There is Never Time Enough For ‘Later’

There is Never Time Enough For ‘Later’
Vol: 165 Issue: 30 Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I got a phone call this morning that rocked my world. It isn’t the first such phone call I’ve received in this life, and I expect it won’t be the last one, although I pray with all my heart that it is.

One of my dearest friends took his own life last night after a night of heavy drinking. The tragedy was compounded by the fact that he did so while he was on the telephone with a friend. I can only imagine the pain she is now feeling. I pray God will comfort her.

It is a tragedy compounded yet again by the fact that I do not know for certain what Jesse’s status was before the Lord when he took it upon himself to hasten his appearance before Him.

We had discussed the issue of sin and salvation together, but Jess was always pretty non-committal about it. And I fell into Satan’s trap of believing that I’d get another chance to press the issue.

Jess was still a fairly young and healthy man, and it seemed like there would be plenty of time for him to make that firm decision to either accept the free offer of pardon Jesus extended to him from the Cross, or for Jess to consciously reject it.

But I don’t know what that decision was.

What I DO know is that it was my responsibility before the Lord to ensure I had done everything humanly possible to make sure he understood what that decision meant to his eternity.

And I failed miserably. In the end, Jess took his own life before I could fulfill the Great Commission given me and I now bear that responsibility before Christ. It is a heavy, crushing weight.

I loved Jesse and cherished his friendship. And I have no assurance in my spirit that I will ever see him again.

The Apostle Paul wrote, in his prelude to his revelation of the mystery of the Rapture of the Church,

“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.” (1st Thessalonians 4:13-14)

Paul’s admonition is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing for those who have the assurance that their loved one was safely in the arms of Jesus.

For that is that blessed hope to which Paul refers. That death is only a temporary separation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

But it is a curse to those who have no such blessed assurance. And it is a particularly hateful curse to those who believed, as did I, that there would always be tomorrow.

There are no more tomorrows for me and Jesse. There were only the todays I had when I had them. And I blew it.

Instead of the sure and certain promise that we will meet in eternity, I have only the hollow hope that maybe somebody else did my job for me.

Jesse worked as a civilian contractor for the United States Marines as a helicopter mechanic. His job required him to make regular trips out to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan to service, repair and maintain Marine choppers and keep our birds in the air, as he liked to say.

He was very proud of the work he did. And we all were very proud of him as well.

A couple of years ago, as Jesse was getting ready for deployment, al-Qaeda murderers had just killed an American civilian contractor they had captured. This particular contractor reminded me of Jesse. He wasn’t involved in any combat capacity. He was a middle-aged guy who was killed simply for being an American.

When we heard of his murder, and knowing of Jesse’s deployment, I tried to talk with Jesse about the state of his soul. I cling to the fact that, in blowing me off, Jesse said something to the effect that ‘he and Jesus were ok with one another.’

I took that to mean that Jesse was open to the discussion, but just not now. So instead, I gave him some stupid advice about wrapping a strip of bacon around his neck and put a pork chop in his pocket.

God knows how I wish I had pressed him to wrap himself in Jesus and put a Bible in his pocket. But I didn’t. And Jesse came back from Afghanistan safe and sound. There was still time to talk about it later.

But later didn’t come. I had jotted Jesse down on my mental ‘to do’ list for when our road tour was over.

I have many other names on my mental ‘to-do’ list. People I love like family, people now grieving, as I am, for the loss of a beloved friend under tragic circumstances.

Some of them are reading today’s message right now.

I’m sorry I let Jess down. I love you all and I share your grief. I wish I could be there with you right now.

And I pray you will understand what I am trying to tell you. B.Y, Aubrey — and now Jesse — who knows which of us is next? Or when?

Jesus is real. Eternity is real. And there are but two places available for us to spend it. We choose.

God wants us to choose Him, but He leaves the choice in our hands.

He asks only that we accept the fact that we are all sinners before God and that God has made provision for us anyway.

He stepped out of space and time, took on the form of an ordinary man, and, having done so, He lived the perfect life God’s justice demands of us all.

And, having lived that perfect life, with no sin debt of His own, He allowed Himself to be sacrificed on our behalf, to pay the sin debt owed by each of us.

All any of us have to do is accept the offer of pardon He extends to us, and trust His promise that ‘whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.’ There is no requirement to ‘clean up’ first.

“But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

We come to Him as we are, because He died for our sins, just AS we are. And He promises,

“Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:8-9)

It isn’t ‘church talk’. It is reality. It is the truth. I know it like I know Becky’s pool table drifts to the left corner.

I know it like I know you. And you know me.

Jesus accepts us just the way we are. He accepted me. He’ll accept you just as joyfully.

All He asks is that we humble ourselves enough ask for His forgiveness and to trust His Promise. Just ask Him.

And leave the rest up to Him.

I didn’t do my job when it was before me. There was always tomorrow. Until today.

And I am so very, very sorry.

Originally Published: August 15, 2006

The Assault on Marriage

The Assault on Marriage
Vol: 165 Issue: 29 Monday, June 29, 2015

I used to go have breakfast down at the local diner every morning with friend, ‘Red-Headed Jeff.’ It became something of a ritual until one day I mentioned something about my wife within earshot of the waitress.

