"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

We're Promised Peace in Chaos, Never From Chaos

In 1969 Paul Simon wrote a song entitled Bridge Over Troubled Waters. The closing words of that are "Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will ease your mind." Pop culture often weeds its way into the garden of truth. In my thirty years of pastoral ministry, I've seen more than a few Christians create a Jesus who becomes their "bridge over troubled waters." A typical prayer meeting is proof. Most requests are for Jesus to remove troubles such as illness, poverty, conflict, etc... It's as if Christians believe the world around them is peaceful by nature, and intrusions of trouble and turmoil are unnatural.

Not so.

That the world evolves peacefully, gradually, and uniformly toward better and better outcomes is a lie of those who whose sole hope is mankind. It is an unscientific belief-- unscientific because it is neither observable,  measurable or verifiable -- and it has led people to believe that this world is naturally evolving toward better outcomes. Mankind, it is said, is a microcosm of Mother Universe and her progression toward stability and peace.

Not so.

Mankind, apart from God, is always devolving -- like the universe -- toward worse and worse outcomes. The brilliant Immanuel Velikovsky, a close friend of Albert Einstein, shook the scientific world with his 1950's book Worlds in Collision, where Velikovsky proved the earth's human population has almost been destroyed three times throughout history by natural, cosmic disasters. Velikovsky, a Jew, was deemed a heretic for his postulations that the sun used to rise in the west and set in the east, that the ancients wrote in great detail how destructive forces from the skies totally destroyed the world as it was then known, and that the Old Testament accounts of "the sun standing still" and "great stones from heaven" crushing the earth are nothing more than the destructive gravity forces of near collisions with stellar objects, including the newest planet Venus.  The world, wrote Velikovsky, is a world in chaos.

Jesus agrees.

Jesus told us that we will "always have the poor among us" (Matt. 26:11).The Apostle Paul, assuming everyone knew the world is in chaos, wrote "the whole creation is groaning, waiting the day of redemption" (Romans 8:22). He further wrote, "Don't be shaken by the troubles you are going through. You know that we are destined for such troubles" (I Thess. 3:3). The writer of Hebrews commends those with faith in God who were "tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Others faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground" (Hebrews 11:35-38).  Jesus wasn't a bridge over troubled waters for these people. He brought them peace in the midst of their troubles.

Application:

There is a growing sense among scientists that great natural disasters are coming. The evil of ISIS is spreading. The world economies - built on the lies of human governments and fiat currencies - is ready to collapse in an inescapable downward spiral.

It's coming.

But here's the thing worth remembering. Throughout the history of the world, these events have always come. The world is in chaos. This isn't nothing new, nor does it necessarily indicate the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Nobody knows if God's plans for this earth are coming to a close or will continue indefinitely.

What we do know is Jesus promised His followers a "peace that passes all understanding." Unless your theology of Jesus and His Kingdom transcends your temporal desire for life, health and happiness, you will always be shaken by chaos in this life. But if you know the God whose "Kingdom never ends" and believe that this life is only a step into the next, then you will not clutch to the absence of chaos as evidence of Christ's love for you.

Jesus is not our bridge over troubled waters; He's the stability of our souls and the Rock of our hope right smack dab in the middle of the turmoil around us.

Historical Ignorance May Be Our Greatest Enemy

The following words come from the closing portions of the Presidential Inaugural Prayers given during the Oath of Office Ceremony for the President of the United States of America.

 "Bless abundantly our Chief Magistrate. Inspire his leadership. Grant him, O God of infinite wisdom and power, the light and the strength to carry through the great work that he has so well begun, and to pursue untiringly his magnificent vision of social peace and social justice. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen."  - The 1937 Inaugural for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"In the name of Him who is the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord. Amen.”  - The 1941 Inaugural for Franklin D. Roosevelt.
 
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the  Holy Ghost … Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” - The 1945 Inaugural for Franklin D. Roosevelt.
 
"Send forth Thy Holy Spirit in the fullness of his gifts to bless us with wisdom to perceive the ways of Thy Holy Will." - The 1949 Inaugural for Harry S. Truman.

