Resolutions. . .

Resolutions. . .
Vol: 147 Issue: 31 Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment:

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

Paul addresses this issue, writing;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2014, we resolve to live each day as if the trumpet will sound before morning.

Because in 2014, it just might.

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

Happy New Year, brothers and sisters! May 2014 be THE year.

Note: Jack’s Letter today brings us a bittersweet smile as we bring in the New Year. Wendy Wippel’s column “Redemption, Interrupted.” shows us that each dot and tittle matters in God’s Word.

The Watchmen on the Wall

The Watchmen on the Wall
Vol: 147 Issue: 30 Monday, December 30, 2013

There are three pillars upon which the Bible says the antichrist will build his global government. Revelation Chapter 13 describes his absolute control over a global government, a global religious system and a global economy.

To accomplish that, a number of things must already be in place. After all, he only has seven years. While there is a global government system, there is no genuine centralized global government.

The United Nations has proven itself under pressure to be a paper tiger. The idea is sound, the resources are there, as is the infrastructure, but there’s no leadership. While it has the authority and the power necessary, the debate over whether to use force to back up its own resolutions continues to rage on.

The global religion is continuing to develop. It is unclear what its final form will be, other than to say with confidence it won’t welcome fundamentalism of any stripe. The Bible says it will have two horns like a Lamb (symbolic of Christianity) but will speak like a dragon (Satan). – (Rev 13:11)

Something similar to the Bush administration’s view that Islam, Judaism and Christianity are merely three ways to come to the same God is a good start.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” – (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25)

All that remains is to get rid of all that ‘fundamentalist extremism’ within each system that claims exclusivity.

It’s no coincidence that all three systems in their current form are beginning to convulse and shudder.

Of course, it would take something of a major revolution to convert the current national systems over to a centralized global authority.

Politically, the global government as it exists in its current form is clearly inadequate to the tasks at hand. The UN has proved itself utterly ineffective in preventing rogue states from attaining weapons of mass destruction and the systems to deliver them.

The great religious systems of this generation are undergoing a similar upheaval. First, of course, is Islam. It is being used as a tool to paint all fundamental religious worldviews as religious fanaticism, preparing the stage for the all-inclusive religious system that appears as gentle as a Lamb but speaks with the voice of the Dragon.

The crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, especially given the Vatican’s inordinately legalistic and not at all Christ-like position that perversion and pedophilia pose no barrier to ministry, is sparking a revolution inside the world’s largest organized Christian denomination.

Fundamentalist Christianity continues to be marginalized. Christian fundamentalists, if you follow the news, beat their children to within an inch of their lives, blow up abortion clinics, murder abortionists and are just generally not very nice people.

Christians are the preferred targets of terrorist groups world-wide, but targeting Christians based on their religion isn’t seen as persecution so much as it is seen as an expression of legitimate grievances against Western culture. That’s just how it is.

The third pillar of the antichrist’s government is his absolute control of the global economy. According to Revelation 13:16-17, his control is so complete that no man will be able to ‘buy or sell’ unless they are part of his tripartite religious/political/economic system.

Assessment:

Like the political and religious systems, the global economic system is ripe for revolution. Most successful revolutions come about as part of the collapse of the old order of things.

The New World Order of the UN turned out to be the same Old World Order with the added irritant of a united Islamic voting bloc derailing any global legislation unfavorable to its goals.

While hundreds of resolutions have been passed against Israel, none have been passed against Arab countries (except Iraq) or the Palestinian Authority. If an anti-Arab resolution is offered, there are enough Arab votes to kill it in committee.

Similarly, there are enough Arab votes to bring any anti-Israeli resolution to a formal vote, and unless it is vetoed by Washington, to pass it successfully.

It’s a good system — for the Arabs. It needs reforming and is in danger of collapse.

The global economic engine is driven by the United States. Europe argues the world economy is too dependent on the US. In the event of a collapse of the US economy, the ripple effect would create a global depression.

Arguing for a strong global economic central banking scheme simply makes good economic sense.

And Europe, the birthplace of central banking and with its multinational infrastructure already in place, is the perfect candidate.

So that’s where we stand at the moment.

A global government on the brink of collapse at the outbreak of what could easily become World War III.

A war with Islam, a crisis within Roman Catholicism, and a decline in the moral authority of Christianity at a time of unparalled global upheaval.

A global economy, poised on the brink of collapse, being supported by credit spending and America’s continuing ability to pay off its credit card debt.

