Resolutions. . .

Resolutions. . .
Vol: 51 Issue: 31 Saturday, December 31, 2005

Resolutions. . .

The celebration of the New Year is one of mankind’s oldest customs, dating back some four thousand years to ancient Babylon. The ancient Babylonians celebrated a new year with the first New Moon of the Vernal Equinox (the first day of spring)

It was a logical time to start a new year; the first day of spring is a time of renewal. It was when new crops were planted, flowers and trees began to blossom and the year actually DID begin anew in a real and tangible way.

The Romans continued the tradition of celebrating the new year in March until about 150 BC. By then, the various Roman emperors had so messed up the calendar that it was out of synch with the sun. The Roman Senate selected January 1 as the first day of the new year. A hundred years later, Julius Caesar established the Julian Calendar. By 46 BC, successive emperors had thrown the calendar off by so much that to make it work, the year before the calendar went into effect was 445 days long.

Until about four hundred years ago, New Year’s Day was (accurately) dismissed as a pagan holiday and accordingly, it was not celebrated by the Church.

One of the oldest New Year’s traditions is practice of making noise at the stroke of midnight. Noisemakers, horns and so forth are rooted in the pagan practice of driving away evil spirits who it was believed flocked to be among the living at the start of the new year.

Another, that of unbridled drinking the night before, was a holdover from the Babylonian custom of personally re-enacting the chaos that existed before the gods brought order to the world.

Assessment:

Considering the absolutely pagan nature of celebrating the New Year, should Christians participate? This is one of those issues of individual soul liberty.

Paul addresses this issue, writing; “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5)

According to Paul, the origins and customs of a particular holiday are irrelevant, what matters is motive.

“He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” (Romans 14:15)

Take, for example, the New Year’s custom of making resolutions. The custom also traces its origins in ancient Babylon. Babylonian farmers would take the occasion to inventory and return borrowed farm equipment.

But if one takes that same pagan custom and uses it to make resolutions of self-improvement before the Lord, is it still pagan? As Paul noted; “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”

I am fully persuaded that there is nothing of human origin in this world not contaminated in some way by paganism. Most of our ‘Christmas’ customs predate Christ by centuries.

Resurrection Sunday, the ONE event directly ordained by the Lord (“Do this in remembrance of Me”) has been corrupted into some kind of perverted “Ides of March” festival involving rabbits, eggs and other pagan fertility symbols.

Retailers prepare for Easter by stocking up with chocolate Easter bunnies, decorated eggs and candy chicks. The customs associated with Easter are almost wholly pagan, right down to the Christian custom of sunrise service. (That harkens back to the pagan practice of sun-worship.)

But that doesn’t stop Christians from celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord on the same day that the world celebrates the pagan renewal rites of spring.

I don’t generally participate in most traditional American New Year’s customs. I am usually in bed well before midnight. But I am faithful to the custom of making New Year’s resolutions. The practice of making New Year’s resolutions is one of self-examination, confession and repentance, even among the most secular of people.

I like to think of each New Year as a reminder to God’s People that we are not perfect — only forgiven. There is still plenty of room for improvement.

To that end, New Year’s Day is the day I take inventory of my service record from the year before, and re-dedicate myself to His service for the coming year.

This year, I resolve to put away those sins “which doth so easily beset us” and to “run with patience the race that is set before” me. (Hebrews 12:1)

I resolve to be a better man, a better Christian, a better friend and a better soldier in the Lord’s service. The fact that I make the same resolution every year is all the evidence I need to prove to myself that there is still lots and lots of room for improvement.

May God grant each of us a blessed, prosperous and happy new year. May He make each of us useful servants and fierce warriors in His cause. May He grant us victory over the enemies of the Gospel and grant us victory over our own shortcomings.

In 2006, I resolve to live each day as if the trumpet will sound before morning.

Because in 2006, it just might.

Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

Happy New Year, my brothers and sisters! May 2006 be THE year.

Sola Fide

Sola Fide
Vol: 51 Issue: 30 Friday, December 30, 2005

It seems from some of the feedback from our discussions on grace and eternal security, I am not doing as good a job of articulating my positions as I thought I was.

The doctrines of eternal security and grace are both articulated in Reformist Martin Luther’s famous “Sola Fide” — or “justification by faith” upon which the Protestant Reformation was based.

“Sola fide” acknowledges that all people have come short of the glory of God and have disobeyed His commands. Therefore, God declares ‘obedient’ those who put their confidence and faith in what God has done through the Life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus.

“Sola fide” counts Christ’s obedience as one’s own, and is the only example of meritorious obedience in a sinnner’s life. Those who trust God do not trust what they themselves have done (which has no worth, because of sin) as playing a role in their salvation.

The doctrine holds that it is not through personal goodness that sinners are reconciled to God. Reconciliation is only through the mercy of God , who made reconciliation through His Son.

“Sola fide” holds that Christ was given in substitution for the disobedience of believers, Whose Resurrection is evidence that believers are heirs in eternal life.

Martin Luther made ‘sola fide’ the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation and identified it as the chief distinction between evangelical Christianity and Roman Catholicism.

Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic monk, fully dedicated to his calling. Desperate to please God, he devoted himself to fasting, flagellation (the practice of beating oneself with whips) prayers, pilgrimages, and confession.