"May Thy Holy Spirit descend upon him with the gift of wisdom, to lead, and understanding to know Thy holy will." - The 1953 Inaugural of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

"...bless our nation ... through Jesus Christ, our Lord." - The 1957 Inaugural of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

 "On this twentieth day of January — 1,961 years after the birth of Christ — on occasion of the inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy as President of the United States of America — do Thou, oh Almighty God, give him, his Cabinet, the Congress and courts of the United States — and all of us — Thy grace." - The 1961 Inaugural of John F. Kennedy.

 "We ask this in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, the lifegiving Trinity, for the benefit of our Nation and all nations believing or aspiring for freedom, justice, dignity, and peace. Amen." - The 1965 Inaugural of Lyndon B. Johnson.

"We pray this humbly in the Name of the Prince of Peace who shed His blood on the Cross that men might have eternal life. Amen" - The 1969 Inaugural of Richard M. Nixon

"All this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, Thy son and our savior. Amen." - The 1977 Inaugural of James E. Carter.

"We pray in the name of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, even Jesus Christ. Amen.” - The 1981 Inaugural of Ronald W. Reagan.

"May the President and the Vice-President of these United States and all who stand with him in his desire for peace receive first the peace of Christ and in all things seek first not the kingdom of plenty or the kingdom of political superiority, but may they seek humbly first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. In the name of the King even Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen." - The 1985 Inaugural for Ronald W. Reagan

"In Thy sovereignty Thou hast permitted George Bush to lead us at this momentous hour of our history for the next four years. As he today places his hand upon the Bible and solemnly swears before Thee to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, give him the wisdom, integrity and courage to help this become a nation that is gentle and kind." - The 1989 Inaugural for George H.W. Bush

"I pray this in the name of the one that’s called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. Amen." - The 1993 Inaugural for William Jefferson Clinton.

"This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen." - The 1997 Inaugural of William Jefferson Clinton.

"We respectfully submit this humble prayer in the name that’s above all other names, Jesus the Christ. Let all who agree say ‘Amen.'” - The 2001 Inaugural of George W. Bush.

"Now, unto You, O God, the One who always has been and always will be, the one King of kings and the true power broker, we glorify and honor You.  Respecting persons of all faiths, I humbly submit this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen." - The 2005 Inaugural of George W. Bush.

"I humbly ask this in the name of the One who changed my life - Yeshua, Isa, Jesus - who taught us how to pray, "Our Father who are in heaven..." - The 2009 Inaugural of Barak Obama

Source and Source

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For those who think it inappropriate to mention the name of Jesus Christ during Oath of Office Ceremony for the President of the United States -- believing that it places one religion above another -- it would be wise to consider the words of our Founding Fathers on the matter.

The Father of American Jurisprudence, Joseph Story, clarified the meaning of the First Amendment with regard to the priority of Christianity in America:
At the time of the adoption of the constitution, and of the amendment to it, now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation (1833, 44.723-726.3.3.1865-1868, emp. added).
The First Amendment was never intended to “level all religions” (i.e. Islam, by it's very name means "submission" not “liberty”). The Father of American Jurisprudence further explained:
The real object of the [First] amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government(1833, 3:728, emp. added).
Jesus Christ is the King of Kings. Every Christian owes his or her allegiance to Him before any allegiance to America. However, Christians who believe that a state should have no preference of religion only opens itself up to being overtaken from without. Being an American is not the same thing as being Christian, nor is being a Christian the same thing as being an American.
 
However, being an American in the truest sense means you believe that the principles of freedom, liberty and justice - both individually and nationally - are built on the principles of God's Word (thus the President places his hand on the Bible). As Andrew Jackson, the founder of the Democratic Party and the 7th President of the United States, once said of the Bible:
"That book, sir, is the Rock upon which this Republic rests."
Application:

Emmanuel Enid is doing some great work in Africa among the Muslim people. We are drilling for water, providing hospitals, teaching men how to farm, giving free medicine, etc... We are doing this work through African nationals, in the name of Jesus Christ.

Do you know what our biggest hindrance is in our mission work within Africa? It's Muslims who equate American drones, bombs, and military might on their continent with "Christianity." How unfortunate.