Yet with all this catastrophe looming on the horizon, these systems are only bent — they aren’t broken.

Strong leadership at the global level could put an end to the Islamic dominance at the UN. Strong leadership at the UN could put an end to threats like those posed by Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

The elimination of cash and its replacement with verifiable, traceable electronic transactions would go a long way toward ending the black market in arms and material with terror groups like al-Qaeda and would grind the international drug trade to a halt.

The technology is there, but the political will is not. A global economic collapse coupled with the ongoing wars against terror and the drug cartel will provide all the political will necessary. What is missing is a leader who can exploit it.

There is already a growing recognition of the dangers posed to global security by religious fundamentalism, but people need religion. A global religion under a strong single religious authority sounded like science fiction a few years ago. It doesn’t sound so outlandish to many around the world today.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” – remember?

What are the odds? John’s Book of the Revelation was written and sealed sometime around 87 AD.

In a single chapter, John outlined conditions precisely as they would exist 20 centuries in the future — and on a global basis — from a cave on the Greek island of Patmos.

The Bible shows them coming together simultaneously, a global government, a global economy and a global religion, in the same generation as a revived Roman Empire and an existing Jewish state called ‘Israel’ during a period of unprecedented global upheaval.

Again, I ask you. What are the odds?

In all the generations of all the governments of all the world for two thousand years, nothing even approaching this scenario has ever presented itself.

There hasn’t been a united Europe since the days of the Roman Empire. Until this generation.

There hasn’t been a Jewish state called Israel since 702 BC when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered and destroyed by Sargon II. Until this generation.

A truly global government has never existed until this generation. A truly global economy was never possible before this generation.

Centralized control of both was not technically possible until after the 1948 invention of the transistor chip that gave birth to the Computer Age.

Yet the Bible outlined all this — in detail — many centuries before Gutenberg invented the printing press that made it all eventually possible.

The world looks like it is about to have a nervous breakdown, but for the Christian, it is an affirmation of our faith.

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:,” Peter tells us (2 Peter 1:19).

Prophecy wasn’t given the Church just so we could dazzle our friends with scary predictions and things that make you go ‘hmmm.’

It was given us as a “light that shineth in a dark place” to illuminate the gloom and doom and reveal to us what is hidden to the world.

Bible prophecy for the last days has a starting point and an ending point. It begins with the generation that will see ‘all these things begin to come to pass’ (Luke 21:28), and ends with the close of the seven year Tribulation Period and the 2nd Coming of Christ.

We have seen the beginning — and the exquisite attention paid to detail thus far. It tells us that the Plan is in action, and that it will continue to unfold precisely as prophesied.

It tells us God remains on the Throne, His Promises remain valid and our redemption draweth nigh. It gives us hope in a dying, sin sick world.

When we hear the question, “What is the world coming to?” we know the answer is found in Who it is that is coming to the world.

And it gives us the courage we need in the face of all this, to stand as watchmen on the wall until He gets here.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15)

Note: This Letter gives us a detailed outline of what the Bible predicts the world will look like in the last days.  Pete Garcia’s “The ‘Church of Christ’ in the Last Days” points out even the smaller denominations that refuse to believe what the Bible says today, will easily fall for the lies in the future.

Christian Supersessionism

Christian Supersessionism
Vol: 147 Issue: 28 Saturday, December 28, 2013

Replacement theology, also called supersessionism or fulfilled theology, is an interpretation of Bible doctrine that says in essence, that God can both change and that God can lie.

The proponents of this worldview don’t specifically say that, but it is the only way that it can work.  There are a lot of branches on the replacement theology tree, but they shoot off from two main trunks.

  • Israel’s role as the people of God was completed when the Messiah came 2,000 years ago.  A transition took place at this point and the Church became the people of God.   This is called economic supersessionism.
  • Israel forfeited its place as God’s Chosen people as a Divine punishment for the rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah. This view is called punitive supersessionism.

In both cases, all the promises made by God to the Jews have been passed to the Church.   The ethnic Jews of modern Israel have no more of a spiritual connection to the Land of Israel than the Irish do.

Replacement theologians claim all of the Divine promises made to Israel were passed on to the Church.  However, I’ve never heard one teach that the Church also inherited the curses and judgments God pronounced on Israel for her apostasy.

