Heavenly Civics

Heavenly Civics
Vol: 22 Issue: 19 Thursday, May 19, 2016

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)

Paul’s admonition ‘not to think more highly of himself than he ought’ is one of those double-edged truths. A Christian need always be mindful his salvation was wrought by trusting in the completed Work accomplished at the Cross and not by one’s own merits.

But Paul’s admonition also means that we ought not to think LESS of ourselves than we ought. While we are utterly undeserving of the honor accorded us, we are still members of the Body of Christ, loved, cherished, and above all, forgiven our sins. 

To continue to punish ourselves and wallow in our guilt is to deny the finished Work of Christ. Our obligation as soldiers in the Lord is, when wounded, to trust Him to bandage those wounds, pick up our weapon (which is the Word of God) and soldier on to victory.

Illegal immigration is fast becoming a global threat; consequently, citizenship is something we attach great value to. Citizenship is usually attained in one of several ways; it can be ‘inherited’ through one’s parents. It can be granted (or excluded) by membership in a particular group.

In the United States, citizenship is automatically conveyed at birth and is irrevocable, although certain rights and liberties can be revoked by conviction of certain crimes.

Citizenship, particularly in the United States, is a ‘pearl of great price’, something that people the world over would willingly exchange everything they own to obtain.

We see the value attached to citizenship in the case of John Walker Lindh, nicknamed, “Taliban Johnny.” Taliban Johnny was taken on the battlefield in combat against US forces as a member of the Taliban in the Afghan war, in a gunbattle that cost the life of a US CIA agent.

‘Taliban Johnny’ was singled out from the rest of the al-Qaeda captives, given immediate medical attention, afforded all the legal rights of a US citizen under the legal system, afforded the best lawyers money can buy, and is currently serving time in a relatively plus US prison.

Compare his plight to that of the average ‘Taliban Johnny’ now languishing for an indeterminate period, not to exceed his natural life, in a cage at Guantanamo Bay and the value of citizenship becomes even more valuable.

A Saudi terrorist who was born while his parents were visiting the US was also afforded all the rights given Taliban Johnny, although he returned to Saudi Arabia as an infant and subsequently took up arms against the United States.

They were treated differently, not because they behaved any differently than any of the detainees sent to foreign prisons where local jurisdictions could ‘interrogate’ them according to their somewhat less humane standards.

Under the American legal system, they had sinned the ‘unpardonable sin’ of taking up arms against the United States. Foreign nationals who commit the same sin are targeted with either death or capture.

‘Capture’ — however humanely it is seen from America’s perspective, is often a fate worse than death. It can mean a lifetime of dehumanizing captivity. But not for John Walker Lindh. He’ll be out in twenty years, less time off for good behavior.

Why? Because John Walker Lindh, traitor and killer of his own countrymen, is a citizen of the United States.

Assessment:

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 3:20)

The word translated as ‘conversations’ in the KJV is translated from the word “politeuma” which is the root word for the English word ‘politic’. It means, ‘community’ or ‘citizenship’.

At the moment when we are saved, that is, at that moment when we trust our lives and our eternity to Jesus Christ and allow Him to lead us, we become citizens of heaven. But the Bible notes that we are dual citizens; we are no longer ‘of’ the world, but we are ‘in’ it, and it is that dual citizenship that is our spiritual undoing.

Paul discussed the dual nature of the flesh and the spirit at great length in Romans 7, lamenting that they good that he wanted to do, he found he could not, but that which he hated, (that is, sin) was what he found himself doing instead. He cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Paul both answers his own question and summarizes the situation as it exists for all men, from the Apostle Paul to you and me.

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24-25) 

When Paul was discussing how we ought to see ourselves, he appended a thought that eludes many Christians; saying “to think soberly, according as God HATH DEALT to every man the measure of faith.” 

Each of us is different. We came to the Cross individually, each with his own measures of sin and guilt to leave there. Some had more to leave behind that others; many murderers laid the blood of their victims at the foot of the Cross and had their guilt washed away. 

Others had lesser crimes, less guilt, but whatever they laid at His feet was washed clean and they were granted heavenly citizenship. Paul tells us that each of us ought not to think more highly — or, by extrapolation, less highly, of ourselves than we ought. That is why the Bible’s story is so compelling; it is the story of man, warts and all. 

The great heroes of the Bible; Abraham, David, Solomon, Noah, Lot, Sampson; these were all men of faith who were also sinners. They saw themselves for what they were. David admitted his sin was against God, that God was justified in condemning him, but reminded God of his condition:

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” But he trusts God: “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalms 51:5-6)

None of us really measure up to what we think we should be as Christians, although we think we know lots of other people who do. Each of us is sustained, “ACCORDING AS GOD HATH DEALT TO EVERY MAN THE MEASURE OF FAITH.” 

“Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Isaiah 45:9)

We are what God made us. Get over it. The truth is, we are each a work in progress, as each old sin falls away. Some sins fall away easier than others, some others we may well take to our graves rather than give them up. 

But whatever we may think of ourselves, our citizenship is in heaven, and it is our heavenly patriotic duty to continue to do battle for the Lord and trust to Him for the healing. 

As David reminds us, God desires truth in the ‘inward parts’ and, consequently, in that hidden part, He will make us to know wisdom. Heavenly civics says we are already citizens of heaven, but because of our dual citizenship, from our limited earthly perspective, it is an ongoing process; one begun, sustained and completed entirely according to the work of Christ. 

“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)

Trust Jesus! Pick up your sword and shield and get back into the battle. Maranatha!

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on September 30, 2005.

Featured Commentary: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Revelation ~ J.L. Robb

Faith and Tolerance — Goes Together Like Frogs and Bicycles

Faith and Tolerance — Goes Together Like Frogs and Bicycles
Vol: 22 Issue: 18 Wednesday, May 18, 2016

”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)  This verse has gotten Christianity into hot water with the world throughout the history of the Christian Church Age.

This verse was what gave the Romans their excuse for throwing Christians to the lions.  It has served as the main reason for Christian persecution wherever it might be found.

This verse is the one that is behind the UN’s hatred of Christianity, and is the main reason that in Canada, the Bible has been determined, under certain circumstances, to be ‘hate literature’.

Jesus’ claim that He is the only way is what upsets the world.  To the world, Christianity is ‘intolerant’ because it teaches the only one way to salvation is through Jesus.

To a Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., that means that they are excluded, since they don’t worship Jesus as God.  Therefore, Christianity is an ‘exclusive’ religion, and people don’t like to be excluded, even when they CHOOSE to be excluded.

It is absurd, really.  Consider the premise for a moment.  The ‘hate speech’ argument is based on Jesus not letting Muslims, Hindus, etc., et al, into His heaven just because they don’t believe in Him.

So, from the secular perspective, if the ‘mythical’ Jesus won’t let unbelievers into His ‘mythical’ Heaven, that is ‘intolerance’ and ‘hateful’.

Leaving aside why Jesus would exclude unbelievers for a second, one has to wonder why somebody who doesn’t believe in Jesus would want to go to His heaven in the first place?

Whether or not Christianity is intolerant depends on what the word ‘tolerant’ means.  And in an age of propaganda, words are not very precise.  Remember, in the name of ‘pro-choice’, it is a crime to offer a different choice that abortion within 100 feet of an abortion clinic.

‘Militant’ means any terrorist who isn’t for the moment, targeting YOU.  Or it means ‘radical’, as in ‘militant feminist’.

So, ‘militant’ — depending on political worldview — can mean either a crazed terrorist murdering as many innocents as possible or, a group of angry women carrying signs.

“Tolerant” — and its derivatives — is a word like that.

