A Most Difficult Book

A Most Difficult Book
Vol: 112 Issue: 14 Friday, January 14, 2011

The Bible is without doubt the most difficult Book ever written. It is filled with strange references to people and places that oftentimes we can’t even pronounce. 

The words of the Bible seem somewhat awkwardly arranged when translated into English.

“For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, if it the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)

Which is not of yourself, here?  Is it grace that is not of yourself?  Or is it faith?  Can you tell, positively, from simply reading the verse?  Or do you have to puzzle it out?

(Lessee, grace is a gift.  Can you give yourself a gift?  What is faith?  Is that something you have, or is faith something God gave you so that you could accept the gift of grace?)

Even after puzzling it out, that sentence doesn’t get any easier to understand.   Which raises a BIG question.  Why in the world would the Lord make it so difficult?  It is, after all, God’s Word.

Why wouldn’t He spell everything out in clear, unmistakable, easy-to-follow terms so that we wouldn’t have to puzzle out the difficult doctrines?

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”  (Hebrews 6:4-6)

This passage is so seemingly difficult that I’ve heard it used as both a proof-text for Arminian temporal security (saved can lose salvation) and for Calvinistic eternal security, (once saved, always saved) – two diametrically opposite readings of the same doctrine.

From the same passage.

Clearly, the writer of Hebrews says that if one falls away from the faith, it is impossible to renew them to repentance.   So such a person, having lost his salvation by falling away, cannot be saved again.   That’s what it says.  Doesn’t it?

Not exactly.   Again, the words are strung together rather awkwardly for native English-speakers.  What is says is that IF one fell away, it would be impossible to renew him to repentance.  

Now, what does that mean?

First, we have to understand the word repentance as it is used by Scripture.  The Greek word translated as ‘repentance’ is metanoia which means, “to change one’s mind.”  So it really says, it is impossible for them to change their minds again.   

Secondly, note that they were made partakers of the Holy Ghost – or, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.   So it would be impossible for them to be indwelt again, since the Promise is that the Holy Spirit will never leave or forsake me until Jesus comes.

If somehow I drive Him out, it would be impossible to invite Him back in again, seeing as that would require “crucifying the Son of God afresh, putting Him to an open shame.” 

Why would that put Him to an open shame?

Because it would mean His first sacrifice wasn’t sufficient, which would contradict the clear teaching of Scripture.

“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool.”

As difficult a Book as the Bible is, the really important parts are actually not that difficult.

“For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:11-14)

How many offerings are required to perfect forever those that are sanctified (set apart)?  What does it mean to be sanctified?

“And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:17-18)

Once a person has been saved by grace through faith, one’s sins are remitted and one is sanctified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, there is no more offering for sin, because the perfection of the sanctified is accomplished forever by the one offering.

It isn’t hard to go somewhere else and find a Scripture that seems to say the opposite – one can find such a Scripture only a few verses down:

“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.”  (Hebrews 10:27)

Receiving the knowledge of the Truth. . .  what is that?  It’s pretty simple.  The Truth is the Gospel.  Not everyone that hears it embraces it, but everybody that hears it knows it is true in their heart.

“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Romans 1:20)

Now that you know the Gospel, you know that there is no other sacrifice you can make on your own.  As to the certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation?  Who will it devour? 

The adversaries of the Gospel. 

Assessment:

Returning to my rhetorical question from earlier, why wouldn’t the Lord spell everything out in clear, unmistakable terms?  Why make the Bible a difficult Book?   

The Bible is God’s Word, but it is God’s Word designed to fit the purposes and circumstances of this physical world in which we sojourn. Human beings literally exist with one foot in heaven and the other in hell. 

And the reason the choice is so difficult is because we love both.  If you doubt it, tell an atheist he can’t go to heaven and see how mad he gets at being excluded from a place he says he doesn’t believe in. 

Or tell him that he is going to hell and see how long it takes before he accuses you of a hate crime — for threatening him with a place he says he doesn’t believe in.  

If the Bible was too easy, it wouldn’t be fair to those who genuinely seek God.  The choice has to be completely free, made on faith, or it wouldn’t be a free-will choice at all. 

Additionally, there are almost as many Christian denominations as there are countries in the world, and each has a different doctrine and worldview – even though all use the same Bible.  

There are Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, Anglican, Lutherans, Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Anabaptists, Brethren, Methodist, Apostolic, Pentecostal, Charismatic, African, United, Quakers, Mennonites, Unitarian, Messianic Judaism, and dozens more Christian-themed cults, like British Israelism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so on.

In Genesis we read of the Tower of Babel, an effort by Nimrod to unite the world under his authority, and how God dealt with it.  

“And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.  Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. (Genesis 11:6-7)

According to the Bible, when the Holy Spirit is withdrawn, Nimrod’s effort will be duplicated by the antichrist who sets up a universal government under his authority and unites it via a single religion under his control.     

During the Church Age, God divided the Church into denominations to prevent that from happening prematurely.   

Human beings are not all born the same type of people.  We are split in profound and fundamental ways and then set radically free to find our own way.   We are born with a sense of God-consciousness, but we are free to seek His face or reject Him altogether.

The Bible is deliberately obscure enough to empower all the various denominations without any one of them growing too powerful – God demands faith in His Son, not faith in a church.  

The Bible is written to influence and affect — but not to overwhelm.  It is written to lead us, but not to force us to follow. The Bible is written to provide the Presence of God, but without pressure. The choice is yours.

God calls us by His presence and through His Word.  He does not compel us.

As we saw in Hebrews 6, we must change and grow and ultimately, recognize the need for a Savior before we can seek Him.  It is a case of not forcing our minds to get ahead of our hearts. 

Salvation is from the heart first, and only then can we wrap our heads around it.  

And as we seek Him, the Bible difficulties begin to smooth themselves out.  Not all at once. Or even all the difficulties.  But gradually, if one is diligent about seeking the Lord, that peace that surpasses all understanding takes over.

I know that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other Christian denominations that have an entirely different spiritual worldview than I, and that there are many people more brilliant than I who read the Scriptures and come away with a diametrically opposite understanding. 

Yet I am at peace with my own understanding of Scripture, without finding it necessary to agree with the Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Pentecostals or Methodists on every point of doctrine.  

And I am at peace with the understanding that they don’t agree with each other, although we all read the same Book.  It isn’t the Book’s fault — but it is written that way on purpose.

Jesus taught in parables, and one day, His disciples came to Him to ask Him why He taught the crowds using parables but taught them directly.

“He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.  For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (Matthew 13:10-13)

Some are given more understanding than others according to His will and His purposes.  Others are seemingly given almost no understanding at all.  They only understand that they were sinners in need of salvation and now they are saved.

