Book Review: Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival

408147There is no worst possible fate for a sailor, having sailed around the world myself, than being shipwrecked; that is unless the shipwreck results in being captured and and held as a slave to barbarous and malevolent Muslims in the Sahara desert!

Such was the fate of American Captain James Riley and his crew of eleven men. The year was 1815 when the brig (two-masted sailing ship) ran around off the coast of Africa. One would think local human beings would come to the aid of men in dire straits, but instead, for these civilized Christians, the exact opposite happened.

No sooner had the men reached the shore and caught their breath from their arduous ordeal, families of desert dwellers swarmed them, stole the meager supply of goods salvaged from the wreck, stripped them naked, beat them with sticks and took them into captivity as slaves.

This two-month incredible journey will leave the reader wondering how humans can be so inhumane. Yet, in the midst of starvation, dehydration, illness and injuries, there are some who while still treacherous, show a measure of compassion, such as Sidi Hamet. But is his limited compassion enough? Will the men survive? How long can the human body last in such extreme conditions? Such are these and other questions presented in the riveting account of Skeletons on the Zahara.

The original story, written in the 19th century was a best seller in its day and one that influenced and shaped the life of Abraham Lincoln, who read it as a boy. Skeletons on the Zahara is one of my favorite survival stories of all time and I recommend it to those who are not faint of heart!

Does God Hate Globalism?

Globalism has taken a hit, it is down for the count. Nationalism is still standing in the ring, and God delivered punch.  Sounds paradoxical, huh?  How could God be against globalism and yet make the claim “For God so loved the world.”? Doesn’t God want all people to come together as one? Isn’t His plan for all people to unite in peace and harmony?  Yes, but not now.

God has been against gbabellobalism for quite some time.  The globalism idea first raised its ugly head in the world arena many thousands of years ago on the plain of Shinar. The plain comprised the region from modern Baghdad to the Persian Gulf.  Later it became known as Babylonia. It is still a hot spot today.  The people of the world got together for a conference to make a world capital city.  The symbol of their power and global strategy was a ziggurat, or a skyscraper, visible for miles when anyone entered the plain. Most likely this was a large city that would be the symbol of world independence, power, religion and trade. What was their reasoning?  So they would be a one world government—they did not want to disperse. Globalism brought power to a select few.  Whoever was in power did not want to lose that power.

The thing is, God was not in favor of this government, so He stopped it from happening.  God said if He continues to allow it to happen, this globalism will do nothing but grow larger and it will just get stronger.  Perhaps He meant, people would become oppressed under this one world government?  God said, “It is only the beginning of what they will do.”  Men in power, with no moral compass, have a tendency to oppress people, to keep people in subjection, to place burdens on citizens to enrich themselves.  God shut it down, dispersed the people, and nations began.

God put the brakes on globalism in the beginning, and He will do it again at the end of time.  Why?  Because there will only be a complete, functioning, benevolent one world government when He rules as King of kings and Lord of lords. Globalism will come, God’s Kingdom will come, He will accomplish his will on earth as it is in heaven, but in His timing and under His control.That is why God is pro-nation and pro-borders.

Take the nation of Israel for example; God’s plan for them was not globalism.  It could have been, after all they were His chosen people.  Why not give them the global kingdom when they entered the Promised Land after escaping Egypt and living in the desert for 40 years?  But God did not do that, rather He assigned borders for them “From the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates.” God defines their borders even further in passages such as Genesis 15, Joshua 1:4, and Numbers 34. Over one hundred passages of Scripture speak of borders and boundaries, most often in a matter-of-fact common knowledge positive sense.  Borders are a natural outcome of the rule of man.

globalism1-1-e1471291121111God is so pro borders He determines where each person will be born and within which boundary.  God not only determines how long a person will live, He determines where they will live, within a boundary.  From Adam every person who ever lived and who will live are born in the place God determines.

This brings us to 2016.  The battle we face worldwide, and within our own borders of the United States is not a battle of one man.  It is a battle between the ideology of globalism versus nationalism.  God is pro-nationalism and anti-globalism.

Man made globalism will get up from the mat and raise its head again, but not yet.  Satan the prince of globalism, is ready to make his move.  But Satan only acts under God’s Sovereign authority.  He wants it now, but God is saying not yet.  And that is why the battle is so fierce and will remain that way.

united_nations___grunge_by_tonemappedGod has given a reprieve against the one world government, but it is temporary.  As Hillary Clinton prepared to take office, and most people, including most Christians were certain that would happen; many Christians were also sure that the coming of Christ was soon.  It may be, but it appears God doesn’t work by the polls either.

