A Different Gospel

A Different Gospel
Vol: 87 Issue: 31 Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Different Gospel

There are two ways of looking at the Gospel. The first is that we are saved by grace based entirely on our faith in the promise that, “Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

The second is that, while we are saved by grace through faith, we maintain our salvation through good works, or we risk losing our salvation through bad works.

I often repeat the following because it is both pithy and its logic is unassailable: “Things that are different are NOT the same.”

One can find Scriptures that seem to support both views, but, since they are different, they cannot be the same. If they are not the same, can they both be true? How many ‘truths’ are there concerning salvation?

Jesus linked the overspreading of the Gospel message to His Second Coming, saying: “And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and THEN shall the end come.”

That teaches us two things up front. The first is that all Christians are commanded by Jesus Christ Himself to preach the Gospel to all creation. The second is that by preaching the Gospel, we actually play a role in bringing about the return of the Lord.

But what, exactly, IS the “Gospel”? The short answer is pretty simple. The word “Gospel” means “good news.” In its shortest version, the “Gospel” is the good news that Jesus Christ has reconciled all men to the Father by paying the penalty due for the sins of mankind with His own death and Resurrection.

Paul writes of the Gospel to the Ephesians, ” For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9)

The gospel is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that provides full and free deliverance from the power and penalty of sin according to the grace of God alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Why is this such wonderful news?

You and everyone else have been born with a fatal condition. This condition is called sin. Why is this condition so serious? Because God is sinless and hates sin, for sin is rebellion against His perfect and righteous standard. And your sinful actions makes you an enemy of God (Romans 3:23; James 4:4)

But the Bible says there is also “another Gospel”: “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. . . . And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” (2nd Corinthians 11:4,14)

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:” (Galatians 1:6)

There are some religious groups that teach that Jesus’ death on the cross was not enough to pay for all of our sins. They say that one has to perform certain good works, certain rituals like water baptism, belong to a particular church, observe certain religious days, or make other human additions in order to be saved.

Or they teach that salvation is dependent upon you, rather than the Lord, citing Hebrews 10:26-27 as their proof text:

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”

This misunderstanding has caused many a Christian to throw up his hands in despair. But read the verse again.

If that is the correct understanding, if you are saved but then sin, you are lost forever. No point in coming back to Jesus to confess, since “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.”

But what this verse actually teaches that, having accepted the Gospel, one comes under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and can no longer sin with impunity. Instead, the Christian knows the certainty of judgment — which Paul says will devour THE ADVERSARIES — not the saved Christian.

There is another teaching to the effect that Jesus’ sacrifice covers only previous sins, but good works must be performed to cover present and future sins so that salvation may be received.

This, however, is contrary to what the Bible teaches. Jesus, before He died said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

The Greek text uses the word tetelestai, which means paid in full. This means that our sins were paid for completely, rather than just a down payment being made, making it necessary for us to make regular payments to prevent the gift of salvation from being “repossessed” by God.

Romans 4:25 says that Jesus “was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” And Hebrews 9:26 says that “now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

When you truly believe this and place full trust in Him your entire life becomes transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17). You will begin to bear good fruit, and you will have the promise of God that He who began this good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

He will never abandon or cast you away from Him (John 6:37; Hebrews 13:5). According to His sovereign grace He will see to it that you make it home to heaven (1 Corinthians 1:8; Jude 24).

Paul makes it clear in his Epistle to the Ephesians that salvation is a gift of grace through faith and not of works — lest any man should boast.

What does that mean? Well, salvation is a gift. What does one do to ‘earn’ a gift? I work for Hal Lindsey — I do certain jobs, Hal pays me at a previously agreed upon rate.

That agreed-upon rate constitutes my wages. It is a conditional agreement — if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t get paid. It isn’t a gift — it is a mutual dependency.

Hal gave me a Christmas bonus again this year. I didn’t have to do anything to receive it — if I had, it would have been wages.

Instead, it was a gift, to do with as I pleased. There is an obvious difference.

I can boast all I want to about how important I am to Hal Lindsey and justify it by pointing to my paycheck. Suddenly, it is all about me.

But the free gift speaks to Hal’s generosity, not my inherent value. It isn’t about my goodness anymore.

The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

God will pay me the wages I’ve earned. (All men die.) But He also offers me the free gift of forgiveness and restoration by His grace, and asks only that I recognize it as a gift and receive it as offered.

The ‘other gospel’ takes the gift of God and makes it a conditional agreement — we are saved by grace, but our continued salvation is maintained by works.

That makes as much sense as Hal giving me a Christmas bonus in December, but if I don’t work twice as hard in January, he’ll take it back. It is no longer a Christmas gift, but an advance — or a loan — that must be repaid one way or another.

It is a source of endless fascination to me to hear otherwise well-meaning Christians argue against the doctrine of eternal security. The wages of sin is death, however, the gift of God is conditional upon works, they argue. What does the Bible say about ALL our works?