There are Christians who get saved and never join a church or crack a Bible.  They learn nothing apart from changing their minds about their need for a Savior to cleanse them from their sin. 

The Bible is not for everyone.  It sounds almost blasphemous to say, but the facts are what the facts are. 

I know people that cannot make head nor tails of anything in the Bible but “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.”

They don’t preach.  They don’t share.  They don’t get a lot of what others get  — but they get enough to be saved.  They are saved, but they miss much of their blessing along the way.

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (Matthew 13:16)

The Bible IS a difficult Book.  Jesus likened the Gospel to a pearl of great price.  Nothing of value comes too easily.  Study is hard work, but that is what makes it profitable.  If it was too easy, it would be meaningless.

Nowhere in Scripture is one required to be a Bible scholar in order to be saved – salvation is a function of hearing and accepting the Gospel as presented.   It is possible to be saved without ever opening a Bible.

The man who prays the sinner’s prayer as his life is coming to a close is as saved as the Bible scholar who devoted his life to the study of Scripture.  

But the Bible scholar has a much better appreciation of what he has been saved from.

You can trust the Bible despite the fact it is so difficult that it has spawned hundreds of denominations — because the Bible is alive.  It is God’s living Word and therefore it is capable of speaking to each of us individually. 

The Bible tells us to; “trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The more one follows that advice, the less difficult the Bible becomes.  But it never, ever gets easy, either.

Salvation is simple. God is not.  

Hezbollah Collapses Lebanon Government

Hezbollah Collapses Lebanon Government
Vol: 112 Issue: 13 Thursday, January 13, 2011

The government of Lebanon collapsed overnight following Hezbollah’s withdrawal from the country’s fragile unity coalition government.

President Michel Suleiman asked Saad Hariri to stay on as caretaker prime minister after the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah and its allies resigned Wednesday and brought down Hariri’s government.

The crisis was the climax of tensions that have been simmering for months over the U.N. tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The tribunal is widely expected to indict members of Hezbollah soon, which many fear could rekindle violence in the tiny nation plagued for decades by war and civil strife.

Business tycoon and Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, nicknamed “Mr. Lebanon” was assassinated in Beirut on Valentine’s Day,  2005 by a car bomb blast so massive that it killed twenty-two other individuals as well.  

A UN fact-finding mission was dispatched to Lebanon to investigate the killing, prompting Hezbollah to stage a million-strong pro-Syria demonstration in response.

Five years later, the UN is preparing to hand down indictments against members of Hezbollah and possibly Syrian officials.    Hezbollah claims the tribunal is really an Israeli-US plot aimed at discrediting Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah.

Hezbollah demanded that the tribunal dissolved and the Lebanese share of its funding withdrawn, and has called for a number of witnesses that they describe as “fake” to instead face the Lebanese justice system.  

A court spokesman, Crispin Thorold, said that the contents of the indictments will remain confidential until confirmed by the pretrial judge, which could take “at least six to 10 weeks” from the time the indictments are submitted.   That may now come as soon as Monday.  

In the first stages of the UN inquiry, Syria, which had had several thousand troops in Lebanon, was accused of the Hariri assassination. Rafik Hariri was, after all, a man Damascus had difficulty ruling.

More recently, under the investigation’s third chief prosecutor, Canadian Daniel Bellemare, blame is falling on Hezbollah, which is what prompted Hezbollah to quit the coalition and force the government collapse.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up a four-nation tour of US allies in the Persian Gulf with unusually blunt remarks to a regional development conference in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Clinton was asked why Arab leaders should listen to her criticism when the US “can’t even get Israel to make peace with the Palestinians.”   To her credit, Clinton responded by reminding her critic that:

“When the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon, they got Hezbollah and 40,000 rockets and when they pulled out of Gaza they got Hamas and 20,000 rockets.”

Clinton characterized the Hezbollah withdrawal “as a transparent effort…to subvert justice and undermine Lebanon’s stability and progress”.

The Jerusalem Post said in an editorial that;

“It is important to understand why Nasrallah is so concerned with the findings of the Hague-based tribunal: If Hezbollah is found guilty, as expected, of assassinating Hariri it would contradict the image it has tried to create over the years as being the defender of Lebanon.

If it was defending Lebanon, why did it assassinate the country’s former prime minister?

The problem for Hezbollah is that toppling the Lebanese government does not ensure that this “defender” image will be retained. What it is trying to do instead is force the current Prime Minister Saad Hariri to denounce the tribunal’s findings and clear Hezbollah’s name.

The problem for Lebanon is that Hezbollah’s militia, ordered disbanded under the terms of UN Resolution 1701, has instead become more powerful than the existing Lebanese Army.

Assessment:

While I was in Phoenix, I had the pleasure of spending several hours with Bill Salhaus, author of “Israelestine” which explores the connection between the prophecies of Psalms 83, Isaiah 17, Jeremiah 49 and Obadiah and the Lebanon War of 2006.

We discussed the impending collapse and where things could go from here.   It seems probable that the next step will be war.   If this is the war Salhaus is anticipating, when the smoke clears, much of the Arab Middle East will be a radioactive wasteland.  

Perhaps that will be the event that brings about the false peace covenant that results in Israel becoming the “land of unwalled villages” described in Ezekiel 38 at the time of the Gog-Magog invasion?

I was tremendously impressed with the ministry of Jewish Voice Ministries when I was there a couple of years ago; having made a second trip only cemented that impression.  

Over the years, I have been greatly blessed over the course of my own ministry to rub shoulders with some of the giants of the faith.  

The first prophecy conference at which I was a featured speaker included such luminary Christian leaders as Dr. John Walvoord, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Missler, Dave Hunt and Jack Van Impe. Since then, I’ve been blessed to rub shoulders with many, many more. 

While I have met many giants, there are only a few men I would term “great” men of faith.  Bernis with an Ethiopian ChildRabbi Jonathan Bernis, (pictured at right with an Ethiopian child), is a man of such genuine, certifiable greatness. 

Bernis had only recently returned from an outreach to the Bene Manache in Mizoram, India. 

A passage in a JVMI blog of the outreach posted by a dentist volunteer explains what they were up against.

“The conditions for us Westerners were tough—sleeping in tents on hard floors; cold washes with a pitcher and bucket for a shower; reconstituted, freeze-dried food; bus rides that went on forever over bumpy, twisty roads. Let’s not forget the 48 hours of travel to get there. And did I mention all the need medically and dentally?  It was overwhelming.

The dental need in every child that I say was incomprehensible for a Western trained dentist.  All children older than 18 months had all or nearly all of their teeth rotted out beyond recognition.”

Bernis in Gondar 2010JVMI was able to bring medical and dental treatment for  – get this – THIRTY THOUSAND people, most of whom had never ever seen a doctor or dentist.   THIRTY THOUSAND!   And that was just this past year.