Perhaps God is slowing the process down so that many more might come to believe in Jesus Christ for everlasting life?  That sounds like what a merciful and gracious God would do.  God is not in a hurry for people to die without believing.  He has set up nations so some of them will have the freedom to “Go into all the world and make disciples.”

To lost unbelievers, a stay of execution is granted. Now is our time to let people know about everlasting life, to share with them about the Kingdom that will come, where one King will rule and reign, where one City, the New Jerusalem, will shine from a distance for all the world to see.

God so loved the world, He has appointed a time such as this, that our nation may continue in an even greater way to send forth His Word to the nations of the world. Globalism is down for the count, it has been defeated for a time. Nationalism rules. But the winning bell has not yet rung. We are standing in the ring and the spiritual battle is still on!

Devotion: The Lot Has Been Cast

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:33

This is a sobering verse when we consider last night’s incredible election result.  Both Democrats and Republicans are in shock.  Neither side projected this kind of turnaround.

But, the lot was cimg_0602ast.

Notice it is not the Democrat vote, or the Republican vote that decided.  It is not that one group was wiser than the other.  The outcome was not because one side was better than the other, or more patriotic, or closer to God, or because God took a side.  The outcome was because it was God’s decision. Why?

We do not have the answer.  We cannot see two seconds into our future.  Each side can speculate, conjecture, presume, surmise and imagine, but Mr. Trump won that election because it was God’s decision.

Will he be a better President than Mrs. Clinton would have been.  My judgment tells me he will be, but that is not my call.  I only cast the lot, God decided.  Therefore, we must not become smug or proud, arrogant or flippant to Democrats and others who cast their lot too.  In His Sovereign Providence, God decided.  So what do we do now?

For the Christian, we pray.  We need to learn to pray.  Prayer is not deliberate for many Christians, it happens on the fly.  Not that quick prayers are bad, but every Christian needs to sit down; meet with God, and spend an allotted amount of time with the Decision Maker, confessing sins, praying for grace and humility, asking Him to bless our leaders.  My sermon last Sunday gives tips on how you can spend more time in prayer; You can listen to it here.

For the one who is not a Christian, believe.  Jesus said, “Believe in Me and you will have everlasting life.”  He promised, “For God so loved the world He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”  Believe in Jesus today and experience joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Our nation is in deep moral crisis.  This election has not solved that.  Let us pray, read the Word of God, and proclaim the good news to others.  The fight is on, perhaps even more violently than before.

 

 

Devotion: Wherever I Roam

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I came across an old hymn this morning; a Swedish hymn, written in 1847 by Pastor C.O Rosenius.  Do you need some cheer today?  Perhaps this will lend some to you. It did me!

“Wherever I roam through valleys dreary, over mountains, or in pathless wood.

Ever with me is a friend to cheer me! Warning, comforting as none else could.

It is the Shepherd! Who once dying, bleeding, still through all eternity shall live!

Leading His flock, protecting, feeding, He the tenderest care does give.

Leading His flock, protecting, feeding, He the tenderest care does give.”

Amen?

How Do I Believe?

“How do I believe?”  What would you say if someone asked you that question?  The Bible calls the answer, good news. If that is the case, if it is good news, we should know the answer to this important question.

I met Cam for the first time last week. He is a handsome, bright and personable young man.  Last October the U.S. government deported him. He is another case of a deported young man, being sent to a place he has never been. He was born in a Thailand refugee camp. He cannot read or write the Khmer (Cambodian) language and is not fluent in speaking it.

Cam has had a rough life. He never knew his father and lived in foster homes for two years.  He is trying to re-build a relationship with his mom, but all through his life she had boyfriends who would come and go and that was difficult for him.  He had no stability. Now he is stuck in Phnom Penh with no government I.D. He lacks stability here too.

Last Saturday, during our Bible study, he listened intently, searching for the stablity he was missing, looking for hope.  When he heard about belief, he was interested.  “How do I believe?”  He asked.  Today I showed him.