From the perspective of Biblical Christianity, there is no more tolerant worldview than that of Christ.  Christianity teaches the obvious truth that all men have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.

Even atheists recognize ‘sin’ — even if they rename it.  Were it not for sin, societies wouldn’t need police protection.  Nations wouldn’t need armies.  Religions would have no reason to exist and no ‘hammer’ with which to keep the faithful in line.

Sin exists.  All religions offer a remedy.  Some require you to go out and knock on doors and proselytize new members as a means of salvation from sin.  Others, like Islam, might require you to go out and blow up a school bus as a means of salvation from sin.

Some require you to keep certain church laws and regulations in order to be saved from sin, while others require an outward act of penitence.

Even secular society has a remedy for sin.  When a convicted criminal serves out his sentence for a crime, he is said to have ‘paid his debt to society’.  He can never be punished for that crime again under the law.  There is nothing intolerant about the recognition for sin, or the existence of a sin debt.

Jesus offers all men the free gift of salvation for the asking.  They need only accept the gift of Pardon offered and trust in His Shed Blood as full payment of their sin debt.

If they accept the gift, they are imputed with the Righteousness of Christ and have therefore paid their sin debt and are eligible for Heaven.  Their ‘debt to Heaven’s society’ is paid, and like the convict whose sentence is served, they can never be punished for that crime again.

If they reject the offer of Pardon, then they stand before the Righteous Judge with that debt unpaid.  Nothing intolerant about that.

Not too long back, Bernie Ebbers, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the Worldcom embezzlement scandal.  Ebbers’ lawyers tried to mitigate his sentence by pointing out the millions of dollars Ebbers contributed to philanthropic efforts.

The judge was unmoved by Ebbers’ good works, and imposed what was tantamount to a life sentence for the 63 year-old executive.  (Ebbers won’t be eligible for release until he is 85 years old.)

Was the judge intolerant because he refused to consider that Ebbers gave some of the money that he stole to charity?  One would have a difficult time making that case, and Ebbers’ subsequent sentence proves it.  Besides, Ebbers wasn’t being judged for what he did with the money.  He was being judged for stealing it in the first place.

Ebbers tried to buy his pardon using stolen money that he gave to charity.  The judge saw right through him.  Standing before the Righteous Judge arguing our good works without paying for our bad works is equally transparent.

Jesus is Divinely fair in His judgement.  His Pardon is based on the fact He has already paid for the crimes, and offers His payment on our behalf.

Nothing intolerant about that.

The Bible gives us a genuine basis to recognize hypocrisy and confront it for what it is.  Because the Bible upholds the dignity of all persons as image-bearers of God, we have a basis for a genuinely diverse culture.

When faithful to the Scriptures, Christianity is tolerant in the appropriate sense of the term.

Assessment:

As noted, it all depends on the meaning one assigns to the word ‘tolerant’.  When tolerance means that we are to accept all beliefs as equally true and valid, Christians must respectfully object.

The notion that truth is a social construct is what gives the world a reason to hate Christianity as ‘intolerant’ and ‘hateful’.  To a Christian, truth matters.  To the world, the truth is whatever they want to believe is true.

In the sense of ‘Christian intolerance’ the word ‘tolerant’ really means ‘pluralist’.  ‘Pluralism’ is a curious philosophy, in that it holds that a number of simultaneous and conflicting truths can exist at the same time with each separate truth remaining equally true.

Pluralism holds that distinct cultural beliefs are true for that culture–but not for cultures that operate out of a different “paradigm” (like Christianity.)

Pluralists say that truth is a “social construction”. It is created through social consensus and tradition, not discovered in reality that exists independently of our beliefs.  Truth is, therefore, subjective interpretation, rather than facts based in reality.

To the pluralist, all religions are equally valid and all religions lead to God.  All gods are equally ‘god’, which is the logical equivalent to saying there is no God at all — and then making a religious worldview out of it.

Therefore, defining ‘tolerant’ as the semantic equivalent to ‘pluralist’ means that Christianity is intolerant because it stands or falls on that central truth that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and that no man comes to the Father but by Him.

Under the Romans, Christianity was outlawed because it was ‘hateful’ and ‘intolerant’.

Under revived Rome, the Apostle John says the Tribulation saints will be persecuted and put to death for refusing to accept his universal symbol of religious pluralism, what we call ‘the Mark of the Beast.’

The Mark of the Beast isn’t merely an economic system, although John says that without it, no man would be able to buy or sell.

John also says that it will become a universal, pluralistic religious system saying that, he will “cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” (Revelation 13:15)

Those who don’t accept voluntary inclusion into the pluralistic religion of the false prophet because of their faith in Christ will be executed for their intolerance.

(As a side note, the ‘Tribulation Saints’ are those who are converted by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists sealed by the Holy Spirit (Revelation Chapter 7) and not the Church Age saints.  During the Tribulation, power is given to the antichrist (and Satan) “to make war with the saints, and TO OVERCOME THEM,” — something not possible with Church Age believers Personally indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.)

“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome THEM: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

This is part of the continuously unfolding tapestry of Bible prophecy for the last days.  Religious pluralism, in some form, is the universal religion of the antichrist.

Christianity is not the only faith that makes claims of exclusivity.  So does Islam.  So does Judaism.  Exclusivity is a fundamental of each faith.

All three are currently engaged in a global war aimed at wiping each other out.  Whether or not they succeed, there is little doubt that ‘fundamentalism’ is rapidly becoming a dirty word in these last days.

The false prophet is depicted by John as having, “two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.”  The Lamb is symbolic of Christianity, whereas the dragon is another name for Satan.

Logically, the pluralist religion of the antichrist will be some counterfeit form of Christianity that includes all other faiths under a single religious umbrella.  We are getting closer, but we aren’t there yet.

The problem is, one cannot reconcile ‘tolerance’ with ‘faith’.  ‘Tolerance’ (religious pluralism) dictates that there are many truths.  The indwelt Church stands as an obstacle on the path to religious pluralism during the Church Age, until it is recalled at the Rapture.

The reason, in part, is because faith recognizes only one truth.  One cannot have ‘faith’ in conflicting truths — the Bible says, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Each of us goes to work each Monday because we have faith that our paychecks will be there Friday.  Not just that we will be paid, but how much we will be paid.  If that paycheck was only there sometimes, and the amount reflected the whim of a different paymaster each week, who would keep showing up for work on Monday?

Our work is the ‘substance’ of things hoped for (our paycheck) and the fact we show up each Monday is the unseen evidence of our faith in payday.  Do you follow?

One cannot be ‘tolerant’ of conflicting ‘truths’, any more than it would intolerant to refuse to go to work without faith in payday being the same ‘truth’ every week.

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.”

“And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36)

Faith and tolerance are polar opposites.  That doesn’t make Christianity intolerant of the world.

It makes the world intolerant of Christianity.

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on November 16, 2012.

Case Closed

Case Closed
Vol: 22 Issue: 17 Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mankind is a mystery to the angels.  The Bible says that God has charged them with ministering to men on this earth in this life with the understanding that men will judge them in the world to come.

One of the purposes for the creation of man, according to Scripture, was the instruction of angels.

“Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; WHICH THINGS THE ANGELS DESIRE TO LOOK INTO.” (1st Peter 1:12)

The Prophet Isaiah introduces us to the first outbreak of sin in the universe when Lucifer, the most anointed of the angels, uttered the first of his five famous “I will’s”:

“For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:13)

For his sin of arrogance, God pronounced judgment on Lucifer, the most honored of His angels, and those rebellious angels who followed him;

“Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:12-15)

I often wonder about the angels who joined Satan in his rebellion. Why? It isn’t like they didn’t know Who it was they were standing up to.

