America’s Conundrum

America’s Conundrum
Vol: 149 Issue: 28 Friday, February 28, 2014

There is sometimes a surprisingly fine line that manifests itself between what is true and what is propaganda or political correctness.

Take, for example, the question of Islam and terrorism. To some, because the Koran preaches conversion or death, that defines all Muslims as either terrorists or potential terrorists.

As I noted earlier, it is a fine line. It is a truth that Islam preaches conversion at the point of the sword. Most Islamic states include the sword in their national symbols. There are more than a thousand ways to say ‘sword’ in the Arabic languages.

But that is not the same as saying that ALL Muslims are terrorists. Not all Jews are pro-Israeli, either. In fact, the Kedash party in Israel is sending its Knesset representatives to the World Court to protest AGAINST Israel’s fence. There are Jewish religious and political parties in Israel who oppose Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.

To say that not all Muslims are the enemy SOUNDS naive, or worse, an attempt to be politically correct. But not all Muslims interpret the Koran the same way.

It isn’t that surprising; not all Christians interpret the Bible the same way.

There are Christians who oppose the state of Israel on religious grounds, like the mainstream Churches who teach replacement theology. To them, the State of Israel is just another country with no more spiritual significance than India.

There are also Christians who, reading the same Bible, believe Israel is the most important country on the face of the earth and that the ingathering of the Jews is evidence of the soon return of the Lord.

To argue that all Muslims support terror, or even that all Muslims believe that the purpose of Islam is forced conversion is to deny the evidence of the differences that exist under the banner of Christianity.

Strict Calvinists do not feel a particular need to lead people to Christ. They believe that since it is predestined anyway, why bother? Very few mainline churches proselytize.

Yet there are Christians who read the same Bible and believe that it is the duty of each Christian to lead another to Christ. Both exist simultaneously, and to the non-Christian, especially a non-Westerner, there is no real difference between them.

This is not a defense of Islam. The Allah of Islam is NOT the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, neither does Islam recognize the Lord Jesus Christ.

All that being said, not every Muslim is a terrorist. There are schools of Islam that embrace only the peaceful aspects of Islam — those same schools of Islamic thought made the Islamic Middle East the most advanced culture of the 10th century. That isn’t propaganda, it’s history.

Nevertheless, it poses a real problem for America.

Assessment:

It is not hate speech to speak the truth, provided the truth you speak is true.

The problem is, while every Muslim isn’t a terrorist, we are at war with Muslim terror. And the danger is, that in our efforts to safeguard the rights of the non-terrorist Muslim, we open a door to terrorist attacks from Islamic terrorists.

There is considerable objection from many quarters, (including this one) about the depth, scope and inherent dangers of anti-terror legislation, such as the Patriot Act.

On the other hand, there is that whole question about non-terrorist Muslims.

Is it possible in the US to outlaw a religion? If so, then preaching that religion would be a crime. The Constitution would have to go out the window. And if a religion can be outlawed, Christianity would not be far behind.

But it seems possible that the only way to win the war on terror will be to shred portions of the Constitution. Listen to the politicians competing for the nomination. They don’t want to fight terror directly, they want to legislate it out of existence.

They promise to end the war on terror by rescinding the Patriot Act, raising our taxes and bringing the military home from Iraq.

Having accomplished that, what will they do if we are attacked again? History says they will immediately legislate something.

The point is, we are facing an enemy whose religion, by its very existence, is a threat to national security. In very real terms, it is the religion itself that is the enemy.

But America is a nation founded on freedom of religion. It is a conundrum.

In studying the prophecies of the last days, we find national representatives of Israel, national representatives of the Gentile world, national representatives of the Islamic world, (Gog-Magog Alliance, for example) but no existing national representatives of Christianity.

And no suggestion of a national superpower apart from the revived Roman Empire.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Corinthinians about what he called a ‘mystery’. In Scripture, a ‘mystery’ is a new revelation from God.

In arguing against the heresy that there is no resurrection from the dead, Paul writes;

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)

In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul explained that the Church was to;

“wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the WRATH TO COME.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10)

“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-17)

Following Jesus’ Seven Letters to the Seven Churches in the first three chapters of the Book of the Revelation, beginning in Revelation 4:1 we read;

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, COME UP HITHER, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”

The Church is never again mentioned. Christians from that point forward are ‘Tribulation Saints’ — all of whom, it seems, are martyred.

Something has to explain the absence of the United States as a major player from the final hours of human history. Thoughout the Cold War, the only possible scenario was a nuclear war which would have destroyed the planet. And America faced no other risk to its national security apart from Communism.

I wish I could explain exactly what happens to America in the final hours of the last days that explains its absence. America is undergoing something of a spiritual revival, while at the same time, one senses a developing spiritual civil war between Christian America and the forces that represent abortion, gay rights, the porn industry, etc., etc.

At this point in history, there are dozens of ways one can reasonably guess America could collapse as a global power, from America’s spiritual civil war to Islamic terrorism to political implosion and absorption by the coming global government. (Every candidate for the White House has affirmed his faith in the UN as part of his particular election platform.)

Or, the Church could hear, ‘Come up hither’. That would explain everything, too.

