The Early Worm Gives The Bird

The Early Worm Gives The Bird
Vol: 111 Issue: 20 Monday, December 20, 2010

While nobody was looking, Iran’s nuclear facilities were attacked and disabled by somebody.  It could have been Israel.  It could have been the United States. It could have been the Europeans or the Russians.  

Maybe all of them. Or not.  Who can say?  But they did a bang up job. 

It puts me in mind of a scene from the war movie, “Force 10 from Navarone” where the plot calls for the good guys to blow up a dam held by the Nazi bad guys.

They set the charges and manage to get safely out and to a safe distance. The pyrotechnics go off, but then nothing happens. The dam remains untouched.

The clever demolitions expert sits calmly while the rest of the team panic, fearing they failed in their mission.   “Wait for it,” says the clever demolitions expert. 

Then there is a little rumble off in the distance. The dam springs a little leak that widens and gets bigger and ultimately splits the dam, destroying it (and incidentally reminding me how primitive special effects still were in 1978.)

Anyway, that is what the Stuxnet worm/virus reminds me of.   The little rumble that could.

The Stuxnet worm is a Windows-specific malware package that was first discovered in July 2010 by a security firm based in Belarus.  

It was designed specifically to spy on and then reprogram industrial control and data acquisition systems designed by the German computer giant, Siemens.  And all of Iran’s control and data acquisition systems were manufactured by Siemens.  

Stuxnet is capable of reprogramming these systems and then hiding the changes made. So even if they clean the worm, they can’t fix what it did.

In early November, Iran’s Vice President Ali Akbar denied that the computer worm had done any harm to the country’s nuclear program.   

“Mooohahahaha, you stupid Zionists and Crusaders failed with your stupid and ineffective Western infidel worm,” he said.  “Curse your mustaches!”  (He didn’t say that, really.  I made it up. But what he really said sounded that silly, too. )

Salehi issued his denial the day after diplomats told The Associated Press in Vienna that Iran’s nuclear program has suffered a recent setback, with major technical problems forcing the temporary shutdown of thousands of centrifuges enriching uranium.

“Did not!” Salehi said on November 23.

“Well, maybe just a little,” admitted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on November 29.  “Software installed in electronic equipment disabled some of our centrifuges on a limited basis, but our brilliant and capable experts have stopped that and they won’t be able to do it again.”

(Moooohahahahahahahaha!)  

Iranian officials up and down the chain of command took turns denying that Iran’s nuclear program was harmed by Stuxnet and that they were forced to stop enrichment.  

They just stopped because they . . .  well they just stopped.  And now they just want to talk.  Ok?

Assessment:

A German computer consultant who was among the first to analyze the Stuxnet code said that not only is Stuxnet not under control, it is still spreading and infecting their enrichment facilities at Natanz and the reactor at Bushehr.  

What has happened so far is just the first few leaks starting to spurt out of the Navarone Dam.

Stuxnet expert Ralph Langer called the attack “nearly as effective as a military strike, but even better since there were no fatalities and no full-blown war. From a military perspective,” he said, “this was a huge success.”

How huge?  He said that the Iranian program has been set back by at least two years.  Langer’s recommended remedy for getting rid of Stuxnet is to throw out every infected system.  Just throw out every one of them and start over from scratch!

And even then, he said, the risk of reinfection by outside contractors was high. 

“It is extremely difficult to clean up installations from Stuxnet, and we know that Iran is no good in IT [information technology] security, and they are just beginning to learn what this all means,” he said.

“Just to get their systems running again they have to get rid of the virus, and this will take time, and then they need to replace the equipment, and they have to rebuild the centrifuges at Natanz and possibly buy a new turbine for Bushehr.”

Langer said that in his opinion, the Stuxnet virus could not have been written by a hacker. 

“We can say that it must have taken several years to develop, and we arrived at this conclusion through code analysis, since the code on the control systems is 15,000 lines of code, and this is a huge amount,” Langer said.

“This piece of evidence led us to conclude that this is not by a hacker,” he continued. “It had to be a country, and we can also conclude that even one nation-state would not have been able to do this on its own.”

Wow. Whoever wrote the code, it appears that Stuxnet worked. At least for now.  What it portends for the future of information warfare as the law of unintended consequences goes into effect is yet to be seen, but it doesn’t bode well for Iran’s nuclear future.

A nuclear Iran at this point on the Bible prophecy timeline doesn’t fit.  The Bible forecasts what appear to be two separate conflicts in the Middle East during the last days that appear to involve some kind of nuclear weaponry. 

The first is the conflict forecast in Psalms 83, Isaiah 17 and Obadiah.   This conflict is between Jacob and Esau.  All the participants are descendants of these two Biblical patriarchs.  

Obadiah prophesies; “they of the south [the southern Kingdom of Judah – the Jews] shall possess the mountains of Esau; [The West Bank] and they of the lowlands the Philistines: [The Gaza Strip] and they shall possess the fields of Ephraim, [Judea] and the fields of Samaria: and Benjamin shall possess Gilead. [the Galilee.]”

Isaiah 17:14 records the burden of Damascus (Syria) this way: “And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not.”

Psalms 83 identifies most of the rest of the combatants including Lebanon and Jordan.   None of these nations survive the conflict intact, according to Bible prophecy. (Except Israel.)   

If Iran obtained a nuke, it seems probable that Iran would use it.  Indeed, if a nuclear Iran took a direct hand in the developing regional war with the Arabs, Israel would be forced into a nuclear first strike on Iran.

But Ezekiel says that Iran is numbered among the principle allies of Gog and Magog.   That is a different conflict, and probably one that will occur after the Rapture, whereas I believe the conflict with Esau is probably pre-Trib.

What I want to highlight here is the minute attention to detail involved here.  Four separate prophecies written by four different prophets at different times in different places and in different contexts.

And yet they are so precisely interconnected that all the various players are now come together thousands of years later — in a single generation out of time! — allied exactly as predicted, to settle the same unresolved score  still outstanding since Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew.

Iran is not part of that conflict.  Iranians are Persians, not Arabs.  None of the Arab countries are part of the Gog alliance and none of the Russian/Persian alliance are part of the Arab war.

It might not make much difference politically, but it does prophetically.  It says that no matter how it might look to us as it all unfolds, it will ultimately play out the way God said it would. 

He is the one that says, “Trust Me.” It is this kind of attention to detail that proves that we can.

Maranatha!

What Makes Them So ANGRY?

What Makes Them So ANGRY?
Vol: 111 Issue: 18 Saturday, December 18, 2010

A good friend and OL member from Illinois emailed me the other day in regard to a recent column by me examining the doctrine of eternal security.

My friend had reposted “License To Sin” at another forum whereupon one of the forum members came down on him for posting a column on eternal security.   Part of the comments, (with names redacted), went like this:

“I will NEVER be part of a theology that excuses “continued” sin in “believers” lives – making them feel comfortable and “justified” ( I can’t help it)  to continue in their sin,  only to  discover one day He never knew them.”

“Bro B—, can I now please ask that you give me your assurance that you will stop posting OSAS justifying messaged here at the group, as I would hate for Bro B— to have to put you on moderate.”

Uh-oh. The missive was signed, “in Christian love.”  (Sigh. Aren’t they all?)

His question to me, however,  wasn’t about the theology or the doctrine.   It was about the animosity it engendered.

“Why is there this hostility to believing that “we can be taken out of the Father’s Hand”?

This is a question that deserves a broader hearing, since it cuts a wider swath than just the issue of eternal security.  One encounters the same kind of hostility in discussions about the Rapture, pretribulationism, Dispensationalism and so on.