(1). America ought to withdraw from wars around the globe and let Europe, Africa and other continents fight it out. There will always be wars among us; but unless our national security is at stake, we should not fight other peoples' wars for them.
(2). The money we save from withdrawing from foreign countries should be put into securing our borders. New immigrants who cannot accept that Christianity is the preferred religion of the United States should not be allowed to enter. That doesn't mean new immigrants cannot worship as they please - the First Amendment guarantees their freedom to do so - but it does mean that any new immigrant who believes America should follow Sharia Law or any other Law contrary to the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - the very principles taught by Jesus Christ and the founding documents of the United States - should not be allowed citizenship.
(3). Any aid the American government gives to foreign countries should be only humanitarian in nature (food, water, medical, housing, etc...).
(4). America should get it's fiscal house in order, removing any politician who approves spending more than our country receives in taxes.
Not everyone will agree with this post, especially my fellow Christians who live in America and find themselves loving the modern progressivism movement. While it may be impossible for me to change your mind about Christianity and America, it may not be too late to convince you that what America needs is a great revival of true religion.

Christianity is not the same thing as American politics, but it may be that what has caused the decline of our republic is the loss of true Christian character among her people.

"Ich Kaan Nigt Mehr" - I Can Go No Further

The mountain peak over my left shoulder is the Eiger Mountain in Switzerland. The shadow portion on the left side of the Eiger is the infamous north face. In 1936 Adolph Hitler challenged German climbers to climb the Eiger's north face, a feat never before accomplished in human history, in a desire to spread publicity regarding the upcoming 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Two Germans and two Austrians, led by German mountaineer Toni Kurz, took Hitler up on his challenge and attempted to climb the north face of the Eiger. All four moutain climbers died in the process. Toni Kurz was the last one to die, and the story of his death is gutwrenching. After losing all three of his companions to either rock slides or roping accidents, Toni Kurz found himself trapped on the end of a long rope, dangling for two days from the sheer mountain side. He dropped his left glove, and his hand froze in the frigid air. A rescue team was sent up the mountain to rescue Toni, but because the team also lost a rope, they had not enough rope to facilitate the rescue, falling two meters short of being able to reach Toni. Seeing his rescuers could advance no further, Toni worked for five hours with his one hand,  attempting to tie together two ropes to lower himself to the rescues, but after his painful and unfruitful attempt to lower himself a mere six feet, Toni Kurz looked at his rescuers and uttered in German:
"Ich kann nigt mehr." 
Translated, those four German words mean "I can go no further."  At that very moment Toni Kurz died. It would be two weeks later that another Austrian rescue team reclaimed the body of Toni Kurz.

The story of Tony Kurz and the unsuccessful 1936 attempt to conquer Eiger is grippingly retold in the 1960 classic book The White Spider (reprinted in 1998). Most people know of the Eiger because of Clint Eastwood's movie The Eiger Sanction, but for drama and edge-of-your-seat suspense, nothing tops the 2008 German movie (with English subtitles) North Face, which recreates the true story  of Toni Kurz and his failed attempt at climbing the Eiger.

We are staying at the Eiger Hotel, directly across from Eiger mountain, and as I thought of Tony Kurz's last words - "Ich kann nigt mehr" - I can go no further - I couldn't help but think about how similar physically death is to spiritual rebirth.

The moment a person comes to the end of himself, an event Jesus calls "dying to self," which is in essence a person giving up and dying to self-effort, self-will, and self-love - what Paul Tripp calls "The Kingdom of Self" - then Jesus Christ takes over.

So death and hope go hand in hand in the Kingdom of God. I die to self that I might really live, empowered by God, for His kingdom and not my own.

I can go no further. But God can do through me what I never dreamed possible.

We Are the Salt of the Earth

Yesterday we visited the historic Wielizcka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland. I have long been fascinated with White Gold (salt), and one of my favorite historical pieces is entitled White Gold: The Amazing Story of Thomas Jefferson's Mountain of Salt and the Discovery of the Great Salt Plains in northwestern Oklahoma.  The Wielizcka Salt Mine was established in 1242, and because salt was as valuable as gold in ancient times -- the word "salary" comes from salt because wages were paid in salt -- the Wielizcka Mine eventually provided the King of Poland with one third of his kingdom's entire income. Amazingly, by the year 1493, just one year after "Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492," a twenty-year-old University of Krakov student named Copernicus visited the Wielizcka Salt Mine as a tourist. The statue pictured to the left, a statue made completely of salt, commemorates Coperincus' visit to the salt mine. As we walked through the various chambers, one couldn't help but notice the power of salt. Not only is it essential for life - for without it people die - but it is an amazing preservative. Not until refigeration and electricity were invented in the 19th century did salt begin to lose its value, for prior to this there was nothing else like salt. Even the wooden timbers placed in the mine in the 13th century look like they were cut down last week. Salt preserves life. 