When I was there last, they had just returned from Ethiopia where they had treated similarly large crowds of people to whom medical care was as common as moon rocks. 

The JVMI volunteers are not just treating diseased bodies – they are treating diseased souls as well.

Here are some typical statistics for JVMI’s most recent Ethiopian (2010) outreach from their website:

  • 9,750 treated
  • 918 salvations
  • 354 healings
  • 1,731 pairs of glasses
  • 67 eye surgeries
  • 5 babies delivered

The program that I flew down there to tape will likely air sometime in March – if it airs at all.   It was a pretty dismal performance on my part.  From the time I got up Tuesday morning to head to Phoenix until I sat down for the interview that night, some 20 hours had elapsed.   

I find that I grow exponentially stupider for each hour that passes after my normal bedtime.  A typical exchange went like this:

Bernis:  “So what do you think about the latest crisis in Israel?”

Me:  “Ummmm, I think Israel, ummmm,  is, ummmm . . . could you please repeat the question?”

Of course, after it was mercifully over, everyone was wonderful about it and they all said I did a bang-up job.   (That’s the same thing I always say when I witness somebody crashing and burning in the middle of an interview.  “Don’t worry about it. You did great.”)

Jonathan had many wonderful and kind things to say about the Omega Letter during the interview itself.  And I was blessed by several OL members in the audience who came up later to tell me that they could see my distress and had been praying for me the whole time.

After the taping, Jonathan took Bill Salhaus and me out for a late dinner and conversation.  Later, I taped what was probably an equally disjointed interview with Bill for his radio program.  I managed to crawl into bed about midnight for a couple of hours sleep before heading out to the airport at six the next morning.    

While I was in Phoenix, temps were in the sixties and everybody there was bundled up.   I had to put the AC on in my hotel room.   But it was a nice, if short, respite from the snow and ice up north. 

I’m still a bit groggy from the travel and not much more articulate this morning than I was during the interview session.  (I probably should have sent out another retread.)  But I wanted to thank you for your prayers and the Lord for His journey mercies. 

Please be sure and check out Jewish Voice online and in particular, take a look at their stats.

It isn’t often that I am privileged to be in the presence of genuine greatness.  Jonathan Bernis is such a man. This is a ministry worthy of your support.  And of your prayers.     

Maranatha!

 

The Birds

The Birds
Vol: 112 Issue: 12 Wednesday, January 12, 2011

As the city of Beebe, Arkansas celebrated the start of the New Year with a fireworks display, thousands of red-winged blackbirds began to fall out of the sky.

The red-winged blackbirds rained out of the darkness onto rooftops and sidewalks and cars.

“They died from massive trauma,” said Game and Fish Commission spokesman Keith Stephens, citing a report from the state poultry lab where the birds were examined. The injuries were primarily in the breast tissue, with blood clotting and bleeding in the body cavities.

According to state officials, the birds were probably so frightened by the fireworks display that they started flying into each other, houses, trees and in kamikaze-style dives. 

I suppose that explanation might make sense. It would probably make more sense if Beebe, Arkansas was the only place that greeted 2011 with fireworks. 

But Beebe’s New Year’s fireworks display can’t explain:

  • 450 red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, grackles and starlings found littering a highway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Thousands of ‘devil crabs’ washed up along the Kent coast near Thane in the UK
  • Thousands of drum fish washed along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River
  • Two million small fish in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
  • Thousands of dead fish found floating in warm Florida creek
  • Hundreds of snapper fish found dead in New Zealand
  • 200 American Coots found dead on Texas highway bridge
  • Turtledoves falling from the sky over Italy with bluish tinged beaks
  • Hundreds of jackdaws that fell from the sky over Falkoping, Sweden.

People are linking the massive die-offs to the last days and the apocalypse, with ABC News even dubbing its photo essay of the phenomenon the “Aflockalypse.”

In Quebec, a farmer told the CBC he found about eighty dead pigeons on his land west of Quebec City.

“I found two dead birds in the morning, which is normal; birds sometimes die,” he said. “But when I came back one hour later, another 25 had fallen. In the time it took me to pick them up, five more fell to the ground.”

A similar bird die off was reported in South America, according to a video posted on Youtube.  At least forty tons of milkfish died in a massive fish kill the Philippines. 

The mainstream explanations for the bird kills are lightning, mid-air collision, power lines, fireworks and ‘it’s a mystery to me’ while the fish were either all diseased or the water was too cold.

Stepping slightly outside the mainstream, some speculate that meteor showers created a sonic shockwave, which almost makes sense, if it wasn’t happening all over the world at once.

A little further out there, some are saying the cause is the New Madrid fault line that runs through the center of the country and the die-off means the Big One is coming. 

Probably not, for the same reason. 

Assessment:

National Geographic is reporting that the planet’s magnetic North Pole is racing towards Russia at some forty miles per year, about four times the former rate of magnetic shift.

Magnetic north, which is the place where compass needles actually point, is near but not exactly in the same place as the geographic North Pole. Right now, magnetic north is close to Canada’s Ellesmere Island.

The magnetic north pole had moved little from the time scientists first located it in 1831. Then in 1904, the pole began shifting northeastward at a steady pace of about 9 miles (15 kilometers) a year.

In 1989 it sped up again, and in 2007 scientists confirmed that the pole is now galloping toward Siberia at 34 to 37 miles (55 to 60 kilometers) a year. 

Last week, the Tampa International Airport was forced to shut down their main runway for a week so they could repaint the navigational signs to account for the fact that north has moved five degrees.

Birds and fish have inner navigational tracking abilities that rely on the earth’s magnetic field.  That’s how birds know how to fly south for the winter.   For that matter, the same principle applies to honeybees, which are also suddenly subject to mass die-offs, called “colony collapse disorder.”

At the same time that the earth’s magnetic field has begun to shift, the sun’s magnetic poles are flipping indicating the beginning of the next solar maximum.  This is the one that all the astronomers are saying could be the cosmic Big One.

What I want you to see is how it all continues to fit with Bible prophecy.  Not actively – there are no Bible prophecies fulfilled by the die-offs we’re discussing – but passively.  Everybody immediately assumes a connection with the Second Coming.    

On one side of the equation are all the websites that are proclaiming this to be a sign of the end of the world or the Second Coming of Christ.  On the other side are those that are taking the other position, which is that this is NOT a sign of the end times.

At the center of the debate isn’t the falling blackbirds or the rotting fish or the shifting magnetic poles or the disappearing bees.  It’s whether or not they mean the end is approaching.

“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”(Matthew 24:32-33)

It wasn’t that long ago that the whole idea of end-times Bible prophecy was ‘comic-book’ theology – not something to be taken seriously.  

