Pray to Him While He May be Found

Venice

 

That’s me in the pink hat, singing and praising God

“Therefore let all the faithful pray to You while You may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.  You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance,” (Psalm 32:6-7).

Friends, if it seems like I am writing a lot about the Rapture lately, it’s only because God keeps bringing the Rapture to my mind.  Honestly, I can only think of one reason why He would do that: because the time is short.  I was surprised by this verse because I’ve read through the Psalms many, many times, but I don’t remember ever reading anything in there about the Rapture.

Pray to God while He may be found!  In the midst of the post-Rapture chaos it is going to be difficult to calm your heart and pray, and even more difficult to hear His voice.  The antichrist will arrive on the world scene with powerful demonic deception.  He is already in the world today, and already very well-known among the world’s decision-makers.  He’s ready to step in and “solve” the world’s problems and restore order.  [I’m not going to name any names here, but with a little research, you can discover the one man in the whole world who fits all the prophecies.]  The Catholic Church is probably going to tell people that there has been a mass abduction by aliens.  And the antichrist is probably going to claim to be Jesus, the mahdi (Muslim messiah), and an alien.

I know!  It sounds like science fiction!  It is surreal just to be writing this.  But when you see all this happen, remember where you read it and when.

Pray to God while He may be found.  But what should we be praying?  Jesus told us what to pray:

Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.  When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.  So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.  Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.  But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.  For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man,” (Luke 21:29-36 NKJV, emphasis mine).

We should be praying that we may be counted worthy to escape the Tribulation.  It’s going to get really ugly.  Christians will be beheaded for their faith.  And many will take the Mark of the Beast out of cowardice (see The Damned Cowards!).  Are you ready to have your head cut off for your faith?

Besides praying, we should be diligently doing the work that God has given us to do.  God has given each of us a task to do for the Kingdom.  If you’re too busy to do the work that God has given you, then you’re too busy.  I’ll bet you’re never too busy to watch TV, check Facebook, or play computer games.  Keeping you busy is one way that the enemy keeps you ineffective as a Christian.  He will sometimes have you do a whole lot of “Christian” work in order to keep you from doing that one thing that God has called you to do.  Often we agree to do things to which we are not called just because we don’t know how to say no.  Go over your calendar with God, and ask Him what things you need to quit doing.  Then have the courage to quit those things.  People will complain.  They will say that you’re letting them down.  They will try to put a big guilt trip on you.  I know because I did this.  It’s really hard.  You might lose some friends.  But keep in mind that it’s more important to be faithful to God.

Keep your eyes on the prize!  Remember that it’s not your works that save you, but laziness could cost you your head.  Stay focused!  Pray to God while He can still be found.  And never forget: God is good!

Sweet Slovakia

Greetings from Bratislava!

I apologize, I wrote this 3 days ago, but in the absence of internet service, I forgot to post it.  So this is a double-post.

The first thing you notice about Bratislava is that it doesn’t seem to have the eternally crumbling infrastructure of the rest of the formerly Communist world.  The downtown area is sunny by day and well-lit at night.  The sidewalks and pedestrian area are nicely paved and not terribly crowded, although there are plenty of restaurants, shops, and cafes.  And the Slovaks themselves are light-hearted and open, which is probably the most surprising thing of all.  Communism left many people as scarred as their lands.

So how did the Slovaks survive Communism to flourish so nicely?  I think we heard a clue in the Slovakian National Anthem.  Anushka translated and explained the lyrics, which in part tell the story of a woman digging a well.  She dug deeper and deeper, and deeper still.  Then she looked into the well, thinking that she should drown herself in the well.  But she decides not to do that.  These are strange lyrics for a national anthem, but in it you can see the unhappy scars of Communism that tempted the woman (Slovakia) to kill herself.  Somehow she finds the resilience to survive.

The Slovaks, like the woman, bear the scars of Communism, but have turned their attention from the dim past to the bright future.  Slovakia does indeed have a bright future.  The economy here is the best of all the formerly Communist world.  Of course, economic crisis is global, and Slovakia is not immune, but the youth are not fleeing Slovakia like they are from many other East European countries.  In fact, we have met young people here who have come to Slovakia looking for a better life, instead of going to the west.

Our first evening here was at a local church that meets in a movie theater.  It was a youth prayer group meeting, but like none I had ever been to before.  Youth from all over the city, from various churches, came to the meeting, which had over 100 people.  There was worship in music and dance, there was teaching, and there was prayer, both corporate and in small groups.  In fact, when it was time for small group prayer, the leaders asked the people over 30 to pray over the youth.  That means that most of our team sought young people to pray for.  I found 2 university students, sweet, smiling girls, and prayed for them.  They were very encouraged by my prayer, and thanked me for praying for them.

