Folly la, la, la, la, la la la . . .

Folly la, la, la, la, la la la . . .
Vol: 171 Issue: 23 Wednesday, December 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a very Merry Christmas. 

Originally Published: December 19, 2009

Christmas Reflections

Christmas Reflections
Vol: 171 Issue: 22 Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Covenant Life Church has proved so successful in harvesting souls for Jesus Christ that it spawned a mini-denomination, Sovereign Grace Ministries. It counts 52 affiliated churches in 17 states plus Great Britain, Bolivia, Mexico and Canada, and supports start-up churches in Ethiopia and Uganda.

C. J. Mahaney leads what he terms a “reformed charismatic” movement, with the emphasis on “reformed,” which some view as radical by modern evangelical Christian standards. 

Covenant Life Church, or CLC as members call it, has a $5 million operating budget, a capacious new $22-million building expansion, a 50-member staff and a 280-student private school. 

With no formal college or seminary education, Mr. Mahaney, 49, has written or edited five books and oversees a training center for pastors that has graduated 73 men in six years.

The previous few paragraphs were taken verbatim from a Washington Times story entitled, “Keeping their eyes on the cross”.

It goes on to describe the thousands of believers that came to Christ as a consequence of Mahaney’s growing ministry and the efforts of the Covenant Life Church to spread the Gospel in remote parts of the earth — the stuff churches are supposed to do, but seldom get around to. 

As I was reading through the piece, I came to the part where Mahaney was giving his salvation testimony. “The son of a Takoma Park sheet metal worker and the third of five children in a Roman Catholic home, Charles Joseph Mahaney rejected God at age 12 in favor of sports and, later, the drug culture. His sojourn at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring was not promising.

“My SAT score was so low I didn’t even qualify for the University of Maryland, the state where I was born, raised and lived all my life,” Mr. Mahaney recalled in a sermon last spring. “I took my SATs while on LSD.” 

He was born again, he says, the same night that a newly converted friend shared his faith rather than sharing a hash pipe.

He says God used a newspaper ad to lead him to a prayer meeting of young converts called Take and Give, or TAG. By 1974, at age 20, he was alternating teaching assignments with Larry Tomczak, 24, an intern with the AFL-CIO.

Other than the Bible, the only Christian book the long-haired Mr. Mahaney had read was Hal Lindsey’s apocalyptic bestseller “Late Great Planet Earth.” “

Assessment:

It is at Christmas time that I take the time to contemplate my blessings. I am a big fan of Christmas — it is my favorite time of year. 

(I know all about the history of Christmas as a holiday, its origins and its many deficiencies as a spiritual holiday. But as a cultural holiday, it’s still my favorite)

At Christmas, all my kids come over, with all their kids and we all get to be kids together for one whole day. At Christmas time, I am surrounded by — and particularly reflective of — the many blessings God has granted me. 

At Christmastime, I honor the Lord’s birth by reflecting on the Gift of eternal life that He gave me. The process began with His birth, regardless of what the actual day was. 

I reflect back to the day of my salvation and sit awestruck as I watch the redemptive process take place all over again in my mind. 

I know, better than any other human being, what I was saved FROM and how miraculous in nature my spiritual transformation was. 

Like Pastor Mahaney of Covenant Life, I had read only two Christian books before I got saved back in 1975. 

The Bible and The Late, Great, Planet Earth.

Merry Christmas!

Originally Published: December 24, 2002

Featured Commentary: Curtain Call ~ Wendy Wippel

The Future Belongs to God

The Future Belongs to God
Vol: 171 Issue: 21 Monday, December 21, 2015

More than 2600 years ago, the Prophet Isaiah recorded a challenge hurled by God to all those who laid claim to Divinity, saying,

“Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.” (Isaiah 41:23)

While many have picked up the challenge, including Mohammed, Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, William Miller, Harold Camping, etc., all have failed to meet God’s exacting standard of 100% accuracy, 100% of the time.

Consider what it means for Ezekiel to describe, 2500 years in advance, the geopolitical alliances of the 21st century. It was only sixty years ago that the world was at war — the alliances described by Ezekiel didn’t exist until that war forced them into being.

The Scriptures say that the ‘hairs on your head are numbered’ — multiply that times every single person who ever lived. Every single one of them had free will choices and the choices made by our ancestors, no matter how far back we go, shaped the world we live in today. The same one foretold by the prophets.

Hebrew prophets named alliances between nations that didn’t exist in their world, and in some cases, didn’t exist until this generation.

Let’s take a look at ten prophecies in the process of fulfillment in this generation. A lot of this is covering old ground to long-time Omega Letter readers, but it is worth taking a second look.

1. ‘Take heed that no man deceive you’

“And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.” (Matthew 24:3-4)

It’s often been said that the ‘devil’s greatest trick is convincing people that he doesn’t exist’. Deception has been raised in this generation to an art form. We expect to be deceived by our politicians, our entertainment, advertisers and the media.