Now, everything that happens is viewed and discussed in the context of the ‘end times’ – whether one is arguing that it is or arguing that it is not, the topic under discussion is the end times. 

Even among unbelievers.

The ‘New Creature’

The ‘New Creature’
Vol: 112 Issue: 11 Tuesday, January 11, 2011

According to Scripture, there are four classes of created rational beings in the universe, namely, angels, Gentiles, Jews and Christians. That fact is critical to rightly dividing the word of truth. Each is a different spiritual being, each has a different origin, present estate and a unique destiny.

Angels are the first of the created, rational beings.

“Praise ye Him, all His angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts. . . Let them praise the name of the LORD: for He commanded, and they were created.” (Psalms 148:2,5)

The Bible teaches that their home is in heaven (Matthew 24:36), their activity is both on earth and in heaven (Psalms 103:20, Luke 15:10, Hebrews 1:14) and their destiny is the Eternal City of Revelation 21:12.

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. . .” (Hebrews 12:22)

Angels are unique creations of God, not to be confused with any other of God’s created beings. Even though some fall, as was the case with Satan, the fallen angels remain angels throughout their existence. Their numbers are constant; they neither propagate nor die.

The second class of created beings are the Gentiles. The Gentiles trace their origin to Adam. They are partakers in the fall of man, but Scripture says that some of them will share, as a subordinate people, with Israel during the Millennial Kingdom. (Isaiah 2:4, 60:3,5,12, 62:2, and Acts 15:17)

As to their estate, from Adam until Christ, the Gentiles “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12).

Since the Resurrection, the door of Gospel privilege has been opened to the Gentiles, and out of both Gentiles and Jews of this age, God is calling an elect company.

“Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:17-18)

The period of time bounded by the Babylonian captivity through to the end of the Church Age is called by Scripture “the times of the Gentiles.” (Luke 21:24)

The third class of created beings are the Jews. By the calling of Abraham, and all that God accomplished through him, a new race of beings was begun that, under unalterable Divine covenant and promise, continues forever.

So different is this race of created beings that some five-sixths of Scripture bears directly or indirectly on the Jews. The destiny of the Jews is traceable through the Millennial Kingdom and into the new heaven and earth which follows.

In this present Church Age, all Divine progress in the national and earthly program for Israel is on hold; individual Jews have the same privilege as the individual Gentiles of personal faith in Christ as Savior. But Scripture is clear that, when the present age concludes, God will again turn His attention to the national redemption of Israel.

The fourth class of created beings are the Christians. Christians are those called out of both Jew and Gentile, and are formed by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.

“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.” (Romans 10:12)

Christians are neither Gentile nor Jew, but a new spiritual creation in Christ.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2nd Corinthians 5:17)

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Galatians 6:15)

The Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20), having been raised WITH Christ (Colossians 3:1-3) and are so different than any other created rational being that, of the Christian, Jesus says, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 15:19, 17:14,16)

Note carefully that the spiritual rebirth and heavenly position [in Christ] are by faith alone. By definition, human operation is excluded. The only responsibility imposed on the human side of the equation is trusting in the only One Who can save.

The Scriptures which direct a Christian in his walk with the Lord are adapted to the fact that the Christian is no longer striving to secure a standing before God, but is already ‘accepted in the beloved’.

“To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)

Christians, by their existence, have already attained every spiritual blessing; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ . .” (Ephesians 1:3)

Obviously, no human effort can bring a person to fulfill God’s standard of sinless perfection. God, anticipating the believer’s inability to walk worthy of his high calling, freely bestows His empowering Spirit to indwell each believer.

Scripture also promises that when their elect number is complete, as unique citizens of heaven, they will be removed from the earth at the Rapture. The bodies of believers who have died will be raised and living saints will be translated. (1st Corinthians 15:20-57, 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18)

At the Bema Seat in glory, believers will be judged as to their rewards for service. (1st Corinthians 3:9-15, 9:18-27, 2nd Corinthians 5:10,11), the Body of Christ will be wed to the Bridegroom, (Revelation 19:7-9) and return WITH Him to share as His consort during the Millennial Reign.

This new creation, like angels, Gentiles and Jews, can be traced into eternity future, but they are unique from the rest. They possess no land, no house, no earthly capital or city, no earthly kingdom and no earthly king.

Scripture promises that the Jews will inherit the earth. The Gentiles will inhabit it with them as a subordinate people. But the Church does not share in that inheritance.

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:17)

The Jews and Gentiles inherit the earth. Church Age believers inherit the universe!

The Age of Grace concludes at the Rapture. The Tribulation Period is the final seven years of the Age of Law, under which God will judge a Christ-rejecting world. During this period, some Gentiles will become believers, but, unlike during this present age, they are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, Whose earthly ministry concludes at the Rapture.

During the Church Age, believers are promised to ‘resist the devil and he will flee from you,’ because ‘greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. (James 4:7, 1st John 4:4)

But during the Tribulation, “it was given unto him [antichrist] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.” (Revelation 13:7) Those who enter the beast’s worship system, believers or not, and accept his mark are forever lost.

Assessment:

As you can see from the revealed Word, there is no place for the Church during Daniel’s 70th week. The Church is excluded from the judgments pronounced against a Christ-rejecting world, and the Church plays no role in the national redemption of Israel.

Since the Church Age is characterized by the promise that, “He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever” (John 14:6) while, during the time of Jacob’s Trouble, the Holy Spirit’s role is limited to ‘sealing’ the 144,000 Jewish evangelists of Revelation 7:3-8, the Church’s presence on earth during the Tribulation has no place in the plan of God.

Since, by definition, Church Age believers are NOT Christ-rejecting and are NOT part of God’s plan for the national redemption of Israel, the only role the Church could play during the Tribulation would be to face the judgments of God, bereft of the indwelling Holy Spirit, comfortless, and with no earthly destiny or purpose apart from becoming the antichrist’s cannon fodder.

Consider it this way. For the last two thousand years, Church Age believers have enjoyed fellowship with God, thanks to the imputed righteousness of Christ and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus promised He would not leave us comfortless, and that the Holy Spirit will abide with us forever.

But, in the final hours of human history, when man’s corruption has reached its peak and God pours out His judgment against them for their unrepentant sin, (“Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts,” – Revelation 9:21), some would argue that those living in those days will be stripped of their indwelling Spirit, God breaks fellowship with them, leaving them to face the worst period of spiritual trial in the history of creation alone.

For that to be true, of all the generations of believers from the Apostle Paul until the revelation of ‘that Wicked’ — the believers of the last days are the only ones to whom the promise, “I will not leave you comfortless” is meaningless.