Brother Martin was soon elevated to the priesthood, where he began teaching theology at the University of Wittenburg. Now ‘Father’ Martin, Luther despaired at the fact that the harder he tried to cleanse himself of sin, the more aware he became of his sinfulness.

Luther’s academic studies and teaching lectures drove him deep into the Scriptures, and from there into a deep study of the Bible and the early Church. Luther became convinced that the Vatican had lost sight of the most central doctrine of Christianity, the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Luther began teaching salvation as a gift of grace through Christ received by faith at about the same time that a Dominican friar, Johann Tetzel , was enlisted to travel throughout Archbishop Albert of Mainz’s episcopal territories promoting and selling indulgences for the renovation of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Tetzel was good at his job. “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs,” tradition says.

A little background: An ‘indulgence’ is a dispensation from the Vatican; a kind of ‘get out of purgatory free’ card. I am not being flippant; that is what it was in Luther’s day, (and still is).

In Catholic theology, a person who dies with unconfessed minor (venial) sins doesn’t go to heaven until he spends time in ‘purgatory’ – a place of temporary punishment not unlike hell — in which the believer can be purged of his remaining sins. Depending on the number of venial sins, a stay in purgatory can be hundreds, if not thousands of years.

An ‘indulgence’ is a reduction in time for the sentence of a loved one suffering in purgatory. In modern Catholicism, indulgences for specific numbers of years can be obtained in exchange for prayers to certain saints or for certain acts of charity.

A ‘plenary’ indulgence — a ‘pardon’ from purgatory, can be obtained by going through the ritual of the ‘Stations of the Cross’ on All Saint’s Day, for example.

But in Luther’s day, one could buy indulgences for hard cash. Pay a little, get a little time shaved off in purgatory. Pay a lot, get a plenary indulgence.

Luther challenged this practice, preaching three different sermons condemning it, and drawing the attention of Pope Leo X, who initially dismissed Luther as “a drunken German who wrote the Theses” who “when sober will change his mind,” before realizing the full extent of Luther’s challenge and dispatching the Grand Inquisitor to Wittenberg to meet with Luther.

Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, but it was too late to stop the Protestant Reformation.

Assessment:

‘Sole fide’ is the bedrock doctrine of evangelical Christianity, not heretic rantings about libertine Christianity. It is rooted in the recognition that our salvation is by faith and not by our works, that it is an extension of unmerited grace from God, and that we play no other role in our salvation than to accept it as offered.

By definition, ‘sole fide’ implies eternal security. The logical principle known as ‘Occam’s Razor’ says that given two equally predictive theories, choose the simpler. If one is saved by faith and not works, then the applying the efficacy of works at some point later on is not logical.

If works can’t save you, then how can they ‘lose’ you? At the extreme ends of the theological spectrum one finds two opposing views. On one end is ‘legalism’ — a term to refer to a fixation on the law and codes of conduct for Christians.

Legalism in its extreme, is the belief that obedience to certain Christian conduct supercedes faith as the main principle to redemption.

On the other end of the spectrum is what is called ‘antimonianism’ — the belief that members of a particular religious group are under no obligation to obey the laws of ethics or morality as presented by religious authorities.

Taken to its extreme, antimonianism is every bit as heretical as legalism. If God forgives sins, what exactly is the disadvantage in sinning, or the reward of obedience?

Being called an ‘antimonianist’ means, by implication, someone whose chooses a libertine doctrine for the express purpose of justifying a lifestyle of sin.

The truth of Scripture lies somewhere in the middle between the two extremes.

Salvation is a gift of grace, not works. If it is to be earned by works,[or good conduct] it is not a gift, but wages.

If it can be rescinded by works, [or bad conduct] then it wasn’t a gift, but a conditional loan based on conduct.

That is neither legalistic nor antinomonial. The Bible is clear that there is no sin that goes unnoticed, and says, “every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)

Eternal security doesn’t give license to sin, neither does it hold an habitually sinning believer unaccountable. All sinners will give an account for their sins before God.

The difference lies in the Court to which they are called upon to give testimony. Believers will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, where they will be judged according to their works.

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire.” (1st Corinthians 3:13-15)

The lost will give account of themselves before the Great White Throne, but, conversely, the lost will NOT be judged according to their works, but according to whether or not one’s name is recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Eternal security is NOT license to sin. Grace is NOT antimonianism. They are, as I’ve noted before, bandages and medicine that keep us from succumbing to our wounds and get us back into the fight. The battle with sin is a lifelong conflict.

Scripture promises; “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1st John 1:9)

There are those who do use eternal security as a license to sin, but they are kidding themselves. Sin takes its toll on a body. Drunks, drug addicts, smokers, gluttons, sex addicts, etc., all bear the marks of their sin on and in their bodies, saved or lost alike.

Sinners, saved or lost, will all die of their sins. What is of eternal consquence is whether or not one dies IN their sins.

“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire.”

2005 – The Year in Prophecy

2005 – The Year in Prophecy
Vol: 51 Issue: 29 Thursday, December 29, 2005

At the beginning of 2005, I went out on a limb and made a few predictions about the coming year. I made those predictions based on what Bible prophecy indicated we could expect to see, if we are as far along the prophetic timeline as I believe we are.

Under the title, “The Year Ahead” on January 2, 2005, I wrote:

“Although I am not a prophet and have no special insights apart from those available to anyone who cracks their Bible, I am going to go out on a limb and make a few predictions for 2005. ”

Allow me to reiterate; I am not a prophet and claim no special insights not available to anyone who cracks their Bible. That said, let’s look at 2005 from the perspective of one year ago and see how close the Bible timeline is to our timeline.

