The Performer

The Performer
Vol: 161 Issue: 17 Tuesday, February 17, 2015

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Romans 11:25)

The “fulness of the Gentiles” — that’s the key phrase here. The word translated into English as ‘fulness’ is from the Greek word, “pleroma” which means, “completion, what fills (as in contents) what is filled (as container, performance or period) that which is put in to fill up, full, fulness.”

So, blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the completion of the Gentiles have come in. Clearly, the reference here is to the complete number of Gentiles to be saved. And so also follows, just as clearly, that there IS a completed number of Gentiles to be saved.

Eternal security is a hugely significant doctrinal point that most Christians either miss altogether or refuse to acknowledge. Let’s look at why they refuse to acknowledge it, first.

If there is a finite number of Gentiles that signify “pleroma” or completion, then it follows that God knows how many, and who they are. That freaks out Christians that cry “Calvinist” at the mere mention of predestination.

Because John Calvin included ‘predestination’ as one of the Five Points of Calvinism does NOT mean it is a “Calvinist” doctrine. It is a Bible doctrine that Calvin happened to get right, kinda.

There are plenty of Arminians (the opposite of Calvinism) that deny predestination and all other points of Calvinism, and yet believe in Bible prophecy. But if there is a difference between Bible prophecy and predestination, it is too fine a distinction for me to be able to see.

In Bible prophecy, God predicts what certain men will do at a certain time, and because He is omniscient (all-knowing), we can be certain that the prophesied event will unfold precisely as foretold, or, predestined.

Predestination simply means that God already knows what YOU will do at a certain time, but predestination is rejected because it somehow interferes with free will.

So when it comes to everybody doing what God says they must at a certain time, that’s prophecy and therefore, doctrinally correct. When it comes down to God predicting the fate of an individual¸ that’s Calvinism, and therefore somehow, not Bible doctrine.

Even though both describe precisely the same thing!

Arminianism rejects predestination in favor of doctrines that give all the power to the people, by denying that power to God. Opponents of predestination say that because God knows what you will do on a certain day, it affects your free will.

That might be true if you were God and knew what you would do in the future, but since you aren’t, it has no effect whatsoever on your free will. The decisions you make are your own — the fact God knew what they would be is irrelevant to free will.

The word ‘predestinate’ is used four times by the New Testament; Romans 8:29, 30, Ephesians 1:5 and Ephesians 1:11.

It is translated from the Greek word, “proorizo” which means, “to limit in advance, predetermine, determine before, ordain” or simply, “predestinate”.

To summarize before moving on, you were predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son before the world began. The Bible says so.

“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29)

The Bible says that you were elected to be saved.

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” (1 Peter 1:2)

Do you see the three separate elements here? We are 1) elected according to God’s foreknowledge, then we were 2) sanctified (hagiasmos- purification by a purifier) because of 3) the obedience of Jesus Christ Who shed His Blood for you.

What does the word “elect” mean? In Greek, it is eklektos and it means, “select, by implication, favorite: — chosen, elect.” So it means, selected, or chosen.

On to the next question: When were we chosen by God to be saved?

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Timothy 1:9)

God saved us, NOT ACCORDING TO OUR WORKS, but according to His OWN PURPOSE, and given to the elect through Christ BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN.

Where are you in this narrative? Are you the hero of this story? Are you saved because you had an epiphany and turned from your wicked ways and now live a life of total dedication and purity to Christ? Did YOU do it?

Or were you saved because you trusted Christ’s promise you are saved by grace through faith and by trusting that He can keep you saved by sending His Holy Spirit as your hagiasmos purification agent?

Did YOU make the decision for Christ based on your own best judgment of what is best for you? Or are you saved because the Bible says God elected you for salvation before the world began?

The doctrine of eternal security hangs entirely on those distinctions.

Assessment:

If you saved yourself by your actions or conduct, then it follows that you can lose your salvation by your actions or conduct. If you were saved by grace through faith, then your actions and conduct are irrelevant.

The Bible gives seven distinct and unassailable proofs that salvation is an eternal condition that begins when we are saved, not when we die. If you are saved now, you are saved forever, because you are not who you were anymore.

At the point of salvation, seven distinct and immutable changes took place. At the moment you were saved, you were forever;

  1. Converted — your life is irrevocably turned around. (Acts 3:19)
  2. Sanctified — purified by the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:2)
  3. Reconciled – we are at peace with the Father (2 Corinthians 5:19)
  4. Regenerated — or given new life (1 Peter 1:23)
  5. Redeemed — purchased, or bought back for a price (1 Peter 1:18)
  6. Adopted — made a permanent part of God’s forever family (Romans 8:15)
  7. Justified — declared righteous by God. (Romans 3:282 Corinthians 5:21)

From the very first second one comes to faith in Christ, all this becomes equally true for every believing child of God. They are what are called “positional truths” because they are unrelated to changing human emotions and feelings.