What made them so crazy?  Perhaps they felt God was being unjust in His dealing with Lucifer and in so doing, were also guilty of sin and cast out.   

Or maybe they joined with Lucifer at the moment that God unveiled His plan to create the human race and make the angels subject to their judgment.  Maybe they were jealous.   

The Bible doesn’t say why specifically, but it is clear that a third of them broke away and joined him.

It is worth considering that, while mankind is still a mystery to the righteous angels, the fallen angels understand mankind only too well.  That’s because we have something in common with the fallen angels.  

Sin is the great equalizer. From the context of the Five ‘I Wills’ the bone of contention between Lucifer and God was over who was going to be in charge. Given what is revealed, mankind is likely the cause of the rebellion – Satan certainly hates us enough.  

In my mind’s eye, I picture it like a cosmic boardroom where God has just announced His plan to create a race of inferior beings that Lucifer would first serve and then submit to in judgment later.

“Not me,” says Lucifer.  “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit upon the mount of the congregation, I will ascend above the clouds, I will be like the most High.”

“Wrong,” says God. “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”

Lucifer was the anointed angel. He was the most blessed, the most beautiful, the most entertaining, it is not much of a stretch to assume he was also the most popular.

From there, one needn’t stretch much further to assume that even the angels that didn’t join the rebellion had questions about the severity of the punishment.  

The existence of humanity is often described by theologians as the ‘trial of Satan’. Why a trial?  Because God is just.

Allow me to set the scene.  The trial of Satan begins with the introduction of one little sin.  It is more than just the trial of Satan.  Sin itself is also on trial. 

Lucifer, “the anointed cherub that covereth” was highly favored of God; “and I have set thee so,” it says in Ezekiel 28:14.  

Isaiah 14:14 defines that first sin as, “I will” — the sin of pride. The trial is to prove what ‘one little sin’ can do — the classic ‘slippery slope’ scenario.

The trial is really an examination of the epochs of human history from the perspective of the angels who did NOT join the rebellion, and who, by nature, have no understanding of what sin really is or how it really works.

Exhibit 1: Adam and Eve. They are placed in a perfect environment and given only one command — to avoid the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  They fail — and man inherits a sin nature.

Exhibit 2: Man is allowed free reign until the Flood — the so-called “Age of Conscience”. Without Divine interaction or instruction, society becomes so sinful and corrupt that God saves Noah and his family alive and destroys the rest in the Flood. 

Exhibit 3: During the Age of the Patriarchs, God spoke directly to chosen individuals; Abraham, Noah, Lot, etc. Each, even having spoken directly with God, commit some heinous sin. 

Having gone from one commandment (the Age of Innocence) to no commandments at all (the Age of Conscience) to direct confrontation,(the Age of the Patriarchs) God progresses to giving mankind the Ten Commandments (the Age of the Law).

Not one person ever kept all ten of them throughout his lifetime, no matter what the circumstances. (David, for example, broke all ten of them.)

Exhibit 4: The Age of the Law, during which time the Commandments of God became so corrupted and perverted that it became necessary to scrap the whole system and replace it with the Age of Grace.

Exhibit 5: To introduce the Age of Grace, God Himself stepped out of space and time, took on the form of sinful man, kept the Law on our behalf, and then paid the price for our sin. (Death)

In so doing, He made a way for all mankind to be saved by faith through grace.

But most of mankind rejects even the free offer of grace, preferring a life of unregenerate sin. That act of rejection, given the Price paid, must make the angelic witnesses gasp in disbelief.

From the perspective of the angelic witness, then, ‘one little sin’ has thus far brought mankind to the point it is today.  So far, God has given sin every opportunity to prove itself worthy of its wages

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

Exhibit 6: The Tribulation Period. The Age of Grace concludes at the Rapture. The Rapture removes the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit, giving Satan (and sin) free reign for seven years.  And the end result is the near-destruction of all human life.

Jesus then returns at the 2nd Coming, binds Satan for a thousand years, and reigns Personally from Jerusalem.

Mortal humanity has no excuse, He is right there, in Person, for all to see.

Satan’s influence is restrained, lifespans are extended, there are no more wars, famine or poverty, and humankind is returned to the Eden-like state from which it began.

Exhibit 7: With God Himself on the Throne of human government, ruling with a rod of iron for a thousand years, Satan is loosed for ‘a little season’.

“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 20:7-8)

The mortal humans who have lived in a state of God-given idyllic bliss for a thousand years, under the influence of Satan, raise an army to bring against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords Himself. 

“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 2:12)

The trial is over. Sin is judged according to its works. All appeals have been exhausted. Sentence is pronounced and carried out immediately. 

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” (Revelation 20:10)

This is the SECOND resurrection. Unlike the first resurrection, it has only one phase.

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:10-12,14)

In the overall Plan of God, as outlined in Scripture, everything has a purpose.  There are no omissions, no errors, and no inconsistencies.

From Genesis to Revelation, a central theme of Scripture is that sin is the cause of death. Sin will ultimately be eradicated from existence.  And so will all those who “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:12

The lake of fire was created and prepared for Satan and his angels.  But since man’s spirit is created in God’s image, it is also eternal and immortal, in that it cannot be destroyed. 

So those that reject Christ and choose to follow Satan have to go somewhere. 

They will not cease to be, but they will cease to matter.  They will spend eternity nameless and alone, tortured by the flames — and the memory of the day they rejected the opportunity to avoid their fate. 

But nobody will be able to accuse God of being unfair.  Case closed.

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on February 12, 2011.

Featured Commentary: Gadding About Town ~ Wendy Wippel

Blessed Assurance

Blessed Assurance
Vol: 22 Issue: 16 Monday, May 16, 2016

In broad doctrinal terms, ‘assurance’ is the confidence that a right relationship exists between the believer and the Lord.  That is not to say that assurance is the same thing as eternal security.

Eternal security is a fact as a consequence of God’s faithfulness whether that fact is realized by the believer or not. Assurance is what one believes to be true respecting himself at any given time.

One’s assurance may well rest on one’s own personal righteousness.  Where one sees oneself’s standing with God is a source of either great comfort or great apprehension.   The Prophet Isaiah writes:

“And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” (Isaiah 32:7)

“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.”  (Colossians 2:2)

“And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:” (Hebrews 6:11)

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)

Assurance, resting on true faith, a true hope, a true understanding and imputed righteousness, is that quality that permits a believer to say without hesitation or fear of contradiction, “I knowthat I am saved.”

But salvation does not come from assurance and assurance doesn’t necessarily come with salvation.  I know lots of folks of whom I am more certain they are saved than they are.   

They know in Whom they have put their faith. .  .

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

But they just can’t fully believe that He is able.

Assessment:

As we see from the Scriptures and from our own experience, assurance is based on two things: the Word of God and that experience.   The inward witness of the Holy Spirit is a definite Christian experience.

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Romans 8:16)

That still, small voice that you hear is the Holy Spirit.   Then there is that physical thrill that sometimes goes through you when you are praying or singing hymns or giving Him praise.  I often think of it as a spiritual ‘hug’ to lift me up and keep me going.  

But it’s actually His Spirit bearing witness to my spirit that everything is ok between us.

“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son.”

“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son.” (1st John 5:9-10)

Our assurance is based on the reality of God. It is one thing to know of God and quite another to know God.  Knowledge of God is something everybody has, whether or not they care to acknowledge it.  But knowing God is something that takes place within the human heart.  

The person whose assurance is weak can take comfort from the knowledge that if they weren’tsaved, they wouldn’t be worried about it.  

The reality of prayer is another place where one can be reassured.  The Scriptures say to “pray without ceasing” – if I am awake and thinking, I’m probably praying.  Not because I am some spiritual giant, but because I can’t help myself.    