2. An increase in disasters and wars.

“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. ” (24:6)

World War One and World War Two were cataclysmic events that shaped the 20th century, but they were domestic disputes in comparison with what World War Three with the Soviet Union would have looked like. For fifty years, the two sides were locked in ideological combat in what history calls the Cold War. Every morning for fifty years, each side woke up wondering if the Cold War would turn hot — the ultimate rumor of war — that ended only a decade ago. But, as Jesus noted, see that ye not be troubled, for the is not yet. And it wasn’t.

3. The great “Falling Away”.

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

In this generation, being labeled a Christian ‘fundamentalist’ is almost a criminal charge. The very phrase “Christian fundamenalist” conjures up images of wild-eyed crazies stockpiling weapons against the end of the world while plotting the best way to blow up abortion clinics.

4. “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)

Until the beginning of the 20th century, very few commentaries existed on either Daniel or the Revelation. Both were considered to be filled with metaphors and symbolism. Even Calvin and Luther passed up the challenge. The words were ‘sealed UNTIL THE TIME OF THE END’.

In this generation, the mysteries of Daniel and Revelation are largely unlocked.

Columbus sailed to the New World 1500 years after the Apostle Paul made his Meditterraneanjourney. Both sailed on wooden ships equipped with sails, as did ships until the end of the 19th century. One hundred years later, the same trip takes a few hours by air. 1900 years to get from Paul’s ship to the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic. Sixty years after that, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. We certainly can go ‘to and fro’.

Moore’s Law says that computer capacity doubles every 18 months. Knowledge is increasing at an exponential rate. There is technology being developed to make computers out of strands of DNA.

5. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12) — Anybody else notice how many parents are murdering their children lately? Each of you can make as strong a case for the increasing tolerance of sin and the collapsing moral structure of society as eloquently as I can.

6. The emergence of the antichrist. 

Daniel says that the antichrist’s seminal act of power will be to make peace between Israel and her neighbors. Until this generation, there was no Israel to be at war. Today, the effort to bring peace is the single most important foreign policy goal of the US, EU, UN and Russia — who together form the “Quartet” that developed the current ‘road map’. The world is crying for a leader who can solve the global problems of the Middle East, terrorism and outlaw nations. Today. In this generation.

7. Earthquakes, Famines, Wars and Pestilences — 

Matthew 24:7 speaks to all of these as being like labor pains — growing in intensity and frequency as the time approaches. Earthquake activity is demonstrably on the increase, while ethnic wars rage across Africa and entire populations face starvation at a time when other countries are throwing leftovers in the garbage.

The entire sub-Saharan continent of Africa is facing extinction by the pestilence of AIDS — while the technology exists to arrest it. We can make computers out of DNA strands, but the earthquakes, famines, wars and pestilences just keep getting more intense.

8. As it was in the days of Noah and Lot (Matthew 24:37, Luke 17:28-30)

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5) That wickedness is the hallmark of this age can be proved by picking up a newspaper. 

What could be more wicked than deliberately blowing up a bus filled with children to make a political statement?

Television could be described as ‘imagination in a box’. We are entertained by vicariously participating in the story line. What entertains us the most? According to the box office receipts, murder, mayhem, war, destruction, occultic fantasy and sex.

Lot lived in Sodom, a place where homosexuality was rampant and widely accepted as an acceptable alternative lifestyle. Today, we have parades for homosexuals in drag, or in various stages of undress, flaunting their wickedness to the enthusiastic applause of the audience. (Romans 1:32)

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

Right now, some of you are reading these words in South Africa. Others in the UK. Still others in New Zealand, Australia, Mexico City, Vancouver, Nigeria and Bahrain. That’s just the Omega Letter subscribers. There are literally thousands of Christian websites doing the same thing, with the same global reach. Soon, there will be no corner of the earth that the Gospel has not penetrated. Jesus said that once that happens, THEN shall the end come.

10. “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matthew 24:24) I could make a list. But so could you.

Bible prophecy is both the proof of God’s existence and the assurance we have of our salvation. “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:” (2 Peter 1:19)

The same Voice that proclaimed, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11) also proclaimed, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:28

Bible prophecy is not gloom and doom, but is instead hope and a blessed assurance. It is proof positive that God remains on His Throne and that He WILL do all that He has promised. Including the following:

“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-18)

Originally Published: July 23, 2007

Featured Commentary: Casus Belli ~ Pete Garcia

What’s In a Name?

What’s In a Name?
Vol: 171 Issue: 19 Saturday, December 19, 2015

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it . . .” (Ephesians 5:25)

This morning, I had to take Gayle to the emergency room to be treated for the Flu That Will Not Die. While I am still somewhat under the weather, compared to Gayle, I am in the pink.

She was diagnosed with bronchitis that the doctor said would have become pneumonia, had we waited another day or so.

What is of interest to this morning’s Omega Letter were the questions we were asked during the admission process.