Iraq:

“Iraq will be a lot tougher nut to crack than was Afghanistan . . . Domestic support for the Iraq war will continue throughout the new year, provided US losses don’t exceed the toll taken in America on September 11. If we lose more than that, expect to see the antiwar movement begin to mushroom.”

Mixed review on this one. We were on the money about the difficulties of pacifying Iraq, but under-estimated the willingness of the Left to lose Iraq if it meant embarrassing the administration and picking up seats in the 2006 election.

The antiwar movement picked up more steam than anticipated, and the media campaign brainwashed more Americans faster than expected.

Iran:

“Iran will not become a nuclear power in 2005, but will continue to be a regional problem. The mad mullahs in Tehran will face a growing insurgency of their own that will distract them from continuing their nuclear advance, at least in the short term.”

Another mixed review. While Iran hasn’t become a nuclear power yet, Israeli and Western intelligence sources believe that by March 2006, Tehran will have reached the point of no return.

But I admit to surprise at the election of such a hard-line revolutionary as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The insurgency stalled in 2005, which appears to have speeded up the timeline more than anticipated. Without significant domestic opposition, Ahmadinejad appears determined to force a conflict with Israel over its nuclear program.

I wrote last year; “If Iran is attacked by either the US or the Israelis, however, all bets are off, and it is possible, even likely, that we will witness the final details of the scenario envisioned in Ezekiel 38 begin to unfold before our eyes.”

It is more likely than ever that Israel will be forced to launch airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Unless Moscow blinks and withdraws its support personnel, it may find itself drawn into a wider Middle East conflict against Israel — almost as like it had a hook in its jaw, (to paraphrase Ezekiel), pulling Russia in, almost against its better judgment.

Israel:

“Yasser Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, is exactly that. Arafat’s successor. Any speculation about his bringing a ‘new hope for peace’ is an illusion.”

If anything, Abbas has brought the conflict closer to open warfare. His lack of leadership gave Hamas a two-to-one advantage over his own party in Palestinian polls, and 2006 may see Israel forced to negotiate with a democratically-elected and terrorist-dominated government dedicated to its destruction.

I also noted last year that; “The US has begun distancing itself from the Israeli side and has begun courting the Palestinians, backing statehood for them, despite the fact they continue to be led by an unrepentant terrorist who is willing to share power with other terrorists like Hamas and the al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade. That sets the stage for Europe to take a greater role in the process.”

The US began to cut the distance between itself and Israeli policies somewhat in the fall of 2006 when it became apparent that Hamas was going to sweep the Palestinian elections.

And, as I anticipated last year, the Europeans are continuing to expand their influence in the region.

Europe:

I wrote at the beginning of 2005; “Europe’s ‘Euromed’ policy puts them in a unique position to make their move in 2005. The Euromed policy envisions a massive free trade zone extending throughout the Middle East, and Israel is one of seven nations tapped for membership.”

Europe appears to be right on schedule. I also noted last year, “The European Union has made no secret of its desire to replace the US as the principle peace broker between Israel and the Arab world, and the post-9/11 US is secretly welcoming the chance to let them try.”

A headline from Jordan’s December 21, 2005 Middle East North Africa Financial Network noted “The EU’s Increasing Pro-Israel Tilt.”

Finally, from last year, we observed; “The Israelis are ecstatic about being included and are willing to overlook Europe’s resurgent anti-Semitism if it means a chance to live in peace.”

The headline in Israel’s National News on December 22, 2005 proclaimed: “Post-Gaza, Israel-EU Ties Getting Better.”

Noted Arutz Sheva (one week ago); “Much activity in Israel-EU relations takes place within the framework of the Barcelona Process [The Euromed policy]. This process celebrated its 10th anniversary last month with a summit in Barcelona attended by high-level representatives from 35 countries.”

The Church:

From last year: “Christianity will continue to be the secondary target of choice [after Israel] in 2005, despite the new ‘Red State/Blue State’ dynamic created by the Election 2004 voter map.

Following Election 2004, America’s ‘Red States’ were derisively dubbed ‘JesusLand’ by the secularists and everything America does in 2005 will be criticized as being religiously motivated.

Being a Christian in America in 2005 will be harder than it was in 2004, and being a Christian in the Third World will exact an even higher price than it did last year.”

The anti-Christian persecution was so pronounced in 2005 that a ‘War on Christmas’ was declared in late 2005.

In the small Eastern African country of Eritrea, 26 pastors and 1,700 evangelical church members are now in prison, with some of them even tortured by government military forces, according to reports.

In Indonesia, three Christian women remain in prison for running a “happy Sunday” program for kids. They were jailed after being accused of proselytizing Muslim children.

But they are lucky compared to the three Christian highschool girls beheaded by Indonesian Muslims in October. The heads of the girls were found in a plastic bag with a warning that read 100 Christian teenagers would be killed.”

Among the nations that have been cited by the UN as having increased their persecution against Christians in 2005 are Indonesia, China, Uzbekistan, Iran and North Korea.

One year ago, I wrote; “Watch for the administration making efforts to unlink America from its Christian identity in the hopes of mollifying our non-Christian erstwhile ‘allies’ during its next term.”