I don’t have to start to pray – I’m in constant mental contact, whether I intend to be or not.  “Wow, Lord! Did You see that?” Or something good happens, and my first thought is, “Thank You, Lord.”

You can take assurance from your hunger for the Word of God.  Even when you are feeling like the low-down worthless sinner that you know that you are, you can find assurance in His Word – but the real assurance is to be found in the fact you’re looking there.  

You can take assurance from that new sense of kinship. To be born of God is to be part of the family and household of God.  Anytime I need a little assurance, I need go no further than our OL fellowship forums. 

The Apostle John presents this as a test of the reality of our relationship and the certainty of our blessed assurance:

“In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (1st John 3:10,14)

Our assurance is promised in the Word of God.  “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out,” Jesus promised.  

If you don’t have that sense of assurance, then the most obvious cure is to hit your knees and make sure you’ve got your business straight with God.  But your salvation isn’t based on yourfaithfulness.  It is based on God’s faithfulness.

He is faithful to keep His Word.  He will not cast out any that come to Him.  Feelings and experience have their place – but the crowning evidence of one’s salvation is not how one feelsabout it. 

The crowning evidence is the truthfulness of God. The Word of God is our title deed to eternal life.

“He that hath the Son hath life.” (John 5:12)

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

“Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1st Peter 1:5)

Maranatha!

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on October 21, 2010.

Featured Commentary: The Chimera Complex ~ Pete Garcia

Behold the Fig Tree And All The Trees

Behold the Fig Tree And All The Trees
Vol: 22 Issue: 14 Saturday, May 14, 2016

“And He spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees.” (Luke 21:30)

In the Scriptures, there are three specific trees that are used as euphemisms for Israel; the vine, the fig tree and the olive. 

In Scripture, the vine is the symbol of Israel’s spiritual privileges; the fig tree symbolizes Israel’s national privileges and the olive tree symbolizes Israel’s religious privileges.

“Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. (Psalms 80:8-10)

The Psalmist is here painting a graphic picture of Israel being removed from the soil of Egypt and being transplanted into the fertile soil of Israel.

Once the “Vine” was transplanted it began to grow and spread over the land, until in the words of the Psalmist, it sent out its boughs unto the Mediterranean Sea, and its branches unto the Euphrates river, as in the reign of King Solomon.

“Now will I sing to my Well-Beloved a song of my Beloved touching His Vineyard. My Well-Beloved hath a VINEYARD in a very fruitful hill (Canaan): and He fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the CHOICEST VINE, and built a Tower in the midst of it, and also made a Winepress therein.” (Isaiah 5:1-2)

The olive tree is used to symbolize Israel and the Church by the Apostle Paul:

“For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.” (Romans 11:16-18)

The Apostle Paul refers to the good olive tree (Israel) and the wild olive tree (the Gentiles).  The good olive tree was “good” because it was separated, or set apart, (holy), whereas branches from the wild olive tree (the Gentiles) are grafted in.

“For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?” (Romans 11:24)

Notice carefully that the good olive tree (Israel) is NOT rooted up and destroyed with the wild olive tree planted in its place.  That would be the case if the replacement theologians were right and that the Gentile Church has taken the place of Israel.  

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:” (Romans 11:25-26)

Instead, the good olive tree remains alive and gives life to both the good tree and the wild tree.  The Church does not supplant or replace Israel, it is grafted in to the existing tree. 

Paul explains that “blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

That is to say, during the Church Age, God’s attention is focused on the Gentiles until that last Gentile (whom God foreknew would be saved) has been saved, bringing in the full number of Gentile believers.

When every Gentile that is going to be saved has been saved, THEN. . .

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

The fig tree is the third, and most often-used symbol for Israel.  The Bible teaches that as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him to ask Him “what will be the sign of Thy coming?

In His reply, Jesus listed three major signs recognizable to the Jews.

  1. The appearance of the “Abomination of Desolation” spoken of in Daniel 9:27 (the revelation of antichrist).
  2. The sign of the Son of Man appearing in a cloud (Acts 1:9Matthew 24:30)
  3. The sign of the “Fig Tree” – symbolizing the regathering of the Jews into their own land.

The fig tree is a particularly appropriate symbol in that on the fig tree, the fruit appears BEFORE the tree blossoms.  The Bible says that first, Israel is regathered into her own land, and only after that does the nation “blossom” with the return of the Husbandman.

The restoration of Israel is like the budding of a fig tree in the springtime symbolizing a tree about to blossom — symbolic of Israel’s national privileges.

The “fig tree” began to put forth its leaves on May 14, 1948, beginning the countdown to the end of the Church Age at the Rapture and kicking off what the Prophet Jeremiah called “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.”

But is there some way of confirming that? 

Assessment:

According to Bible prophecy, in the last days, there will come into existence, a revived form of the political Roman Empire.  The Prophet Daniel predicted that the antichrist will be a prince of the people that would destroy the city and the sanctuary (Jerusalem and the Temple).

In 1948, as Europe struggled to rebuild, six nations in Western Europe signed the Benelux Customs Union, beginning the process of European unification that was codified in March, 1957 with the treaty of Rome.

And so, a unified Europe looks back to its foundation on January 1, 1948.  Is that significant?  We’ve examined this question before, but it is worth going back to for another re-think.  

The Bible also predicted the development of an apostate form of Christianity that will have world-wide authority.  Revelation 13:11 describes this religious system as “having two horns like a lamb” — symbols of Christianity.

The World Council of Churches was born in Amsterdam in 1948.  The WCC is not a ‘global religion’ but is the closest thing we currently have to a global religious authority that purports to speak for world-wide Christianity.

The Bible also predicts the rise of a centralized global economic authority that will become one of the antichrist’s principle methods of economic control.

The World Trade Organization — a trade organization empowered to regulate the global economy — saw its genesis in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, enacted by the UN in 1948.

The Bible predicted that global economy will fall under the control of a single individual who will be able to regulate commerce down to the individual level — “That no man might buy or sell” (Revelation 13:17). Such individual control was impossible before the advent of computers.

Although computers had been invented during World War II, they were huge, bulky monsters that used notoriously unreliable and hugely inefficient vacuum tubes.  The first computers were slower than a pocket calculator, filled huge environmentally sealed rooms and required enough electricity to power a small city.

That all changed in 1948 when Bell Labs patented the transistor chip, signaling the official birth of the Computer Age.

That final age would be marked by ‘rumors of war’ – (Matthew 24:7).

  • The ultimate ‘rumor of war’ was the Cold War.  It began with the Berlin Airlift of 1948.  The Soviet collapse was a direct result of the cost of fighting the Cold War.
  • Earthquakes began to show a marked increase in size, scope and intensity in 1948.
  • The modern period of ethnic unrest can be traced to the death of colonialism beginning in 1948. Increasing ‘pestilence’ or deadly disease, can be traced to 1948, with the introduction of sulfa drugs and the over-prescription of antibiotics.
  • Economic ‘kingdoms’ began with the first multinational corporations in 1948.
  • The decline in world-wide morality can be traced to the moment that it became acceptable to use abortion as a method of birth control.
  • The Japanese Eugenics Act — the first legal abortion on demand legislation ever passed in modern society — was passed in 1948.
  • American Margaret Sanger was so impressed with the idea that she founded the premier abortion rights advocacy group — Planned Parenthood — in 1948.
  • The Supreme Court ruled for the first time, that  public schools could not use taxpayer funds for religious purposes, discovering in the process, the modern principle of “separation of church and state” (McCollum v Board of Education, 1948)

In 1948, Mao Tse Tung’s Communists chased Chiang Kai Shek’s nationalists off the mainland to the Island of Formosa and renamed itself Taiwan, and declared itself the legitimate government of China.

