The Greatest Story Seldom Told

The Greatest Story Seldom Told
Vol: 170 Issue: 30 Monday, November 30, 2015

The Bible is under attack, as it has been since it was first compiled, but with a special fervor and intensity unique to this generation. What makes this generation unique is that the principle attackers are believers themselves.

It is possible to be a believer in the Bible and not be a Christian, although it doesn’t seem so until you think about it.

Personally, I know lots of people who say they believe in God, or believe in the Bible, but who have never surrendered themselves to Christ. Most other religions reference it among their sacred texts, from Buddhists to Jews.

And there are ‘cultural Christians’ as well. Most Americans were raised in a Christian culture, and identify with Christianity whether they are born-again or not.

It is actually quite easy to believe in the Bible without even having read it. Which makes it even easier to attack it. Just turn on A&E and watch some of the ‘Mysteries of the Bible’ series. After watching a couple of them, you’ll conclude that the most mysterious thing about the Bible is that ANYBODY really believes it.

If you don’t know anything about the Bible except that you believe in it, then it is pretty easy to plant misconceptions as part of an effort to discover the ‘truth’ about it.

After all, who doesn’t want to know the ‘truth’ about a Book as mysterious as the Bible? Especially if it comes packaged as a TV program saving the effort of having to actually read its ponderous text?

Assessment:

The Scriptures say,

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

That anyone could attack the Bible escapes me. Especially when one considers that the Bible isn’t one book, but is actually a collection of sixty-six books, written by forty different human authors. Reading through it, it seems to have penned by the same individual.

But the Bible’s authors were shepherds and kings, intinerant preachers and traveling salesmen, tax collectors, tent-makers and fishermen, captives and slaves.

In most instances, the Bible’s authors had never met one another and had no access to each other’s works. Ezekiel and Daniel were contemporaries, but Daniel was held captive in Babylon. Ezekiel lived hundreds of miles away in what remained of Israel. Each book refers to the other, although neither prophet met to compare notes.

There were no libraries where each writer of Scripture could cross reference the other. But each book flows smoothly to the next, some books referencing passages written by the authors who came before, while others reference books not yet written for centuries.

It is obvious to any honest seeker of truth that the Bible actually has only one Author. The alleged ‘quests for truth’ about the Bible like “Mysteries of the Bible” are predicated by that fact.

What escapes A&E is the Identity of the Author, although the Bible clearly identifies Him.

“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.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The word translated here as ‘scripture’ comes from the Greek word ‘gramma’. This means a ‘letter’ — meaning even the smallest details are from God and are perfect.

The Bible is not just a body of unrelated religious writings on various subjects. It is a systematic revelation of history from creation that continues to unfold before our eyes and continues to outline human history to its ultimate conclusion.

The entire Bible revolves around only one central theme. The need for man’s salvation and God’s provision for it through Jesus Christ.

The Bible is a gift from God to all men — a ‘love letter’, some say, from God to you. I like thatsynopsis, since that is how I have viewed it for most of my adult life. A love letter from God, that starts, “Dear Jack: In the beginning . . .”

What a God we serve! Allow yourself to dwell on the Bible’s magnificence. Meditate on how impossible it would be for the Bible to have come into being through human effort, apart from God, as is now the popular angle of attack.

Many have made much of the alleged ‘Bible codes’ which indeed appear to be real, although not of any particular value apart from serving as the Signature of God for a high tech generation.

Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign . . .” (Matthew 16:4) and that is what the Bible codes are to this generation. A sign.

But the Bible proves itself by its very existence. The Bible wasn’t divided into chapters until the 13th century by Stephen Langton. It wasn’t divided into individual verses until the 15th and 16th centuries. But its contents have been debated by the best and brightest of every generation.

The King James Bible contains sixty-six books — 39 in the Old Testament, and twenty-seven in the New. There are 31,173 verses, 774,746 words and 3,556,480 letters that make up the entire Bible. In all of that, nobody in all human history has ever disproved a single word.

Dead center in the middle of the Bible is Psalm 118:8:

“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”

Originally Published: November 24, 2003

Featured Commentary: The ‘Church of Christ’ in the Last Days ~ Pete Garcia

Heaven and a Billion Dollars

Heaven and a Billion Dollars
Vol: 170 Issue: 28 Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Bible has almost as much to say about heaven as it does about hell. What is heaven really like? Can we know on this side of eternity, or do we have to wait until we get our wings, cloud assignment and tub of cream cheese, first?

First, how many ‘heavens’ are there? The word ‘heaven’ has three meanings in Scripture.Genesis 1:6-8 calls the atmosphere surrounding the earth ‘heaven’.

Genesis 1:14-19 and Psalms 19:1 makes reference to outer space, the abode of the sun, moon and stars, as ‘heaven’.

