21 July 2014

Civilians and human tragedy

The word 'civil' is an adjective and has the following meanings: 1) relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns, as distinct from military or ecclesiastical matters (such as 'civil aviation' or 'civil marriage ceremony.' This could also include conflicts occurring between citizens of the same country such as the "Civil War" in Yugoslavia. 2) It can also mean (in Law) relating to private relations between members of a community which are not criminal like the phrase 'civil action.'

There is another meaning 3) which sounds courteous and polite, urbane, polished, cultured and cordial. And maybe that's where the problem of human shields and shooting of civilians is having a hard-sell in the public of late. Let me explain.

The word's origin appears to be from the Latin 'civis' which is the word for 'citizen'. So the assumption to most in the West where I live is that civil people should behave more properly towards citizens;  we should be cordial with fellow citizens. I always had a hard time with the phrase of the conflict in the US in 1861-1865 titled 'Civil War.' How could you possibly title it 'civil' if you are killing your brothers just because they are wearing the other uniform?

(For more info see Civil War pain

Words are powerful in all their meanings and when the definitions conflict, so too do ideas about them. That's what we are seeing and experiencing in the current crises in Ukraine and in the Jewish state of Israel. Civilians are being murdered and a part of our conscience cries out 'NO!" to that un-civil activity. Think about the 298 people on board Malaysian flight MH17 which left The Netherlands last week bound for Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. AIDS workers, parents, grandfathers, kids, 3 babies, a flight crew... all kinds of people from Australia, Holland, and around the world were murdered on Thursday.

A nun, a teacher, a husband-and-wife pair of doctors, a businessman and his three grandchildren are just some of the Australian lives cut short by the attack on MH17. The Australian ambassador to the UN's Security Council drafted a resolution.  United Nations Security Council is considering this resolution to condemn the "shooting down" of the Malaysian passenger plane, demand armed groups allow access to the crash site, and call on states in the region to cooperate with an international investigation.

Australia, which lost 37 citizens and residents in the attack, circulated a draft text to the 15-member Security Council late on Saturday and diplomats said it could be put to a vote as early as Monday. The draft resolution "demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability."

We don't understand war, and we certainly don't understand the role of the armed guards near Donetsk, Ukraine, who are the only governing body over the area of the fatalities. Wait, why are we skirting the verb/ gerund which mostly applies? The 298 were not shot down only. They were murdered. And casualties of a war about which most are completely ignorant. They were civilians, after all, and not Russian or Ukrainians at all. The pain in our insides is severe. The pain for the families is unbearable.

The other locale of global interest these days is Israel. There Hamas-driven military action is using human shields and shooting from civilian areas to self-protect. It's so odd. The media campaign by certain Arab peoples like Mossawa in Haifa are not moderate at all.  On their website today is a call for 'civility.' "We, the undersigned organizations, express extreme concern at the rapidly deteriorating situation within the Gaza Strip and urge the international community to take immediate action to halt the deadly aggression being waged against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. We also urge the UN to initiate a fact-finding mission to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity."

We don't understand war in general, and if you don't live in the Middle East, you will probably never understand these kinds of war-statements at all. And taking a simplistic "Us vs. Them" kind of stance will not be very helpful in civil conversation, I've learned. That said, when the Hamas government uses children as weapon bearers as they have increased to do this weekend, or send missiles from neighborhoods and not from military venues, they put their own citizens in harm's way. From what I've read, that's considered a war crime.

I can only imagine what it would be like to live in trauma each day from missiles fired into my neighborhood. I was in Israel in November, 2012, when the last bombing by Hamas/ Gaza was taking place. It was a daily annoyance, but ducking into a bomb shelter for a few minutes over six days is much different to what children and families are being put through the last 12 days in Israel, especially in S'derot and the South Shore. It's psychologically dampening and harmful. It's wrong. It's un-civil.

