I need to apologize for being MIA in the blogging department this fall. I have had the busiest season in recent memory and realized the other day I had preached 47 times in 10 weeks… and then I wondered why I had no time for anything else. When I had a colleague rebuke me for my ridiculous schedule, I responded by saying that the English reformer John Wesley (1703-1791) preached 3 times every single day until he was in his 80’s. To which my friend aptly reminded me, “You’re no John Wesley!”

When I was growing up, in the very community in which I pastor today, there was a kid named Allen that lived down the street. He was the terror of the neighbourhood. If there was an incident he was likely at the center of it. When houses would be egged or garbage cans rolled down the street and the like, the police would start the questioning at Al’s door and usually didn’t need to look any further. He was voted most likely to grow up to be dead or in jail.  Instead he ended up as an executive vice president of an oil company. Recent studies have shown that apparently psychopaths are ideally suited for upper management.

Actually Allen wasn’t as bad a kid as our parents all thought, he just enjoyed stirring the pot and getting others in trouble. One day as we were walking home from school together, the neighbourhood bully John decided to join us. He was Al’s friend, not mine. Al began to go on about how John, a year older and half a foot taller, could easily beat me up. Being the proud and not so bright kid that I was, I took the bait and agreed to fight him.  Because I was always paranoid about getting my teeth knocked out (I guess I knew that someday I would need them to be on TV) I insisted that there could be no punching in the face. We started the fight and with one right hook John smacked me in the mouth and I was bleeding all over the place. My front teeth were loose but fortunately still intact. My mother was beside herself when I got home. She told me to stay away from those boys. I only mumbled through my swollen lips and made no promises.

The next day, no joke, the next day I walked home with them again. When Al started in about how I had lost the fight, I argued that I could easily have won but John had cheated and hit me in the face. Al suggested that we should have a rematch. Again I took the bait, this time making an even bigger plea that the rules would be regarded as my teeth were still loose from the day before.  We squared off again and, you guessed it, John punched my right in the mouth again and there was twice the blood of the day before.  My lip was cut and my teeth were pushed back into my mouth, but maybe by the grace of God I didn’t lose them.  I learned a life lesson that day.  Never trust a bully.

I tell this story in reference to the conflicts in the Middle East and Iraq in particular. By now most people realize that the 2003 invasion of Iraq turned out to be grossly misguided under the false pretense of ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ This is not to say that Saddam Hussein was not still a bully, he was, and was not without culpability in provoking the West. Finally after 8 long years the last Western troops pulled out of Iraq in 2011 all the while claiming victory. They insisted that the country was now better off than with Saddam. The problem was, one bully was gone and another had risen up even more illusive and underhanded than the first – ISIL. This is an acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. With its counterpart ISIS ( Islamic State in Syria) it has over 30,000 fighters. It is the most violent and diabolical terrorist group that has ever existed. It is so vile that Al Qaeda, which was responsible for 9/11 and 1000’s of deaths themselves, has disavowed them, calling their tactics too extreme.

Every week or so they release another videotape of a Westerner being gruesomely beheaded. The actual number of beheadings are far worse than most know, possibly in the hundreds, including Kurdish children. The crimes are so horrifying as to be inhuman. I will not post images as I think it is unethical to do so. Unfortunately I was inadvertently exposed to some of the worst pictures and I am still having trouble getting the images out of my mind. They were indescribable. What kind of person could commit such grisly and heinous acts? I don’t know. What I do know is that they are trying to produce a revulsion that will evoke an angry reaction. The objective, in my opinion, is to try to goad the West back into the fight on Arab soil. It is working. But why would ISIL want Western troops back in the Middle East? Because they know the West cannot win a fight on their turf. Why? Remember my story of Al and John; bullies don’t play by the rules. Bullies are also cowards that hide behind masks, lurk in the shadows and pick on innocent people.

Canada and the US have already joined other nations and have dispatched airborne missions into Iraq. Military experts have warned that this alone will not work unless these missions are accompanied by ground troops. Of course it won’t, how do you remove an incendiary terrorist organization from the air? You can’t. Both our governments have repeated that we will not be sending ground troops back into Iraq. Lord, let that be so. This is not a cowardly position. Why would you fight a battle you cannot win? Why would we send more young men in to die needlessly?