And finally, heaven is the place where God has His Throne. It is from this ‘heaven’ that Jesus came to the earth.

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:13)

It is the place to which Jesus ascended after His resurrection.

The Scriptures tell us that heaven is the home of the Living God and of angels too numerous to count.

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.” (Hebrews 12:22)

It is also the abode of the spirits of redeemed men.

“To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” (Hebrews 12:23)

This heaven the Apostle Paul called the ‘third heaven’ (2nd Corinthians 12:2). The Bible tells us much about the characteristics of heaven, without ever once mentioning Philly Cream Cheese.

The part most people have the most trouble with is the holy nature of heaven. It is a place without sin or evil. While we like to imagine what that must be like, existence without sin or evil is so unimaginable to our carnal minds that it sounds boring.

Kraft Foods is running a series of commercials in which the boring existence of heaven is livened up a little bit with some Philly cream cheese for years now.

The commercial series is still running because it resonates in our thinking . . . what else IS there to do in heaven except sit on a cloud, play a harp, and pray for a little cream cheese to add some ‘sinful’ excitement to the place?

In truth, it is as impossible for the human mind to grasp existence without sin as it is for us to imagine a new prime color.

It is one reason that even some saved Christians are afraid to die, even if they only admit that fear to themselves. Sin and conflict is all we know, and existence without it, despite our abhorrence of it, doesn’t seem very interesting.

Heaven is a place of worship. The Book of the Revelation depicts heaven as a place of non-stop worship of God, and of the Lamb; by the twenty-four elders, by the four ‘beasts’ that surround God’s Throne, by the innumerable company of angels, and by the spirits of the redeemed.

If I dare to say so, even to the regenerated mind of this redeemed Christian, that sounds a little boring, too.

Heaven is also a place of unimaginable beauty. “Unimaginable” is a word that gets used a lot by we mortals to describe heaven. There’s a reason for that.

“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)

Whether saved or lost, it is beyond the scope of human limitations to imagine what heaven is like.

But we know some concrete facts about heaven. We know, for example, that there are mansions there, prepared for us by Jesus Christ Himself;

“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.” (John 14:2)

We know that there are rivers (Revelation 22:1); trees (22:2); horses (Revelation 19:14); heavenly odors and constant music (Psalms 45:8).

Heaven is a place devoid of unpleasantness; Revelation 21:4 tells us that in heaven, there is no sorrow, no pain, and no death.

Heaven, the Scriptures say, is a place where everybody attains their earthly goal of being just like Jesus.

“For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (Hebrews 2:11)

In Heaven, we will recognize our loved ones and each other. Luke 10:20 tells us that our names are recorded in heaven and we will be known by our names.

Moses and Elijah were recognized by Peter even though he had never seen them before. (Matthew 17:3-4)

The rich man in hell that Jesus described in Luke 16:23 recognized and knew — by name — both Lazarus and Abraham. In heaven, we will have perfect recognition.

It is unreasonable to assume that I can recognize my friends and family now, here on earth, but once having reached heaven, I will know less than I do now.

The Scriptures promise I will know MORE, not less.

To my mind, heaven makes the same kind of picture that a billion dollars does. I know it exists, it know its a enormous number, but a billion dollars is not something that makes a picture in my mind.

It would take thirty-two years, working 24/7, just to COUNT a billion one dollar bills.

A billion dollars, even to a billionaire, gets lumped into the generic mental folder of ‘a lot’. We know what a billion dollars IS, in the abstract. But in practical terms, it’s more than you can imagine.

About the closest I can come to getting a practical mental image of heaven is by starting in reverse.

Many times in my mind’s eye, I return to the sand dunes along the beach, looking out at the Atlantic, listening the crashing of the surf, smelling the salt in the air, feeling the warm ocean breezes against my skin . . . it was to THIS place that God cast the devil and his angels as punishment for their rebellion.

The angels hate it here. The heavenly angels avoid it unless sent by God. The Scriptures say they are mystified by man’s love for the things of the world.

The fallen angels hate it — and us even more — because they were banished to the ‘cosmosdiabolicus’ — at the center of which is that beautiful ocean beach I love so much.

To the angels that have seen heaven, that beautiful white-sand beach, crashing surf, warm ocean breezes and the smell of the sea-salt in the air is the worst place God could have banished them to.

We cannot imagine heaven, but we can imagine the most heavenly place on earth. And we have the testimony of the angels that the most heavenly place on earth is a horrific wasteland by comparison with heaven.

And heaven is filled with the Presence of the Lord. That indescribable feeling that we have with our Savior during those fleeting moments when He makes his Presence known to us in prayer is a permanent condition in heaven.

That little ‘witness’ we sometimes feel (I think of it as a spiritual ‘hug’) will be replaced with a perfect sense of fellowship with the Lord that will go on for eternity.

