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Heaven From the Cesspool
Vol: 137 Issue: 28 Thursday, February 28, 2013

It’s been observed that, ‘Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die’.  It makes you wonder – why is that?  Since the worst thing anybody can do to another human being is kill them and the most desirable outcome for any Christian is to go home to glory. . . what’s up with that, anyway?

The Bible describes heaven as a place where the streets are made from gold, and where the ‘pure river of the water of Life proceeds out from the throne of God and of the Lamb’ where there shall be no night, since God Himself with illuminate it and so on.

What kind of mental image does this give you?

To me, it sounds pretty neat, but . . . somehow, not.

Please don’t run screaming from the room screaming ‘blasphemy’ just yet – I’m not finished.  Give me a few more lines.

I recall sitting between a couple of sand dunes, surveying the wind-swept beach on one of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, watching as the breakers crashed into the pilings on the nearby pier.  The sun was shining, the breeze was warm; it was altogether an idyllic scene.

The beauty was breathtaking.  Alone with the Lord, I mused about what heaven must REALLY be like, if this wasn’t it.  Indeed, as I pointed out earlier, John’s description of heaven was, um, nice, but where I was sitting was pretty nice, too.  There were no rivers of living water, but I know that I am saved and have eternal life already.

The sand isn’t made of gold, but what value will gold have in eternity, anyway?  It will pave the streets, as common as the sand.  I like the sand.

And I LIKE the night; I’ve sat in that exact same spot at night, and when the breeze is warm and the stars are out, with the moon reflecting off the ocean it is no less idyllic than it is during the day.

I inquired of the Lord, and I began to get a bit of the Big Picture, as seen from outside of space and time.  (No, I wasn’t smoking anything and I didn’t start to hear voices).

Instead, I thought about what the Bible said about heaven, and more to the point, what the Bible says about our Big Blue Marble.

The Bible describes the fall of Lucifer, his sin, and his ejection from heaven, together with the third of the angels who rebelled with him.  When they were cast from heaven, where did they go?

The Book of Job says:

“And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” (Job 1:7, 2:2)

It has been my experience in studying God’s Word that when He causes something to be repeated, as in this case, it is worth giving it an extra look.

When Satan and his crew cast from heaven, they were cast to the earth, what the theologians call the ‘cosmos diabolicus’ or literally, a world of evil.  To the angels, it was the worst place they could imagine — a place of involuntary and horrific exile.

Planet Earth is the one place in the universe where sin can exist without throwing the entire universe out of balance, thanks to the fact it has an environment that contains it.

Our environment, which sustains us, also contains us and keeps us from doing to the universe what we have already done to our planet.

Indeed, we managed to get to the outer fringes of our planet and what did we do?  Filled it with orbiting space junk, some of which threatens OTHER orbiting space junk, such as the international space station.

Meanwhile, back on earth . . . when the fallen angels were cast to earth, it was an astonishing drop.

“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)

Assessment:

To the angels, the beautiful seaside scene I described earlier is a cesspool of sin, a place of punishment to the angels who rebelled, a place so horrible, that seen from the heavenly perspective, merely being stuck here was enough to turn Lucifer the Archangel into Satan the Destroyer.

Imagine our planet from God’s perspective.  Everything is stained by sin.  The beautiful beach scene?  Stained by sin.  The ground we walk on?  Stained by sin.

I tried to imagine that stain for what it is, and of course, I cannot.  I can only defer to the Bible’s description of sin.  It is so filthy, so repugnant, so disgusting, that God can’t bear to view it.

When God created Adam, He created a special place for him.  The Garden of Eden.  When Adam and Eve fell, they were first cast OUT of the Garden, and into the cesspool where sin was allowed to operate freely.

Jerusalem sits in the middle of the cesspool.  In the center of Jerusalem was the Temple, a place kept scrubbed of the taint of sin by the Levitical priesthood, and the Holy of Holies, a place scrubbed even more carefully.

The only place where God would commune with sinful man on this sin-stained planet was that tiny place where the muck of sin was scrubbed away as much as possible.

Until even that place became so buried in the muck and mire of sin that, after four hundred years of silence, He decided to Personally scrub it –and us — clean of it, once and for all.

Scripture says the angels were astonished that the Lord of Glory would assume human form, step out of sinless and perfect eternity, and wallow in the mire of sin with sinful humanity.  Every step for Him must have been an agony, like walking knee-deep in sewage.

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9)

It is a measure of how disgusting sin is to God.  The fact it was the place God cast the rebellious angels is revealing.  To the angels, our beautiful planet earth is a leper colony.  We mortal humans are little more than bugs, willingly wallowing in the yuck of sin, yea, REVELING in it.