She looked at us and asked, “Aren’t you a couple?” I stifled the urge to ask, ‘a couple of what?’ and just smiled. But we agreed to have breakfast together a bit less often. And at a different diner.

But the incident made me think about how perceptions have changed. I took my wife to the local emergency room a few years back.

She had the flu and lost her voice, so I had to do her talking for her. I was amazed that in each case where I gave them my name and identified myself as her husband, they always asked her last name as if expecting it to be different than mine.

A little thing, but more evidence of the shift in perspective.

A report in the New York Times outlined (with some odd sense of triumph) the fact that for the first time in history, traditional marriage is a minority group among American households, under the headline, “It’s Official: To Be Married Means to Be Outnumbered”

“Married couples, whose numbers have been declining for decades as a proportion of American households, have finally slipped into a minority, according to an analysis of new census figures by The New York Times.”

The Times went on to highlight the numbers, saying, of 111.1 million American households, 49.9% — less than half — were made up of traditional households.

It went on to extoll the social virtues of unmarried couples living together, highlighted gay ‘marriages’ as a significant change in the social fabric, and ‘devoting a single line to noting that the numbers of single young adults and widows were both growing’.

As I read through the Times’ article, I got a whiff of a little ‘perspective shifting’ going on right in front of me.

The Times had some fun with numbers, using percentages of percentages to make them sound larger.

For example, it noted that; “Since 2000, those identifying themselves as unmarried opposite-sex couples rose by about 14 percent, male couples by 24 percent and female couples by 12 percent.”

Wow! That sounds like a lot! And if you didn’t read it through twice, carefully, you might have missed, as I did, the fact that those were percentages of the FIVE percent of unmarried couples who were ‘co-habitating’.

“The census survey estimated that 5.2 million couples, a little more than 5 percent of households, were unmarried opposite-sex partners.”

Wait, a second. My head is starting to hurt. The Times first said married couples were now a ‘minority’ among American households but it appears only 5 percent of all households consist of unmarried heterosexuals. Are all the rest gay?

Well, not exactly.

“An additional 413,000 households were male couples, and 363,000 were female couples,” the Times reported. Curiously, the Times didn’t express that in percentages. Six figure numbers SOUND bigger.

Expressed as a percentage, 1.4% of all households being gay doesn’t sound like very many. Especially given the disproportionate clout enjoyed by the gay rights lobby based on their claim that 10% of the population is gay.

(It is worth noting that an estimated 2% of all Americans believe they’ve been abducted by aliens. But nobody is advocating UFOlogy courses for pre-schoolers.)

I read through the article three or four times trying to unravel the numbers actually represented by the percentages within percentages. I am still not sure I’ve gotten it all figured out.

But if I do, it appears that the following is true: Less than half of households are traditional married couples. Less than six percent of households are made up of cohabiting heterosexuals. Less than one percent of the total are gay ‘marriages’.

The remainder of households are made up of young unmarrieds, widows and widowers. Since people are living longer, and the children of the divorce generation are approaching marriage later and more carefully than their parents, that is unsurprising.

What is surprising is the tone of the piece. And the clear agenda behind it. It took two full readings before it sunk into my thick head that there were no facts here.

Just breathless innuendo; “But marriage has been facing more competition. A growing number of adults are spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners, and the potential social and economic implications are profound.”

Yeah. 24% of 5% of the total. Profound.

Assessment:

The same story could have borne the headline; “More Widows and Young Unmarrieds Than Before.” But the Left’s agenda is to promote ‘alternative lifestyles’ as having somehow ‘triumphed’ over traditional marriage. Even if they have to lie to do so.

Let’s take the numbers apart and see what they look like.

The ‘growing’ number of ‘unmarried with partners’ represents 5% of all households. It is out of this five percent that all the larger-seeming percentages are being conjured. But the Times headline said married couples were outnumbered.

The NYTimes slant was deliberate, because the destruction of the family unit is a basic principle of Marxist-Leninism. Leftists have long taken a decidedly jaundiced view of the traditional family.

To them, a household consisting of an adult male and female—united in matrimony—and their offspring is an antiquated, repressive institution standing in the way of constructing a “better,” more egalitarian world.

Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto declared that the “hallowed correlation of parent and child” is nothing more than “bourgeois claptrap.”

“Destroy the family,” Lenin said, “and you destroy society.”

History teaches that every totalitarian movement has tried to destroy the traditional family unit. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wanted the family destroyed, as did Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

They believed this to be necessary because the family was seen as a dangerous threat to the power of the State, which was to assume the rights, responsibilities and authority of the family.

The family alone, however, teaches the hard truths of moral values.

In other words, it is the family which is the enemy of the State because it provides the formation of character which gives the young the ability to grow up to become independent, stable, functioning, and compassionate individuals.

Traditional families teach independence. Independence is poison to the Leftist ideal of cradle-to-grave dependence on the state.

That is why the Left is working so hard to redefine marriage until it has no meaning at all. Because the family unit was designed by God. The Left’s god is the state.