We can’t picture heaven. But we can know it is there. And we can know that we will one day see it, with our own eyes.

The Book of Job is, chronologically, one of the oldest books of the Bible, and dates to the time of Abraham. Job lived before Moses received the Law, before Judaism had developed as a religious structure, before there were rabbis, interpreters or teachers.

Job lived before Judaism introduced the religious concept of the resurrection of the dead or the existence of either heaven or hell.

What Job knew was revealed to him by God Himself;

“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see FOR MYSELF; and MINE eyes shall behold, and NOT ANOTHER; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27)

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Heaven is real. Hell is real. Salvation is real.

And so is judgment.

Originally Published: October 10, 2008

Thereafter What??

Thereafter What??
Vol: 170 Issue: 27 Friday, November 27, 2015

The formal name for the last book of the New Testament is ”The Revelation of Jesus Christ to St John” and not ”The Book of Revelations,” or ”Revelations” or ”The Apocalypse of John.”

John himself never titled the Book he penned while in exile on the Isle of Patmos.  The Book was titled by Jesus Christ Himself:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by his angel unto His servant John.” (Revelation 1:1)

The word “revelation” is the English equivalent to apokalupsis meaning, “unveiling” or “lifting of the veil” which is why it is also sometimes called the Book of the Apocalypse

The Lord divided the Book into two parts; “the things which are and the things which shall bethereafter.” (Revelation 1:19)  

The first part of the Book is written to the seven churches; identifying them as the “things which are.”

At the time of John’s exile, there were seven major churches in Asia Minor; Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. (Interestingly, all seven were located in modern-day Turkey, which is 99.8% Muslim, according to the CIA Worldfactbook.) 

If the “things which are” referred to those seven specific cities, then we would now have to becenturies into the period Jesus identified as the “things which shall be thereafter.”

Jesus concludes His revelation about the “things which are” with a cryptic message, intended not for the natural man, but understandable only to those already indwelt by the Holy Spirit:

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:22)

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

At that point, there is a jump from the “things which are” to John’s hearing a trumpet, and a voice telling John that what comes next are “the things which shall be thereafter.”

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” (Revelation 4:1)

John says in the next verse that “immediately I was in the Spirit” and the next thing he saw was “a throne set in heaven.”

Let’s stop here for a second and summarize. The Book of Revelation is the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  It is not addressed to John, it is sent to John.  It is addressed to the ‘servants of Jesus Christ’ – look at it again.

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by his angel unto His servant John.” (Revelation 1:1)

Who are the “servants of Jesus Christ?” Ummm, lessee. Angels?  Nope? Individuals? Maybe, but Jesus said of individual believers,

“Henceforth, I call you not servants, but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15)

The servants of Jesus Christ are the individual Churches that exist within the Body of Christ.  

The Book is distinctly divided into two parts; not three, not five, not fifteen or eighteen, but just two.  The first division is identified as the things which are.

The second division is what “shall be thereafter.”  Which leaves the obvious question remaining.

Thereafter what?

Assessment:

Jesus assigns specific characteristics to each of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor which correspond historically with seven distinct epochs within the Church Age. 

For example, the first of the Churches mentioned, Ephesus; bold in resolute endurance, discerning, intolerant of departures from the faith, this is the Apostolic epoch. 

There was Smyrna, battling nobly with trials and danger, in the midst of poverty and suffering but rich in faith and good works. The Age of the Martyrs.

Then comes Pergamos, married to the world. This church epoch began with the Emperor Constantine declaring Christianity to be the State Church of Rome.

The Church at Thyatira was condemned for its continual sacrifice and the introduction of new doctrines, corresponding historically with Dark Ages. (Purgatory, indulgences, and the Inquisition).

Sardis was the ‘dead’ Church, as it had become by the time of the Reformation.  Sardis gave way to the period of revival following the publication and distribution of the Word of God to the common man.

The period from the Reformation in the 15th century to the end of the 19th century, was the epoch of the Church of Philadelphia. This was the ‘missionary church’ that took the Bible to the New World, to darkest Africa, to China and the far corners of the earth.

The end of the Philadelphia Church Age coincided with the ‘Enlightenment’ in Europe, brought about by ‘modernist’ thinking near the end of the 19th century which ushered in the Laodicean Epoch, the era of Church history that unmistakably corresponds with the time in which we now live.

From Philadelphia to Laodicea, distinguished for its worldly riches, its high-toned profession and spiritual pride; yet lowest in the scale and standard of all, neither cold nor hot — a religion of boasting words, but devoid of moral strength — “poor, blind, and naked.”

The center of the Church of Laodicea isn’t Jesus, but rather, it is what its name implies; Laos, (people) and dike meaning, “decision” — or the “Church of the People’s Decision”.