This year, President Bush broke with tradition — for the first time in his administration — and sent out ‘Christmas’ cards that never mentioned either ‘Christmas’ or ‘Jesus’.

The White House sent out ‘Holiday Greetings’ on a card featuring the presidential pets — two dogs and a cat — frolicking on a snowy White House lawn.

But the White House’s ‘Ramadan Message’ could have been scripted by a Muslim cleric:

“The month of Ramadan, which commemorates the revelation of the Koran to the prophet Muhammed, is the holiest month of the Muslim year. It is a special time of reflection, fasting, and charity. It is also a time of spiritual growth and prayer and an occasion to remember the less fortunate by sharing God’s gifts with those in need. May this be a blessed Ramadan for Muslims in the United States and around the world.”

President Bush, who shied away from wishing Americans a “Merry Christmas,” closed his Ramadan message with the Islamic salutation, “Ramadan mubarak.”

2005’s Summary Conclusion:

One year ago, I concluded; “More so than in any previous year, 2005 looks like the year the Bible’s prophecies will start to come together in a manner so obvious that only a blind man could miss them. But don’t expect it to mean a sudden wave of conversions to Christ.

Proselytizing will become even more difficult in 2005, as unbelievers react to the unfolding of Bible prophecy the way Peter said they would.

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.” (2nd Peter 3:3)

Becoming a Christian in 2005 will mean marginalizing oneself outside the mainstream and joining an ideology that many blame for the war on terror.

The ACLU’s efforts to deChristianize America will accelerate in 2005 and so will its victories in court, despite the current backlash against ‘judicial activism.

Despite voicing all the gloom and doom, 2005 will again confirm that what looks like chaos to the world is proof positive that things continue to unfold according to a Divine Plan, that God remains on His Throne and remains intimately involved in the affairs of men.

2005 may or may not be the Year of the Trumpet, and I am not going to go so far out on a limb that I will predict the Rapture this year.

But I predict that I will be surprised to find myself writing a column making predictions for 2006.”

Assessment:

I am somewhat surprised to see the dawn of 2006, but not disappointed. It means there is still time to reach those lost that we failed to reach in 2005.

But the larger point is this. Since I am not a prophet, my predictions were nothing more than an educated guess based on where I believe we are on the Bible’s timeline.

(I didn’t rehash all of my predictions for 2005 for reasons of space, but the only one that I left out that I felt I missed entirely was my prediction that the next Supreme Court Justice would be philosophically center-left. Roberts is more center-right.)

In any case, if I am wildly off on my assessment of the timeline, I should have been wildly off on my predictions for 2005. I leave that for you to judge.

I look forward to reading your thoughts on the past year as well as your own forecasts for the coming year in our member’s forums.

The original 01/02/05 archived report is at this link:

http://www.omegaletter.com/briefings.asp?BID=1136

Special Report: Faith Without Works is Dead

Special Report: Faith Without Works is Dead
Vol: 51 Issue: 27 Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Faith, the Bible says, is the substance of things hoped for and the expectation of that not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) It is indeed a divine description (pun intended) of something all of us have but few of us can describe.

In saying all of ‘us’ having faith, I mean the entire human race. There is no person, lost or saved on this planet that doesn’t have faith in something.

Consider an atheist with a job and a credit card. He goes to work on Monday because he expects to be paid on payday. Midweek and out of cash, he uses his credit card to pay for lunch, spending on Wednesday

He works in exchange for the expectation of that not seen, (paycheck), his faith so strong that he spends some of it (the substance of things hoped for) on Wednesday, although he doesn’t see it until Friday.

When you get right down to it, that takes a lot of faith. But billions of us live that way, day after day, week after week, for our entire adult lives, and never really give it much thought.

One has faith in a spouse. By her presence, she is both the substance of things hoped for (a happy, lifelong marriage) and the expectation of things not yet seen.

I place my faith in the fact that Gayle wants the same thing and the two of us are working toward the same end to our mutual benefit. But the chief requirement for a happy marriage is mutual love, and that is where my faith is rooted. In her love. Without it, the rest would be impossible.

I am no different in that regard than anybody else, believer or unbeliever. It takes incredible faith and nobody gives it much thought.

Faith without trust is impossible. If I didn’t trust that my employer would meet the payroll, I would be less inclined to stay on that job. Or even show up for work.

If I couldn’t trust Gayle, there would be neither the substance of things hoped for nor the expectation of that not seen (a happy future together).

In the spiritual context, I believe in the promises of Scripture. The substance of things hoped for is my current relationship with Christ. It has substance because my faith has changed my life. I know what it was before Christ. I know what happened when I surrendered to Christ. I know how much different it is now.

There is evidence of things not seen.

But my relationship with Christ is not perfect. Not yet and not now. I remain a sinner, trapped in what Paul referred to as the ‘body of this death.’

“But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25)

Paul speaks of the imperfect relationship with Christ thusly;

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1st Corinthians 13:12)

It is that second part of that verse that contains the substance that I hope for; when I see Him face to face.

For now, as Paul says, my relationship is like looking through a piece of smoked glass, I only know ‘in part’. My sin nature keeps getting in the way, blocking my view, and obscuring the details.

It is that sin nature than caused Paul to echo my frustration and pain when he wrote:

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. . . For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. . . (Romans 7:7-25)

It takes a lot of faith to overcome that kind of spiritual conflict. I am saved, I am going to heaven, I will see Jesus face to face, and I am a habitual sinner.

