Category Archives: Theology

It’s the Word!

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

This past Saturday morning, I met with my Gideon[1] brothers for our weekly breakfast gathering at IHOP.™ Frankly, I did not feel like getting up that early on a Saturday morning. It was damp and gloomy and not very inspiring for an early morning rising. I knew it would be that way from the previous day’s weather forecast, so I made up my mind that I would skip this meeting unless God woke me up to get me to go. At six A.M. God woke me up, but I rolled over in bed and told Him I really didn’t feel like going. Then at 6:15 A.M., the alarm clock, which neither my wife nor I had set, went off, so I said, “OK, Lord. I’ll get dressed and go.” I am learning not to argue with God when He wants me to do something.

The meeting was typical. We read Scripture, offered praises and prayer requests, and then enjoyed fellowship over breakfast. In the course of conversation, one of my Gideon brothers asked if any of us had heard about the sexual misconduct allegations recently made about Ravi Zacharias.[2] Zacharias, who died on May 19, 2020, was previously accused by a woman of inappropriate advances in an email scandal of which he was later cleared. Now, almost a year after his death, other questionable women, “massage therapists,” have come out accusing the evangelist of inappropriate touching, rape, and “spiritual abuse.” The ministry (RZIM) launched an investigation into the matter and issued an open letter[3] regarding the findings of the investigation.

Regardless of the findings of the investigations or RZIM’s renouncement of Ravi’s alleged misconduct, I am not prepared to assign guilt. As I told my Gideon brothers, we cannot know the facts. We take the accusers’ words at face value without knowing the motive behind the accusation or whether the misconduct really took place. The man is dead. He cannot defend himself. Why bring up these charges now?

This I know. “… [A]ll have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). No man is above sin. The allegations against Ravi Zacharias, may be true, and if true any heavenly rewards he earned here on earth will probably be cast aside as “wood, hay, and stubble,”[4] but “he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”[5] God will make that determination.

I also know this. Satan is a liar and the father of lies.[6] Ravi had a powerful apologetics ministry. He destroyed enemies of the Gospel with his tremendous intellect and logic, and nothing would give Satan greater satisfaction than to destroy Ravi’s ministry and legacy, especially in these Last Days when the return of our Lord draws near.

This, too, I know. Regardless of the man, God’s Word will remain true. God promised, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11, emphasis mine). Jesus put it this way, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

The human source from which God’s Word procedes matters not. It is God’s Word that will prevail. Consider the false prophet Balaam.[7] He was hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the children of Israel, but every time Balaam opened his mouth, nothing but blessings came forth. Consider King David. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah killed, took a census of Israel that God did not authorize. Yet, he was called a man after God’s own heart, and he wrote, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, most of the psalms in the Hebrew Psalter that bless us today. Take, also, Jonah as another example. God told him to go preach to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah boarded a ship bound for Spain in direct opposition to God’s command. Jonah became fish bait and fish vomit, but eventually, he preached to the people of Nineveh and they repented. God’s Word prevailed.

I also recall a modern-day evangelist, by the name of Bob Harrington.[8] He was known as the “Chaplain of Bourbon Street” because he would go into New Orleans strip clubs and witness to the ladies that danced there. Harrington would draw large crowds in his evangelistic campaigns. I first heard him preach while I was stationed in San Diego in the Navy. His messages were powerful, and he preached the Gospel straight. Many came to the Lord through his preaching of God’s Word. Later in life,[9] Harrington renounced the faith and pursued worldly pleasures, but that does not negate the Word he preached, or cancel the salvation of those who received the message he preached and accepted Christ because of it.

All of God’s messengers are flawed, and we, as Christians, need to take care not to allow them to become idols. They are fallen men, but it’s the Word of God they preach that matters. I do not know if Ravi Zacharias is guilty of the charges brought against him. However, I suspect that it is a ploy of the Devil to denigrate the Word of God. “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (Romans 3:4, emphasis mine). Men will always let you down, but God’s Word will always be proven true. It’s the Word, not the man. It’s the message, not the messenger. 

Notes:


[1] The Gideons International – https://www.gideons.org/

[2]  Ravi Zacharias International Ministry – https://www.rzim.org/

[3]  Open Letter/Board Statement – https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/board-statement

[4]  1 Corinthians 3:12

[5]  1 Corinthians 3:15

[6]  John 8:44

[7]  Numbers 22-24

[8]  “ ‘Chaplain of Bourbon Street’ dies at 89” – https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/chaplain-of-bourbon-street-dies-at-89/

[9]  “My Renewed Life Story” – http://www.thechaplain.com/testimony.htm

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Secret Believers

Image Credit: Sheri Johnson, “the Jesus Chick” Website: https://thejesuschick.com/

Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)

A cursory reading of the Gospels can give one the impression that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day unanimously rejected the teachings of Jesus, but like all generalizations, that is not altogether true. Actually, many accepted His claims as true.