Mostly, from here in Australia, I reckon we can use the word 'tragic' to title both of these trouble spots in the world just now. And we can hope for calm minds, wise decisions, civil action, and bearable pain. In the meantime, we pray for our leaders to make those wise decisions and trust the Almighty to lead people in His way.

19 July 2014

Peace, peace, when there is no peace

Ezekiel was a Jewish prophet and priest who lived between 622 BCE and well into the 6th Century BCE. He was among a few thousand Jewish people who were taken into captivity in Babylon, when he was about 25 years old or so and he prophesied for a couple decades along with a contemporary named Jeremiah.  His words then are useful today, so his prophecies were not only for then, they can be helpful to us who want to know the signs of the times and the times of the signs. (By the way, many churches 'celebrate' Ezekiel's life and ministry around 21 July which is Monday.

In what we title "Ezekiel chapter 13" (he didn't break his writings into chapters and verses; we do that), he wrote: “Thus I will spend My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it over with whitewash; and I will say to you, ‘The wall is gone and its plasterers are gone, along with the prophets of Israel who prophesy to Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’ declares the Lord GOD." (13.15-16)

Peace, peace, when there is no peace.

Jeremiah lived at the same time, and some Jewish scholars say that Ezekiel is the son of Jeremiah. Jeremiah said something similar four times in his prophecy, “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,  Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
But there is no peace."  (6.14)

Again in Jer. 8.11 “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially,  Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace."

Then in chapter 12, verse 12 “On all the bare heights in the wilderness destroyers have come, for a sword of the LORD is devouring from one end of the land even to the other;  There is no peace for anyone."  And finally we read in Jer. 30.5 “For thus says the LORD, 'I have heard a sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace."

This weekend I watched the news for hours. Different newscasts; different presenters; different scenes and the same hope. I was hoping that the cease-fire would be real in Israel and Gaza. I was hoping that the battle, the iron dome, the missiles, the bombing would be over. I was hoping that no more civilians would be used as human shields. I hoped that the infantry, now up to over 60,000 Israeli troops would be able to go home and have Shabbat like I was having. I hoped that the Hamas-driven government in Gaza would not conscript any more children and strap weapons on them, sending them into the fray of war. I was hoping for peace.

I was hoping that the commentators would announce that peace was real, and available, and everyone wanted peace. And they wanted it right now.

When I was in Russia last month, I heard the sabre rattling of Vladimir Putin in relation to gas delivery and the debt Ukraine owes Russia. The people were indifferent, but the political and economic people were worried. Crimea was already done, and the takeover/ vote. Now comes the Malaysian Airline MH17 and the obvious shooting by a military surface-to-air missile from a Russian-influenced war site. What will Mr Putin do?

Dr John Blaxland from the Australian National University said the MH-17 tragedy could trigger an even deeper conflict in Ukraine.

“Putin may choose not to back down. He has a lot invested in Ukraine and if he takes that course it won’t be good,’ Dr Blaxland said. “The Russian Army is poised on the Ukraine border.”

Peace, peace, when there is no peace.

So we return to Ezekiel and to chapter 13. He said, "“It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace. And when anyone builds a wall, behold, they plaster it over with whitewash." 

This may sound silly, and Ezekiel is highlighting the silliness, and the inefficacy of the wall which is no wall at all. Just as the peace which some demand (put down your weapons Israel) is useless and won't be real at all. A plaster wall is no wall in the fields, and in war. That peace which comes is no peace at all. The Word Biblical Commentary says, "This is a rough stone wall, a terrace wall of loose, unmortared stones. What the prophets had done was tantamount to plastering over such a dry wall, giving the impression of a solid, substantial structure."

What do we usually call this? Hypocrisy. Phoniness. Pretention. A lie.

God was not happy with prophets who predicted and told fortunes of peace, when the Jewish people were destined for troubles and no peace at all. Our Temple in 586 would be knocked down. Our lives would be massively disturbed because of our own sins and prophesying, "Peace" when there was no real peace at all was tantamount to saying 'wall' when there was no wall at all.  
So my hopes for peace in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine, are they wasted? Is there no hope for peace?