In 2 Kings 19 King Hezekiah of Judah was under threat of the Sennacherib king of Assyria (Syria of today). It was an unwinnable situation as Assyria had 185,000 troops at their doorstep. Hezekiah had no possible effective military strategy so he went up to the house of the Lord and prayed. A long story short, the Lord heard his prayer and sent the Angel of the Lord down Sennacherib’s camp and wiped out all 185,000 in one night. Judah did not so much as raise a sword. We serve the same God today and I believe prayer is still our number one weapon against terrorism.

On a human level, I absolutely do not know what we should do about this crisis. I wish I did. I only know what we should not do. And that is to take the bait the second time. It is to that end I also pray because I will always remember the lesson my friend Al taught me on the subject. Bullies can never be trusted. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

– Peter Townsend (The Who)


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11 Responses to FOOL ME TWICE

  1. steve says:

    Let me think….hmmm….what should we as Christians do about this? The Bible comes to mind, relying on the Holy Spirit rather than our unbelievably intelligent human reasoning. It’s kind of what they did in the acts Church.
    From what I remember when reading the old testament, the Israelites always won every war when they listened to God and stopped trying to figure it out on their own.
    It seems like the further we as a Church go down our own path, thinking our way through everything and forgetting about the Living God Who made us who we are today, the worse the world gets out there.
    2 Thessalonians 2:3 says Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition)
    To me it sounds like the more Christians slack off of walking in the truth and the Holy Spirit, the worse everything else gets and satan has a field day on the earth.
    The word repentance comes to mind. A word most of us Christians have learned to hate.
    The great thing is, God is merciful and always wants to forgive us as His people and help us get back on the narrow path through the power of His Holy Spirit.

  2. Jusuf says:

    Pray is very important since Kingdom of God does work in this world, though kingdom of satan also works in deceiving many people because the time is near (could be a week, a month, a year, or even few next generations).

    Internet has been a tool for both kingdoms to make people aware of, testing their faith, encouraging people and later as usual satan also use whatever already available for good to deceive people. Satan is not a creator, he’s smart in using whatever available for his purpose.

    I pray that the True God will rebuke those wicked deceiver who misguided & those who practise taqiyya & maruna to deceive those who have been in a new covenant in the blood of Jesus (Son of God who is Holy) between the True God who is Holy and us the sinners.

    I found a blog of Michael Youssef explaining about the opposite of end times understanding between christian vs islam & at the same time encourage people not to fear.

    A few minutes ago my wife told me that the west did not help Asia Bibi, but did help Malala Yousafzai. I told her that Asia B is a converted muslim to christian, but Malala Y is still a muslim so it’s good to promote muslim, not Asia B.

  3. Jed says:

    come on seems you are just as gullible now as you were in the story getting hit in the mouth twice in two even moreso..firstly “christians” in Iraq were protected pretty well under Saddam and were free to practice their religion, as were the other religious factions..he was a good old boy for the USA as long as he did their bidding, and they armed him..Now what you got there? Chaos, and ISIL..who are these people? Lots of questions about who is funding them and providing all the equipment, especially those thousands of new quarter ton/one half ton trucks with machine guns mounted in them..hmmmm
    You say AlQueda did 9/11 ..wrong again Mark, that statement sounds like it conirms your childhood story for sue..sounds like your mind is a bag of hammers or something….
    The 19 patsies were from Saudi Arabia, so why not invade Saudi Arabia? lol…nope it was an inside job..No one else had the capability to defeat the NORAD, airport security, fly jumbo airliners to destinations with 75 percent accuracy (despite not being competent at flying small Cessna aircraft), then pulverizethe buildings and cause them to free fall straight down..then cause bldg 7 to collapse a few hours later without being struck by an aircraft…hmmmmcome on Mark Jesus said be wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove, and Know the truth and it will make you free..God bless everyone there!

  4. steve says:

    You know, God spoke to me years ago about a dark storm coming. He also gave me a dream about Isaiah 58.
    Now I knew I was supposed to warn God’s people about that storm that was coming but to do it in a way that Isaiah 58 says to speak. Not pointing the finger in scorn which is what I did.
    What I know today is how great God’s love is for His people no matter how far we’ve strayed or how far we’ve fallen down. God wants to restore the streets of His people to dwell in.
    The Lord also showed me a great revival that is coming so there may be darkness growing around us, but if we accept the anointing of His powerful Holy Spirit in our lives today, the light in us will far outpower the darkness that is growing around us.
    God bless Church of the Rock and God bless you Pastor Mark.