Take Nicodemus, for example. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1). By this introduction, we know that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. “The Pharisees were an ancient Jewish group who laid the foundation for what would become rabbinic Judaism. The name, ‘Pharisee,’ likely comes from the Hebrew word prushim, meaning ‘separated ones,’ but it’s unclear what exactly this label signified. Some of the Pharisees’ biggest contributions to Judaism were: (1) Emphasizing the “oral tradition” (which they argued was equal to the written tradition of the Torah), (2) Extending Jewish practices into life outside the temple, (3) Instilling greater piety in “the common people,” (4) Promoting belief in the afterlife. Despite their influence on rabbinic Judaism and their prominence in the New Testament, the Pharisees are a notoriously difficult group to define. No ancient Jewish group referred to themselves as Pharisees. The label originated with people who didn’t belong to this group … Modern Christians tend to see the Pharisees in a negative light—mostly because the New Testament authors portray the Pharisees as legalistic and hypocritical. While that might describe their confrontations with Jesus and early Christians, it hardly tells the whole story of this important Jewish group.”[1]

That John identifies Nicodemus as a “ruler of the Jews” suggests that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the supreme council and tribunal of the Jews during postexilic times headed by a High Priest and having religious, civil, and criminal jurisdiction. This is further confirmed when this group issued a warrant for Jesus’ arrest.[2] After listening to Jesus’ teachings, the officers could not bring themselves to arrest Him. When questioned why they had returned empty-handed, “The officers answered, Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). Nicodemus was in that group of the Sanhedrin, and he questioned their motives. “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:51).

Jesus further identified Nicodemus as “a master of Israel.”[3] The Greek word translated as “master” is didaskalos meaning “an instructor (generally or specifically): – doctor, master, teacher.” Nicodemus knew the Scriptures, therefore he came to Jesus (by night)[4] to hear directly from the source.

Nicodemus along with another named Pharisee came to believe in Jesus. The other was Joseph of Arimathaea who requested Jesus’ body for burial.[5] John notes that Joseph was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews.” [6] That he was a “disciple” indicates that he was a “student” of Jesus. He followed Jesus (secretly) for His teaching and Joseph, like Nicodemus, believed.

They were not the only ones. John records, in our verse above, that “among the chief rulers also many believed on him.” “Many” suggests more than just Nicodemus and Joseph. However, they kept their discipleship to themselves for fear, “lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” Earlier in his Gospel, John records Jesus’ healing of a man that was born blind.[7] When the religious rulers questioned the man’s parents about their son’s healing, they responded, “we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:21-22, emphasis mine). The fear of excommunication held powerful sway in keeping the religious in line, but perhaps it went deeper than that. John’s assessment makes it clear, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, more of these secret disciples came out of the closet. After Pentecost, Luke records, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7, emphasis mine). No matter how the elites tried to spin it, the fact of Jesus’ resurrection could not be denied except for the willfully ignorant.

Are you a secret believer, an undercover disciple, an incognito follower of Christ? Do you fear being cast out of the “synagogue” of your social or peer group? Do you love “the praise of men more than the praise of God”? If so, Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). If Jesus lived in an “adulterous and sinful generation” think how much truer that is for our generation! Jesus’ return is very near. You do not want Him to be ashamed of you when He comes? Don’t be a secret believer. Instead, adopt Paul’s attitude. He said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Notes:


[1] “Who Were the Pharisees? The Beginner’s Guide” — https://overviewbible.com/pharisees/

[2]  John 7:32

[3]  John 3:10

[4]  John 3:1

[5]  John 19:38

[6]  ibid

[7]  John 9

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Love

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

I have trouble finding uplifting topics about which to write these days. If you are a Christian, and a conservative, the outlook, except for the hope of the Rapture, seems less than cheery. But today is Valentine’s Day, so what better topic to cover than “Love.”

The English word “love” appears 311 times in the King James Bible, 131 times in the Old Testament and 180 times in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, “love” is used to translate eight different Hebrew words. The most common Hebrew word translated as “love” is ‘âhab, and its first appearance is in Genesis 27:4 when Isaac asks Esau to prepare some “savory meat such as I “love.” The Hebrew word ‘âhab means “to have affection for (sexually or otherwise),” so it allows for a lot of latitude in the way that it can be used, much like the way we use the word “love” in our day. I “love” Whataburger!

The second most used Hebrew word translated “love” is ra‛yâh used nine times and all in the Song of Solomon. The word means “a female associate” and it is used in the same way we would use it in speaking to a girlfriend or wife – “my love.”

