THERE ARE NO
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus
Iraq and Babylon
Oh, Lord, I am so thrilled I’ve lived one of my greatest dreams today. Carrying the cross in Babylon and through this historic street into the city! Jesus did it! Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to see this city. At college I wrote a paper about the walls of Babylon and today I’ve not just seen them but carried and lifted up the cross here. Praise you, God, this is tremendous. Denise and I could feel the mighty glory of God today as we did what we were told we could not do. Denise was fearless in a dangerous place and you Jesus have snatched victory from defeat. I feel so close to Denise. Often people think of her as an accessory to me and the cross but she is a necessity! Her sharp mind, humor and calmness in the face of opposition and danger are heart melting. I see you, Jesus, using her over and over to do things that open the way for the cross and our mission. She makes friends and those friends help us do the will of God. She was the key to us getting into Iraq and accomplishing this trip. Thank you, Lord, for the awesome privilege of leading us here for your glory.
God’s Voice East Germany
After carrying the cross in West Germany, I preached at the “Berlin for Jesus” rally held at Olympic Stadium in West Berlin in June 1981. About fifteen thousand people gathered that Sunday afternoon.
When I came to the end of my message, I said, “This stadium was built by Adolph Hitler to commemorate the 1936 Olympics. It was built to glorify man, but I am going to take the cross and carry it across this field and up the steps. We are going to raise the cross above where the torch burned.”
Everyone on the platform was stunned; I had told no one of my plans. As I stepped off the stage with the cross and started walking across the playing field of the stadium, everyone stood, cheering and praising God. Then, as a friend helped me raise the cross above the base of the torch that had been lit for the 1936 Olympics, the people exploded with weeping and praise to God. The cross stood where Hitler’s torch had been extinguished. What a glorious moment as we looked up at the very symbol of goodness and love conquering evil.
Two weeks after the “Berlin for Jesus” rally, my daughter Gina and I drove the highway from West Berlin to West Germany. It was lined with a fence and security installations. Drivers had to stay on this road, not leaving it to go into East Germany.
The car we were driving broke down and in vain we tried to get it fixed or towed into West Germany. At midnight, while Gina was asleep in our camping trailer, I was lying on the floor praying, “God, you have me here for a purpose, what is it?”
Then I felt the Lord speak. “Arthur, you’ve been praying about wanting to carry the cross behind the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. There are no walls! The walls, the iron curtains are in your mind. I don’t have an iron curtain.”
I responded, “Lord, that word is gone from my vocabulary except to use when I’m preaching or when I write about it. I only want to believe your Word and your promises, not the teachings of others that have caused me to build walls.”
It wasn’t long before I flew into Poland and carried the cross into other communist countries. My walls were gone.
No Closed Nations
Christians in the West sometimes talk about nations that are “closed” to the gospel. Though it is true that some governments and people groups are resistant to the good news of Jesus, at least as they perceive it, I think we need to be careful: Focusing on the concept of “closed nations” can send a negative message, a message that creates fear and hinders evangelism.
Believers often ask me, “When you were in such and such nation didn’t you feel darkness and the power of Satan?” Or, “When you met such and such terrorists, didn’t you feel evil.”
My reply is, “No, I felt the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
God is with me! The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Every step I take is upon God’s earth. Every room I walk into, God is there. I will not concede any place or person to the devil.
We must listen not to the voices of fear, but to the voice of the Lord. We are told in God’s Word, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord or ashamed of me, his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:7-8) We need to be followers of Jesus, trained to go anywhere at any time to any person with the good news of the love of Jesus and willing to suffer or even die in the service of God.
Just imagine what might happen in your life if you tore down those walls that keep you from doing all that God has for you to do. Dare to believe! God is with you – and he will be with you when your walls are removed.
Let’s look at two main types of walls that keep us prisoners of our own fear.
Walls of fear and mistrust paralyze our actions. They tell us that certain countries are off limits and that we cannot go there with the message of Jesus. They are the walls, caused by wars and conflicts that surround territories, keeping fighting in and hope out.