Note: Today’s Letter was written pre-Obama.  It is interesting to look back and fill in a few of the holes in the ‘mysteries’ as they unfold before our eyes.  Alf Ceniga looks at “The Problem with Israel” and explains where the real problems lie.

Foolishness of Christ

Foolishness of Christ
Vol: 149 Issue: 27 Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Bible says that God ”hath chosen the foolish (simple) things of this world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty.”

The Omega Letter is aimed at those who have already grasped the simplicity of salvation. A lot of what we focus on is what Paul calls the ‘strong meat’ of Bible doctrine.  

For example, we’ve examined the nuts-and-bolts answers to hard questions like, “Why did Jesus have to die?” and “would a loving God send people to hell?” etc.  But it is good from time to time to revisit the basic gift of salvation.

I have friends who can’t seem to ‘get’ how simple God made salvation.  The miss the forest for the trees.  Maybe you have friends like that too.  They can’t grasp the basic fact that salvation is for sinners. They think they have to earn their way by doing good.

When Jesus was asked which was the most important commandment of God, He replied:  

“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)

Love God above yourself and love your neighbor as yourself.  Simple.  

A person cannot have a personal relationship with God apart from Jesus. There is a gap that exists between God the Father and sinful humanity. 

God is completely holy and cannot tolerate the presence of any sin. But we are all selfish sinners. To redeem us, He had to become ONE of us. 

To do THAT, He had to physically enter sin’s ‘quarantine zone’ (the earth’s atmosphere), conquer sin in THIS world, thereby defeating sin’s universal stranglehold on humanity. And then, having qualified as an acceptable Sacrifice, He paid the eternal penalty for sin on our behalf. 

When Adam sinned, God cursed him, saying,

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:19)

God covered the first sin of Adam by clothing his nakedness with dead animal skins. Sin, by definition, introduced death into the world;

“. . . without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)

Jesus paid the penalty prescribed by Adam’s sin, just as every human being since Adam, but Jesus was WITHOUT sin.  Having been born of the Father into this sin-sick world, He lived the life that God expected of each of us and then paid the penalty for sin that we deserve.

He was not under that penalty for Himself, which is why He could pay the price demanded on our behalf. Having defeated the cause of death (sin), He then defeated the penalty of sin (death) by His Resurrection. 

Nobody who ever sinned, even once, has defeated sin personally, and all remain under sin’s penalty of death.

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27)

But death is in two parts. The physical death, and what the Bible calls the ‘second death’ eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire. 

And so is the judgement. The believer’s sins were judged at the Cross, and the penalty for them has already been paid. 

For those who trust to their own good works, there is a second judgement before the Great White Throne, where they will be judged according to ALL their works, good and bad. 

There is no balancing scale. One sin earns eternal separation. 

Our personal sin still earns the wages of physical death. We are spiritually and eternally saved, but the world in which we live remains under the curse. Sin has its consequences on the things which are in it.

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

Jesus sinless Sacrifice paid our eternal debt — there is nothing left to judge but our rewards. Nothing we could ever do could earn it, because it is a gift, freely offered to all men. 

By accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and committing to follow Him we are declared righteous by God on the basis of our faith. 

Therefore as new creatures, recreated by the Blood of Christ, wearing His righteousness instead of our own, we are able to come before the throne of God blameless and cleansed, reestablishing our relationship with God.

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

It has NOTHING to do with religion. Paul was preaching to the Church at Galatia, where a heresy had crept in that said Christians had to be circumcised like Jews in order to prove they belonged to God. 

Paul makes it clear that Christians are neither Jews nor Gentiles, but something entirely new.

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

The difficulty in trusting Jesus is rooted in the failure to understand the ‘new creature’ for what it is. The Bible teaches that there are four sentient spiritual creations of God. 

First, God created the angels. Then, He created Adam in His Image and in His Likeness. At Adam’s fall, his spiritual state was changed, he became separated from God, and Adam was the father of the spiriitually unregenerate Gentiles.

Abraham, through faith, fathered the first of another new spiritual creation. Isaac was the first spiritual Jew, the father of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. 

Since then, every person is born either a Jew or a Gentile, from the perspective of their spiritual state of existence. The first three sentient, spiritual creations of God, then, are angels, Jews and Gentile, descended from Adam, but in God’s Image, with an eternal spirit. 

A descendant of Isaac can never become a Gentile. He can denounce Judaism, become a Buddhist, an atheist, or whatever, but in God’s eyes (as well as man’s) he is still a Jew. 

A Gentile can become a practicing Jew, but he remains a spiritual Gentile, since his eternal spirit remains estranged from God apart from Christ.  

Jesus introduced a new spiritual creation with His Resurrection. Those who trust Jesus are transformed into a totally new spiritual creation, personally indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, and restored to the fellowship lost by Adam.

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12)

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)

Having been MADE righteous and restored to fellowship, Christians are neither Gentile nor Jew. Nor are they angels, either literally or figuratively. The Bible calls them ‘saints’ — something entirely unique in the history of the universe.

Jews and Gentiles are born what they are. Christians are REBORN into a ‘new birth’ — a new spiritual creation of God. 