I do what I hate, I want to do good and fail, I hate evil before I do it . . . if I were God I wouldn’t wait for me to stand before the Judgment Seat, I’d just dissolve me into a pink mist and start over.

That is where ‘trust’ makes its appearance. The guy who doesn’t trust his boss will meet payroll will quit and start looking for another job.

A marriage where one cannot trust one’s spouse will end in divorce, and both sides will go out looking for somebody else to put their trust in. ‘Faith’ and ‘trust’ are two sides of the same coin, but they are not the same thing.

I trust that Jesus will do what I cannot. “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

There are believers that believe in Jesus. They believe that He lived a sinless life. That He died for the sins of the world, and that He was Resurrected on the third day. They believe that He washed their sins away when they were saved.

But they don’t trust Him. Having surrendered their lives to Him at salvation, they take back both control and responsibility the next day. They construct an artificial table of rules, and then despair when they still fall short.

There are some pretty famous atheists who proudly boast that they are former ‘born again’ Christians — Ted Turner comes to mind, but there are others.

I often wondered how this could be. How someone could have expressed faith in Christ, only to divorce Him later? I have also heard of ex-preachers who lost their faith.

This also gave me pause. How could someone whose faith was so strong they became preachers of the Gospel just quit and start looking for another job?

Faith cannot exist without trust. As trust diminishes, so does faith. If I cannot trust that Jesus will sustain my relationship with Him, then how can I have faith that I will see Him face to face?

If I put my trust in my ability to meet His perfect standard, then my expectation of things hoped for is based on the substance of that which IS seen, i.e., my ability to conduct myself in a sinless manner. No wonder there are those who lose their faith! They put it in the wrong place.

James writes; “O vain man . . .faith without works is dead?” Those who have faith in God but trust in their own works to sustain their faith often point out James 2:20 as evidence that salvation is the product of faith AND works.

They miss the context of the next verse; “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? (James 2:21)

In context, James is speaking of trusting God, not doing good works. Trust me, if you kill your son on an altar, you won’t be doing a ‘good work’. Instead, James explains,

“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” (James 2:24)

Abraham ‘believed God’ — he was willing to kill his son at God’s command because he trusted God would not hold that sin to his charge. THAT is what God ‘imputed unto him for righteousness’.

Trust. Not ‘good works’ as defined by a religious sect or church group. Trust. (Abraham was gonna cut his son’s throat, for crying out loud.)

A young man asked Jesus what he lacked for salvation;

“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19:20-21)

Jesus was making the opposite point to what many Christians come away with.

Jesus KNEW what the young man would say. He put an impossibly high standard on salvation to make a point His disciples immediately picked up on.

“When His disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?”

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:25-26)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” . . . “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Ephesians 2:8, Romans 11:6)

“Now unto Him THAT IS ABLE TO KEEP YOU FROM FALLING, and to present you FAULTLESS before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

When Treason is Fashionable . . .

When Treason is Fashionable . . .
Vol: 51 Issue: 26 Monday, December 26, 2005

Treason – n. 1. “Violation of allegiance toward one’s country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one’s country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies. 2. betrayal of trust or confidence.” (American Heritage Dictionary)

It wasn’t that long ago that the alleged outing of Valerie Plame was being trumpeted as one of the ‘greatest intelligence leaks of our time’ by such luminaries as Teddy Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, etc., ad nauseam.

Plame, you’ll recall, was named in a column by Bob Novak as an officer with the CIA. Her name surfaced as Novak was attempting to explain the answer to a nagging question.

Why would the Vice-President sent such a rabidly anti-administration partisan on an investigative mission to Niger? Especially after Wilson went on to carve out a new career out as the world’s leading expert on Niger’s secret yellowcake uranium trade with mad dictators.

Novak discovered the answer to the question was Valerie Plame, who wrote a memo to the CIA offering husband Joe’s services, (since Joe was a former ambassador somewhere, once).

Asked and answered. Plame used her position in the CIA to get Joe Wilson the assignment. Wilson’s subsequent campaign against the war effort so damaged the administration that it has yet to recover. Wilson and Plame were both subsequently dismissed by the 9/11 Commission as credible sources of information, but the damage lingers to this day.

Let’s consider some of that damage in context. If the administration has been dying a death of a thousand cuts, one of the deepest was the Plame-Wilson affair.

Plame wrote the memo that made the snowball. Joe Wilson started it down the hill, testifying that the administration lied to make its case for war against Iraq. He did so after the vice president denied Wilson’s statement that he went to Niger at Cheney’s request.

Pretty soon, the far Left started talking up the ‘Bush lied’ story, elevating Wilson to the status of infallibility, and carefully guarding the real reason he went to Niger.

The snowball continued to roll downhill, picking up a special prosecutor and eventually the Vice President’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby. The scandal so disempowered the VP’s office that Cheney, once the most powerful and active vice president in history, has been pushed back into the traditional role as national Master of Ceremonies.

America was split down the middle domestically, and overwhelmingly opposed internationally, as it prepared for war with Iraq.

America’s own leaders started showing up in Baghdad on the eve of war to condemn the administration, as did liberal Congressmen Jim McDermott and David Bonior.

As seen from inside a cave somewhere in Afghanistan, Saddam had all the allies. Bush had only enemies abroad, and only precarious support for the war at home. Saddam was doomed, but that left Iraq wide-open for the taking, if America could be pushed back out afterwards. Then Osama and his friends could move out of their caves into a nice palace somewhere in Baghdad.