Some of these walls are physical, though not necessarily made of bricks and mortar. They may be checkpoints with armed guards or barbed-wire fences. While they are physical, they are not walls that God constructed; and he can move people through them with his message as he has done for me in many war-torn or religiously oppressed countries. I’ve just moved on and what appeared to be walls were not walls at all!
Other external walls aren’t seen with our eyes. We construct these walls by our prejudices. They cause hurt and tension between people of different religions, different racial groups and even within our own homes. These walls are judgmental, not loving.
We may go out of our way to avoid people because they don’t believe as we do. It is easy for us to justify avoiding people who seem distasteful, such as alcoholics or drug addicts. But it is not the way of the cross.
These walls cripple people and cause many believers to retreat in the sanctuary of the church. Instead of being redemptive, we become critical and irrelevant. We hide from the very people who need to hear the message of Jesus. If we become insulated and isolated from the world, these people might miss the love that can change their lives.
Jesus wants us to be as he was – in the world without being of the world (see John 17:13-18).
We use these walls, inside our hearts, to disqualify ourselves from serving Jesus in a powerful way. If you think you are disqualified from serving Jesus, just look in the Bible and you will see God using people who failed greatly but found forgiveness as they repented.
Think of Jesus and his love for the lost, the hurting and the needy.
Many of these walls are deeply entrenched and difficult to think about or to acknowledge even to oneself. But they must come down.
You might say, “I’ve been divorced,” or “I’ve had an abortion,” or “I backslid in my faith,” or I was called to preach but I failed or “I was called to the mission field but I didn’t go,” or “I’ve messed up my life so badly I can’t serve God,” or I’m too ugly…too fat…too skinny…too old…too young…too timid….too poor….too rich.” On and on we could go. Jesus may have called you to do something, but fear and that long list of negative self-talk have kept you from moving out.
Let’s face it – most of us have walls. However, whether they are external or internal, we must not let walls divide us and separate us from others. We must not let any walls keep us from doing the will of God.
On June 12, 1987, in a famous speech delivered at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, President Ronald Reagan demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Just two years later, I was in East Germany with my son Joshua and the cross during the time the Berlin Wall was actually coming down. I chipped pieces out of the wall myself. You can do that, too. Chip away at those walls in your own life. Tear them down. Get rid of them. Be free!
I know that may be easier said than done. You may suffer from deep hurts that have caused you to build walls to protect your heart.
Your parents or others close to you may have hurt you in some way and planted a seed of rejection that has grown and eaten away your value and purpose in life. You may have felt unwanted all your life. You may have been abused as a child or even as an adult. Hurt and injustice have built a wall around your heart.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you stay in abusive relationships, but you do need to release your judgment and anger toward those who have hurt or offended you. You must forgive and let it go. God will deal justly with every person. If you hold on to the tormenting words or deeds, it will only destroy you. Jesus asks us to forgive everyone. There is no option.
Your wall could also be the result of things you did to others. Jesus wants you to be released from the guilt of how you may have hurt another person. Ask him to forgive you – and to show you if you need to seek the forgiveness of someone you have violated.
It’s Time to Let Go
I ask you to think right now about your walls.
I suggest you go and get a tissue. Place the tissue for a moment on your chest, representing your heart and your emotions, and then place it on your head, representing your mind and your memories. Let the tears flows. Wipe your eyes with the tissue; then wad it up in your hand. Let the pain go, and invite Jesus in to cleanse and heal. Tell Jesus that you forgive anyone who ever hurt you. Ask him to forgive you for all the people you have hurt. Ask Jesus to tear down your walls and give you fresh life, love, peace and joy.
Hold that tissue until you feel release. Then praise God while you throw the tissue into the toilet and flush it away, never to be retrieved.
Keep your eyes on Jesus, and live in the freedom of “no walls.”
We See No Walls and We Move On
The following accounts are of a few of the places where Denise and I have carried the cross even though they were considered “closed.” You will see how God led us right through man-made walls and enabled us to tell people about Jesus.
Iraq– Between 1990 and 1997 Denise and I tried several times to get visas to Iraq; but with my U.S. passport and Denise’s British passport we were always refused. In April 1998, we flew into Amman, Jordan, determined to go to Iraq. Throughout these years, the United Nations had imposed strict economic sanctions on the country.