The conflict between the two Chinas further rearranged regional political alliances until they fit the alignment foretold by the prophets. 

Other related events that trace their roots to the same year as the budding of the fig tree include; commercial television, holography, cybernetics, meteorology, the nuclear arms race, microelectronics, the Big Bang, the birth of NATO, the Cold War, the UN adoption of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and the Kinsey Report that kicked off the “sexual revolution.”

Israel is the centerpiece of Bible prophecy.  Its existence and history are proof positive of the accuracy of Bible prophecy.  To this point in the historical record, Bible prophecy — where it can be proved at all — has proved to be 100% accurate, 100% of the time.

It continues to unfold before our eyes.  We’ve only touched on the high points in the Big Picture, but the pattern is unmistakable.  Events foretold to take place in a single generation, somewhere in time — events that can only happen once — are coming together — all at once and in THIS generation.

The same God that predicted what has already occurred with such unerring accuracy will continue to perform His Will until His Purpose is accomplished.  Bible prophecy proves God is still on His Throne and is intimately concerned with the affairs of men.

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

That promise has no expiration date.  God’s blueprint for the future will continue to unfold with the same accuracy in the days ahead as it has in millennia past.

Prophecy is His signature of authenticity.  And our confidence is well placed.

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

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on January 23, 2012.

Triskaidekaphobia

Triskaidekaphobia
Vol: 22 Issue: 13 Friday, May 13, 2016

If you are concerned about today’s date – Friday the 13th – then you may be suffering from a mild case of Triskaidekaphobia – an irrational fear of the number 13. 

If you are afraid to go out of the house today, then you probably qualify as a full-blown triskaidekaphobic.  

The word is a Greek compound word; “tris meaning “three”, kai meaning “and”, deka meaning “ten” and phobia meaning “morbid fear.”

The basis for Triskaidekaphobia is rooted in the superstition that the number thirteen is unlucky.  But the fear is of the number itself – thirteen floors, thirteen chapters, thirteen in an address, and when combined with a Friday, fear of a date. 

In numerology, twelve is considered the number of completeness. There are twelve months in a year, twelve hours on a clockface, twelve Apostles, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve in a dozen, twelve days of Christmas, a calendar day is two twelve-hour periods.

In mathematics, twelve is called a “sublime” number; twelve has a perfect number of divisorsand the sum of its divisors is also a perfect number.  

Thirteen is considered unlucky because it is twelve plus one.  At the Last Supper, there were thirteen seated at the table.   Friday is considered unlucky because that was the day the Lord was crucified. 

Combine them, and for triskaideckaphobics, it is scary, indeed. Indeed, the fear of Friday the thirteenth is so common it has its own clinical name; friggatriskaidekaphobia.  

There lots of other phobias; Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is the irrational fear of the number 666, octophobia, the fear of the number 8. 

There are phobias that are so irrational as to sound funny; pogonophobia is the fear of beards;geniophobia the fear of chins, xenoglossophobia is the fear of foreign languages.  

Others don’t really seem to belong in the ‘irrational fear’ category at all. 

For example, ballistophobia, or the “fear of bullets”.  Nothing irrational about thatStygiophobia, or, the “fear of hell”  – that sounds like the most rational fear of all. 

Our culture is even governed by alleged phobias and by the fear of phobias, or at least, the fearof appearing phobic.  (There actually is a clinical name for the fear of phobias — phobophobic.)

For the past two decades, the gay rights agenda has used the word homophobic to marginalize its opponents as both irrational and fearful.  Its effectiveness as a tactic is self-evident. 

The quickest way to cut off all discussion is to label one side ‘homophobic’ because by definition, there is no point in attempting rational debate with an irrational person.  

As a tactic, it was so effective that it was immediately adopted by defenders of Islam and Sharia Law.

To be labeled an “Islamophobe” is to be marginalized as outside of mainstream thinking; a cowering, quaking, ignoramus irrationally fearing that which he does not understand.   

But Islamophobia has a lot more in common with ballistophobia than it does geniophobia.

If you know what I mean.

Assessment:

Phobias are all about fear and fear, interestingly enough, is almost always related to the future. Fear of a situation getting worse, or fear of the continuation of an unacceptable situation, fear of future consequences to present actions, fear of the unknown.

People aren’t afraid of events that have passed.   Fear of present events, such as being a passenger in a doomed aircraft as it is on its way down, relate more to the future collision than the present ride.  During a crisis, one is too busy to be afraid.

George Hegel was a philosopher who developed a dialectic, or developmental process, for governing in the absence of popular support for a particular agenda.  

Traditionally, this dimension of Hegel’s thought has been analyzed in terms of the categories of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.  Here’s how it works in summary:

Thesis: Create or identify a ‘manageable’ crisis. 

Antithesis: Identify the root cause, and stir up panic and fear of the crisis situation.

Synthesis: Offer as a solution to the problem the policy or program a societal shift which would have been impossible to impose upon the people without the proper psychological conditioning achieved in stages one and two.

Fear is what the Hegelian Dialect is designed to harness.

Prophetically speaking, the Bible divides the last days into two distinct periods — the period of fear, and the period where those fears are realized.

In the period leading up to the Rapture, the Bible warns of fear — “men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after the things which are coming upon the earth . . .” Jesus says at one point.  

After the Rapture, those fears are realized with the revelation of the antichrist and the unfolding of the Tribulation Period.   

For Christians living in this present time, the Lord tells us to “fear not.”  That seems odd, given the horrors of the Tribulation. 

Yet the Bible says that the Church has found grace in the eyes of the Lord and is deemed righteous in its generations by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.

In distinguishing the period of fear from the time of fears realized, Jesus told His disciples that it would be as it was in the time of Noah and Lot. 

It is an interesting choice of patriarchs.  Note they share a single distinguishing characteristic, apart from which, they have nothing in common.

Lot dwelt in the city of Sodom with his family.  God withheld judgment on the city until after Lot and his family were safely evacuated.

“But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:29)

The Bible says that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” and that “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations and Noah walked with God.”  

God withheld judgment on the earth until Noah and his family were safely aboard the Ark.

How does this relate to the Church?  The Church is justified and therefore judicially perfect in its generations from Christ to the end of the Age of Grace. 

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)

The days of Noah and Lot are the days in which God delivered those to whom He extended His grace and delivered them from judgment.

“Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” (Luke 17:30)

Fear-mongering is the order of the day. The times ahead will be fearful times at best, but what is fearful for the world should be cause for celebration for the Church. 

The world is looking for the antichrist to deliver them from the fearful things just over the horizon. The Church views the fearful things just over the horizon and sees the Lord coming to deliver them from the world.  

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

It’s a scary world, but we are only in it, not of it. Don’t let being scared scare you into thinking your faith is weak.   Think how terrified you would be if the Holy Spirit wasn’t bearing witness to your spirit — right now where you sit — that you are a child of God? 

Sit back, be still for a moment, and reflect how that promise is fulfilled, almost invisibly, in your own walk with the Lord. . . “For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.” 

Trust in the promise — it will continue to be fulfilled in our lives — sit back and witness the Holy Spirit at work in you.

Let fear drive everybody else.

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on May 13, 2011.

Featured Commentary: Everybody Loves Iran ~ Alf Cengia

Lukewarm Christianity

Lukewarm Christianity
Vol: 22 Issue: 12 Thursday, May 12, 2016

According to a survey carried out by the British theological think-tank, “Theos” one person in three between the ages of 18 and 24 did NOT know where Jesus Christ was born.

One in ten respondents to the survey thought that Jesus was born in Nazareth.