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and ALL our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)

ALL our righteousness are as filthy rags, but God’s grace is perfect and all sufficient. If God’s grace didn’t extend to our post-salvation sins, then the only ones who would be in heaven would be those who died at the point of salvation.

Legalism dictates that God demands perfection, settles for minor imperfection, and revokes salvation from those whose imperfection crosses some invisible line.

Smoking isn’t among God’s Seven Deadly Sins — but on that list, the glutton sits right there beside the drunkard.

Are fat people habitual, unrepentant sinners who have condemned themselves while smokers get a pass? Or does God extend His grace to us according to our individual (and God-given) weaknesses or strengths?

I have the wisdom of Scripture that tells me that a holy God cannot countenance sin. That wisdom also tells me that, in God’s eyes, all sin is sin, and there are seven that God hates with a particular passion, habitual sins that, barring God’s grace, condemn as unrepentent; fat people, lazy people, gossips and drunks.

I also have knowledge of human nature from personal observation. I have intimate knowledge of myself and my own shortcomings.

Applied with a knowledge — but without an understanding — of grace, it tells me that my own salvation must depend on my first accepting Christ and then, never sinning again.

I came to Christ in 1976. I know that I have sinned since then. Wisdom plus knowledge — but devoid of understanding — therefore dictates that I am already lost and without hope — so why bother even trying?

“Grace” is not a license to sin, it is Divine permission to get back up and try again. Sin is burdensome because it tends to pile up so fast. Soon, it becomes so heavy you CAN’T get back up on your own.

The burden is lifted by the grace of God so that we can get back up, heal our wounds and return to battle. Grace is not license to sin. It is medicine to heal and bandages to cover our sin so we can fight on.

Understanding grace is to understand what Paul meant when he told the Galatians, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

Another gospel is a different gospel. And things that are different are not the same.

May God grant us all a safe and happy 2009. Maranatha!

The ‘Hudna’ Hoodwink

The ‘Hudna’ Hoodwink
Vol: 87 Issue: 30 Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The assault on Gaza entered its fourth day amid widening demands for Israel accept an externally imposed cease-fire. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters during a tour of Palestinian missile damage in Ashkelon that military action against Hamas would continue until all goals are met.

Rather than accept another ceasefire, Barak promised the operation would intensify “as much as needed to meet the goals we set for ourselves, to bring quiet to the South.”

The operation also aims “to strike a severe blow to Hamas,” he said, “in order to bring about an end to firing and other operations against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers.”

Barak seized the opportunity to brace his nation for what is yet to come, saying ominously; “We expect more difficult days ahead which will test civilians’ endurance.”

Whether or not the rest of Israel is prepared to live up to Barak’s tough talk or his ominous warning is yet to be seen.

Hamas is nowhere nearly beaten — it hasn’t even begun seriously demanding a cease-fire yet. It’s 15,000-strong armed force is largely untouched. Rockets continue to rain down from Gaza into Israel.

The UN and various media focused on the few dozen civilian fatalities of the operation so far — Hamas is trying to draw Israel into a propaganda trap in which Israel so soils itself in the eyes of the international community that Hamas wins by default.

There remain hundreds of weapons factories, arms caches, missile silos, etc., untouched because of their proximity to civilian population centers.

Israel Today reported this morning that Channel One News reported on Monday evening that Hamas is hiding its most potent missiles under Gaza City’s main hospital. Israeli officials are reportedly discussing how to destroy the massive cache of Grad missiles.

And this is the problem facing Israel many times over. Gaza is tiny in area, but it is also one of the most densely populated areas on earth. Hamas has no compunction about using its own population as human shields.

Although the use of human shields is a certifiable international war crime under every international convention and treaty, the UN reserves war criminal status to Israel by default. It is a fact of history that war crimes are only charged against the losing side.

Here is the usual formula for conflicts involving Israel. As long as Israel is the victim the UN is silent. The moment that Israel begins to win, the UN demands an immediate ceasefire.

In 2005, Israel unilaterally surrendered to Hamas’ demands to end the ‘occupation’ of Gaza. Israel withdrew without conditions. Hamas immediately began using Gaza as a military staging area and artillery base from which to launch rocket attacks into Israel.

Rather than ‘scorched earth’ the withdrawing Israelis left the settlements largely intact, to give the Palestinians the raw materials to build from. The Palestinians scorched the earth themselves, then set up rocket launchers in the ruins. Why?

To ‘end the occupation’.

Assessment:

Now to the $64,000.00 question that nobody at the UN seems interested in answering. What ‘occupation’? Israel withdrew totally from Gaza. So . . what ‘occupation’? According to Hamas, the ‘occupation’ it will fight to the death to end is Israel’s occupation of Israel.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Israel’s offensive as excessive and demanded an immediate cease-fire. He said key international and regional players – including foreign ministers of the Arab League nations holding an emergency meeting Wednesday – must “act swiftly and decisively to bring an early end to this impasse.”