Again the Iraqi embassy in Amman denied our visas.
We refused to give up. We prayed and the Lord blessed us with a driver to take us through the desert for about two hundred miles to the Jordanian-Iraqi border in the heart of the Muslim Middle East.
Near the border we had our driver, Amir, stop so I could bolt together the cross and begin walking. I told Amir we would like him to go with us as our interpreter. He was a Muslim and we had been sharing Jesus with him. Agreeing to help us, Amir went ahead of us to speak to the Jordanian border guards. When Denise and I arrived with the cross, we were welcomed as pilgrims of God. We met the commander of the border station who said, “Since you are on a haj to pray for God’s peace and blessing, you may go.
We walked across the border and about a mile and a half farther to the first Iraqi checkpoint. Amir explained our mission and said I wanted to pray just inside the checkpoint. The soldiers consented. Denise and I stepped off the highway and I leaned the cross against a fence just past a huge arch with a mammoth sized painting of Saddam Hussein. Lying in the sand, I prayed for about ten minutes.
While I prayed, Denise showed the guards the photo album of our travels around the world with the cross, including photos with Muslim leaders like Yasser Arafat. When I got up, I saw that a crowd of men had gathered around me. Muslims bow to pray toward Mecca in Saudi Arabia, but they had never seen a cross-carrying many lying flat on the ground, praying toward Iraq.
The guards gave us a pack of cigarettes and two cold Pepsis and told us to wait a few minutes. They had taken the photo album to the border post ahead. After a while they said, “The head of security and the border post commander want to welcome you at the VIP reception hall. They will send a car.”
We explained that we were on a mission to walk with the cross and we would prefer to walk there. A soldier accompanied us to the building about half a mile ahead.
There Denise and I were greeted warmly. Tea was brought to us as we sat on a couch. The chief of security welcomed us and gave us about a dozen poster-sized photos of Saddam Hussein.
“You are welcome in Iraq. We are happy you have come to pray. We need more people like you.”
We had a long talk as I showed him our photo album and explained the message of the cross. He said he was sorry we did not have a visa.
I gripped the officials hand, looked him in the eyes and said, “You can get us in! God has you here and your mission is to get us into Baghdad and Babylon.”
He then explained how we could get a visa, hoping we would return to Iraq soon. I prayed with him and all others in the room. We said goodbye and carried the cross back to the border and into Jordan.
Two months later Denise and I returned to Jordan on the way back to Iraq. We were invited as special guests to attend an event called “The Third Christian Conference in Iraq,” which had as its theme “the church in the service of peace and humanity.” Our invitation was from former Air Vice-Marshal Georges Sada, who was chairman of the preparatory committee. The head of security at the border post had arranged for us to get a visa by having Sada extend this invitation to us.
We joined a group of pastors and church leaders in Amman and were driven by bus several hundred miles to Baghdad. Hundreds of believers gathered in the assembly hall of the Babylon Hotel for morning and evening sessions. Every major Christian group – Catholic, Orthodox, Protestants – was at the conference.
People from the area that is now Iraq were present at Pentecost just after the ascension of Jesus and were saved, filled with the Holy Spirit and returned to this land. Churches have been in Iraq for almost two thousand years. We hear a lot about the Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Iraq, but about three percent of the population is Christian. How thrilling to meet and embrace our fellow followers of Jesus.
The government welcomed us and the cross. The police, the army and the customs and immigration officials all treated us warmly.
Babylon — One of my greatest dreams in life was to lift the cross atop the ruins of Babylon and carry it in that ancient city. Babylon is referred to in the Book of Revelation as the seat of Satan and is important in “end-time” events. I know Jesus wanted the cross carried there.
People at the conference told us that Babylon, about fifty miles south of Baghdad, was closed to tourists. We arranged for a car to drive us there anyway. We tied the cross, in its bag, on top of the car. When we arrived at Babylon, we took off the bag and bolted the cross together. The driver was shocked, but excited when we showed him photos of the cross with Yasser Arafat and other world leaders. He showed the photos to the officials, who then rushed to help us. I started carrying the cross, but soon our driver and the other men were competing to carry it.