The new spiritual creation must then, by definition, revert back to its old form of either Jew or Gentile, and share in the judgments being poured out upon them. The new creature, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and spiritually empowered to resist the devil, with the promise that ‘he will flee from you’ — will find that is no longer true. How else could they be ‘overcome’ by him as Revelation 13:7 says the Tribulation saints will be?

It is not POSSIBLE for Church Age believers to play a role in the Tribulation, other than as recipients of God’s justice for sin, although believers, by definition, have already been judged and found righteous at the Cross.

Consider the Promises of Jesus, given the Church, in the context of the Tribulation Period.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:26-27)

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. . . ” unless you are among those believers of the last generation. If the destiny of the Church is to partake in God’s judgment against the world, then my heart should be troubled indeed, and I should be very, very afraid.

His peace was for all the generations that went before. But not for mine?

The Scriptures say otherwise.

Today’s OL is a retread while I am traveling to Arizona. It was first published in September, 2005. Please keep me in prayer. – Jack

As the city of Beebe, Arkansas celebrated the start of the New Year with a fireworks display, thousands of red-winged blackbirds began to fall out of the sky. 

”Right Wing” Shoots Up Arizona?

”Right Wing” Shoots Up Arizona?
Vol: 112 Issue: 10 Monday, January 10, 2011

Horror struck over the weekend in Tucson, Arizona when a 22 year-old loser opened fire at a political rally for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, killing six people including a nine-year old girl born on September 11, 2001.

Congresswoman Giffords was evidently hit in the back of the head by one of the .22 caliber bullets which passed through her brain and exited through her forehead. Amazingly, Giffords appears likely to survive the attack, although doctors remain only ‘cautiously’ optimistic.

In addition to the six deaths, the gunman also wounded a dozen others before being tackled by two bystanders.  One of those killed besides the nine-year old was Chief Judge for the US Federal District of Arizona, John Roll.  

The attack happened about 10 minutes after the start of a previously scheduled constituent meeting outside a Safeway grocery store.

Although U.S. Capitol Police said there was no evidence of a broader threat involving federal officials, the agency said in a statement it had advised other members of Congress to take “reasonable and prudent precautions regarding their personal safety and security.”

The House Sergeant at Arms also said “it is essential” that lawmakers contact local police to register their home and office addresses.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said his department had secured the homes and offices of some unnamed federal officials as a “precautionary measure.” 

And every single Democrat that could find a microphone found a way to simultaneously decry the ‘overheated political rhetoric’ that they blamed for the shooting while warning against ‘politicizing’ the shooting itself.

(Am I the only one that remembers the Left’s insistence that we refrain from drawing conclusions about the motivation of the Fort Hood shooter — lest we ‘rush to judgement’ by blaming Islam?)

Efforts to blame the shooting on the political Right were well underway before the first victims had even made it to the hospital.  The sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, gave a bizarre press conference only hours after the shooting in which he blamed ‘right wing’ talk radio and television.

“I think the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business and what (we) see on TV and how our youngsters are being raised, that this has not become the nice United States of America that most of us grew up in. And I think it’s time that we do the soul-searching. . .”

Dupnik called Arizona “the tombstone of the United States of America,” which he called;

“[T]he Mecca of hate and bigotry. . .To try to inflame the public on a daily basis 24 hours a day, seven days a week has impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with.”

“The sheriff out there in Tucson, I think he’s got it right,” Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the assistant minority whip, told “Fox News Sunday.” “Words do have consequences. And I think that we have to really — this is nothing new. I’ve been saying this for a long time now.”

Sure he has. Ever since the election.  It is worth remembering that it was James Clyburn that fretted in 2007 that “good news from Iraq would mean bad news for us,” but of course, George Bush was in office in 2007.  (No heated political rhetoric there.)

Same with Steny Hoyer, (D-Md).   

I think the sheriff was right,” added Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” with Bob Schieffer.

“Bob, when you and I grew up, we grew up listening to essentially three major news outlets: NBC, ABC, and of course, CBS. We listened to people like Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid, and Huntley-Brinkley, and they saw their job as to inform us of the facts and we would make a conclusion,” Hoyer said.

“Far too many broadcasts now and so many outlets have the intent of inciting, and inciting people to opposition, to anger, to thinking the other side is less than moral. And I think that is a context in which somebody who is mentally unbalanced can somehow feel justified in taking this kind of action. And I think we need to all take cognizance of that and be aware that what we say can, in fact, have consequences.”

Yesterday, ABC News said the top question being asked on Facebook is whether Sarah Palin is to blame.

During the election season, Palin had written a post that used crosshairs on districts as a visualization of congressional districts targeted for Republican takeover.  The fact that she got the idea from the Democrats who did the same thing in 2008 is apparently irrelevant.

Indeed, it is irrelevant that they still do it now.

Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who appeared Sunday on CNN, said it’s the responsibility of those in public life and the media to “try to bring down the rhetoric.”

“The phrase, ‘Don’t retreat; reload,’ putting crosshairs on congressional districts as targets. These sorts of things, I think, invite the kind of toxic rhetoric that can lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response,” he said.

This is the same Senator Dick Durbin who equated the CIA interrogations at Guantanamo Bay with the Nazi Gestapo

“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others —that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”

According to the reliably far left Guardian UK, the shootings were caused by Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh and everybody it could identify that Guardian assessed as being right of center.

And most disturbing of all, FBI Director Robert Mueller blamed the internet. He told a press conference on Sunday that the “ubiquitous nature of the Internet” has made hateful information “much more readily available to individuals than it was eight or 10 or 15 years ago and that absolutely presents a challenge to us particularly as it relates to lone wolfs.”

One thing I think screams for clarification, however.  It’s only the Democrats that are publicly blaming the shooting on the ‘overheated political rhetoric’ (that coincidentally caused them to lose control of the House in November.)

Republicans, for the most part, are blaming the guy that pulled the trigger.

Assessment:

First let me express condolences to the families of all those who lost loved ones in Tucson. Secondly, please join me in prayer that Representative Giffords will survive and make a complete recovery. 

That being said, let’s turn our attention to the shooter for a moment – and only for a moment.

The shooter isn’t a Republican. He isn’t a conservative. He isn’t a Democrat or a liberal. The shooting wasn’t prompted by some kind of political philosophy that conflicted with Representative Giffords.  There is zero evidence that the shooting was politically motivated at all.

Good heavens – the guy is a certified nutbar who had a shrine to a skull set up in his back yard.  He was described in the Phoenix NewTimes as “a left wing pothead.”   He was kicked out of school until he was able to present a doctor’s note stating his presence would not be a danger to himself or others.

