander eclipse shadow

A friend took this picture of his eclipse shadow using a colander.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.  God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.  He also made the stars.  God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day, (Genesis 1:14-19, emphasis mine).

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea,” (Luke 21:25, Jesus speaking, emphasis mine).

On Friday there was a total eclipse of the sun over Europe.  Here in Italy it was actually only a quarter, but the Faroe Islands (where I will be going next month) got a near total eclipse.  I wasn’t able to see it because of the clouds over Milan.  But friends in other parts of Europe saw it very well, and even took pictures (see above).

Personally, I wasn’t terribly disappointed because this was my second chance at a total eclipse of the sun.  The first time was in Atlanta in 1984.  I was working in an office building downtown and was able to get outside.  I didn’t have a viewing filter or viewing device.  But I had read about the double-shadow effect the eclipse would have on objects below.  The larger, fuzzy part of the shadow is called the umbra, and the smaller, more defined part is called the penumbra.  Sure enough, the peach tree in the vest pocket park below my office showed the double shadow effect.  It was very cool.

But this solar eclipse is more than just an interesting show in the sky.  Consider the following amazing facts about the total solar eclipse of 2015:

  • There hasn’t been a solar eclipse on March 20, the day of the spring equinox, since 1662.
  • This is the first time in human history (about 100,000) that a spring equinox solar eclipse has happened in the northern hemisphere.
  • This is a total solar Eclipse by a Super Moon, meaning that the moon is at perigee, the closest point in its orbit of earth.
  • And this is a Super Dark Moon since it is a new moon.
  • This is also the first seasonal appearance of the sun in the arctic regions.
  • All these facts add up to a convergence that only happens once in approximately 500,000 years.

And as if all that wasn’t amazing enough, when you take into account the Biblical significance of this event, you get some more interesting things to note:

  • This solar eclipse fell on the first day of the Hebrew month of Nisan—the day of the grand opening ceremony of the Tabernacle of Moses, when the fire fell from heaven and lit the altar.
  • The Torah portion being read in every synagogue this weekend is Leviticus 1-5, which records the events of that day, mentioned above.
  • March 20 marks the exact center-point day on the Hebrew calendar of the Shemitah year, the sabbatical year in which the farmlands are left fallow and all outstanding debts are erased.

In an interview with Charisma Magazine, Jonathan Cahn (author of The Harbinger) says, “It’s worthy of note that all these moedeem (signs) in the heavens are marking the exact center-point of the moedeem of the Shemitah on earth.”

Mark Biltz (author of Blood Moons) said, “I see all this as a new era beginning since it is the first day of the religious year, happening at the North Pole is like midnight and a new era has begun for the nation of Israel.  Especially right after the elections and we have a total lunar eclipse coming on Passover on April 4th.”

The lunar eclipse Biltz mentions is the second Passover eclipse in a row, and the third in the Blood Moon Tetrad.  A Blood Moon Tetrad is when there is a lunar eclipse on the first day of Passover and the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles two years in a row.

The Talmud (the Jewish book of tradition) says: “When the moon is in eclipse, it is a bad omen for Israel.  If its face is as red as blood, (it is a sign that) the sword is coming to the world.”  So, a lunar eclipse is seen as a bad omen for the Jewish people and Israel.  While a solar eclipse is seen as a bad omen for the world.

Every time a Blood Moon Tetrad has occurred on Jewish feast days, a big event has happened to the nation of Israel.  Blood Moon Tetrads have only happened seven times since Jesus walked the earth.  The most recent BMT’s were in 1948, when Israel became a country again (for the first time since 70 AD), and in 1967, when Israel won control of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War—two of the most significant dates in Israeli history.  Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1492, when the Jews were expelled from Spain.

So what could be the next big event for the nation of Israel?  I believe that the Jews will be allowed to rebuild their Temple.  More on that tomorrow.  Keep looking up!  God is good!

Making an Ass out of You and Umption


Build your wall one brick at a time.

If you will steady yourself and seek My face, says the Lord, I will reveal to you things that have been difficult to grasp.  Bring your inquiry before Me, and be assured that if you ask, I will answer.  But, you must lay aside your own speculations and assumptions and come with a heart wide open and ready to receive.  Do not be afraid.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you,” (Luke 11:9)

I subscribe to a prophecy newsletter, and yesterday I got this prophecy in my inbox.  Now my problem is not so much that I don’t ask God the questions.  Rather, I ask, believing that God will reveal things to me.  But sometimes I will believe that I’ve figured out the truth, and then go off on my own assumptions.

God has given me a gift for researching, digging out truths, and understanding some of the more difficult concepts.  The internet has made research much faster and easier than in the past, when I used to spend hours in the library, pouring over books.  However, in addition to good, sound information, the internet is also filled with many assumptions, many half-truths, and many, many lies.  So while it is faster and easier to do research, it is at the same time more difficult because of the vast amount of information that must be sifted through and discarded.  And sometimes my human mind will grasp a concept that appears to be right.

This is where the danger lies: it looks so plausible that it must be right.  So I run with that, when I ought to take it to God first.  This is the intellectual equivalent to the very same thing problem that launched me on the Faith Trip (recounted in my first book, Look, Listen, Love): a failure to wait upon the Lord and seek Him for the answer.  Perhaps this is my opportunity to grow past this unfortunate tendency.

So this morning during my prayer time I prayed:

Lord, please help me to lay aside my own assumptions and speculations!  You have given me a gift for understanding and figuring out certain mysterious things, so this is really hard for me.  But I do now deliberately lay those things aside, including that gift.  I surrender all of it to You.  I want to know the Truth more than I desire to be proven right.

So then I asked:

Q: Why do we still suffer attacks on our health, our finances, our relationships, etc., when we are fully committed and surrendered and living for You and Your Kingdom?

And He immediately responded both verbally and with a vision.  I saw Nehemiah and his crew rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.  He said:

A: You are committed and surrendered, but your walls still have weak spots and breaches in them.  Surrender is only the first step, but the enemy is circling about, trying to take any weak spot, even the tiniest crack, any foothold that he can gain.  So while you’re busy building your walls by spending time in My Word, the enemy’s hordes are watching and howling at you, trying to distract you.  Like Nehemiah, you must rebuild with the trowel in one hand and the sword in the other.

Q: That’s great!  But what does that look like, exactly?

A: The trowel is My Word applied to your life as you obey it.  As you yield to the Truth of My Word, your wall is built and strengthened.

The sword is also My Word that you are to use as Jesus did, responding to each temptation with the Word.  This Sword is mighty to drive back the enemy, while allowing you to build brick by brick.

The key is not to allow yourself to be discouraged by the size of the task (this is also a temptation of the enemy).  Rather, focus on the brick in your hand.  In other words, stay in the moment.

I don’t know about you, but I found this very helpful.  I’m not finished asking questions, but I want to take some time now to really digest this before asking any more.  The great thing is that I know He’s always ready to respond whenever I have a question.  God is good!