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” (Romans 1:28)

Originally Published: October 17, 2007

Featured Commentary: The Tin-Foil Hat Brigade ~ Pete Garcia

Proving All Things In The Age Of Information Overload

Proving All Things In The Age Of Information Overload
Vol: 165 Issue: 27 Saturday, June 27, 2015

”Information overload” is a term that has come to mean ”a state of having too much information to make a decision or remain informed about a topic.” Too much information can cloud the facts, harden the heart, blind one to the obvious.

Sir William of Occam saw the need to address the problem of information overload as early as the 14th century. A philosopher, Sir William formulated what became known as “Occam’s Razor” as a philosophy for processing information overload.

Occam’s Razor says, in a nutshell, “the simpler the explanation, the more likely its correctness.” Another way of saying it is “the most obvious explanation is the most probable.”

We live in an age of conspiracies and conspiracy theories, but Occam’s Razor still cuts through the excesses of information to get to the heart of the truth of a matter.

But information overload doesn’t just cloud the facts and blind one to the obvious. It also tends to harden the heart and sear the conscience.

How many “Amber alerts” does it take before they blend into the white noise of the day? How many murder/suicides of whole families before we tune them out?

How many reports of corrupt politicians before we accept political corruption as simply the way things are done?

The equation works like this: “The more you know, the less you see.” It all gets jumbled together in a massive flow of information that gets input before we’ve had time to process it all.

We live in the generation in which the sheer volume of information related to Bible prophecy creates its own kind of information overload and its companion results.

There’s so much evident fulfillment of Bible prophecy on a day to day basis that it tends to cloud the facts. Trying to sort out the facts tends to blind one to the obvious. And too much information tends to harden the heart and sear the conscience.

The Bible says, “Prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.” (1st Thessalonians 5:21)

It would appear that Sir William stole Occam’s Razor from the Apostle Paul. Paul is telling the Thessalonians to subject everything submitted to you to be believed to a proper test.

The meaning here is, that they were carefully to examine everything proposed for their belief. They were not to receive it on trust. They weren’t to take it on faith because of who proposed it or how.

They were to apply the proper tests of reason and the Word of God and what they found to be true they were to embrace, and what was false they were to reject.

Christianity does not require men to disregard their ability to reason. It does not expect them to believe anything because others say it is so. The Bible uniquely demands the application of reason to the Word of God.

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 1:18)

“Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.” (Isaiah 41:21)

Acts is filled with examples of the Apostles applying reason to the Scriptures when preaching Christ as the way of salvation.

“And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” (Acts 24:25)

Christianity doesn’t demand that believers abandon their reason and logic at the door.

It requires we exercise both, and in so doing, proves itself to be of God.

Assessment:

“And this I say,” Paul told the Colossians, “lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. . . As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.”

The meaning here is simply this: “Since you have received Christ as your Lord as He was preached to you, hold fast the doctrine which you have received and don’t be distracted by some new philosophy.”

It means proving all things by applying reason and logic and Occam’s (or Paul’s) Razor to the Scriptures. Sometimes, we can get so caught up in the minutiae of Scripture that we become blinded to the Bible’s Majesty.

All the various prophecies we are witnessing coming to pass in our lifetimes have been studied by every generation since the time of the Apostles. They all waited in vain, searching the Scriptures for some hint that the return of the Lord was near.

In this generation, there is no need to search for clues, or dream up some vague interpretation of some obscure bit of Scripture and try and make it apply to a given situation. Seeing God’s Hand in unfolding history has become so routine that it blends into the rest of the white noise of information overload.

Let’s step back and look at the Bible’s Majesty, rather than the minutiae, for a change.

The Bible was compiled over a period of 1604 years (BC 1492-AD100) by forty different authors, each writing his portion of the overall Book independently. The various authors were kings, statesmen, priests, herdsmen, tax collectors, fishermen, a physician, and itinerant preachers and prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah.

Few of them knew of the existence of the other at the time they wrote their portion. Some books were composed during the same periods of history from different perspectives, some were penned over a period of centuries.

But each book flows into the next as if the entire work were penned by the same Mind. The Bible cross-references itself across its whole library of 66 individual books; 39 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New. The Bible is unique in that it is a series of progressive revelations from God given over a period of centuries:

The judges knew more than the Patriarchs, the Prophets than the judges, the Apostles than the Prophets. Yet the Old and New Testaments cannot be separated. You cannot understand Leviticus without Hebrews, or Daniel without Revelation.

The Bible is unique in its simplicity of speech. It is written in a style so universal that it can be translated into any known language.

The Bible contains thousands of details of science, history, geography, medicine and astronomy. Not a single fact contained in Scripture on any of these topics conflicts with any known evidence.

Isaiah said the earth was round. (Isaiah 40:22) Job wrote from the Middle East of polar ice caps and permafrost.

Ecclesiastes (1:7) and Job (36:27-29), Jeremiah (10:13) and Psalms (135:7) together present the complete description of the hydrological cycle that sustains life on earth.