Since Gayle can only make a sound reminiscent of squeezing a rubber ducky, I took the point position, translating, if you will, for all the earnest-looking people who came to visit us with clipboards, pens and endless questions.

There was a gauntlet of clipboards we had to run in order to get to the prize; a little treatment room where she could finally see a doctor.

In each case, as the person responsible for the bill, I gave them my name and billing address and related information. Then when we got back to Gayle, they asked me, “What’s your wife’s name?” , to which I replied, “Gayle.”

Then they asked me if Gayle’s last name was the same as mine. Four different times, which led me to suspect that the first person to ask wasn’t an idiot, as I had immediately assumed. It seemed to me, an idiotic question, but, evidently, it was routine.

After about the fourth time, I said as much. The admission’s clerk looked at me somewhat sheepishly, and said, ‘Well, you know a lot of people nowadays. . .” before allowing the sentence to just trail off.

Now, I am not uninformed about such things, or naive to any measurable degree, but somehow, it sounded so, well, WEIRD to have the question asked of us.

While we were waiting, Gayle croaked, “It’s supposed to be an honor to take your husband’s name,” to which I replied; “What?”, since she sounds, as I said, like a rubber ducky Bailey used to play with.

After a couple of tries, I got the gist of it, which made me think even harder. (Ultimately giving me a headache, since, while I am much better than Gayle, by any independent standard, still at death’s door myself).

But, all I brought to the table in our marriage was my name. It is more than a social affectation. I brought my name, Gayle brought the baby equipment, and together, that’s what creates a family.

There are a lot of kids running around with hyphenated names, which is generally another way of expressing the fact the child was born out of wedlock.

(There’s another name for THAT, too, and I sure wouldn’t want to hang it around my child’s neck because my wife wanted to look like she was politically correct)

The family unit is under attack in our culture like never before. Families today are lumped into different categories; traditional heterosexual, non-traditional heterosexual,(living together without marriage) single parent, (an unmarried or divorced parent) or non-traditional (and non-existent) ‘families’ consisting of gay partners and adopted children.

The ‘traditional heterosexual’ family, (the non-hyphenated, both parents at home with kids that came to the world in the usual way) has become a non-protected, unacknowledged minority in much of America.

A recent book called “Uncle Sam’s Plantation” written by a conservative black female author points out that, until 1965, the strongest family units in America could be found among American black families.

Author Star Parket points out that today, 78% of black families are of the non-traditional single parent unmarried variety.

Feminist Judith Stacey was quoted saying, “The belief that married-couple families are superior is probably the most pervasive prejudice in the Western world.” Prejudice?

Another feminist, Toni Morrison, argues, “The little nuclear family is a paradigm that just doesn’t work.”

Alice Walker in “Embracing the Dark and the Light,” Essence, July 1982, writes, “…I submit that any sexual intercourse between a free man and a human being he owns or controls is rape.”

Then there is Andrea Dworkin: “Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture. Marriage meant the taking was to extend in time, to be not only use of but possession of, or ownership.”

I refer you to the verse that I opened today’s OL with. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.”

Christ came into the world to save it, protect it and nurture it, and ultimately, to voluntarily lay down His Life for it. Ownership?

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

Assessment:

In explaining the covenant relationship between God and humanity, God uses the traditional family as the basis for our relationship to God, since it was God who ordered the traditional family relationship.

Ephesians 5:22-24 says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, AS UNTO THE LORD. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

The feminists and God-haters and homosexual lobbies see those verses as being akin to involuntary servitude, or slavery or some similar nonsense, instead of seeing the instructions for what they are.

A family, as seen through the eyes of God, is a single organism. The Church is depicted as the Body of Christ. A family is therefore one body, and there are no two-headed creatures in nature, apart from mutants or Dr. Doolittle’s two-headed ‘Pushmepullyou’ whose very name explains why such a creature can’t exist. It would pull itself apart trying to head off in opposite directions.

Paul continues, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be ONE FLESH.” (Ephesians 5:28-31)

Hence, the practice of a wife taking her husband’s name. It symbolizes the fact the two are now one. “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33

The Christian husband who interprets 5:22 as meaning a wife is an involuntary slave will have much to answer for before God, since his obligation to his wife is not only the greaterresponsibility, but also the more difficult. 

The husband unwilling to voluntarily lay down his life for his wife, or who thinks his wife is his slave, is falling short of his responsibility to love his wife as he loves his own body. 

This morning, I joked with Gayle, “Honey, please get better. We’re almost out of clean clothes and I’m STARVING.” In a God-centered marriage, there is no room to misinterpret that as anything else BUT a joke.

Implicit in the joke is the overt recognition that without my wife, I would be helpless. Without her, I am half a creature. Without her, I am a head without a body, as useless as a body without a head. (Or one with two heads and no sense of direction).

I can see why the Enemy hates the family unit, and why he is trying, in these last days, to destroy it. To divide, and thereby, to conquer.