I believe there is hope for peace. But not in a handshake and not in a treaty, cease-fire, or CNN-inspired deal.

Yeshua, the Jewish messiah, son of David, said, "Peace I leave with you. Not as the world gives do I give to you... These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have troubles, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."   (recorded in John 14.27 and John 16.33)

Real peace comes from the real Messiah who really cares about Ukrainians, about Dutch children, about Gaza youth and Israeli pedestrians. He cares about you and about me, no matter our views of gas and oil, and our views of justice. He wants us to know Him personally and to live without hypocrisy, without fake walls, without fake peace. 

Real peace comes from the Prince of Peace. Will you dare to get to know Him? Will you dare to ask the Almighty if Yeshua is really the Messiah? Don't buy the peace process. Don't buy the prophets' messages of 'she'll be right, mate.' Only in God is there real life. Trust Him. 

13 July 2014

Behind enemy lines

Don't be confused. This is not a movie review of the 2001 Gene Hackman/ Owen Wilson debacle so titled.  For the review of that sad piece of Hollywood read Roger Ebert's review here. No, for me this is about traveling to Russia in June and pondering it after returning to Sydney a couple weeks ago.

When I was born in 1951, the embers of World War II were long cooled. Before I turned 3, Josef Stalin died. He defined much of what I understood in my primary school days as Russia or the USSR. Under Stalin's rule, the concept of "socialism in one country" became a central tenet of Soviet society. He replaced the New Economic Policy introduced by Lenin in the early 1920s with a highly-centralized command economy, launching a period of industrialization and collectivization that resulted in the rapid transformation of the USSR from an agrarian society into an industrial power. However, the economic changes coincided with the imprisonment of millions of people in correctional labor camps and the deportation of many others to remote areas.  Stalin was not good for the Jews. He was not good for most of Russia.

But I didn't know much about the real Stalin until I was much older. My earliest introduction to Russia was Nikita Khrushchev and Rocket J Squirrel. Every war gives so many images to a young boy, and the Cold War was no exception. Maxwell Smart, created by Mel Brooks, and the Ian Fleming series of James Bond's 007 were central to my education about Russia and its people. The cartoons of Rocky and Bullwinkle with their archnemesis of Boris Badenov with his sidekick Natasha Fatale, were formative in my 'understanding' of the Russian mentality and the hostility of the Cold War. Fun history of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

The real Boris' life took place in the 16th Century and was dramatized by the founder of Russian literature, Alexander Pushkin, in his play Boris Godunov (1831), which was inspired by Shakespeare's Henry IV.  Mussorgsky based his opera Boris Godunov on Pushkin's play. Sergei Prokofiev later wrote incidental music for Pushkin's drama. In 1997, the score of a 1710 baroque opera based on the reign of Boris by German composer Johann Mattheson was rediscovered in Armenia and returned to Hamburg, Germany.

Back to my own story. After N Khrushchev threw his shoe and banged it on the podium at the United Nations in 1960, the enemy had clarified himself.  Khrushchev was my enemy and his people were collectively the same.

When I was about 10, in Hebrew and otherwise Jewish school each week, we too, learned about Russia. Ian Fleming wrote a popular book From Russia with love, and United Artists made this sequel to Dr No into a great success. I'm sure I saw that movie and again the enemy was clarified. At the same time I was learning at Hebrew school about the plight of millions of Jewish people who were not allowed to practice our religion. Atheism was the state religion under Communism and Jews were forced to amend their religion completely to survive. (for more facts and evaluation read Identities in Flux, 2003)

When our teachers at Kehilath Israel synagogue and others in the Jewish community of Kansas City heard about this, they decided to conduct rallies in support of the Russian Jewish people. Perhaps many had fled from there and still had relatives in the Former Soviet Union.  For whatever reasons, we marched and stood outside the Jewish community center on 82nd and Holmes and held placards reading, "Free Soviet Jewry." I was about 11 at the time. Even then I knew that Russia was our enemy.

