No Evil Shall Befall You

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No Evil Shall Befall You

James R. Aist

“Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling, there shall be no evil befall you, neither shall any plague come near your tent; for He shall give His angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:9-11)

I love to hear accounts of God’s elect narrowly escaping impending disaster, especially when the threat is real and there are details in the story that reveal the hand of God in their deliverance. What follows is just such a story, a miraculous working of God’s providential protection, from my personal experience.

I had spent quite a few weeks in Japan already, including one research visit for more than four months. One of the things that impressed me most about Japan is that it is a relatively safe place to visit and to live. On one visit, I even saw an old, frail, bent-over lady crossing a busy intersection bearing what was obviously a “money bag” of substantial size, headed to the bank to make a deposit. She apparently had no fear of being robbed, even though she was walking alone! So, we had no fear for our safety when the time came for us to make preparations for yet another trip to Japan. I had accepted an invitation from a Japanese colleague to spend a week in Japan to present a series of seminars. The Sunday before we were to embark, we were surprised when two different church members approached us separately after the Sunday Morning Service and eagerly offered to pray for our safety during the trip. At first I was reluctant, explaining how safe it is to travel around in Japan. But they insisted, saying that they were being prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray with us anyway. So, we prayed together for the Lord’s protection as we traveled. And, its a good thing we did, as you will soon see.

Our Japanese “host” while we were in Japan, a professional colleague of mine, accompanied us from one University to another via bus, taxi, train and subway. That was an awesome experience and most enjoyable. When the last seminar was finished, we traveled to a location near Tokyo to spend our last night in Japan, before catching a flight home from the Tokyo airport. My host had thoughtfully arranged our schedule to allow plenty of time for us to get a full night’s sleep and have a leisurely morning, before catching the long flight back to Newark, well rested.

But, late that night, my host received a surprise phone call from his supervisor at work, and we had to change the time of our departure from the hotel the next day. We had to leave for the airport one hour earlier than originally planned, so that my host could report for work an hour earlier. And so we did. The extra hour at the Tokyo airport was not a problem, and our overnight flight back to Newark was uneventful. So far, our trip back was focused on the details of travelling, so we had not yet had an opportunity to catch up on the news of the day. But that was about to change.

We had a long stopover at the airport in Newark, so I began to watch the news broadcast on the big screen at our next gate. I quickly realized that the big news of the day was a deadly sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway…yesterday, March 20, 1995. We were just there, in that subway! Then I listened closely for the exact timing of the attack, and it was exactly when we would still have been in the subway, had it not been for the phone call requiring us to leave for the airport one hour earlier. I was stunned by this realization, and I began to mull these things over in my mind. Then it came to me: this must be why our friends at church had been led by the Holy Spirit to pray for us before we began our journey. We barely escaped being among those being wheeled from the subway on stretchers. Later on, I learned that my daughter-in-law had been glued to her TV when the story first broke, hoping that she would not see a victim with his feet sticking way off of the end of the stretcher. That would have identified me as a likely victim, as I am six feet five inches tall, a giant among the Japanese!

As I see it, the take-home lesson from this experience is two-fold: 1) If the Holy Spirit prompts you to pray for someone, then do it; and 2) if someone says they are being prompted to pray for you, then go for it! God works in mysterious ways to protect His elect, and sometimes He wants us to get involved in the process.

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE.)

Praying Glorifies God

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Praying Glorifies God

James R. Aist

“Let us then come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

In an earlier article, I presented biblical evidence for the understanding that the main reason God created mankind, and, thus, the reason for our existence, is to glorify God (click HERE). In this article, I will argue that the very act of praying, regardless of the outcome, glorifies God, and therefore, it helps us to fulfill the main purpose for which God created us.

In evangelical Christianity, we are used to the idea that we glorify God by our singing, preaching, serving and even our giving. But, in my experience, bringing our concerns, our cares and our needs to Him in prayer seems to have been relegated to more of a self-serving exercise, where any glory given to God depends on the answers, if any, to our prayers. Such an attitude can prevent us from praying, or, worse still, it can lead us to put God on trial, as it were, where we, in effect, demand that God give us an explanation for unwanted outcomes, or else! But God has shown me a better way to approach His throne of grace, an attitude that will always give Him glory, regardless of His response. I believe that this better way, when embraced and employed, will allay the fear of unanswered prayer that so easily can become a roadblock to praying at all.

This better way is really very simple, albeit not necessarily easy. Start with acknowledging that God is on His throne in heaven and does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3). The corollary to this fact is that you, on the other hand, are not God. And, God is still God regardless of the outcome of your prayer. These three things we must settle in our hearts, before approaching Him for help. Then, be prepared to accept and make peace with the outcome of your request as the best outcome possible, regardless of how it stacks up against your personal opinion or desire. Trust that God always has a good reason for His response to your request, and remember that He doesn’t owe you an explanation if you don’t like it! “Where is the glory in that?”, you might ask. Well, the glory is in the act of going to God for help, thus acknowledging both who He is and His great and everlasting love for us. The mere act of praying to God glorifies Him by acknowledging who He is, and it fulfills the very purpose for which He created us! There is no such thing as a fruitless prayer!

Finally, in this context, I want to leave you with a thought to mull over. Could it be that maybe, just maybe, praying is ultimately more about God than it is about us. If the act of praying, regardless of the outcome, glorifies God, and if that, in turn, fulfills our primary purpose for existing, then what outcome could possibly be more important than that?