Valerie Plame’s memo to her CIA superiors played a major role in the chain of events that so divided the country that the plan could actually work.

Following the Gulf War, the US promised to back an Iraqi insurrection. Iraqi rebels rose up against Saddam, but facing domestic opposition, the first Bush administration backed down and withdrew support.

It is estimated that two hundred thousand Iraqis were massacred.

Along comes another George Bush, with even less domestic support, asking them to trust that America won’t let them down again.

Osama’s guys are running around Iraq reminding them about the last time and warning them that if they don’t join the insurgency, then when America backs out this time, they will join their relatives in mass graves.

And every day, they are bombarded with American political propaganda telling them that America won’t stay the course, that it should abandon Iraq, that it isn’t America’s fight, and so forth.

The Bush administration had wrongly assumed that our forces would be met by throngs of grateful Iraqis throwing flowers. Bush’s OWN PEOPLE tell them that he is a liar, interested only in stealing their oil before abandoning them like his father did.

Then Bush asks them to put their lives on the line by trusting him.

Who would YOU believe, when betting wrong could get you lined up in front of a trench? Osama, the UN, the crowned heads of Europe, and almost half of the American political establishment?

Or George Bush?

Assessment:

The liberals are fond of reminding America that more of our forces have been killed since the declaration of the end of major combat operations than were killed defeating Saddam’s military machine.

Imagine, for a second, if Americans were fully behind the war effort. If the Iraqis hadn’t the slightest doubt of American resolve, would they have defied the terrorists and Ba’athist leaders among them and met us with flowers instead of bombs?

If there were no doubt that the terrorists and Ba’athist were CERTAIN to be defeated, would they still be able to recruit new fighters? If they had absolutely no hope of driving America out, would they still try?

How many Americans have died because the enemy believes they will win the war for Iraq if they can only hang on until the next US election?

Last week, the New York Times published classified information leaked to it about the NSA conducting warrantless wiretaps against suspected terrorists making phone calls into the US from abroad.

The White House said the leak seriously compromised US national security. Delighted, the New York Times published more leaked classified information in its Christmas Eve edition.

Citing current and former government officials the Times says were “granted anonymity because it remains classified” the report outlined almost the entire US spy operation, before admitting, deep in the body of the report, the obvious truth that, “because the program is highly classified, many details of how the NSA is conducting it remain unknown.”

The New York Times admitted — twice –that it was revealing leaked, classified military information that it knows is damaging to US national security.

The information is ‘classified’ to keep it out of enemy hands — the New York Times knows that, too. That’s why it “granted anonymity” to the leakers — to protect them from possible prosecution for treason.

Valerie Plame used her job at the CIA, then lied about it, to get Joe Wilson sent to Niger. Wilson used his appointment to smear the US government’s image and help divide the country over the war.

Yet Plame and Wilson are the darlings of the press. Plame, whose public identification may yet destroy the administration, graces magazine covers across the country. Joe Wilson is making a fat living off book royalties and speaking fees.

The New York Times has, twice in a week, published classified information critical to the successful prosecution of the war effort, for the express purpose of further weakening the nation and dividing the country — in the midst of a war.

It argues that the people’s ‘right to know’ details of secret intelligence operations trumps the government’s NEED to know details of secret ENEMY intelligence operations — if revealing those details might embarrass the administration.

The New York Times is feted as ‘America’s Newspaper of Record’ — a motto undoubtedly recited by enemy agents provocateur recruiting new terrorists when they turn to its pages as evidence of American malevolence.

By any reasonable understanding of the word ‘treason’ the New York Times editorial board, Wilson, Plame, about a third of the Congress and most of the Hollywood elite should be sitting in a federal lockup somewhere awaiting trial.

Instead, it is precisely those people charged with protecting America that are looking over their shoulders.

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be . . . trucebreakers. . . false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. . .” (2nd Timothy 3:1-4)

2005 is the year that treason became fashionable. Calling a traitor a traitor makes one a ‘right-wing partisan.’ Calling for the impeachment of the president in the midst of wartime makes one a ‘patriot’ — or so those calling for Bush’s impeachment are styling themselves.

Protecting officials secretly undermining the government war effort by leaking classified information to the press makes on a champion of constitutional freedom and publishing those secrets is an exercise in journalistic impartiality.

On the other hand, protecting America by using whatever means necessary means fighting a two-front war.

As in any war, the most dangerous enemy is the one with the means to defeat you. That threat doesn’t come from al-Qaeda, or the Iraqi insurgency, or the global jihadists seeking our military destruction. It is much closer to home than that.

“And a man’s foes shall be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10:36)

A Personal Note:

I pray each of you had a warm and wonderful Christmas, surrounded by friends and loved ones and joy and cheer.

On Christmas, we remember the Promise to the world that was fulfilled in the Lord’s First Advent.

Today’s post-Christmas Omega Letter isn’t particularly cheerful, but it is another evidence of the coming fulfillment of His Promise to the Church.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:3)

As the world gets ready for 2006, prospects for peace and safety are not looking good. Please try and remember that what is bad news for the world is good news for the Church.

What looks like impending chaos is, for the Church, evidence that the Lord remains on His Throne. His Word continues to unfold before our eyes, with the same precision and attention to detail as it unfolded in a stable in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago.