If your salvation was conditional on your performance, consider what that means. It means that God must reverse all these actions in the lives of uncounted millions every single day. Then, assuming you get born again (again) He must change it back (again.)

Some Christians believe that at the moment of salvation, God only forgives the sins committed to that point. From that perspective, it is only logical that a person could lose his salvation.

But look at the logic. It also means that a Christian, once saved, can never sin again. If he does and loses his salvation, he would have to be born again. (Again).

But that not only violates Scripture, it violates Christ Himself.

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

Let’s look at what it doesn’t say here, first. It doesn’t say it is impossible to fall away. What it says is impossible is to be renewed to repentance. IMPOSSIBLE!

The reason it is impossible is because it would put the Lord to open shame. Why?

“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool.” (Hebrews 10:12-13)

He offered ONE sacrifice for sins, FOREVER, and then He sat down. Why is that significant? Because He was done. It was finished.

It is impossible to justify a person twice. Why? Because it would mean that His sacrifice wasn’t good enough the first time. The Scriptures say differently. Note it carefully:

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

“Aha!” you say. “But what about the Bible’s command requiring us to confess our sins daily?”

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Confession is necessary for us to maintain communion with Christ, but NOT to maintain union with Christ. Union with Christ is a function of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Communion with Christ is what we have when we pray.

Nowhere does this verse link confession with salvation. It links confession with cleansing, not regenerating.

I’ve noticed that those who discredit eternal security as a false doctrine often avoid giving specific answers to questions about their position.

For example, if one can sin oneself out of God’s grip, which sin is the soul-killer? Is it a particular sin? A pattern of sin? How much sin? How often?

How can an individual know he has lost his salvation? If there is a way of knowing, is there a way of recovering it? To get saved, one must believe and have faith. How does one believe again? How does one have faith — again?

Are there any Scriptural examples of saved Christians who lost their salvation and then recovered it?

My email box is eager to receive concrete answers to any of these questions. But what I anticipate in reply are different questions, like, “Oh yeah? What about this verse?”, instead of answers to the ones I posed.

In hand-to-hand combat, there are certain target points each combatant must protect. The Apostle Paul used hand-to-hand combat as an analogy for how believers should prepare for spiritual combat:

“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” (Ephesians 6:14-17)

First, the truth. Note the anatomical analogy Paul uses. In battle, that is an extremely vulnerable target. Strike a serious blow there, and the victim is rendered helpless.

Secondly, the ‘breastplate’ of righteousness. The torso is the biggest and easiest target to strike, but it is also the easiest to armor. If one is covered by the righteousness of Christ, the heart is protected.

Thirdly, the feet. A battle tactic commonly employed in Paul’s day was to sow the battlefield with nails and other sharp objects. Foot soldiers with injured feet are not very effective. If one is fully prepared (‘shod’) with the Gospel, one can engage the enemy uncrippled.

Fourth, Paul says, “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (v16) If one is certain of his standing before God, the enemy’s whispering campaign falls on deaf ears.

Finally, Paul says to, “take the helmet of salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God:”

The ‘helmet of salvation’. In battle, the most effective way to take an enemy out is a head shot. If the enemy can convince you that your salvation is in doubt, he has sidelined you as a threat.

Without truth, the righteousness of Christ, knowledge of the Gospel, faith in its promises, and the certain knowledge of your standing before Christ, the Christian’s only offensive weapon, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” is pretty much useless.

And without the Sword of the Spirit, the Christian is defeated before he even steps onto the field. Opponents of the doctrine of eternal security sometimes deride it as the ‘doctrine of demons’.

Scripture — and logic say exactly the opposite.

Why would ‘demons’ promote a doctrine that renders the Christian invulnerable in battle, rather than the one that guarantees the Christian’s defeat — since all Christians sin?

Bottom line: If eternal security is a false doctrine, then we are defeated, and even Jesus can’t save us from ourselves.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

If He began it, and He will perform it, then I can be confident. Because if it is up to me, well . . . let’s just say I know me better than to count on me to perform it.

I’ve already let me down, lots of times. I’d be a fool to trust me with anything this important again.

Originally Published: December 28, 2011

Featured Commentary: Libra: Paid in Full ~ Wendy Wippel

High Times

High Times
Vol: 161 Issue: 16 Monday, February 16, 2015

The Olivet Discourse is the theological term used to describe the passage in Scripture in which Jesus outlined the signs of His coming and the end of world government.

All three Synoptic Gospels, (Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21)  offer the same outline, differing only in the amount of detail offered by each Gospel writer.

It is important to understand both the context and the perspective in which it was offered in order to understand how it applies in the real world.   First, we must understand to whom it is primarily addressed:

“And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3)

So, who are “His disciples”?  The word “disciple” means very much the same thing as “student”,  only with the added implication of “devotion”.  Any person can be a student, but a disciple is the devoted student of the master of a particular discipline or philosophy.