Four different human authors, four different points on the historical timeline, four different backgrounds (none of them science) but their individual accounts, taken together, outline in detail the complete hydrological cycle of the atmosphere — millennia before its existence was even confirmed by science.

As a work of history, no single historical event, personage, king, kingdom or timeline has ever been conclusively disproved by anyone. Every new discovery confirms the Bible’s account.

No event that can be disproved ever has been. Concerning the accuracy of Luke as a historian, for example, F. F. Bruce writes:

“A man whose accuracy can be demonstrated in matters where we are able to test it is likely to be accurate even where the means for testing him are not available. Accuracy is a habit of mind, and we know from happy (or unhappy) experience that some people are habitually accurate just as others can be depended upon to be inaccurate. Luke’s record entitles him to be regarded as a writer of habitual accuracy.”

The Bible contains advanced medical knowledge regarding sanitary practices and disease prevention not known to Western medicine until the late 1800’s. God instructed the Israelites to burn the garments of leprosy victims.

Western medicine didn’t learn that leprosy was an infectious, rather than hereditary disease until 1873. (It wasn’t until the 20th century that we learned leprosy can survive for up to three weeks on clothing.)

God told Moses to use hyssop oil as a purifying agent. Hyssop oil has been shown to contain 50% antifungal and antibacterial agents.

God commanded the Israelites to perform circumcision on the 8th day of a male child’s life. Specifically, the eighth day. Medical researchers recently discovered that the two main blood clotting factors, Vitamin K and Prothrombim, reach their highest level in life, about 110% of normal, on the 8th day after birth. These blood clotting agents facilitate rapid healing and greatly reduce the chance of infection.

(In fact, performing a circumcision on a child before or after the eighth day requires a Vitamin K supplement injection.)

Back in the 12th century, the Jewish sage Maimonides discovered what he believed to be coded messages hidden in the Bible. Maimonides, working by hand, discovered what he thought were coded words made up of mathematically calculable equidistant letter sequences.

Using computers in the 1990’s several mathematicians from Hebrew University and a Defense Department code specialist named Harold Gans discovered mathematically provable codes do exist at equidistant letter sequences.

After demanding a series of tests to prove the theory, the actuarial journal, “Statistical Science” presented their findings with the following disclaimer:

“Our referees were baffled: their prior beliefs made them think the Book of Genesis could not POSSIBLY contain meaningful references to modern day individuals, yet when the authors carried out additional analyses and checks the effect persisted.”

Wrote the “Biblical Review:”

“The capacity to embed so many, meaningfully related, randomly selected word-pairs in a body of text with a coherent surface meaning is stupendously beyond the intellectual capacity of ANY HUMAN BEING or group of people, however brilliant, and equally beyond the capacity of ANY CONCEIVABLE COMPUTING DEVICE. The phenomenon cannot be attributed to ANYTHING within the KNOWN PHYSICAL UNIVERSE, human beings included.”

Applying Occam’s Razor to the known evidence about the Bible, there can be only one of two possible conclusions.

1) The Bible is a collection of stories and myths that just so happen to coincide with provable history, medicine, geography, astronomy, etc., plus coincidentally, provably forecasts the future with 100% accuracy;

or,

2) The Bible is true in every provable way, and could only have been written by God. So God exists, heaven exists, hell exists, Jesus is real, salvation is real, and so is eternity.

But sometimes, even after being saved many years, the enemy will launch another information overload assault on my reason and try and convince me that its all a myth.

All I have to do to dispel the attack is remember there are only those two logical choices and Occam’s Razor.

Coincidence? Occam’s Razor says that cannot be possible.

Originally Published: August 2, 2007

Beginnings of Sorrows

Beginnings of Sorrows
Vol: 165 Issue: 26 Friday, June 26, 2015

I’ve always been a keen student of history, as far back as I can remember. Even before I understood the logic of the question, ”how can you know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been?”, the history of man has fascinated me.

I would learn some new historical fact that would explain the reason for some contemporary situation and, bingo! The lights would come on and it would all make sense.

I was always fascinated with the way all the tiny details had to fit together exactly, and what a difference a single change could make to the Big Picture as it exists today.

What if Gavrilo Princip had not shot Franz and Sophie Ferdinand to death on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo?

(Who? I’m glad you asked.)

Gavrilo Princip was a member of a Serbian nationalist terrorist squad. Franz Ferdinand was the Archduke of Austria, Prince Imperial of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia and heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

His assassination precipitated the Austria declaration of war that triggered the First World War.

What if Princip was captured or killed before he could do the deed that ultimately killed more than thirty-eight million people? That single event forever changed the course of history, brought down empires, and freed the Holy Land from centuries of Islamic rule.

So, what if Gavrilo Princip missed? What if his weapon misfired? Jerusalem would have remained a minor city in minor province of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. The modern map of the Middle East would not exist. Germany would have no need of a Jew-hating rabble rouser demanding vengeance for its defeat in a war that didn’t take place.

A single act by a single person on a single day that essentially created modern history. Who could have predicted such a thing? Yet had this one thing not happened, the world as we know it would not exist.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ was asked by His disciples to outline the signs of His Second Coming in the last days. In His reply, He said,

“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)

Jesus outlined the signs that would signal His return chronologically.