These are some of the things that mature Christians hesitate to discuss unless they are sure they are discussing it with like-minded believers.  Our own forums have from time to time become battle zones over some of these same doctrinal issues. 

More than one OL member has broken fellowship with us following a debate over eternal security or pretribulationism.  I am almost always blindsided by how quickly the debate turns nasty.

Yesterday, while I was answering my friend’s email, the Lord showed me why.   

I thought it worth sharing.

Assessment:

Since the topic at hand is eternal security, we’ll stick with that, but you will see how it applies to pretrib Rapture doctrine as well.  

When I said a minute ago that the Lord showed me why it turns nasty, it wasn’t hyperbole.   I found answer was given specifically by Jesus, beginning with Matthew 20:1.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.  And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.”

There are several important points made here.  The first is that this is a parable about heaven.   The second is that the laborers had agreed with the householder about their wages.

“And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.”

Let’s stop here and digest what we have so far.   In the West we divide the 24 hour day at noon and midnight.

The Jews reckoned time using a 30 day lunar calendar and a twenty-four hour day divided as it says in Genesis 1:5.

“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

So the Jews divided their twenty-four hour day more logically.  The day begins at morning and ends at dark.  So the first hour of the day would be from 6 until 7 – that was about the time the first laborers were hired for a penny.

The “third hour” was 9 am.  The householder didn’t set an exact wage, but instead promised to do right by them for going to work.   Then he went out at the sixth hour (noon) and again at the ninth hour (3 pm) and hired more workers under the same contract conditions.

Finally, it says that he even hired workers at the eleventh hour (5 pm) and sent them out to work.   

“So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.”

So they were paid in the reverse order from their hire.   The last ones to work (for only an hour) were paid.

“And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.”

These guys put in a twelve hour day, whereas the last ones hired worked for only an hour.  So the guys that worked longer complained.

“Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.”  (Matthew 20:12)

These guys were mad.  No two ways about it.  And I can’t blame them. If it was me that had worked my butt off in the field for twelve long, hot hours, I would expect better than the guys who barely worked up a sweat.

“But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?  Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.”

And here is the answer to the question at hand. 

“Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

Do you see it now?  The main objection to eternal security is always that it is license to sin. There are those people on this earth that, for one reason or another, don’t have the same struggle with sin that others do.

They don’t think so, but that proves the point. Nobody knows how heavy somebody else’s burdens are.  There are some Christians that have no problem with habitual sin – they easily gave up smoking or drinking or cussing. . .   or insert your besetting sin here.

I know that to be true because there are also non-Christians like that. There are non-Christians that successfully quit smoking or drinking or cussing — and they managed to do it without relying on God or the Holy Spirit.  That is just a fact.

Why is it sometimes easy for an unsaved sinner to accomplish what a saved Christian still struggles with?  The answer is obvious to almost anybody except some Christians. Because it is easier for some people than it is for others because that is how they are built.

It isn’t an excuse. It is an observable fact.  Some people quit smoking the day they get saved, some saved people continue to smoke for years.  

Some unsaved people quit smoking the day they decide it’s unpopular, too expensive, too unhealthy or too stinky.     

So you are the kind of Christian that started working at the first hour, and you see some alleged “Christian” who is still struggling to get started at the eleventh hour, long after your besetting sins are behind you.  

And then some joker like me comes along and says that guy is just as saved as you are.   

That makes them mad.  Just like when they object to the Rapture as a Great Escape.  It isn’t fair.

“Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.”

Or put another way,

“I will NEVER be part of a theology that excuses “continued” sin in “believers” lives – making them feel comfortable and “justified” ( I can’t help it)  to continue in their sin,  only to  discover one day He never knew them. . . .  In Christian love . . .”

Of course.

The Red Pentagram?

The Red Pentagram?
Vol: 111 Issue: 17 Friday, December 17, 2010

The British Red Cross will have to come up with a new name to describe its Christmas fund-raising efforts, seeing as it took the official position of banning Christmas on the grounds it may upset Muslims.

Christine Banks, a volunteer at a Red Cross shop in New Romney, Kent, said: “We put up a nativity scene in the window and were told to take it out. It seems we can’t have anything that means Christmas. We’re allowed to have some tinsel but that’s it.”

“When we send cards they have to say season’s greetings or best wishes. They must not be linked directly to Christmas. When we asked we were told it is because we must not upset Moslems.”

Mrs Banks added: “We have been instructed that we can’t say anything about Christmas and we certainly can’t have a Christmas tree.”

Yesterday officials at the charity’s London HQ confirmed that Christmas is barred from the 430 shops which contributed more than £20million to its income last year.

“The Red Cross is a neutral organization and we don’t want to be aligned with any political party or particular philosophy,’ a spokesman said.

‘We don’t want to be seen as a Christian or Islamic or Jewish organization because that might compromise our ability to work in conflict situations around the world.”

He added: “In shops people can put up decorations like tinsel or snow which are seasonal. But the guidance is that things representative of Christmas cannot be shown.”

If the Red Cross doesn’t want to be seen as a Christian organization, shouldn’t they call themselves something else?   The Red Pentagram, maybe?

The Cross was chosen as a symbol for the aid organization because it is the universally-recognized symbol of mercy and national neutrality.  Remove Jesus Christ and it makes as much sense as a hangman’s noose.

In ancient times, the Cross was a symbol of shame. It symbolized the absolute power of Rome and the powerlessness of the Empire’s subjugated peoples.  

It was intended to cause slow, agonizing, gruesome and humiliating public death as a warning to others.  For this reason, victims were often left hanging there for days.  The great Roman orator Cicero called for the abolition of crucifixion calling it:

“a most cruel and disgusting punishment”, and suggested that “the very mention of the cross should be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears.”

The word ‘crucifixion’ comes from the Latin (Roman) word crucifixo meaning, ‘to be fixed to a cross’.  Our English word ‘excruciating’ literally means, ‘out of crucifying’.

Crucifixion on a cross was not a Roman invention – it had been used since the 6th century BC by the Greek Selucids, Persians, Macedonians and Carthaginians before being adopted by Rome. Alexander the Great crucified 2000 surviving defenders of the city of Tyre after a long siege.

After the Roman general Crassus put down the third Slave Rebellion under Spartacus in AD 70, he ordered that six thousand of Spartacus’ followers be crucified along the Appian Way from Capua to Rome.

The goal of Roman crucifixion was not just to kill the criminal, but also to mutilate and dishonor the body of the condemned. In ancient tradition, an honorable death required burial; leaving a body on the cross  so to mutilate it and prevent its burial was a grave dishonor.

Under ancient Roman penal practice, crucifixion was also a means of exhibiting the criminal’s low social status. It was the most dishonorable death imaginable, originally reserved for slaves. 

Given the secular history of the Cross, it ought to be the very LAST symbol anyone would ever choose to become the international symbol of mercy.   

Assessment:

One hundred years ago, the British Empire was at its absolute zenith.  By the end of WWI the British Empire circled the globe, covering a quarter of the earth’s surface and ruling a quarter of the earth’s population.

It is worth noting at this point that Christianity is the state religion of Great Britain.  King Henry VIII separated from the Catholic Church and established the Church of England in 1534.   Great Britain has been officially Christian ever since.

But by 2006, two thirds of the British public said in polls that they have no connection to any organized religion or church. An August 2003 poll found that only 18% of Britons said they were practicing members of an organized religion.