Impasse? The ‘impasse’ has been the past three years, during which Hamas as fired more that six THOUSAND rockets into Israel.

SIX THOUSAND. And thanks to the UN, with almost complete impunity.

The ‘impasse’ broke when Israel began the current operation, designed to end the rocket threat to Israeli cities and towns.

The United Nations CANNOT feign ignorance of the facts — so they ignore them openly. The same can be said for the European Union, the Russians, the Chinese, etc. Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, is one of the architects of Oslo and an outspoken Israeli ‘dove’.

Peres characterized the operation in Gaza as one against a “terror group that had raised the banner of violence and undermined the stability of the region.”

Boilerplate stuff. But then, he nailed it, saying, “There is no one in the world that understands why Hamas is continuing to fire rockets at Israel,” he continued. “The firing defies reason and logic, and it doesn’t stand a chance.”

Maybe. Maybe not. There isn’t a diplomat among them that doesn’t know that Hamas will never give up as long as Israel survives. Not one of them is ignorant of what a ‘hudna’ really means.

A ‘hudna’ is a ceasefire negotiated for the express purpose of allowing the weaker side to regroup and rearm before resuming the conflict later. The last ‘hudna’ was set for six months. When it ended, Hamas resumed the attack.

What kind of lunatic would agree to a ceasefire expressly to give his opponent time to rest? But beyond that, what kind of ‘peacemaker’ would demand such a sure-fire arrangement for the continuation of war?

Every time that Hamas begins to falter, it demands a ‘hudna’. There are no guarantees. None. The purpose of the ceasefire is to take the pressure off Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc., to allow them to rearm, reequip and regroup for the next round.

The question is whether or not Israel will be forced into accepting one this time.

With Israeli troops and tanks massing on the Gaza border, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told parliament he wanted to strike a devastating blow against Hamas.

However, later he indicated a ground assault was not inevitable, issuing a warning that he was giving Hamas a last chance to stop firing rockets into Israel.

One last chance. A last, last chance? Or maybe a last, next-to-last chance? What other country on earth would extend this many last, last chances to an enemy so dedicated to her destruction?

(How many last chances would we give al-Qaeda — while they were still firing at us?)

And were this anywhere else on earth, the Palestinians would be rebels, or insurgents, or terrorists, but since their enemy is Israel, they are ‘militants’ at worst, ‘freedom fighters’ at best, and there is no crime too heinous to be justifiable, provided the victims are Jews.

“And say unto the people of the land, Thus saith the Lord GOD of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of the land of Israel; They shall eat their bread with carefulness, and drink their water with astonishment, that her land may be desolate from all that is therein, because of the violence of all them that dwell therein.” (Ezekiel 12:19)

The word translated ‘violence’ in the above verse is chamac which is pronounced in English as ‘Hamas’.

“And when these things BEGIN to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)

Special Report: Alone Against the World (Again)

Special Report: Alone Against the World (Again)
Vol: 87 Issue: 29 Monday, December 29, 2008

On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by nineteen terrorists who launched their attack as an act of religious obedience. To my knowledge, none of the nineteen had a personal beef with Uncle Sam — by all accounts, they seemed to have had a pretty good time here.

Even before we had a handle on the awful carnage, American outrage boiled over at the random nature of the attacks. The passengers on the planes; the victims at the WTC who died simply because they got to work early; those at the Pentagon who died at their desks . . .

To my mind, the attack was many times worse than Pearl Harbor for the following reason(s). 1. The victims were civilians. 2. The perpetrators were civilians. 3. The attack took place on our home soil. 4. Many nations were complicit, but none accountable.

America’s national reaction was proportionate to the attacks. It wasn’t merely a matter of avenging the blood of more than 3,000 innocents (although that would have been sufficient motivation) behind America’s response.

In 2002, the US invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Afghani government. Had Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf not withdrawn his support for the Taliban and agreed to stand down, the odds are good Pakistan would also be under new, more US-friendly management today.

For the most part, the US action against Afghanistan was considered proper under the circumstances and therefore enjoyed widespread international support. There remains an eight-nation coalition of allies engaged in Afghanistan today.

Fast forward to the Israeli border with Gaza today, as the Israelis mass troops and tanks for a ground invasion of what had formerly been its most ungovernable protectorate. Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005, in effect, letting the world see what the Palestinians would do if they had a state handed to them.

The Palestinians of Gaza promptly chose Hamas, an Islamic terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel, as their political representatives, electing them to majority control of the Palestinian legislature. As soon as the Israelis withdrew to their side of the border, Hamas began lobbing rockets into Israeli cities and towns.

The rocket attacks were at random — they aren’t aimed, they are pointed in a general direction. Like tossing a hand grenade into a neighborhood at random, dozens of times a day. The victims are civilians. The perpetrators are civilians. The Palestinian Authority is complicit in, but not accountable for, random attacks against Israeli civilians from Gaza.