“And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.” (John 14:29)

It is coming to pass, just as He promised. I pray our Lord’s provision and protection over us all in the coming New Year. Until He comes.

Maybe 2006? Stay tuned.

Special Report: Is Christmas a Christian Holiday?

Special Report: Is Christmas a Christian Holiday?
Vol: 51 Issue: 24 Saturday, December 24, 2005

I know a lot of Christians who refuse to celebrate Christmas. And a lot more who do, but feel guilty about it before the Lord, whether they want to admit it or not. It is difficult to really identify Christmas as it is celebrated in our culture with a Christian holiday. There’s a reason for that.

Although a majority of Americans polled identify themselves with Christmas, the greeting “Merry Christmas” grows more rare with each passing year, replaced instead with the secular (and meaningless) “Happy Holidays!”

What the heck does THAT mean? It applies equally to ‘Happy Labor Day” or “Happy President’s Day” so what does it have to do with Christ?

Let’s take a look and see. And read carefully before you start firing off angry emails. I am probably NOT going where you think I am.

First, there is no Bible doctrine that tells us we are to celebrate Christ’s birth. It is His Death and Resurrection that paid our penalty for sin. The celebration of a birthday is actually antithetical to Scripture. There are only two birthday celebrations recorded in Scripture.

The Bible tells us in Genesis 40:22 that on one of Pharaoh’s birthdays he murdered his chief baker while a big celebration was going on. The other birthday celebration recorded was that of Herod, when he had John the Baptist murdered.

On the other hand, Ecclesiates 7:1 tells us: “A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.”

It is also clear that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. It gets COLD in the hills of Jerusalem in December. (Jerusalem is forecast to have a White Christmas this year). Even during a mild winter, December is the middle of the rainy season.

Shepherds corraled their flocks from October to April. They weren’t grazing in the fields, and the shepherds wouldn’t have been out there with them at night in December.

But Luke tells us “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night . . .” (Luke 2:8)

Joseph and Mary were called to Bethlehem by order of Caesar to be taxed and for the census.

Travel in December would be difficult at best, and no thinking ruler who wanted to collect taxes would pick the worst time of the year to order mass travel of an entire population. Travel was hard enough already.

Jesus confirmed this, saying in Matthew 24:20, speaking to the Jews, “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day . . ”

The choice of late December for the birth of our Lord predates Jesus by centuries. The celebration of the Babylonian sun-god, Tammuz, took place during the Winter Solstice (Dec 21 by our calendar).

Any reputable encyclopedia will verify these facts.

“Christmas- It was according to many authorities NOT celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of a remarkable person rather than their birth. A feast was established in memory of the Saviour in the 4th century. In the 5th century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol. The holly, the mistletoe, the yule log, and the wassail bowl are of pre-Christian times. The Christmas tree has been traced back to the Romans. It went from Germany to Great Britain.” (Encyclopedia Americana)

After Constantine declared Christianity to be the state Church of Rome, there was considerable outcry from the pagan population who resented losing their feast days and traditions and myriad gods and goddesses.

Constantine didn’t get to be Caesar by alienating his base of support. He simply replaced the gods and goddesses with statues of saints and incorporated pagan holidays into Christian ones.

Easter, for example, corresponds with the feast of “Ishtar” the goddess of fertility — explaining all the rabbits and eggs (pagan symbols of fertility) associated with contemporary Easter celebrations.

Christmas replaced the celebration of the Feast of Tammuz. It kept the masses happy and the Empire intact.

To the world, Christmas is about Santa Claus, in whom our culture has invested all the attributes of Christ. “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows if you’re awake. . .” etc.

So, should Christians celebrate Christmas? WHY NOT? Do YOU believe in Santa Claus?

Or in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world? Do you REALLY believe God can’t tell the difference?

Why should we exclude ourselves from the merriment and the fun of family, Christmas presents and exclamations of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men’ because others don’t see things as we do?

We celebrate Labor Day with picnics and hot dogs. We celebrate the Fourth of July, according to our unique American customs and traditions.

We KNOW that Jesus is the reason for the season – for us. Should we choose this date to celebrate the unspeakable Gift God has given us, we can do so without worrying about it.

On the other hand, if we choose not to celebrate Christmas because it is commercialized beyond recognition and not in keeping with the Bible, we find ourselves in a quandry. We are taking a stand on empty air.

The world has never celebrated Christmas because of Biblical principles — neither has the True Church, since there are no Biblical principles upon which to base it.

In the Agony in the Garden, Jesus prayed for us so fervently that His sweat mingled with blood. What was it that He prayed?

“I pray NOT that thou shouldest take them OUT of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not OF the world, even as I am not OF the world.” (John 17:15-16)

There is a difference between our physical state of being, which is currently IN the world, and our spiritual state of being, which is, as Blood-bought Christians, being positionally ALREADY seated in the heavenlies.

Jesus kept the cultural feast days of His era. Some of them were religious, some were not. He knew He was ‘in’ the world, but not ‘of’ it.

Paul wrote in Romans 14:5; “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”

There is no sin in celebrating Christmas as the day we acknowledge God’s Gift to the world of a Saviour. Neither can I see any Biblical basis for NOT celebrating Christmas because it isn’t really His Birthday.

To some it is a day on the calendar. To others, it is a day of frustration and anger because others fail to associate Christmas with Christ — a frustration so intense that it makes Christmas, for them, the least happy of all days.