In a 2006 poll, only 35% of all Britons even believed in God.  A Mori poll from August 2003 found that only 55% of Britons could correctly name ONE book of the Gospel.

Less than 10% of Britons go to church on a weekly basis.  Fifty-nine percent say they never go to church.  Only a third of all weddings in 2003 were church weddings.

It doesn’t take much effort to find a link between the decline of Great Britain’s spiritual and its political fortunes. When the rallying cry was “For God and country” the British Empire was even larger than Rome’s.  

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

The lesson of Great Britain ought to have been learned in the US – but since the Brits haven’t learned anything even as their empire crumbled around them, there is little reason to expect that we will as ours crumbles around us.

“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:16)

Note:  My cold finally broke last night – today is my first day back after being down for almost a week.  Man, was that a nasty one!  OL member Steve Fries blessed me with a boxful of cold remedies via Fedex – I almost feel human this morning. 

Thank you all for your prayers and your expressions of concern.  I am a man blessed beyond measure to have such friends.   Only by the grace of God.

License To Sin

License To Sin
Vol: 111 Issue: 16 Thursday, December 16, 2010

In my Christian experience, I’ve discovered that there are two kinds of Christianity. There is the kind of Christianity everybody else should embody — and there is the kind of Christian that we know ourselves to be.

Generally speaking, one bears little or no resemblance to the other.

The kind of Christianity we expect from other Christians is one of sinless perfection; a person who explodes into profanity when he hits his finger with a hammer is not a real Christian or he would have been able to check his language.

A Christian who drinks or goes out for a drink in a restaurant or bar isn’t a real Christian. Christians don’t drink. A Christian who is going through a divorce isn’t a real Christian. A real Christian would tough it out, remembering Christ’s admonition about divorce.

A Christian who still smokes isn’t a real Christian. A real Christian would have been delivered from that nasty habit by the saving power of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

There are Christians who think other Christians shouldn’t have a weight problem — ‘gluttony’ is one of the few besetting sins actually named in Scripture, together with drunkeness and adultery.

(In general, other fat Christians don’t see obesity as a sin — it is a ‘disease’ or it ‘runs in the family’ or it just isn’t as bad as smoking or drinking.)

Real Christians are never out of fellowship with the Father. If they are, then they are ‘lost’. That begs the question, were they ever ‘found’ in the first place?

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26-27)

Those who believe one can lose one’s salvation through wilfull sin point to this verse, focusing on the “if they sin wilfully” part as evidence that it IS possible to ‘fall away’ and be condemned to ‘certain’ ‘judgment and fiery indignation’ in hell.

But Hebrews 6:4-6 says;

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

What this Scripture therefore teaches is that it is impossible to ‘renew a Christian again to repentance’, since that would mean crucifying’ to themselves the Son of God afresh,’ putting Him ‘to an open shame’.

Because renewing AGAIN to repentance would mean that the first Sacrifice was insufficient, and His Power to save is subordinate to our power to sin.  The Bible says that one sacrifice was enough. 

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

Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe, assumed the form of sinful man so that He could pay the penalty for sin forever. On the Cross, He was reviled, beaten, crucified naked, and bore in His Body the sins of all mankind on their behalf.

If His one sacrifice for sins was ‘forever’ but was insufficient to keep those Whom He had saved, then His shame at the Cross is not over. He must continually be ‘sacrificed’ for sin.

Moreover, if it is impossible, having once been saved, to be renewed unto repentance, then the lost Christian is in much worse condition than the lost sinner. The lost sinner still has a chance to be saved.

On the authority of this Scripture, one can only conclude that the Christian that loses his salvation is lost forever.  He had his chance, he blew it, and now there remains ‘no more sacrifice for sins’.

There is no second chance, so he might as well continue in sin for all he is worth. He has no hope of further redemption. Something cannot be simultaneously possible and impossible.

Things that are different are NOT the same.

Assessment:

Often, I am accused of preaching a ‘license to sin’ — usually by the ‘temporary security’ crowd, but also sometimes by those who believe their eternal security is eternal and cannot be lost.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no ‘license’ to sin, and all sin will be judged by God. But that doesn’t mean Christians DON’T sin.

Now the questions grow more confusing. If a Christian can sin his way out of being saved, which sin is the one that constitutes ‘falling away’? Is it murder? Rape? Lustful thoughts? Drinking? Smoking? Drug abuse?

I know of Christians who became addicted to prescription drugs. Are they lost? At what point did they slide across the line? When they doubled up their Valium prescription, or when they started buying them on the street?

Should Christians even TAKE Valium?

Is taking a prescription tranquilizer the start of the slide — or evidence the slide has already occurred? Is your doctor contributing to your sin by practicing medicine? Should you avoid doctors? Or just ignore their advice? Why even go SEE a doctor?

What IS sin? James 4:17 describes sin this way:

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

If a Christian ‘knoweth to do good’ but doesn’t do it, Scripture says that to him, that is sin. Christians, therefore, either ALWAYS do good, or they sin.

Do you know anybody who ALWAYS does good? Do you?

If not, then are you lost, condemned forever to hell, since you blew your only chance? (Hebrews 6:4-6)

There are two kinds of Christianity, as I noted at the outset. The kind of Christian you expect your pastor to be, and the kind of Christian that YOU know you are — while despairing your shortcomings.

But only one of them is real.  How many sins does it take to get out of fellowship with God? The answer is one.

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

How much obedience does it take to get right with God? The obedience of One is sufficient to make us righteous, if we trust Him for our salvation.

Of the two kinds of Christianity, there is only one that is real.

Yours.

Not your pastor’s — or your perception of your pastor, or his perception of you. Or your Christian friends who continually point out your need to ‘put away your besetting sins’.

They have their own.   How many of them are walking advertisements for the sin of gluttony? Do they have a ‘license’ for that sin that you don’t have for yours?

There is no ‘license’ to sin. There is only sin. Our natural state is that of a sinner. Evil is the absence of good. Note that the default position in this world is that there is first evil. Evil is dispelled by good — not the other way around.

Consider a totally dark room. Darkness is the absence of light. The default is darkness, not light. It takes energy to make light to dispell the darkness.

Absent the energy given off by light, it remains dark, and not the other way around. You cannot shine a beam of darkness into a lighted room.

Jesus said that we are ‘children of the light’ that is, we are energized by the inherent goodness of His indwelling Holy Spirit. His Presence in the life of a believer dispells the darkness by shining through the clear Light of truth.

It is that Light that exposes the darkness of sin — a lost person sees sin as his natural and inevitable state — how many times has somebody told you that they actually would RATHER go to hell where he will feel comfortable around his friends?

On the other hand, a saved person, indwelt by the Light, wants nothing more than to be in the Presence of Christ for eternity. Even as he struggles with his sin nature.

The worst thing about hell to a Christian isn’t the torment so much as the eternal separation from Christ — “Having once tasted the heavenly gift” — the writer of Hebrews puts it.

You know whether or not you sincerely try to do good, whether you always make it or not. So does the One Who went to the Cross for you because He KNEW you wouldn’t always make it.

That’s why He did it.

Your relationship with Jesus is unique; it isn’t like anybody else’s. Jesus saves us individually. He loves us individually. He answers our individual prayers.

He walks with us as individuals, He talks with us as individuals. His Spirit indwells us individually, and guides us through our individual trials and tribulations. Paul wrote to the Philippians;

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)

“Work out your OWN salvation” with the Individual with Whom you have a personal relationship. Through His Spirit, Jesus will guide you into all truth, but it takes time.

For some, it takes more time than others. Like the fat guy who criticizes you for smoking — he clearly hasn’t gotten it yet.