The third most used Hebrew word translated “love” is dôd (translated “love” seven times), which means “to boil, that is (figuratively) to love; by implication a love token, lover, friend; specifically an uncle.” I can easily associate “boil” with “love,” i.e., “passion,” but I do not get “uncle,” which is the way it is often translated. The Song of Solomon finds the most uses of the word dôd, which makes sense considering the content of the poem. It is used in Proverbs 7:18 by the adulterous woman seducing the fool, and in Ezekiel 16:8 describing God’s passion for Israel. Also in Ezekiel 23:17 it is used to describe Israel’s and Judah’s passion for idolatry like an adulterous woman.

There is no word in the Old Testament (that I could find) that describes God’s love like there is in the New Testament. Love appears as a verb (agapaō) 140 times and as a noun (agapē) 117 times (sometimes translated “charity”). Strong’s Dictionary translates it as “affection or benevolence,” but biblical scholars have long assigned greater meaning to the word. Indeed, when reading the “Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) in the KJV, agapē is translated as “charity” because “charity” better conveys the deeper significance of the word. As charity is selfless giving without expectation of reciprocation, so agapē expresses the love of God completely.

John expressed God’s love in the third chapter of his Gospel, “For God so loved (agapaō) the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus said (our starting verse), “Greater love (agapē) hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He proved this by giving His own life on the cross to rescue us from eternal damnation.

In like manner, Paul exhorts, “Husbands, love (agapaō) your wives, even as Christ also loved (agapaō) the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Love unselfishly without expecting anything in return. Although, I believe you will be rewarded.

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The Trumpet Shall Sound

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. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

If you came to 2021 hoping for an improvement over 2020, you may be sorely disappointed. If you study Scripture, you know that the closer we get to Christ’s return, the worse things will become. However, for those who place their trust in Christ, this is cause for celebration rather than consternation. Before things get really bad, we have the expectation that Jesus will come and rescue His Church before the events described in the Book of the Apocalypse begin.

“When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” James M. Black, 1893 [1]

The Bible is clear that the Church, the body of true believers in Jesus Christ as Lord, and born again of the Spirit of God will be absent during the 7-year Tribulation period that the Bible calls the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble.”[2] Several of the Old Testament prophets spoke of the coming of the Messiah to set up an earthly kingdom. From their perspective, as if looking across time over a series of mountain peaks where the Messianic Kingdom is at the final peak, they did not see the “Church Age” in the valley between His first coming (the first peak) and His second coming (the last peak). They rightly prophesied about His first coming and even of His death and resurrection, but the next thing, from their perspective, was the setting up of the Messianic Kingdom.

The Apostle Paul explained that the Church, to the OT prophets, was a “mystery.”[3] All OT prophecy deals with Israel. God gave the Prophet Daniel a concise prophecy of the end times that precisely predicted the arrival of the Messiah at His first coming. The angel that delivered the message said, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Daniel 9:24, emphasis mine). Notice that the time is determined for Daniel’s people. Who are Daniel’s people, if not Israel? The 70 weeks are 70 sevens of years (70 x 7) which come to 490 years. Four hundred eighty-three (483) years were accomplished with the crucifixion of the Messiah.[4] At that time, God stopped Israel’s time clock and seven years remain to complete the “seventy weeks determined for Daniel’s people.” In the meantime, the “mystery” of the Church is in effect.

In order for the final “week” of the seventy weeks to resume, the church must be taken out of the way. The reason for is that the Holy Spirit resides with every true believer. The Apostle Paul informs us that the Holy Spirit restrains Satan’s full control of the earth, so He must be removed before “prince,” aka, Antichrist, can be revealed. Paul said, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin [aka Antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition … For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [restrains] will let [restrain], until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7, emphasis mine). He that restrains (letteth) is the Holy Spirit. He must be “taken out of the way” before the Antichrist can be revealed, and where the Holy Spirit goes, the Church goes. This event is known as the Rapture.

There are no signs given in Scripture to prepare us for the Rapture. We can know the time is near when we see signs for the last days and the end of times falling into place. Jesus gave His disciples a detailed explanation of the last days prior to His second coming.[5] Jesus told them about wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, pestilences, etc. in the latter days, but He cautioned that “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). This ramp-up of signs that point to the Second Coming, which is the seven years after the Rapture of the Church, are things we can see taking place now. That lets us know that the Rapture of the Church is very near.

Can we believe in the Rapture? Before going to the cross, Jesus assured His disciples (and us), “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine). This is the promise that Jesus will come for us and take us to be with him. However, it does not tell us when this will take place.