“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (v.7-8)

As we go on, it is important to keep our historical perspective. Jesus was speaking from the perspective of His audience, the Jews of Israel.

The history of the 20th century is one of constant war, both hot wars and the Cold War (the ULTIMATE ‘rumor” of war), but it was those wars that gave us our present world situation. It was the First World War that liberated the Holy Land from Islamic control.

“Then shall they deliver you [the Jews] up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake. [Christ-killers].” (24:9)

It was the Holocaust of WWII that ultimately resulted in the restoration of Israel in 1948. And it was Israel’s declaration of statehood that has driven the course of modern history since.

“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” (v.10)

The Arab-Israeli conflict shaped the lines of the Cold War, dominated the United Nations agenda for a half-century, provided the backdrop for the Persian Gulf War, and sparked the current Islamic terror war against the West.

The outline that Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives 2000 years ago is a perfect fit for the outline of world history as this current generation has experienced it.

We grew up amidst the wars and rumors of wars, watched world events literally shape our history before our eyes, from Yasser Arafat’s invention of aircraft hijacking as a terrorist weapon of the Middle East in 1968 to the attacks on the US homeland in 2001.

Now, to return to the question: What if Gavrilo Princip had not shot Franz and Sophie Ferdinand to death on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo?

Assessment:

For 1900 years, the prophecies of the signs of the Second Coming just sat there, unfulfilled and largely ignored by students of Scripture. Although the great Reformers like Calvin and Luther wrote commentaries on the entire Bible, neither attempted to expound on either Daniel or Revelation.

Neither made any sense at the time and were written off as “symbolic” or “allegorical”.

When the Prophet Daniel, who didn’t understand the visions himself, asked the revealing angel what they meant, he was told,

“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Daniel 12:4)

The Olivet Discourse was similarly written off as ‘allegory’ by centuries of Bible scholarship, until after Gavrilo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand.

Then the pieces began to fall into place, one by one, detail by detail, from the ‘beginning of sorrows’ through the Holocaust, to the restoration of Israel, to the 9/11 attacks, right up to the impending Persian/Islamic war just over the horizon.

For Jesus Christ to get it right, Gavrilo Princip had to shoot Ferdinand. The first World War precipitated the rise of a discontented Prussian corporal to Fuehrer of the Third Reich and architect of the Holocaust. The Holocaust precipitated the sudden influx of Jews to Jerusalem and its environs.

All these were the beginnings of sorrows. But they HAD to happen EXACTLY in order for the Words of Jesus, spoken some 1900 years before, to find their fulfillment in this generation.

Bible prophecy is the Signature of its Author. Only God can predict the future.

Logic dictates that in every generation of history from AD 33 to this present day, there has been a Gavrilo Princip, some unknown actor whose actions shaped the events of the next generation.

And EVERY SINGLE ONE of them had to do EXACTLY as they did for Jesus to get it right on the Mount of Olives 2000 years ago.

Had Gavrilo Princip not killed Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June, 1914, there would be no Israel to be threatened by its Islamic neighbor states in 2007.

Having outlined events as they would happen, 1900 years in advance, Jesus paused to remind His audience, “Behold, I have told you before.” (Matthew 24:25)

Bible prophecy is undeniable evidence that the God we worship is no ‘cunningly devised fable’ to this generation, anymore than it was to Peter when he wrote:

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2nd Peter 1:16)

We have that same assurance, because, (now think about this!) Bible prophecy provides us with that same EYEWITNESS to His majesty! Nobody else but God could know in advance about all the Gavrilo Princips scattered throughout history.

We are eyewitnesses to history, and that history confirms His Word to the tiniest detail.

The same God Who outlined history in advance also assured us:

“In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 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 14:2-3)

He IS coming soon! And He’s provided us with all the evidence necessary to prove it.

We need to get the word out.

Original Publication: March 26, 2007

Featured Commentary: She’ll be right, Christian ~ Alf Cengia

Keeping The Faith

Keeping The Faith
Vol: 165 Issue: 25 Thursday, June 25, 2015

Today’s Omega Letter isn’t for everybody.  If things are going fine in your Christian life, your faith is strong, and you are confident of your standing before God, then maybe you can skip this one.  You probably won’t relate to it anyway.

But if you sometimes lay awake at night wondering if maybe you really aren’t good enough to be saved, or maybe you’ve misunderstood something and maybe you really aren’t saved, then you might want to read on.

Faith is at once as simple as a recipe for boiling water and as complicated as a recipe for coq au vin.  It really depends on how many ingredients you think necessary.

For some, faith means, “Jesus said it, I believe it and that settles it.”  That pretty much sums up their Christianity. They don’t feel the need to examine their faith on a regular basis, or in some cases, at all.

I know of people who never go to church and never talk about Jesus and who live life pretty much the same as if they had never heard of Him. You wouldn’t know that they were Christians unless you brought the subject up.

But when the subject comes up, some seem to be more at peace with their salvation than many serious, mature and dedicated Christians that are constantly worried about losing their salvation.