He misses the fact that when he points a finger at you, there are three pointing back at him.

Jesus was crucified, arms outstretched and palms up.

The biggest besetting sin of all is the one that keeps you from doing ‘good’. In this life, the Scripture says that the only time we do good is when we obey God’s will.

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

Our purpose in this life is to lead others to Christ — according to God’s will that none should perish.

Be grateful that He accounted you worthy of salvation. Put your life and your sin nature in His nail-scarred Hands.

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

You will never be ‘good enough’ — but He is.

Trust Him to make the changes in your life that He sees fit. Know that you are a work in progress and that your life is ordered according to a Divine Plan — one God has for YOU.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath BEGUN a good work in you WILL PERFORM IT until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6)

The only REAL Christianity is the kind that brings victory, not defeat. Leave defeat in the world it was designed for. 

Pray instead that God will, “Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in His Sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:21)

That is NOT a license to sin. It is a license to persevere, getting back up when you fall, doing God’s Will — despite the trials of this world — none of which are news to Jesus.

Don’t let the enemy steal your victory.  It came at too high a Price.  

Milk And Meat

Milk And Meat
Vol: 111 Issue: 15 Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A recent Pew Poll on Religious Attitudes in America troubled me so much that I kept going back to it, thinking that somewhere I must have misread something. 

The question was formed as an agree/disagree statement. 

When asked, “Do you agree that many religions can lead to eternal life?” fully 83% of mainstream churches, (including both mainstream Protestant and Catholic) indicated that they agreed with the statement. 

What does that really mean? These are, ostensibly, Christian churches. That is to say, churches founded on the teaching of Jesus Christ and the writers of the New Testament. 

We often speak of ‘milk’ issues and ‘meat’ issues in our briefings and discussion forums. The ‘meat’ issues are the ‘deeper’ things of Scripture; like Bible prophecy, Dispensationalism, eternal security and so on. 

But one cannot grasp the ‘meat’ issues until one first has a handle on the ‘milk’ issues. The most important of these is salvation. 

If one is not saved, according to the Scripture, there is no possible way one can grasp the deeper doctrinal issues. 

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1st Corinthians 1:18, 2:14)

The milk doctrine of salvation is summed up in a single verse of Scripture delivered by Jesus Christ Himself:

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6)

Does this mean that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to salvation? Let me put it another way: does this leave room for another path to salvation? 

Not according to the Apostle Peter: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

If Jesus Christ is NOT the only way to heaven, then, by definition, Christianity cannot lead to heaven at all. 

The essence of Bible Christianity is this: “You can’t do it, so Jesus did.” Whether or not one is saved depends on whether or not one agrees with that statement.

“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” (Romans 2:
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12)

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

It teaches that those sinners who recognize their hopeless state under the Law can be justified through faith that, “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

What does ‘believing in Him’ mean? Does it mean believing that there was once a Jewish carpenter named Jesus who was a wise man and a good teacher who was put to death by the Romans?

In a word, no. Not even close. 

It means understanding that God loved me so much He stepped out of eternity and into space and time in the Person of Jesus Christ, to live the life expected of me. 

And, having lived the life God expects of me, He suffered the penalty that I so richly deserved — on my behalf. 

It is that understanding that breaks down the barrier between me and God. Without that understanding, the death and resurrection of Jesus is irrelevant to my own condition. If my condition is not hopeless apart from Christ, then it isn’t hopeless at
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all. 

And if Christianity is not the only way to heaven, then, again by definition, there must be several ‘heavens’. No man has ever seen heaven. So how do we know that it exists? 

Because it says so in the Bible. That’s where we learned of it. If the Bible is accurate about the existence of heaven, then it is equally accurate about its entrance requirements. 

According to the Pew poll results, 83% of mainline Christian churches do not meet the minimum requirements necessary for admission. 

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. ” (Revelation 3:16)

Assessment:

While the response to the first question stunned me, the response to the question: “There is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion” absolutely floored me. 

In the first place, the premise of the question itself assumes that there can be more than one ‘truth.’ 

This is illogical to the point of delusional. There can be many variations of truth, in the sense that there are many variations of ‘red’ — but only one of them is pure ‘red’ — the rest contain shades of red. 

There is only one ‘truth’. Everything else is different. And things that are different are not the same. For example, the Bible is the Word of God, and therefore, infallible “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2nd Timothy 3:16)

Today’s column contains the Word of God — but it is NOT infallible on any of those issues. And if this column were to conflict with the Word of God — (ie; by denying Jesus is the only way to heaven) it would NOT be an alternate ‘truth’ even though it contains the word of God. 

This may be a good place to restate the bedrock truths upon which the Omega Letter is founded.

First, we believe that salvation comes by grace through faith in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as FULL propitiation (payment) for our sins. 

“And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1st John 2:2) 

There is NO alternative religion that can lead to eternal life apart from Christ. If there is, then Christ is dead in vain. 

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

We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, inerrant in its original languages, and preserved by God through the ages. It contains the full and complete record of God’s interaction with man. 

We reject any suggestion that there can be more than one ‘truth’ on the basis of ordinary logic and the dictionary’s definition of the word, ‘truth.’

We believe that salvation is eternal, and that, while man has free will to accept or reject the offer of salvation procured for him by Jesus, God in His foreknowledge is already aware of the choice each of us will make. 

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

This is by no means a complete statement of faith — but it is the bedrock upon which Biblical Christianity rests. It is the ‘milk’ of the Scriptures. Without an understanding of the Cross and the role it plays in one’s salvation, one can never grasp the meaning of the word ‘truth.’

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

Pew’s poll results DO serve as a wake-up call to us
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all, however. Don’t assume that just because somebody goes to church on Sunday that they have already ‘finished their milk’ — so to speak. 

Odds are 83% in favor of the assumption they haven’t even picked up the glass.

Palestine

Palestine
Vol: 111 Issue: 14 Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The land claimed by Israel is smaller than the state of Rhode Island. In comparison to the Arab Middle East, Israel is like a single piece of sod on a football field.

Carrying the analogy further, imagine that one team has to defend that single piece of sod from an opposing team that outnumbers them 650 to 1.

The other team, claiming unfair advantage, is demanding the single piece of sod be divided and half of it be awarded to them.

The referees agree, and penalize the defending team for refusing to concede half of its 1/6th of one percent of the field to the opposition [that outnumbers them 650 to one]. The crowd loudly boos the defenders.

That is roughly analogous to the rules of engagement under which the Middle East conflict is being played out.

The Arab side makes two concurrent claims; 1) Israel has no historical right to the land; and 2) Israel, by its existence, has dispossessed the indigenous Palestinian people, leaving them with nowhere to go.

Except for a few decades of Christian control during the Crusades era, the land claimed by Israel was under Islamic control for 1300 years. This is one of the principle arguments advanced in favor of the Palestinian claim that Israel has no historical right to the Land of Promise.

That argument is bolstered by the existence of an Arab mosque atop what the Jews claim as Temple Mount, a mosque that has graced Mount Moriah for some 1,350 years.

According to modern Islam, the mosque atop Mount Moriah is the third-holiest site in Islam. Recenty Islamic tradition says the al Aqsa Mosque marks the place where Mohammed ascended into heaven aboard a winged horse.

For that reason, it now ranks third in line behind Mecca and Medina as Islam’s holiest cities.

In ancient times, Israel sat atop the most strategic crossroads of the known world. One couldn’t get from Babylon to Egypt by chariot without passing through it.

Israel and Jerusalem have been fought over and conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Arabs, Turks, and finally, the British in 1917.