One in four didn’t know that an angel told Mary she would give birth to the Son of God. (Those respondents thought she had been informed by the shepherds)

In all, “Theos” asked a total of four questions of a representative group of 1015 people across Britain in a telephone survey.

Here are the questions, as asked of respondents in the survey:

  1. According to the story in the Christian Bible, where was Jesus born? (One in four didn’t know)
  2. Who told Mary she would give birth to a Son? (One in three didn’t know)
  3. Who was Jesus cousin? (Half did not know)
  4. Where did Joseph, Mary and Jesus go to escape from King Herod when Jesus was a young child? (77% didn’t know)

For the record . . . Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Mary was informed by an angel, John the Baptist was first cousin to Jesus and the family fled into Egypt to escape Herod.

Only SEVEN PERCENT of Britons between the ages of 18-24 aced the questionnaire. The most knowledgeable demographic was the group aged between 55-64.

And among the most knowledgeable Britons, a mere EIGHTEEN PERCENT — less than one in five — answered all four questions correctly.

Or, put another way, EIGHTY-TWO percent of British adults between the ages of 55 and 64 COULDN’T answer all four questions correctly.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Paul Wooley, director of Theos, was unsurprised.

“No-one seriously thinks that being a Christian or a member of the established Church is the same thing as being British today. But, at the same time, if we are serious about social cohesion we can’t afford to ignore the stories that have bound us together as a culture for a thousand years.”

Assessment:

It is difficult to reconcile the survey results with the nation that gave the English-speaking world the King James Bible.

America was founded by British Christians in pursuit of religious freedom.

Until the dawn of the 20th century, Britain led the world in bringing Christ to the nations.

Indeed, until early days of the 20th century, the word ‘missionary’ without the word ‘British’ preceding it was only half a word.

The London Missionary Society was an extensive Anglican and Nonconformist missionary society formed in England in 1795 with missions in the islands of the South Pacific and Africa.

The Anglican Missionary Society spread throughout the 18th and 19th century, establishing the world-wide Anglican communion, once second only to the Catholic Church in its universality.

English Christian culture reached its peak during the Victorian Era, during which time, blasphemy against God, Christ, Christianity or the Bible was a punishable crime.

(It is worth noting that, at the same time, the British Empire reached its zenith, giving rise to the saying, “the sun never sets on the British flag.”)

A century later, the sitting Archbishop of Canterbury made headlines when he questioned the Divinity of Christ and the veracity of the Resurrection story.

(And today, the sun sets on the British flag every day at the same time it sets over London. Make of that what you will, but facts are facts.)

Many Bible scholars over the centuries have noted a correlation between the descriptions contained in the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches and seven identifiable periods (or epochs) within the Church.

  1. Ephesus corresponded to the Apostolic Church of the 1st century (33-100).
  2. The Church at Smyrna was the Persecuted Church under the Caesars (100-312)
  3. The Church at Pergamos corresponds with the early Roman Church founded by Constantine (312-590)
  4. The Church at Thyatira (The “Dark Ages”) corresponded with the period when the Vatican kept the Bible under lock and key and persecuted non-Catholic Christians as ‘heretics’ (590-1517)
  5. The Church at Sardis corresponds to the Reformation Era (1517-1750)
  6. The Church at Philadelphia (the ‘missionary Church) corresponds to the Great Revival period during which the Gospel was introduced around the world (1750-1925)
  7. The Church of Laodicea (the apostate Church) corresponds to the rise of the Christian ‘ecumenical movement’ the first ‘Ecumenical Council’ the Federal Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, etc. (1925-the Rapture)

The spirit of the Church at Philadelphia is embodied by the historical phrase, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” reportedly utter by Charles Stanley, when, at long last, he ended his search for missing British missionary David Livingstone.

(It is indicative of the British Christian missionary zeal of the 19th century that Dr. Livingstone had no desire to be ‘rescued’, and subsequently died in Africa.)

A hundred or so years later, one in four of his countrymen can’t name the birthplace of Christ.

Of the final epoch of the Church Age, Jesus says,

“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 3:15-16)

But take heart, Christian! Although Christ had zero words of commendation for the overall Church of the Last Days, He did not abandon us.

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:19-20)

There can be little doubt that we are deep into the Laodicean era. How deep is a matter of conjecture, but the Times of the Signs suggest we are in its waning hours.

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

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on March 20, 2008.

Featured Commentary: The Jesus Permit ~ J.L. Robb

Sounds Like It To Me . .

Sounds Like It To Me . .
Vol: 22 Issue: 11 Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A guy gets a new hearing aid and is excitedly describing its features to a co-worker when the co-worker says, “That’s great! What kind is it?”

The other guy looks at his watch and says, “It’s about quarter to three.”

I got out of the Marine Corps in 1975 as a disabled veteran with five different compensable service-connected disability awards.

I was rated 10% disabled for one injury received, another 10% for a second injury, 10% for a service-connected medical condition, 10% for a second service-connected medical condition and 10% for service-connected hearing loss.

That was thirty-three years ago this coming November.

Yesterday, I was fitted with my first set of hearing aids.

I’d never considered wearing hearing aids before — I don’t like prosthetics — I am always losing my glasses, for example.

I put them on when I need to see something up close, or read any font smaller than 12 pts, but I take them off to keep from stubbing my toe on the coffee table or something.

I can’t even stand wearing jewelry. I don’t wear a watch, and only wear my wedding ring on ceremonial occasions or when I want to ‘dress up’.

Frankly, I never worried much about my hearing loss. I can hear most things, except those sounds that fall into a very narrow frequency range which corresponded nicely with the frequency range of my wife’s voice.

I used to wonder if it was Gayle who had the hearing problem. One night, I stood behind her chair and whispered, “Honey, can you hear me?”

No answer. I moved a bit closer and asked again, “Honey, can you hear me?” Still no response. I moved right behind her and asked her again: “Honey, can you hear me?”

This time, she answered me. “For the third time, yes, I hear you fine.”

Men’s voices are no problem, unless the voice is higher than normal, or abnormally soft-spoken. I can hear most of what is said on TV, unless the news anchor is a female.

And I can hear that too, if I turn up the volume a bit. But I began to suspect that the newer TVs won’t turn up as loud as the older models. My TV has this little volume bar that appears when you adjust the volume — I have to crank it to 70% to hear it.

But Gayle’s 86-year-old mother agreed with me that new TV’s aren’t as loud as the old ones, so I just figured Gayle must have exceptional hearing.

Then Gayle’s mom went for a hearing test and came home sporting a brand new hearing aid. Suddenly, the TV was loud enough for her at 20%.

If I wanted to hear what was going on, I had to go watch TV in another room where I could turn it up loud enough to hear it.

When Gayle’s mom came into the spare room and asked me to turn it down because it was drowning out her TV, I finally gave in and had my hearing tested.

I failed. (And I studied so hard, too.) The nice Doctor of Audiology (you can get a doctorate in hearing aids?? Who knew?) showed me a chart that looked a bit like a chart tracking oil prices over the past decade.

Where it peaked was the range that most women’s voices fall into. The doctor said I can’t hear that. (And she has a doctorate so she ought to know).

Not surprisingly, she recommended hearing aids. I told her I can’t wear them, I don’t like things in my ears.

But she insisted, and, (since she has a doctorate and everything, plus, I could only catch one word in five she was saying) I said I’d give it a try.

So we ordered the prosthetics and yesterday, they called me in for a ‘fitting’.

Assessment:

I don’t know what I was expecting — a megaphone sticking out each ear, I suppose — but I wasn’t expecting what I got. The little gizmos are each half the size of a peanut shell.