Jesus tells His followers that we are "the salt of the world" (Matthew 5:13). We, by our love and our conduct, preserve life the way it was meant to be lived - the Jesus way. 

Our friend in Poland, Henrik Emmanuel Krul, told us that he first came to America in 1973 and he was amazed at how many people were openly reading their Bibles on the buses he traveled, bowing their heads and praying before meals in the restaurants where he ate, and stopping him on the streets to talk to him about Jesus Christ. Poland was still under communism in those days, and Henry told us that as he observed America for the first time, his thoughts went back to Poland and how his family had guests over for dinner and "father said, 'Henrik, go get the Bibles' and a fear would come over him. "The police were always looking for anyone who had a Bible, anyone who evangelized others, and anyone who prayed outside of the state churches. Communist authorities considered us subversives and were always seeking to jail us." Henry longed for the freedoms he saw in America; the bold Christian testimony that seemed everywhere around him.

My tour of the Wielizcka Salt Mine reminded me that Jesus has called all us who follow Him "salt." I want people who see me, who know me, who hear me, who live with me, to all find a "preserving influence" in my life; an encouragement to live for Christ and to love the kingdom of God more than the kingdom of self.

We are the salt of the world.

God Replaces the Goose with a Swan

Tonight is one of those occasions I will remember for the rest of my life. Our youth from Emmanuel Enid have been teaching English to Polish students in Zory, Poland. They traveled 45 minutes to Dzieliegov, Poland today to join us for the evangelistic meeting where I am preaching. We are on the border of Poland and the Czech Republic. At tonight's evangelistic service, hundreds of Czechoslavakians crossed the border mountains into Poland to attend the service. At the close of meeting tonight, many Czechs gave their hearts to Christ (the picture to the left is one my wife took at the end of the service).

Today is a national holiday in the Czech Republic. 600 years ago, on July 6, 1415, Jon Hus, was burned at the stake.  I won't go into the details of all that Hus did in his life, except to say that he was the forerunner of the Reformation.

In in the Czech language the name Hus means "goose." Catholic officials burned Hus at the stake in 1415 because he taught the people that they should be able to read the Bible for themselves, that they could talk to God directly without the mediation of a priest since Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest for all believers, and he encouraged people to trust in the grace of God in Christ alone for their salvation.

Jon Hus died for his faithfulness to the gospel. He was the true foreunner of the Reformation.

100 years later, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenburg Castle in Germany and the Reformation officially  began. Luther's name in Latin means "Swan."

The enemy killed a goose and God gave the world a swan.

Tonight, 600 years later,  I saw the grace of God transform the lives of some Czechs. The national hero of Czechoslavakia, Jon Hus,  is continuing to see the fruit from his martyrdom.

The gates of hell shall not prevail.

The Multiplication Principle of Kingdom Giving

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Kyle Williams and I are standing in front of a building in Bytom-Miechowiche, Poland. Not just any building. It's a place where ministry to abused women and children in Poland is taking place. The man and woman between us runs these ministries from this building.

See the beautiful red roof on top of the building? The people of Emmanuel Enid rebuilt it.

Five years ago Emmanuel Enid voted to remodel our youth center and rename it "The Connect Space." In conjunction with that project, our church voted to set aside 10% of the funds we raised for our youth center spend that money on an overseas missions project. The project chosen was the one pictured above - to replace the roof. Doesn't sound exciting does it. Just wait for the rest of the story.

Ultimately, $100,000 was wired from Enid, Oklahoma to Bytom-Miechowiche, Poland.

I'd like to give an amazing report on what happened after we wired the money. It's an illustration that God mulitiplies the seed given by His people to bring an incredible harvest.