In each of its conquests, Jerusalem was strategic because of its strategic value as Israel’s God-given capital. From Nebuchadnezzar to Titus, each successive conqueror acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of the Jews.

When the region was conquered by Islam, taking Jerusalem was a strategic, rather than religious necessity. Whoever controlled the Jewish holy city controlled the remaining indigenous Jews.

The reconquest of Jerusalem became a holy religious duty only after the Crusaders claimed the city for Christianity. Since the city was holy to Judaism and holy to Christianity, it became holy to Islam, as well.

But ‘holy’ doesn’t mean the same thing to Islam as it does to Christians and Jews. To Christians or Jews, ‘holy’ means worthy of reverence, whereas to Islam, ‘holy’ means worthy of possession.

Under Islamic possession, Jerusalem was just another dusty city of the province of Southern Syria. In the four hundred years Jerusalem was under Ottoman rule until 1917, the city was never even a regional or provincial capital.

After the Ottoman Empire fell to the Allies in the First World War, British foreign secretary Lord Balfour put into writing Britain’s support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

When the League of Nations made Palestine a British mandate after the war, Lord Balfour’s declaration was assumed as part of the deal and the allied powers of the Great War all agreed. By 1935, there were more than 300,000 Jews in Palestine. Tel Aviv, founded in 1909, had 100,000 people.

In 1947 Britain, which had been handed the Palestine problem by the now-defunct League of Nations passed it on, with relief, to the newly born United Nations. The UN agreed to partition Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and a neutral UN zone containing Jerusalem, a city sacred to three religions.

The Jews were thrilled, the Arabs adamantly opposed.

In late 1947 the plan was ratified by the UN, and the State of Israel proclaimed on May 14, 1948. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled the country.

The the British pulled out completely, and most of the Arab world- Egypt, Transjordan (now Jordan), Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, as well as Palestinians- immediately attacked in an attempt to destroy Israel.

By the time of armistice in 1949 Israel held three quarters of Palestine- twice as much land as the UN had proposed- Jordan had taken the land on the West Bank of the Jordan River, and Egypt had taken the Gaza Strip.

It is at this point in the story of the Middle East that history ends and the modern myth of the Middle East is born.

Assessment:

The modern myth is that at the end of the Israeli War of Independence, the indigenous ‘Palestinian’ people were dispossessed by Israel and left with nothing.

The historical fact is that, until the mid 1930’s, the term ‘Palestinian’ was a label applied to the Jews.

Until 1950, the name of the Jerusalem Post was THE PALESTINE POST; the journal of the Zionist Organization of America was NEW PALESTINE; Bank Leumi was the ANGLO-PALESTINE BANK; the Israel Electric Company was the PALESTINE ELECTRIC COMPANY; there was the PALESTINE FOUNDATION FUND and the PALESTINE PHILHARMONIC.

All these were Jewish organizations. In America, Zionist youngsters sang “PALESTINE, MY PALESTINE”, “PALESTINE SCOUT SONG” and “PALESTINE SPRING SONG”

In general, the terms ‘Palestine’ and ‘Palestinian’ referred to the region of Palestine as it was prior to 1948.

Thus “Palestinian Jew” and “Palestinian Arab” are straightforward expressions. “Palestine Post” and “Palestine Philharmonic” refer to these bodies as they existed in a place then known as Palestine.

The adoption of a Palestinian identity by the Arabs of Palestine is a recent phenomenon. Until the establishment of the State of Israel, and for another decade or so, the term ‘Palestinian’ applied exclusively to the Jews.

The claims of the Arab ‘Palestinians’ to be a separate people is an utter fiction. There is no language known as Palestinian. There is no distinct Palestinian culture. There has never been a land known as Palestine governed by Arab Palestinians.

Arab Palestinians are indistinguishable from Jordanians (recent British inventions all), Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, etc.

Syria was created by the British and subsequently given to France as the French Mandate. The Syrians declared independence after the British left in 1946, two years before Israel did the same thing. Jordan was created by the British in 1921.

The same British government that created the modern Arab world in 1920 at the San Remo Conference in Italy — by decree — also created a Jewish homeland the same way at the same conference.

And the Jewish Palestine of the Balfour Declaration as confirmed at San Remo encompassed a much bigger chunk of ground than Israel claims today.

Until the Jews renewed their claim to the land of Palestine, nobody else wanted it. The Jews petitioned for statehood on the principle that Palestine was “a land without a people” and that the Jews were “a people without a land.”

Arab revisionist historians say that claim was ‘a myth.’ History and mathematics tell a different story — if anybody were interested in the facts, that is.

In 1948, there were about 735,000 Muslim and Christian Arabs in Palestine. There were about 716,000 Jews. Since the same land now supports a population of more than 12 million combined Arabs and Jews, the argument that the Arabs were ‘crowded out’ by the Jews makes no sense.

The ‘Palestinian refugees’ languishing in ‘refugee camps’ in Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere, were not interned by Israel. They were interned by their own governments after those governments lost the war with Israel.

Those Jordanian citizens that lived in Jordan’s West Bank and the citizens of Egypt’s Gaza Strip (who, on May 30, 1967 were still Egyptians), became instant ‘Palestinians’ on June 7, 1967.

From the moment of its declaration of statehood, the Jews of Israel have lived under the constant threat of annihilation by the surrounding Arab states.

As Golda Meir observed during the Yom Kippur War, “the Arabs can fight, and lose, and come back to fight another day. Israel can only lose once.”

What makes this significant is that NONE of this is a secret. Knowing this, the entire world prefers the fictional account advanced by the Islamic world; that the Palestinians pre-existed the Jews, that the Jews stole ‘Palestinian land’ dispossessed its inhabitants and locked them away in refugee camps.

Remember the football field and the single square of sod analogy. To the world, dividing that single square of sod defended by a team outnumbered 650 to one that holds the rest of the football field is an example of ‘leveling the playing field’.

It is nothing short of madness. But it is a madness that seems to have infected the world at large. The Islamic version of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a monstrous lie being advanced in favor of a claim to land that nobody wanted until the Jews did.

In the midst of a global war on terror, the world is prepared to countenance an openly terrorist government ruling over a ‘people’ that do not exist, (a people whose only goal is the ANNIHILATION of another people whose history is THE most documented record of ancient times) based on the argument that the Jewish claim to Jerusalem is historically invalid.

That lie is so delusional that it boggles the mind. Yet it is the basic reason for a global war on terror that now threatens to spill over into an all-out war of civilizations.

Israel, by its very existence, is a stench in the nostrils of the secular world. It is a constant reminder of the existence and reality of God, and therefore, man’s accountability before Him. Paul explains it this way:

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

The secular world’s war against the Jews is unreasoning, blind anti-semitism so ingrained in its psyche it is blissfully unaware it even exists.

Any critically-thinking person can see the truth, yet the UN consistently finds the ‘anti-truth’ when it involves Israel. It is almost supernatural in its scope and breadth. In fact, scratch ‘almost’ from that last sentence.

It IS supernatural.

Note:  Winter cold is still hanging on  – cold medicine still making me stupid.  We got six inches of fresh snow to go with temperatures in the teens. 

I had this retread (from October, 2007) ready to go just in case I needed one more day in bed. 

I need it.  Hope nobody minds the re-run. 

The Twenty-Four Elders

The Twenty-Four Elders
Vol: 111 Issue: 13 Monday, December 13, 2010

It was the Lord Himself that outlined the Book of His Revelation in three distinct parts; “that which thou [John] hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” (Revelation 1:19)

The Apostle John had just recorded the messages to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor as given by Jesus when John was suddenly whisked in his vision from his cave on Patmos to a scene in heaven.

