Putting Unemployed Angels to Work

One really nice thing about not having a television is that I have gotten out of the habit of zoning-out in front of the idiot box at the end of the day.  And let’s be honest, there are a lot of things on television that are not faith-building.  In fact, there are far more unchristian and even antichristian programs than there are Christian programs.  Ask yourself this: if I wouldn’t let my children or grandchildren watch this, then why am I watching it?

Instead of television, what I do is spend time with friends, read a book, or watch sermons on You Tube.  Instead of only hearing 1 Bible-based message a week, I hear as many as 10.  The Bible says: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” (Romans 10:17, NKJV).  So if I have a lot of faith, that is why—I’m hearing the Word of God daily.  And do you know what?  That gives me more of an appetite for the Word of God, which gives me more faith.  It’s a righteous cycle.  Hallelujah!

This morning I was praying for Europe, my mission field.  My fellow missionaries understand the burden I feel for Europe because each of us feels that for our respective mission fields.  It’s not a burden in the way that most people think of burdens.  Rather, it’s a deep longing and desire to pray and to keep bringing Europe’s people before the throne of God.

So as I was praying this morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me of something I heard in a sermon recently.  The sermon was about calling on angelic help.  “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14, emphasis mine).  There are billions of angels.  A third of the angels rebelled, including a cherub named Lucifer, and became fallen angels, also called demons.  Matthew 18:10 makes it clear that each child has a guardian angel.  So if there are over 7 billion people currently alive on planet earth (check out: World Population Clock), then that means that there are billions of angels.  In addition to the guardian angel that each of us has, there are messenger angels (like Gabriel), warrior angels (like Michael), and worship angels (like the ones around God’s throne).  And the angels have ranks: angels, archangels, princes, thrones, etc.

So, given that there are literally billions of angels, outnumbering the demons by 2 to 1, then there are a whole lot of angels ready to help us.  But they’re mostly idle because we haven’t asked God to send angels to help us.

Note: Never go directly to the angels, themselves.  They take their orders from God.  If you ask an angel to help you, you will unknowingly be inviting a demon to interfere in your life.  Whereas God must be invited to act on your behalf, demons will push their way into the slightest opening that they are given.  If you’re curious about the purpose and position of angels, read the first chapter of Hebrews.

Often I am saddened by the spiritual state of Europe.  Operation World says that Europe is “by far the most secular and least religious continent,” (pg. 79).  On top of that, there are not anywhere near enough missionaries to bring the Gospel to every part of Europe.  My organization, European Faith Missions, in partnership with GoMissions, is working to remedy that situation by offering an online bulletin board for matching missionaries with serving opportunities in Europe.  But Europe has failed to capture the imagination of most Christians.

Americans think of Europe as a wealthy place because that’s where rich people go on vacation.  The reality is that there is a much bigger gap between rich and poor here, and there is practically no middle class in most European countries.  Moreover, the third world can be found in every gypsy camp throughout Europe.

I am very aware that the clock is ticking down to the end, and it’s very near.  So, inspired by the Holy Spirit, I prayed for angels to help in the task of spreading the Gospel throughout Europe.  On Judgment Day we won’t be judged for our sins because if we’re Christian, then Jesus has already paid the full price for our sins at the cross.  But we will be judged for our works.  Don’t misunderstand that as meaning anything like salvation by works.  Each of us has been given spiritual gifts and work to do for the Lord.  On Judgment Day we will receive the reward for our work.

No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.  1 Corinthians 3:11-15, emphasis mine

Salvation determines where we will spend Eternity, our work on earth determines our reward for Eternity (read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30).  Do you know what our reward is?  God told Abraham: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your Shield, your very Great Reward,” (Genesis 15:1, emphasis mine).  Our reward will be how much facetime we have with God.  Each time I experience the presence of God, it leaves me wanting more.  His presence is our reward, and how much we get to experience of His presence in Eternity will be determined by how faithfully we carried out our work here on earth.  Remember how the people begged Moses to put a veil over his face because he shined too much with the glory after talking with God (Exodus 34:29-35)?  Well, I believe that the same glory that caused the people to avoid Moses will attract the people to us in Eternity.

But it’s not the people that interest me so much, but being in the presence of God.  That’s where I want to spend my time in Eternity.  I want a Great Reward!

If Christians fail to answer the call of God to come to this mission field, I will call the angels to do their work.  And those of us who answered the call will have our Reward.  God is good!  And His presence is the best Reward I could ever get!  He is my very Great Reward!  Hallelujah!