There is absolutely nothing to like the killer to politics, the Tea Party, the right wing or the so-called overheated political rhetoric which, to my recollection, is nowhere nearly as heated as when George Bush was routinely linked by the Left to Adolph Hitler.

There is little doubt that the fear and grief being expressed by solons on both sides of the aisle is legitimate, but the Democrats have obviously decided to make hay out of the tragedy, perhaps assuming that their colleague wouldn’t mind.

There is little the Far Left hates more than freedom of speech – the Left has been at the forefront of efforts to reinstate the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” for use in stifling “right wing” opinions on talk radio and television and, now the internet.  

So to them, the shooting is a political gift.  Especially given the Obama initiative announced Friday to give the Commerce Department authority over a new cybersecurity effort to create an internet ID for Americans!

It’s “the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government” to centralize efforts toward creating an “identity ecosystem” for the Internet, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said.

The Obama administration is currently drafting what it’s calling the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, which Locke said will be released by the president in the next few months. (An early version was publicly released last summer.)

“We are not talking about a national ID card,” Locke said at the Stanford event. “We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities.”

Well!  Why didn’t you say so?  If the government only intends to make it easier for me to keep track of passwords, then what’s the problem?

Noted the CBS News report, “Details about the “trusted identity” project are unusually scarce.”  

Really?  I’m absolutely shocked. Especially given the promises being made by Schmidt that the government won’t force you to get an internet ID number. It will completely voluntary.  Honest.

You will still be able to surf the net anonymously, according to Schmidt. 

“I don’t have to get a credential if I don’t want to,” he said. There’s no chance that “a centralized database will emerge,” and “we need the private sector to lead the implementation of this,” he said.

I think that’s WONDERFUL news.  The government will resist the urge to make it mandatory.  Whew!   And our government would NEVER even dream of creating a centralized database of users. 

It will set up a ‘private sector’ company to do it for them. 

Of course, that was how things stood on Friday — before the shootings in Arizona that were caused by hateful internet postings and right wing conservative political rhetoric.   

But now, in the aftermath of the terrible Arizona tragedy, it might be necessary to make participation in the ‘trusted identity project’ mandatory, after all.    

Anybody who has ever served in the miltiary understands what the goverment means when it declares something “voluntary.”

An internet ‘mark’ to be used in conjunction with the three Hebrew sixes that preface every single internet address in the world. 

That’s quite a coincidence.

Note:  Speaking of coincidences, I will be headed to Arizona tomorrow morning to record an appearance on the Jewish Voice International television program with Jonathan Bernis. Since I will be flying in the New Normal, I intend to travel as light as possible and leave my laptop at home.

Consequently, Wednesday’s OL will be a retread from the archives.  Please pray the Lord will grant me journey mercies during the trip. 

Miracles On Demand

Miracles On Demand
Vol: 112 Issue: 8 Saturday, January 8, 2011

Little Xavier Bailey was born with a defect known as truncus arteriosus.  He was born with the two major blood vessels to his lungs and body fused, and without a pulmonary artery or aorta.

By aged four, he had undergone twelve heart operations and was suffering from infective endocarditis, a deep-seated heart infection that caused him to collapse into cardiac arrest.

Doctors and nurses worked on the little boy’s lifeless body for more than an hour before they got his heart restarted.   He had been dead for an hour, according to his mother.

“It went on so long, everyone thought we’d lose him. I had confidence though. I kept saying, ‘It’s not his time. He’s still with us. Keep going, keep going!’ and stroking Xavi’s head and telling him ‘Come on Xavi. You’re going to have an operation and then you’ll be well and have your birthday party.’

“His favourite nurse, Sandeep, went to theatre with him still giving him chest compressions. Somehow he survived and everyone said he was a little miracle.”

“. . . It is a miracle that he is even here and a miracle that he is talking. We thought we’d lost him but as soon as he opened his eyes, I knew we’d got him back, his mind was still there.”

There were few news accounts that didn’t use the word miracle to summarize little Xavier’s story. But it wasn’t because I was reading evangelical Christian assessments – these were secular newspapers written by secular writers.

Back in 1965 a psychologist named Helen Schucman began to “channel” messages she says were revealed to her by a spirit.  Schucman, an atheist of Jewish background, said her spirit guide was none other than Jesus, whom she nicknamed, “The Voice.”

Schucman says she was inspired by her spirit guide to write was became known as “A Course in Miracles.”

A 1977 pamphlet published by the Foundation For Inner Peace states “its only purpose is to provide a way in which some people will be able to find their own Internal Teacher”- -in other words, their personal “Spirit Guide.”

The Course on Miracles is typically New Age despite its use of Christian terms and symbols.  According to the course:

 “sickness, hate, pain, fear, guilt, and sin are all illusions. The only way to dispel illusions is to withdraw all investment from them, and they will have no life for you because you will have put them out of your mind.”

Now championed by New Age celebrity Marianne Williamson, the Course on Miracles teaches true wisdom is found in innocence because there is no such thing as evil.

“Innocence is wisdom because it is unaware of evil, and evil does not exist,” says Volume One of The Course.  This little gem provides insights into the validity of the course that would take me hours to develop on my own.

(If you are innocent of evil, then that means that evil does not exist. So what does that make the guy who steals and kills an innocent child?  Good?  It is lunacy.)

Miracles DO exist.  So do Spirit-guides. But spirit guides are demons and are incapable of performing miracles.  At most they can do tricks.   

Xavier Bailey’s story, as heartwarming and life-affirming as it is, was not a miracle. 

It was the result of a dozen doctors, 18 shots of adrenaline, and the presence of life-saving medical equipment and, using existing medical principles and knowledge, that were able to restore that boy to life. 

There was no miracle in this case.  Man did it. God merely allowed man’s effort to bear fruit. 

Miracles are events under which the normal laws of nature are temporarily suspended to allow the otherwise impossible to take place.  The Bible is filled with stories of miraculous events, from the story of creation itself to Moses parting the Red Sea to Elijah calling down fire from heaven to the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. 

All four Gospel accounts attest to the miracles performed by Jesus Christ. Jesus multiplied a few fish and biscuits into a feast for five thousand that resulted in more leftovers than He started with. 

He changed water into wine. He raised the dead, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and sound to the deaf, walked on water and was Resurrected after being publicly executed.

Even sources like the Talmud and some Islamic writings make allusions to Jesus as a miracle worker. Jesus was even acknowledged to have worked miracles by the first century Jewish authorities. 

Nicodemus, John tells us, was a Pharisee. Nicodemus had no difficulty recognizing Jesus’ credentials.

 “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him.” (John 3:2)

Finally, the earliest editions of the Book of Mark were circulating about Jerusalem by about AD 45. Jerusalem was the seat of Judaism, populated largely by inter-connected Jewish families, many of whom could trace their genealogy all the way back to Adam. 