Yet the Scripture says that the angels are fascinated by us, and by our plight, and astonished by our unwillingness to climb out of the muck.  It amazes them that men love the world, since they see it for what it is, and have some basis for comparison between it and the things of the spirit.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us . . .” (Hebrews 12:1)

“For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and TO ANGELS, and to men.” (1 Corinthians 4:9)

Scripture tells us that;

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

We cannot imagine heaven, we can only compare it to earth and all its beauty and wonderment, and realize that the earth is the universe’s garbage dump.  Heaven is like the Bible describes it; but it is much more.

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

What IS death, that we fear it?  In a word, separation.  Death separates us from our loved ones.  Death takes our loved ones from us, separating us from them until eternity.

Sin is a form of death. It separated the fallen angels from fellowship with God.  It separates the unsaved from God.  Revelation 20:14 speaks of the Great White Throne Judgment in which unbelievers are cast into the Lake of Fire as ‘the second death’ — a second – and permanent separation.

Sin separates us from God, our sin nature blinds us to that fact and so we love the world, and thereby astonish the angels.  Picture the nastiest, gooeyest, smelliest substance you can think of, and imagine being in it up to your neck.  From the angelic perspective, that’s where we are, and most of us are loving it, until we get saved.

Jesus said,

“Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:10)

The angels know what that sinner has just escaped from.

Jesus also describes what we become in eternity in Luke 20:36,

“Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”

Paul tells us that we will receive new, immortal bodies.

“And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Corinthians 15:49-50)

What is heaven like?  I don’t know.

But I know what a beautiful, sunny day, a warm ocean breeze and the sights and sounds of the waves as they gently break on the shore is like.

And compared to heaven, it’s a cesspool.

To the angels, it is a place of exile, a leper colony, a place where the fallen angels were sent to await their fate at the Great White Throne. Our ‘beautiful’ planet is the angelic ‘hell’ to which they were cast to await sentencing to the Lake of Fire.

But we will be ‘equal to the angels’ says the Lord, in our immortal, sin-free bodies, and equal to the angels in understanding just HOW evil and repugnant this place really is, from the perspective of the spirit.

Why is it, then, that everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die?

Because if we knew what awaits us there, we’d all jump off a cliff tomorrow.

 

”Sufficient Unto The Day Is The Evil Thereof”

”Sufficient Unto The Day Is The Evil Thereof”
Vol: 137 Issue: 27 Wednesday, February 27, 2013

That message was appended in reply back to an Omega Letter from one of our members.  My first instinct was to reply with platitudes; a sort of Biblical version of the reggae song, ”Don’t Worry; Be Happy”.

“When you’re feeling sad and blue; / There’s one thing that you can do / Don’t worry; / Be Happy” 

It’s sound advice.  It’s even Scriptural:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. ” (Matthew 6:33-34)

All that is well and good and we understand it on the spiritual level.  But somehow, sometimes that doesn’t seem to be enough.  Sometimes, the weight of this old world and where it is going is crushingly heavy.

Sometimes you just want to throw your hands up in despair and cry out, “I’m losing faith in everything.  What’s the point?”

You mean it, but at the same time, not exactly.  You are still going to heaven and you know it.  Jesus is just as real.  You are just as saved.  But all the old landmarks you’re used to clinging to are swirling about.

It seemed so unbelievable.  The country is adrift.

It just all seems so pointless. . . . I’m losing faith in the common sense of the electorate, faith in my country, I feel betrayed by my friends, I know that I’m saved and all that . . . ok — what’s wrong with me?

As Christians, we live in a dual reality, with one foot in this existence and one in the next.  As I see it, one could divide it along the lines of the ‘theoretical’ kind of Christianity and the ‘living’ kind.

The theoretical kind of Christianity is the kind we would live — if we could.  It’s the kind we cry out to the Lord to bless us with.  It’s the kind of Christianity we show when we’re at church.

That is supposed to be the only kind of Christianity there is.  I call it ‘theoretical’ because it’s the one kind of Christianity there isn’t.

(If there was, then you wouldn’t know what I mean about crying out to God to be better.  Or don’t you have to?)

The kind of Christian one is when one is around the pastor and the Christian one is when nobody is looking is the difference between theoretical Christianity and the kind of Christian that we know ourselves to be.

I recall writing on this subject once and receiving an indignant reply from a pastor who called me a heretic for contending that sincere Christians are big fakers when it comes to their Christian lives.

(Evidently, that guy doesn’t need to cry out anymore for God’s help in maintaining his Christian witness.  He’s as good as he’s gonna get.  Or something.)

Or maybe I’m just the worst sinner on earth and think that if everybody else is as weak and pathetic spiritually as I am, then maybe I’ll feel better about myself.

But that can’t be.  The Apostle Paul said that HE was chief among sinners.  Maybe back then, but I could show ol’ Paul a thing or two. . . but then, there’s folks worse than me, I guess.  Or are there?  There’s worse guys than me, surely?

How come everybody seems better at this than me . . but I don’t know HOW I could be more sincere . .

You can drive yourself nuts with this kind of thinking.