The enemy plan is to create a world dependent upon him, and his antichrist, for its survival. In my world, he won’t be able to do that.

Because I am dependent on Gayle, Gayle equally dependent on me, and both of us consequently, dependent on God.

Originally Published: January 3, 2004

Honey, Vinegar and Flies

Honey, Vinegar and Flies
Vol: 171 Issue: 18 Friday, December 18, 2015

I used to know a fellow, let’s call him “Bill” who was afflicted with a most annoying habit. When he wasn’t finishing my sentences for me, he was either correcting my grammar or my pronunciation.

One could seldom finish an entire sentence when talking with Bill: I once caught myself speaking faster in the hope I could get to the end of it before he did.

(Of course, then I’d make some kind of grammatical error as a result and he’d correct that. . . Grrrr)

The worst part about it was that he was just a heckuva nice guy in every other respect. He was one of those guys who’d climb a tree to fight a bear if he thought it might be helpful; in fact his annoying tic was part of that “I-just-wanna-help” mindset.

Personally, I didn’t mind it so much . . . as annoying as it was, he had a terrific grasp of the English language and an amazing vocabulary, so I learned something in almost every conversation.

But not everybody wants to hang around with a guy whose favorite Reader’s Digest section is “It Pays To Increase Your Word Power.” People don’t appreciate being around other people who make them feel stupid.

Of course, I’ve always been a writer and so words (and their proper usage) are more important to me than most, but not every body appreciates being corrected every other sentence. So this guy didn’t have many friends, despite the fact he lived to be helpful.

Sometimes, one can be so helpful that it begins to drive folks away.

Back in the 1960’s Walter Martin made a name for himself in evangelical circles when he began his ministry, the Christian Research Institute, following a series of successful books exposing false Christian cults.

In his first book, “The Rise of the Cults“, Martin exposed the doctrinal errors of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Mormonism, the Theosophical Society, and took on “Father Divine” a cult leader from Brooklyn who claimed to be God. “The Rise of the Cults” was published in 1965 and is reputed to have sold nearly a million copies since.

In the 1980’s Martin turned his critical eye away from non-Christian cults to less obvious heresies within Christianity, most notably the “Word of Faith” movement popularized by guys like Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin.

While Martin was critical of these teachers’ claims concerning their views of Christ, healing, faith, and prosperity, Martin was generally acceptive of the charismatic movement, editing and reprinting DL Moody’s book on spiritual gifts called “Secret Power.”

When Martin died in 1989, he was succeeded by Hank Hanegraaf in a takeover still being challenged by Martin’s surviving family.

Hanegraaf’s “The Bible Answer Man” program claims to present the only “true” Christian doctrine.

Assessment:

I have a copy of Hanegraaf’s 1993 book, “Christianity in Crisis” in which he highlights some of the more outrageous doctrinal claims made by some of the ‘regulars’ on TBN, from founders Paul and Jan Crouch to Benny Hinn, Copeland, Hagin, etc., etc.

It’s a pretty good book, if one is the kind of person who would seek Bill out at a party to chat with. But if you just want to be sure that you are right with God, then Hanegraaf’s book raises a lot more questions than it answers.

Suppose, just for a second, that you’ve just finished reading Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth.”

Having read the book and compared it with the Bible and the morning newspapers, you became convinced from the evidence that God is real, that He sent His only Son to have a relationship with you, and you need only accept the Gift of Pardon Hal says Jesus already procured for you.

You’re heading to work, mulling it all over. Then you turn on Hank Hanegraaf’s radio program and learn that Hal made it all up. All Bible prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70. The evidence was all just a clever ruse designed to sell books.

Or you pick up Hannegraf’s book, “Christianity in Crisis” and discover that every single TV preacher is a lying con man who will say anything if it increases donations.

If these are the cream of the crop, then does anybody know the real truth? Can anybody know the real truth?

It’s been rightly said that a man with one watch always knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never quite sure.

What is a guy who hears the Gospel of Love — from the same lips that tell him how cynical and manipulative most Christian preachers really are — supposed to think?

We have entire threads in our member’s forums dedicated to ‘exposing’ this guy or that guy’s false teaching. Generally speaking, it goes like this. One guy starts a thread exposing some other teacher’s false doctrine.

Suppose somebody else in that thread got saved watching Jack Van Impe, for example. Then somebody starts ripping into his ministry over something he said.

Now, that new Christian starts to wonder. . . if JVI is really a cynical liar, then how can I be sure I am really saved?

So he jumps in to defend JVI, except he’s really not defending JVI — he’s defending his own salvation. (From another Christian! How confusing is that?)

Next thing you know, the debate isn’t about doctrine anymore. It’s about being right. For the guy who found Christ through JVI, it’s even more important than that.

It’s about the efficacy of his salvation experience.

Mature Christians have a tendency to forget how difficult it is for new Christians. Nobody wants to think they’ve been sold a bill of goods by a slick operator.