They sit just behind the ear, and have a tiny, virtually invisible tube that sits just inside the ear canal. I can’t even feel them.

But when the nice doctor of audiology turned them on, I wasn’t prepared for what would happen. I could hear the receptionist speaking on the phone in the next room.

(I could barely make out what she was saying when I first checked in and I was standing right in front of her.)

It was overwhelming, I found myself choking back tears of emotion. Although I could hear most sounds before, I had no idea how much I had been missing.

Our little Smart Car has a tiny diesel engine mounted in the rear of the car, (which is right behind the seat.) I never realized how loud that engine was until driving home from the hearing clinic.

I heard ticking sounds where previously, I could only hear muffled thuds.

I turned on the car radio and there was an old Stevie Nicks song playing. It was from the 80’s, and I’ve probably heard it a hundred times.

But there was this odd sound I’d never heard before — it took me several minutes before I realized it was an instrumental track I never knew was there.

And I could no longer hear the car engine drowning out the radio.

It seems there is some kind of automatic gizmo that sorts out sounds, identifies speech from background noise, and then dampens the background noise somehow while raising the level of the primary sounds, like music or speech.

I am a computer guy, and all of that, but nonetheless, it was amazing beyond words.

When the background is music rather than noise, it adjusts itself and turns down music when it detects speech.

When I got home, I didn’t say anything about the hearing aids to see if Gayle would notice them.

Until she said something.

Her voice was so clear I realized that I’d never really heard it before. I was so overwhelmed it made me weep — which spoiled the surprise.

I have spent the last day cataloging sounds I’ve not heard since I was in my late teens. I had NO idea.

I can hear my own footsteps. I heard this really loud, annoying sound behind me that I couldn’t quite identify. I turned around to see what it was — it was Gayle shuffling a pile of papers. (Who knew that paper shuffling was so loud?)

It has been a profound, emotional, almost spiritual experience. It was ‘spiritual’ in the sense that it put me in mind of what is yet to come.

Many of us have reached that stage in life where, had we felt this way on awakening thirty years ago, the first thing we’d have reached for is a telephone to dial 911.

Today, we just take two Aleve and wait for the aches and pains to subside. It’s what one gets used to — eventually it just becomes part of the ‘white noise’ of living out this earthly life.

Getting back my hearing, even by artificial means, reminded me that one day, not only will my hearing again be perfect, but so will my vision.

The aches and pains of life will be replaced by that glorious sense of well-being that 20-somethings take for granted and fifty-somethings (and beyond) have forgotten existed.

One day, we’ll each receive perfect bodies; ageless, incorruptible, fully functional and pain-free.

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1st Corinthians 15:51-54)

We fear death because the newness of life promised by Scripture is beyond our comprehension. I’ve a new perspective I didn’t have before.

What once was lost is now regained. And what modern science can approximate, the Lord Jesus will restore to perfection.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1st Corinthians 15:55)

What a day that will be! I can’t imagine. But if it as sweet as the experience of really hearing my wife’s voice for the first time, it will be worth everything it took to get me there.

I have to go now. Praise the Lord, I hear my wife calling me.

Marantha!

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on June 12, 2008.

Loving the World

Loving the World
Vol: 22 Issue: 10 Tuesday, May 10, 2016

”Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

In times like these, that’s great advice – but with the economy on the brink, the world on the brink of war, the country on the edge of default and your 401k forcing you to reconsider the prospect of retirement at any age, it’s hard advice to follow.

I know lots of Christians that wax eloquently against ‘loving the things of this earth’ that suddenly turn apoplectic when their own personal comfort zone is threatened.

It always reminds me of the 400 lb preacher I once saw who pointed his stubby finger accusingly at his audience as he roared, “If you smoke, you’re defiling the Temple of the Holy Spirit!”

Everybody loves the things of this world, when you get right down to it.  Love your dog?  Your kids?  Your wife?  Love being in your own personal comfort zone at home?

You can run down the whole list of things you love in your own mind.  You don’t feel ‘dead’ to the people or things that you love – what does that mean to your salvation?

Is this a conditional statement?  Does it mean that unless your affection is set on things above,unless you are dead to the things of this earth, your life isn’t hid with Christ in God?

One of the central themes of Bible Christianity is;

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1st John 2:15)

This is one of those cognitive dissonance moments.  You know how Christians are supposed to feel about the world and all that is in it – but you still love the things you love.  You even throw around quotes like, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” – but you still love the things you love.

You love the Lord and you love your fellow man.  You love your church family.  You love your OL family.  You love your country.

You know you aren’t supposed to love your life, but you do everything in your power to make it as comfortable as possible.  You know that you love your life.  If you didn’t, you’d be a prime candidate for suicide counseling.

Christians try to parse this until they read it to mean, “love not sinful things” or “don’t love the world too much” but Jesus confronts us with an either-or ultimatum: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Which presents us with an enormous conundrum.  There are those who scrupulously practice religious asceticism, which is the practice of austere self-discipline in order to achieve a higher spiritual ideal – (think monks in hair shirts).

But the rest of us aspire to live in warm houses with comfortable beds with a loving family and a loyal dog named Shep.  Sometimes, we even criticize our brethren for loving the things of this world – while worrying about our own 401k.

What is it that I am trying to say here?  That we’re all sinners?  Well, . . . yeah.  But you already knew that.  I can find a dozen verses that clearly command us not to love the world or the things that are in it.  But you do anyway — and you know it.  Then you criticize other Christians for loving some things of this world, usually the things that you don’t.

“If they love that, they can’t really be saved.” Or, “if they were really saved, they wouldn’t lovethat.

Assessment:

What does “really saved” mean, in context?  Bible salvation refers to the redemption from sin through the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Gospel (Good News) is that salvation has been secured on our behalf.  The Book of Romans contains what is often called “Roman’s Road” to salvation.

Salvation requires a recognition of one’s personal sinful state (Romans 3:23) It demands an understanding of the consequences of sin (Romans 6:23) and that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 5:8 explains that our salvation is a product of the unfathomable love of God, “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 10:9 tells us that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Romans 10:13 summarizes salvation thusly: “whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Jesus described salvation as being “born again”. “ . . “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; andthat which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6)

This isn’t a figure of speech.  It is an actual rebirth of one’s spirit, which dies at the moment we commit our first sin.  The soul of an unregenerate man only receives input through his five physical senses.

When he is saved, his spirit is “quickened” opening up a new source of input to his soul.

“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 2:14)

That sense of spiritual discernment comes from the awakening of the spiritual senses.  Now the soul gets input through both the physical and spiritual gateways.  It is this transformation that the Bible refers to as a “new creature”.

“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)

The purpose of the first part of today’s OL was to illustrate the Bible’s principle that,

“But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 19:30)

I believe that principle illustrates what happens to those to define salvation as something somebody else doesn’t have because they aren’t living according to their understanding of the Bible.

Which is to say, “love not the things I don’t love.  The things I love aren’t sinful,” — while ignoring the fact that loving them is.

Salvation creates a new creature with a direct spiritual connection with the Holy Spirit.

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:16)

If it is possible for a person to lose one’s salvation, Hebrews 6:6 teaches that it is impossible for such a one to be born again, again.

“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 . . 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)

Why would “renewing them again unto repentance. . . put Christ to an open shame?”

During His Agony in the Garden, Jesus prayed,

“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy Name: those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost. . . Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:12,24)

The open shame is found in the fact that He was unable to keep such a one by His sacrifice, despite the testimony of Scripture:

“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. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12-14)

The regenerate man whose spiritual eyes have been opened cannot commit spiritual suicide because his spirit is directly indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.  “Falling away” is defined in the eyes of the beholder, not the eyes of God.  God says you already fell away when you decided to buy a comfortable shirt instead of one made of sackcloth.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in it.”  Doesn’t say a word about loving the things of this world in a righteous way.  Remember the rich man who went away sorrowful because he had many possessions?