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!

Hey American Girl, Lighten Up!

Note: I started writing this on Friday, but got busy and didn’t finish it until today.

Yesterday I learned that there would be the screening of a documentary about human trafficking in Bologna: Nefarious.  Human trafficking is an issue that I have been intensely interested in ever since attending an International Justice Mission informational event at the University of Texas.

I was an usher with the Texas Performing Arts Center.  I had become an usher because a dear friend is an usher at the San Francisco Opera House.  About 6 months after my divorce, I went to visit her, and she arranged for me to work as a guest usher.  I handed out programs at one of the main doors, and got to watch La Traviata for free.  I was hooked.  Since I don’t own a television, it was a good way to get out among people and see some entertainment for free.  TPA, which is on the campus of the University of Texas, hosts operas, ballets, plays, musicals, concerts, etc.   They required that all ushers work a variety of events, and not only “entertainments.”  These included student events like commencements, workshops, and informational events like IJM, all of which we are free to choose.

When I learned that IJM was a Christian event, I signed up, even though I didn’t know what it was.  The auditorium was packed out, so I stood at the back, fascinated and horrified, and heard story after story of women kidnapped and put to work in brothels far from their homes; men who had been tricked into working off bogus debts while living captive in squalor; and even children sold into the sex trade.  There were success stories of people liberated, but clearly the vast majority had not been affected yet.  The most encouraging thing about that evening was seeing the response of the students.  I realized that only young, idealistic, committed people could ever make an impact on the trade in human trafficking.  Most people my age feel bad about the situation, but never do anything, having had our idealism beaten out of us by life.

It was only after returning to Europe as a missionary that I became aware of the prevalence of human trafficking here.  I started educating myself on the subject, reading as many books about human trafficking as I could get my hands on.  Over time, I started to notice just how many people in my city, and even in my own neighborhood, have probably been trafficked here.  It’s shocking.  A few times I have had the opportunity to talk frankly with these trafficked people, but mostly it’s not possible because they speak neither English nor Italian.  Here are a few of the different slaves I have seen:

  • The girl from China who cuts hair 15 hours a day in a busy salon that charges prices so low they can’t possibly pay her a living wage
  • The man from Sri Lanka who goes from restaurant to restaurant selling flowers, bringing all the proceeds back to his “boss”
  • The teenaged girl from Romania standing on the street corner waiting for a man to pick her up in his car and take her away for sex
  • The man from Vietnam who washes dishes in a restaurant for 12 hours a day, every day, with no day off
  • The woman from Thailand who works all day sewing, weaving, and mending in the dingy room in the back of the tailor shop

If any of these people sound familiar to you, understand that their fellow slaves are in your town, too—yes, even in the United States.  Check out the Slavery Map: www.notforsalecampaign.org/slavery-map

So that is how I became interested in human trafficking, and why I’m going to Bologna to see the screening of Nefarious.  The friend who told me about the screening is Annie, a missionary from the US.  In fact, we decided to go together.  So I booked us a hotel room because our friends there all have full houses because of the screening.  In trying once again to buy train tickets on the internet, I found that the website still didn’t work right.  I don’t live terribly far from the train station, but I am busy enough that I wasn’t happy about having to go down there to do something that, in theory, I should be able to do online.

At the first opportunity, I went to buy train tickets.  Usually I buy train tickets from the machine so that I don’t have to stand in the long line.  The machine also wasn’t working, so I went into the ticket office.  One big improvement is that there is no line now, but a machine that gives you a number instead.  That’s nice.  Now if they would just give us some chairs, things would be even better.  When my number came up I went to the window and asked for my trains.  I found that the price was slightly higher than the internet price, which might be due to being closer to the date of travel or the special priced tickets having been sold out.  Still, it wasn’t much higher than expected.

As we finished the transaction, I asked the ticket seller why the train company’s website never seems to work when it comes to buying tickets online.  He said, “If everything worked as expected, then there would be no surprises.  We Italians have learned to live with these inefficiencies.”  I replied, “I’m American, and we expect things to work as they should.”  He just smiled and said, “That’s your problem.  When things don’t work as they should, it’s trouble and chaos for you.”  That’s when I realized that God was speaking to me through this man.  It’s the same lesson He’s been teaching me since I began the Faith Trip almost 2 years ago: relax, don’t worry, and remember that God is in control of it all.