So Palestinian rockets have been raining down on Israel for years. Recently, newer, longer-range rockets from Iran and Syria and smuggled through tunnels from Egypt have begun raining down on Israeli cities and towns as far away as Ashkelon.

More than forty such rockets rained down on Israeli civilian targets in the past few hours, according to this morning’s Jerusalem Post. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Hamas publicly to stop attacking Israeli targets or face massive Israeli retaliation. Hamas continued its assault against Israeli civilians. On Saturday, Israel declared, “Enough!”

Barak outlined the Israeli strategy in advance, telling the Knesset, “We will avoid as much as possible hitting civilians while the people of Hamas and other terrorists deliberately hide and operate within the civilian population.”

After three days of what Ehud Barak called “all-out war with Hamas and its proxies,” at least 318 Palestinians are dead and more than 1,000 wounded. Most of the dead and wounded were Hamas. The same people that were, only days before, firing rockets at Israeli markets, plotting ways to kill Israeli civilians, and carrying out their official reason for existence — the destruction of Israel.

When America took the battle to the enemy in Afghanistan in 2002, it enjoyed the moral support of most of the civilized world, not to mention the material support of NATO and the allied coalition.

When Israel took the battle to the enemy on Saturday, the world reacted as if the Israelis had firebombed an orphanage.

Assessment:

The Brits made it clear that, even if they had to support Israel’s right to defend itself, their sympathies lay elsewhere. The Foreign Office issued this typical British statement of ‘support’.

“The only way to achieve lasting peace in Gaza is through peaceful means. Whilst we understand the Israeli government’s obligation to protect its population we urge maximum restraint to avoid further civilian casualties . . ”

(To which the Foreign Office added the following, “oh, by the way” as an afterthought to Hamas):

“We also call on militants in the Gaza Strip to immediately cease all rocket attacks on Israel.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a similar statement, (right down to the afterthought mention of the very reason the Israeli incursion became necessary):

“Moscow deems it necessary to stop large scale military action against Gaza, which had already led to big casualties and suffering among civilian Palestinian population. At the same time we call on Hamas leadership to stop shelling Israeli territory.”

The European Union issued a typical boilerplate statement calling on either a “ceasefire” or “maximum restraint” (without actually specifying a preference.)

Iran ordered all Muslims world-wide to come to the defense of Gaza. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious decree ordering them to defend Gaza against Israel “in any way possible,” saying on Iranian state TV:

“All Palestinian combatants and all the Islamic world’s pious people are obliged to defend the defenseless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible,” Khamenei said.

“Whoever is killed in this legitimate defense, is considered a martyr.”

What is missing in all of this is any kind of condemnation of Hamas fighters who attack Israeli women and children from a distance and then hide themselves among Palestinian women and children to protect themselves from Israeli retaliation.

Israel released cockpit video of the destruction of an Hamas launching pad purposely located in a Palestinian residential area. But you have to look real hard to find it — publishing it interferes with the myth mindlessly being cultivated by the politically correct mainstream media that Israel, and not Hamas, is responsible for civilian deaths.

Nobody denies Hamas has been attacking Israel without provocation and at random for several years. Nobody denies Hamas exists for the express purpose of destroying Israel. Yet it is Israel that the world blames for the conflict.

There is no natural explanation for this kind of blindness. That Israel has been deliberately provoked is undeniable. Hamas hides among its own women and children, hoping they will become Israeli collateral damage they can later exploit. The media KNOWS that it is being manipulated by Hamas and its allies. Still, it works every single time.

Israel is the only legitimate representative and Western-style democracy in the Middle East. Israel is the only utterly consistent friend the West has in the region. Citizens of Israel come from every nation and from every people — more than 86 languages are spoken there.

Israel has extended its hand of friendship to any nation willing to accept it, and Israel has sacrificed much in the pursuit of peace. Yet no nation on earth has seen more war and less peace than tiny Israel.

The world hates Israel. It can’t help itself. Even when it tries not to, that hatred still manages to simmer to the surface. Why? What did Israel ever do to deserve to be singled out for this kind of universal animosity?

It is interesting — the world hates Israel, and it does so out of instinct. Israel stands as a testimony to God’s Word — God said that Israel would be restored in the last days. Israel was restored. God said Jerusalem would be restored to Israel in the face of global opposition. And that is precisely the case.

The Church loves Israel, also instinctively — and for the same reason. Please join me in prayer for Israel and her troops as they face off against their enemies.

May God be with them.

The Seven Deadly Sins

The Seven Deadly Sins
Vol: 87 Issue: 27 Saturday, December 27, 2008

In the Book of Proverbs, God lays out a list before us of what are often called the “Seven Deadly Sins.” They earned that nickname, not because those sins will cause a believer to lose his salvation, but because they are the most destructive sins to a believer’s spiritual progress before the Lord.