The name wasn’t chosen by accident. If ever there was a generation of Christians to whom that description fits, it is this one. 

At the Church of Laodicea, Jesus isn’t inside, but stands on the outside and knocks, waiting to be invited in. 

Given our perspective of 20/20 hindsight, there are but two possible conclusions concerning the period of time Jesus said would be identifiable as the “things which are.”

It either refers to the historical period in which these seven specific churches existed in Turkey, in which case we have been living in the period “which shall be thereafter” for about 1200 years now, or it refers to the period from the Apostolic era to the conclusion of the Church Age at the Rapture.

If it means the former, then it became irrelevant the moment that the churches in those cities ceased to exist. Doesn’t it?  Can it mean anything else?  What is left?

If the Revelation of Jesus Christ to His servants is to have any meaning to His servants, then it logically follows that His message to the Churches was a continuing message relevant to the entire Church Age, and not just to seven long-lost church communities in Asia Minor.

The Church Age is the period that encompasses the “things which are”.  That which “shall be thereafter”is the Tribulation Period, which begins when John hears a trumpet, and the voice of an angel, and the scene instantly shifts from the physical to the spiritual and relocates in heaven. 

That event is specifically identified as the commencement of the “things which shall be thereafter.”

We’ve gone the long way to get where I wanted to go, but that was because I wanted to ensure as air-tight a case as possible.  There are many well-meaning and sincere Christians that believe that this generation of Christians will be present for all or part of the Tribulation Period. 

But the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ specifically divides itself into the physical here and now and the spiritual thereafter.  The “here and now” ends with translation, alive, into the spiritual hereafter. 

This occurs before the opening of the first seal, (antichrist) before the ride of the next three horsemen, (War, Famine and Death) before the moon turns into blood and before the seventh seal pours out the Wrath of God.

FIRST comes the Trumpet (the Rapture).  Then, two chapters later (suggesting some element of time has passed) comes the onset of the Tribulation Period.  

No matter what kind of Scriptural gymnastics one resorts to, there is no way for the “things which are” to also be the “things which shall be thereafter.”

The “things which are” include the Church at Laodicea all the way up to when the addressees of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ find themselves in the Spirit before a Throne set in Heaven.  AFTER that comes the “things which shall be thereafter”.

The dividing line imposed by Jesus can only be in one place – the place where JESUS divided it.  At the Rapture – and it doesn’t fit anywhere else. 

If it fit at the sixth seal, then that is where Jesus would have divided His Revelation.  If it fit at the first seal, (the revealing of the antichrist) then that is where Jesus would have divided His Revelation. 

But Jesus divided it at the conclusion of the Laodicean Church epoch. The Apostle Paul described the conclusion of the Church Age from the perspective of Planet Earth.

“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

The Apostle John described it from the perspective of Heaven:

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” (Revelation 4:1)

Both Apostles are describing the same event from different perspectives!

Note also that John is in Heaven for some time before the first seal is broken – and therefore, so is the Church, or the symbolism is meaningless. John witnesses the events that precede the breaking of the first seal – and so does the Church.

So the indwelt Church cannot be both present on earth when the first seal is broken AND present in heaven to witness the breaking of the first seal.  

Here is what that means.  From where we sit, we are so close we almost think we can identify the antichrist – there is a whole new sect of Christians emerging that believe they already have.

But the Bible clearly tells us the Rapture comes first.  So if we are so close we can almostidentify the antichrist, the Rapture of the Church is that much closer. 

And with all the chaos and war and upheaval and financial and natural disasters coming upon us, the Apostle Paul says of the Rapture;

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

Words of comfort.  Not words of terror.  There is a difference.  It would be far less comforting to me if I believed it was addressed only to the survivors of the first six judgments. 

And it would make far less sense.

Originally Published: September 15, 2011

Featured Commentary: Salon Misreading the Bible ~ Alf Cengia

From Athens BC To Washington DC . . .

From Athens BC To Washington DC . . .
Vol: 170 Issue: 26 Thursday, November 26, 2015

In the mid-eighteenth century, a Scottish lord named Alexander Fraser Tytler took upon himself the ponderous task of writing; ”The Universal History of the World; From the Creation of the World to the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century.”

That would be a ponderous task today, in the 21st century, even with the benefit of the internet, public libraries, and word processing and desktop publishing software.  But when Lord Woodhouselee took on the project at the University of Edinburgh in the mid 18th century, he did so using featherpen and inkwell.

His “Universal History of the World” is so-called because it presents a broad overview of the history of mankind as viewed from a single perspective, in much the same way that the first five books of the Bible present the universal history of mankind as a whole, from creation to the time of Moses.