So the “disciples” are followers of Jesus.  Which?  They could be the 12 Apostles.  Or they could be of the seventy disciples sent forth by the Lord in Luke 10:1

Or they could have simply been some of other early followers of Jesus.  We know that Jesus had at least five thousand followers.

But since the Bible refers to them as “the” disciples and says that they came unto Him privately, indicating they had intimate access to Him, it is a safe assumption the twelve Apostles either were the “disciples” or they were among them. 

At the time, the Church had not been born.  The redemptive process had not been completed, Jesus had not been glorified, the Comforter was not yet come and all men remained dead in their sins. The bulk of Jesus’ disciples were Jews living in Israel. 

Jesus was speaking from the Mount of Olives, within earshot of the Temple.  The historical context and perspective of the listener at the time it was delivered was not the Church, but that of Jews living in the region of Jerusalem in the last days.

At the same time, Jesus had Divine foreknowledge of the Church Age to come and how it would relate to the Jews of Israel in the last days.  The “last days” in context here, would be the Tribulation Period, or the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble”.

In this message to the Jews of Israel in the last days are a number of important clues useful to the Church in understanding the signs of the times, but the message is not necessarily for them. 

This can oftentimes be confusing  — the whole Bible is for all of us, and every verse is relevant to the Church, but not every verse is addressed to the Church.   

“But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. “(Matthew 24:21-22)

Clearly, this verse is addressed to observant Jews that keep the Law of the Sabbath.  But the Church is not under the Law nor the Sabbath.

Further, we read;

“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30)

Clearly, this verse is addressed to the Jews of Israel that will witness the Triumphant Return of Christ, as was described by the Prophet Zechariah:

“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me Whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only Son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10)

Staying in context here, we are at the point where Jesus makes His glorious appearance over Jerusalem, just before He touches down on the Mount of Olives, splitting the Kidron Valley all the way to the Dead Sea.  

And then what happens?

“And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:31)

Is this the Rapture, as many teach?  No.  It cannot be, for several reasons.

At the Rapture, the dead in Christ rise first, are resurrected and reunited with their newly changed and immortal bodies, followed by those who are alive and remain on the earth, who are caught up to meet the Lord in the air.

Here, Jesus describes His Second Coming, at which time He gathers His elect from one end of heaven to the other.  Not from the earth.  Not from their graves.  From heaven.  Which is precisely the same way that Jude, the Lord’s half-brother, describes the Second Coming.

“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints.” (Jude 1:14)

So these signs are signs that lead up to the Second Coming, signs that culminate in the events of the Tribulation.   We in the Church Age are witnessing the development of these signs, not their fulfillment. 

Having explained the signs of the times from the perspective of the Jews of Israel on the Mount of Olives,  Jesus switches from signs of His Second Coming to the signs of the coming Tribulation.  Again, it is from the perspective of the Jews, but it is about events that befall the Church.

“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:32-34)

So when the Jews witness the rebirth of God’s fig tree (Israel) they are to know the Tribulation is near, even at the doors.  When they see the other signs outlined by Jesus, they can know their redemption draws near.   The national redemption of Israel is accomplished at the Second Coming.

Jesus goes on to describe other signs the Jews will witness just before the onset of the reign of antichrist.  Remember, this is from the perspective of Sabbath-keeping Jews under the Law living near the Mount of Olives in Israel. 

From THAT perspective, the Rapture will look like this:

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” (Matthew 24:41)

That’s what it will look like from the perspective of those left behind – NOT from the perspective of those that are raptured. 

The story as told from that perspective, begins with Revelation 4:1 when John hears, “Come up hither!” and is whisked into heaven.

Assessment:

Where the Olivet Discourse is of value in discerning the signs of the times for the Church is in understanding that if the signs pointing to the Tribulation are in evidence, it means the Rapture must be near, since the man of sin isn’t revealed until after the Holy Spirit is ‘taken out of the way.’ (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

With that understanding, let’s go back up to the top of the page to where Jesus begins outlining the history of the last days, beginning with the First World War.  Jesus is telling His disciples what to be watching for from the perspective of the Mount of Olives.

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6)

The First World War resulted in the recovery of the Holy Land from the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the ingathering.  The Second World War and its aftermath accelerated the ingathering and resulted in the re-establishment of the State of Israel.

But the end was not yet.  Then came the ultimate rumor of war, the Cold War, but Jesus said this must all come to pass, and still, the end is not yet.  

This is where we locate America in Bible prophecy.

“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.”

From the perspective of the Church Age, this is about where we are now.  Earthquakes are steadily increasing.  Formerly conquered pestilences like malaria and TB are making a drug-resistant comeback.

To address the “energy crisis” we now convert grain into ethanol instead of food.  The global food shortage continues to worsen. 

We are beyond the wars that recovered the Holy Land and restored the Jews. 