Our conversion is literal — we CONVERT into a new thing, like a moth becoming a butterfly. Just as a Jew can’t become a Gentile because he is of Isaac’s race, (and a Gentile can’t become a spiritual Jew because he isn’t), a Christian, once reborn, can’t revert back to either Jew or Gentile. And we never were angels. 

Salvation is a permanent transformation from one kind of spiritual creation to a different kind of spiritual creation.  It is the misunderstanding of the new creature that is a stumbling-block to grasping the simple assurances of the Gospel.  

At the point of salvation, according to Scripture, the old creature (Jew or Gentile) is “passed away.” (2nd Corinthians 5:17) The Bible says the old creature is dead. Only God can raise the dead, not an act of man. God would be forced to raise the dead spiritual Gentile,  and undo His new spiritual creation based, not just on an act of man, but on a sinful act.

If sin can force God to undo His own creation, then where is the victory? 

The Bible says to repent (literally, change your mind), realize your sin will take you to hell, and that there is nothing you can do about it except to trust Jesus’ promise that by trusting Him for your salvation as the Lord of your life, you are now a new creation of God. 

It’s so simple. So simple, in fact, that there are millions upon millions who just can’t get it. Paul spoke of being “wise in your own conceits” (Romans 12:16) not the least of which is the belief that our works contribute to our salvation.

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (1st Corinthians 1:27

 If Jesus didn’t do it all, then He didn’t have to do it at all and He died in vain.

“I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21

Note: Today’s Letter goes to the foundation of salvation.  J.L. Robb discusses the Apostle John, The Book of Revelation, The Catholic Connection and “The City of Seven Hills” 

Another History Rhyme

Another History Rhyme
Vol: 149 Issue: 26 Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In 1932,  New Deal Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran largely on the record of his opponent, the inestimable Herbert Hoover.

Most people don’t know that much about Hoover, and what they do know isn’t good.  But in light of the current economic and political climate, it is certainly interesting.  

See what Mark Twain’s observation that ‘history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes’ says to you as we move along.  I’m not going to draw any parallels myself  — I need a reality check.

I want to read your interpretations in the comments forum and find out if you see the historical parallels that I see.    

Herbert Hoover was a registered Republican who turned progressive when he supported Teddy Roosevelt’s 1912 run for the White House under the “Bull Moose” Progressive Party. 

In the 1920’s Hoover served as Secretary of Commerce in the Harding administration.  His progressive Big Government approach during that time earned him the nickname,  “Secretary of Commerce — and Under Secretary of Everything Else.”

As Commerce Secretary, Hoover was the founder of the “Own Your Own Home” campaign.  It was a collaboration of bankers and industry that gave birth to the long-term home mortgage industry. 

Hoover came to office in January, 1929 on the promise that America was “nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.”

Ten months into his presidency, the Stock Market crashed, bringing Wall Street to its knees and throwing the nation into panic.   Banks began to fail, factories closed, loan money dried up and with it new investment.

In 1931 Hoover organized a ‘stimulus plan’ partnering with a consortium of banks, creating the National Credit Corporation.  The NCC’s mission was to bail out smaller banks by loaning them money. 

The big banks who made up the NCC withheld the bail-out money and then quietly bought up the distressed smaller banks for pennies on the dollar. 

In one great, last act of desperation, Hoover dissolved the private NCC and replaced it with an independent agency of the US government dubbed, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

The RFC was endowed with $2 billion in taxpayer money which it used to bailout failing banks, farm mortgage associations, savings and loans, etc.

The Revenue Act of 1932 was another last ditch, desperate measure that imposed sharp income tax increases across the board — and guaranteed Hoover’s defeat to FDR that November.

During the 1932 campaign, FDR attacked Hoover for “reckless and extravagant” spending, of thinking “that we ought to center control of everything in Washington as rapidly as possible,” and of leading “the greatest spending administration in peacetime in all of history.”

Of course, once he came to office, FDR enacted policies that made Hoover look like a fiscal conservative.

In his first 100 days in office,  FDR’s administration introduced the Beer-Wine Revenue Act, the Liquor Taxing Act, gasoline taxes, tobacco taxes,  processed food taxes, deflecting criticism by blaming his predecessor.

He increased income taxes selectively on “the rich” (those making more than $9000 per year) and on farms producing crops in excess of quotas set by the government. 

When selling his progressive “New Deal” which fundamentally transformed the US economy, he promised to pay for it all by selectively taxing “the rich”.

So he raised the top income tax rate to 75%.  The rich moved their money into investment accounts.  So FDR imposed an “undistributed profits tax” that penalized companies for maintaining savings to use for invesment.

Note: This Letter was found with the search “wall street bankers”. History continues to rhyme.

Almost Persuaded

Almost Persuaded
Vol: 149 Issue: 25 Tuesday, February 25, 2014

If I were to have to choose the saddest statement in all the Scriptures, it would be that of King Herod Agrippa to the Apostle Paul as recorded in Acts 26:28: ”Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

In 1871, Philip P Bliss attended a service at which the Reverend Brundage concluded his sermon with the words, “he who is almost pursuaded is almost saved . . . but to be almost saved is to be entirely lost.”