“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:17-19)

We’ll go through them in depth as we go on. But first, note that God HATES the first six on the list. Note even more carefully His opinion of the seventh — it is an ABOMINATION to Him.

The first deadly sin on the list is pride. Although it doesn’t make the ‘abomination’ category, it is the first step on the road that leads there.

Pride is the most insidious sin, since it might easily be termed the ‘silent’ sin. Its very nature prevents us from either recognizing it in ourselves or admitting to it when it is finally recognized (usually by somebody else.)

God hates pride. ‘Pride’ is arguably the seminal sin of the universe out of which all other sin arises. The first recorded sin in the history of the universe was not the fall of man, but the fall of Lucifer.

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12)

What follows is Satan’s indictment, often called the five ‘I wills’ — each of which are the byproduct of Lucifer’s pride.

“For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (14:13)

Some preachers have made the case that sin can be defined through this passage. “I will” — rather than “God’s will.” It’s pithy and elliptical — and even accurate, up to a point — but it doesn’t quite hit the bullseye. Close, but not exact.

If one were seeking to locate the root and branch of sin, “I will” is a lesser included offense, so to speak, but not the original sin. “I will” is merely the outward expression of the original sin of pride.

If you take God’s list in order, “pride” is first because without it, the rest of them haven’t a leg to stand on.

The secular dictionary defines ‘pride’ thusly: “A sense of one’s own proper dignity or value; self-respect.”

Pride breeds lies. Why do people lie? Generally speaking, it is to conceal some secret that would make them look bad. There is a standing joke in prison that the one thing all inmates have in common is that they are innocent.

Even after having served their time, few convicts own up to the crimes for which they were convicted, even though vindication wouldn’t give them back their time served. It is gone forever, so why bother continuing to deny it? Pride.

“Hands that shed innocent blood” immediately brings abortion to the forefront of my mind. Why are abortion records kept secret? After the abortion is accomplished, the ‘problem’ is ‘solved’. It isn’t illegal to have an abortion, so there is no legal jeopardy attached to having had one. The records are sealed to protect the privacy (and pride) of the perpetrator.

And while there are many ‘reasons’ for wanting to get an abortion, when they are distilled down to their essence, one will find pride in there somewhere. The pro-life slogan, “It’s MY body” is an expression of pride. The abortion destroys the baby’s body, not the mothers.

“A woman’s right to choose” is another. A pregnant woman already made her choice when she did the deed that produced the pregnancy. Claiming a special ‘right’ to a SECOND choice to correct the first wrong choice — as an expression of the uniqueness of womanhood, is rooted in pride.

Men are expressly forbidden the same ‘right’ to correct a wrong choice. And not only is their sin NOT concealed, it is a matter of public record, accessible by anybody searching through court-ordered child support records.

The identities of those who actually shed innocent blood are protected, to protect their pride. Those just as involved in the creation of the child, but who have no say in the matter of abortion, are often held up to public ridicule. (Or even imprisonment)

The ‘innocent blood’ shed in the process is secondary to protecting the reputation of those who shed it. I would venture to bet that there would be lots fewer abortions if there were a legal requirement to post the particulars of an abortion in a local paper, the way the law requires public notification of a death, an estate, or a bankruptcy.

A heart devising ‘wicked imaginations’ and feet that are ‘swift to be running in mischief’ would be less divisive and less swift if the particulars were certain to be published on the front page of the newspaper, even when no crime has been committed.

We’ve discussed pride’s role in bearing false witness, and now we come to that final pride-sponsored abomination, “he that soweth discord among brethren.”

Assessment:

Ever find yourself in a discussion over doctrine that turns nasty? Where what ostensibly began as an effort to ‘straighten out’ someone else’s doctrinal error degenerates into an argument over whose understanding of doctrine is the correct one?

You can tell when it has made that shift from discussion to debate to argument, even if you aren’t part of it. It becomes less about the doctrine in question and more about who is right.

Even after both sides have agreed to disagree, the debate lingers as each side waits for an advantage, some unrelated event or circumstance that will re-open the debate and give one side or the other a hope for the opportunity to say, “Aha! Told ya!”

Pride, by its insidious nature, blinds us to the fact (obvious to most observers) that the goal of the debate has morphed. It’s no longer about the doctrine. It’s about being right.

The debate about the timing of the Rapture is a perfect example. It is a given that, when two genuinely saved, born-again Christians start debating the timing of the Rapture, both sides sincerely believe that they are right. Why else would they want to argue about it?

What neither side can articulate very effectively is what difference the timing of the Rapture makes to their own salvation. Or what difference it makes to the mission of leading souls to Christ.

A pre-trib Rapturist is no more saved than a post-Trib Rapturist. One is saved by grace through faith in Christ, not by faith in Christ’s appointment calendar. An understanding of the timing of the Rapture is necessary to rightly dividing the Word insofar as understanding the Bible’s prophetic outline.