The word “nation” here is translated from “ethnos” while “kingdom” (baselia) refers to economic-based political subdivisions, non-ethnic countries like the USA.

Israel is an ethnic nation, as are the various Arab states.  Iran is ethnic Persian. Russians are primarily ethnic, as are Europeans.  Ethnicity plays no role in America’s political existence — we called true ethnic Americans “Indians” before wiping them out and occupying their lands.

America’s political existence is as a “kingdom” — a political subdivision united by common economic interests.

With that in mind, I was struck by how quickly the Obama media was able to inject race as an explanation for Obama’s crushing defeat by Mitt Romney in Wednesday’s debate.

Ethnicity comes up at every turn in America, and particularly since Obama came to power based on his race more than any discernible accomplishments back in 2008.  He has used race as a substitute for governance ever since.

Race has everything to do with America’s current Middle East foreign policy.  Obama has made no secret of his disdain for the Jews or his affinity towards the Arab world.  Everything about Jeremiah Wright screams racial politics.

Consider how America has been governed under Obama and Company.

When it isn’t black vs. white, it is white vs. Latino, or Jew vs. Arab, or rich vs. poor, or it is environment vs energy or induced panic about the latest outbreak of some new killer disease.   

Everything is about conflict and all of it is rooted either in the ethnos or baselia.  It is almost as the Obamanation is taking its cues from the Olivet Discourse.

From the perspective of the Mount of Olives in Israel, all these things are the beginnings of sorrows.

Here is what I want you to see amid all the fog of politics and war and finance and chaos.  Everything is in perfect symmetry with the prophecies of the Bible for the last days. 

Every event — in America, in Israel, in Russia, together with events we never heard of in places we never heard of . . .  all of them fit perfectly into the context of Bible prophecy for the last days.  

Those things that don’t yet fit continue to seek their proper context — but NOTHING trends the other way.

Ethnic unrest, international instability, looming economic catastrophe and famine, drug resistant pestilences, catastrophic earthquakes, false prophets, false Christs, persecutions, runaway lawlessness, people going off their rockers . . .

And, for the first time in history, thanks to the internet and satellite communications, the Gospel can literally be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations. . . .

“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)

“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (Romans 13:11)

The Lord IS coming!  Go tell somebody!

Originally Published: October 5, 2012

Featured Commentary: Suffer the Little Children: Part 1 ~ Pete Garcia

Somebody’s Child

Somebody’s Child
Vol: 161 Issue: 14 Saturday, February 14, 2015

There is no greater blessing in life than one’s children. In my children I see the imprint of my life.  Each of them has their own story, and each story is also part of my story.

Their triumphs are my triumphs; their defeats are as crushingly painful for me as they are for them.

I don’t re-live my life through my children; I live it more fully because of them.  

Through their children I vicariously experience the innocence of youth and the joy of learning – but this time around I get to skip the more painful lessons.

“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” (Psalms 127:3-5)

People are ‘funny’ about their children (in the way bears are ‘funny’ about their cubs) – it’s not a good idea to criticize someone to his parents.  They might have a laundry list of criticisms, but you’d better keep your thoughts to yourself.

Having once been one myself, I knew better than to think my children were always right – but they were always my children.  

I’ve never had to do it personally, but I know that if one of them were to commit a crime, I’d expect them to face justice – with me standing behind the best lawyer I could afford.

Jesus referred to His Apostles as ‘children’ throughout His ministry.  Elsewhere, the Bible refers to Christians as ‘children’ as in:

“Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:36)

I did a word study on the various Greek words translated as ‘children’.   There are several different Greek words translated into English as ‘children’ that reveal a lot about how God sees us from His perspective.

Because there are children — and then there are your own children.  

The Greek word teknon means ‘a child’ (as produced, biological); teknion ‘means a darling infant, as in one’s own); huios means a ‘son’ literally, symbolically or figuratively, or a descendant; paidion, means ‘a toddler’ or ‘childling’ of either sex; and breiphos, meaning simply ‘an infant’ .

Let’s look at at a few examples in context before going on.

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children (teknon biological, produced) of God: And if children (teknon,) then heirs (kleronomos, inheritors) of God, and joint-heirs (sugkleronomos co-heir, fellow heirs, heirs-in common) with Christ. . .” (Romans 8:16-17a)

“For ye are all the children (huios) of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)

“And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, (teknion or darling, innocent infants) how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!”  (Mark 10:24)

“Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, (paidion: childling) he shall not enter therein.” (Matthew 18:2)

“For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children (huios sons) of disobedience:” (Colossians 3:6)

Because there are YOUR teknion— and then there are everybody else’s huios

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

God views the ‘sons of disobedience’ as ‘sons’ (huios) – only they’re not His.  They are the devil’s offspring.  They are of his family.  They are of his house. 

By faith in Jesus Christ, one becomes a huios of God (Galatians 3:26) through adoption (huiothesia).

