Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Is this what we prayed for?

Two months ago it was far away in China. One month ago it was a little bit closer, in Italy. Now it´s all over Europe, the U.S. and all around the globe. Even India with its staggering 1.3 billion people is in shut-down mode with only the most essential functions still operating: Covid-19 has invaded the planet. A tiny little virus has turned the entire world upside down!


So, what´s going on? Is this some evil plan by demonic forces? Is it a conspiracy of the pharma industry? Was the virus really manufactured by scientists as a biological weapon? Is it God´s judgment? Are we in the end-times? Or is it just a natural phenomenon that happened randomly?


As Christians, we can be assured: God is in control! At the end of the day, it doesn´t matter where the virus came from or who made what mistake that might have caused more damage than necessary. The better question is, like it should be in every disaster, how we as Christians should respond to the crisis. I think our response should be threefold: Worship, Work, Witness. Yes, "www" - we can even use the world-wide-web to do it! Let me say a few words to each of these three responses.

  1. WORSHIP: Remarkably, some things that seemed to be so important to many of us, are now shut down (football stadiums, concert halls, temples, even churches...). I believe God is calling us back to worship Him, independent from whether he gives or takes. We sang it in songs, didn´t we? God deserves our worship in the good days when we have an abundance of everything (health, wealth, family, job, etc.) just as much as in the difficult times when things are rough, we are getting old or loved ones die. We might not understand. We can grieve. We can and should fight, pray and fast for victory, recovery, and safety. But it would be the greatest if, in everything, we could say with Job: "Though he slay me, yet I will trust in (= worship) him!" Nothing can separate us from His love, therefore let nothing keep us from praising Him!
  2. WORK: Many of the frontline workers in hospitals and nursing homes are dedicated Christians, who, together with believers of other religions as well as atheists, are tirelessly serving the sick and dying, risking and often sacrificing their lives for the sake of others. Even if the virus was God´s judgment, Christians should always seek to help and serve. It was Christ´s mission, and as the Father had sent him, so he has sent us into this world. Of course, that does not only apply for doctors and nurses but to every believer in his/her circle of influence.
  3. WITNESS: The first two "w"s would be incomplete without this one. After all, what good is it, if a vaccine and a cure for Covid-19 are developed, everybody goes back to work/school but remains untouched in their hearts and souls? Neither CNN nor the governments of this world will call sinners to repentance. How will the lost hear of the loving Savior unless somebody tells them about him?
It is tempting for me to also focus on the plans of the enemy, as I am not unaware of his schemes (see 2. Cor. 2:11). It is not very difficult to see how the Antichristian forces are using the current events to pursue their agenda. But thoughts like these will be labeled conspiracy by the conspirators, I try therefore to focus on the positive things God is doing or wants us to do respectively. Just a few thoughts on something that C.S. Lewis is said to have written as early as in 1942: 


I think what Jesus says here is a very good description of how God can use the current crisis for good. I also agree that the enemy would like to promote anxiety, fear, and panic - the opposites of peace, faith, and trust. Satan always comes to steal, destroy and to kill. I don´t think, however, that he has any interest in shutting down businesses, schools, sports events, and even churches, as these have become idols for many that have replaced true worship of the living God, the creator of all things. It seems more plausible to me that Jesus did the former (closing of places, financial turmoil) to bring about the latter (restoration of families, etc.)! So, maybe Covid-19 is really what we prayed for when we asked the Lord for revival!?

See also God´s sovereignty in natural disasters, accidents and terrorist  attacks 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

What it takes to shake nations

Gambling/Entertainment: Las Vegas closed
Dow Jones, DAX down
About 2600 years ago, the prophet Zephania foresaw: "The Lord will be awesome to them when he destroys all the idols (gods) of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land" (Zep 2:11) -  
Who would have thought that He could do this with a little virus? 

Sports: Stadiums closed, Olympics postponed
Music: Concert Halls closed
Arts: Theaters closed
Entertainment/Gambling: Las Vegas closed
Hollywood: Cinemas closed
Travel: Hotels closed, flights canceled
Economy: DowJones, DAX down
Yes, even Religion: Churches, mosques; temples closed!

None of the things mentioned above are evil or bad in themselves. But if they become the center of our lives (i.e. our idols), God is able to turn entire nations upside down anytime. What an opportunity to reconsider our ways! 

Turning disasters into opportunities
The church by and large missed 9/11. Let´s use this time to proclaim the gospel to the nations!

You will not hear it from the government, nor from the media: Jesus Christ still saves!





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Churches can be closed. Websites and chatrooms can be shutdown. 

