Thursday, January 31, 2013

End Times Truth: The Entire Program

Nathan JonesWatch MP3 PDFBy

What is end times truth?

This question was put to me recently by Doug Harris from Britain's apologetics television program "Simply the Truth." In this first episode of Doug's new show "End Times Truth," he sought along with me and other guests to define what the Last Days are and how we should live in them. The following is the program available for viewing in its entirety.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

End Times Truth: Worldly Fables

Nathan JonesWatch MP3 PDFBy

What worldly fables lead us away from the truth of Jesus Christ?

This question was put to me recently by Doug Harris from Britain's apologetics television program "Simply the Truth." In this first episode of Doug's new show "End Times Truth," he sought along with me and other guests to define what the Last Days are and how we should live in them. The following is an excerpt of that program.

The Last Days Interview

Doug Harris: First Timothy 4:7 in the King James reads, "But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness." We are told here concerning worldly fables not to take any notice of them, because if we take notice of these worldly fables we are going to be led away from the truth.

Nathan, when looking through the lens of the end times, what do you think some of those worldly fables are that can actually not only lead us away from the truth, but possibly lead us into fear since we would no longer then be holding firmly on to the Jesus Christ and what He has done for us on the cross?

Nathan Jones: I love the NIV84's translation which calls these worldly fables "godless myths and old wives tales." Think back while growing up about the old wives tales you were told. For example, like when a bell rings an angel receives his wings. Or, if you grow ivy on your house you are protected from witchcraft and evil. Or, if you put a picture up in your house of an elephant it will bring you luck, but only if that picture is facing an open door. These beliefs are crazy! The people who have come up with them are very animistic in their view of nature, meaning that we have to ward off the spirits of demons. Animistic beliefs are godless. Those are not Christian teachings and are actually satanic in origin. We as Christians need to stay away from demonic beliefs like those.

Doug, there are three main deceptions today that are leading people away from Jesus Christ and their salvation and hope.

1. The first is the false teaching that all paths lead to God.

Jesus in John 14:6 emphatically declared, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me." Clearly Jesus said faith in Him as the Son of God and Savior is the one and only way to get to Heaven. Instead, there are authors like Paul Young who wrote The Shack, along with others, who offer multiple options to be saved. This non-biblical teaching is called Universalism. It's the idea that there are many ways to reach the Father based on our works and our own personal system, but again that's definitely not truth. Only faith in Jesus Christ who did the ultimate work on the cross is the one and only way to get to Heaven.

2. The second deceptive false teaching is a big one, and that's works-based salvation.

Works-based salvation is the idea that we don't need Jesus to get to Heaven. We can just work our own way and do enough good deeds to get to God. But, according to the Bible, that method is clearly not true. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast."

What are works for then? Ephesians 2:10 tells us, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared for us in advance to do." In other words, we aren't created to have to do work to get salvation, rather once we are saved then we naturally do good works. People seem to get that vital difference confused. No, Jesus did the only required work on the cross, so there is no such thing according to the Bible of a works-based salvation.

3. One of the greatest deceptions of this time goes along with what Peter said in 2 Peter 3 about scoffers who say that Jesus isn't really returning.

The general idea behind this deception is that time is just going to keep on marching on and God's never going to return. Jesus isn't going to finally institute justice and law by His earthly kingdom. These are the people from 2 Peter 3:3-7 who we are warned about — "in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.'" The chapter goes on to teach us that eventually there will be a day of destruction for these ungodly men. Today we are seeing a general rejection both in the secular world and a good part of the Church that really doesn't believe that Jesus is returning. And yet, Jesus promised He's going to return, and He will return.

Doug Harris: Great as ever, Nathan! I really appreciate your input. You underline the fact that there is only one way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ alone.

Let's sum up today's conversation. What's important to remember is that there are lots of myths and there's lots of "facts" that we've got to check out before we give them any credibility.

Back in 1 Timothy 4, I want to underline three truths. First of all, the Spirit explicitly (that's the only time that Greek word is used in the whole of the New Testament; explicit meaning expressively and outspokenly by and from God), says what is in 1 Timothy 4 is from God and not from man, and because of Who the Source is, it will happen.

The second truth I want to underline is this — that we need to be careful that we are not listening to deceivers. We are not to be listening (the root of that word is roving like an imposter), to those who mislead us. There are many people out there who want to bring false doctrines in who in reality are the enemies of Christ. They are not always absolutely up front about it, so they bring their deception in very subtly. Therefore, we need to nourish ourselves on the Word of God.