But Scripture promises us that,

“God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. ” (2nd Timothy 1:7)

We live on this earth, but our hope is for the world to come.  We live on this earth, but we strive to be worthy of heaven.  We live on this earth, but we seek to earn heavenly rewards at the Bema Seat.

We’ve stepped out as Christians and we know where we’re headed for eternity, but right now, all our weight is still on the foot planted on this old earth.

The key phrases here are ‘we live on this earth’ and ‘right now’.

It is the dichotomy of our existence that we have to operate according to the rules of this world while living according to the rules of heaven.  We are here under orders to occupy until He comes.

It is a firmly understood principle of military doctrine that the enlisted members of an occupation force have an entrenched right to, well, to bitch about it.

(That strikes a note of crudeness.  I beg your forgiveness.  The word has a unique application when applied in the military sense.)

“I’m losing faith in everything.  What’s the point?”  But we know we’re saved.  We know the Lord’s coming back soon. 

The country’s in the toilet.  What’s the point?

Assessment:

The Bible says the ‘fear’ (awesome reverential respect) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Wisdom is instinctively among the most honored of character traits — we’d all like to be known for our wisdom more so than our endearing smile or sunny disposition.

(“Cheerful fellow.  Dumb as a bag of hammers, though“)

But wisdom is not the same as understanding.  Wisdom is the product of the accumulation of knowledge (about the Lord, if one fears God).  Wisdom comes first – fearing, and therefore trusting the Lord.

Follow along with me here and see the equation.  Wisdom + knowledge = understanding.  If you know how to drive, (wisdom) you know how to start and drive a car. (knowledge)

If you understand why a car’s engine works, (understanding) then when it doesn’t start, you have some idea of what needs fixing.

Understanding is the result of the application of wisdom plus knowledge.

Are you still with me?  We’re about to turn to the Lord (wisdom) in the pursuit of knowledge (prophecy) in order to seek some understanding of the massive ideological earthquake that just rocked the American political landscape.

The reason is to see that our faith is still securely where we left it and that there is a definite point to everything.  So let’s get to the point.. .

I’ve been sick for the better part of four months.  I didn’t know what was wrong, but I was fairly sure it was serious.  From the circumstances and the area affected I assumed it was Hepatitus C.  How serious I didn’t know, but I knew I couldn’t keep you hanging forever.  So I promised myself that as soon as I knew for certain, I would let you know.

This is hard — I don’t know if I’ve ever written anything that I thought was more difficult.  When the doctors all filed into my room to tell me they could not think of anything more difficult to tell a patient, I thought they were talking about hepatitus C.  They weren’t.

I wanted to wait until I had both a firm diagnosis and a firm prognosis.  Prognosis isn’t any more cheerful.  They were talking about inoperable liver cancer.

I am actually a lot more cheerful than I sound — the big tragedy is that I am having a terrible time focusing my thoughts at just about the time I need them most.

I fear that I will lose some of you — I understand why.  It is hard to deal with death — especially when it is looming right in front of you.  But I pray with all my heart that I won’t.  I need you.  I need your prayers.  My family needs our OL family.  You are my rock  — without you and our forums to lean on, I don’t know what I’ll do.

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

So, there it is. The unvarnished truth.  I don’t know how long I have left, but I am blessed by the knowledge that I know where I am going.

Takes all the sting out of it.

Losing The Faith . .

Losing The Faith . .
Vol: 137 Issue: 26 Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I received a most perplexing email recently from a correspondent who said he feared he was losing his faith.  My first response is to ask, ”where did you put it?”

I don’t mean to sound flippant.  It is a legitimate question.  Many claim Christ, but misplace their faith in a system, or a particular preacher, or even a particular translation of the Bible.

Full disclosure: I read, preach and teach from the King James Bible.  It is not because I believe the KJV version uniquely has special mystical powers, or because the other versions are so corrupted that one can’t discern the Gospel message.

I prefer it because of its majestic presentation, its brevity and simplicity, and because it is the Bible that I have always studied from.  I ‘think’ in King James, so when I hear a quote from another Bible version, I have to translate it into King James in order to put it into context.

My faith is NOT in a particular version of a Book, but in its Author.  I recall a time when I was a staunch KJV purist, arguing the case that God only wrote one Bible, and that the KJV was it.

My argument was predicated on the fact that the KJV remained substantially unchanged since 1611, and that it was translated from the most faithfully preserved translations of the original Scriptures.  I had faith in my argument, and in my understanding of the KJV.

Until it occurred to me that all it would take to shatter my faith would be evidence that one translator, somewhere along the line, got something wrong.

My faith, I realized, was not in the Bible’s Author, or even in the Bible itself, but in the ability of the scribes to produce perfect copies and the ability of the translators to produce a perfect translation.

I still believe the KJV to be the most accurate translation of Scripture available to English-speaking believers, but I will no longer debate it as an issue.  My faith isn’t in a translation, it is in the Message it contains.

The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years by forty different human authors, most of whom had not only never met, but in many cases, had never even heard of each other or the different works they produced.