The Book is therefore divided thusly:

Revelation 1:1-20 – “the things which John hast seen” — the vision of the Lord Jesus Christ in Glory.

Revelation 2:1 – the things which are. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write”, through to Revelation 3:22 — ” . . . let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”;

And finally, “the things which shall be hereafter”

This final division is the longest, since it covers the period from the Tribulation to eternity future. But let’s examine them in order.

The first two parts of the outline are essentially undisputed by scholars — for obvious reasons. The second outline concludes after the Churches have been addressed and evaluated and promises are made to “him that overcometh”:

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.” (Revelation 3:21)

Let’s examine ‘him that overcometh” in context. Back up one verse with me — it would seem that “he that overcometh” is he that opens the door to the Lord and invites Him in to ‘sup with him and he with Me.”

No mention of overcoming persecution or hardship or trouble or tribulation here. The counsel is offered to those that the Lord says specifically that He loves, but “rebukes and chastens” to “be zealous therefore, and repent.”

So in context, those among the churches (His Bride) that are zealous and repent and invite Him in for fellowship, Jesus calls ‘overcomers’. But Jesus says that they are those ‘who overcame even as I overcame.’

Some argue this means that overcomers are those who suffer the Tribulation Period or those who refuse to take the Mark.

The problem with this view is that the Lord is still addressing those of the present tense second outline — “the things which are.” The Tribulation,” which must be hereafter,” hasn’t started yet.

Let’s connect the dots so far. The Lord overcame by dying and being resurrected. John is being addressed by the resurrected Jesus in His resurrection Body. And Paul says that we shall also receive a resurrection body just like it.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”

There is a future event — the Rapture of the Church, which Paul describes this way. First, the dead in Christ are resurrected, then we who are alive and remain are immediately translated into our resurrection bodies, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

That is the only sense in which we human beings could EVER be said to have overcome even as Jesus overcame. Jesus never sinned. (I did and do) He paid the penalty for sin on my behalf at the Cross, (I cannot) then was resurrected and bodily ascended into heaven signifying the conquest of sin and death.

To argue that I must suffer as He did in order be an overcomer during the Church Age is to turn the doctrine of soteriology (salvation) on its head.

So the only similitude that logically fits the “overcomers” metaphor is that of the Lord’s bodily resurrection and ascension, and the Rapture’s bodily resurrection and ascension.

Finally, the angels present at the Lord’s ascension confirm that; “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.”

How was that? Quietly, and without fanfare, and witnessed only by the Apostles who represented the embryonic Church.

It makes no contextual sense to read ‘overcomers’ as those who come out of the Tribulation.

Assessment:

Chapter Three concludes with Jesus walking among the golden lampstands of the Church on the earth. At the beginning of Chapter four, a great thing has just transpired.

The third division of the outline of Revelation — that which must be hereafter — begins when John’s perspective shifts from that of the earthbound churches to that 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.”

“Hereafter what?” can only have one logical answer. Hereafter is when the overcomers of the Church Age are taken up to heaven with Jesus in like manner as the Apostles had seen Him go.

“Hereafter” begins at the Throne Room of God:

“And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” (Revelation 4:2-4)

Who are these four and twenty elders? Let’s establish who they are not, first. They are not spirits. Spirits don’t sit. Spirits don’t wear clothes. Spirits don’t wear crowns. They are not angels.

 “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders:” (Revelation 5:11)

Nowhere in Scripture are angels numbered specifically. Cherubim (living ‘beasts’) are numbered (there are four) but angels are ‘a multitude’ or an ‘innumerable company’ but never twenty-four. Angels don’t wear crowns. They don’t wear clothes and they NEVER sit in the presence of God.

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;” (Revelation 5:9)

The twenty-four elders are the Blood-bought redeemed of mankind — the representatives of the saints of God. They number twenty-four, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel, and one for each of the Twelve Apostles.

Together, they make up the redeemed society of mankind through the ages.

All twenty-four of them are seated before God’s Throne before even the FIRST of the seals has been broken. The twenty-four elders are in their places as they watch those who come out of great tribulation, their robes washed in the Blood of the Lamb, the Tribulation Saints martyred for their witness of Christ.

The outline of Revelation remains constant from the moment John arrives at heaven’s open door until it concludes in eternity future.

John’s perspective is that of heaven, where he is already in the company of the twenty-four elders when the very first seal is broken, bringing down the first of twenty-one judgments upon a sinful, Christ-rejecting world.

There is a clear division between that which is and that which shall be hereafter and the primary difference is that of perspective.

When talking about the Church, John is with Jesus is on earth, among the lamp stands.

When speaking of the Tribulation judgments, John is in Heaven with Jesus and the twenty-four elders who are not spirits, not angels, but rather the redeemed of God, who wear crowns, clothes and sit in His Presence. They are already there and seated when the first of the seals are broken.

They are already there and seated long before the first of the Tribulation saints start to show up after the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are sealed and indwelt by Holy Spirit.

No matter how one slices and dices it, the twenty-four elders are in heaven with John long before the first Tribulation saints begin to arrive. And so is the Church.

“. . . and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:17-18)

Note:  Came down with a humdinger of a cold over the weekend.  Evidently, cold medicine doesn’t make you smarter.  After four attempts at making sense with a new column, I concluded it would be best for all concerned to republish a retread from 2009.  I hope you enjoy it. 

Gezundheit!

Some Debates Aren’t Worth Winning

Some Debates Aren’t Worth Winning
Vol: 111 Issue: 11 Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Old Testament was written almost entirely in classical Hebrew in the dialect scholars believed flourished around the 6th century BC during the Babylonian Exile.   Almost entirely.

By the time the Babylonian Captivity had ended seventy years later, the first language of most of the Babylonian captives and their descendants had become the language of their captors, Aramaic.  

The Books of Daniel and Ezra were originally inspired and composed in Aramaic.

Alexander the Great outlawed the languages of the peoples he conquered and compelled them to learn and use Greek in all their dealings. But by then, Hebrew was largely extinct as spoken language, replaced by Aramaic and later by Greek. 

The New Testament was inspired and composed in both Aramaic and Greek. Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Greek.   His words were translated from Aramaic into Greek, with certain Aramaic words being specifically identified as translations.

Interestingly, those parts of the Old Testament not inspired and composed in Hebrew were inspired and composed in Greek. 

And the Septuagint is the Hebrew Old Testament as translated by the rabbis into Koine Greek in the 3rd century BC.   So by the time the Apostles were writing the New Testament Epistles, much the Old Testament was already a translation of a translation. 

By the middle of the second century, the major writings of the canon of Scripture were accepted by almost all Christian authorities. St Jerome translated them all into Latin in the 3rd century.  

So by the fourth century, the Old Testament was a translation of a translation of a translation and the New Testament was merely a translation of a translation. 

Twelve hundred years later, Wycliffe, Hus, Linacre, Colet and Erasmus were all busily engaged in translating the various translations of translations into their own translations of English. 

One hundred years after John Hus was burned at the stake kindled with pages from Wycliffe’s Bible translation, King James of England ordered his translators to come up with a new English translation using the existing Greek and Hebrew translations, themselves recopied translations of Aramaic and Latin and classical Hebrew.

The oldest existing Textus Receptus manuscript used by the translators of the King James 1611 Bible dated to the 12th century.  In the book of Revelation, a missing page had to be translated from the Latin Vulgate back into Greek so it could be translated back into English.