Chantha and I met Cam for breakfast.  After our meal we opened our Bibles and showed him from the Gospel of John, how to believe.  I love the Gospel of John because it is an evangelistic Gospel.  John said it himself; he gave the reason why he wrote the book:

“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

It cannot be clearer than that why this gospel was written. Therefore, there must be included in this gospel of John the answer to Cam’s question, “How do I believe?”

I began in with John 3:16,

“For God so loved the world, i that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

I explained that he is loved by God and that God “gave” His Son.  He gave Him up to die. The perfect, sinless Son of God was given up by His Father.  Whoever then believes in this Son who died, has everlasting life.

I moved to John 6:47,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me has eternal life.”

Now Jesus said it Himself, “Whoever believes in Me.”  Clear. Consise.  Believe in Jesus.

But for what?

I turned to John 14:6, using my “point and shoot” method of evangelism.  Point and shoot meaning, I point to the verse and the person I am talking to reads it out loud.

” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Belief in Jesus for everlasting life, for access to the Father.  Jesus is the only way.  It is not Jesus and works; It is not Jesus and repentance (teaching repentance for salvation is a distorted and confusing gospel); It is not Jesus and stopping your sinning first.  It is belief in Jesus, that He is the only way to everlasting life.

This is the good news! The Good News is that there is nothing one can do to gain everalasting life.  One must only believe in the One who gives the gift.

Cam looked at Chantha and me and said,

“No one has ever told me this before. Everyone has told me that I have to change my life first, that I have to stop sinning first, that I must clean my life up first.”

If that were the case, that one had to clean up his act first, no one could be saved. No one can clean up their life.  All have sinned, none seeks God, everyone needs a Savior. Jesus came to save those who are sick.

Cam wants to believe, but the false message he has received over the years (even from Christian missionaries in Cambodia) is difficult for him to part with. How could it be that he has never been shown this clear message of salvation? I told Cam to go home and read the gospel of John for himself. “Do not take my word for it. Search for yourself and you will see that what I have shown you is the truth.”

I pity those who are not teaching the truth.

I pray that well meaning Christians will look to Scripture, interpret it correctly, and begin answering the question, “How do I believe?” With the answer that is good news, not by any works, but by belief alone in Jesus Christ. “Believe the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

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Cam is on the right. This is the first time I had met him.
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Sharing the good news message with him.
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Now it is up to him to believe. Praying that he will.

Two Average Men

 

“If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men… of average talent.”  D.L. Moody

Dwight Lyman Moody is a name that most people would not recognize, yet in the late 1800’s, he was one of the most well-known men in all the world. Often he spoke to audiences of 10,000 to 20,000 people. He presented God’s offer of salvation by his voice or pen to at least one hundred million people. 

Moody was unconventional in the way he attracted people to hear the gospel message. He drew the children of the German and Scandinavian immigrant underclass to his mission with candy and pony rides, and he drew the adults through evening prayer meetings and English classes. He was convinced,

“If you can really make a man believe you love him, you have won him.”

Chantha and I hit the streets of Phnom Penh.  I am a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Chantha is a student there. We used some of D.L. Moody’s unconventional tactics to share the Gospel.

Our day did not turn out the way we had planned. The plan was to have a day off, a recreation day.  Plan A:  Three of us, Chantha, me and one other guy would meet up for breakfast and then head over to the Mall for some bowling competition. I am the bowling champ among these youngsters and I needed to retain my title. At the last minute, the other guy came down with an extreme migraine.  I told him to stay home and rest and we would bowl another day. The three men turned into two.

Plan B:  We did not have a plan.  Chantha showed up at my hotel at 8 AM.  We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast although we had to swat mosquitoes biting our ankles.  After breakfast we discussed several Bible studies for Chantha to lead on Saturday mornings.  He will take the Hope Now Cambodia guys through the life of Abraham. Understanding Abraham and God’s promises to him will help guys understand the New Testament better.  We had a good planning session and Chantha is excited about a new study.

Now what do we do? Since our number three guy was out, bowling was out too. “Let’s go down to the riverfront and just walk around” I said. We thought we would let God lead us. Our driver dropped us off in front of the royal palace. 

As we walked along the street, drivers, beggars and vendors were calling out to us to buy their goods, give them alms, or to drive us around the city.  One Tuk-tuk driver called out “Tuk-tuk? You go shoot? Bang bang?”