(To find more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

The “Handwriting” on the Wall

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The “Handwriting” on the Wall

James R. Aist

“… I have now come to give you insight and understanding.” (Daniel 9:22)

From the time I was eight years old, God has been communicating with me, now and then, through visions. I was forty years of age when this vision came to me. It was springtime, 1985. One Sunday morning I began to pray earnestly, asking God what He wanted me to do with the rest of my life. Just four days later, in the middle of the night, I was awakened suddenly and sat straight up in bed, aware of the presence in the room of a “spirit being.” At first, there was nothing visible to explain this phenomenon. By this time in my Christian walk, I had enough Bible knowledge (e.g., 1 John 4:1) to “test the spirits”, so I said to it, “Who are you?” There was no verbal response, but something bright then appeared on the wall to my left. So, I looked in that direction and saw, in large, white, bold lettering, a Scripture reference: “DANIEL 9: 22…” As I was pondering that message, the writing slowly faded away. Through this vision, God was directing my attention to the book of Daniel, chapter nine, verses 22 and following. Realizing that this was no ordinary spiritual experience, I made note of the message on the wall and went back to sleep, with the intention of looking into the matter thoroughly the next morning.

Now, up until then, I had virtually no idea what was in the book of Daniel, except for the story of “Daniel in the Lions’ Den.” So, the next morning, with the aid of a study guide, I carefully studied the book of Daniel through twice. For our reference, here is the passage of Scripture to which I had been directed: 21 indeed, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. 22 He informed me and talked with me, and said, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved. Therefore understand the matter and consider the vision: 24 “Seventy weeks have been determined for your people and upon your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

Let me share with you now my understanding of the message that God was giving me through this vision. First, in verse 22, Gabriel, speaking to Daniel of a prophecy given many years earlier by the Prophet Jeremiah, said “… I have now come to give you insight and understanding.” God was saying to me that He was giving me insight into and understanding of the Scriptures that I did not already possess. And second, I found out that Chapter 9 is considered to be the “backbone of Bible prophecy”, because, in Chapter 9, it predicted to the day when Jesus would make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the long-promised Jewish Messiah! God was confirming to me the accuracy and reliability of the Bible as His Word and calling me to become a student of the Bible then and there, no longer just a casual and occasional reader of it. And, I have the sense that, from that time forward, I have experienced a heightened ability to understand and grasp the meaning of the Scriptures, perhaps similar to the impartation on the road to Emmaeus, as recorded in Luke 24;45, “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

You may wonder how this vision impacted my life. Simply put, it set my life on a different course. After all, this vision was God’s way of answering my question concerning what He wanted me to do with the rest of my life! Since that day, my worldview has become thoroughly and unequivocally biblical, and I have become, not only a student, but also a teacher, of the Bible. And, I now have the courage of my convictions, courage to stand boldly and publicly for the truths of God’s Word. To God be the glory, all of it!

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

God Remembered!

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God Remembered!

James R. Aist

“I will compensate you for the years the locusts have eaten…” (Joel 2:25)

The trail of this testimony began when I was forced to accept the fact that my first marriage, which produced three wonderful and dearly beloved children, was soon to end in divorce. I was especially concerned about the eternal destiny of my children, so I went to my “meeting rock” under an oak tree at the edge of a small woods behind my house to meet with God about it. I sat down on the rock and began to cry out to God on behalf of my children. I didn’t try to hide anything. I confessed that I had not fulfilled my biblical responsibility as spiritual head of the household, and, consequently, my children seemed to be headed in the wrong direction, spiritually. At that time I had little positive influence on them, and I confessed that, through my own negligence,  I was not in a good position to lead them spiritually and teach them about the things of God. I told God that if my children were going to be saved, He would have to step in and, somehow, make up for my negligence and do whatever it takes to save them. Then, with Joel 2:25 in mind, I pleaded with Him to do it.

Several years passed, and God responded gloriously to this prayer. I was attending the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International Men’s Advance at Lake George in upstate New York. One day when they were immersion baptizing in the lake, I stepped forward to be immersed by Pastor Don Yarborough. We had never met, and he knew nothing about me. As I approached him in the water, he just stared at me straight in the eye with a blank look, and kept staring. I thought to myself, “That’s strange; he doesn’t seem to even see me coming.” Finally, as I drew near to him, he reached out his hand to me, we shook hands, and I introduced myself. Then he said that something very unusual had just happened; it had happened only once before in his ~20 years of baptizing people. He said that as I was approaching him in the water, he received a prophecy for me, in the form of several Bible passages from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. They all had to do with the head of the household being saved and all of his family with him. He then proceeded to share with me all five of those Bible verses. When he had finished with that, he gave me the interpretation of the message: “God wants you to stand on and hold fast to these biblical promises, which he is confirming to you and your children.”

Wow! Through this prophecy, God had just told me that all of my children will be saved. Clearly, this was God’s response to my prayer, at the “meeting rock”, for their salvation! Needless to say, I was a “happy camper” the rest of that afternoon.

I didn’t say anything to any of my children about this glorious promise at that time, because I didn’t want to risk getting in the way of what God was going to do or how He was going to do it. After all, I had given the salvation of all of my children over to Him to take care of, and I meant it.