But each flows together in a cohesive, harmonious narrative that takes humankind from the point of creation to the threshold of eternity.

The integrity of its historical and geographical record is supported by archeology.  The accuracy with which it has been copied and handed down to us has been confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran.

Originating neither in the East nor the West, but in the Middle East–the cradle of civilization–the Bible is a living Book that speaks to each generation of history as if it were written specifically to their time.  The Bible says of itself that its contents were ‘God-breathed’ and it’s accuracy has withstood all the tests that time could throw at it.

But my faith isn’t in the KJV, it is in the Scripture itself.  If my faith rested on the King James Version of the Bible, it would begin to crumble at the moment I pondered Russian, Italian, French, Swahili and Swedish translations of Scripture.

I recall, shortly after being saved, attending a fire-and-brimstone, King James only, ye must be born again, long skirts for ladies, short hair for men, door-knockin’, throw out your TV, old time Bible Baptist Church.

I thought the preacher was the most Spirit-filled, inspired and God-centered man I had ever met.  With him at my side, I would have charged Hell with a bucket of ice water.  Until he turned out to have feet of clay.

I’ll spare you the details, but those details threw me into a spiritual spiral that, had the Lord not reached down and pulled me out in time, would have seen my faith crash and burn like an Arab jet fighter in an Israeli dogfight.

I almost lost my faith because I didn’t remember where I had put it last.  I put my faith in a man of God, and not in the God of man.

For a time, I put my faith in my interpretation of the timing of the Rapture of the Church.  I would argue with anyone who was willing (and there was never a shortage of volunteers) about when the Rapture would occur and why it must occur before the Tribulation begins.

I am as certain today as I ever was that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation Period.  But some of those with whom I jousted were equally certain of their interpretative understanding.  Since we were both arguing based on our faith in our own ability to discern the Scriptures, our faith was misplaced.

If I were successful in my argument, my opponent’s faith would be shattered.  Some ‘victory.’

On each side of the debate, our faith was in when He comes, rather than Who is coming.  And when we crossed that invisible line between sharing our own understanding to demanding it be accepted as an article of faith, the debate becomes a pointless exercise in what is nothing less than breathtaking spiritual arrogance.

Nobody will ever be able to say ‘I told you so’ — and the timing of the Rapture plays no role in whether or not a believer will participate in it.  Both sides walk away from such a debate diminished.

The Scriptures tell us, “let God be true, but every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4)

There are as many interpretations of Scripture as there are different denominations within Christendom.

One can run the gamut from the replacement theology of classic Protestantism to Dispensationalism, from the high liturgy of Lutheranism to the relaxed atmosphere of a non-denominational Bible church, and find within them sincere, born-again believers who put their faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation.

It is faith in the completed Work of Jesus Christ at the Cross that saves us.  Not faith in our own interpretative abilities, the infallibility of our doctrine, faith in a particular English translation of the Bible, or faith in a particular preacher or teacher.

One loses one’s faith when one forgets where he put it.

The Chief Among Sinners

The Chief Among Sinners
Vol: 137 Issue: 25 Monday, February 25, 2013

Based on my own personal experience, I find that most Christians tend to fall into one of two categories.

In one category are those Christians who question whether or not somebody else is really saved.

“That guy smokes and drinks and never goes to church, but he claims to be a Christian.  I’m not buying it.  Where’s the fruit?”

(In this category one generally finds people that don’t smoke or drink.)

On the other is the Christian who believes everybody else can be saved — but him.

“I’m the worst sinner ever. How can I be saved?”

The Apostle Paul had a ready reply to those of both perspectives.

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1st Timothy 1:15)

Is this hyperbole?  Was Paul simply being self-effacing?  Was it Paul’s way of putting other sinners at ease?

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.  You think you’re bad? I’m the worst!”

I don’t think so.  Revisit Paul’s opening statement in context:

“This is a FAITHFUL saying, and worthy of ALL acceptation. . . ” In other words, “this is a trustworthy statement worth sharing.”

Having said that, Paul goes on to tell the most important truth ever revealed, that Christ came into the world to save sinners, then brackets that eternal truth with a lie about his (Paul’s) being chief among sinners?

There is a rule of logic that essentially says that if any part of a statement is false, then the statement itself cannot be true.

You see the problem?

If Paul’s statement about himself cannot be trusted, then how can his statement about Christ be any more credible?

For we know that the Apostle Paul was no Stalin.  He was no Hitler.  Paul certainly participated in the persecution of Christians before his conversion, but Paul wasn’t Nero.

“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1st Timothy 3:16)

Paul claims to be chief among sinners.  But what does the Bible say is chief among sins?

“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. ” (Matthew 12:31)

Paul says that “in me first” did Jesus show forth all ‘longsuffering.’  But Paul didn’t deny Jesus to His face, not once, but three times.

That was the Apostle Peter.  (What was his title, again?  Oh, yeah.  Chief among the Apostles.)