How embarrassing to have to keep learning the same lesson again and again!  I was so sure that I knew it!  In fact, I have written about not being worried about missing trains, buses, or planes: A-DivineAppointment and I-missed-the-train-but-made-it-to-the-divine-appointment, and older posts.  But I do intend to make it to the train (and the film) on time.

Thank God that He’s so patient with me!  God is good!

God’s Standard

Grace is amazing!  I’m so thankful for grace that saved me through no effort of my own.  After all, I could never live up to God’s standard without the work of salvation by grace in the death of Jesus on the cross.  All our good works are like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6—some translations actually say “like menstrual rags”).

But even if grace is free, it doesn’t mean that we are excused forever from doing good works.  Good works are not how we get into Heaven, but they do have value.  Here are some of my thoughts about good works and the fruit (results) of those works:

  • Good works are something that we were created to do (Ephesians 2:10)
  • God’s work of salvation in us will come out as good fruit (Matthew 12:33)
  • Our work will bear fruit, either good fruit or bad (Matthew 7:16-19)
  • We are expected to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 3:8)
  • If we don’t bear fruit, the Father will cut us off (John 15:2)
  • We will bear fruit if we stay close to Jesus (John 15:5)
  • Our work will be tested (1 Corinthians 3:12-14)
  • It’s important to keep doing good works because we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9)

We could never save ourselves by good works, so that’s not the point of doing good works.  When we do “good works” in our flesh, we produce filthy rags.  Yes, even those things that seem good are nothing without the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  So you can spend your whole life working alongside Mother Teresa, but if God didn’t call you there, it’s all wasted effort.  And even if you are called there, but don’t spend daily time in prayer, seeking God’s face, it’s wasted effort.

Good works should produce good fruit (results) for the Kingdom—fruit that lasts.  So to produce good fruit, we’ve got to stay close to Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

Now examine yourself.  Think about how you spend your time each day.  How much time do you spend praying and reading God’s Word and then doing good works that He’s called you to do?  Now compare that to how much time you waste in front of the TV, at the computer, or playing with electronic gadgets.  (I’m not perfect, either, just in case you’re wondering.)  The world has lots of ways of seducing us away from our first love (God), so it takes some effort to resist those temptations.  Even things that are not sins, strictly speaking, can be sins if they take us away from those things that we should be doing.

So thanks to Jesus, we’ve gotten a boost that gets us entry into Heaven.  But now it’s up to us to do the good works that will bear lasting fruit for the Kingdom.  And these things we do not just because it’s required of us, but out of a grateful heart.

Once you do surrender your will completely to Him, you’ll find that His yoke really is easy and His burden is light.

God is good.

Contrarian Kingdom

When I was growing up in the 1960’s the popular wisdom was to life a lifestyle of non-conformity.  The youth of those days could see that the so-called wisdom of previous generations had landed us into an unwinnable war in Vietnam, and many of us saw our fathers slaving away their hours at jobs that took them from the family at least eight hours a day, and left them too exhausted to do anything but veg-out in front of the TV at night watching the banalities of the day.

So in the 60’s youth culture non-conformity meant never trusting “The Establishment” or “The Man.”  Non-conformity meant a carefree lifestyle, living fully in the moment, day-by-day.

Come to think of it, not much has changed, except that things have gotten even worse.  Now we are in an unwinnable war against terrorism (how do you fight a concept?), and mothers have joined fathers in working themselves to exhaustion.  Television has also gotten worse.  Now (with a few exceptions) banality is the best one can hope for.  Some popular shows are offensive and actually harmful (IMHO).  Reality TV shows mostly bring out the very worst in people, who are willing to do just about anything to have their 15 minutes of fame.

And the worst part of all this?  The Establishment is now composed of the very same people who embraced non-conformity back in the 1960’s.  The long-haired, peace-loving kid of the 60’s is now The Man.

How did this happen?  In a word:  money.  The truth is that without money, life is very difficult, if not impossible.  Many of the youth of the 60’s came to the conclusion that a carefree lifestyle is impossible without money.  Little by little those carefree kids became slaves to money.

But the original concept of a carefree life of non-conformity was and is right.  And it is only achievable by living a life that is fully surrendered to Jesus.  Check it out:

Fear [reverently respect] the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.  Psalm 34:9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4

Some people think that God is stingy.  God isn’t stingy at all, we’re the stingy ones.  God is generous.  Read yesterday’s post, if you don’t believe me:  https://europeanfaithmissions.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/god-meets-radical-faith-with-radical-provision/.  I took Him at His Word, and He proved it to me.

If you want to live that carefree, non-conformist lifestyle, put God and His Kingdom first.