But we aren’t saved by our understanding of the Bible’s prophetic outline. It isn’t when He comes that saves us, it is faith in the One Who is coming.

But spend a little time reading through some of the debates and it is hard to find much about Christ in them. It’s about being right. Pride. Bragging rights.

Proverbs says that ‘pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (16:18)

In our forums, debates about the timing of the Rapture has driven many members right out of our fellowship. Those who remain are vindicated — some even rejoice at having driven such a one away.

Nobody has learned anything from the exchange except which party is the better debater. Each side remains convinced of their own position, because the goal is to defend their own view, not consider the merits of the other side.

And pride won’t allow us to see that the damage being caused in the process far outweighs any eternal value that might be gleaned from winning over a post-tribber to the pre-trib side.

Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ. Nowhere does the timing of the Rapture play a role. Nothing of eternal value is obtained by driving away a brother or sister from fellowship over an issue that can never be proved until after the fact.

It serves only to spread unnecessary discord among brethren, which the Scriptures identify as an ‘abomination before the Lord’.

The discussion at hand in today’s briefing isn’t the timing of the Rapture — it is the insidious nature of the sin of pride. It sneaks up on us, unawares. By the time we recognize the role it plays, (if ever) it is too late to undo the damage its caused.

It shatters relationships, spreads discord among brethren, damages the shared mission of all Christians — to demonstrate the truth that, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

There are doctrinal differences between Christians because that is the way God has ordained it to be.

In the Book of Genesis, we read of Nimrod’s efforts to rally the whole world to his cause, to build a tower that would thwart God’s effort at judgment in the event of another flood.

To prevent the whole world from falling under the sway of one man’s heresy, God confused the languages and divided the world into nations, confusing their languages so that they would be able to form their own opinions about God’s will for their lives without the influence of a single, powerful human leader.

Within the Church, there are doctrinal differences between denominations that serve the same purpose. Interestingly, it is only AFTER those doctrinal divisions are ‘taken out of the way’ at the Rapture that the antichrist is free to advance his own personal doctrine, whereby he seizes control of the global religion and declares himself to be God.

His plan could never work during the Church Age. Christians can’t even agree among themselves about the details of the Eternal God, despite the fact they were revealed by God Himself, let alone buy into the unified doctrine of antichrist.

There is but one universal Christian doctrine, summed up in Acts 4:12:

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

The Apostle Paul addressed the doctrinal divisions that had already stirred up the pride of the early Church, as some Christians declared themselves followers of Peter, and others, followers of Paul.

“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” (Romans 14:1)

There is probably no better example of a ‘doubtful disputation’ than the timing of the Rapture.

As Paul noted in his letter to the Corinthians; “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?” We teach what we believe, but nobody should be forced to agree with every detail in order to keep fellowship. We are all one in Christ as sinners saved by grace.

I am convinced of a pre-trib Rapture, but if somebody wants to reject that in favor of another view, his eternity is not in jeopardy. Just his understanding.

As to endless debate about peripheral details not related to salvation, Paul says, “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” (1st Corinthians 14:36,38)

In addressing the minor doctrinal divisions of his day, Paul writes, “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)

The operative phrase here is for each man to be fully persuaded of his own doctrine in his OWN mind. If someone has a question, I will spend all the time necessary to answer it.

But debating the answer is both a waste of time and an exercise in pride. I can’t fully persuade somebody else’s mind. Nor would I want to. Rather, it is my job to present the facts as I understand them and let the Holy Spirit take it from there.

He is able.

Boxing Day’s Christmas Pie

Boxing Day’s Christmas Pie
Vol: 87 Issue: 26 Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas at my house is always a busy time of year. As the kids grew older, it got even busier. Our family tradition was something started by my maternal grandfather.

Granddad had five daughters, and he realized he was going have to compete with five sons-in-law if he hoped to continue his own Christmas tradition. Granddad adopted the English Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) as HIS Christmas celebration.

They called it the ‘Christmas Pie’. The ‘Christmas Pie’ was an old refrigerator shipping box filled with presents for all the parents and grandchildren. We’d all gather, the day after our individual Christmas celebration, for an extended Christmas.

All the time I was growing up, I thought that Granddad did it all for us grandkids, something that I thought odd in light of the fact that the rest of the year, he was a very proper English grandfather.

But at Christmas, all that British reserve would evaporate.

It wasn’t until my kids had kids that I realized what a brilliant man Granddad really was. The Christmas Pie was NEVER about us, but WE never knew it.

It was really about my Granddad and his daughters never losing their own special Christmas traditions.

Granddad headed off any competition with the outlaws about who went to whose house last year — whenever some young fella married into the family, it was firmly understood at the outset that Christmas was for them — but Boxing Day was Granddad’s.

I share my grandfather’s love of Christmas and could not imagine not having my day with my kids. So when Mike and Kari got married, I sat down with Mike and told him that he could have Kari for eleven of the twelve days of Christmas, but that Boxing Day was MINE.

