Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Honoring God's work in one another

Sitting in a classical concert tonight I found myself in awe of the musicians' excellence. Each member of the orchestra performed on his or her instrument with almost stunning perfection. And while each instrument by itself would be nice to listen to, the real feast for the ear (and the spirit) is to hear the orchestra play the symphony together. It made me realize how little I appreciate what God is doing in and through other people. No, it is even more than that: I don't really appreciate WHO HE IS in other people. I don't know about you, but I don't like it when I have the feeling that people are trying to point out to me what God still needs to do in me, how far I am falling short and how many problems there still are. It makes me feel belittled and unappreciated. But I know that I often look at people in the same way. And with that I am expressing a lack of appreciation not only of the person I am thinking about, but also of who Christ is in that person. "Jesus in us, the hope of glory," it says in Colossians 1:27. Instead of pointing out other people's faults and shortcomings, let us honor what the Lord has already done and what he is currently doing in one another. Yes, let us honor who He is in one another. We have more reason to thank Him than we think. And not only that we should ask the Lord to show us what he is doing in the lives of our Christian brothers and sisters, but also in the lives of those who don't yet follow the Lord. If we honor and praise the Lord for that, not only will we encourage one another, but we will also pave the way for God doing even more! Because why should He do anything else if we don't give him praise for what He has already done?
Oh Lord, open our eyes that we would see who you are in us; for your name's sake, I pray.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Instant prayer answers Part 3: God sends a friend!

It had been a long journey already. After a 2-week excursion from my university in Germany to the Greek island of Naxos, I had traveled by myself to Turkey in order to see the ruins of Ephesus. It had been an exciting time to walk where the apostle Paul and other heroes of our faith had walked some 2.000 years ago. This morning I had taken a bus from Selcuk via Izmir to Bursa, where I now had to wait for a ferry that would take me across the Sea of Marmara to Istanbul. Being alone in a different culture (Turkey is a Muslim nation) and not speaking the local language I was feeling quite lonely already, and when I found out that I had to wait several hours for the next departure, I couldn't help but feeling a little bit downcast. "Lord, I could really need a friend," I prayed silently, just in my thoughts. Immediately, as soon as I had had this thought, a man approached me and said in perfect English "You look like you could need a friend!" He invited me to have some tea and for the next couple of hours we talked as if we had known us for years. This was a great example for me that our Father in heaven really knows what we need even before we ask him, as Mathew 6:8 says. Because the man must have started to approach me from where he had been sitting before I even prayed! Needless to say that the waiting time for the ferry flew by in no time. So, dare to ask for a friend even when you are far away from home and it seems impossible that there should be anybody near by who cares for you. Our Father knows what we need, always :) Oh, by the way, this was before the time of cell-phones, internet and Facebook. Are we missing out on opportunities like these because of technology? Just wondering...
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Friday, October 31, 2014

Healed on Halloween!

Times Prayer Changed Everything - Instantly! Story # 2

Once while visiting a missionary friend in Kolkata (at that time it was still called "Calcutta"), India, I got very sick: I had fever and stomach pain, threw up, and felt completely miserable for about two days or so. I tried various remedies, but nothing worked until I realized that it was Halloween. Knowing that Halloween is the highest holiday of Satanists around the world,* I broke the power of curses put on missionaries by Satanists by claiming the power of the blood of Jesus and Proverbs 26:2 which states that an undeserved curse will not come to pass. Within an hour, I was completely back to normal!

* A day lasts 24 hours - in one location. But taking in account the different time zones and the international dateline, a calendar-day actually lasts almost 48 hours globally. So I think that I started to get sick when Satanists in Eastern Asia began to "celebrate" Halloween by worshiping Satan and making sacrifices to him, and when the Holy Spirit brought my attention to it some 36+ hours later, it was still October 31st in the US and other parts of the Western hemisphere...

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Times Prayer Changed Everything - Instantly

We all believe it: Prayer changes things. But sometimes change seems to come slowly. And when we don't see a prayer answered after a while, we more often than not give up prayer altogether. After all, we reason, it must not have been God's will, otherwise He would have done something already. As I thought about this today, I was reminded of some situations in my life when the Lord responded to prayer instantly and the idea was born to write them down and post them on this Blog. Thus the start of this little series today. I hope that you will be encouraged to be uncomplicated and spontaneous in your prayer, as it seems to be the pattern in the stories that came to my mind so far: It is when we pray simple, childlike and not pre-meditated prayers that our Father in heaven rushes to move heaven and earth, and even people's hearts!