Last week we addressed the question, “Are you a Calvinist?”  If you are a Calvinist, then you are also a proponent of replacement theology.  Calvin’s Reformed, or Covenant theology is closely associated with amillennialism, a spiritualized method (rather than literal-historical) of interpreting prophecy.

There are so many problems with replacement theology that one hardly knows where to start.  The concept is so foreign to the writings of the Apostle Paul that some scholars actually attempt to separate Paul as unreliable.  

Replacement theology is the root and branch of Christian anti-Semitism.   I found a blog posting proclaiming it was “Refuting the Replacement Theology Argument of the Christian Zionist” in which he explains the discrepancies away by quoting the “Jewish Apostle Paul.”  (All the Apostles were Jewish!)

Reading through it, I can’t tell if it was written by a Christian or by a member of Hamas.   In the end, both worldviews argue that God favors the destruction of Israel.

“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”  (John 16:2)  

Replacement theologians claim this verse really prophesied the persecution of the early Church.

Ironically, Jesus is prophesying the persecution of the Jews by Christians blinded by replacement theology. Christians don’t go to synagogues.  Jesus was addressing His disciples – all of them Jews.

In these last days, the Church is divided into three major theological groupings, Catholic, Protestant and heretic.  Heretics were invented by C.I. Scofield, Margaret Macdonald and J.N. Darby.  I’m not exactly sure how, but I think it had something to do with actually reading a Bible.

Heretics believe in something called Dispensationalism which espouses a doctrine of progressive revelation.   Dispensationalism is a system of theology that sees God working with man in different ways in different dispensations.  Three key examples would be Conscience, Law and Grace. 

I can’t find any Biblical support for God breaking His promises to the Jews, but I can find plenty of support for Dispensational truth.

“For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.” (1st Corinthians 9:17)

“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him:” (Ephesians 1:10)

“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:” (Ephesians 3:2)

“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God” (Colossians 1:25)

If we’re using the Bible as a guide, the true heresy is therefore replacement theology.  

“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”(Romans 11:29)

Assessment:

A Vatican synod on the Middle East in 2010 ended with the Catholic bishops calling for an end to the Israeli “occupation.” 

While the bishops condemned terrorism and anti- Semitism, they laid much of the blame for the conflict on Israel. They listed the “occupation” of Palestinian lands, the West Bank security barrier, its military checkpoints, “political prisoners,” demolition of homes and disturbance of Palestinians’ lives as factors that have made life increasingly difficult for Palestinians.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon responded: “We express our disappointment that this important synod has become a forum for political attacks on Israel in the best tradition of Arab propaganda.

In the very best traditions of replacement theology, the bishops demanded that Israel accept UN resolutions calling for an “end to its occupation of Arab lands” while fully aware that what they were really calling for was Israel’s national suicide. 

The bishops warned Israel against using the Bible to justify “injustices” against the Palestinians.  The Pope took up their theme in his Sunday homily;

“Peace is possible. Peace is urgent. Peace is an indispensable condition for a life worthy of the human person and of society. Peace is also the best remedy to avoid [Christian] immigration from the Middle East.”

The theme of the synod was that Christians are fleeing the Middle East in droves. Bethlehem’s Christian population has dwindled from 85% down to single digits in the last twenty years.   The Vatican found a way to blame that on Israel.

Except that Israel’s Christian population has increased.  The exodus of Christians in the Middle East is from areas under Muslim rule.

Christian persecution of the Jews is legendary. By Catholics.  By mainstream Protestants.  (They don’t get a pass on this one.)

The list of Protestant churches that have divested from Israel or otherwise worked against her existence includes practically every single mainstream Protestant denomination from Lutherans to Presbyterians and beyond. 

These are the fruits of replacement theology.  Anti-Semitism. Spiritual warfare against the Jews.  At the risk of repeating myself:

“They shall put you out of the synagogues yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”

In contrast, Dispensationalist Christians are derided by their critics as “Christian Zionists” because they believe that Israel’s restoration in 1948 was a direct fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Since God miraculously restored the Jews, opposing Israel’s existence is opposing the Plan of God.

The Bible says, “by their fruits ye shall know them.”

The next time somebody accuses you of being a Calvinist, remember that the fact that they had to ask means they don’t know what in the world they are talking about.

That way, you’ll know not to use big words in your reply.

Originally published: October 25, 2010

”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani”

”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani”
Vol: 147 Issue: 27 Friday, December 27, 2013

In its most common definition, an ‘evangelist’ is a ‘tent preacher’ — a person who travels from place to place, holding tent meetings and giving the Gospel to the lost.