They have barely gotten a grasp of salvation by grace through faith and now they find themselves in a bar fight over whether or not JVI has correctly interpreted a verse they’d never heard of until now — and now they are locked in combat over the messenger.

I believe that God intended for there to be some degree of doctrinal ambiguity in the Scriptures. The Book of Genesis records God’s decision to confound human speech and divide mankind ethnically.

The people of Babel had set out to build a tower to which they could seek refuge should God ever again decide to destroy the world by flood.

“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” (Genesis 11:4-5)

The issue wasn’t that God believed they could actually build a tower that would ‘reach unto heaven’. It was because they were unified under a single leader. Separating them into smaller, like-minded groups prevented one person, in this case, Nimrod, from uniting them in rebellion against God.

In the Church Age, we are separated doctrinally for the same purpose. It is not until AFTER the Holy Spirit’s restraining influence is withdrawn from the earth that the world is once again united under a single political and religious authority.

We even have a word to describe human effort to try to overcome these doctrinal differences. It is called ‘ecumenism’.

“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:” (Luke 12:51)

When we set out to ‘prove’ that this guy or that guy is really a heretic, consider what it is that we are claiming for ourselves in so doing. The Roman Catholics call it speaking ‘ex cathedra’ — what the RC calls the “Doctrine of Infallibility.”

Non-Catholics take great joy in running down the list of ‘infallible’ papal statements that have since been reversed or modified by subsequent papal pronouncements. Then they turn around and assume for themselves that same mantle of infallibility while explaining why nobody (else) is infallible.

You were once a baby Christian. Think about how confusing it all was.

There is a place for doctrinal study and doctrinal discussion. It is incumbent upon us to hold, “fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:9)

A ‘gainsayer’ is a person who twists doctrine for his own gain, rather than that of the Kingdom. That is not the same thing as a person who sincerely holds to a doctrinal worldview because he believes it to be true.

I believe that the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation. If somebody wants to know why, I am more than happy to explain why I hold to the view that I do. That doesn’t mean somebody else who disagrees isn’t sincere, or is deliberately teaching error.

Someone can be sincere and still be sincerely wrong. Even more importantly, they can be sincerely wrong on some minor point of doctrine and still be every bit as saved as you are.

We are exhorted to ‘hold fast’ to our doctrine, but the ‘Prime Directive’ so to speak, is not to finish everybody else’s sentences or correct every minor point of doctrine, but to spread the Good News that Jesus Christ paid the penalty due for our sins and made a way for us to have eternal fellowship with God.

It is a fine line to walk, but nobody said being a Christian was easy. Paul divided the Word into two parts; the ‘milk’ and the ‘strong meat’.

“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” (Hebrews 5:12)

We are to spread the Good News, and to be ready to give an answer for the reason of hope that is in us to a hopeless and dying world. That ‘hope’ isn’t found in accepting my interpretation of minor points of doctrine.

That hope is found in the fact that Jesus accepts us as we are, not in converting everybody else into scholars of our chosen discipline of Scriptural interpretation.

The Apostle Paul could have been reading one of our forum threads when he wrote:

“For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”

(Or, “I am of Copeland; I am of Crouch; I am of Lindsey; I am of Kinsella”; etc.)

“Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”, Paul asks. (1st Corinthians 1:12-13)

It is one thing to present sound doctrine in the context of Scripture. It is another thing altogether to target this ministry or that one for some minor doctrinal differences or toss around phrases like ‘false teacher’.

The Omega Letter is designed for mature Christians — it’s mission is to equip you with the tools necessary to be an effective witness for Christ in your day-to-day evangelistic efforts.

But taking that as a mandate to expose ‘false’ teaching only makes one effective with people that already agree with them.

“Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.  (1 Corinthians 8:1)

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

What are your own motives? Do you want see people come to Christ, or to come to your point of view? Are you correcting out of love? Or to show off your own knowledge?

“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” (Colossians 3:13-15)

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time and a place for everything, including doctrinal debates. I can’t tell you when the time is right and when it isn’t. But you can tell for yourself.

Sharing the Gospel of Christ isn’t supposed to make you mad. If it does, it’s time to step back and take another look at the Big Picture.

“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace,” writes James, the Lord’s brother. (James 3:18)

Or, put another way, ‘you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.’

Food for thought.

Originally Published: March 3, 2008

Featured Commentary: Sola Scriptura and Cosmic Temples ~ Alf Cengia

The Dispensations And the Ages

The Dispensations And the Ages
Vol: 171 Issue: 17 Thursday, December 17, 2015

Paul wrote to Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved of God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (2nd Timothy 2:15)

The first thing to notice is that if there is an admonition to ‘rightly’ divide the Word of truth, then that is to prevent dividing it ‘wrongly.’

Having established from Scripture the possibility of wrongly dividing the Word, we need to understand what Paul meant by ‘dividing’ the Word to begin with.