Mr. Bliss was so moved by the thought that he penned the hymn, “Almost Persuaded”.

The last verse goes like this:

“Almost persuaded / harvest is past! /Almost persuaded, / doom comes at last! / Almost cannot avail; / Almost is but to fail! / Sad, sad, that bitter wail / Almost, but lost!”

One of the most difficult things in Christian doctrine to get one’s head around is the doctrine of the Trinity. We can do so in a general sense, but if you want to test yourself and see if you really understand it, try explaining it to someone else.

Man is created in God’s image and after His likeness, so it stands to reason that a Triune God would create a triune man. The difference is that Trinity is the same God in Three Persons, whereas triune man is one person in three parts, body, soul and spirit.

Think of man as existing within three concentric circles. The outer circle is physical; it is the ‘soma’ or the body. It is the body that has the five senses, sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch.

These five are the gateways to the soul, or ‘psyche’. The soul of man is often confused with the spirit, which can raise all kinds of misunderstandings. Every living person has a soul. And every living person has a spirit. But not every living person has a living (or, ‘quickened’) spirit.

The Apostle Paul explains,

“For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (Romans 7:9)

Paul isn’t speaking of physical death, obviously. He is speaking of spiritual death. Babies are born in God’s image, a living spirit and incapable of willful sin.

Obviously, babies are unconcerned with keeping the commandments. But there is a point when a child matures enough to understand the choice between keeping the commandment and feeding one of the body’s five senses.

Remember, it is the five senses that serve as gateways to the soul. These are the gateways through which sin makes its entrance.

Paul writes,

“And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” (Romans 7:10-11)

Paul was spiritually alive until he sinned for the first time. Until Paul knew what sin was, he could not sin. And he couldn’t know what sin was until he understood right from wrong.

(“Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet”).

Sin entered into Paul through one of the five gates of his body. But it wasn’t sin until it made the transition from the body into the soul. The body’s five senses feed the soul’s five senses; imagination, conscience, memory, reason and affection.

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Dividing ‘asunder the soul and the spirit’ and of the joints and marrow (the body) and discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart (imagination, conscience, memory, reason and affection).

Are you still with me? We’ve only scratched the surface of man’s complexity. The ‘natural man’ consists of a living body, a living soul and a dead spirit. The natural man is dead in the sense that he is dead to God and therefore incapable of grasping the things of God.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1st Corinthians 2:14)

Unless and until the spirit of natural man is ‘quickened’ by the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Gospel is foolishness to him.

The spirit of man (pneuma) is ‘quickened’ (made alive by regeneration at salvation) when the Holy Spirit takes up residence. It is the spirit of man that provides the spiritual insight, or food for the soul.

When one’s spirit is quickened, one gains a whole new set of insights; faith, hope, reverence and the both the ability and the need to worship and pray.

That is not to say that the natural man doesn’t aspire towards obtaining the characteristics of the spirit — the spirit of man longs for these things. We are designed with a God-shaped ‘hole in the soul’ — the unregenerate spirit — where the Holy Spirit belongs.

Since the soul can’t help but notice it is incomplete, it is constantly in search of something to fill that empty, aching gap. Some folks fill it with drugs,(imagination) others with sex, (affections) others by replacing God with something else (reason), with false assumptions (conscience) or false experiences (memory).

The five gateways to the soul are as far as these folks get — for reasons known only to themselves and God, they just can’t seem to make it all the way into the inner ring of their soul where their spirit lies dormant.

They are almost persuaded.

King Agrippa believed the prophets, according to Acts 26:27. And so he was aware of Isaiah 53 which taught of the suffering Messiah. Paul preached first the suffering Messiah, then he preached Jesus Christ. “For the King knowest these things,” Paul said.

Agrippa knew the prophets and the prophecies. He therefore knew that Christ had fulfilled those referring to His First Advent. Agrippa understood the Gospel as it was presented. He was “almost persuaded” but not quite. Why?

For the same reason that people are almost persuaded today. He didn’t want to submit — he was convinced by his conscience and his sense of reason, but he “wasn’t ready.” I’ve heard that excuse before and probably so have you. “I am almost ready, but not yet. But when I am ready I am going to do it right.”

What it really means is “I love my sin so much I’m not ready to give it up.”

Other people argue they have an intellectual problem with the Bible and so they just cannot believe. They are “almost persuaded” but they cannot accept the Lord. “Maybe later.”

‘Almost persuaded’ is to be entirely (and eternally) lost. And later is always sooner than you think.

Assessment:

The Apostle James writes,

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (Jas 4:14)

In terms of eternity, James tells us, the periods of our individual lives are, in the grand scheme of things, like a puff of smoke.

Eternity is a long time.

By way of analogy, if a sea gull on the West Coast picked up a grain of sand and dropped it on the East Coast, and then came back and repeated the process every ten thousand years, when all the beaches of the West Coast were transplanted to the East Coast, well, that’s the first ten MINUTES of eternity.

Jesus told a parable in Luke 12:16-18:

“And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”

You and I, everybody you meet, from the mailman to the guy next to you at work, has an eternal destiny. That destiny is either a joyful existence in the presence of God, or a Christless eternity in the place prepared for the devil and his angels.