The most celebrated evangelist of our time, hands down, would be Billy Graham. However, there’s no tent big enough for Billy Graham, whose evangelistic crusades tend to pack baseball and football stadiums, rather than tents.

The word “evangelist” is a Greek compound word; ‘eu’ meaning ‘good’ and ‘angelos’ meaning ‘messenger’, or “one who is sent to announce, teach or perform [anything].” It is the word “angelos” from which we derive our word ‘angel’.

The idea conveyed by the Greek compound word is that of proclaiming a good message, or good news. In the KJV, the verb evangelizo is translated “preach,” “preach the gospel,” “bring good tidings,” “show the glad tidings,” “addressed with the gospel,” and “declared.”

Another Greek word pertinent to this topic is kerusso, which is variously translated by the KJV translators in the NT as ‘preach’, ‘preaching’, ‘published’ and ‘proclaimed’.

There are a number of different senses in which we understand the term ‘evangelist’.

Al Gore is often called an ‘evangelist of global warming,’ but applying that term to Gore is only half right.

Gore introduces himself by saying, “I’m Al Gore and I used to be the next president of the United States.” [That’s the good news].

But his topic is all bad news; “Global warming threatens to end human existence”.

It is also necessary, if one is to be considered an ‘evangelist’, that the news must be true.

So calling Al Gore an ‘evangelist of global warming’ is more tongue-in-cheek than accurate.

Assessment:

According to Scripture, an evangelist is one of a handful of Divinely-ordained church offices:

“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. . .”

The Apostle Paul also gives the job description and goal of an evangelist:

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Paul charged Timothy with the job of ‘doing the work of an evangelist’ which included, “enduring afflictions” and being a watchman on the wall.

“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (2nd Timothy 4:5)

D.T. Niles, who dedicated his life to doing the work of an evangelist in Sri Lanka, provided this beautiful word picture of what the work of a Christian evangelist REALLY is.

In an interview in, of all places, the New York Times back in 1986; he defined it as, “one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”

An evangelist, then, is one who is a messenger of good news, and there is no better news than that Jesus Christ paid the full penalty for all sins for all mankind at the Cross.

My calling is that of an evangelist, but my mission is not so much to the lost as it is to the saved. My mission is aimed at the “perfecting (training) of the saints for the work of the ministry.”

In that sense, my mission is to train you for that work in your own, day-to-day evangelistic ministry.

I am just one man. I can only be at one place at one time, and can only reach out to a handful of people at any given moment. You, on the other hand, are everywhere at once.

You are in Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Johannesburg, South Africa, Melbourne, Australia, Auckland, New Zealand, Vancouver, Canada, and Lagos, Nigeria. Your reach far exceeds my grasp.

It is you, in your capacity AS you, that hears that seminal question being asked by every one who sees man’s inhumanity to man: “What is this world coming to?”

My job is to ensure you are “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1st Peter 3:15)

Each human being owes his own sin debt, and because of that debt, he cannot pay the sin debt for another. God’s plan for the redemption of mankind is therefore perfect and completely logical.

The Lord Himself stepped out of eternity into space and time, took on the form of sinful man, lived the life God requires of each of us, and, having no sin debt of His own, was qualified to pay the sin debt for all mankind.

His death was excruciating, long and painful. Crucifixion was reserved by the Romans for only the most heinous crimes, and was considered so shameful that it could not be imposed on a Roman citizen.

It was a snapshot of how God views sin.

Through His manner of execution, Jesus was temporarily stripped of His heavenly citizenship, literally separated from God, becoming the embodiment of sin on our behalf.

From the Cross, Jesus looked up and cried out,

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34)

Of course, as God-man in the flesh, Jesus knew why, but by His Words, He conveyed to us the full measure of His sacrifice on our behalf. We are all separated from God by our sin.

To pay our sin debt, Jesus was also, for the first and last time in eternity past, present and future, separated from the Godhead as a sacrifice for our sin.

On the Cross, He was literally forsaken by the Father.

For the space of three hours, He was sin incarnate, alone and comfortless, as your sin and mine was heaped upon Him.

Matthew says that during those three hours, there was “darkness over all the land” as the sins of the world were charged to His account.

Allow yourself to think about that for a second. See if you can get your head around the concept. Try to imagine the scene.

Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, in His moment of supreme agony, looked to the Father, only to see that GOD HAD TURNED HIS BACK ON HIM!