  5. Steve says:

    Pastor Mark, you said on a human level you do not know what to do about the crisis. Well God wants to tell you on a heavenly level.
    I once heard Reinhard Bonnke preach a parable about a man who had a double level house and had accepted Christ. The next day he heard a knock at the door. It was the devil. He tried to shut the door on the devil but the devil already had his foot in it.
    The man fought and fought the devil all day long and was exhausted but finally he managed to get the devil out.
    The man was upset. Why had Jesus not come to help him when he needed Him. Why had Jesus left him to fight the devil? So he called Jesus and said,”Where were You?”
    Jesus answered, “you have 10 rooms in your house and I only have residence in 1 of those rooms.”
    So the man said, “Well I will give Jesus the upper level and I will keep the lower level.”
    So the next day a knock at the door again. It was the devil. And the fight ensued once again. Finally the man at the end of the day got the devil out of there but was completely exhausted.
    He again said,” Jesus! Where were You when I needed Your help?”
    Jesus answered again,”You must give me all the lower level and the upper level as well.”
    So the man agreed and the next day the man had no key to his house or ownership. It was no longer his house. When the devil came knocking, Jesus answered the door. The devil took one look at Jesus and bowed low and said,”Very sorry Sir, I have the wrong house.”
    Jesus wants His people to give Him the whole house. If we want our prayers to be answered then we need to allow Jesus to consume every aspect of our lives. We need to give Jesus full ownership.
    This is not condemnation for anybody, but the unbelievable grace of God for us today to accept this Holy Spirit anointing. Jesus has come to consume His house and put out the fires of the devil with His FIRE! Only Jesus can crush the plans of the devil and only His consuming fire in us can do this unbelievable and impossible work through us as His beloved people.
    May God fill you Pastor Mark with this infilling of the powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit! The POWER of His presence!

  6. Bill says:

    As you and I are well aware, your story about this kid called A*** and John is a bunch of crap…..I know this because I was one of A***’s closest frineds…..but that’s ok as preachers usually are expected to take some latitude with poetic license to demonstrate hyperbole and parable.

    What was a bit disturbing to me was calling this kid A*** a psychopath…..strong words…slanderous some would assert…..especially when considering the source of the story coming from an individual who had his owned his own colored past….to name a few examples that may jog your memory….. “this is a dandy little drink”……how about some of the antics you pulled on the ski trip when you were in Sun Valley?….The only offence I suspect A*** would take is being labeled a psychopath….this so called psychopath, in case you didn’t know, is a devoted husband and father, and as you pointed out successful in his career having helped many people do the same…..I would suggest that you act a little less pompous and righteous….and follow the path of Jesus by setting a better example of humility with your flock……


  7. Mark says:

    The story is entirely true. The reason you (Bill or Al?) might not remember it is I changed the name of John (I have now changed both) to protect the guilty. The reference to psychopath was completely in jest. I wouldn’t take the comment too seriously.
    Al was one of my favorite people and I meant no disrespect. But he was one wily kid. And… I would be the first to admit my own colored past. Al once accused me of surpassing him in mischief. He was a great teacher.
    Besides we have a new definition of psychopaths today (the one I was using). Dr Robert Hare says that 300,000 Canadians could be described as one, including as I said. many top executives. Some might be proud to be called one. Go figure.

  8. Disciple says:

    Yes, a phaycopath will never apologise or admit to doing wrong. Instead they’ll justify themselves or try to turn their wrong doing on other people. It’s always the other persons fault. Pride and vanity as flesh and blood, will not inherit The Kingdom of God.

  9. Annette Stadt says:

    My son and I are looking for a church that will be open so that we can pray our way into the new year. However, we cannot find one. If you are not open, do you know of one that is?

    Thank you.

  10. Chris says:

    I totally agree that Isil and Isis do not play by our rules, and anyone who would make it their life to commit these heinous acts in the name of anything is strictly doing it with the devil at their side. I truly believe that with prayer, if enough of us make it a priority, lives can be changed, even these ones. Lets do it, and with faith, watch it work!

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