And make no mistake about it. Hell is a real place. Jesus referred to it three times as a place where the worm dieth not and the fire is never quenched.”

In Luke 16, Jesus tells of Lazarus and the rich man.

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,”

We’ve discussed this passage before. Note that Jesus did NOT say, ‘Learn the parable of the rich man’. Instead, the Lord was specific when He said ‘there WAS a certain rich man.’

Jesus was speaking of a literal event of which He, as God, had specific knowledge. There WAS a certain rich man.

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man 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. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”

Stop there. Note the following from Jesus’ account. Before their Pardon was paid for, the righteous dead, like Abraham, Moses, etc, did NOT go directly to heaven, as do Blood-bought Christians of the Church Age.

Instead, they went to Paradise. Jesus did NOT say to the repentant thief, ‘this day you will be with Me in Heaven’. He said, ‘this day you will be with Me in Paradise.’ (Luke 23:43)

Hell was at that time divided in two, one a place of comfort, (Abraham’s bosom, or Paradise) the other a place of torment, but both located physically in hell. Note also that the rich man can see Lazarus, that he speaks of literal torment and literal flame.

Abraham explains the division of hell, and why Lazarus cannot come to him:

“And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” (Luke 16:26)

The rich man cries out,

“Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”

Stop here again.

Note that the rich man remembers his life on earth. As he will for eternity. He remembers his loved ones, and is conscious of their destiny. He begs Abraham to do something, but Abraham simply tells him that “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”

Now note something EXTREMELY revealing about the exchange. Abraham is Abraham. Lazarus the beggar, is Lazarus.

But the rich man has no name. He has his memories, he has his awareness of his surroundings, he knows the hopelessness of the situation and the only thing he wants more than a drink of water is to save his five brothers.

But HE HAS NO NAME! Why is that so important? Because he doesn’t need one. Nobody will ever speak it again. There is no reprieve, no visitors, no hope and no need for a name. To all intents and purposes, he is dead. BUT — he is eternally aware of it.

Eternally conscious, perpetually lonely, tormented alive, yet dead forever, remembering that one time when you could have escaped the torment.

THAT is what awaits the mailman, or the guy next to you, or your friends or relatives of whom we say, “I’ll talk to him when the time is right” or when he says, “I’ll think about it. Maybe tomorrow.”

Then God says, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.”

It is a terrifying thought.

The facts are these. If heaven is real, then hell is real. If God is real, then Satan is real. The Bible is not a theological smorgasbord where one can pick and choose what to put on their plates and choose to reject other parts as unpalatable. The same Bible that reveals the existence of God and heaven also reveals the existence of Satan, hell and the Lake of Fire.

Despite the best efforts of false teachers to recreate God in their own image, hell is real, and was NOT created initially for man — it was prepared for Satan and the rebellious angels.

Man was created in God’s Image — that is, with an eternal component that can not die. That existence continues somewhere; either in heaven with God, or eternally separated from God.

There is no third option.

That is why God places such great emphasis on the Great Commission. God knows what hell is really like, and gave His Own Son as a substitute sacrifice so that we could escape its torments.

Every person you see today, whether they are bagging your groceries or changing the oil in your car — EVERY PERSON — has an eternal destiny.

They will either spend eternity in unspeakable joy in the presence of the Father in Heaven, or they will spend eternity in equally unspeakable torment, separated from the Father, and remembering the opportunity they squandered to escape their fate.

For those of us that know the truth, that is an awesome thing to contemplate. It rekindles a sense of urgency for the lost. We are the watchmen on the wall.

It is incumbent upon us to be prepared, “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)

The Omega Letter exists — not necessarily to preach to the lost — but rather to equip the saved with the knowledge they need to “stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)

The information in your Omega Letter is not for entertainment. We don’t sensationalize events to sell subscriptions. Our goal is to equip the one-on-one evangelist to meet the challenges facing each of us as the clock runs down.

Because it IS running down. And its running down faster than we think. Too many of our family and friends are almost persuaded.

‘Almost’ isn’t good enough.

Note: Today’s Letter is heartbreaking and we pray it moves you to be ready.  Wendy Wippel’s “Zechariah, Berechiah, Iddo” gives us hope in the fire.

Oh Yeah? Well What About THIS?

Oh Yeah? Well What About THIS?
Vol: 149 Issue: 24 Monday, February 24, 2014

Somebody sent me a list of Bible ‘difficulties’ packaged together with the usual sneering challenge and daring me to confront their evidence that the Bible is filled with contradictions.  It isn’t unusual — I get challenges like this all the time, and you probably do, too.

One thing most of the challenges have in common is that most of the so-called “contradictions” are only contradictions to unbelievers.

For example, the Bible says there is only one God, then God refers to Himself as “us” and then it refers to other gods, like Molech (Leviticus 18:21),  Dagon (1 Samuel 5:2) and Baal (Judges 3:7).  

To an unbeliever, it is an obvious contradiction demanding an explanation whereas to a believer, the contradiction does not exist.  God is one God, (Deuteronomy 6:4) in Three Persons,  (1 John 5:7) and the other “gods” mentioned are probably fallen angels or simply imaginary. 