Finally, I have a photocopy of an original 1611 Bible and a page taken from an original 1611 Bible. Both are in English, but I can barely read it.   

I say all this knowing that I am going to get hammered by the King James-onlyists, which is ironic, really.  I personally am a King James-only guy, in the sense that I prefer it above all other translations and is the only one I trust as the final authority on matters of doctrine.

But it is a matter of preference. 

Nobody is saved according to which version of the Bible they study from.  Nobody is saved by a Bible.  They are saved by the Gospel message, a message so simple it can be conveyed without a Bible being present.

A child can lead another child to Christ on a playground. A drunk can lead another drunk to Christ on a barstool.  

I’ve seen both happen. 

Assessment:

I’ve heard all of the King James-only arguments, and have made many of them myself.  I am aware of the flaws in the other translations, (particularly the NIV) and I have on more than one occasion, taken great satisfaction in systematically destroying the NIV as a perversion of the Bible.

But there are just as many flaws and doctrinal errors in the NASB, AV, ASV, etc., etc.  Or so I am told. I confess that I have not personally ferreted out the flaws in the various translations.  I admit that I am simply using somebody else’s list. 

While I am at it, I also confess that I do not know much about the actual translators of the KJV. Or much about the translation process.  I probably know more than the average guy, but that isn’t saying much. 

I’ve said it previously, but it bears repeating here.  I can’t read the original languages. And if I could, I don’t have the original manuscripts used by the translators.  

And if I did, I wouldn’t know if they were 1st century Greek or if they were later Greek translations of the Latin translations of the Greek translations of the original Aramaic. 

Would you?

The quickest way I can think of to shake somebody’s confidence in their salvation is to attack their preferred Bible version.  The Bible that leads you to Christ takes on a very special, personal meaning.  If you came to Christ via the NIV, then the NIV is the Word of God whereby you were saved.

The same applies to all the other versions, including the KJV, which is the version whereby I came to know Christ.

Ever wonder why there are so many Christians that don’t go to church?  It is because there are two kinds of Christianity in this world.  There is the theoretical kind and there is the living kind. 

In the theoretical kind, everybody is the same at church as they are at home when nobody is looking.  

Saved people always act saved and always looked saved.  Saved people never have doubts – that would be faithlessness.  And when somebody falls, it is because they probably were never really saved in the first place.

In the living kind, people are different at church than they are at home when nobody is looking.   Saved people don’t always act like it.  Some don’t ever go to church.  Everybody has doubts. 

And it is only when others fall that we question if they were really saved. 

When a person is young in the Lord, he is somewhere between the theoretical and reality – all he has is his Bible.  And along comes some grizzled old veteran Christian who, preaching theoretical Christianity convinces the new Christian that he can’t trust his Bible.

No matter which position you take on the Bible translations issue, what happens if you prevail in the debate? Assuming your opponent is already saved, he can’t get more saved by agreeing with you.

If you have won the debate, then he has lost. Now let’s return to the topic under discussion.  “Can you trust your Bible?”  And his answer is “no.”

Some debates aren’t worth winning.

Do we have the Word of God?  Of course we do.  What about when there are conflicts between versions? God only wrote ONE Bible – but He didn’t write it in English.

He wrote it in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  

So how do you know that the version that you use, whether KJV, NIV, NASB, etc, is really the Word of God?  Did you get saved from it?  Is that an enemy action?  

How do you know that is the one God wants you to use?  I don’t know.   But you do. It is because that is the version God speaks to you from.

Or you would be looking for the version that does.

Skeptics, Science and Scripture

Skeptics, Science and Scripture
Vol: 111 Issue: 10 Friday, December 10, 2010

An ‘amazing’ discovery by NASA scientists of a bacteria lurking at the bottom of a California lake has some scientists proclaiming the discovery of an alien life form. 

The announcement of weird bacteria which thrive on eating arsenic, one of the planet’s most poisonous substances, was made at a press conference called by NASA.

Referred to as ‘alien life’, frenetic speculation had broken out about life on other planets.

“The definition of life has just expanded,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely, and consider life as we do not know it.”

It sounded like a pretty desperate argument from the get-go.  So I wasn’t particularly surprised to learn it took only three days to prove the NASA theory was all wet

Life is a lot more complicated than that.  There are far more criteria necessary than just a burning desire to disprove Creation and a newly-discovered bug.

The Anthropic Principle of the Universe says that the universe has been fine tuned for human life.  All the constants of the universe were set at the Creation event. The fine-tuning necessary is stunning. 

For example, the ratio of electromagnetism to that of gravity. Stars have a continual tug-of-war. Electromagnetism is the force that repulses, and gravity is the force that compresses.

If electromagnetism wins then the stars never attract the atoms and stars don’t form. If gravity wins then the forms immediately form a black hole. In either case, life is not possible.

The Strong Force Constant, or the “God Particle”.  This is the force that holds protons and neutrons together. 

If the constant was decreased by 5% then no elements other than hydrogen would form. If it was even 1% higher no hydrogen would form and almost all carbon would be burned into oxygen. A 2% increase would prevent protons from forming. 

That force must be within plus or minus 0.8 and 1.2 its actual strength or all elements of atomic weight greater than four would not have formed.  

And if the Gravitational Force Constant were slightly stronger, all stars would be red dwarfs, too cold to support life-bearing planets.   If it were slightly weaker, the universe would be full of blue giants which burn too briefly for life to develop.

The mass of a neutron and a proton are different and perfectly balanced.  If the neutron were 1/10th of 1% less massive the universe would make so many neutrons that all of the matter in the universe would very quickly collapse into neutron stars and black holes.

If the neutrons were 1/10th of 1% more massive, then the universe would make so few neutrons that there wouldn’t be enough to make Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, etc.

As we’ve seen, these are the elements that are essential for life.  That mass must be balanced to within 1/10th of 1%, or life is impossible.

The ratio of dark matter to normal matter must be perfect or life cannot exist.  If gravity were not perfectly balanced, advanced life could not exist. If the Milky Way were susceptible to gamma ray bursts like other galaxies, life could not exist. 

A direct hit from a cosmic gamma ray blast would sterilize much of any galaxy.   Except the Milky Way (where we live) has never been hit by a gamma ray blast.

Then there is our Big Blue Marble.  For life to exist, Earth needs to lie within the ‘habitable zone’ of the sun.  To be “habitable” a planet must stay in an orbit where water can remain in a liquid state. 

Earth must also exist within the Galactic Habitable Zone.  In the Milky Way the Galactic habitable zone lays 7 to 9 kilo parsecs (23,000 to 29,000 light-years) from the galactic center.

For any Solar System to be habitable it cannot be bombarded with radiation close to the center of a Galaxy, but close enough to get the needed percentage of heavy minerals.

For a planet to be habitable, it must be large enough for gravity to hold an atmosphere and near enough to the sun so that it remains in the Habitable Zone all the time. It’s magnetic field must be balanced perfectly.

The ratio of carbon dioxide to water vapor must be precise.  Too much CO2 would make the planet too cold to live on, too little and it would be too warm.   The ozone layer must also be perfect. If it was too thick, we’d all freeze. If it was too thin, we’d all be cooked by solar radiation.

And then, of course, there is the water cycle.  This is such a big deal that many scientists are convinced where there is water, there will be life.   In the desperate attempt to explain the universe without God, they tend to skip all these other messy details.

Assessment:

Explaining the universe without God requires ignoring the evidence from creation. 