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, (huiothesia) whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children (huiothesia) by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” (Ephesians 1:5)

Huiothesia is a compound of two Greek words that mean ‘adopted son’ – a son by deliberate choice.   In the ancient world, a child by adoption was an unbreakable relationship – one could disown and disinherit a natural born son, but not an adopted son.

Adoption was a very serious business, and therefore adoption was a universally recognized expression of great love.   An adopted son is of the house of his adopted Father.  And the word “Abba” means the same thing in modern Israel as it did in Paul’s day.  

It means “Daddy.”

Assessment:

What did you do for your dad today so that he would still love you?  Did you call him up this morning?   Did you do anything lately that he ever told you not to do? 

What did you do today to make sure you didn’t get kicked out of your family?  How often do you worry about having to change your name because your Dad decided you weren’t good enough to be his son? 

Are you the perfect child in all respects?   Have you ever disappointed your Dad?  Did he kick you out of the house?   Did he tell you he never wanted to see you again?  Did he promise to kill you?  

Are you an adopted child of God?   Have you surrendered your life over to His care?  Did you ask Him to adopt you into His forever family?  

What did you do for God lately so that He would still love you?  What did you do today to make sure you don’t get kicked out of His forever family?  Have you ever disappointed God?  Are you a perfect Christian?

Do you really expect God to be less loving than your own Dad?  Do you really believe that God loves you less perfectly than you love own your less-than-perfect children?  What sin would your child have to commit before you would disown him?

Now, what about your kid’s friends?  (Or yours, when you were a kid?)  Ever have somebody else’s kid behave so badly you didn’t want him back in your house?   Or didn’t want him playing with your kids?

Suppose you banned a kid from coming to your house for some misbehavior and he showed up at the door, demanding to be treated like one of the family.  So you ask him if he is sorry for committing the infraction that got him banned.

Not only is he not sorry,  he thinks you’re a jerk and your rules are stupid and he has no intention of comforming to them.   Would you let him in?   Why would anybody think that God is less sovereign over His heaven than you are over your kitchen?

Salvation is a spiritual transformation from one family to another — from the huios of disobedience to the teknion of Christ, the huiothesia of God and sugkleronomos with the Heir of God.

The Bible says that a Christian is a new creation of God, not merely a new and improved version of the old one. 

“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)

So, you don’t think you are worthy to be saved?  Don’t think you are good enough to go to heaven?  Worried that God will kick you out of His forever family for disappointing Him?  

Did you worry about your Dad doing that to you?   Ever think about doing that to your own kids?

Is your ability for unconditional love really THAT far superior to God’s?  Are you really that much more forgiving, that much more understanding and that much more fair? 

Or are you trusting in yourself to keep you instead of trusting Him?

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

Originally Published:April 28, 2010

”. . . And Curse Them That Curse Thee”

”. . . And Curse Them That Curse Thee”
Vol: 161 Issue: 13 Friday, February 13, 2015

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)

Originally Published: January 12, 2007

Featured Commentary: This Transient Life ~ Alf Cengia

Why We Can’t Ignore Politics

Why We Can’t Ignore Politics
Vol: 161 Issue: 12 Thursday, February 12, 2015

The antichrist only has seven years in which to accomplish all that the Bible outlines.  That doesn’t leave enough time for him to construct all the necessary religious, economic and political infrastructure the Bible says will be necessary.

So for the antichrist to be able to assume the reins of global government, somebody must have already hitched the horses to the wagon.

The UN is trying to insinuate itself into position as a functional global government.  As it stands today, the UN is too feckless to be trusted with that kind of power, but the world is well-aware of the need for some kind of global system of governance. 

The UN has already created the essential infrastructure, such as the World Bank, World Trade Organization, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNFOR, etc., all of which are now too well-entrenched to abandon.

The UN itself is destined to join the League of Nations on the trash heap of history.  But the existing infrastructure must survive.

The EU recognizes that fact, and is well on the way to constructing a parallel organization capable of assuming control of existing programs when the UN’s bloated and corrupt administration implodes.

Daniel clearly identifies a revived form of the Roman Empire as the seat of the antichrist’s political government.  So it is no coincidence that the EU is already constructed as a global government-in-waiting.

What has yet to be fully developed is a centralized global religious system that meets John’s specifications.  But even that eventuality is under construction.

The United Nations has established a World Council of Religious Leaders. Under the umbrella of the “Millennium Peace Summit’s” slogan of “Building an Integrated Framework for Peace” it claims:

“The objective of this Council is to serve as a resource to the United Nations and its agencies around the world, nation states and other international organizations, offering the collective wisdom and resources of the faith traditions toward the resolution of critical global problems.”

The Council has identified “religious fundamentalism” as the principle obstacle to peace and is actively working towards a kinder, gentler, more inclusive global religious system that can accommodate all the world’s religions under one banner.