The clearest and most obvious division is the one between the Old and New Testaments. Pretty much everybody agrees on that, across the spectrum.

The Omega Letter’s doctrinal worldview is shaped primarily by Dispensationalism, or systematic theology.   Systematic theology views Scripture as unfolding progressive revelation and doctrine.

Dispensationalism means, “the act of dispensing or something dispensed; a specific arrangement or system by which something is dispensed.”  The ‘something’ being dispensed in this case is God’s message.

Dispensationalism is one of those doctrines, like pretribulationism or a pre-trib Rapture, that has no specific bearing on salvation or eternity, in the sense that one needn’t be a Dispensationalist or believe in a pre-Trib Rapture to be saved.

But you wouldn’t know it from the heated debates it spawns among Christians.  So I’ll say it again.  One need not accept either Dispensationalism or pretribulationism to be saved.  But without it, Bible prophecy loses its coherence.

One of the first objections offered to Dispensationalism is also one of the weakest – that Dispensationalism is a relatively recent doctrine.  It isn’t.  It is as old as the division of the Testaments.

But let’s stipulate that the modern understanding of Dispensationalism is relatively recent. If one wants to date it to Darby in the early 1800s or Clarence Larkin in the early 1900s, I’m ok with either one, because it makes no difference to the weakness of the argument.

Until the prophecies for the last days began to take shape in a coherent form, there was nothing around which to form a systematic understanding.

There was no need to seek a deeper understanding of the Scriptures until one became aware of existing misunderstandings.  

The misunderstanding of the Law of Moses wasn’t apparent until Jesus delivered, or dispensedthe Good News of the Gospel and explained the purpose for the Law.

The Law was given to convict sinners so that they would recognize the need for salvation byfaith, since the Law proves salvation by keeping the works of the law an impossible mission.    

The division between the Dispensation of the Law and the Dispensation of Grace could not be plainer. But when the signs pointing to the soon return of Christ started to take shape, so did the prophetic outline. 

The doctrine isn’t of recent origin, but I’ll stipulate that its rise to prominence is as recent as the resurgence of prophetic fulfillment that demanded its exploration.  

Assessment:

Although we often use them interchangeably, (myself included) there is a distinct difference between an “Age” and a “Dispensation”.  An Age is marked by a period of cataclysmic change to the earth, like the Flood or the change at the 2nd Coming that ushers in the Millennium.

Properly, there are three Ages;  Antediluvian (before the flood)  this present Age (Age of human government: Flood to 2nd Coming) and the Age of Ages (2nd Coming to the New Earth)

But there are seven Dispensations of God’s revelation to man.  God’s administration to man changes as God progressively reveals Himself. 

The Dispensations are divided thusly:

Dispensation of Innocence: It is important to understand the difference between innocence and righteousness.  Innocence cannot be righteousness (or holiness) until tested.  Innocence is one step from either holiness or sin.   Adam failed the test, beginning the next dispensation.

Dispensation of Conscience:  During the Age of Conscience, God permitted man to do as his own conscience dictated.

It shows what man will do when guided only by his conscience. Adam and Eve had no conscience before the “Fall.” Conscience is a knowledge of good and evil, and this Adam and Eve did not have until they ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree.

Conscience may produce fear and remorse, but it will not keep men from doing wrong, for conscience imparts no “power.” 

Dispensation of the Patriarchs:  This extended from the call of Abraham through the Exodus, when God gave Moses the Law on Mount Sinai.

Dispensation of the Law: This Dispensation began with Moses and lasted for roughly 1500 years before it ended when the Messiah was ‘cut off, but not for Himself,” rending the Temple curtain at the Crucifixion.     

Dispensation of Grace:  This present Dispensation began at Pentecost and is distinguished by the unique indwelling of believers by the Holy Spirit.  During this Dispensation, individual salvation is extended to “whosoever will” by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, ‘lest any man should boast’ (of his own righteousness).  (Ephesians 2:8-9) 

The Dispensation of Grace ends with the withdrawal of the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit at the Rapture (together with the indwelt Church), which allows for the man of sin to be indwelt by Satan.  This begins the 70th Week of Daniel;

The Dispensation of Judgment, the Tribulation:   There are three groups that face concurrent judgments during the Tribulation, not as individuals, but nationally or corporately.

The first to face judgment will be the Church caught up at the Rapture and judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ at the beginning of the Tribulation. (2ndCorinthians 5:10).

Obviously, if the Church is being judged at the Bema Seat, they can’t also be under the judgment of Tribulation.

This period is known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 3:4-7, Daniel 12:1) during which time the Jews will be judged during the Tribulation under antichrist and saved nationally at the 2nd Coming.

The third group to face judgment during the Tribulation are the Gentile nations.  The Gentiles will be judged at the end by Jesus and divided into ‘sheep’ and ‘goat’ nations based on how they treated Israel.