Or he’d have to find himself another girl.

So, at our house, Christmas is a two-day affair. Christmas Day is now for Gayle and her mother and I. We read the Christmas Story from Luke, remember the Greatest Christmas Gift of all — eternity — and have a traditional American Christmas. Then, we spend the rest of the day preparing for tomorrow’s Main Event.

And so each Boxing Day, we become Englishmen for a day.

Mike and Kari and Hanna and Mikie and Sarah and Johnny, Ricky and Jacob and Mike and Kerilyn and Tristan and Charlyn and Taya and sometimes Jerry and Jessica and Bailey and Justin and Jeremy and Cora  — all together and at home with us — for one glorious day.

Lots of food, a Christmas ‘Pie’ and a chance for the parents to take a day off to be kids.

Our Christmas wish for you is that you are surrounded by a family that loves you. We wish you laughter and love and fun and joy.

We pray our Lord Jesus Christ will envelope your family with an unspeakable love for one another — and for Him.

We wish you a merry, merry Christmas. And may you be truly blessed.

With much love, from all of us, to all of you.

White Christmas Courtesy of Global Warming

White Christmas Courtesy of Global Warming
Vol: 87 Issue: 25 Thursday, December 25, 2008

For many Americans, Christmas 2008 hasn’t yet begun. They are still stuck in airports and train stations across the country. About 500 flights were canceled at O’Hare on Tuesday — another hundred canceled on Christmas Eve.

Amtrak also reported improvement Wednesday. Trains out of Chicago and elsewhere were leaving on time – or relatively close to it – unlike Tuesday when several trains were canceled and some 600 furious travelers waited for as much as 22 hours for delayed trains at Chicago’s Union Station.

About a third of the country is under a winter storm watch for Christmas Day, from the West Coast to western Colorado. Among the areas covered by the winter storm watch is Cochise County, Arizona (on the US-Mexico border.)

More than half of the United States woke up to a white Christmas this year. And so did ALL of Canada (for the first time in decades.)

The UN global warming conference held in Poland last week faced a serious challenge from over 650 dissenting scientists from around the globe who are criticizing the climate claims made by the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Ozone Ranger (and former vice-president) Al Gore.

Set for release this week, a newly updated U.S. Senate Minority Report features the dissenting voices of over 650 international scientists, many current and former UN IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the UN.

The report has added about 250 scientists (and growing) in 2008 to the over 400 scientists who spoke out in 2007.

The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.

But for the True Believers, the cold weather and the dissenting scientists are just more proof that global warming is a real problem. And if colder weather is a consequence of global warming, that is a real problem, indeed.

Assessment

Recently, Fox News listed ten things that that were blamed on global warming over the past year.

1) Ted Turner told PBS’s Charlie Rose that in a few decades, global warming will make the world so warm that crops won’t grow, and “most of the people will have died and the rest of us will become cannibals.”

2) Scotland’s Daily Mirror says that reason nobody has spotted the Loch Ness Monster is because it was killed by global warming.

3) Thanks to global warming, the price of beer is going up.

4) USAToday reported last April that global warming will cause America to be overrun by giant Burmese pythons by the year 2100.

5) Global warming causes kidney stones, according to a study conducted by the University of Texas in July.

6) Global warming is reducing the yield for Japanese whalers, who complain global warming makes whales skinnier.

7) The recent surge in shark attacks in Florida is because of global warming, says Florida University shark expert George Burgess. He told the UK Guardian in May that shark attacks were caused by human activity.

“As the population continues to rise, so does the number of people in the water for recreation. And as long as we have an increase in human hours in the water, we will have an increase in shark bites,” he said.

Shark attacks could also be the result of global warming and rising sea temperatures, the Guardian said.

8) Representative Ed Markey (D-Ma) blamed the 1993 crash of the US military Blackhawk in Somali on global warming. (I”m not making this up.) Markey told a bunch of students visiting the Capitol;

“In Somalia back in 1993, climate change, according to 11 three- and four-star generals, resulted in a drought which led to famine. That famine translated to international aid we sent in to Somalia, which then led to the U.S. having to send in forces to separate all the groups that were fighting over the aid, which led to Black Hawk Down.”

9) National Geographic says that global warming is causing penguin babies to freeze to death. “Many, many, many of them thousands of them were dying,” explorer Jon Bowermaster told National Geographic. Witnessing the mass penguin death “painted a clear and grim picture” of global warming.

“It’s not just melting ice,” Bowermaster said. “It’s actually killing these cute little birds that are so popular in the movies.” (Gasp! Not movie penguin babies! They’re sooo cute!!)

10) Finally, rounding out the list of looming global warming catastrophes is a predicted invasion of killer stingrays. Global warming is going to drive killer stingrays, like the one that killed Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, to the shores of Britain after a 5-foot -long marbled stingray was captured by fishermen, the Daily Mail reported in June.