The world is currently embroiled in a conflict that pits fundamentalist Islam against fundamentalist Judaism and fundamentalist Christianity.  The operative word here is “fundamentalist.” 

One of Islam’s fundamental doctrines holds that any part of “Dar al Islam” (the Zone of Islam) is a permanent condition.  Once an area has been conquered by Islam, any loss is only temporary and it becomes the religious duty of the world-wide Muslim umma (community) to restore that which was lost.

And at the core of the global fundamentalist religious war is the issue of ownership of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Jewish fundamentalism holds that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, (once part of Dar al Islam) is Israel’s eternal capital by Divine Decree.  And fundamentalist Christian theology supports Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as Divine.

Fundamentalist Islam cannot recognize Israel’s existence without admitting the Koran is false.  Fundamentalist Judaism cannot countenance the surrender Jerusalem or the Temple without conceding the Bible is not true.

(Neither can fundamentalist Christianity).

Mainstream Christianity, Judaism and Islam combined, represent about half of the world’s population.  But of that number, only a fraction are genuine fundamentalists.

The outbreak of a nuclear conflict over such religious fundamentals would result in an immediate and global call for the abolition of religious fundamentalism — a call that would be loudly echoed by the ‘mainstream’ from all three faiths.

To accomplish that, all religions would have to be brought under a central authority — some kind of global council that could serve as both watchdog and moral authority.  As we’ve seen, such a council already exists — what remains unfulfilled is the global will to cede authority over to it.

For the time being.

Assessment:

As I’ve noted on plenty of previous occasions, the Church Age draws to a close with the Rapture at some point before the onset of the Tribulation Period.

It is not the role of Christians to be looking for the antichrist.  It is our job to be looking for the return of Jesus Christ, and using that information to lead others to Christ while there is still time.

Admittedly, the Omega Letter spends at least as much time examining current events, in particular, political events, as it does on Bible doctrine.  I get a lot of grief over that.

“Why don’t you stick to the Bible and leave politics alone?” is a common refrain, especially from non-Christians, not to mention from liberals of all religious persuasions.

The Bible’s outline of the Tribulation is all about politics.  The antichrist is a political leader. The signs pointing to the nearness of the Tribulation Period are far more political than they are doctrinal.

The politics of government.  The politics of economics.  The politics of religion.  It takes injecting all three into the Big Picture in order to see it coming together.

The Bible examines the political, religious and religious worldviews as they will exist during a single generation, somewhere in time, to the exclusion of all previous generations.  Those ARE the signs of the times.

I am not looking for the coming of the antichrist.  When it comes to his identity, I am both ignorant and apathetic — I don’t know and I don’t care.  I don’t expect to be here when he comes on the scene.

Instead, I am looking for the signs of the return of Christ for His Church.  It is much like looking at a calendar.  If the calendar says tomorrow is Thanksgiving, then one knows that Christmas is just around the corner.

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

I get as tired of politics as anybody else does.  I often get as discouraged and depressed by all the bad news as you do.  But Jesus outlined these signs for a different reason.

The fact that He said this is how things would be, and that today, this is how things are, proves that He is indeed God, He is still in control, and all things continue according to His Plan.  If we trust Jesus, we have nothing to fear.

In a nutshell, what it means is this.  At some point before the last puzzle piece falls into place;

“[T]he 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.” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17)

The signs of the times are indeed disturbing. To an unbeliever, they are undoubtedly terrifying.

But the message all this chaos and confusion sends to the Church is not one of fear.  It is intended as a source of comfort.  As Paul wrote in conclusion to the “Rapture Chapter”;

“Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:18)

Originally Published: September 12, 2011

Featured Commentary: High Horses and Low Blows ~ J.L. Robb

Chariots of the Gods?

Chariots of the Gods?
Vol: 161 Issue: 11 Wednesday, February 11, 2015

There exists a more-or-less universal human memory of strange, god-like creatures, such as the centaurs and minotaurs and giants in the mythical past.

The centaur was half-man and half-horse and in Greek mythology, was the offspring of the god Apollo and Stilbe, daughter of the river-god Peneus.

In addition to centaurs, the ancient Greeks also worshipped Harpys, Mermaids, Satyrs, etc,. all of which were depicted as half-human, half-animal hybrids.

The centaur, Chiron, was celebrated among the Greeks for his master of music, medicine and archery. Hercules, Achilles and Jason, all heroes of Greek mythology, were said to have been educated by Chiron.

The Romans had similar gods, goddesses and hybrids in their own mythology, as did a number of other ancient pagan religions.

Virtually all the ancient mythologies agree that the pantheon of gods interacted directly with mortals, bestowing special powers and skills to those mortals that they took a fancy to.

There is an old saying to the effect that, ‘where there is smoke, there is fire’. That is to say, the ancient mythologies arose from something — they simply didn’t just appear in the imagination of the ancients — especially since the same myths exist, with slight variations, in cultures separated by both oceans and centuries.