The ‘goats’ will be destroyed on the spot.  The ‘sheep’ will be permitted to enter the next Dispensation, (which is also an “Age”)

The Millennial Kingdom:  This is a Dispensation in that it marks a shift in God’s relationship to man (Jesus rules Personally) and an Age, in that it marks the end of Human Government at His cataclysmic Return. 

Bible prophecy follows a beautifully organized, progressively revealed plan whose Divine nature is revealed in that it can only be read from back to front;

“telling the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done.”  (Isaiah 46:9-10)

I would not be afraid to mount the argument that there has been more Divine revelation concerning unfolding Bible prophecy in the past six decades than in all the centuries from the conclusion of the Book of Revelation to the restoration of Israel in 1948.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, the divisions between each of the Dispensations are distinct and identifiable.  The Dispensation of Grace is clearly divided in Scripture from the Dispensation of Judgment.

The Bible clearly identifies three separate judgments during the Tribulation Period and three different groups to be judged. Each is judged differently and each judgment is rendered at a different time. 

The Jews are judged under antichrist during the Tribulation and are redeemed by the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10) at its conclusion.

The Gentile nations are judged at the end by Jesus Christ, with the sheep on the right hand and the goats on the left.  The sheep nations are permitted to go on into the Millennial Kingdom

The Church is judged at the beginning of the Tribulation at the Judgment Seat of Christ which is then followed by the marriage supper of the Lamb.   

Do you see the systematic nature of Bible prophecy? Bible prophecy is by definition Divine revelation, and for the generation that witnesses it unfold, that revelation is progressive; more is revealed with each passing day.

However, if the Church is physically present during the judgment of the Tribulation, the system collapses. 

There is no explanation for how the Church can be overcome by Satan as recorded inRevelation 13:7 without directly contradicting the promise of 1st John 4:4.

John tells me that He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world. 

But the Tribulation Saints are overcome by Satan.  Is He that is in me also in them? If so, this is impossible.  If not, but I am present at that time, is He still in me?  

If He is, then I cannot be overcome.  If He is not, then He forsook me before Jesus came, directly breaking His Promise.

Returning to my earlier point, NOBODY is saved according to what they believe about the Rapture or the Tribulation.   We are saved by grace through faith in the finished Work of the Cross, not by our understanding of Bible prophecy.

But Paul called Timothy “a workman” – a laborer of Christ.  As such, his toolbox is the Word of Truth.  Not all Christians are called to be workmen.  And not all Christians heed the call they are given.

But if one is to be a workman for Christ, he will only be as good as his tools.  I’ve examined the other toolboxes carefully and repeatedly to see if I could find evidence of a similarly clear system. 

Scripture says that God is not the Author of confusion. But the moment that one erases the line between the Dispensation of Grace and the Dispensation of Judgment, the system of progressively unfolding revelation collapses into confusion. 

Where is the Holy Spirit?  I am still indwelt? Are the Tribulation Saints?  Can they be overcome?  Can I be overcome?   What about the Promise? 

Am I judged under the Cross at the Bema Seat?  By antichrist during the Tribulation?  Or both?  Or at the end, with the sheep and goats?  Or must I endure all three judgments?  

Bible prophecy, systematic theology and Dispensationalism are mutually dependent disciplines in that one cannot fully understand any one of them without a grasp of all three.

You needn’t believe it to be saved.  But you do if you want to understand Bible prophecy. 

You can try to invent your own system — lots of them do.   Look at the all the failed efforts to pinpoint the date of the Rapture or to identify the antichrist.    

And in the end, they were all wrong.   The dates came and went.  The candidates rose and then fell. If these workmen weren’t ashamed, they should have been.  

The Apostle Peter explained, “Knowing this first”  that the prophecies of Scripture are of no‘private interpretation’.  That particular Scripture is often used to refute Pre-tribulationalDispensationalist doctrine by those who have what amounts to their own different and thereforeprivate interpretation.

They were sincere.  But they stepped outside of Scriptural boundaries as necessary to make their scenario work. Those workmen failed to rightly divide the Word.  

Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints.” (Colossians 1:25-26)

It wasn’t the Bible that was wrong.  But that’s not what their disappointed students thought.

Originally published: May 11, 2010

Featured Commentary: Here Comes the Sun ~ J.L. Robb

Three Felonies a Day

Three Felonies a Day
Vol: 171 Issue: 16 Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A few years ago, a Boston-based civil liberties lawyer wrote a book entitled “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.”   According to Harvey Silverglate, that is how many felonies the average American unwittingly commits in the course of a normal business day.

By design, the law is built up over time by court decisions, statutes and regulations. Sometimes even criminal laws are left vague, to be defined case by case.

Technology exacerbates the problem of laws that are so open and vague that they are hard to abide by, to the point that we have all become potential criminals.

Silverglate describes several cases in which prosecutors didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand technology. This problem is compounded by a trend that has accelerated since the 1980s in which prosecutors have trended toward abandoning the principle that there can’t be a crime without criminal intent.