Somehow, that doesn’t quite connect with what Christmas is all about. It is merely a cultural reminder that there WAS a Day when the Lord of all Glory took on the body of a Man, lived the perfect life we are incapable of living, and paid the penalty on our behalf for that incapacity.

It doesn’t matter if it really WAS December 25th. It doesn’t matter if the world has a different agenda. We already know that. That is why we sought forgiveness for our sins, whereas the world loves its sin.

There is no sin in being happy. Even on Christmas. God knows who worships Him and who worships Santa Claus. He doesn’t base it on whether or not you have a Christmas tree (unless you start offering sacrifices to it).

This isn’t rocket science, but you needn’t take my word for it.

“He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” (Romans 14:6)

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:8)

Enjoy Christmas in all its joy and good will, according to your family customs and traditions. Go ahead and put up a Christmas tree. Christians don’t worship a DAY — we worship the Author of Days.

Merry Christmas, my brothers and sisters. I love you all. Especially at Christmas.

Rolling Over and Going Back to Sleep

Rolling Over and Going Back to Sleep
Vol: 51 Issue: 23 Friday, December 23, 2005

The Patriot Act was passed by acclamation four years ago. And, for the last four years, the enemy has not been able to mount a successful attack against the United States homeland.

It would seem that those two facts should be considered in examining the latest uproar being launched by the Left against policies they initially supported.

Just after September 11, everybody and their brother was quoting Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, architect of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. Upon hearing of the mission’s success, Yamamoto told his commanders, “I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”

And indeed, that seemed to be the case. Americans lined up a recruiting stations, eager to ‘take it back’ to the enemy, just like they did in 1941. American flag makers struggled to keep up with increased demand.

While the smoke was still rising from the ruins of the World Trade Center, everybody solemnly assured the “American people” that they would NEVER politicize the war. Thus assured, after having been awakened and filled with a terrible resolve, the American people rolled over and went back to sleep.

The flags went back into attics. The politicians began asking questions like; “What did the president know and when did he know it?” and the war became the number one political debate of the nation.

Four years later, there has yet to be any evidence of systematic abuses or unjustifiable invasions of privacy. But to listen to the current leftist babble, (“Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator,” fumed Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter) one would think America had become a police state as a result of abuses of the Patriot Act.

Before moving on, it is worth remembering that the ‘right to privacy’ was invented by the Supreme Court as a justification for abortion on demand. The interpretation of privacy as a ‘right’ is derived from the 4th Amendment guarantee to be ‘secure’ in ones personal property, papers, etc., against warrantless search and seizure.

‘Security’ is what is guaranteed by the Founders, not privacy.

Somebody leaked to the New York Times that the NSA was monitoring calls from terrorists outside the United States calling INTO the United States, and in some cases, without obtaining a warrant. Something along the order of thirty times in four years.

It would be interesting to know how many legal wiretaps the United States obtained in the last four years. My guess would be in the hundreds of thousands. Which would hardly make thirty transgressions evidence of ‘widespread’ abuse.

I am trying to examine this logically and carefully — the moment it sounds like a defense of the Bush administration, I’ll lose everybody who doesn’t like Bush. It isn’t about Bush. Its about America.

Assessment:

I don’t know all the facts about the wiretapping the Left is dubbing “Snoopgate” — and neither do they. (It’s classified). We know what was leaked by the New York Times.

We know that the calls originated outside the US. We know the NSA monitored them because they were from suspected enemies of the United States. We also know that plots have been foiled in the last four years that, if successful, would have dwarfed 9/11.

We also know something else that our minds tend to discount when evaluating the situation. If we had foiled 9/11, September 11 would have been just another day. Just like the other days when foiled plots DIDN’T kill thousands.

What we DIDN’T need to know was that such an operation existed in the first place. If I know, then so does Osama. It wasn’t essential information for me, but it is of critical importance to our enemies.

I’ve heard Ben Franklin misquoted more times this week than Yamamoto was quoted in the fall of 2001. “They who trade liberty for security deserve neither,” thundered Harry Reid and Company in railing against extending the Patriot Act.

What Franklin REALLY said was, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”.

Nobody is giving up ‘essential liberty’ by NSA monitoring of terrorists’ phone calls — except the terrorists. And the purpose isn’t ‘temporary safety’ but rather, permanent national security.

The rest is spin aimed at making political points for the Left at the expense of the rest of us, and I, for one, am tired of my security being a pawn in their chess game.

The White House said the NYTimes leak ‘seriously damaged’ national security. If the White House isn’t the one qualified to make that assessment, then who would be?

That the leak was politically motivated is obvious. The Times sat on the story for more than a year, before breathlessly leaking it on the front page just in time to counter rising approval ratings in the wake of the Iraqi election. But in taking an opportunistic shot at George Bush the politician, they damaged America’s national security.

And nobody is holding them accountable.

Since the story leaked, the leftists have been all over the airwaves calling for Bush’s impeachment.

CNN’s Jack Cafferty and Wolf Blitzer said Bush should be impeached. Cafferty likened it to Watergate. Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter called the leaker ‘a patriot’ and Bush a ‘dictator’. Barbara Boxer called for Bush’s impeachment on MSNBC.

The terrorists must have thrown a party in their caves! They only wanted to kill Bush. Impeaching him would kill the whole war effort.

If I was Osama, I’d make a whole bunch of phone calls, then leak to the New York Times that Bush was listening in.

I could win the war without firing another shot.