Having researched and studied the history of the world from creation to his own time, and having committed it to paper by pen and ink and in his own hand, Lord Alexander Fraser Tytler had, by the time his project was completed, as clear a view of the patterns of history as any man alive at the time.

Lord Woodhouselee studied the rise and fall of the great democracies of history from Athens to Rome and to the countless efforts throughout history from the Magna Carta forward and viewed the concept of democracy as;

“nothing better than an Utopian theory, a splendid chimera, descriptive of a state of society that never did, and never could exist; a republic not of men, but of angels.”

His point wasn’t that democracy was bad, but rather, that people are.

While man is being instigated by the love of power–a passion visible in an infant, and common to us even with the inferior animals–he will seek personal superiority in preference to every matter of a general concern; or at best, he will employ himself in advancing the public good, as the means of individual distinction and elevation: he will promote the interest of the state from the selfish but most useful passion of making himself considerable in that establishment which he labors to aggrandize. Such is the true picture of man as a political agent.

Tytler makes an observation here that for reasons that escape me completely, totally escapes the purveyors of “reason” as they argue the universal goodness of man.  He notes that which is visible in an infant.

If goodness and morality is learned behavior, then it follows that man’s foundational state is one of complete depravity.  It then follows, reasons Lord Woodhouselee, that while democracy is a wonderful theory, it’s fundamental flaw is that people aren’t good enough for it to flourish. 

Tytler wasn’t an enemy of democracy, but rather, an observer of history.  He recognized individual exceptions to the rule, and argued that democracy, although flawed, was “best adapted to produce, though not the most frequent, yet the most striking, examples of virtue in individuals,” no doubt referring to the newly-born Republic of the United States.

“The nature of a republican government gives to every member of the state an equal right to cherish views of ambition, and to aspire to the highest offices of the commonwealth; it gives to every individual of the same title with his fellows to aspire at the government of the whole.”

Tytler cited the historical examples of the Greeks and Romans.  Both began as republics of equal virtue but gradually, as the people eased into periods of comfort and safety, the republican form of government began to slide into what became a pure democracy, comporting to the description of democracy given by the Lord Jesus of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14.

“Patriotism always exists in the greatest degree in rude nations, and in an early period of society. Like all other affections and passions, it operates with the greatest force where it meets with the greatest difficulties … but in a state of ease and safety, as if wanting its appropriate nourishment, it languishes and decays.” … “It is a law of nature to which no experience has ever furnished an exception, that the rising grander and opulence of a nation must be balanced by the decline of its heroic virtues.”

A republic is the forerunner of a democracy, says Tytler, and a democracy is a republic as it enters into its death throes.

Assessment:

The United States started life as a republic.  William Blackstone was an 18th century British jurist whose commentaries set forth two main categories of common law; the law of nature and the law of revelation.

His “Commentaries on the Laws of England” established a sort of Common Law ‘Bible’ for the United States from the time of the Founding Fathers.

James Wilson, one of the signers of the Constitution and one of the first five Supreme Court justices, looked to Blackstone’s ‘Commentaries’ to form his decisions both in Congress and on the bench.

Blackstone explains that the law of nature establishes a rule of moral conduct based on God’s law, which recognizes man as created in the image of God.

This rule of moral conduct imposes a rule of action upon man that includes duties to God, self, and neighbor.

“And it is that rule of action, which is prescribed by some superior, and which the inferior is bound to obey.”

Government has the authority to pass laws that set forth a rule of civil conduct only, and such laws must be in accordance with the law of nature.  Such laws would make certain actions ‘malum in se’ or, ‘bad in and of itself’.

Blackstone argues that the role of government is not to enumerate rights, but to protect those rights already imparted to every individual by God.

His common law model establishes that the duty of government is to commend what is right and prohibit what is wrong.

Blackstone states, “The principal aim of society is to protect individuals in the enjoyment of those absolute rights which were vested in them by the immutable laws of nature.”

Blackstone defined the word ‘law’ as it applies to government in his Commentaries, calling it,

“A rule of civil conduct prescribed by the Supreme power in a state, commanding what is right, and prohibiting what is wrong.”

Are you with me so far?  Blackstone’s Commentaries outlined the duties and responsibilities of government in a Constitutional Republic.

The difference, Blackstone explains, is that the US Constitution creates the powers that exist according to Divine Revelation, whereas in other countries, the existing powers determine the nature of the constitution.

In the American republic, then, there were “principles which did not change” and which were “certain and universal in their operation upon all the members of the community”, which were the principles of Biblical natural law.

For example, Blackstone’s Commentaries explained:

“To instance in the case of murder: this is expressly forbidden by the Divine. . . . If any human law should allow or enjoin us to commit it we are bound to transgress that human law. . . . But, with regard to matters that are . . . not commanded or forbidden by those superior laws such, for instance, as exporting of wool into foreign countries; here the . . . legislature has scope and opportunity to interpose.”