Everybody in Jerusalem in the first half of the 1st century knew everybody else. And since they were all bound by the same religion and worshipped at the same Temple, any event of a religious nature, either pro or con, became the buzz of the town. 

It is safe to say that, by AD 45, twelve years after His crucifixion and Resurrection, there was nobody in Jerusalem who hadn’t heard of the controversial Carpenter from Nazareth.

Then, as now, people either loved Jesus or hated Him, but nobody was ambivalent in their feelings about Him. 

Considering Jerusalem in AD 45, with a probable population of about forty thousand, there would still be many living witnesses to the events of twelve years before. Jesus once had the roof ripped open at a synagogue to have a paralytic lowered into the crowded room. 

Everybody in that room knew the paralytic, and everybody in that room saw him arise, take up his bed, and walk out. So, when Mark’s account was published in Jerusalem a dozen years later, if there were no truth to it, it wouldn’t have been accepted as fact. 

But indeed, it was, since there are no contradictory records left by Jews living at the time that deny those events took place, at least, none that were deemed credible enough to be preserved.

There is every historical indication that the Gospel of Mark was accepted as a factual record of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. Including the miracles. 

There have been many attempts by the generations to follow to present the case that the miracles ascribed to Jesus were not miracles, but simply part of the ignorance of the times.

In that view, Jesus simply tricked the eyewitnesses who didn’t know any better. 

The laws of nature were well understood by the Jews of the 1st century. They knew that a man couldn’t walk on water. So when Jesus did, they knew it was outside the natural order, ie., a miracle. They weren’t ignorant savages. 

“When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water, they were frightened: they would not have been frightened unless they had known the laws of nature, and known that this was an exception,” noted C.S Lewis. 

Others argue that miracles are illogical so therefore only illogical people can believe in them. Logic is a word that defines the basic parameters and patterns of human thinking.

But miracles don’t defy logic, they defy the basic laws of nature. God can suspend the laws of nature, but if He suspended the laws of logic, then nobody would be able to discern a miracle from the ordinary. 

It is entirely logical to believe that the eyewitnesses to the event believed it was miraculous. And if they believed it, it is equally logical to accept the fact they believed it because it happened

Modern science denies the existence of miracles because they cannot be reproduced in laboratory.

(With the exception of the theory of evolution, which is a ‘miracle’ accepted 100% on faith in the creative power of nothing.)

In that Miracles are, by definition, unrepeatable, miracles have at least as much scientific support as does evolution.  And there are eyewitness accounts of miracles, whereas nobody has ever seen a creature evolve into another creature. 

According to a Course in Miracles, miracles are something we can create ourselves.  According to most sane people, miracles are something inexplicable by any other way.    

Xavier Bailey’s survival was an Helen Schucman, “The Voice told me it was” kind of miracle.  Not a real miracle.

When men work miracles, then that’s how you know that they aren’t.   And whenever the word miracle makes its way into a headline, it cheapens miracles into parlor tricks.

Assessment:

The miracles of God are always given to a specific purpose. The clearest statement on the purpose of miracles is given in Hebrews 2:1-4. 

Speaking of the revealing of His word “spoken through the Lord,” this word was

“confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” 

The pattern was that God revealed His Word, afterwards testifying to the truth of it by Divine miracles, signs and wonders.

In other words, miracles confirmed that the word spoken by God’s prophets or apostles was of Divine origin.

This is why Paul could speak of the “signs of a true apostle”; “patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds’  in order to distinguish himself from those who made false claims (2 Corinthians 12:12).

Once the purpose of miracles in confirming the Word was completed, that purpose was no longer necessary. The Scripture says of itself that it is the complete revelation of God, perfect and inerrant, concluding with the promise that, 

“. . . If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18) 

In addressing miracles, signs and wonders, such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, and receiving a ‘direct Word from the Lord’ the Apostle Paul wrote;

“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. ” (1st Corinthians 13:8-10)

When the Apostles claimed to be under the inspiration of God when they preached and taught, they had plenty of competition. Lots and lots of people of that day made similar claims. What gave the Apostles credibility over the competition was their ability to perform the miraculous

The power to perform miracles was their ‘badge of office’ so to speak. Miracles were given to authenticate both the Message and the messengers before men. 

Scripture says that, once that which is perfect (the Bible) was come, that which is in part (miracles, signs and wonders) would cease. Scripture says that to subsequent generations of believes, faith would come by hearing and studying God’s Word. 

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10-17)

That is not to say that God does not interact with people in a personal way, right up to this day. God does give us direction through His Word, and chastises us when we stray from it.

He does, after a fashion, still give us a direct ‘word of knowledge’ but not in the way that some modern Christians understand it. 

When I am studying, I occasionally get a flash of insight from the Lord about His Word, but He doesn’t give me unknown knowledge not contained in Scripture. 

The Scriptures contain prophecy, and so therefore, I can deduce certain things about the future, but only as they pertain to revealed prophecy. 

The test of a Divinely-inspired prophecy, however, is 100% accuracy, 100% of the time. I don’t claim to come close to meeting that test.  Neither can the TV preachers who ‘prophesy’ in the Name of the Lord. 

The purpose for speaking in tongues is given in Acts 2:6-11 when the Apostles were first indwelt by the Holy Spirit and preached for the first time following Pentecost. 

“And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” 

The result of this miraculous gift of tongues, according to Acts 2:41 was that, “the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” 

Miracles, signs and wonders are given by God to authenticate that those who performed them were speaking His Word and could therefore be trusted to teach true doctrine, since there was not yet an established, written doctrine of Christianity against which false teachers could be measured. 

Now that we have the Bible, there IS an existing standard against which to measure false doctrine, and so miracles, signs and wonders are no longer as necessary. 

That which is the Perfect did come in, in the form of the Word of God contained in the Holy Scriptures. 

Those TV preachers who claim to keep the Holy Spirit in a box that they can open at will and heal the sick, make Divine prophecy or perform on-stage miracles on demand, violate the doctrines of Scriptures concerning miracles.

Scripture states that performing miracles are the ‘sign of a true Apostle’ — and the standard for claiming the title of ‘Apostle’ was that they were individually and personally taught by Jesus Christ Himself.

The last person who qualified for that title was the Apostle John, who died well into his eighties at the end of the first century. 

Arguably, the greatest miracle of God IS the Bible. It has withstood the test of time and a hundred generations of criticism and attacks, and to this day, not one single word of Scripture has ever been conclusively disproved by anyone. 

However, the seeking of miracles, signs and wonders in this generation is a multi-billion dollar per year industry. 

When a guy claims that he raised the dead, or that he can perform miracles on demand, or that God tells him stuff that contradicts Scripture, mark him well. He is, himself, evidence of what is truly miraculous by himself fulfilling a two thousand year-old prophecy of God. 