We carried the cross through the remains of the Ishtar Gate and along the Street of Procession. The actual street was fenced off, but the men helped me over the fence so I could carry the cross where Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar had walked.
Denise and I carried the cross into the ruins of Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. Here the “handwriting on the wall,” which Daniel was called to interpret, appeared to King Belshazzar. We raised the cross up against the ruins of that wall.
For hours we carried the cross through the remains of ancient Babylon, raising the cross above the large stone sculpture of the Lion of Babylon, created some 2,600 years ago.
We then went along the Euphrates River to an unexcavated area where we could see the foundation ruins of what may have been the Tower of Babel, mentioned in Genesis 11. We walked to the mound of earth overlooking the site. Denise and I held the cross up and prayed. Babel represented the supreme achievement of humanity against God; now the cross had been raised above what may be its ruins.
Ur of the Chaldeans — While in Iraq we visited Ur, referred to in the Bible as “Ur of the Chaldeans.” This is the city where Abraham was born and where God spoke to him, saying, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:1-2). From this place and from Abraham came three of the world’s great religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
We made the 250-mile trip from Baghdad to Ur, near the Kuwaiti border by bus. The temperature rose above 120 degrees.
We were so blessed to have the privilege of carrying the cross where God called Abraham and from where the nations of the world have been blessed. We also went to a ziggurat, a temple tower of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians having the form of a terraced pyramid. Built about four thousand years ago, the ziggurat is still well preserved in large part. Denise felt led to carry the cross there, so I took only a few symbolic steps.
It was an awesome trip to Iraq – and truly there were no walls!
China – The Great Wall of China stretches for thousands of miles across this vast country and for more than two thousand years it has been one of the great wonders of the world. On January 5, 1987, my feet stood on the Great Wall with the cross lifted up in this communist nation. What a historic moment in the journey of the cross.
The news reporters were on the wall to welcome the “world’s great walker,” not the “simple cross-walker.” No one knew I was carrying a cross.
The man organizing the walk was getting cold feet and seemed to be backing out. Jack Hunter, a dear friend traveling with me, and I prayed. We got in touch with a man we met the night before who had offered to help in the event of any trouble. He turned out to be a top official and he took care of all the challenges we faced. Jesus had us meet the right person to overcome the “wall” of walking with the cross on China’s Great Wall.
North Korea – After almost ten years of seeking a visa for the hard-line communist country of North Korea, we finally got permission to go. This trip would complete the mission of carrying the cross in every sovereign nation on earth. Our excitement was almost uncontainable.
Denise and I flew into Beijing, China, and went to the North Korean embassy there. The ambassador gave us our visas in red velvet folders. When we arrived at the North Korean border, three officials and a driver welcomed us. They treated us with great kindness and respect.
The customs officers wanted to know what the wood was for. “I carry the wood and do walks with it,” I said. They seemed to think I was just a strange American sportsman and let us through.
Our visit was in the Rajin-Sonbong Economic Special Zone, the area where North Korea joins both China and Russia.
Sunday morning, August 30, 1998, Denise and I carried the cross from our hotel to Pipha Island and returned on the main road. The cross had now been carried in every nation on earth. I had fulfilled Jesus’ call on my life to carry the cross in every country before the year 2000. Jesus did it! Denise and I were so excited. I was almost overcome with emotion. Lying on the ground, I prayed for the Lord to bless North Korea and its beautiful people.
There were “no walls” separating us from the people Jesus wanted us to reach. The world had been open to the cross and we lived to tell the story.
The Freedom of “No Walls”
My son, Joshua is an evangelist based in Norway. As he and I were planning some meetings together, he sent me a suggested news release that truly expresses “no walls.” He wrote, “I have spent a lifetime watching my father do what others say is impossible and go where people have said he can’t go!”
With no walls, a person is ready and free to be used by Jesus for the glory of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
What about you? What’s holding you back from tearing those walls down and keeping them down?
Remember that tissue you flushed away? You couldn’t pick it up again if you tried. Keep those walls down and move ahead to the glorious freedom of doing the will of God. What a journey is in store for you!