There is a shooting range in Phnom Penh where big guns, like rocket launchers can be fired, seriously! Small arms can be fired too, but the draw for tourists is to shoot the big guns. Rumor has it you get to blow up a cow! Every driver we passed by wanted to take us there. We rounded the corner, and another driver asked the same question, but this time we engaged him in conversation and our unplanned walk took on a new purpose.

I turned to the Tuk-tuk driver and put my hand on his shoulder and said, “I am from California in the United States.  In the U.S.A. I can own a gun, I have a permit to carry one.  So I do not need to go to the shooting range, I can do that at home (although I admit, I cannot blow up a cow), and besides, I have been to Cambodia eight times.  If I wanted to go, I would have gone many years ago.”  We bantered back and forth about the shooting range and guns in a friendly, jovial tone.  We were laughing and enjoying the gun conversation. 

Earlier in the week, I observed a shop owner throwing pieces of wrapped candy into the street.  I thought that was odd. Why was she doing that? It was not only one shop owner, I saw several do it. I asked Chantha why they threw candy in the street; he did not know the reason. 

As we talked to the Tuk-tuk driver about guns, at his feet were pieces of wrapped candy and incense sticks stuck in the ground next to the candy.  Chantha remembered our conversation about the candy and asked the driver, “Why do you throw this candy in the street?” He responded it was a way to bring the store owner, or in his case, the driver good luck. “Does it work?” I asked him. “Does the candy bring you good luck?” He shifted back and forth, thought for a moment and said, “Everyday is the same, even if we do not throw the candy in the street.”

It was then I took a page out of D.L. Moody’s playbook, he used candy to draw kids to the gospel, I used dollars.  I reached in my wallet and pulled out two dollars and said, “Jesus Christ has brought you good luck today, here is money for you in the name of Jesus Christ!”  I know Jesus does not bring luck, but I was using terminology in which he could relate. He looked surprised by the money. I told him we are Christians and have good news for him.

Chantha shared the Gospel in Khmer. He told him, “You cannot reach God or gain luck by doing things. Good works will not help you for your eternal life.  Jesus Christ is the only way.  You must believe in Jesus and just as you received this money, receive His free gift. Jesus will save you.  That is the message we wanted to share with you today.” 

The young man was happy to hear this message and he and Chantha exchanged telephone numbers. We may follow up with him before I leave for home. Chantha asked him his name, “Chanthea” he said.  “That’s like my name” Chantha said, “It will be easy to remember.”  Please pray for him.

In the New Testament, the apostles received a beating from the Jewish council for preaching the gospel. Upon their release Acts 5:41 says, 

“They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

Chantha and I did not receive a beating, and we did not suffer, but we could relate to the “rejoicing” part.  I imagine the apostles walking away saying to each other, “Can you believe what just happened? That was awesome! We got to suffer for Jesus Christ!” 

We had much of the same sentiment as we walked away, Chantha said, “I shared the gospel with him!” We were both excited. It began with a conversation about guns and cows. Now we are praying for his soul.

We crossed the street, and another driver said, “Shooting range?” Here we go again! Now we knew what to do.  I gave him my same spiel, and said, “I want to bless you, here is a gift in the name of Jesus Christ.”  Then Chantha shared the gospel in Khmer with this young man, and he listened attentively.  He was interested in what Chantha was telling him.  Chantha exchanged phone numbers with him too.

We left that exchange rejoicing again that we shared the truth of Jesus Christ and everlasting life with these men today. We thought we were going to be in a bowling alley, but due to a migraine, God had other plans. It was as if God said, “Bowling?  I did not send you here to bowl.” I am not suggesting that God gave our friend a migraine, or that bowling is wrong, but God used the circumstances as an opportunity to direct us on a different path from what we thought our day would be like.

The plot thickens…

THE NEXT DAY:

Chantha and I met for breakfast this morning and worked our way through Genesis, chapters 13 and 14.  After we finished, I wanted to buy some Khmer language Gospel of John booklets.  I looked online and found a place in Phnom Penh that sold them; The Cambodia Bible Society. We decided to find their building.

We gave the address to our Tuk-tuk driver and after maneuvering through massive traffic jams we arrived in about 45 minutes.  The little shop, located on a bumpy dirt road, was very nice and had lots of Khmer/English Gospel of John books, and other tracts and Bibles. We bought several books.  Finding these books made the drive well worth it.

Our purchase in hand, we headed back to the riverfront.  What did God have in store for us today?  We were about to be surprised!