For three agonizing hours, Jesus hung, alone and forsaken, temporarily stripped of His Heavenly citizenship as an offering for sin in which God Incarnate became sin incarnate.

Jesus suffered the agonies of sin on our behalf, before declaring, “It is finished.” John says at that moment, “He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.” (John 19:29)

The word group translated, “It is finished” was “Tetelestai.” Like all words, it had both a specific meaning and a conventional application. It meant, ‘paid in full.’

It was the word that was written on a slave’s manumission papers. When a slave was freed by his master, he carried a document bearing the phrase ‘telestai’ which indicated his indentured status was forever remitted, and he was henceforth and forever a free man.

When a debtor finally paid off his debt, he received back his original loan agreement with the word ‘tetelestai’ printed at the bottom, meaning ‘paid in full.’ It was a quit claim that signified a lender no longer had a lien on the property put up as collateral.

Jesus didn’t pay your debt for sin up to the moment of salvation. He paid your sin debt in its entirety.

“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE for ALL. 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 . . . For by One offering He hath perfected FOREVER them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10-12,14)

THAT is the “eu angelos” — the message of good news that each of us carries. That is the good news that was given for the ‘perfection of the saints for the work of the ministry.’

Each of us is an ‘evangelist’ in his or her own right. Each of us is REQUIRED to carry that message to the lost. Each of us is REQUIRED to be ‘ready to give the reason for the hope that is in you.

Some of us are called to teach it, others are called to share it.

According to Scripture, there are a finite number of believers who will accept the Gospel. (Romans 8:29)

It isn’t that God has condemned others to a Christ-less eternity.

It is simply that God, in His foreknowledge, already knows who will accept salvation and who will reject it. But everybody must have a chance.

To reject it, one must hear it. That is God’s plan. The work of the ministry can be boiled down into a single phrase; “Each one, tell one.”

“And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and THEN shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14)

“Tetelestai!”

Christmas Pie

Christmas Pie
Vol: 147 Issue: 26 Thursday, December 26, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or he’d have to find himself another girl.

At our house, Christmas is a two-day affair.  Christmas Day is for Gayle and her mother and I.  We read the Christmas Story from Luke, remember the Greatest Christmas Gift of all — eternity — and have a traditional American Christmas.

Then, we spend the rest of the day preparing for today’s Main Event.

Mike and Kari and Hannah and Mikie and Sarah; Johnny; Ricky and Nikki (we call them the “Ickeys”) and Jacob and Bradley and Carlie; Mike and Kerilyn and Tristan and Natasha; Charlyn and Taya;  sometimes Jessica and Bailey and Lori– all together and at home with us — for one glorious day.

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

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

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

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

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

Note: Most of you will recognize today’s OL as Jack’s favorite retread — he ran it nearly every year.  We hope nobody minds. We pray your Christmas is filled with family, friends and joy. Remember those in our OL family who are enduring trials this season in prayer.  J.L. Robb gives us more brethern to remember in prayer today in his column, “Merry Christmas Greetings from Iraq“. Thank you all for being such a blessing.

My First Christmas in Heaven

My First Christmas in Heaven
Vol: 147 Issue: 25 Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Today’s Letter is a little different.  We were stumped this year as to what message we should send out and then the answer arrived in Gayle’s inbox in the form of a poem that was new to all of the staff of Omega Letter. We pray for a peace filled, merry and happy Christmas for us all.

I see countless Christmas trees
Around the world below
With tiny lights, like Heaven’s stars
Reflecting in the snow.

The sight is so spectacular,
Please wipe away the tear.
For I am spending Christmas
With Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs
That people hold so dear,
But the sounds of music can’t compare
With the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you,
The joy their voices bring.
For it is beyond description
To hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me,
I see the pain inside your heart;
But I am not so far away,
We really aren’t apart.

So be happy for me, dear ones,
You know I hold you dear
And be glad I’m spending Christmas
With Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift,
From my heavenly home above,
I sent you each a memory
Of my undying love.

After all, love is a precious gift
More precious than pure gold;
It was always most important
In the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other,
As my Father said to do.
For I can’t count the blessings
Or love he has for each of you.

So have a Merry Christmas
And wipe away the tear
Remember I’m spending Christmas
With Jesus Christ this year.

~author debatable

Folly la, la, la, la, la la la . . .