When I was asked by the leaders of Jews for Jesus in Moscow to come this year and be the chaplain for the campaign we would conduct in June, I was reluctant. I don't know the Russian language. I wasn't sure I could learn to read the language in time. But honestly, and I was not even aware of this myself, I didn't want to go 'behind enemy lines.'  They were the bad guys after all. What evil lurked behind cosmonaut statues and Pushkin arts' displays?

After some personal prodding and God's overwhelming clarity, I went there and spent three weeks in the Russia about which I'd heard, both in Moscow and St Petersburg. It was a great experience and I valued being there to participate in the campaign/ outreach and to see a very beautiful and massive city and country.

This week I pondered being 'behind enemy lines' and the reality of being there. The enemy of course is not Mr Putin or Russia itself. Even Cyrillic was not as difficult as I imagined. As a result, I was less inclined to see the people of Russia as objects of scorn. In fact, I realized how lonely, how lost, how sad they really were. That realization, not because of the advent of 1991's form of capitalism, but because of systemic emptiness was in sharp contrast to our campaigners' proclamations. We wanted everyone to experience eternal life, and that's only found in Yeshua. He alone could give hope. He alone could give life. He alone was the answer to the questions raised by Soviet inefficacy.

I was seriously behind enemy lines. But the enemy was wrongly identified. And maybe you are also behind enemy lines in Topeka or Toulouse or in Toorak. The enemy is not your family or the HSC. The enemy is not the KGB or the CIA or the IRS. The enemy is Satan and the answer to overcoming him is in Yeshua. He already has triumphed over sin and death in his dying on the cross in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

"This is the victory, even our faith," says John the apostle.
"The thief is come to steal, to kill and to destroy, but I (Jesus said) am come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly."

You can win, even behind enemy lines. And so can many others if they will listen.

Are you listening?

07 July 2014

Calvary: the movie and its themes

I had never heard of the movie Calvary until last week. Then my wife and I went to see it.  The website of the movie says, "Father James is a good priest who is faced with sinister and troubling circumstances brought about by a mysterious member of his parish. Although he continues to comfort his own fragile daughter (Pictured) and reach out to help members of his church with their various scurrilous moral- and often- comic problems, he feels sinister and troubling forces closing in, and begins to wonder if he will have the courage to face his own personal Calvary."

A personal Calvary. That's intriguing. The 'original' Calvary of course is a hill in Jerusalem and was made 'famous' by the death of a carpenter-turned-rabbi-turned-... executed one there on Calvary.  His name is Yeshua.  Father James who lives 38 kilometres from Sligo, Ireland, calls him Jesus. But which Calvary is in view in the mind of the writer/ director?

I will not tell you the ending, which is so Tarantino-like, feeling I was watching Inglorious Basterds or Django Unchained. The movie itself had a feeling or a little of The Apostle with Robert Duvall. The themes of the movie are deep: forgiveness, morality, faith, sexuality, doubt, religion of course, murder, suicide and many more. Family is shown as a tender and real issue and perhaps the longest-lasting. 

I first entered into the world of Irish drama back in high school, but most vividly as an adult in the plays of Martin McDonagh. Irish plays that I kept seeing almost always were tragedies and McDonagh characterized the mainstream well. His brother John Michael McDonagh wrote and directed Calvary. The tragedy must run in the family.  The Sydney Morning Herald tagged this movie with this line, "Brendan Gleeson's character in this jolting and brilliant movie plays the one good man in a town full of jackals."

A town full of jackals. They certainly were characters. An African garage mechanic, a medical doctor, a butcher...all of them who have some kind of problem with the good priest. Add in the local publican, a fellow doubting Thomas priest, a rich man who would seek redemption through philanthropy, a cop and a homosexual gigolo... you get it; they have everything in a small village in County Sligo. Father James is powerful and strong. His hair and his face are wind-blown. The countryside lends its support. The beach is rugged. The movie could have been shot in black and white...it had everything else to be film noir. Jackals and the west coast of Ireland. And McDonagh's script. 