So here we have two sinners.  The Chief Apostle, who committed the ‘chief’ sin, (according to no less an authority than the Lord Himself) blaspheming the Holy Spirit by denying Jesus.

The other claims the title of ‘chief among sinners.’

Assessment:

The word ‘holy’ comes from a Greek word that means ‘separated’ — in this context, it means ‘separated’ from the world of sin.  In context, Peter and Paul were therefore two of the holiest men who ever lived.

They were Personally ‘separated’ from the world by Jesus Christ!  But neither went on to live a sinless life.   Peter fell back into some legalistic Judaic practices and had to be publicly upbraided by Paul. (see Galatians 2: 11-21)

Paul approached the Lord three times, requesting the Lord remove a “thorn in his flesh,” a “messenger of Satan sent to buffet me” — complaining that this infirmity hindered his ability to minister effectively.

Paul wasn’t lying when he said he was chief among sinners back then.  And I am not lying when I say that I am chief among sinners today.

I don’t know every sinner.  But I’m the worst sinner that I know.  Thus it is with each of us, if we are honest.  I may know of a Christian who commits more obvious sins than I do — but I cannot honestly name somebody who sins MORE than I do.

The only sins that I know others commit are the sins I actually see them commit.  I am with me all the time.

I am with me when I get cut off in traffic.  I am with me when I think bad thoughts.  I am with me when I do things I wouldn’t do if I was with my pastor.

I am with me when I am uncaring for strangers, unkind to loved ones, unreasonable, unthankful, unholy, disobedient . . . the list goes on.

So OF COURSE, I am my generation’s ‘chief among sinners’.  I don’t know ANYBODY who sins more than me.  (And if you are honest, I suspect you can probably say same the same thing about you.)

Peter was called out and separated by Jesus Christ to serve the Gospel.  But Jesus did not drop him like a hot rock after Peter said, “I don’t know Him.”

Jesus called out Paul on the road to Damascus and separated by Jesus Christ to serve the Gospel.  He told Paul to stop worrying about his problems with the messenger of Satan.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. . .” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)

I was called out and separated by Jesus Christ one winter night in 1975 to serve the Gospel.  That is what salvation is all about — being separated for the Great Commission.

But it isn’t YOU that does the separating.  It is Jesus Christ.  If it is you that is the one doing the separating, then how would you go about it?

The answer would seem to be obvious.  You avoid places where sin is going on.  You stay away from people that might lead you into sin.

You surround yourself with other like-minded Christians and you separate yourself from the world.  That’s what Paul said to do.  Didn’t he?

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2nd Corinthians 6:14-15)

But clearly, that seems contradictory.  When Jesus was criticized for mingling with sinners, He replied, “It isn’t the healthy that need a Physician.”

So what is Paul talking about?  Paul’s letter was addressed to the body of believers at Corinth who had fallen into all kinds of pagan practices.

He was speaking to the Corinthian church’s practice of mingling idol worship and depraved parties masquerading as the Lord’s Supper with some sins “such are are not even named among the Gentiles.”

Individual believers are, by virtue of their salvation, already called out and made separate (holy) and righteous (by imputation) but ‘not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.’ (Titus 3:5)

The New Covenant with the Church Age is not corporate agreement between God and a specific people, but rather is individual relationship between Jesus Christ and just ONE person — you.

That is why God does NOT punish believers.  And God does NOT visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

The children have their own accounts to settle.  Individually.

“My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)

There are two points to see here.  The first is the difference between chastisement (chastening) and punishment.

Chastisement is correction — parents correct their children by chastising them until they fall back into line.  The chastisement stops when the behavior is corrected.

Punishment is different.  It is retribution — punishment continues whether the offender changes his ways or not.  If you are serving a life sentence, changing your ways is nice, but it has no effect on the sentence.

I don’t know about you, but while I loved them all equally, all my children were different.  Although the rules were the same, it was necessary to set different boundaries with each one of them.

I had one way of dealing with the kid who tried a puff off a cigarette (and didn’t like it) than I did with the kid who had a pack of butts hidden in his bedroom.

Same rules, same offense.  But it was a greater threat to one of them than it was the other and so one of them needed a firmer form of correction than the other.

Is God not as good a parent as you or I?

The Lord doesn’t have one set of rules for one Christian and a different set of rules for another.  The rules are the same for us all.

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Don’t let the enemy steal your victory.  Nobody is perfect except God and He made you the way you are for His glory and according to His purpose.

His strength is made perfect in weakness, He told Paul. Paul didn’t argue with the Lord and demand that God change Paul into the kind of Christian that Paul thought he ought to be.

He didn’t get mad at God for his afflictions.  Instead, Paul responded,

“Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)

So, you think you are weak and ineffective at your calling and unworthy of your salvation?  You think you are too big a sinner to be used of God?

Then you’re perfect for the job.