Aren’t you glad you weren’t offered that same choice?  Oh, wait.  You were.  And unless you live under a bridge in a cardboard box, you probably made the same choice the rich young man did.

Except that you are saved by grace through faith, not works, lest any man should boast.  Your life is hid with Christ in God.  Your life is ‘hid’ in Christ — when God looks at you, He sees Christ and judges you accordingly.

You aren’t hid in Christ because you are righteous – nobody is.  You aren’t even hid in Christ because you try to be righteous.  You are hid in Christ because all your works are as filthy rags before the Lord. (Isaiah 64:6)

The sinning Christian loses irreplaceable opportunities to lead others to Christ. (Ephesians 5:14-17)  The sinning Christian will suffer loss at the Bema Seat. (1st Corinthians 3:11-13)  The sinning Christian will be chastened by the Father. (Hebrews 12)

And the sinning Christian can render himself so useless to the Lord that the Lord will take him home prematurely.

“. . . There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1st John 5:16)

But what the sinning Christian cannot do is “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.”  Because “by ONE offering He hath perfect forever them that are sanctified.”

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on  October 24, 2006

Featured Commentary: Redemption, Right on Time ~ Wendy Wippel

What About the Person Who Never Heard of Jesus?

What About the Person Who Never Heard of Jesus?
Vol: 22 Issue: 9 Monday, May 9, 2016

One of the most common questions one can expect to hear from a skeptic is this one: ”If Jesus is the only way to heaven, then what about all those people who never heard of Jesus Christ?”  This usually results in the Christian mumbling something about ‘God’s mysterious ways’ or answering with a lame counter-question like, ”How do you know they never heard about Jesus?”

This is generally about the place where the testimony flies apart and the heated debate begins. One cannot logically argue that everybody who ever lived has heard of Jesus Christ. There was a period before Jesus Christ, for example. Then there are the millions who lived and died in the first few centuries of Christendom. How could the American Indians of the 2nd century, for example, have heard of Jesus? 

That question troubled Joseph Smith so much he wrote his own testament in 1840 to explain it, founding the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

Of course, while Smith explained away the Indians by inventing a ‘gospel’ in which Jesus came to the New World and so on, that still doesn’t help the New Guinea headhunters who lived in the 13th century or the Polynesians of 5th century Hawaii, etc., etc. 

So, we are faced with a seemingly insurmountable contradiction that seems best explained by Paul quoting Exodus 33:19:

“For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Romans 9:15)

To the Christian, this makes sense and lines up with Scripture. God simply decided that the New Guinea headhunters and the Polynesian pagans weren’t among those upon whom God had compassion, according to His sovereign will. A Christian would never question the sovereign will of God, but the skeptic questions everything.

And it leaves the Christian a little confused, too, although he won’t admit it. Deep in your heart of hearts, don’t YOU wonder a little bit about that? It is even harder to explain something when it doesn’t quite make sense to you. 

The Scriptures say that Christians are the kings and princes of the world to come. And Proverbs 25:2 tells us that,

“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.”

There MUST be a better answer to that question than ‘God’s mysterious lack of compassion’ that condemns the millions who lived and died without ever hearing the Good News to hell as a matter of sovereign election. 

What the Scriptures tell us is that there is a stricter judgment for those who have rejected the Gospel than there is for those who have never heard. Consider 2nd Thessalonians 2:12 where it says that, for those who choose to the believe the lie, there will be no recourse after the Rapture.

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they ALL might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” This passage clearly condemns only those who “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness”.

In order to ‘believe not the truth’ one must first HEAR the ‘truth’. 

But that is AFTER the Rapture and during the Tribulation. That still doesn’t help the Polynesian pagans of the 5th century AD, who never heard the truth in the first place.

“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” (Romans 2:14-16)

Do you see it? The Polynesian pagans of the 5th century didn’t HAVE the Law OR the Gospel. They are judged by the WORK of the law ‘written in their hearts’ according to their God-given consciences. God will judge them according to how their thoughts worked with or against the conscience, and on that basis, “God shall judge the secrets of men BY Jesus Christ ACCORDING TO MY GOSPEL.” 

A further indication that the judgment of God is based upon what we know and what we have been given can be seen in a warning by James:

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1)

In other words, those who know the gospel, study it, and teach it will be under stricter judgment, since they have the ability of guide others, or lead them astray. 

Jesus, in the parable of the Master and the slaves (Luke 12:41-48) talked about the difference in judgment between those who know the will of God vs. those who do not know:

“And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Luke 12:47-48)

The Scriptures say the truth is that,

“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)

But, as already noted by Scripture, to know the truth, one must first hear the truth. 

There is but one Name we can call on for salvation. Nobody else can save us but Jesus. Or Yeshua (in English, Joshua). Or Christ, which is Greek for the Hebrew ‘Moshiach’ (Messiah) which isn’t the Name of Jesus at all, but His Title of ‘the Anointed One’. And those are just the Hebrew, English and Greek translations. There are hundreds of languages. 

Although it isn’t listed first by the canon of Scripture, the oldest book of the Scriptures is the Book of Job. Some scholars even argue that it was authored before the Flood and was preserved by Noah, but even if it is post-Diluvian in origin, it predates Moses by centuries. 

Long before Moses received the Ten Commandments written by the Finger of God, Job said confidently;

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

It is an accepted tenet of doctrine by most Christians that all those who die without faith in Christ will be relegated to spend eternity in Hell – even if they have never heard the gospel. The Scriptures seem to indicate otherwise:

“And He will judge the world IN RIGHTEOUSNESS; He will execute judgment for the peoples WITH EQUITY.”(Psalms 9:8)

“Before the LORD; for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with equity.” (Psalms 98:9)

“But, O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, Who tries the feelings and the heart, Let me see Thy vengeance on them, For to Thee have I committed my cause.” (Jeremiah 11:20)

“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;” (Romans 2:5-7)

“…for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation.” (Romans 4:15)

“. . . for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Romans 5:13)

This is not any sort of ecumenical theology or “all ways lead to God.” I am not arguing that there is salvation apart from the Gospel. If you are getting that, go back up to the first paragraph and re-read it. 

Those who have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and have refused to believe have rejected Him, and, as such, will fall under the condemnation of God, because they have rejected His provision for our disobedience. 

The atheist and the skeptic are still ‘without excuse’ (Romans 1:18:20). 

But that isn’t the same thing as the condemnation of those who, by time and circumstance, have never heard of either the Law or the Gospel, but conduct themselves according to the unwritten law in their heart. 

Those who perpetrate evil, even without the knowledge of the gospel, will likewise be condemned, since they have violated their God-given conscience. 

But what happens to those who never called upon the Name of Jesus because they never heard the Name of Jesus? God will judge them in righteousness, according to His own Word. 

I’m not saying that they will be judged AS righteous. I’m saying they will be judged IN righteousness by a Holy and righteous God.

I have no doubt that God will judge them fairly.

In any case, they aren’t the ones the skeptic needs to worry about. The skeptic who rejects the Gospel won’t have their excuse when its his turn to stand before the Judge. 

He ALREADY knows better, but, by his very skepticism, he is the one who embraces, “not the truth, because of his pleasure in unrighteousness.” 

Unless he repents, according to Scripture, HIS fate is sealed. We can trust God to deal with the New Guinea tribesman ‘with equity’ — as He promised He would. 

It’s not that difficult a question, after all.

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on May 16, 2004.

Featured Commentary: Signs of the End: Part 5 of 5 ~ Pete Garcia