Story #1: A drug addict set free!

"Are you willing to make an experiment tonight?" I asked. He looked at me with big eyes and said "What do you want to do?" "I want to pray for you, and see what the Lord will do." That didn't seem to be too threatening to him, and so he agreed. We were in downtown Los Angeles on a rather chilly night. Together with a team of students from our Discipleship Training School I had come to what is known as "Skit Row" to hand out sandwiches, hot coffee and cocoa to the homeless that populate the streets here after business hours. In many ways it was a crazy night. Hundreds of men were more or less aimlessly walking around, some had made fires on the street to keep warm. Drug dealers waited for their regulars, many of the men were drunk, here and there were quarrels with people yelling at each other. A police car had stopped by a few minutes earlier and one of the officers had made it clear to us that we should not be there as it was too dangerous. They urged us, just as some of the homeless people themselves, at least not to go into certain side streets, but I am not sure whether all of the team members even heard the warning and thus some of us probably went there anyway. I was glad that I had called a prayer meeting before we had jumped into our two vans to get here. This way we knew that God wanted us to be here and we felt completely safe and were very much aware of the peace of God surrounding us. While I had talked to Peter*, an obviously demon-possessed man tried his best to make us scared by yelling at us and rolling his eyes weirdly. But he kept a respectful distance to us. So did the drug dealer who was eager for me to finish talking to his client. "Okay, let's pray: Father, I pray for Peter, that in the moment he walks away from here you would change his heart so that he would no longer want to use drugs. In Jesus' name. Amen." When I opened my eyes after this short prayer, Peter looked at me curiously and maybe just a little bit mockingly. "So you think God will answer your prayer?" he asked. "Yes," I said, with a confidence that you cannot manufacture by your own effort even if your life depended on it. "But I don't feel any different," he said, and I heard his dealer laughing a few meters away from us. "You remember," I reminded him, "I prayed that in the moment you walk away from here God would change your heart." I had never prayed like that before, and I had not thought about what to pray before I had closed my eyes. And I certainly had not thought about how to respond to his questions after the prayer. As it was time for us to go back to our base on the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, I pointed to our vehicles and asked Peter whether he wanted to walk with us to send us off and maybe grab another sandwich. He agreed. We had walked just a few steps when he pulled his drug equipment out of his pockets and cheerfully handed them to me: "Here, please keep this, I don't want to do this anymore!" I was stunned, but then again not even really surprised. Rather, me and my friend who had been part of this encounter were genuinely happy and thankful. Don't ask me what it was that Peter actually handed over to us, because I have been blessed with total ignorance in regards to things related to drugs - I've never tried anything but cigarettes and never made it my mission to study up on the subject in regards to how exactly to use the various drugs, whether you smoke, inhale, shoot, sniff or simply eat them. I do know the difference, though, between a fake surrender for whatever reason and a genuine change of heart. And Peter didn't pull a stunt on us, but he was delivered from his drug-habit in an instant. As our vans had parked at one of the Missions that are offering meals and shelter for the homeless in the area, we connected Peter with it for follow-up and discipleship. 

This happened in January or February 1996. I haven't heard anything from Peter since, but I trust that the Lord continued what He started in this young man's life. I also have never prayed for other people in this way again. I simply was led to pray in this way on that day for that man. I didn't use any "technique", didn't go through 10 steps of intercession and didn't even spend time listening to how the Lord might want to have me pray. I just prayed whatever came to my mind in the situation and God answered. 

I guess you could write volumes of books on the theological implications of this incident, and maybe someday I will do that. But much more do I wish for the same child-likeness in my everyday prayer-life. To help me (and maybe some of you who read this) to get there, I wrote down this little story. If you were encouraged by it, please feel free to post a comment, click on "Like," share or let me know in some other way. I want to post more stories in the weeks to come, so come back to this site every now and then. Be blessed, and be a blessing! :)


* Probably this is not the actual name of the person we prayed for that day. It's a long time ago and I don't remember the person's name. The rest of the story, however, is a true report, with the quotes reflecting the heart of what was said, not necessarily the exact words that were spoken.
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Should Thai Christians support the "Yellow-shirts" or the "Red-shirts"?