Remembering the Former Things of Old

Remembering the Former Things of Old
Vol: 137 Issue: 23 Saturday, February 23, 2013

”Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

The Bible contains sixty-six different books, written by forty different men, most of whom lived and died in different centuries, in different countries, many of them unaware of other prophets or other prophecies.  The writers of the Bible were shepherds and kings, statesmen and beggars.

All the Bible’s writers were ‘non-profit prophets’ — being a prophet of God was not a sought-after job; most prophets lived miserably and died painfully.  Most, like Jeremiah, tried to talk God out of hiring them.

Yet with all of that, every book blends seamlessly into the rest, both the books that came before, and those that came AFTER.  Some books of the Bible quote other books not yet written at that time.  Others quote earlier prophets or sacred writing, but all are harmonious with one another.

The writing of the Scripture is nothing short of miraculous in and of itself.  Its preservation over the centuries is mind-boggling, if you let yourself think about it.  You and I have both experienced discussions with non-believers convinced they can prove the Bible is wrong.

They rail and babble and quote everybody EXCEPT the Scriptures, and in the end, come away as convinced as when they went in.  Or get mad and just go away.

Think how many times similar conversations take place around the world, every single day.

Then, take a look at the broader view: In every generation since its compilation, the Bible has been the subject of discussion between believers and non-believers.  In every generation, non-believers have made it their mission in life to disprove the Scriptures.

Any discrepancy has been analyzed and re-analyzed by both friend and foe, read and re-read, argued and re-argued, in a million conversations over thousands of years.

Whoever successfully proved the Bible wrong on any point; doctrine, history, archeology, law, medicine, science, or geography would have single-handedly destroyed the basic foundation of the Judeo-Christian ethic.

The Bible says of itself,

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Such a thinker and philosopher would be world-famous.  Think of it!  The man who proved God wrong!  In all those generations, among all those thinkers over all those centuries, that thinker has yet to claim his prize.

The Bible is wholly consistent with known science.  The book of Isaiah said the earth was round tens of centuries before Columbus.

“It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth. . .” (Isaiah 40:22)

Ecclesiates 1:6 reveals that the winds move in cyclonic patterns and Job tells us that light is in motion (Job 38:19-20) thousands of years before weather satellites and Einstein’s calculations proved both to be true.

Medically, the Bible tells us the chemical nature of human life (Genesis 2:7, 3:19) that the life of creatures are in the blood (Leviticus 17:11), the nature of infectious diseases (Leviticus 13:46) and the importance of sanitation to health (Numbers 19, Deuteronomy 23:12-14, Leviticus 7-9) many thousands of years before doctors were still practicing blood-letting as a treatment for disease.

The list goes on.  Every historical event described by the Bible has either been confirmed by other sources, or has yet to be confirmed.  Not a single historical event described by Scripture has ever conclusively been disproved.

Sometimes, it is necessary to go back and take another look at the Source and meditate on just what a miracle it is in order to get a clearer understanding of what it says.  It helps to reconfirm that everything it says is true.  Despite thousands of years of editorial criticism, the Bible stands essentially unchanged from when it was first given.

A complete copy of the Book of Isaiah was unearthed as part of the Dead Sea Scroll treasures and is today enshrined in the Dome of the Tablets in Jerusalem.  I have personally seen it and marveled at the fact its date could NOT be questioned.  It could NOT be younger than the day it was buried in AD 70.

But, apart from grammatical changes made necessary by changes in Hebrew grammar over the centuries, it reads exactly the same way as the Book of Isaiah in your own Bible.

It makes sense to assume the rest of the Scriptures are equally accurate, since there is no evidence to the contrary and all the available evidence supports Scripture.

Assessment:

Where are we going with all this?  The Bible’s accuracy is not limited to history, geography, science or medicine.  It is equally accurate in describing the events that have not yet taken place.

The prophecies of the Bible are, from God’s perspective, ALREADY history.

“. . .yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:11)

So not only does the God of the Bible know all things, but He has chosen to make known to us, through the Bible, what is still to come! In fact, even more than that, the God of the Bible CHALLENGES any so-called ‘gods’ to do the same.

“Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.” (Isaiah 41:21:23)

From God’s perspective, outside of space and time, everything is now, so to speak.  God’s historical pronouncements are given from the benefit of Divine Hindsight.  His prophetic pronouncements also enjoy the benefit of Divine Hindsight.

The Bible describes the future, but to God, it has already happened, if you can follow that line of reasoning for a minute.  Since to God, it already happened, the events that remain yet future will be fulfilled as specifically as those events that have already come to pass.

Are you still with me?

Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 1:16,

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”

The Bible is also an eyewitness to the power and coming of our Lord Jesus.

Paul writes;

“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.” (2 Timothy 2:12)

The mission of the Omega Letter is help to train an army of watchmen to declare what they see to a lost and dying world.  And to recruit new watchmen to fill in the gaps in the line.