Finally, the third truth is that we must have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales. Do not listen to unconfirmed conspiracy theories. Discern everything through the Word of God. Whatever your belief of the end times is, let us insure that we are being constantly being nourished on the words of faith and of sound doctrine. Spend more time on the truth, on the reality, than on the issues that are negative and are taking us away from God's eternal teachings.

End times truth whatever else is this: God is in control. Never forget that. Trust and walk with the Lord and always be ready for what He is going to do.


In the fourth and final part of this interview on End Times Truth, the entire program will be made available to watch.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

End Times Truth: Avoiding Deception

Nathan JonesWatch MP3 PDFBy

How do we avoid deception in these last days?

This question was put to me recently by Doug Harris from Britain's apologetics television program "Simply the Truth." In this first episode of Doug's new show "End Times Truth," he sought along with me and other guests to define what the Last Days are and how we should live in them. The following is an excerpt of that program.

The Last Days Interview

Doug Harris: First Timothy 4:1 warns the believer to pay attention so as not to be deceived by deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. It becomes very obvious if people pay attention to these things that sooner or later they will want to communicate with these evil spirts and will want to draw closer to that which is deceitful — the doctrine of demons.

Just how can we test out what is truly from God and what is taught by demons when things are spoken of concerning the End Times. How can we begin to test these things out? What can we do to insure that we are not led astray?

The answer is clear — we certainly need to bring everything back that we've heard to the Word of God. If what's being said is clearly found within the Word of God, then there is absolutely no problem with that end times teaching.

If, however, what you've learned is not found within the Word of God, but it's also not denied by the Word of God, well we might not be able to be so sure. We end up holding those teachings up and conclude they're probably true, but debatable.

Stand strong on the belief that anything that is not clearly taught within Scripture, or is clearly denied by Scripture, means we cannot build our future upon it. We need to be discerning. The Bible advises us to be diligently seeking. I hope that's something we always do from the Scriptures and with others.

However, even at this point we are not left helpless, because 1 Timothy 4 goes on to give the antidote to avoiding deception and the accepting of wrong teachings. The answer is that we are to be nourished by the words of faith and of sound doctrine. Just how vital is that today? How should we be living in these days?

Nathan, what do you have to say? In 1 Timothy 4:6, we get in the King James this phrase about being "nourished." I'm very interested in that phrase. Just how are we to be nourished in these last days? When I think of nourishment, I'm reminded that nourishment always gives you strength. Nourishment always gives you the ability to do things. We as believers in Christ are going to face difficult days. We are in fact even now facing difficult days, knowing that we are going to face even more difficult days to come. How do we get nourished and be able to face them?

Nathan Jones: The Apostle Peter gave us a great description of what being nourished looks like. Second Peter 3 is an entire chapter dedicated to talking about living in the "last days" or "latter days." Peter gives us ten points that we can follow to be nourished and to exist wholly in these last very difficult days.

1. Peter tells us to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the commands given by our Lord and Savior through the Apostles. We should remember the words of Jesus. Remember the words of the Apostles. In other words, read your Bible!

2. Understand that in the last days scoffers will come. Peter was telling us that in the last day people would declare that Jesus isn't coming back. They'll claim such a belief is nonsense and not to believe in it. They'll scoff at the Bible. They'll scoff at God even existing. And, they'll scoff at primarily the Creation story. In other words, Peter is prophesying the advent of the teaching of Evolution.

3. Peter warns us not to forget God's promise that He'll return. We are to abide in His salvation and model His patience. That Jesus is so patiently waiting for everybody who is supposed to in this age come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and get saved demonstrates God's amazing love.

4. Peter reminds us to live holy and godly lives. While we are here on this earth, as Christians we are to live holy and godly lives while we wait for Christ's return.

5. Look forward to the day of God. Look forward to the time when we live with God up in Heaven with dwell with Him forever. That's really something to look forward to! And, it will give you hope and perspective.

6. Speed the Lord's coming, Peter says. In other words, get the Gospel out. Share the Good News with people so they may hear the Word of God and get saved. Time is short, so be active in evangelism.

7. Look forward to the New Heaven and New Earth, which is the home of the Righteous. We are here in this world only temporarily. This here is a temporary home. Our real home, though, is the New Jerusalem. That's Heaven! Heaven will come down to earth one day so that God will dwell with redeemed Man. Such knowledge gives us believers great hope and something to look forward to.