I found it a compelling drama. The language is dark. The scenes are often dark. The themes are immensely dark. Don't take your 11-year-old. But discuss things with your kids when you are able as they are being fed info about these themes regularly. 

The real Calvary was compelling drama, too. The language there was dark. A thief being executed next to Yeshua cursed him. The crowd wagged their head at him in his ignominy. The scene itself was dark, as the sky turned to darkness for three hours that Friday morning. The purpose of Yeshua's death is clear but awesome. He came to die for the sins of the world. For your sins and for my sins. For the sins of Father James and John M McDonagh. For the sins of the popcorn vendor at the cinema and for your publican. Without his dying on Calvary, we would be in the darkness of hopelessness, as the Bible says. Without the dying of Yeshua, our lives and our planet would only experience tragedy. But that's not where that story ends. And I don't need to issue a spoiler-alert. The real story didn't end with his death and burial. He rose from the dead on the 3rd day. And that changes everything.
By believing in the death AND resurrection of Messiah Yeshua, you receive real hope. Real life. For Irish and for Jewish people. For all people. For you. Consider this, won't you?

02 July 2014

Deep pain and grief

Three men-- Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach-- are dead. The words are intentionally bare and stark. They had not even lived 21 years of their lives. This gathering in Zion Square, a public square in West Jerusalem, Israel, located at the intersection of Jaffa Road, Ben Yehuda Street, Herbert Samuel Street, and Yoel Moshe Salomon Street. It is one of the vertices of the Downtown Triangle commercial district. Since the British Mandate era, Zion Square has been the focal point of the cultural life of downtown Jerusalem.

Zion Square was also the site of several terrorist attacks and a 2012 assault on Palestinian youth by a group of Jewish youth.

So it is fitting that this gathering took place after the world learned the fate of the three young Jewish teenagers. The world shook its head in dismay and disbelief. How could anyone take hostility to this low? We felt a kick in the stomach and like the people in the photograph, joined together in quiet reflection and in observable grief. And sharing together is the greatest way to ameliorate the pain.

I don't know if you were alive in 1970, but I had a flashback as I saw this. It was Ohio, in May 1970. I was living in St Louis, Missouri attending university there (at Washington University) when the news came across our radios. The scene was at Kent State University in the US city of Kent, Ohio, and involved the shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis. Immediately like a kick in the stomach, university students country-wide knelt, ached, cried, and quietly sang. Then we got louder. And louder. How could this happen here? How can this happen anywhere?

Grief shared is lesser grief. I suppose it's like stress on a bridge or any structure when the tension is displaced across several layers. When we shared that day, singing songs by Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, we found a peace that was tangible.  I don't know if that's what is happening here in Zion Square or anywhere in the world just now, but I join my voice saying kaddish along with what I imagine thousands of others, in hope that the families of the boys, the Frenkels, the Shaars, and the Yifrach family, will find peace and comfort.

Grief shared is lesser grief.

This is the photo by John Filo. He won the  Pulitzer Prize for this photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.

May the Almighty console them among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

12 June 2014

Final Campaign Highlights Video. We ran sound separately

Created with flickr slideshow.