Even the reason why an unbeliever finds a glaring contradiction where no actual contradiction exists is explained by Scripture. 

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthiahs 1:18)

“But ye have an unction (anointing) from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” (1 John 2:20)

“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” (1 John 2:28)

My correspondent feigned offense at the claim that all men are sinners, claiming that the Bible says that Job was not a sinner (Job 1:1)  that Noah and his family were not sinners (Genesis 7:1) and that John the Baptist’s parents, Zacharaias and Elizabeth were sinless.

This is another example of contradiction that only exists in the absence of the Holy Spirit’s “unction” or anointing.  Of course all men have a sin debt, including those who walk righteous before the Lord.  There is a difference between righteousness and perfect righteousness, something every believer knows in his own spirit.

Does God tempt people?  Genesis 22:1 says that He does:

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.”

But James 1:13 says that God never, ever tempts anyone.

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:”

The solution here is ridiculously simple.  First, James links temptation with evil.  Secondarily the word translated into English as ‘tempted’ is nacha, which means, “to test” and was translated as “tempt” in 1611.  Putting Abraham through a test is not the same thing as tempting Abraham to do evil.

“The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” (Matthew 13:32)

“AHA! The mustard seed ISN’T the smallest seed and it DOESN’T grow to be the largest among herbivorous plants.  If Jesus was God, then He should have known that.”

There are a number of different kinds of mustard trees indigenous to Israel, and the mustard seed was the smallest seed known and used by the people to whom He was offering the illustration. 

Jesus would have known that it wasn’t the largest of all herbivorous plants by simple observation, even if He wasn’t God.  But the mustard plant dominated the typical herb garden, so the illustration was easily understood by the hearers.  

Jesus also used the mustard seed as an illustration of how faith as small as a mustard seed could accomplish great things.  One has to stretch pretty far to conclude Jesus was making a statement of science instead of using it to illustrate a point.

Assessment:

There were a lot more so-called “contradictions” but my correspondent’s real objection was to God Himself.  If God loves all people, then how does one explain a loving God inflicting such suffering on the children He claims to love so much?

My correspondent has made it clear that he doesn’t believe that God exists, and so his question isn’t so much an attempt to understand as it is intended to cause me to question my own faith.  

The unbeliever instinctively knows that there is a God, despite his best efforts to convince himself otherwise.

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

I’ve heard it described as a “God-shaped hole in the soul” that nothing else quite fills except God.  He wants to be comfortable in his unbelief and if he can’t, then he’ll seek comfort in trying to shatter yours.

On the other hand, if God DOES exist, what is the answer?  The Bible is filled with examples of the just suffering while the unjust seemingly get all the breaks.

“Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” (Psalms 73:17)

The fact is, that we are made in God’s image.  The unbeliever wants to recast Him in ours — which is where the problem lies.  God created us in His image because we are eternal, even as He is eternal.

We were created for eternal life — or for eternal death; but in any case, the key word here is ‘eternal’.

The answer to the question is that God is God, whether one believes in Him or not.  For example, someone may not believe that I exist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t.

Or they may conclude, from my writing, that I think a certain way, even when I don’t.  Their belief or unbelief has no bearing on what I think or how I express myself.   I am who I am, no matter what people think I am.

And God is Who He is.

God is our Judge, we are not His.

“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)

The Lord doesn’t work in ‘mysterious’ ways; He works according to His will.  He has a purpose for everything that He does.  Whether we understand that purpose is irrelevant — it is enough to know that HE does.

“So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My Mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

To the unbeliever, this life is all there is — so when God takes it, it seems exceedingly cruel. But this is no more ‘all there is’ than the blackness of the womb is to the unborn child. The blackness of the womb is simply all it knows until it is born.

Oftentimes, a similar question pops up to the effect that ‘a loving God would never condemn people to hell’.

God sent His own Son to die on the Cross for our sins so that we wouldn’t end up in hell. If we choose to reject Him, it isn’t God that is making that choice.  It is the individual that chooses — it is God that made the choice possible.

Death isn’t the end, it is the beginning.  It is either the beginning of something unspeakably wonderful, or it is the beginning of an eternal horror beyond our ability to contemplate, but it is, nonetheless, the beginning of eternity for each of us.

God put each of us here for two reasons.  The first is so that we can choose to one day enjoy fellowship with Him in eternity.  The second is to spread the Good News to the lost in the time we have remaining.

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Maranatha!

Note: This Letter was written in defense of supposed contradictions in the Bible.  Pete Garcia’s “I am Barabbas” also tackles important, often misunderstood portions of Scripture today.  Both give us valuable tools for the mandate we called to do.

The Living Word

The Living Word
Vol: 149 Issue: 22 Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Apostle Paul outlined the various spiritual gifts, like charity, teaching, miracles, helps, faith, tongues, prophecy and knowledge, service, leadership, giving, evangelism, pastor, hospitality and celebacy.