The Mayans worshipped Kukulcan, a winged god depicted as a serpent with feathers. The Mayans erected as his monument a pyramid, called the Pyramid of the Sun, which still exists in Teotihuacan.

Mayan mythology has a story of extraterrestrial gods who came to earth and made man in their own image. When they first created man, the story goes, he was perfect, living as long as the gods and having all of their abilities.

Fearing their ‘creation’, the gods destroyed them. In the next evolution, a lower form of entity was created, ‘human’, as he exists today.

The Mayan Kukulcan was worshipped as the deity responsible for the arts of civilization, including codes of law, agriculture, fishing and medicine.

Kukulcan was also known to the Aztecs of Peru as Quetzalcoatl, meaning, ‘feathered snake’. The worship of Quetzalcoatl sometimes included human sacrifices, and they believed that the surest way to enter heaven was to commit suicide.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Assessment:

Atheists love to point at man’s mythological past, make comparisons to Bible stories about creation and the fall of man, and conclude that the Bible is just another effort by the ancients to use mythology to explain our origins.

While most of the ancient legends contain common threads — the belief in a world-wide Flood, the concept of heaven as a dwelling place for the gods, divine messengers, etc., — their deities are uniquely evil, their doctrines bloodthirsty, their gods and goddesses responsible for imparting secret knowledge to a select few humans.

They argue that the God of the Bible is nothing more than a religious system that borrowed its theology from mythology. Christians would (accurately) argue that the reverse is true.

Still, there are those universal memories of hybrid demi-gods — they had to have come from somewhere. And it is obvious that the pagans didn’t borrow their theology from the Bible.

But when one compares the mythology of the ancients to the explanation afforded by the Book of Enoch, one comes up with another possible explanation for the ‘mighty men of old, the men of renown’ who taught the ancients astrology, mathematics, construction, but who were also bloodthirsty predators who practiced the doctrines of demons.

I am not saying that the Book of Enoch has not been corrupted over the millennia, but what I am saying is that there must be some explanation for the advanced knowledge exhibited by the Great Pyramid, or the Mayan temples, or the shared memory of mythical hybrid creatures.

One can argue all day about whether God exists, or whether the ancients had actually encountered space aliens, or whatever explanation one wants to dream up, but there is only one explanation that fits the known and the unknown together with Scripture.

“That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” (Genesis 6:2)

Their offspring, according to Enoch, were the Nephilim, angelic hybrids giants who possessed the ancient knowledge of their fathers. According to Enoch, they “sinned against birds and beasts and reptiles and fish”; they taught charms and enchantments, root-cuttings, astrology, metallurgy, weapons, etc.

The Bible tells us of the giants in the earth then, — “and also after that.” The Book of Enoch tells us the angels (the Watchers) were confined after their sin, to be released after “seventy generations” — which brings the clock forward to approximately 7000 years from Adam.

The Apostle Jude confirms Enoch’s book as containing ‘prophecy’ and the Apostle John confirms their release (Revelation 9:2) and their identities (Revelation 9:11) during the Tribulation Period.

Ezekiel described the’ four living creatures’ (angels) he saw in great detail:

“The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. . . . As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.” (Ezekiel 1:13,18)

Read Ezekiel Chapter one in its entirety. Compare it to the descriptions in the accounts of modern UFO sightings and draw your own conclusions.

It its own way, the Book of Enoch confirms the Bible and offers a credible explanation for the gods and goddesses of history, the origin of the lost wisdom of the ancients, and helps explain Joshua’s references to the ‘gods which were before the Flood’ — without contradicting the Big Picture as presented by Scripture.

That doesn’t make Enoch a lost book of the Bible or a source of absolute doctrinal truth. There is no way of knowing how much of it was corrupted from the original, although Jude does say that there WAS an original.

As I’ve said a couple of times already, there are certain things that you just can’t ignore. You can try to explain them away, but there they are, just the same.

Ancient mythology, the pyramids, this generation’s fascination with UFO’s — and the thousands of documented ‘sightings’ and photos — they are real enough.

The hidden knowledge of the ancients is also real enough. The Great Pyramid, Stonehenge, the Mayan calendar, the Mayan temples and pyramids — they all attest to hidden knowledge for which there is no other explanation that fits the requirements of Scripture, logic, history and common sense.

According to Enoch, the ancients worshipped fallen angels and their offspring, the Nephilim. According to Genesis, there were giants in the earth then, — and also, ‘after that.’

And according to John, those angels will be released for a little season during the Tribulation.

Finally, according to Jesus Christ, “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.”

How does God describe the ‘days of Noah’?