Do you not know people like that?  Are they really saved?  They think they are.  Although a lot of Christians I know would say they are not.

Conversely, I know many mature, well-studied, serious and dedicated Christians that are constantly reexamining their faith and never completely sure if it measures up.  For them, faith is a deeply complicated subject that involves all kinds of additional steps and support mechanisms.

Do you not know people like that, too?

The writer of Hebrews defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1

When you go to work on Monday, it is because you expect a paycheck on Friday.  The paycheck is the substance of things hoped for, and the fact you show up on the job is the evidence that you’re expecting to be paid.

If you didn’t have faith that there’d be a payday, then your lack of faith would be evident when you didn’t show up.  

This is where faith and works get confused. You don’t go to the job in order to have faith in your boss.  You go to the job BECAUSE you have faith in your boss.  

That is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote; “The just shall live by faith.”  They don’t live by faith because they are just.  They are just because they live by faith.  It is faith that justifies. 

But faith in what?

Assessment:

 “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28)

Have you ever wondered if you were losing your faith? (If not, then why are you still here? I told you this one isn’t for you.)

The first question to be asked and answered is so simple as to often be ignored.  Where did you put it?

Is your faith in your ability to keep the Word?  If so, then your faith is in yourself – no wonder you waver so much.

Is it in your pastor or Bible teacher? That’s a pretty dangerous place to put it, since he is, by definition, a prime target on the enemy hit list. 

You would be surprised how many prominent Christian leaders suffer faith crises – especially the ones that seem to have it the most together.The more prominent or effective the teacher, the more intensely the enemy focuses his attack. 

Look at how many prominent men of faith have fallen — and fallen hard — from Jimmy Swaggart to Ted Haggard. Are they lost now?  Were they ever really saved?  

Think of how that affected their followers: Was I following a false doctrine?  Am I now?  

Paul says that a man is “justified by faith.”  What does that mean?  Faith in Jesus?  What does that mean?  Does faith mean simply believing that He lived and died and was resurrected on the third day? 

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19)

So clearly, faith isn’t the same as simply believing.  Satan believes

If your faith is in the indwelling Holy Spirit to keep you from sin, then what does it mean when you do sin? (for you certainly will.)   Is the Holy Spirit faithless?  Or are you?  If you are faithless, then how can you be saved? 

If your faith is in Jesus Christ’s Promise that “him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” well, that sounds too easy to be true sometimes, doesn’t it? Especially when there are so many others all around you that don’t seem to have the same struggles that you do.  

That by itself is enough to cause a major faith crisis.  Here you are, struggling through, knowing how many times you fall in the course of a single day, while other Christians seem to have it nailed. 

I’m not going to soothe you by telling you that you’re doing it right.  Or that you can’t do better.  Or that you shouldn’t do better. Because you likely aren’t, probably can, and certainly should.

But if your faith is in your ability to perform, then no wonder you question it.  That is why salvation is by faith that, by the grace of God, Jesus did it all — because you can’t do any of it.  

Salvation is about having faith that you can trust the promises of God. Faith that He will perform them, not faith that you will.   

“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)

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)

Those are both pretty much unambiguous, black-and-white statements.  How much faith must one have to be saved? How faithful must one be to stay saved? Jesus said faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains. 

Can you move mountains?

Originally Published: March 26, 2011

Featured Commentary: Prologue: The End The Book Part 5: Wuhan, China ~ J.L. Robb

Questions That Are Harder Than the Answers:

Questions That Are Harder Than the Answers:
Vol: 165 Issue: 24 Wednesday, June 24, 2015

One of the most prevalent characteristics of Scripture is its simplicity.  Indeed, it is addressed to ‘the simple’.

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalms 19:7)

“The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.” (Psalms 116:6)

“When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.” (Proverbs 21:11)

“Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him.” (Proverbs 9:16)

Yet there are entire libraries filled with complicated volumes explaining the simplicity of the Scriptures. For every Scriptural doctrine there is somebody who has a revised doctrine they’ve managed to glean from the Scriptures that nobody else ever found.  

Usually it is something that tends to complicate something that would be otherwise pretty simple.  The doctrine of eternal security is a good example.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Ephesians 2:5)  

That is about as simple as it gets.  The statement asks and answers all the questions necessary: 

Q. How are we saved? A. By Grace.  Q. How do we receive grace? A. By faith.  Q. Where does it come from?  A. From God.  Q. What role do I play?  A.  I receive the gift.

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)

This is also pretty simple. If I am saved by grace and works, then grace isn’t grace anymore.  It is grace plus works — which nullifies both.  If works count, then grace doesn’t.

It cannot count.  Grace comes from God.  Works come from you. Are you judged according to your worthiness?  Or Christ’s?  How can anybody be judged according to both?  

“Well, Jesus was good enough. . . but you weren’t. . . .”    

“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16)

So simple a caveman could understand it.  It is of “faith that by grace the promise might be sure” because if one relies on the combination of faith in God’s grace and faith in one’s own works, the promise is not sure. 

Conversely, if I am relying on the combination of my faith in God’s grace coupled with my own works, it is now up to me to judge whether I am good enough to go to heaven.  (Or whether someone else is.)

“Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?”  (1st Corinthians 10:29-30)

But if it is so simple, then why is eternal security derided as OSAS (Once Saved, Always Saved)?  I don’t know, to tell you the truth.  I’ve heard a lot of arguments but none that don’t redefine the entire concept of grace in the process.

“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)

Assessment:

As a question, Hebrews 6:4-6 is a hard one — it says that if somebody is saved and then falls away, they have lost their salvation.  Doesn’t it?  

Well, it does when judged against Paul’s standard that either grace nullifies works or works nullifies grace.

It is impossible to renew someone to repentance because the Blood of Christ is sufficient payment for ALL sin.  If it were not, then Christ would have to be crucified again and again, exposing Him to “an open shame” before His enemy.

Can that mean that a person who was saved and then fell away could never come back? He is lost forever and without hope, no matter how much he later begs for forgiveness? 

That all depends on how one defines the word impossible.  If you define it as meaning “maybe” then Hebrews 6:4-6 contradicts eternal security.

If you define it as meaning impossible then it can only mean that it is impossible to lose one’s salvation by one’s own works, since it would expose Christ to ridicule before the enemy He claimed to have defeated.

As a question, the Book of James seems kind of difficult. James writes;

“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. . .” (James 2:18)

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19)

“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24)

This may sound scandalous to some, but hang on.  All of the Bible is written for us, but not all of it was written to us.  That is part of the whole process of ‘rightly dividing’ the Word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

The Old Testament was written for all mankind, but written directly to the Jews.  There are doctrines in the Old Testament that do not apply to Christians.

The New Testament is a collection of 27 letters, or books, divided according to their intended audiences. 

The four Gospels speak of it in the future tense, but during the Gospel period, there was no Church, no Christians and no Great Commission.   

The second division is the Book of Acts.  During this time, the New Testament Church was born, people began to get saved, the Gospel began to be preached, churches started to spring up.

After the churches are established come the Epistles (letters) to the various churches of the Gentile world.   The Pauline Epistles are written to the Gentiles unfamiliar with the Law of Moses. 

The books of Peter, Hebrews, James and Jude are primarily addressed to converted Jews that are already steeped in the Mosaic Law.  The Mosiac Law emphasized works. 

The Gospels make reference to flight on the Sabbath Day — but the Sabbath Day restrictions apply to Jews, not the Church.   Peter makes reference the Mosaic Law on unclean animals. (Acts 11:8)

James is addressing grace versus works to people steeped from birth in the traditions of the Mosiac Law. James wasn’t equating works with salvation, he was equating works with fruit.   

Abraham was justified by the ‘work’ of believing God, not sacrificing Isaac. His faith was ‘made perfect’ by God’s grace in providing an alternative sacrifice. 

Rahab was justified by faith that if she helped the spies they would spare her.  By her works, the Israelites were saved from defeat at Jericho.  Her faith was ‘made perfect’ when the Israelites kept their promise.

We are saved by our faith that the Blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cleanse us from all sin and that He has already kept His Promise.

“Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” -(James 2:22)

James doesn’t equate works with salvation, he equates it with faith.   I’m assuming we’re all Christians here.  I’m also assuming we’ve had similar experiences.  (Assuming can be problematic, but I’m taking a long chance.)

Is your faith sometimes stronger than it is other times?  I admit that mine is.  There are moments when I’m ready to charge hell with a bucket of ice water and times when I wonder how a dirtbag like me could ever be saved.  

Think about it.  Do you ever find your faith wavering, even for a few moments?  Think about the circumstances when it does. 

I bet you will find some relationship between how strong your faith is and what ‘works’ you happen to be engaging in at the time.    

Salvation and faith are not the same.   We are sometimes more faithful than other times, but there is no time when we are more or less saved. 

We tend to view our lives in the moment — we view where we are at that moment as determining where we stand with God.  To some degree, that is true, since all any of us has is this moment.

But while we see our lives in momentary slices, God exists outside of time and space. We can only see to the next horizon, God looks down at us in our totality.  God either sees the Shed Blood of Christ or He does not.

Our faith is demonstrated by our works, and our works play an important role in how faithful we are, but salvation comes by grace through faith [and that not of yourselves, lest any man should boast.] (Ephesians 2:8-9)

There are those who say that the doctrine of eternal security is a license to sin.  The fact is that man doesn’t need a license to sin.  Sin is what man does.

The most simple theme of Scripture, the one for which there is the least objection, is the theme that man is incapable of living a sinless life on his own. 

Man is incapable of good works.

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9)

“They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:12)

As Christians, we are enjoined to live a Christ-like life because we are saved, not in order to become saved or in order to remain saved.

“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 12:10)

Don’t let the enemy steal your victory. You are worthy to carry the banner because He has made you worthy. 

Is your faith weak?  Go out there and get into the fight. 

“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)

Maranatha!

Originally Published: June 9, 2010

The Gospel According to Job

The Gospel According to Job
Vol: 165 Issue: 23 Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Book of Job opens with the ”sons of God” (angels) presenting themselves before God.  The fallen angel Satan (literally, ”the accuser”) was apparently also compelled to attend this gathering of angels, since he also was there.