So, in the final analysis, a republic is a form of government ruled by the rule of human law as subordinate to Divine Law, whereas in a democracy the rule of the people is supreme.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what type of government the Constitution was bringing into existence. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

If only . . . (sigh)

Originally Published: August 7, 2012

Featured Commentary: Sarah Josepha Hale: The Mother of Thanksgiving ~ J.L. Robb

Thank You, God, For Every Thing. . .

Thank You, God, For Every Thing. . .
Vol: 170 Issue: 25 Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In 1863, President Lincoln formally and officially established the last Thursday in November as the day set aside for Americans to tally their blessings and give thanks to God.

Prior to the Lincoln proclamation, days of thanksgiving were proclaimed to give thanks only sporadically, and often for specific reasons.

In October of 1777 a Day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed to enable the entire nation to give thanks to God for the victory over the British at Saratoga.

The first observance of Thanksgiving in America was entirely religious in nature and involved no form of feasting.

On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Plantation on the James River…a location now known as Charles City, Virginia.  The charter of the grouprequired that the day of arrival be observed as a Day of Thanksgiving to God.

The Thanksgiving feast day was first celebrated in the fall of 1621 to celebrate a bountiful harvest.  It was a three day festival patterned after the traditional English Harvest Festival.  It is from this tradition that our modern Thanksgiving Day celebration emerged.

It is this tradition of recognizing God as the Author of national blessing that is uniquely American and undoubtedly the principle reason for America’s greatness.

Tracing the history of the tradition of Thanksgiving Day utterly destroys the mythical ‘wall of separation’ between Church and State.

I’m indebted to John Whitehead for researching this quote from Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas from a case entitled Zorach v. Clauson.

Douglas wrote his decision the year I was born. In his decision, he ruled,

“We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. We guarantee the freedom of worship as one chooses.”

President Washington’s proclamation of Thanksgiving begins;

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to “recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many single favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

President Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation begins;

“The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”

During the 20th century, Thanksgiving Day has been dumbed-down considerably from its original intent and purpose. In the 1930’s President Roosevelt moved it back a week to add an extra week to the Christmas shopping season.

(It took an Act of Congress to restore it to its original date).

As the century progressed, God has been systematically removed from almost all American holidays, but so far, nobody has figured a way to effectively remove Him as the Reason for the season.

There hasn’t even been that much success at commercializing it.  Commercially, Thanksgiving Day is the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season, but the day itself is still set aside to share our blessings with our families and thank God for them.

And, praise the Lord, it is still an American tradition for American families to gather around the Thanksgiving feast.

Despite the constant rulings from the courts removing God from public discourse, every presidential Thanksgiving proclamation from Roosevelt in 1936 to this present year, all acknowledged God as the Author of American prosperity, (including, although obliquely, the Oval Office`s current occupant.) 

Reagan quoted Scripture. Even Bill Clinton acknowledged God, saying,

“Out of our right and proper rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day, let us give our own thanks to God and reaffirm our love of family, neighbor, and community.”

President Bush proclaimed,

“As the Pilgrims did almost four centuries ago, we gratefully give thanks this year for the beauty, abundance, and opportunity this great land offers. We also thank God for the blessings of freedom and prosperity; and, with gratitude and humility, we acknowledge the importance of faith in our lives.”

And as promised, there is the Barack Hussein Obama humanist edition, circa 2011:

“As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives.  Let us pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us, and resolve to pay them forward in the year to come.”

Note the order — to each other first, and then to God, and only according to the secular doctrine of “collective salvation.” 

(That could help to explain the mess America finds itself in today. How is trusting in each otherinstead of God working out in your slice of America?)

The American tradition of Thanksgiving Day is more important to our national security than we realize.

Thanksgiving Day is uniquely the source and reason for our strength.It is the one day that the proud American nation humbles itself before God, from the most liberal Supreme Court justice to the President of the United States, by official proclamation.

It is the one day that America confirms Justice Douglas’ 1952 ruling that America’s system PRESUPPOSES a Supreme Being.

That is to say, America, despite the best efforts of the ignorant among us, could not function without the explicit recognition of God. Every elected official still takes his oath of office with his hand on the Bible.

I am thankful I was born at the time and place that I was, and was able to experience a brief period when it wasn’t unfashionable to recognize God. I am thankful I am saved.

I am exceedingly thankful for you, my Omega Letter family.  I am thankful for my health, my children, and for blessings to numerous to count.

But this Thanksgiving Day, it is for the day itself that I am the most thankful.

May God extend His richest blessings to each of you and to your families on this national day of Thanksgiving.

“Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto Thee do we give thanks: for that Thy name is near Thy wondrous works declare.” (Psalms 75:1)

Originally Published: November 24, 2011

I Thought I Saw It Coming

I Thought I Saw It Coming
Vol: 170 Issue: 24 Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It is incredible, yet true. We are witnessing the unfolding of events long prophesied to take place during the last generation before the return of Christ.  We knew that it was coming – we were almost eager to see this day because it means the Rapture is that much closer.

But as the day approaches, it becomes less an abstract notion and more a crushingly painful reality.  It has made that transition from theoretical possibility to actual fact.   We always knew in theory that one day Christians would be marginalized to the point of insignificance.

We always knew that one day, some new religion having two horns like a lamb but speaking as a dragon would overspread Planet Earth.   For decades we’ve made a guessing game out of what it would look like and who would be its leader.

As we see the hard-and-fast answers crowding out our best guesses, the game isn’t as much fun as it used to be.  In fact, it isn’t any fun at all, anymore.   

This IS what we’ve been expecting.  It is what the Bible forecast for the last days.  Jesus said the Tribulation Period would be a time so terrible that if He didn’t return to put a stop to it, there would be no flesh saved out of it.  

So it is entirely reasonable to expect that the period leading up to it would be, ah, unpleasant, to say the least. Jesus prophesied that the time will come when those who kill you will think they do God service.

He reminded us that the world MUST hate us because it hates Him  – but that doesn’t make it any easier when it happens.  

There are two competing sets of values here and it is out of that conflict that all the angst arises.  If we are where I believe that we are on Bible prophecy’s timeline, then America’s (and the West’s) days are numbered.  

If we are where I believe we are, then the decline we are experiencing is both inevitable and unstoppable.   This is only part of the Big Picture – there are other, bigger and scarier parts yet to come. 

Why are they scarier today than they were, say, ten years ago?   It isn’t as if Bible prophecy changed in the last ten years.   What we are experiencing is the realization of our expectations.   Did anybody really think that witnessing the unfolding of last days’ prophecy would be fun?

If you did, now you know.  

You also know why you were but one of only a tiny handful of ‘prophecy nuts’ in your church.  I say ‘were’ because as we move forward on the Bible timeline, prophecy doesn’t seem so nuts anymore.

In the grand scheme of things, very few Christians in these last days have been called as watchmen.  Even fewer have responded to the calling.  It’s not for everybody — for some it is too much.  That is why we are necessary – to give the warning.

God has set each of us in the place He wants us to be for this time and place in human history.  That doesn’t mean it is a pleasant place – we had our pleasant time. But God in His wisdom, and for reasons known only to Him, has called us – you and me and others like us – as witnesses.

He promises a special crown for us at the Bema Seat.  There are only FIVE crowns and this is one of them.  So what made you think that earning it would be easy?  It is supposed to be hard.  Out of all the living Christians on this planet, God called YOU to bear witness for all those too afraid to look.

Yes, it is frustrating.  Yes, it is infuriating.  Yes, it is frightening.  And YES – it is unfair. Why can’t YOU be one of those Christians just strolling through life, tra-la-la-la-la, in blissful ignorance?

I dunno. Because you can’t.  God called you and you answered the phone.  Sorry.  This is a bell that you can’t unring.   Read through your assignment again — note in particular the parts in italics. 

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom;  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (2nd Timothy 4:1-5)

Somebody has to watch in all things, do the work of an evangelist and make full proof of the ministry to which God called them. That’s the charge.  You accepted it — or you wouldn’t be reading these words now.

Now the evil days are upon us and somehow, we are surprised to find we don’t like it.   I am not saying that sarcastically – I am as surprised as anybody at how surprised I am, if you can follow my drift.   

I thought I was made of sterner stuff than that.

So, what are we to do as Christians?  Our job.  Be witnesses.  Watch and observe and give the warning.  You know, the Bible says that Noah preached for one hundred and twenty years and never made a single convert.  

But when the rains came down, Noah still got to ride out the storm in the ark.

It is easy to become discouraged, frustrated and even angry.  It’s natural.  But it is part of a plan that the God of the Universe has not only let you in on, He has included you as a necessary part.

“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25)

He can keep you from falling.  He will present you faultless before the Throne with exceeding joy.  He knows what He is doing, and He has let you in on some of the details.  

Here’s what we know —  and we know it for sure.  There is lots to be scared of.  But nothing to be worried about. Because He is able.  And He loves you more than you know.

Maranatha!

Originally Published: January 7, 2012

He Is Able. . .

He Is Able. . .
Vol: 170 Issue: 23 Monday, November 23, 2015

One of the most popular misconceptions about Christianity is that, in order to be a Christian, one must be ‘good’. From the perspective of the Bible, being ‘good’ is something of a dichotomy.