Summation of Judges: What we have learned

By Bob Mendelsohn
Given in Moscow, Russia
12 June 2014
For the last 11 days we have been learning from the book of Judges and today in our final chapel talk, (although I will have some final words tonight as well), we are going to draw some serious conclusions for our lives long after Campaign is over.
The topics all alliterate in English: Pattern, people, provision, persistence,  and prayer. Stay with me.
We saw it too many times to miss it. And we must know that if all Israel lives like we did in the Book of Judges we are in real trouble.
1)   Israel does evil in the sight of the Lord
2)   God gives us over to the enemy
3)   We cry for help (usually)
4)   God sends a deliverer to save us
5)   We fall again into sin
That pattern could be frustrating and make us want to give up, but it should actually inspire you in the exact opposite way. If God is interested enough in saving us, in delivering us from our sins and from our enemies, then we also ought to let Him do so. We will not necessarily be the ones who fail; we may be those who ‘live securely’ in the land God wants to give us.
The reality of the book is that we CAN start over, and no matter how many times we fail, He is cheering us on, to help us get to the finish line.  Remember what the Bible says, “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.” (Prov. 24.16)
The real thing many of us learn on campaign and in reading Judges is that we are not alone, we don’t work alone, although many times on campaign we feel completely alone. We are part of a team. And if we work in a team, in Kharkov or Los Angeles or here in Moscow, we are stronger for it. Each of us brings certain good things to the table, each of us has gifts and talents. And when we bring those to the team itself, the whole team is greater than the parts. The Talmud says, “Two can do three times the work of one.”
The judges who served well, even oddly with daggers in fat men or in sword fights with Midianites or any other enemy, were those who rallied at least some of the tribes and cooperated. In fact the Ephraimites lost 42,000 men because they wanted the benefits of ‘team’ but refused to live it out together with the rest of the tribes of Israel.
One more thing on people, and that’s that God is looking for people. Ordinary people. He doesn’t need the superstar. He’s not keen on celebrities. He’s interested in real people who really love Him and really want everyone to know Him also. Like Gideon, the valiant warrior who was in the wine press or other somewhat reluctant heroes of the faith. Yesterday I met Nadia who was one of Avi Snyder’s first fruits in Odessa. Last week I met Volodia who also was one of Avi’s first fruits there, who is now serving in a ministry among drug addicts. Both got saved 20 years ago. Both are still around. Avi is an ordinary guy, my age, from an ordinary Jewish home in New York, who gave himself to God in 1977 and hasn’t looked back since. Avi taught Nadia. Nadia had a student named Maxim Ammosov and he learned well from her. Ordinary people who are available to God make a difference for God in extra-ordinary ways.
When you leave from Campaign, be available to God in Tashkent or Minsk, in Omaha or Odessa, and God will use you. You may not be on staff with Jews for Jesus, or you might be on staff, but no matter what your career, you can be useful to the Lord in your world, in your way, if you are available to Him.