8. Peter says we are to be found spotless and blameless and at peace with God. Again, live those holy and spotless lives, but strive to live at peace with one another. Christians are an ornery bunch, but we need to practice peace with one another now, for we'll be spending eternity with each other later.

9. We need to be on guard so that we many not be carried away by the error of lawless men. During the Last Days, one of the main signs that Jesus gave is that we would know His soon return is coming due to the proliferation of false prophets and false teachers. That's why Peter warns the Christian to be on our guard and be prepared for battling doctrinal error. To be able to do that, we need to know our Bible so that we can refute the false doctrines that are being taught.

10. The last nourishment Peter gives us is the directive to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Grow in the grace of God and become more Christlike.

That there is the ten "nourishments" Peter gives.

Doug Harris: Brilliant, brilliant info! Two points came out to me there. It's sort of like you almost were talking about both a looking back and looking forward. We are to look back to what God has said in His Word; never forgetting what He said, never forgetting what's written down, and never forgetting what's there. But, also, wherever we are, we're to be looking forward to what is yet to come. As Paul had said, this difficult time that I am going through now is nothing compared to what glory is to come. So, Peter is giving us two directions to pay attention to: looking back and looking forward. That's very important.

Nathan Jones: Amen! As difficult as the world is now for Christians to live in and growing worse every day with the massacres in Nigeria, the concentration camps for Christians in North Korea, and the loss of our freedoms in the Western world; it's going to get worse. Conditions are going to get worse because evil hates God. Evil hates the thought that we represent God and so wants to destroy our belief in Christ. But, Jesus says that even as bad as it is now and how tough our last days time period is, it's nothing compared to the last of the last days, which is the coming Tribulation.

Doug Harris: Wonderful words! I hope all believers understand the need to be nourished by the Bible's words of faith and sound doctrine.


In the third part of this interview on End Times Truth, we will discuss what worldly fables lead us away from the truth of Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 28, 2013

End Times Truth: The Last Days

Nathan JonesWatch MP3 PDFBy

What is the period called the Last Days actually referring to?

This question was put to me recently by Doug Harris from Britain's apologetics television program "Simply the Truth." In this first episode of Doug's new show "End Times Truth," he sought along with me and other guests to define what the Last Days are and how we should live in them. The following is an excerpt of that program.

The Last Days Interview

Doug Harris: Is the Last Days the period of the First Century immediately after Paul was writing about the topic to Timothy, or is it pointing to some remote time in the future? Maybe indeed those days lie in the future. These among other questions I put to Nathan Jones of Lamb & Lion Ministries.

Nathan, we began by looking at this whole introduction to end times by reading 1 Timothy 1:4, which we'll address more later. We then read about the "latter times" in 2 Timothy 3:1 and we also find the term "last days." Are these talking about two different periods? If so, what's the difference? And, where are we in the scheme of things?

Nathan Jones: The best answer to your question leads us to the Parable of the Weeds which Jesus told in Matthew 13. This is the story where Jesus declared that humanity is coming upon a great harvest. A time is coming when the weeds, that is those who have rejected Jesus Christ and His salvation, will be rooted out. Also at that time the good wheat, which are those who are saved throughout history, will be brought into the barn, which means brought into Heaven. It's to be a time of reaping and a time of harvest. That same imagery Jesus uses in Revelation 14 which describes a great reaping upon the earth.

We can go back to the Old Testament and read that the prophets often used the key end times term "latter years." For example, we can find it used in Ezekiel 38, which also uses the term "last days." Jeremiah 37 cross-references those days when he talks about the "time of Jacob's trouble." We can also find in the New Testament the same terms "latter days" and "last days," but those texts also call that time the "Day of the Lord" in Acts 2:20 and 1 Thessalonians 5:2.

From these scriptures we know that in the "latter years" there will be a time of reaping and harvest upon the world, and we can specifically attribute that time to be the Tribulation. The Tribulation is a seven year time period that will befall the human race and scourge the entire planet. It will be a time beginning soon after the Rapture which has taken the Church up to Heaven beforehand. The people on the earth will be left to experience 21 terrible judgments for the purpose of trying to get them to turn their hearts to God and give their lives to Jesus. The specific focus of the whole reaping is targeted on Israel, because God wants a remnant of the Jewish people to accept Jesus, also called Yeshua, as their Savior.

Now, when we talk about the "latter days," it can also refer to the days leading up to the Tribulation. That means the Church Age, which Revelation 3 describes and which we are living in right now. The last of the seven churches Revelation describes is the Church of Laodicea. It's the apathetic church that defines our very time period in Church history.