Some of Paul’s first letters were written to the church in Thessaloniki. Much of what he wrote to this church dealt with the end of time. To them, he wrote, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep [dead]. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, emphasis mine). Notice that we meet Him “in the air;” He does not return to the earth at that time.

To the church in Corinth, Paul wrote, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die], 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 [who are alive] shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, emphasis mine). However, this still does not explain when that will take place.

The Thessalonians had the same question. To them, he explained that the Holy Spirit that restrains the evil one must be removed before Antichrist can come on the scene. We looked at that verse earlier. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away [from the faith, i.e., “apostasy”] first, and [Antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, edited and emphasized for clarity). “And now ye know [the Holy Spirit withholds] that [Antichrist] might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity [does] already work: only [the Holy Spirit] who now [restrains] will [restrain], until [the Holy Spirit] be taken out of the way. And then shall that [Antichrist] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his [Second] coming: Even him [Antichrist], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-9, edited and emphasized for clarity).

When the trumpet sounds, Jesus will come for His church. Christians who have died will rise from their graves, then Christians who are living will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and will meet with the risen dead together to meet Jesus in the air. Then we will all go together to be with Jesus for seven years. In the meantime, here on Earth, Antichrist will exercise dominion, and God will unleash the worst judgments the world has ever known. At the end of the seven years, Jesus will return with His Church to reign on Earth. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war … And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Revelation 19:11, 14). “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, emphasis mine).

The trumpet shall sound. Are you ready? If you are not sure, please visit my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” James M. Black, 1893

[2]  Jeremiah 30:7

[3]  Romans 16:25

[4]  Daniel 9:26

[5]  Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21

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Get Ready!

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (John 15:18)

Get ready! The days of easy Christianity are gone. The Demonrats have taken the reins of power in the government and they intend to punish those who supported President Trump. These include registered Republicans, Conservatives, and Christians. A group calling themselves the Secular Democrats of America sent a letter[1] to Joe Biden demanding a clamp-down of conservative Christians, removing them from public office, and “re-educating” Trump voters. They insist that the “Biden administration must ‘educate the American public,’ particularly those identified as the ‘religious right,’ on the need to keep their “religious dogma” to themselves. The document calls for a purge of social conservatives from all levels of government, labeling them as ‘white nationalist’ and ‘conspiracy theorists.’”

How that will affect Christians[2] remains to be seen, however, the sentiment is there, and it is strong. I do not believe I am hyperbolic when I say the Democrat Party is satanically motivated. It is also not fair to paint all Democrats with the same broad brush. Surely, a small handful exist that do not lean hard left, but the majority do. Hence, the moniker I have given them, “Demonrats.”

It will not be long before the persecution of Christians begins in America. In some ways it already has. The question is how will “pudgy” American Christians stand up to persecution? Our Christian brothers and sisters all over the world suffer persecution now. What makes us think we are exempt?

I believe Christians will escape the coming seven-year Tribulation. However, we cannot know when Jesus will come to Rapture His Bride, His Church, out of this world. We will not suffer the full horrors of the Tribulation, but we may need to endure some persecution before that time comes.

Get ready! Arm yourself with the Word of God. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) The first piece of armor is the support belt of truth. The belt supports your abdomen and back to help you stand straight. It is composed of “truth” that comes from the Word of God, who is Christ (John 14:6). Next comes the breastplate, i.e., body armor, meant to protect your heart. That piece is made up of righteousness, i.e., “right living,” a “right attitude,” a “right outlook.” That too comes from the consumption of the Word of God. After that, you need sturdy footwear to help you stand when the terrain gets rough. That comes from “the Gospel of Peace.” You will have to carry the shield of faith to deflect the incoming missiles the devil will send your way. You need to protect your head, your mind. For that, you need the helmet of salvation. That comes from having the assurance that you are saved and that your Captain has your back. All of these are defensive “weapons” that you need to keep in good working order. Finally, you need to take up your only offensive weapon, he “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Jesus encouraged us not to worry about what to answer when questioned. “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:19-20, emphasis mine). If you were paying attention you would have noticed that all the pieces of armor are anchored in one way or another to the Word of God. If you are not daily in the Word, you will run out of ammo very quickly. Get ready!

This weekend I listened to Jan Markell’s interview with Pastors Tom Hughes and Mark Henry. They have a timely message to prepare us for what is coming. I hope you will take the time to listen to it all the way through. Get ready!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZg_cRa3AYc

Notes:


[1] https://drrichswier.com/2020/12/16/democrat-document-surfaces-demanding-biden-clamp-down-on-conservative-christians-remove-them-from-public-office-and-re-educate-trump-voters/

[2]  When I say “Christians” I am referring to true, Bible-believing, born-again believers and not necessarily those affiliated with mainline. liberal Protestant denominations.

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