If I’ve seen anything over my 43 years as a believer that keeps me going and growing in Messiah, it’s that He will always provide for us. He did that with sinful and needy Israel in the book of Judges. He did that for hungry Israel in the wilderness. He did that for Elijah with a raven and for at least 5,000 with a little basket of fish and loaves and the prayer of Yeshua. God provides for us, over and over again. Last Friday we learned the company that was bringing us food went out of business and with some extra work by our leadership, none of us went hungry. God provided others to feed us and we didn’t miss a meal.
We see this provision of the Almighty in the Book of Judges as well. He provided judges, military strategies, heroes, everything we needed, even songs to sing. He wants us to have a full life, and He will provide it for us, if we are near Him, if we trust Him, if we let Him.
What does the Bible say,  I have been young, and now I am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread.” (Psalm 37.25)
Each morning your alarm clock went off and woke you. You looked at the others in your room. You looked at the clock. You looked at your own tiredness and made a choice. You got up. And that persistence in carrying on, in keeping going for the Lord during this Campaign is essential to keep with you when you go home. What is persistence? It’s the ability to continue doing something, no matter what is against you. It’s ‘one more sortie’ when you are weary that afternoon, or this afternoon. It’s another lap around the track when you are exhausted. It’s praying when you think you have no more energy to stay awake.
Last Saturday we were in Gorky Park and there was a race that happened there that day. I don’t know how long the race was, but there were people crossing the finish line when we arrived AND when we left after our bicycle visibility sortie. So I’m guessing it was a long race. And if you have even been in a race like a 10 km or a marathon like my wife has run many times, you know that there are ‘walls’ along the way, hindrances to your finishing the race. On an ordinary three-week campaign, we would hit those walls after a week or so, and maybe in the middle of the 2nd week. Our campaign was a bit short to have experienced those walls, but each of us had to break through barriers of weariness or boredom or hunger or distractions in order to finish this race, which we will finish tonight.
That same thing is true of life. If we persist,   if we endure to the end, we will be all right.
Rachmiel Frydland was from Poland, a Holocaust survivor, and lived in the US until he died in 1984. I was privileged to work with him at Jews for Jesus in New York City for many years. He well knew the difficulty of surviving. He escaped Hitler and camps and found eternity in salvation in Jesus. He was a dynamic evangelist and Bible teacher. One of his favorite expressions was that quote of Yeshua, “He that endures to the end will be saved.”  (Matthew 24.13) He did just that. And we can do that as well.
Every day people around the world have been praying for us. And I saw that many times on our Campaign that all of a sudden we had wisdom to say something, or to leave somewhere, or to turn in a new direction. What prompted that? It was God answering the prayers of His people in England or in South Africa, in Poland and Berlin, in Australia and the US. When God’s people pray, God listens and God answers. So your encounters with people were more often a result of the prayers of the saints worldwide than it was your cleverness or strategy. I’ve been on campaigns since 1980 in Argentina and in New York in Sydney and Melbourne and have this experience to be sure. God organizes our lives.
That’s what we learned in Judges. God rules in history! He gives us leaders and He gives us judgment and all kinds of things to make us His people. He gives strength to Samson to kill 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. He gives 300 Gideonites strength to chase and kill 135,000 Midianites. He is the ruler of history. He also gives us free will to choose to follow Him, and that’s shocking if you understand sovereignty. But it’s true. And without that freedom to choose, we cannot really love Him. Without that freedom to choose, we cannot understand evil in the world. Without that freedom to choose, we would not be born again ourselves.
What made our events good? What made the singing and the dancing and the art show explanation good? Sometimes people talk about ‘feeling the Spirit.’ I get that, although everyone might have different meanings associated with that expression. What’s clear is that when someone is praying, from anywhere, for an event or for our wisdom, for our spirits to be united with His Spirit, for love to be manifest in our hearts… God listens and answers.
No wonder we encountered people on park benches and in subways like Marina did yesterday on our way to the Kremlin armory.  No wonder Paula kept encountering English-speakers. No wonder Scheffee got to lead a man from Nigeria to the Lord. We were moved to stand, to be, to smile, to participate, because God was answering someone’s prayers.  How awesome is that!

Final reminder
Finally, let me end with this. Live a life of faith; trusting, leaning on God. Proverbs 3.5-6 says,
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
All your heart. Tonight I’m going to show you a Bible verse about joy and whole heartedness, which you may not know, but you need to know. For now, when we say trust in God with all your heart, we then ponder our own failings and think, wait, I didn’t trust Him last week. Or last year on that weekend. Look, the Bible is saying, trust in God completely and don’t even lean a little bit to figuring it all out. Don’t even make the slightest bit of a lean towards personal intellectualism OVER AGAINST the Lord and the Scripture.
God’s Word is Truth. God is Truth. Yeshua is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is all we need. No wonder we can say we trust Him. No wonder we can put full confidence on Him.
In the subway cars, you see people who hold on to the railings when the train is crowded. And then there are times you cannot find a rail to hold. When the train comes to a stop, you see people leaning one way and then the other. Tossed by the velocity of the train, they are not stable. God says, if you want to make a difference in the world, don’t lean on what you know. Don’t lean on human wisdom. Don’t lean on the way it ‘has always been.’ Trust completely in the Lord, in your marriage, in your workplace, in your office, in your neighborhood, in your church, in your relationships, with your children and your parents. Don’t lean on your own life. Trust Him completely.
Let’s go out today, our last scheduled sorties, crossing the 200,000 mark on broadsides, getting another 20 or 50 UJs to join the 430 so far, and let’s persist and endure to the end. In the power of God, who knows and oversees all things, and who is answering the prayers of the many, even our prayers, amen?!