To recap, global warming is responsible for freezing temperatures, record snowfalls, Christmas travel delays, cannibalism, kidney stones, frozen penguin babies, skinny whales expensive beer and a coming invasion of giant Burmese pythons.

Oh . . . and a partridge in a pear tree.

Merry Christmas!

Winter Says “Hi”

Winter Says “Hi”
Vol: 87 Issue: 24 Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Since I came to Christ after having finished reading Hal Lindsey’s “Late, Great Planet Earth” I came to Christ already hungering for His soon return. I knew many of the major doctrines of prophecy before I really had much of a handle on the basic doctrines of Christianity.

But of all the trends prophesied for the last days, the one I always had the most trouble picturing in my mind’s eye was the image of Christian persecution in the West.

I’d heard about Christians being persecuted in faraway lands during the Communist era, but that, somehow, seemed normal — probably because all I knew of Communism was that it was godless and therefore, doomed to eventual collapse.

I never doubted the eventual victory of the West, because I knew God was on our side. I grew up in a world where the government used to fund broadcast messages admonishing me to remember ‘to attend the church or synagogue of my choice’ this Sunday. THAT’S why I knew, even when I was young in my faith, that we would win over the Communists.

How could a political system that regularly encouraged its citizens to worship the God of the Bible possibly be defeated by a system that imprisoned its own citizens for doing the same thing?

The answer is obvious. There is only one superpower in the world today.

But in recent years, the competition for that title has gotten serious. Russia is no longer a serious candidate, but both the godless United Nations and the post-Christian European Union think that they are.

Under the spiritual principles that have governed my entire adult life, that would mean they can expect to meet the same fate as the Soviets.

But America is also rapidly entering its own post-Christian era, voluntarily stepping out from under the umbrella of Divine protection that has made it the safest, wealthiest and most powerful nation the world had ever known.

Type the phrase ‘Christian values’ into Google’s news search engine and most of the returns that come up are about efforts in America to stamp them out.

Stuff like designating a Christmas tree as a ‘holiday tree’ or explaining why school districts that order all references to Christ be dropped from what are now called ‘holiday pageants’ is a good thing.

A Christmas greeting card released by Planned Parenthood depicts a winter theme with snowflakes on the front above the words Choice on Earth. Inside, the message reads Warmest wishes for a peaceful holiday season”.

By replacing ‘peace’ with ‘choice’, the greeting card mocks the angelic proclamation of the Birth of Christ while linking abortion to the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Education, the arts, entertainment, architecture, public monuments, and many other areas of society in which religion was once honored or deferred to, have become thoroughly secularized as the Christmas holiday itself.

For the first time in American history, prominent individuals and established political movements, not to mention many movies and television programs, are openly atheistic and hostile to religion, seeking, in the name of liberal tolerance, to drive religion out of the public sphere altogether.

Or, to be more specific, they seek to drive Christianity out of the public sphere. Non-Western religions such as Islam are welcomed with open arms.

The only Christianity tolerated by these left-liberals is a desiccated Christianity that keeps up the external forms and formulae of the faith but no longer adheres seriously to any Christian beliefs that are distinct from those of liberalism.

The Apostle Paul described it as ‘having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” (2nd Timothy 3:5)

Even conservative Christian leaders have given up the traditional idea of America as a basically Christian society and now subscribe to the liberal view of America as a level playing field where different beliefs, including non-Western beliefs, can strive for influence.

A Florida church advertises something called ‘open baptism’ . The church website also says, “Lack of ‘belief’ is not an obstacle to belonging or to participating at St. Christopher’s by-the-Sea.”

And in the words of a Fargo, North Dakota, cathedral’s website: “Whoever you are and wherever you are on your journey of faith, you are always welcome at the table of the Lord.”

A recent Boston Globe Christmas editorial complained:

“The Christian agenda is one of exclusion. They want to take away our rights, not protect them. The constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage would be the first amendment enacted to take away rights from the people, not bestow or protect their rights. It is anathema to the spirit of the Constitution and our core beliefs as Americans.”

An article in San Diego’s North County Times opined; “There is no denying that the Christian religion was intertwined with government in our early days but that is not a reason to rejoice, because that very element brought out some of the worst features in our history.”

The Boy Scouts are under constant legal attack because they require their members to express a belief in God. Thanks to their unwillingess to boot God out of their charter, most Boy Scout troops have been booted out of the mainstream.

Not only is it unfashionable to be a Christian in mainstream America, in some cases, it might actually be illegal.

This year, Christmas is special because it is the last Christmas America will celebrate under a Christian administration for at least the next four years. We remain free to celebrate the birth of our Savior this year, and we needn’t yet pretend that December 25th is the day winter sets aside to say “Hi!” (Season’s Greetings.)

It is my prayer that you all have a safe, peaceful and exceptionally merry Christmas this year. May our God richly bless each of you, your families and your loved ones.

Merry Christmas!