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Because of the current political situation in Thailand, I want to re-post an article that I first published in 2010 under a slightly different title (see here). So far, the recent protests have remained mainly peaceful, but the country remains deeply split into two camps and the situation continues to be very tense. As Christians, we are supposed to be "salt and light" and I therefore think it is crucial that we have the mind of Christ (or call it a "Biblical World View") on the matter. May Thai people see the peace, joy, love and unity among us Christians that only the Lord can give, and may one day the world see Thailand as a country marked by these attributes!

Here are the main parts of the original article:

A few days ago my attention was turned to Joshua 5:13-14, when Joshua encountered a man with a drawn sword just before the Israelites were to attack Jericho:

"Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell face-down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?" Joshua 5:13-14

As we have followed the ups and downs of politics and the changing of governments and constitutions in Thailand (which seem to change more frequently than the weather in Southern California) we might be tempted to take sides and support the Red Shirts, the Yellow Shirts, or another group/color. But I am convinced that we, as the body of Christ, are not to take sides, similar to the commander of the Lord's army in the passage from Joshua quoted above. According to Romans 13, we are to obey, support, and pray for the people in authority, no matter what color they represent or how they got into the position of authority. Whether through elections, coups or by other means. We should always remember that the governments of this world are just that: they are of this world. But the Kingdom that we seek is NOT of this world! The advancing of this Kingdom of God does not depend on political systems or political parties. The Bible was written not as a manual to build kingdoms of this world (i.e. political and geographical entities known as "nations"), but as a manual for believers anywhere, anytime, no matter whether they happen to live in a monarchy, a democracy or in a communist nation like Laos. I think that the best testimony we can give to society in Thailand and to the rest of the world that's watching, is that we are content, loyal and supportive to the government at all times, even though we might not like some of the values and/or policies that each particular government stands for.
Unfortunately, there are not many good examples for us to look at, because in most nations the church is acting as if the body of Christ was nothing more than just another political lobbying group, trying to push their agenda and their values on the rest of the society. Unfortunately, this is especially true for the American church. However, when non-believers look at the church, they should not see just another political party (or color...), but something that is radically different, something that no political, religious, cultural or humanistic movement can produce. People should see us as people who genuinely long to lead a holy life, people who know their sins are forgiven, people who find their joy, confidence purpose, value and meaning in God and who try to love even those who hurt them... Another benchmark for Christians is that we are to give honor to whom honor is due, and whether the Prime Minister's name is Sonthi, Surayut, Somchai, Samak, Thaksin, Aphisit or Yingluck, we can certainly trust the Lord to work out everything for His purposes. That does not mean that we should not vote or participate in other ways in the political life of the country. It does mean, however, that we should never try to use force in any way. The only reason we have to not obey the government is when the government either tries to force us to do things that are against scripture (like bowing down to an idol) or tries to keep us from doing things that are commanded by scripture (like praying, witnessing, and raising our children according to Biblical standards). But because we know that our freedom does not depend on the rules and laws of the nations, and because we know that God is able to do everything according to his purpose we should never put our hope in any man, party,"system" or color. The Kingdom of God is not of this world, and it is not in question who is in charge of it. Let us live our lives for him who sits on the throne and reigns!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Charismatic vs. Evangelical: Pleading for the middle ground

As expected, John MacArthur's "Strange Fire" Conference (October 16-18, 2013) has sparked a tsunami on the web in form of blog-posts, articles, radio shows, web-site statements and YouTube videos. I love and very, very highly respect John MacArthur and other speakers at the conference. However, some of the things that were said at the conference (which you can watch in its entirety at FloydFamilyValues and, partially, on John MacArthur's "Grace to you" YouTube channel) are disturbing, as they are very divisive and don't do justice to the vast variety within the charismatic movement. It looks as if a few black sheep are used to discredit the entire movement. Granted, these "black sheep" have a very high profile and might indeed easily be seen as the official "face" of the movement that, according to MacArthur's on words, includes about 500 million (!) people. But I think that pastor Shane Idleman speaks for many people who consider themselves charismatic, when he says that "I read the John MacArthur Study Bible, not the Benny Hinn Study Bible" and "I love John Piper, not Creflo Dollar". I am also with Michael Brown when he says that John MacArthur owes an apology for saying that there was "essentially zero social benefit to the world from the charismatic movement". I post pastor Shane's message here, as it reflects my own views on this matter quite well. Living on the mission field (in Thailand), working with an overwhelmingly "charismatic" organization (YWAM), attending a Baptist church and having connections to many missionaries, pastors and normal believers from super-charismatic all the way to super-reformed backgrounds, I am very much aware of the need for balance and wisdom in all things. I consider myself blessed to have good friends among people from the entire spectrum of Christianity and I am hopeful that the "Strange Fire" Conference and its aftermath will eventually have a very positive impact on the unity of believers worldwide - because God is still able to bring about good even when man's intention should be evil. I am not saying that John MacArthur had bad intentions by hosting this Conference, I am only focusing on God's ability to bring about good... It is my prayer that an honest, humble dialogue about the raised issues would result in a deeper love and a greater appreciation for one another. Impossible, you think? Ha, you ain't seen nothing yet... :)    