So, in summary, the "last days" and "latter years" specifically are about the seven year Tribulation, but they can also generally refer to this Church Age which is the final phase of human government before the Messianic Age is ushered in by Jesus Christ's Second Coming.

Doug Harris: Very interesting! So, there are two periods of time described there. We've got the "latter day," which obviously takes a period of time to reach, but then there's the actual end of those days. Are you saying that we are now living in that period of time towards the end of the "latter days"?

Nathan Jones: I believe so. When we read Luke 21 and Matthew 24, Jesus is describing what will be going on in the "last days" or the "latter days." We also read in Revelation 3 how the end of the Church Age which we are in right now is defined by the Church of Laodicea, again known for its apathetic and weak faith. Laodicea is Christianity watered down and weak and very apostate, which we call can see clearly is the case and sign of the times.

Back to Luke 21 and Matthew 24, Jesus said that human morality would get to the point as it was in the days of Noah. Before the Flood in Noah's days, people did whatever they wanted to. They were totally evil except for Noah and his family. Jesus said when we see humanity return to the days of Noah, or the morality of Noah's time, that would be an indicator that the world was in those last days. That coincides with the Rapture of the Church which must happen before the judgments of the Tribulation befall the earth.

So, while the actual definition of "last days" and "latter days" can apply to the Church Age we are living in as Jesus describes it, I would add that the culmination of the last days is the final seven years of human government, which is the period of the Tribulation.

Doug Harris: Whenever the "latter days" are specifically, the point is that we are living in them now. Many do seem to really believe we are living in the end of the "latter days," though not necessarily the Tribulation.


In the second part of this interview on End Times Truth, we will discuss how we can avoid deception in these last days.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Keys to the Interpretation of Prophecy: Special Problems

Dr. David R. ReaganBy

There are some special problems related to prophetic interpretation. One is that prophecy is often prefilled in symbolic type before it is completely fulfilled.

In this regard, I feel certain that the Jewish people must have felt that Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled Daniel's prophecies about a tyrannical leader who would severely persecute the Jews. But 200 years after Antiochus, Jesus took those prophecies of Daniel and told His disciples they were yet to be fulfilled.

Another example is the sign which Isaiah gave to King Ahaz to assure him that the city of Jerusalem would not fall to the Syrians who had it under siege. The sign was that a young woman would give birth to a son whose name would be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:1-19). The passage certainly implies that such a boy was born at that time.

But hundreds of years later, Matthew, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, reached back to Isaiah's prophecy and proclaimed that its ultimate fulfillment was to be found in the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:22-23).

Compressed Time

Another peculiar feature of prophetic literature is called "telescoping." This occurs when a prophet compresses the time interval between two prophetic events. This phenomenon is very common.

The reason for it has to do with the perspective of the prophet. As he looks into the future and sees a series of prophetic events, they appear to him as if they are in immediate sequence.

It is like looking down a mountain range and viewing three peaks, one behind the other, each sequentially higher than the one in front of it. The peaks look like they are right up against each other because the person viewing them cannot see the valleys that separate them.

In Zechariah 9:9-10 there is a passage with three prophecies which are compressed into two verses but are widely separated in time. Verse 9 says the Messiah will come humbly on a donkey. The first part of verse 10 says the Jewish people will be set aside. The second part of verse 10 says the Messiah will reign over all the nations.

These three events — the First Coming, the setting aside of Israel, and the reign of Christ — appear to occur in quick succession, but in reality, there were 40 years between the first two events, and there have been over 1,900 years thus far between the second and third events.

Another way of viewing the phenomenon of telescoping is to focus on what are called "prophetic gaps." These are the time periods between the mountain peak prophetic events.

Because the Old Testament rabbis could not see the gap between the first and second comings of the Messiah, some theorized that there would be two Messiahs — a "Messiah ben Joseph" who would suffer and a "Messiah ben David" who would conquer. From our New Testament perspective we can see that the Old Testament prophets were speaking of one Messiah who would come twice. We can see the gap between the two comings.

A Challenge

I ask you: How do you treat Zechariah 14 — as fact or fiction? Are you guilty of playing games with God's Word in order to justify sacred traditions and doctrines of men?

I challenge you to interpret God's Word — all of it — for its plain sense meaning. As you do so, you are very likely to find yourself challenged to discard old doctrines and to adopt new ones. This will be a painful process, but it will be a fruitful one, for you will be blessed with the truth of God's Word.