Ever notice that nobody ever argues that if you don’t have the gift of leadership, you probably aren’t saved? Or if you don’t have the gift of hospitality, you’ve never undergone the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

But some Christians believe that if they don’t speak or pray in tongues or can interpret tongues or prophesy over someone or something, then they do not have the Holy Spirit.

Paul specifically addresses three particular gifts — and these three only — this way:

“. . .whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” (1st Corinthians 13:8)

But believers will practically come to blows over the gifts of tongues, prophecy, knowledge and interpretation and their relevance to the Church today. I find it interesting that the giftings claimed by so many believers are the spectacular ones, like tongues.

Why tongues and not service? Or prophecy. Why prophecy and not charity? Or the ubiquitous ‘word of knowledge’ TV preachers often claim during their broadcasts. Why knowledge and not helps?

Paul goes on to explain these gifts in their proper context:

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part. . . .”

As one of the principle teachers of the early Church Paul was given Divine revelation together with the gift of prophecy to establish his credentials and his authority to teach. The Apostles established their credentials and authority by virtue of their gifts of knowledge and miracles.

There is a story in the Book of Acts that illustrates what I mean.

Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the LORD Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. . . .And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?”

The evil spirit then attacked all seven of them, who fled the house naked and bleeding . .

“And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the Name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.” (Acts 19:13,15,17)

The Apostles were given gifts useful to their specific mission, which was to plant the seeds of the early Church and establish its basic doctrine to equip it for its own mission of bringing others to Christ.

The ‘vagabond Jews’ attempted to usurp spiritual gifts to magnify their own reputations, to glorify themselves. The use of the spiritual gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit cannot help but glorify the Name of Jesus. Unless they are used to bring attention to the recipient.

Returning to the context of the gifts, the Apostles knew, in part, because they had been instructed by the Lord. They prophesied, in part, because prophecy literally means to speak the Word of God under Divine inspiration — and not necessarily about the future.

“But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (1st Corinithians 13:10)

Assessment:

Once again, I call your attention to the particular gifts that are the ones that cause all the controversy. Prophecy, tongues, knowledge, miracles, etc.

Then, there are the gifts that nobody wants to fight over; helps, hospitality, service. . . doesn’t that speak to you on some subliminal level?

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1st Corinthians 14:33)

Why are tongues and knowledge and miracles and prophecy so important to this generation? Paul says of tongues:

“If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” (1st Corinthians 14:23)

That seems blindingly self-evident to me. Unbelievers see some guy on TV speaking in tongues and they think he’s nuts and switch the channel. New believers try to speak in tongues and can’t and wonder what is wrong with them?

It seems counterproductive to insist that gifts that scare off unbelievers and discourage new believers are a necessary part of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Paul says when that which is perfect is come in that which is in part shall be done away. What is ‘perfect’ in this world? Does the Bible give any hints?

“For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

The word rendered ‘quick’ in Hebrews 4:12 is translated from the Greek word ‘zao’ which means ‘alive’. The Word of God is alive, which is why it is able to speak to all generations with equal clarity.

What is the purpose for the Bible?

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2nd Timothy 3:16-17 )

Are tongues and miracles and knowledge and prophecy for today? I am not one to limit God, so I am not going to say that they are not. I don’t live in China or Russia or North Korea where there is no access to God’s Word.

I will say I tried to pray in tongues. I couldn’t. And when I’ve heard people speak in tongues in church, I’ve been unimpressed — I’ve yet to hear anybody do more than repeat a relative handful of unintelligible word-like sounds.

I’ve met many a discouraged Christian who tried to experience the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ and failing in that effort, despaired of their salvation. And I’ve heard many an unbeliever scoff at Christianity after watching some miracle-working TV preacher.

I don’t know if my experience is unique, but that is what my experience has been, and to pretend otherwise is dishonest.

To summarize our discussion on this topic, I believe that all the spiritual gifts are still in operation today but that some are more often claimed than are actually given.

I believe that the Bible teaches that certain of those gifts are conditional — when that which is perfect (the Bible) is come, that which was in part was done away.

But I also know that some of us have that which is perfect (the Bible) and some of us (like North Korean Christians) do not. Who am I to limit God?

I believe that the Scriptures teach that all spiritual gifts are for the glorification of God, and not for the glorification of the recipient of that particular gift.

That’s what I believe. But I am just a man with a Bible — I’m not a prophet and I’m not infallible. I could be wrong — that’s why we have discussion forums. To discuss such things and thereby increase our understanding.

“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. . . . Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 15:4-5b)

Note: This Letter did start a good discussion in forums when it was originally published.  Be sure to give them a read.

”. . . And Curse Them That Curse Thee”

”. . . And Curse Them That Curse Thee”
Vol: 149 Issue: 21 Friday, February 21, 2014

Most of the inhabitants of the Arab world can trace their lineage back for centuries. To find someone who lives on land owned by his family for generations, and sometimes centuries, is not uncommon. Many live exactly the same way their ancestors did, often without indoor plumbing or electricity.

I was once a guest for coffee at a Bedouin camp in the Judean wilderness. The invitation was arranged by an Israeli tour guide. They lived in tents. We sat on a rug on the floor and drank strong, sweet coffee from heavily stained little glasses that were probably as old as our host’s parents.