But the word of God cannot be bound (see 2 Tim 2:9)!




Thursday, December 26, 2019

YouTube Channel!


The Ministry has its own YouTube Channel now:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUa7Ku20cw2jWL32vL3uZxg

The first videos are a set of 13, the audio version of my latest book on Christians in politics.
Sorry, it's in German (translation into English planned for 2020):





Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Our attitude towards sickness and healing

Here are some thoughts, jotted down after listening to a teaching by Bill Johnson on unanswered prayer. I hope you will find some encouragement and/or some food for thought and further reflection. God bless!

  • "If you just had enough faith, you would be healed!" This is not a cruel thing to say to somebody who is sick (even though it certainly can come across in a condemning way), but it is throwing them a life-line, pointing them to the only solution to their problem. It is actually cruel not to tell them that they should have faith for their healing!
  • The opposite of "a little faith" is not GREAT faith, but NO faith! Jesus said that with faith as small as a mustard seed we could move mountains – no "great" faith required even for such a monumental task. Jesus also simply asked whether He will find "faith" on the earth when He returns – again no "great" faith required or expected. Similarly, Jesus asked the disciples after He stilled the storm WHERE their faith was. He did not rebuke them for not having "enough" faith, but simply made it clear to them that their faith was in the wrong thing (i.e. in their own ability top maneuver through the rough sea, in this case).
  • "Complacency and ignorance tolerate unanswered prayers." Bills Johnson
  • Accepting sickness in our lives somehow seems to be easier than believing God for healing, as you will not be disappointed (you cannot be disappointed if you didn't really expect to get anything in the first place), but it simply does not glorify God.
  • If we pray for somebody to be healed, but doubt that God wants to heal that person, we are actually saying that we have more compassion for that person than God, but that is impossible. That makes me think that God wants to heal me more than I want to be healed myself!
  • If we expect to be healed because of some kind of merit from our side, we are doomed. God is our Father, and as such we do not have to and we cannot do anything to earn His favor. He heals us because He loves us.
  • I want to be healed so that my life glorifies God. It's a sad, man-made theology that says God would be glorified when we accept sickness because He wants to teach us something or build character in us. Jesus never told that to ANYBODY who came to Him for healing!
  • Rather than shaking or being bedridden or being dependent on medicine, I am convinced it glorifies God much more when I am hiking through the mountains, enjoying His creation while snorkeling off the coast of the Cayman Islands, riding a bicycle to a waterfall around Chiang Rai, or playing football, being fully alive FOR Him, IN Him and together WITH Him.
  • I do not want to be healed merely so that I can SERVE God better, but to ENJOY Him more (even though it will certainly be much more fun to preach, teach, drive busses, clean stuff or do whatever, rather than being miserable, unable to do anything. Jesus did not die on the cross because the Father needed servants… He wanted CHILDREN J
  • God wants us to pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. There is no sickness in heaven, thus to "seek His Kingdom" here on earth entails for people to be healthy and whole.
  • 2. Timothy 3:12 says that everybody who wants to lead a godly life will suffer PERSECUTION, not sickness.
  • I do not want to accuse God ("You don't want to heal me") and neither do I want to blame myself ("I deserve to be sick") but I am guilty of self-pity, believing that I have to convince God of how miserable my situation is – as if He had not noticed.
  • Healing was God's idea, not ours.
  • Mt 6:33 ("Seek first His Kingdom"): We should never make our needs the primary focus of our prayers, even though it is absolutely legitimate to pray for our "daily bread" – instead, we should always be praying for what is on HIS heart.
  • "Answers to prayer reveal God" – we need to pray for more than one thing at any given time, not to focus on just one issue. The breakthrough in one area will give us the hope and perseverance to see breakthroughs in other areas.
  • Some things God does not give to soldiers / fighters, but only to sons and daughters. This point seems to be the easiest one, but often turns out to be the hardest, because we grow up being taught that we only get what we deserve…
  • Just in case you were wondering: No, I am not a parrot. God created me to be a son, made in His image, not a parrot who just says what we think He wants to hear…


Friday, February 10, 2017

God's sovereignty in natural disasters, accidents and terrorist attacks - A short study


Tsunami warning sign in Phang Nga, Thailand

Tsunamis, floods, storms, earthquakes... do those kind of disasters just happen? Are they God's judgments? 
A common answer from Christians is that God certainly did not cause these disasters, but that he is grieved by the destruction they cause, the lives that were taken, etc. I want to suggest 6 reasons why this kind of thinking stands on very shaky ground, and does not align with what the Bible reveals about God's character. 
The ultimate question is whether anything seemingly bad can be caused by God. He might have reasons that we don't understand, but I don't think that "God allows disasters, but didn't want them to happen" is a very smart answer. Indeed, it's an unbiblical answer. 