"If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Keys to the Interpretation of Prophecy: Context

Dr. David R. ReaganBy

Another key to understanding prophecy is one that applies to the interpretation of all Scripture. It is the principle that the meaning of words is determined by their context.

I ran across a good example of this problem recently in a book in which the author was trying to prove that Jesus is never coming back to reign upon this earth. Such a position, of course, required him to spiritualize Revelation chapter 20 where it says six times that there will be a reign of the Lord that will last one thousand years.

In this author's desperate attempt to explain away the thousand years, he referred to Psalm 50:10 where it says that God owns "the cattle on a thousand hills." He then asked, "Are there only one thousand hills in the world?" He answered his question, "Of course not!" He then proceeded to explain that the term is used figuratively. But then he made a quantum leap in logic by proclaiming, "therefore, the term, 'one thousand,' is always used symbolically."

Not so. It depends on context. In Psalm 50 the term is clearly symbolic. But in Revelation 20, it is not so. Again, the thousand years is mentioned six times. What would the Lord have to do to convince us that He means a thousand years? Put it in the sky in neon lights? Pay attention to context!

Reconciling Passages

An additional key to understanding prophecy is one that applies to all Scripture. It is the principle of searching out everything that the Bible has to say on a particular point.

Avoid hanging a doctrine on one isolated verse. All verses on a particular topic must be searched out, compared, and then reconciled.

Let me give you a prophetic example. Second Peter 3:10 says that when the Lord returns, "the heavens will pass away with a roar... and the earth and its works will be burned up." Now, if this were the only verse in the Bible about the Second Coming, we could confidently conclude that the heavens and earth will be burned up on the day that Jesus returns.

But, there are many other verses in both the Old and New Testaments, which make it abundantly clear that the Lord will reign over all the earth before it is consumed with fire. Those verses must be considered together with the passage in 2 Peter 3 in order to get the correct overall view.


In the fourth and final part of this series on the keys to interpreting Bible prophecy, we'll look at how to deal with special problems related to prophetic interpretation.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Keys to the Interpretation of Prophecy: Symbols

Dr. David R. ReaganBy

I believe God knows how to communicate. I believe He says what He means and means what He says. I don't believe you have to have a doctorate in hermeneutics to understand the Bible. The essentials, instead, are an honest heart and the filling of God's Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-16).

One crucial key is to approach the Scriptures with childlike faith. Dr. Henry Morris addresses this issue in his great commentary on Revelation, called The Revelation Record. He says, "Revelation is not difficult to understand. It is difficult to believe. If you will believe it, you will understand it."

For example, in Revelation 7 it says that at the start of the Tribulation God is going to seal a great host of Jews to serve as His special "bond-servants." The text specifies that the number will be 144,000, and that 12,000 will be selected from each of 12 specified tribes.

Now, I ask you: What would God have to do to convince us that He intends to set aside 144,000 Jews for special service during the Tribulation? The text is crystal clear. Yet, hundreds of commentators have denied the clear meaning and have spiritualized the passage to make it refer to the Church! This is reckless handling of God's Word, and it produces nothing but confusion.

The Meaning of Symbols

"But what about symbols?" some ask. Another crucial key is to keep in mind that a symbol stands for something, otherwise it would not be a symbol. There is always a literal reality or plain sense meaning behind every symbol.

Jesus is called "the rose of Sharon." He is not referred to as "the tumbleweed of Texas." The image that a rose conjures up is something beautiful; a tumbleweed is ugly.

The Bible is its own best interpreter as to the meaning of the symbols which it uses. Sometimes the symbols are clearly explained, as when God reveals to Ezekiel the meaning of the symbols in his vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:11-14). In like manner, the apostle John was told the meaning of certain symbols which he saw in his Patmos vision of the glorified Lord (Revelation 1:20).

At other times, a simple search of the Scriptures will reveal the meaning of a symbol. Consider the statement in Revelation 12:14 where it says that the Jewish remnant will escape from the Antichrist into the wilderness "on the two wings of the great eagle."

Is this a literal eagle? Is it an air lift provided by the U.S.A. whose national symbol is an eagle?

A concordance search will show that the same symbolism is used in Exodus 19:4 to describe the flight of the children of Israel as they escaped from Egypt. The symbol, as Exodus 19 makes clear, is a poetic reference to the loving care of God.