"We trust the time will come when Dr. John MacArthur and those who share his perspective will acknowledge the great contribution that Pentecostals and Charismatics are making in the evangelization of individuals without Christ. We pray God's blessings on their efforts to share His gospel with a lost and dying world. Pentecostals and charismatics are their co-laborers in this effort so we ask that they would similarly pray for God's blessing on us as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission that God has given us all."
From a statement by George Wood's, General Superintendent Assemblies of God posted online
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Obedience and Revival

I am convinced that the believer's obedience in small things (e.g. in Thailand: the wearing of helmets when driving motorcycle) would do more to bring about true revival than all "Revival Meetings" and "Prayer Movements" combined (see 1. Samuel 15:22-23, Romans 13:1-2)
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Better than New Year's Resolutions...

Rather than focusing on what I should do in the new year, I found it to be much more helpful to focus on what God did in the outgoing year!
Every year I am surprised by how long this list ends up to be, and every year again I find that He has proofed himself faithful, merciful, forgiving, loving and good beyond comprehension in my life. I fall short of the glory of God, He never does. I would again break all the well-intended New Year's Resolutions within a few days (or weeks at best). He will again show himself faithful to His word and He will again keep all his promises :)
As C.H. Spurgeon used to love to say: "Look to him, dear sinner!"

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Does God favor Democracy?

Is it worth the (Western) church's effort to promote the democratization of nations that are currently under a different form of government? What does God think?

  • The church (understood as percentage of true followers of Christ of the total population) in (Western) Germany and Japan is still as small as before these nations' democratization after World War II.
  • The same is true for Eastern Europe after the fall of communism (including Eastern Germany after the re-unification with Western Germany in 1990).
  • The church in many parts of Africa has indeed seen exceptional growth over the last decades, but this explosion started before the 1990s, long time before the end of the cold war and the subsequent democratization of many sub-Saharan African nations.
  • Even more recently, the "Arab Spring" had many people believe that we would finally see an opening up of Muslim nations for the gospel - after 1400 years of them being pretty much closed to any open missionary/evangelism effort (and thus rendering them "creative access" nations), but so far there has been no measurable church-growth.
Obviously, these were/are all enormous political changes, and in many areas these changes went hand in hand with great economical and social changes. But more often than not, many negative things surfaced together with the apparent freedom as well: racism, unemployment, crime, chaos, fights between gangs and "warlords", all the way to civil war. Closing our eyes to these negative "side effects" of the prescribed medicine (democracy) is simply denial.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Which side is God on: Republican or Democrat? "Yellow Shirt" or "Red Shirt"?

As rumors about another military coupe in Thailand are thickening, I thought it would be a good idea to re-post an article that I initially wrote in April 2010. At that time, Thailand, the "Land of Smiles", was rocked by demonstrations in Bangkok, during which more than 90 people lost their lives. If the current, democratically elected, government that is headed by the younger sister of the vastly popular former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawat, who was ousted by the Thai military in 2006 and is in exile pretty much ever since, should really be forced out of office by the military and/or other powerful parts of society, it would almost certainly lead to greater unrests than what this beautiful country has experienced so far. Many people think that even a downright civil war could erupt at any time, if one side of the conflict should make a move that seems to be unacceptable for the other side. In this atmosphere of high tension, I think it is essential for followers of Jesus Christ to know what He, as the leader of God's people, would have His disciples do if such a crisis should really arise. Not only to steer our lives and the lives off those entrusted to us out of unnecessary harms' way, but also, or better: even more importantly so, to not dishonor the name of the Lord in the sight of non-believers. The latter is a very real danger for the church in any society, and the here mentioned principles, I am convinced, apply everywhere, anytime - no matter whether in the countries of the so called "Arab Spring", in Syria, or in seemingly stable Western democracies as in Germany or the U.S.