If God is not causing (for whatever reason) natural disasters like tsunamis, floods, fires, earthquakes, etc., what would be his role? Just by common sense and, yes, logic, I see 6 options: 

a) He is not able to prevent them from happening (which would mean he is not all-powerful (but all Christians hold that he is all-powerful)

b) He is not willing to prevent them from happening (and thus protect the innocent and the children); a person who was able to prevent a disaster/crime/accident, but didn't do anything can be held responsible (at least in a German court)! 

c) He didn't see them coming/was surprised by them; that would mean he is not all-knowing (but of course all believers hold that God is all-knowing)

d) He knew it would happen, but didn't warn at least his people, so they could evacuate the innocent & children 

e) He simply doesn't care what's happening (but every true believer knows that God is interested even in the smallest detail of our lives - even the hair on our head is numbered…)

f) God is not in control - either Satan or men is, and God has to allow things that he doesn’t want to happen (this seems to be the politically correct answer in modern day evangelicalism, but it does not stand a Biblical test, neither does it solve the above mentioned concerns) 

g) ________________________________(please let me know if you have another thought) 

Any of the above mentioned options make God look to me like a toothless grandpa who would love to see everything being peace, joy and pancakes, but can’t quite muster the strength to really do anything of significance, and who retreats therefore to crying and weeping. The Bible, however, speaks of an all-powerful God, before, during and after the cross, who does whatever he wants and whom nobody can resist…

Job said that he would worship/trust/hope in God "though he slay me" (Job 13:15). And in Job 2:10 Job says ""Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.""

Isaiah 45:7 "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things." 

Psalm 105:7 “He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.”

Revelation 16:7 "Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments."

Saying all that does not mean that every natural disaster is God's judgment. Thailand frequently sees major mudslides destroying villages, and most of them indeed can be blamed on forest encroachment and following erosion. In some cases we can therefore speak of man-made disasters. But a tsunami that kills hundreds of thousands of people is definitely not man-made. The options are thus that natural disasters are either caused by God himself, or that he at least allows Satan or “nature” to cause them, for whatever reason. In the Old as well as in the New Testament are many examples of natural disasters being directly caused by God. Many times children were killed together with their parents, who had sinned (e.g. Numbers 16).

Now some point out that Korah’s rebellion, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the flood were before the cross, and that now nobody has to be afraid of being judged by God, because all punishment was laid upon Jesus on the cross. That is a very good argument, but even after the cross we read about God pouring out his wrath, especially in the book of Revelation. Only in Jesus are we saved from God’s judgment. Those who do not believe in Jesus remain under God’s wrath, in spite of the cross (John 3:36)! But just as God was able to safe whomever he wanted through the flood in Noah’s days, or from the plagues in Egypt, God is able to protect whomever he wants from natural disasters, accidents and terrorist attacks in our time. Therefore, I am not afraid that I will die in a freak accident, unless it’s by God’s appointment. He will fulfill his purpose for me (Psalm 138:8), and no devil and no earthquake will be able to remove me from this planet before God’s purposes have been fulfilled in my life. That’s my strong conviction and confidence!

God is able to safe! But if he chooses not do that, he will have reasons. And I tend to think that God is not merely interested in displaying his awesome power, making man realize how powerless he is, in spite of internet, bank accounts, nuclear bombs and international space stations. God might sometimes really use disasters as judgment and as call for repentance. And then it’s even more tragic when man does not respond by humbling himself and repent! I would say that the USA completely missed the boat in the aftermath of 9/11. While there are many great, god-fearing people in America, who really love God with all their hearts, the overwhelming majority of Americans pay nothing but lip-service to God or even openly oppose godliness on every level. Now the very symbols of the things that most Americans (and other Westerners) really trust in were attacked on 9/11: The World Trade Center was the symbol for economy (banking, trading, insurance, money) and the Pentagon obviously is the symbol for military might. A godly response would have been one of humility and repentance, but America responded in pride, and put even more trust in the economy and in the military. This led to two disastrous military campaigns (Iraq and Afghanistan) and the global financial crisis in 2008.

So, if you think that God never judges anything in our days, you better think twice… you might ignore the very thing that God is using to shake up people’s consciences, and you might just put a band-aid on wounds that will lead to certain death and eternal separation from God if not treated rightly!