Background

The building chosen by Emmanuel Enid was not just any building. It is located on the property of -- and sits next to - the original home of Eva von Tiele-Winckler (1866-1930). Eva was born in southeastern Germany into a family of nobility and wealth. Eva, raised a nominal Catholic, came to faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 17 while reading John 10.

Upon her conversion she decided to do something to help the poor in her homeland. When her father gave her property and a home on her eighteenth birthday, she turned it into a place she called Friedenshort, which means "an abode of peace." Eva's passion was to care for women and children who were poor, destitute and in need of help.

Forsaking her life of privilege and riches, Eva opened her house, and built additional homes on her properties for orphans, widows, the poor and the infirm. By the end of her lifetime, over 40 homes had been established in Poland through her labor.


But that first property Mother Eva turned into a ministry for the forsaken, the building above, always had a special place in her heart. Mother Eva would preach the gospel in women's prisons and when those women were dischaged from prison, she'd bring them to her "abode of peace" to care for them and disciple them. Eva eventually sent a number of the women whom she discipled to China to serve with the China Inland Mission. Other women under Eva's influence went to serve in Guatemala, Africa, and India. Eva herself was greatly influenced by George Mueller and was personally encouraged by contact with Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis, Hudson Taylor, the Welsh Revival, and the Keswick Convention.

The orphans that Eva helped in her lifetime numbered in the thousands. It was these orphans who gave to Eva the name "Mother Eva" for the care she gave to them as if she was their own mother. Mother Eva is buried on the grounds of the old German orphanage she founded. She insisted before her death that name should not be placed on the tombstone and only two Latin words should be etched in the stone: "Ancilla Domini" which means "servant of the Lord."

Communism

After World War II, communism and Stalin took over Poland. Mother Eva died prior to the war, but her ministry to women and children carried on. Communist officials went on the offensive against Christians, persecuting those in Poland who professed to follow Christ. The underground church was developed, and the first evangelical Christians in Poland began meeting in Mother Eva's buildings. In 1950, thirty men and women met for a week of encouragement and Bible study, a week of meetings that have carried on for sixty-four sraight years, through persecution, the eventual fall of communism, and some dark economic times in Poland.

Today, July 4, 2015 marked the beginning of a week long evangelism meeting in Dzieliegow, Poland, the continuation of those meetings first begun in 1950 in Mother Eva's home.  This evening I preached from Philippians 4:11 and approximately 16 women and 4 men gave their hearts to Christ. We are meeting in a large tent, and hopefully tomorrow or Monday I'll post some pictures of the meeting for you to get a feel for what is happening. The guest speakers at this conference in year's past include Luis Palau, Ravi Zacharias, Leighton Ford, Stuart Brisco and others. I'm a short weed in some tall cotton, but it's fun to be part of a week where you sense God moving.

But before we had our meeting tonight, we toured the building. Remember that $100,000 that Emmanuel gave to rebuild the roof? Not a colorful mission project is it? Well, if you had seen the building five years ago, you would have known why it was important. Built over an old coal mine, the entire building was about to collapse. We heard today from structural engineers for Habitat for Humanity that the "incredible timing" of the gift of Emmanuel Enid, which enabled the complete rebuilding of the roof -- prevented the building from completely falling in upon itself.

But there's more.

Because Emmanuel Enid gave the gift the rebuild the roof, the European Union stepped in, understanding that the building had historic significance, and gave $2.2 million dollars to compltely refurbish it from the inside out. The reason the ministry was able to obtain the EU grant was because Emmanuel Enid had already rebuilt the roof (that was the condition of the grant).

But there's more.

When the EU stepped in to remodel the building, they forced the coal mine to make foundation repairs, which included underground support, filling in the chasms created underneath the surface of the ground by coal mining.

But there's more.

That little $100,000 gift given by Emmanuel Enid five years ago has blossomed into well over $3,000,000.00 dollars of funding. We were told, over and over again today, that everyone involved in the project of rebuilding this building marveled at the timing of Emmanuel Enid's gift. Had it not arrived when it did, the building would be gone.

Now, abused women and children are finding shelter in the area Mother Eva once called home. By the way, Mother Eva is buried just behind the building I'm writing about. She may be gone, but her work carries on.

Thanks, Emmanuel Enid, for being a church that cares about mission work around the world.