On one hand, the Bible tells us to model our lives after the epitome of ‘good’ by emulating our Lord Jesus. But on the other, the same Bible tells us that actually reaching our goal of being ‘good’ is not possible.

Were it possible to be ‘good’ then we wouldn’t need a Savior. Think about it.

God gave mankind ten simple rules for living. None of them seem particularly difficult; love God, honor your parents, don’t steal or murder, don’t bear false witness, be content with such as you have, etc.

But the Bible says that not one human being (Jesus excepted) ever managed to keep all ten.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Paul wrote in Romans 3:23.

Having examined the conundrum of mankind and the sin nature, Paul offers this opinion:

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

None of us has any difficulty remembering when we were unregenerate sinners. Committing sin was not a problem — it was easy as falling off a log. Being a sinner wasn’t that big a deal either, (as long as you weren’t as big a sinner as some other folks).

Then we got saved. Until it was washed away, we never realized how heavy and filthy and debilitating our sin was. Now, we know.

And as saved, Blood-bought, born-again members of the Redeemed Family of God, living in the world, but not OF it, we go through life keeping all Ten Commandments and seldom, if ever, slip back into our sin nature.

Where before we would have cursed at the driver who cut us off in traffic, now we bless him and pray for his soul.

We never lie, never curse, tithe faithfully, never have a ‘bad’ thought, never want to ‘get even’ with somebody who has wronged us, we pray without ceasing, give all the credit for our successes to God, and never, ever, get angry.

Our every waking moment is spent glorifying God for His mercy and we never speak to anyone without sharing the Gospel with them.

God’s love is reflected by us at every waking moment, and we are just as spiritual when we are alone as we are when we are in church.

That describes you, doesn’t it? You are truly blessed! (I wish that it described me.)

But it doesn’t describe me. Unlike many Christians I’ve met over the years, I still struggle with my sin nature. It didn’t vanish when I was saved.

I haven’t led a perfectly sinless life since my salvation. I’ve fallen, but thanks to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, I can get up!

One could sum up my personal Christian walk thusly:

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.”

I know right from wrong, and I want to choose right, and I know that I hate sin, but I admit that sometimes do what I hate.

What does that mean?

According to Scripture, it means that,

“it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:17-18)

Assessment:

It is our obligation as Christians to spread the Gospel in all the world and lead as many of the lost to Christ as God gives us the opportunity. But lots of times, we don’t feel ‘good’ enough to carry the message.

I mean, how does one rail against somebody else’s sin while one’s own sin is ever before them?

Has our hypocrisy no limits?

In many ways, the world has a better grasp of the situation than we do. Here’s Joe Christian explaining about sin and death and hell, but the lost guy KNOWS Joe Christian still sins.

Think back to before you were saved. Did you think Christians were all sinless? Or did you think they were all hypocrites?

Admit it. Before you were saved, you used to look for imperfections among Christians. It made you feel better about yourself. Think about the person who finally DID lead you to the Lord. He was probably the one who admitted that Christians aren’t perfect.

As Christians, we tend to preach one kind of Christianity and live another. We can’t live the kind that we preach ourselves, and, for the most part, wouldn’t want to.

The average lost person thinks of salvation in terms of what he has to give up instead of what he has to gain.

To the world, a Christian can’t drink, can’t smoke, can’t watch TV, can’t listen to rock music, goes to church every day the doors are open, has to love everybody (especially those he can’t stand) and is generally about as phony as Homer Simpson’s neighbor Ned Flanders.

Why therefore, would anybody want to be a Christian? Christians not only make it sound like a miserable existence, it is so miserable that even Christians can’t meet the rigors that kind of existence demands.

“Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t even work when you are raising kids.

When we are saved, we are saved from the consequences of our sin, we are not saved from our sin nature.

We’d like to think we are, but in order to believe that, we’d have to also have a pathological capacity for self-deception.

Christianity is the essence of freedom, but we tend to present it to the lost as a form of bondage. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you have to give this up . . . where is the Holy Spirit in all of this?

It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us of sin, and He doesn’t do it all at once. He created us, and therefore He knows our limitations.

Salvation frees us from the consequences of sin, but only death frees us from the propensity for it.

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24-25)

The fact is that salvation was designed for sinners. The Bible makes it clear that all men have sinned, and that sin is part of our earthly existence. We are to avoid sin, but when we fall, we are to turn to Jesus and allow Him to pick us back up.

That is the essence of the Gospel. That Jesus loves us so much that, while we were yet enemies of God, He died for us.

Jesus doesn’t expect us to clean ourselves up first. He says, “Come as you are. I am able.”

“Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1st Corinthians 1:8-9)

“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24)

Don’t let the enemy steal your victory by blinding you with your sin nature. You can still do a mighty work for God. Not because you are able.

But because He is.

“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” (2nd Timothy 1:12)

Originally Published: 2/28/08

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