Isaiah writes,

“For thus hath the LORD said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” (Isaiah 21:6)

Ezekiel warns,

“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” (Ezekiel 33:6)

The mission of the Church is to sound the alarm and to warn a lost and dying world that there IS hope, that Jesus is real, the Bible is true, salvation is attainable and time is running short.

“Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:1)

“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9)

And don’t forget to keep us in your prayers.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Maranatha! The King IS coming!

Leading Captivity Captive

Leading Captivity Captive
Vol: 137 Issue: 22 Friday, February 22, 2013

”And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

The Apostle’s Creed was first written by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, sometime towards the end of the 4th century.

Ambrose (“Aurelius Ambrosius” in Latin) was born into a Roman Christian family between about 337 and 340.  Ambrose was a strong opponent of Arius the Heretic who taught against the Trinity and argued that Jesus was a created being.

Ambrose’s “Apostles Creed” was published as a rebuttal of Arian theology. 

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. 

He descended into hell, and on the third day He arose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven were He sits at the right Hand of the Father, from where He will judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,  the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.  Amen

First off, let me make a couple of points.  The ‘holy, catholic church’ of the Apostle’s Creed is not the Vatican — it isn’t even Catholic denomination — in fact, ‘catholic’ means the exact opposite of denominationalism.

It means ‘universal’ — in the sense of invisible Body of Christ consisting of all believers.  It was later appropriated as the name of one denomination, but in so doing, the Vatican reversed its original meaning.

In the original sense of the word, we are ALL catholic by virtue of being Christians.  In the Vatican sense of the word, one is a Christian by virtue of being a Catholic.

There is a huge difference between the two, which is why one can be a Catholic but not a Christian, or a Christian but not a Catholic. 

(Hitler was a Catholic.  So was Mussolini.  It didn’t make them Christians.)

The second point I want to clear up is the real meaning of the ‘communion of saints’ — which has NOTHING to do with either the Catholic sacrament of communion or of ‘saints’ in the sense of those beatified by the Vatican.

The communion of saints originally meant the ‘coming together of believers’ as in Hebrews 10:25:

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

The Apostle’s Creed is not the doctrinal statement of the Roman Catholic Church — it is the doctrinal statement of the universal Body of Christ, later appropriated and rebranded by the Vatican.

Applying the original intent and meaning of ‘catholic’ and ‘communion of saints’ the Apostle’s Creed is a universal statement of Christian faith. 

But there is this one confusing part where “He descended into hell.”

The Hebrew word for hell is ‘sheol’, meaning the ‘place of the dead’ — but it is distinct and different from the Lake of Fire.  The Lake of Fire is the SECOND death, according to the Book of Revelation. 

Hippolytus of Rome (died 235) pictured the “lake of unquenchable fire” as the eternal destiny of the unrighteous, who, while awaiting execution of the judgement upon them, are tortured in the abode of the dead (Hades) by the vision of their doom.”

Jesus Christ told the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  Of extreme significance is the way He began the story.  He didn’t say, “learn the parable of the rich man” but instead opens with the definitive statement,

“There WAS a certain rich man. . . ” (Luke 16:19)

There was also a certain beggar named Lazarus, Jesus said.  The two both died, but Jesus said that Lazarus was carried by the angels into Abraham’s Boson, but of the rich man simply that he “also died, and was buried.”

“And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” 

The rich man complains of the torturous flame and burning thirst.  Abraham explains:

“Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” (Luke 16:25)

Assessment:

When Jesus was on the Cross, He said to the repentant thief, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” 

But the Apostle’s Creed says, “He descended into hell and on the third day, He arose”.  That day, according to the Apostle’s Creed, He descended into hell.  The “third day” is not “today” as Jesus promised the thief.  

Is this a conflict with Scripture?

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

(Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.)”  (Ephesians 4:7-10)

What does “He led captivity captive” mean? 

In Paul’s world, when Rome conquered some new territory, the conqueror would be placed in an elevated chariot and given a parade upon his return to Rome.

The conquered kings and generals were bound behind the conqueror’s chariot and led through the streets, demonstrating to the rebellious that those who fought against him now submit to him.

Jesus descended into hell where He demonstrated His complete victory over the devil in a triumphant parade throughout Paradise and before all those rebels that will one day bow their knee and confess Jesus is Lord. 

Having held His victory parade before both the liberated and the conquered, on the third day, Jesus arose from the dead and was seen by Mary outside the Tomb.

“Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.”

Mary recognized Him and rushed to embrace Him. 

“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.” (John 20:16-17)

Jesus had been resurrected, but had not yet stood before the Father to present full payment for the sins of mankind, including those of the righteous dead in Paradise.  

In essence, Jesus stopped by to pick up His Resurrection body before He ascended into Heaven to present Himself before the Father to complete His redemptive mission. 

Mary could not defile Him by touching Him until after His mission was completed, which is why He sent the message that He did to His Apostles.  (“I”ll be along shortly, but I still have something to finish up.”)

Jesus DID descend into hell where He spent three days.  (That must have been quite a party.  No wonder the enemy is so furious.)  