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.”

There is much to be learned from this verse, and also from the one following:

“And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” (Job 1:6-7)

The general outline of the story is well-known. God gives Satan permission to test Job and Job is afflicted.  He loses everything: his sons, his crops, his livestock, all his wealth and finally his health.

In all this, Job never curses God and is restored in the end.  Three of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar accuse Job of sin and point to his many afflictions as proof.

Job defends himself by claiming something close to perfection and demanding an explanation from God for his suffering.

The fourth, Elihu, jumps Job for mistaking righteousness with perfection and reminds Job that righteousness comes from God.

“I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.” (Job 36:3)

Nobody knows for sure who Job was, or even if Job was the author of the book that bears his name.

Nothing is known of Job apart from Scripture, including when the book was written, but from its literary style and use of language, it is believed to be the oldest book in the Bible, chronologically speaking.

The majority of Orthodox Jewish scholars believe Job was an actual historical figure.  The construction of the Book of Job suggests the book was penned by an Israelite who was telling the story of a non-Israelite, which also suggests a very early date, probably before Moses.

There is a tradition among some Torah scholars that suggest Job was one of three advisors to Pharaoh during the 400 years in Egypt.  That same tradition names Moses as the author of Job.

That seems unlikely.  Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.  He had a distinctive style not evident in Job.  And Job’s lifespan puts him much closer to the time of the Flood.

Job lived some 240 years, longer than Terah, (205) longer than Abraham, (175) longer than Jacob (147) and longer than Esau (147).

By the time Moses came along almost a thousand years after Abraham, 120 years was the outside limit of a human lifespan.

Moses lived to be 120, Joshua 110.  After that, the Bible indicates that the maximum lifespan dropped to roughly where it is now, at;

“threescore and ten, and if by reason of strength, fourscore.”  (Psalms 90:10)

Assessment:

Why is the chronology of Job important?  Because he in all probability predates Abraham.  Certainly, Job was not a Jew, but there is no reference to him in the Hebrew Bible as being a Gentile.

Before Abraham, there were only Gentiles.  The Masoretic text places Abram’s birth only 292 years after the Flood.

Abraham was the eponymous father of both the Arabs and the Jews.  Before Abraham, there would be no such distinction of ‘Gentile’.  Before Abraham, everybody was a Gentile, making such a distinction unnecessary.

Job was from the ‘land of Uz’.  Uz was named for the son of Shem, grandson of Noah. (Genesis 10:23)

The Book of Job asks and answers three questions that have puzzled mankind since the the  days before the Flood.

The answer to the first question; “Where can we find God?” automatically invokes the second, “How can one be righteous before Him?” but neither has much meaning without the answer to the third: “If a man die, shall he live again?”

We have come all this way with Job, his friends, the chronology of his life and times, and his relationship to organized religion, just to address Job’s reply to that very question.

Again, let’s keep in mind that Job lived just after the Flood, and before Abraham.  There was no Bible.  Moses wouldn’t write Genesis for at least a thousand years.

Matthew 1:17 tells us there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David.  There were fourteen generations from David to the Babylonian Captivity.  And there were fourteen generations from the Captivity to Christ.

“If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” (Job 14:14)

The appointed time.  Until my change come.

Forty-two generations before Christ,  Job spoke of his ‘change’ at the ‘appointed time.’

Forty-two generations later, the Apostle Paul explains:

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

Forty-two generations AFTER Christ, we eagerly await the trumpet’s call —  for this IS the ‘appointed time’.

Paul called it a ‘mystery’ because it was a doctrine not previously revealed — except to Job.  Paul said;

“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.”  (1st Corinthians 15:51-52)

Job not only knew about the change, he knew about the trumpet:

Thou shalt call, and I will answer Thee: Thou wilt have a desire to the work of Thine hands.” (Job 14:14-15)

There are those who argue that the Rapture is a recent doctrine, invented by J. N. Darby or by a Scottish epileptic named Margaret MacDonald.  The Rapture isn’t a recent invention, it predates both Christianity and Judaism.

Genesis and Jude confirm that Enoch, seventh from Adam, was also raptured.  Job expects to hear God call him at the appointed time.   The Apostle Paul addressed the same doctrine two thousand years later.

“For the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds . . ” (1st Thessalonians 4:16)

And now we’re talking about it two thousand years after that — as if it were some unproven doctrinal supposition subject to interpretation.

It wasn’t merely supposition to Job — to whom the Flood was still a recent memory.

“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.”  (Job 19:25)

That is a pretty amazing statement of faith, dated as it is to a thousand years before Moses and two thousand years before Christ.

“And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” (Job 19:26)

The Sadducees were still debating the resurrection of the dead with Jesus two thousand years after Job stated it as fact.  That Job was referring to the resurrection of his own physical body, and not referring to some spiritual equivalent is made plain.

“Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:27)

So will mine.  I’ll be there, too.  And I’m sorta looking forward to meeting Job.

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

Originally Published: July 27, 2009

Featured Commentary: Moses, Double Booked ~ Wendy Wippel