Later I heard that the churches all over the city regularly cooperate and meet together.  It gave me such hope.  Unity!  I would love to see unity like this in Milan—or even in America.  The Bratislavan churches do not compete with each other.  They recognize that the different expressions of faith and worship are simply a matter of the individual character of each church family.  People are not regarded with suspicion if they go to a meeting at another church.  I would guess that there is probably less church-hopping, as a result.  Because giving people the freedom to visit and learn from other believers conversely will instill in them a feeling of familial pride in their own home church.  Plus the home church benefits from the sharing of prophetic insight and instruction.  It’s really how the Body of Christ was intended to function.

Young people are the most precious resource that Slovakia has because young people have not yet lost their idealism or their positive outlook.  When a country loses its youth, it loses something really valuable.  It loses its future.

If you want to see the most flourishing of all post-Communism, you should come to Slovakia.  There is a sweetness here that will make you want to come back.  I know I do!  God is good!

 

Kebap Shop Breakfast

Greetings once again from Bratislava!

I woke up early this morning, and left the hostel in search of coffee.  I was surprised to see on the streets that there were a lot of drunken people, mostly young people, at 6:30 in the morning.  A few were staggering, but mostly I could tell that they were drunk by the volume of their voices.  I’m not sure if there is something about having lots of alcohol in the bloodstream that renders a person incapable of hearing as well as normal or if it’s just a matter of having spent all night with thundering music.  The drunken people on the streets all seemed to know the places where they could find food, which was mostly kebap/falafel shops.  The first place I stopped didn’t have coffee.  The counter person acted like it was strange to want coffee at such an hour of the morning.

The next place I stopped had coffee and seating indoors, so I sat down to drink my coffee.  A young man entered soon after me and asked for his kebap in English.  While he was waiting to pay, I asked him where he was from.  He said, “Ireland,” with some pride in his voice.  He paid and sat down with me.  He told me about his night, which had been spent with friends drinking in bars.  I asked his name, which was Sean.  He ate only half of his kebap, declaring that his eyes had been bigger than his stomach (something my dad had often said).   I asked him what time the bars close, and he said they close at 6.  He said that he was the “last man standing,” and that if the bar hadn’t closed, he would be happy to continue drinking because “I’m Irish,” (again said with pride).

Sean works in Bratislava, but travels often between here, Budapest, Vienna, and Prague.  Because he talked so much, I got the feeling that Sean is lonely here.  Perhaps loneliness is something that he is trying to escape with alcohol.  He looked at my cross and said, “You’ll probably feel better than me in the morning.”  Then he stood up and walked out.

I felt bad that I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to share Jesus with him, but I don’t know how much his boozy brain would be able to really understand or accept.  Anyway, I prayed for him.  He is probably my son’s age, and already very much an alcoholic.  It was a sad way to start a Sunday.

Nevertheless, I am looking forward to a very good Sunday because today I am going to kindergarten.  Actually, it is a church that meets in a kindergarten.  The church also runs the kindergarten.  Zuzana is a girl I met on our first night in Bratislava.  We met at that prayer group in the movie theater church.  Zuzana took me to her church, just to show it to me because it was close to where we were meeting, and it was interesting because of the kindergarten meeting there.  To her surprise and mine, the pastor was there—Pastor Ivan.  Immediately I felt a very strong urging by the Holy Spirit to pray for him.  It was a prayer very much led by the Holy Spirit, and it encouraged Pastor Ivan very much.

So when we talked about going to church last night, although I like Anushka’s church very much, I don’t feel like I’ve made quite the same connection as I did at Pastor Ivan’s kindergarten church.  Since it is close to Anushka’s church, and since Zuzana was sitting next to me, I asked if it would be OK if I go to her church instead.  Nobody had a problem with that, and Zuzana was very pleased to hear that I wanted to visit her church.

Most of all, I want to encourage Pastor Ivan, who has had some problems lately.  Sometimes the simple act of showing up can be very encouraging.  I think he will be very encouraged to see me again this morning in church.  And encouraging him will also encourage me.  In God’s work, everybody is encouraged and blessed.  I love working for the Lord!  He really is the best Boss ever!  I often tell people that my Boss is like a Father to me.  God is good!

Looking for An Answer

Day Twenty-One

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what He will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples, (Habakkuk 2:1-5, emphasis mine).

One of my prayer partners said that while praying for me, the Lord had indicated Habakkuk, which is only 3 chapters long.  So I read it, then read it again.  Then I listened to it on my audio Bible, and listened to it again.  This is what the Lord wants me to do with the answer: write it down.  Make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it—the modern version of which is of course, the internet.

Habakkuk, like me, wanted an answer.  He asked his question in chapter 1, and then in chapter 2 (see above), he stationed himself on the ramparts.  A rampart is a defensive structure.  It is the outer wall of a castle or city.  From the rampart you can see any enemy that is coming long before they actually arrive, so you have time to get your defenses ready.

And here also I find my answer.  My question is: these being the End Times, what comes next, and how should we be preparing for it.

The Answer: the enemy is coming with great deception.  Station yourself on the ramparts.  Watch and listen.  Be alert.

Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed! The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory, (Habakkuk 2:15-16, emphasis mine).

Jesus warned us about deception in the End Times in Matthew 24:24: “False messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect,” (emphasis mine).  Deceiving the people who are already deceived is one thing, but to deceive even the elect—the people Jesus chose for Himself, that’s powerful deception.  Yes, Jesus chose you:

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in My name the Father will give you, (John 15:16, emphasis mine).

We have been lulled to sleep by the media invading our very houses.  Think about what you are watching!  Shows like Big Brother encourage people to form alliances against each other, and even to have sex outside of marriage.  There are shows depicting all sorts of living arrangements that defy the Biblical definition of marriage.  And even Christians watch these things and have begun to accept them as “normal.”  How many depictions of murder have you witnessed in the name of entertainment in the past month?

This is how hearts become hardened, not all at once, but gradually, like a stalactite, one drop at a time.  When is the last time you walked out of a movie that offended you?  When is the last time you turned off the TV because the message was contrary to the Word of God?  Even the news is spun with an anti-Christian message.

You’ve got to do something now because when the antichrist comes with all the devil’s power of deception, you’ll be already primed to believe him.  Your ramparts have been broken down.

But the situation is not hopeless.  Begin today, now, to seek God.  Be alert.  Shut off the noise of the world and listen for His voice.

Sometimes people—believers!—say things to me that indicate that they think I’m some sort of super saint.  I’m not!  I’m an ordinary person.  The only difference between me and any other Christian is probably just a matter of surrender.  When I had nothing left to lose, I surrendered the little that I had left.  It wasn’t easy, but I’ve never regretted it.  In fact, my only regret is that I hadn’t surrendered sooner.  It would have saved me a whole lot of trouble.  So don’t dismiss what I’m saying by thinking that you have to be a special person.  You are a special person, chosen by Jesus, Himself.  To believe otherwise is to buy into the enemy’s deception.

The Rapture is imminent, right around the corner.  Don’t be left behind!  Things are going to get really bad after that.  Christians will be beheaded for their faith (Revelation 20:4).  Be alert!

Look, Listen, Love was God’s message to me for the Faith Trip I needed to take in order to follow Him more closely.  Look at what is going on around you.  Listen for His voice.  Let Love be the motivation behind everything you do.  Station yourself on the ramparts and watch.  Stay focused.  God is good!  He has given us a way out!

Confetti, Silly String, Masks, and Streamers Everywhere!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Milan has just had its Carnivale celebration.  Carnivale is the last hurrah before the carnal deprivation of Lent, and should technically be celebrated on Fat Tuesday (or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday.

In Italy, however, Carnivale is celebrated for two weeks.  Unlike the nearly naked and drunken celebrations of Carnivale in Brazil or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnivale here is mostly for children.  Confetti, Silly String in aerosol cans, streamers and costumes can be found in most every market and shop during the month of February.  And a two week celebration means that a child can celebrate Carnivale with her grandparents in Parma one weekend and celebrate at home in Milan the next weekend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One February I was in the small town of Iseo, Italy by the like-named lake.  I was tired, so I sat on a bench near a place where the sidewalk narrowed.  There was a boy about 3-4 years old in costume.  His dad was also tired so they shared my bench.  The boy had a bag of confetti and every time he saw another child approaching he pulled out a fistful and—POW!—showered the other kid with confetti.  The giggling that followed was positively contagious.  Then he would load up again and wait for his next victim.  We passed an hour or so this way.

February of 2010 I was in Venice.  I would never have deliberately gone to Venice during Carnivale because I don’t like being in crowds, but since I was there and it would probably be my only chance to do so, I went to St. Mark’s Square and watched the celebration.  Venice’s Carnivale is quite a spectacle, with some of the most opulent and elaborate costumes I have ever seen.  It reminded me of the costume party scene in Hitchcock’s “It Takes a Thief.”  I was told that some people save up all year for their Carnivale costumes, and I can believe it.  But it was a also an event for children.  At one point, I found myself near a family with two children.  The little boy kept tossing confetti on his little sister, who was too little to understand or appreciate the fun.  Finally he got frustrated with her and turned and threw confetti on me.  “Whee!”  I giggled every time he did it, which made him keep doing it until his mother stopped him.  I think she must have thought I was just being kind, but really I was having fun.

The very next day was when God told me about my ministry to Europe.  I like to think that God will use me and the rest of the missionaries in Europe to bring revival, and then we’ll celebrate in a party that never has to end.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yesterday celebrations ended here in Milan—just when I had gotten used to riding the subway with fairy princesses and Power Rangers!  All that’s left is Carnivale’s detritus: confetti and spent streamers all over the ground, and silly string going gooey all over the walls.  The city is really good about cleaning up after Carnivale, so there will be hardly a trace of its silly fun.  I don’t normally mind the winter, but February really needs Carnivale’s fun.  I think God knew that!