Silverglate offers as one example the story of a Massachusetts man who was charged with violating that state’s wiretap laws.  His company’s mail server routinely intercepted and copied emails as part of the process of shuttling them through the internet.

That is exactly how our own mail servers work. That is how ALL mail servers work.  The mail is copied, transmitted and then the copy is immediately deleted.  There is no criminal intent.

Prosecutors chose to interpret the ISP’s role of momentarily copying messages as they made their way through the system was no different than wiretapping private communications.   The case went through several rounds of litigation, with no judge making the obvious point that this is how ISPs operate.

After six years, a jury found the defendant, Bradford Councilman, not guilty.   But not until after Mr. Councilman went broke defending himself.

Under the English common law we inherited, a crime requires intent.  But that protection is gradually disappearing.   Silverglate writes in his book:

“Since the New Deal era, Congress has delegated to various administrative agencies the task of writing the regulations,” even as “Congress has demonstrated a growing dysfunction in crafting legislation that can in fact be understood.”

Here is how it works in practice.  Prosecutors identify a defendant they want to ‘go after’ and then they sift through the various laws to look for a violation they can use to prosecute under.

Recently a number of states have passed laws against cyberbullying.   The legislation was enacted in response to a heart-breaking case in which 13-year old Megan Meier committed suicide after supposedly receiving messages from a sixteen-year old boy named Josh Evans.

The two teens had been exchanging messages for about six weeks, but Evans’s messages had grown steadily more hostile. According to reports, his last message to Meier was that she was “cruel” and a “bad person.”

But it turned out that Josh Evans didn’t exist.  He was really Lori Drew, the mother of another teen with whom Megan had been fighting.  Meier, who had battled depression all of her young life, hanged herself in a closet.

When investigators uncovered the whole story, the public was outraged because there was nothing to charge Lori Drew with.  So they passed local ‘cyberbullying’ laws while the Congress debated national legislation.

The law would prohibit using the Internet to “coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person.”   

The Omega Letter regularly causes emotional distress to somebody.  It is not possible to stay true to the Word of God without causing emotional distress in some quarters.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ ‘is the way, the truth and the life, and that no man comes to the Father’ but by Jesus.  That can cause a substantial amount of emotional distress to those who believe otherwise.

After all, if the only way to heaven is through Jesus and one is a non-Christian, that means that no matter how many times a day they pray or perform other religious duties, then they won’t make it. But saying so is offensive.

Three felonies a day.  I can do that standing on my head.

Assessment:

One might assign evil intent to lawmakers but I don’t think so.  In the Megan Meier case, one can only assume that lawmakers were genuinely attempting to right a wrong while ensuring protection for other potential victims.

But there is another law in operation here, known as the Law of Unintended Consequences.  The Bible explains it this way.

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

It is a principle God thought was so important that He included it twice – Proverbs 14:12 and again in Proverbs 16:25.   

There are so many different laws aimed at protecting so many different groups that it is all but impossible for a person to make his way through the day without breaking at least some of them. 

We’ve seen how easy it is for a clever prosecutor to identify a target and then look for a law to prosecute him under when Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby was charged with felony perjury because he couldn’t keep the details of a ten minute phone conversation from two years previous straight.

Libby was being investigated over the Valerie Plame Affair in which prosecutors were attempting to blame senior members of the Bush administration for ‘outing’ Plame as a CIA agent.

By the time Patrick Fitzgerald convened a grand jury, he already knew that the leak came from a career civil servant at the State Department and NOT anyone in the Bush administration.  The leaker, Richard Armitage, was not even a Bush supporter.

But once Fitzgerald identified his target (which was any senior member of the Bush administration), finding a law under which to prosecute him was child’s play.  

The Bible says that during the last days, being a Christian will once again become a crime as it was during the early days of the Church.  Under the present-day legal code, that is already true. 

It is illegal to preach or teach certain tenets of Christianity in public in America.  It isn’t “illegal” in the sense that there is a law making Christianity a crime – what is illegal is offering offense to a person – whether intended or not.

We are living in the last days before His return. Although the Rapture precedes the Tribulation judgments that is not the same thing as saying that nothing bad will happen as long as the Church is here. 

It only means that the Rapture will precede the revelation of the antichrist – not necessarily his system.  The concept of political correctness as we understand it today was among the first things Jesus addressed in His reply to the question, “what will be the sign of Thy coming”?

“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” (Matthew 24:10)

Jesus said that when these things begin to come to pass, to look up and lift up our heads, for our redemption draws near.   For nine years, we’ve been recording on a daily basis events that dovetail precisely with the prophecies of Scripture for the last days.

When we started out, the idea that the Omega Letter would ever have to worry about censorship or that we would ever have to worry about being prosecuted for telling the truth was laughable.  That was then. This is now.

And thirteen years later, nobody is laughing anymore.

Originally Published: July 19, 2010