The most prized possession — shared by the whole Bedouin clan — was a battery-operated 19″ black and white TV and a little generator just big enough to keep the battery charged.

Over coffee, they told us a bit about their lifestyle. They are desert nomads who regard themselves as stateless citizens and, TV set notwithstanding, still live in the 6th century. They do what their fathers did, and their fathers before them, from time immemorial.

I can recall thinking to myself as I listened, “Why?”

Arab culture is ancient; at one time, it was a seat of learning, with highly advanced schools of science, medicine, astronomy and mathematics. Arab doctors were performing sophisticated surgeries when French medicine believed that bathing was an unhealthy practice to be avoided at all costs.

When one takes the Arab world and contrasts it against the United States, it seems more logical for the Arab world hold preeminence than it does the USA.

By Arab standards, America is a young country, made up of immigrants from other countries, with no ethnic or cultural ties, and barely any history, to bind them together.

What went wrong with the Arab world? Why is it so far behind the West? It isn’t like the region is poor. They are awash with oil. Together with their equally rich cultural, religious and linguistic heritage, they should neither be poor nor facing ethnic conflict.

Yet they are both.

The ‘Arab world’ is loosely defined as the 22 member states of the Arab League. In 2002, the UN Development program commissioned a report entitled, ““Arab Human Development Report 2002” that examined the Arab World’s strengths and failings. The part dealing with Arab strengths didn’t take up much space.

It’s strengths were its oil wealth, a minor increase in life expectancy, and the largest proportion of young people in the world.

It scored lowest among the regions of the world in individual freedom, political freedom and what the UN calls, ‘gender empowerment’ or women’s rights. Democracy is occasionally offered, but as a concession, not as a right:

“The transfer of power through the ballot box is not a common phenomenon in the Arab world,” the report says politely.Freedom of expression and freedom of association are both sharply limited.

The report quotes Freedom House, an American-based monitor of political and civil rights, in recording that no Arab country has genuinely free media, and only three have “partly free”. The rest are not free.

Despite the money spent on education, illiteracy rates are still very high, especially among women. According to the report, one in two women can neither read nor write. Investment in research and development is less than one-seventh of the world average. Only 0.6% of the population uses the Internet, and 1.2% have personal computers.

The report comments sadly on the severe shortage of new writing, and, for instance, the decline in the film industry. Nor are foreign books much translated: in the 1,000 years since the reign of the Caliph Mamoun, say the authors, the Arabs have translated as many books as Spain translates in one year.

Assessment:

What went wrong with the Arab world? The short answer is Islam. Every one of the deficits listed by the UN’s report is mandated by Islamic belief.

Islam teaches that women should not be educated, given equal status with men, or allowed to work outside the home, effectively neutralizing half the Arab world’s potential. Their participation in their countries’ political and economic life is the lowest in the world.

Islam mandates the merging of the executive and judiciary under Islamic Law, which makes no allowance for representative government.

From their schooldays onwards, Arabs are instructed that they should not defy tradition, that they should respect authority, that truth should be sought in the text and not in experience. Fear of fawda (chaos) and fitna (schism) are deeply engrained in much Arab-Islamic teaching. “The role of thought”, wrote a Syrian intellectual “is to explain and transmit…and not to search and question.”

Since the root of the problem is so obviously Islam, the Arab Human Development report only outlined the deficits responsible for the Arab world’s stagnancy. It didn’t dare suggest a solution.

But it DID manage to find a way to blame Israel for some of the Arab’s world’s problems. And it even suggested the US response to September 11 has “provided authoritarian rulers with an excuse to get away with doing some pretty nasty things, particularly if done to Islamist dissidents,” although the report was compiled within months of the 2001 attack.

If one doubts the validity of Christianity over Islam, one need only look at conditions in the Islamic world. Where Islam is embraced, there is chaos, confusion, conflict and poverty. The wealth and prosperity are confined to the largely Christian West, despite the Islamic world’s strangle-hold on the global energy market.

Despite boycotts, a more or less constant state of war, with few allies and even fewer natural resources, Israel, situated in the midst of the Arab world, is a beacon of freedom, prosperity and technological genius.

The teachings of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and genetics all agree that the only difference between the Jewish and Arab Semitic people is that of religion. Islam traces its lineage through Ishmael, whereas Judaism traces its through Isaac, but both agree to shared ancestry with Abraham.

The Islamic world is dedicated to Israel’s destruction. And despite its abundant natural wealth and former sophisticated culture, it now ranks as the most backward-looking, ignorant, uncultured and despotic region on the face of the earth.

The fruits of Islam not only expose the nature of its god, they also serve to authenticate the Divinity of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Christian West has largely supported Israel since its re-establishment in 1948, and prospered in accordance with God’s Promise to Abraham’s descendant’s through Isaac that;

“I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)

That promise is as valid today as when it was given four thousand years ago. The evidence of its fulfillment is undeniable. What it means to us is that the rest of God’s promises are equally valid. Including His Promise;

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

Maranatha!

Note: Today’s Letter gives us a back story on the Arab world.  Alf Cengia’s “Left Behind Theology” indepthly covers the the pretribulation viewpoint.