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” (2nd Peter 2:1-3)

Don’t be concerned with the idea that you need miracles, signs and wonders to confirm the fact you are saved. 

“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)

A genuine miracle isn’t a trick, and salvation doesn’t impart the ability to do tricks.  And miracles aren’t for sale at any price.

The Answers Are Easy. It’s the Questions That Are Hard

The Answers Are Easy. It’s the Questions That Are Hard
Vol: 112 Issue: 7 Friday, January 7, 2011

I’m not a particularly young man.  And I’ve read a lot of books.  But in all that time, I’ve not read any scholarly effort to disprove the existence of Sophocles, Cicero, Socrates or Virgil. 

Neither have I come across any serious effort to discredit Roman historian Flavius Josephus.  

Historians seem satisfied with the authenticity of the ancients and their works despite the fact that just a handful survived into the modern era.   

Flavius Josephus was really a Jewish historian whose first-century eyewitness history was commissioned under his patron, Titus, the son of Flavius Vespasian and future emperor of Rome. 

According to his biography at Wikipedia;

His writings provide a significant, extra-Biblical account of the post-Exilic period of the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise of Herod the Great. He makes references to the Sadducees, Jewish High Priests of the time, Pharisees and Essenes, the Herodian Temple, Quirinius‘ census and the Zealots, and to such figures as Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Agrippa I and Agrippa II, John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and a disputed reference to Jesus (for more see Josephus on Jesus). He is an important source for studies of immediate post-Temple Judaism and the context of early Christianity.

Josephus was not the only ancient to write of Jesus, the first-century Nazarene Whose exemplary Life and substitutionary Death had already made a impact across the known world.  The Roman historians Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny, none of whom are known to have become Christians, all make reference to Jesus of Nazareth.

But my library at home could not contain all the different volumes of work dedicated to either discrediting the Bible or disproving the existence of Jesus Christ.  None have succeeded, but they keep trying.

Allow yourself to meditate on that last paragraph. None have succeeded.  If any of them had, then Christianity would be a dead religion.  And they keep trying. They shouldn’t have to try so hard.

Unlike other world religions that are so constructed that they could survive such a blow, conclusively disproving a single point of doctrinal truth would bring the entire edifice of Christianity crashing down.

If there was no King David, then Jesus could not be God because He specifically referred to David.  If the Book of Daniel was really an allegory written by Judas Maccabeus in 163 BC as some scholars alleged, the Jesus could not be God. 

Jesus referred to Daniel as a “Prophet” and to the prophecies contained in the Book of Daniel. If Daniel was a fraud, then Jesus would be too, since He should know and the Bible clearly indicates that He didn’t.

If the story of Noah’s Ark is an allegory, then Jesus cannot be God.  It was Jesus that likened the last days to the days of Noah.   If Sodom and Gomorrah are allegorical, Jesus cannot be God. Jesus admonished His followers to “remember Lot’s wife.”

That makes things even more complicated.  The Bible says that Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.  If that didn’t happen, then Jesus either didn’t know or He lied.  In either case, He could not be God. God cannot lie.

Then there is the amazing story of Jonah and the big fish or whale.  According to the Old Testament, God told Jonah to head east for Nineveh and Jonah headed west toward Tarsus instead.  Jonah didn’t like Nineveh and so he defied God.

God sent a big storm, the crew tossed Jonah overboard, a big fish or whale swallowed him up, turned around and headed for Nineveh where it barfed Jonah up on shore three days later.  Later, Jesus taught,

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  (Matthew 12:40)

So if Jonah wasn’t swallowed by a whale and preserved alive for three days, then Jesus isn’t God. More than that, Jesus said He would be in the earth the same way Jonah was in the whale.  If Jonah wasn’t, then by implication Jesus wasn’t.

Which means our faith is in vain and we are yet in our sins.

Assessment:

Christianity is carefully constructed, fact upon fact, precept upon precept, and pulling out any one of them would cause the rest to collapse like removing a key brick from a wall. 

The Bible claims of itself that it is Divinely inspired and therefore without error.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

So if any Scripture is proved unreliable for doctrine, reproof, correction or instruction in righteousness, then the whole Body of Scripture is suspect — including the parts that promise you salvation by grace through faith.

In the final analysis, that is where and how we learned of salvation, and it is in those Promises of Scripture that we place our faith.  If Noah didn’t build an ark, if Jonah wasn’t swallowed by a whale, if Lot’s wife wasn’t turned to salt, if Daniel didn’t write the Book the bears his name, then Jesus could not be God.  

We would have to speak of Him in the past tense.  Is it even possible that Jesus was a good man, a great teacher and moral authority and that is all?  Does that explain why the world is still debating Him two thousand years later?

Jesus specifically said He was God on a number of occasions, despite what some would have you believe.  John 8:58 records His reference to Himself as “I Am.”  In John 14:8-9, Jesus says that seeing Him is “seeing the Father.”  In John 10:33 He says, “I and My Father are one.”

There is no doubt that those that heard Him understood what He meant, since the next verse says they took up stones to stone Him for blasphemy.

Jesus claimed to be God.  He taught as one that had the authority of God.  He refused to recant His claims of Deity at the cost of His own life.   If Jesus was NOT God, then He could not have been a great teacher of wisdom and morals. 

In light of His claims, he would either have to be a megalomaniac with galactic-sized delusions of grandeur or a con man of . . . dare I say it? . . . Biblical proportions.

But one would think after some 2000 years of close and constant scrutiny, if there was some previously-undetected flaw in the story, it would have come to light by now.  

If Jesus wasn’t God but claimed to be, He was not good.  If He taught as God and wasn’t, He was not wise. And if He went to the Cross for a lie, He was not sane.

In summary, Christianity is the most delicate religious belief structure in the history of mankind.  Christianity is unique in that it isn’t truly a religion so much as it is a relationship with a real Person.

Religion is man’s way of making himself acceptable to God according to man’s standard.   Christianity is God’s way of making man acceptable to God according to God’s standard.  

Buddhism could survive without an actual, historical, living Buddah.  Islam could survive even where the Koran contained contradictions.  Confucianism could survive learning Confusius didn’t say everything attributed to him.

But Christianity could not survive if Noah didn’t build an ark, Jonah wasn’t swallowed by a whale, if there was never a real, historical King David, or if there wasn’t really a Prophet named Daniel.

Given all that we know over the course of all the centuries, together with all we’ve learned just over the past generation, the fact that Christianity still stands intact is powerful, logical evidence of the truth of the Bible.

“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” (2nd Timothy 1:12)

He is still able. And we can still trust Him.  We still have His Word on it.