Folly la, la, la, la, la la la . . .
Vol: 147 Issue: 24 Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I discovered early on that I didn’t have the capacity for compromise necessary to become a politician.  I tend to read things in black and white and I generally  read ‘shades of gray’ as ‘degrees of compromise’.

“Compromise” is almost always seen by Christians as a bad thing, but in reality, ‘compromise’ is exactly what it describes — sometimes its bad, sometimes its good.

When compromise fits the dictionary definition of “an adjustment of opposing principles, systems, etc. by modifying some aspects of each; or, the result of such an adjustment” then compromise is folly.

One’s principles are, according to the same dictionary, “a fundamental, primary or general law or truth.”  One cannot adjust one’s fundamental principles and manage to still have them.

Once one puts one’s principles on a sliding scale, the principle of gravity says things only slide in one direction.

Something is either fundamentally true, or it is fundamentally untrue.   You can’t have it both ways without compromising reality.   What is left is at best a facsimile of reality.

The other definition of compromise is ‘the midway point between two extremes’.   In that sense, compromise is often necessary and sometimes to be desired.

I hold to the uncompromising principle that the Bible is literally true.  That requires me to accept on faith Adam and Eve, Noah and an ark full of animals, Jonah being swallowed by a whale and emerging alive three days later, etc.

I don’t understand how they happened, but that doesn’t shake my faith in their being literally true. 

I know that they are true because the same Bible that said they were true also prophesied the literal world events unfolding before this generation.

If I can trust my God to accurately and literally foretell the future, then I can certainly trust Him to accurately and literally relate the past. For me, that is a no-brainer.

Still, Noah’s Ark, Adam and Eve and Jonah and the whale are not necessarily the Scriptures I’d choose to defend against an equally saved believer’s argument for a symbolic interpretation.

The midway point between the two extremes is to accept that defending the literal truth of Jonah and the whale is both pointless and unnecessary and to follow Solomon’s advice.

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him” (Proverbs 26:4)

Assessment:

Sometimes, the best compromise position is to agree to disagree agreeably.   Not a compromise of principles so much as it is a recognition of reality. Someone else needn’t share my principles in order for my principles to be valid.

There is nothing that can bring one’s spirit down from its Christmas high like arguing over minor points of history or debating whether or not Jesus was born on December 25 or whether or not Christmas is a Christian holiday or whether Christians should have a tree.

You can’t win the argument.   You can’t make Christmas a ‘Christian’ holiday — it is at best a holiday first celebrated by pagan cultures and later adopted by Christians.

In ancient Roman culture, it was the Feast of Saturnalia.  In ancient  Babylonian culture, it was the Feast of Tammuz.  In ancient Iranian culture December 25th was the birthday of Mithras.  In ancient Hindu culture, the winter solstic marked the feat of Sankranti.

None of this in any way makes Jesus any less the Reason for the Season — for me. I am a Christian, which makes it a Christian holiday — to me.

But I also recognize the obvious truth that one need not be a Christian to celebrate Christmas.   Lots of unbelievers love Christmas.  It is also possible to celebrate Christmas without ever once reflecting on the birth of Jesus.

(Just turn on your TV this Christmas and see how many programs celebrating Christmas that you can find that manage to avoid making any mention of ‘Christ.’)

I love our Christmas traditions.   It doesn’t matter to me whether it is actually Jesus’ birthday — it is a day that calls to my mind the fact that “God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son.”

It is a day that provides opportunities to witness to the importance of that fact to others like no other day on the Western calendar.

But it is still the day that kids (both young and old) wait for with eager anticipation for all the joy and merriment and family and presents and decorations and pastries and turkey and all the trimmings — and all the other stuff about Christmas that has NOTHING to do with the birth of our Lord.

Among believers, there are those who mark Christmas as a day of solemn worship and those who believe Christmas is an entirely pagan tradition and want nothing to do with it.   I find no compromise in taking the midway point between the two extremes.

Enjoy all that the season has to offer.  Reflect on the Greatest Christmas Gift of all — and do your best to reflect the love it represents.

I pray each of you are blessed by family and friends and fun and freedom and peace.

Have a very Merry Christmas. 

Note: Jack’s message today reminds us that during this time of year we need to heed Matthew 5:16 with those we will be celebrating with.  But as Wendy Wippel’s column, “Oh Holy Night” points out we should not be deceived by the progressive, emergent “thinkers” who’s intention is to strip John 3:16 of the saving power of the prophesied event that literally changed the world.