For further reading I recommend John Piper’s book “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”, which you can download for free at http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/onlinebooks/bytitle/2439_Suffering_and_the_Sovereignty_of_God/

* Before about 200.000 people were killed by the tsunami in 2004 in Banda-Aceh (Indonesia) there were no churches in the region; now there are 26… so in some ways the tsunami opened the doors not only for emergency relief teams, but also for the gospel! 



Marks of a disciple

The following is a (non-exhaustive) list of attributes that mark a disciple of Jesus Christ.

A disciple...
  • follows Jesus
  • wants to be discipled (!)
  • is faithful
  • loves people
  • is not only interested in him-/herself
  • cares for others
  • is concerned about other people’s salvation
    (if you are not concerned about this, you are most likely not saved yourself!)
  • is interested in world-evangelization
  • is a giver, not just a taker
  • is obedient
  • knows he/she is forgiven
  • has assurance of salvation
  • is marked with the blood of the lamb
  • is a sheep
  • is chosen (not just called)
  • loves Jesus
  • knows God
  • honors and treasures the Scriptures
  • disciples others


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Facing temptation

The Bible leaves no room for doubt: Practicing homosexuality is sin. So how could God possibly redeem same-sex attraction? I am convinced that same-sex attraction is a gift, rather than a curse. But, like every gift that God has given, we can either use it for good, according to God's purpose and for his glory; or we can use it for our own, selfish and, in the long-run, harmful purposes according to the lies of the enemy. So the answer to our question is actually rather simple: God wants people, who feel attracted to their own gender, to love people of their own gender with His love. What God created to be an expression of his own father-heart, Satan wants to pervert and reduce to a sexual level, just as he is trying to reduce the love between a man and a woman to a mere sexual experience. Most Christians are aware that the relationship between a married couple is supposed to be much more than just a god-sanctioned boundary for sex, but a picture and a reflection of Christ's love for his bride, the church. In a similar way, God intended the love between two men to be an expression and a demonstration of the love of God the Father for his Son, Jesus. The sexual confusion of our days, which is really nothing new, but has existed since biblical times (see Sodom and Gomorrah), shows how far the enemy has succeeded in deceiving mankind to believe his lies.

When Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit, they found it had not only looked delicious, but it actually was. To this day, there is some kind of pleasure in sin – that is why it is so attractive to us. But not only are there negative long-term consequences of sin, but the rewards of trusting and obeying God's instructions far outweigh the pleasures of sin. Adam and Eve were not scolded for thinking that the fruit was delicious, but because they did not believe God that it would be better for them if they abstained from eating it. That is the nature of all temptation: it promises us some kind of gratification, but it covers up the fact that it will not really satisfy our deeper need. And this need is the presence of God, His blessing, His glory and His delight in us. So don't be afraid if you face temptation, because you have the opportunity to get one step closer to what you are really looking for – if you resist the temptation! Giving in, on the other hand, will take you one step further away from the One who is the only one who can fulfill your deepest desires. If you know that you have not really found what you are looking for, and many of you do know that, then don't despair but simply turn to Jesus, repent and start to follow him. He is waiting to fulfill your greatest dreams and longings. He wants to give you life, abundant life, a hope and a future. Come now and taste and see that the Lord is good!
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Saturday, October 31, 2015

It's October 31st - Reformation Day!

Click for more pictures of this beautiful exhibition
498 years ago on this day, Martin Luther nailed a paper with 95 theses to a door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, and thus started what became known as the Reformation. In Luther's day, only real witches and sorcerers thought about "Halloween," because it was (and still is!) the most important day in the lives of all those who knowingly worship Satan. Nowadays, hardly anybody thinks of the events that were so crucial for the forming of protestant churches as we have them today in every country on the planet, while millions even here in Thailand are "celebrating" Halloween. It indeed looks as if darkness has increased. The light of the gospel, that once shined so brightly in Germany has been dimmed by dark forces, and voices that proclaimed eternal truths as clearly as Martin Luther once did, have been widely silenced by political correctness and a spirit of tolerance that tolerates everything except the truths contained in the Scriptures. To bring the gospel back into the country from which it used to go out to all corners of the globe (e.g. through the Moravians), I have started to make plans for a project that I named "Back to Wittenberg." Its goal is to mobilize at least 100 teams from around the world, who would sojourn to Germany in 2017 to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In cooperation with local churches, the teams would preach the gospel on the streets, markets and public squares as well as in schools, churches and other venues all over the country. 
It is time for another Reformation, a Great Awakening in Germany! Please pray for the leadership of YWAM Germany as they will discuss my project proposal next week. Thank you!