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

Paul says they are clearly seen, even before telescopes and scientists and theories.  Paul’s position is that it creation is so obvious that man has no excuse for denial.   The science in the Scriptures is therefore nothing short of amazing.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that science confirmed Genesis 1:1 – the earth had a beginning.  It wasn’t until this generation that science concluded that time also has both a beginning and an end, as the Bible explains in 2nd Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2.

“All the evidence seems to indicate, that the universe has not existed forever, but that it had a beginning, about 15 billion years ago. This is probably the most remarkable discovery of modern cosmology. Yet it is now taken for granted.” – Stephen F Hawking

Zechariah  12:1 and Jeremiah 51:15 both say the Universe is expanding, or stretching.   Until the 20th century, it was believed the universe was static.   Then Edwin Hubble discovered it was in the process of expanding.

Romans 8:22 tells us the earth is in a continual state of deterioration. So does the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which creates quite a problem for evolutionary scientists.  Evolution says that given enough time, it reverses itself and starts to self-improve.

The Book of Job revealed the earth is round and that it hands on nothing, hundreds of years before Pythagoras or Aristotle suggested it was a giant ball riding on the back of a turtle.

Genesis 5:15 says the stars cannot be numbered.  But the estimates run to about 10 to the 24th power, or more than the number of grains of sand on Planet Earth. 

In the 16th century a scientist named Bernie Pallissy first “discovered” the hydrological cycle already explained in Jeremiah 10:13 and Job 36:27-28.  Job 26:8 speaks of the clouds holding water and Ecclesiastes 1:7 explains the cycle of rivers.

Isaiah wrote that the earth is a circle in the 8th century BC.  Job 28:25 explains the wind has weight, today called ‘atmospheric pressure’ that can be measured using a barometer.

Psalms 8:8 refers to paths in the seas, which inspired Matthew Maury to chart them, including ocean lanes for ships passing at sea.

“Matthew Maury’s seagoing days came to an abrupt end at the age of 33 after a stagecoach accident broke his hip and knee. Thereafter, he devoted his time to the study of naval meteorology, navigation, charting the winds and currents, seeking the “Paths of the Seas” mentioned in Psalm 8 in the Bible.”

The Bible warns against handling dead bodies without washing under running water.  It gives sanitary rules such as keeping the latrines outside the camp, proper methodology for preventing the spread of germs, and other medical information unknown to modern medicine until the 20th century.

To me, the most impressive bit of science is the part in Romans 1:20 where Paul says that everything visible was created out of invisible things.

Science has theories like the Loop Quantum Gravity, the Hartle-Hawking no boundary state, various models of string theory, chaotic inflation, quantum physics and so on. 

“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.” (1st Timothy 6:20)

One day, science may catch up to Scripture.   But not yet. Not even nearly.

Maranatha!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Vol: 111 Issue: 9 Thursday, December 9, 2010

A few days ago in a column entitled ”To Do Those Things Which are Not Convenient” I wrote that I had always pictured the Tribulation in my mind’s eye as a sort of cartoonish. 

The Bible describes things and events that take place during the Tribulation that, until only recently, seemed utterly impossible.  Stuff like an Army private having access to millions of classified documents that end up on the front pages of the New York Times, for example.

Or the song and dance routine now ongoing concerning Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.  It is not yet possible to calculate the damage caused by the leaks – nor is it possible –anymore – to identify or quantify what constitutes an enemy of the United States.

Is Julian Assange an enemy of the United States?  The mere fact that can be a question is frightening. If Julian Assange is not an enemy of the United States, then who could be?

Is PFC Bradley Manning a traitor?  Or a hero and a patriot?  It depends on who you ask.

The only foreign city located inside the United States is considering passing a resolution honoring the Army private accused of leaking America’s secrets to Wikileaks.  

(Berkeley, California isn’t actually a foreign city, but evidently, their city council is unaware of it.) 

Consequently, they evidently are under the impression that things that harm the United States are good for their country  (wherever that is.)

The Berkeley City Council will consider a resolution that would declare the Army private suspected of leaking classified information to Wikileaks a hero and call for his release.

The council plans a vote next Tuesday on the resolution in support of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is being held in a military brig in Virginia. A city commission has already approved it.  Bob Meola, who authored the resolution, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Manning is a patriot who deserves a medal. 

Meola didn’t mention who he thought should give the award.   Osama bin-Laden on behalf of al-Qaeda?  Hugo Chavez on behalf of Venezuela?  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on behalf of Iran?

What should it be called?  The Karl Marx Medal for Treason?

It would be almost funny – except that Berkeley receives federal funds drawn from ordinary, sane taxpayers that it then uses to slap the rest of the country in the face.  But it isn’t funny.  It is tragic.

And it is dangerous.

Assessment:

It is said that the wheels of justice grind slowly.  The US Congress is furiously debating laws that would prevent future Wikileaks – assuming the country survives the latest assault.  

The Wikileaks scandal has invoked its own kind of natural law – the law of unintended consequences.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said The New York Times may have committed a crime by publishing classified documents provided by WikiLeaks, and called for the Justice Department to investigate.

“To me, New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship. And whether they’ve committed a crime, I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department,” Lieberman said when asked whether the Times could be charged for publishing the documents.

During the interview with Fox News, Lieberman also questioned why WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has not been charged with treason by the Justice Department.

“I think it’s the most serious violation of the Espionage Act in our history, and the consequences globally that have occurred.”

No kidding.  So now what? 

Senators John Ensign [R. Nev], Scott Brown [R Mass] and Leiberman, [I- Conn] jointly introduced a bill that would make it illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants.Comic book comes to life

(What? There isn’t one? Then what was the whole Valerie Plame affair all about?)

The bill is entitled The Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act or SHIELD.  So we’ve moved on from cartoon to comic book reality.

It would make it make it illegal to compromise US national security.  (Again, that’s not already illegal??)

S.H.I.E.L.D marks the beginning of the end for the internet, at least as we know it.   Particularly in light of the reaction to Assange’s arrest.  

It sparked what founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation called “the first serious infowar of the 21st century.”

John Perry Barlow told his followers on Twitter last week, “the field of battle is Wikileaks. You are the troops.”  The troops are now engaged in battle.

A group calling itself Anonymous put the quote at the top of a webpage entitled “Operation Avenge Assange,” referring to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Online collective “Anonymous” appears to be using social networking site Twitter to coordinate attacks on websites belonging to entities it views as trying to silence WikiLeaks.

Targets included MasterCard, Visa, Paypal, the Swedish prosecutor handling Assange’s sex abuse case and the Swiss bank that froze Assange’s accounts.  Amazon and EBay were also targeted after Amazon kicked Wikileaks off its servers.

Sean-Paul Correll, a Los Angeles-based researcher at software firm Panda Security, says the effort is a loose-knit group that uses servers hosted in Russia, but that there is no reason to believe that is where the individuals are based.

He added that the group appeared to be able to corral thousands of computers, which are then used to bombard servers of a target Web site with data.

Correll described the attacks as more organized than sophisticated. “People are finding out they don’t need to stand in a picket line anymore. They are using technology to fight back.”

Wikileaks’ spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson insisted Assange’s arrest won’t alter the site’s calculated release of thousands of secret government cables, which still continues according to plan. The site published a new slate of cables Wednesday.

“It is not derailing us in any way,” said Hrafnsson, adding that a group of five to six people is running Wikileaks’ operations in Assange’s absence.

“This is a turning tide and starting a trend that you can’t really stop unless you want to shut down the Internet.” Shut down the internet? 

It even sounds like the plot for a cartoon or comic book.