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)

Originally Published: January 18, 2008

Featured Commentary: Afraid of the Dark ~ Lea Sylvester

You Were A Baby Once Don t Be Scared

You Were A Baby Once Don t Be Scared
Vol: 161 Issue: 10 Tuesday, February 10, 2015

“And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

And some nineteen hundred and seventy-seven years later, we’re still gazing up into heaven and awaiting the fulfillment of that Promise.  It’s been awhile since we revisited the Big Picture.  As we prepare to celebrate the occasion of our salvation, the signs of our redemption are everywhere.

When asked by His disciples, “What will be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world?”  Jesus outlined a sequence of events that began to unfold in the early part of the 20th century.

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” (Matthew 24:6-7)

But then He pauses, saying, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.”   The phrase, “beginning of sorrows” was carefully chosen by the Holy Spirit – it described the same thing in 1st century Israel as it described in 11th century Libya or in 21st century New York.

The Greek phrase arche odin, translated ‘beginning of sorrows’ could also be translated as ‘commencement of birth pangs’ – a sign easily recognizable to all peoples of all cultures in all times.

Birth pangs, once they’ve started, continue to grow in frequency and intensity.  Once they start, there’s no stopping them.  And, although they are excruciatingly painful, they hold the promise of great joy to come.

I’ve witnessed the amazing transformation personally.   During labor, it’s all, “You did this to me!” and “This is it!  I’m never going through this again!”

Witnessing it (and being the craven coward that I am) I not only had no doubt of the sincerity of her promise, I heartily agreed.

If it was me, it would only happen once.  And if I witnessed it beforehand . . . well, it’s a good thing for the human that women have the babies — or it would have ended with Cain.

There never would have been an Abel.

Assessment:

Witnessing the outline of Bible prophecy as unfolds is, on many levels a terrifying experience.

Speaking for myself, I can say without equivocation that there are times when “looking after the things that are coming upon the earth as the powers of heaven are shaken” before my very eyes terrifies me.

The outline of Bible prophecy is a litany of travail and sorrow and pain that, in the end, brings forth a new existence so glorious that the pain and sorrow fade into irrelevancy.   But that is then.   We are in the now.

Knowing that it will be better then helps – but now is when the economy is teetering on the brink, the Middle East is on the brink of exploding into potentially nuclear war, as Western civilization — oblivious — continues to slide into the abyss.

But unfolding Bible prophecy is not doom and gloom, anymore than going into labor is doom and gloom.  The fear is more is analogous to the fear of major surgery – you know its necessary and it will improve your situation – but still, you know it’s going to hurt.

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

Ok, but even though the benefits are beyond imagination, the parts we can imagine are scary.  Earthquakes, famines, wars, pestilences, solar anomalies, fear; of climate change, killer asteroids, weapons of mass destruction, social collapse . . . these are hardly things to look forward to.

The analogy of birth pangs extends from the travail of the mother to the situation of the baby being brought forth.   The baby is quite comfortable in his environment – it is all he knows.

It is warm, dark, safe and protected.  The baby’s needs are all met in the womb and from his perspective, it is the perfect universe.

Until suddenly, his universe starts to heave and buckle and collapse around him, expelling him into a painfully bright, noisy world where the first sensation to greet him is pain.

He is rudely snatched from his universe by his head, slapped on the behind, cut from his umbilical cord and, shivering with cold, enters his new form of existence.  But having experienced this existence, returning to the dark warmth of the womb would seem a living death.

On the other end of this existence, it happens all over again.  We are forced, reluctantly and painfully, into this life.  And on the other end, we are just as reluctantly and painfully forced out.

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

But during this present time, like the baby in the womb, this is all we know.  As we count down together towards the day of the Promise,  things will only get scarier.  It’s natural to be scared from time to time  — even for Christians. 

Don’t let being scared scare you into thinking your faith is weak.

Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.” (Proverbs 3:25-26)

Maranatha!

Originally published: April 2, 2010

Featured Commentary: The Apple of His Eye ~ Wendy Wippel

The Living Word

The Living Word
Vol: 161 Issue: 9 Monday, February 9, 2015

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)

Originally Published: August 18, 2009

Featured Commentary: The Hermit Kingdom ~ Pete Garcia

A Different Gospel

A Different Gospel
Vol: 161 Issue: 7 Saturday, February 7, 2015

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

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

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

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

Jesus linked the overspreading of the Gospel message to His Second Coming, saying:

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

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

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

Paul writes of the Gospel to the Ephesians,

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

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

Why is this such wonderful news?

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

But the Bible says there is also “another Gospel”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding grace is to understand what Paul meant when he told the Galatians,

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

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

This brief was originally published December 31, 2008

”Sufficient Unto The Day Is The Evil Thereof”

”Sufficient Unto The Day Is The Evil Thereof”
Vol: 161 Issue: 6 Friday, February 6, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It seemed so unbelievable.  The country is adrift.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can drive yourself nuts with this kind of thinking.

But Scripture promises us that,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Takes all the sting out of it.

Originally Published: November 6, 2008

Featured Commentary: As Anti-Israel, so Anti-Jew ~ Alf Cengia