When Jesus led captivity captive and bound behind His chariot, the enemy knew that Jesus wasn’t just cleaning out one side of hell to make room. 

He knew it meant that he had lost and that one day he will be cast into the lake of fire, no longer anymore important to the grand scheme of things than the rich man was when he first arrived.

“Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.  They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?” (Isaiah 14:15-18)

Jesus didn’t simply defeat the enemy — He made a fool of him first.

“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. “(1st Corinthians 2:8)

Like I said, it must have been quite a party.

Crazy For Phobias

Crazy For Phobias
Vol: 137 Issue: 21 Thursday, February 21, 2013

According to ‘The American Heritage Dictionary’, if you have ”a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it,” then you have a phobia.

There are some 593 identified phobias, according to one source that publishes what it claims to be ‘the definitive list’.  Here are a few examples of recognized phobias;

Agateophobia- Fear of insanity; Alliumphobia- Fear of garlic; Aphenphosmphobia- Fear of being touched ; Chronophobia- Fear of time; Decidophobia- Fear of making decisions; (and my personal favorite); Gerascophobia- Fear of growing old.

Phobias are a mental disorder, defined as being both abnormal and irrational.  To sufferers of a phobia, it can be debilitating.  But to those unaffected by that particular fear, they can be a lot of fun to watch.

Consider sufferers of hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, or, the fear of long words. (Tell me the guy who coined THAT one isn’t still laughing)

Among this comprehensive (and sometimes funny) list of phobias was one we hear often; ‘homophobia.’  There really IS a recognized ‘homophobia.’  It is the ‘fear of sameness, monotony’.

The charge of ‘homophobia’ thrown about by gay rights activists to stifle critics (and in ‘advanced’ cultures like Canada’s, have them arrested) means the ‘fear of sameness or monotony’.

I doubt that any of those labeled ‘homophobic’s by the gay rights crowd ‘fear’ that gay marriage will result in more monotonous sameness.  But phobia MEANS fear.  Calling someone a ‘homophobic’ elicits some ingrained playground response to being called ‘chicken’.

(“Oh, yeah?  Well, er, ummm, some of my best friends are homosexual!”)

Basically, that is what the entire ‘political correctness’ trend is based in.  Playground responses to subliminal playground tactics.

I would venture to guess that the most ardent advocates of the PC movement were playground bullies now seeking absolution for their juvenile ‘crimes’.

But human nature being what it is, they simply switched tactics, becoming verbal bullies whose ‘absolution’ requires to force everyone to repent with them.

‘Islamophobia’ is another example of how the politically correct call each other ‘chicken’.  In the comprehensive list of phobias, Islamophobia is nowhere to be found.

Even guys who can come up with hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia to describe a fear of long words can’t find a way to view the fear of Islam as either ‘irrational’ or ‘abnormal’.

Assessment:

‘Islamophobia’ is what is called a ‘neologism’ or a word invented or reinvented to reflect a shift in a cultural worldview.  The United Nations has held conferences dedicated to the discussion of ‘Islamophobia’, which Secretary General Kofi Annan called it a form of ‘bigotry’.

But because ‘Islamophobia’ is neologism, or a word that means whatever its user wants it to mean, it has no defined boundaries.

What, therefore, constitutes a case of ‘Islamophobia’?  Is it the fear of Islamic inspired terrorists?  Or of the stated Koranic aim of spreading Islam to the Dar al Harb [Zone of War] until the return of the Mahdi?

The definition of ‘phobia’ excludes these fears from consideration, since they are neither irrational or abnormal.

Is Islamophobia a form of bigotry?  A ‘bigot’ is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles or identities differing from his or her own.

‘Bigot’ is a pejorative term against a person who is obstinately devoted to his or her prejudices even when these views are challenged or proven to be false.

If fear of being forced to convert or submit to Islam, against the backdrop of a global war on Islamic-inspired terror and the images of the Twin Towers extinguishing three thousand innocent Americans can be twisted to mean ‘intolerant’ it STILL doesn’t mean ‘irrational’ or ‘abnormal’.

Insofar as those views being challenged or proved false, any rational, normal person can go into a bookstore, buy a copy of the Koran, and look it up for himself.

(Of course, doing so, by definition, will make you both ‘irrational’ and ‘abnormal’ – so caution is advised.  There is a saying, “Ignorance is bliss.”)

We’ve discussed the use of words as weapons in previous Omega Letters.

In a war of words (propaganda war) politically correctness is the equivalent to taking off one’s Kevlar vest before wading into a gunfight.

“The tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.” (Psalms 52:2)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21)

“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. . . But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:5-6,8)

I am neither homophobic nor Islamophobic.  I am, however, developing a phobia of my own, phobophobia.

It means, ‘fear of phobias’ — but alas, as applied in this case, it is a really just a neologism — since being afraid of some phobias is neither irrational nor abnormal.

We hope that you enjoyed this informative and humorous Omega Letter from 2006.