I told Chantha, “Let’s take the same route as yesterday. Let’s do the exact same thing.”  We prayed and began walking.  The street where I used to stay when I came to Phnom Penh was up ahead, so we walked along to see if Virak, my old friend and Tuk-tuk driver was there (See Virak’s story by clicking here). He was there, and we greeted each other warmly.  I gave him a Christian tract, then Chantha and I went on our way.

As we rounded the corner, we came upon Chanthea, the young driver we met yesterday.  He was sitting in his Tuk-tuk with another driver, Sina, waiting for customers. Chanthea was happy to see us and Sina was personable. 

Sina, began to ask us questions about Jesus and God, which we answered.  After ten minutes of questions and answers, Sina moved over and sat next to Chanthea and asked if we wanted to sit in the Tuk-tuk with them and talk more.  We did.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out two Gospel of John books and handed them to each young man.  They received them with gladness.  As we answered more questions, I showed them various verses where Jesus said, “Believe in me and you will have everlasting life.” 

Moments before, Sina asked, “Are you guys trying to make us believe?”  Chantha replied, “We want you to believe, but we are not trying to do anything except tell you the truth about everlasting life through Jesus Christ. Whether you believe is up to you.”

I showed them John 3:16, John 6:47, John 14:6 and each time we turned to a verse I pointed to it and said to Sina, “Read it out loud.” As he read, Chanthea listened and was quiet. I thought, “Sina is interested in the gospel, I am not so sure about Chanthea.” (Later, Chantha told me he was thinking the same thing.)  After Sina read John 14:6, I turned to one more verse, John 20:31, where the apostle John states the reason he wrote this book. It says, 

“This gospel is written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Before Sina could read it, his phone rang and he answered it.  We sat there waiting for him to finish the call.  He got up out of the Tuk-tuk and continued his conversation outside, standing on the sidewalk.  We waited a little longer and I began to think, this is a ploy of the enemy to distract us. I said to Chanthea, “Why don’t you read this verse—read it out loud.”  He read it clearly in his native Khmer language. When he finished I said, “That is what this book is about, Jesus is God and he offers you everlasting life–he will give it to you if you believe.”

I could tell something was different after he read the verse out loud, his demeanor changed.  He said to Chantha, “No one has ever shared this good news about Jesus with me before. I want to believe in Jesus.”  Chantha and I sort of gulped; we had not asked him if he wanted to believe.  We had not coerced him or led him to say that. We did not manipulate the situation. We did not say, “Repeat this prayer after me.” or “Say these words.”  He just read the verse of Scripture for himself and believed! That is the Holy Spirit at work.

“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

Chantha prayed for him in Khmer and Chanthea had a look of happiness on his face when the prayer was finished.  I told him,

“You now have everlasting life, Chanthea. Your sins are forgiven.”

As Chantha was praying, Sina came back into the Tuk-tuk and observed.  He did not say he believed, but perhaps his friend Chanthea will lead him to the Lord? 

I gave them each $3.00 because we had taken up their time. They could have been earning money driving. We said our goodbyes, and encouraged them to read the gospel of John and call Chantha if they have questions. Chantha and I went away rejoicing for a second day!  After we had walked down the street, we stopped and prayed, thanking God for allowing us to share the good news with someone who was hearing it for the first time; with someone who was ready to believe.

We walked over to the marketplace, each of us still in shock (The good kind. The goose-bump kind of shock) over what had just occurred.  I found a hat that summed up our day.  The apostles rejoiced in Acts and my hat had essentially that message embroidered on the front in Khmer lettering.  It reads, “Happy”.

We are two average men doing what Jesus has commissioned us to do,

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel.” Mark 16:15

I am happy He used us.

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Our driver dropped us off in front of the royal palace.
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Beggars called out to us as we walked. We gave them money and tracts.
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Chantha spotted the wrapped candy and incense on the groung.
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Chanthea and me, the first day.
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Chantha and the other driver we told the good news to. The first day.
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We found the sign directing us to the Bible Society store.
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The sign on the gate.
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Holding a Gospel of John in Khmer/English.
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Looking over our purchase.
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We filled a few plastic bags full of books and tracts.
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Virak greets me.
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Sina looking at the Gospel of John we gave him.
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Sina reading John 6:47
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Chanthea (now a new believer), Sina and me.
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The guy in the marketplace sold me my hat “Happy”. Only $5.