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Paul on Malta

   As I have been reading the Book of Acts recently with the special emphasis on Healing, I was amazed about Paul's experience on Malta, a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea. Paul, together with all 276 passengers, had just survived a two-week long odyssey through a storm that ended up with the ship breaking apart when it ran aground just off the island. So here is the picture: Paul, like all the other passengers, is tired, cold, wet, hungry and weak after a long fight with the forces of nature. On top of all that, he get's bitten by a poisonous snake, which leaves him quite unimpressed, though, while it certainly made an impression on the locals who expected Paul to die after the snake-bite. But what really got the locals' attention was what happened afterwards:

There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 
Acts 28:7-9

   Do you see that? Paul heals one guy and then "the rest of the sick" on the entire island were healed as well! Wow! Now, as I said, Malta is a small island, today's population is about 400,000. So let's say there were just a few thousand people living on the island in Paul's days, but anyhow, every sick person among them was healed by Paul! I like verse 8, where it says that Paul "after prayer" healed the father of the official. That means he did not pray for the sick, but he healed them. All of them. Not a single sick person stayed behind, and this on an island where they had never heard of Jesus before. People were healed who could not have had any faith in the Lord, simply because they had never heard of him. Praise the Lord: Paul really walked in the fulness of his calling, according to Mark 16:17-18. It looks like Paul spent about 3 months on the island, which gave him plenty of time to preach the gospel and then to teach the young believers. But the church planting strategy that Paul used was to heal people before he told them the gospel... 
   It looks to me that we could still use this strategy today, especially among the unreached. People like Heidi Baker in Africa are doing just that. Of course, some critics say that it doesn't really help the people if they are healed physically, but remain lost in sin. That is true. But, my Bible says that the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Many times I realize that most churches in the Western world are not exactly overflowing with joyful people. We do have a lot of sick people, though, and we have come up with great theological crutches to justify our sickness. It seems to be that the longer an area has been "christianized," the harder the ground for healings to take place, and - going hand-in-hand with that - the less joy there is. I am sure there was lots of joy in Malta's young churches, as there were many grateful people who had received healing. A gratefulness that expressed itself, among others, also through abundant giving to the cause of  missions, by the way (see verse 10).
Conclusion
   I want to dare to expect healing for myself and for others. I am encouraged to go to unreached villages in Thailand and expect God to heal the sick, whether they have heard of Jesus before or not. And, for greater joy in the churches, it might in deed be good to start with healing, rather than teaching all kinds of other things first... :) jtol (just thinking out loudly) :)

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Discipleship

Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples. Some challenging thoughts to those of us who are claiming to do that.

Whom are we discipling? 
Jesus did not wait for people to apply at his ministry, but he approached his disciples and asked them to follow him. Likewise, we should not wait for people to choose us as their mentor, but we should choose people to follow us!

Requirements in a mentor - disciple relationship
  • Required: The mentor needs to love the person he calls to follow him!
  • Not required: The person called loving the one who calls him. 
In fact, the motive of the person called does not really matter:
  • he might be looking for financial stability and wealth (like Judas)
  • he might be looking for an increased social status (e.g. from fisherman or tax-collector to teacher religious authority)
  • he might be in it for some other personal benefit (like a "Greencard," English language, education,...)
How or why did Jesus choose the 12  apostles? 
Obviously, Jesus prayed before he made his decision. But here are a few characteristics that I found:
  • The natural gifts, talents and abilities of the disciples were not important - on the contrary: God chooses the foolish things!
  • Jesus didn't abandon the disciples when they show certain signs of progress, growth and maturity after a while
  • The only criteria that Jesus seemed to have was that he loved them!
That is good news for us, because Jesus chose us. After 3 years of having been with Jesus, the disciples did not "get" most of the things that Jesus had taught them, but Jesus didn't kick them out of the discipleship training school. How much did we not get yet that  he has been teaching us all along? And how much did the people we disciple not get yet, even though we have been trying to teach them for years?

Remember: The only thing that is required for you to make disciples is that you love them. So keep on loving them. If you haven't really started to make disciples yet, then maybe now is a good time to call somebody you love to follow you. It will mean that you allow that person to be a part of your life, because I cannot see there being a different way of making disciples. That's how the Master did it, and I don't think we have come up with another, better way than that yet.

The goal of discipleship, but not required at the beginning, is to love Jesus. After 3 years of having been with Jesus, Peter can't help but to realize that indeed he loved the one whom he followed. And it is in that very moment, that the Lord releases him to feed his sheep... Before then, Peter had been send out to preach and to heal, but only now, after he realized that he really loved the Lord, was he given the greatest task of all - to make disciples :)

Brothers and sisters in the ministry: Let us delight in this high calling!
May the peace and joy of the Lord be with you all!

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