In the third part of this series on the keys to interpreting Bible prophecy, we'll look at the importance of context and how to reconcile passages.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Keys to the Interpretation of Prophecy: Plain Sense Rule

Dr. David R. ReaganBy

When I was about 12 years old, I stumbled across Zechariah 14. It was an amazing discovery. You see, I grew up in a church where we were told over and over that "there is not one verse in the Bible that even implies that Jesus will ever set His feet on this earth again."

Simple Language

Well, Zechariah 14 not only implies that the Lord is coming back to this earth again, it says so point-blank! It says that the Lord will return to this earth at a time when the Jews are back in the land of Israel and their capital city, Jerusalem, is under siege. Just as the city is about to fall, the Lord will return to the Mount of Olives.

When His feet touch the ground, the mount will split in half. The remnant of Jews left in the city will take refuge in the cleavage of the mountain. The Lord will then speak a supernatural word, and the armies surrounding Jerusalem will be destroyed in an instant.

Verse 9 declares that on that day "the Lord will be king over all the earth."

Muddled Interpretations

When I first discovered this passage, I took it to my minister and asked him what it meant. I will never forget his response. He thought for a moment, and then He said, "Son I don't know what it means, but I'll guarantee you one thing: it doesn't mean what it says!"

For years after that, I would show Zechariah 14 to every visiting evangelist who came preaching that Jesus would never return to this earth. I always received the same response: "It doesn't mean what it says." I couldn't buy that answer.

Finally, I ran across a minister who was a seminary graduate, and he gave me the answer I could live with. "Nothing in Zechariah means what it says," he explained, "because the whole book is apocalyptic."

Now, I didn't have the slightest idea what "apocalyptic" meant. I didn't know if it was a disease or a philosophy. But it sounded sophisticated, and, after all, the fellow was a seminary graduate, so he should know.

A Discovery Experience

When I began to preach, I parroted what I had heard from the pulpit all my life. When I spoke on prophecy, I would always make the point that Jesus will never return to this earth. Occasionally, people would come up after the sermon and ask, "What about Zechariah 14?" I would snap back at them with one word: "APOCALYPTIC!" They would usually run for the door in fright. They didn't know what I was talking about (and neither did I).

Then one day I sat down and read the whole book of Zechariah. And guess what? My entire argument went down the drain!

I discovered that the book contains many prophecies about the First Coming of Jesus, and I discovered that all those prophecies meant what they said. It suddenly occurred to me that if Zechariah's First Coming prophecies meant what they said, then why shouldn't his Second Coming promises mean what they say?

The Plain Sense Rule

That was the day that I stopped playing games with God's Prophetic Word. I started accepting it for its plain sense meaning. I decided that:

"if the plain sense makes sense, I would look for no other sense, lest I end up with nonsense."

A good example of the nonsense approach is one I found several years ago in a book on the Millennium. The author spiritualized all of Zechariah 14. He argued that the Mount of Olives is symbolic of the human heart surrounded by evil. When a person accepts Jesus as Savior, Jesus comes into the person's life and stands on his "Mount of Olives" (his heart). The person's heart breaks in contrition (the cleaving of the mountain), and Jesus then defeats the enemy forces in the person's life.

Hard to believe, isn't it? When people insist on spiritualizing the Scriptures like this, the Scriptures end up meaning whatever they want them to mean.


In the second part of this series on the keys to interpreting Bible prophecy, we'll look at how to interpret symbols.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tour Israel in April 2013

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy

I am very passionate about going to Israel and leading others on tours of the Holy Land. Over 45 times I've lead groups of people in exploring where Jesus walked during His earthly ministry. A colleague once asked me a series of questions below that will help you understand the reasons behind my passion and hopefully encourage you to join us on this year's exciting tour.


This Could Be You!


Will going to Israel impact your life?

I have no doubt about it! It will impact your life, because as I always say, traveling around Israel brings the Bible to life.

There was a pilgrim who went to Israel around about 1350 A.D. He wrote in his journal, "I have toured the Holy Land, and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that a tour of the Holy Land is like reading a fifth gospel, because it brings it all alive in your heart."

Take Capernaum for instance, the home town of Peter and headquarters of Jesus during His earthly ministry. After you return home and read about Capernaum from a page in the Bible, it's no longer a name on a page. It has become a place where you walked, you saw it, you smelled it, you felt it, you experience it. I just love to see the Bible come alive for people we have taken over there!


How does traveling all over the land of Israel teach about Bible prophecy?

The number one reason I believe we're living in the season of the Lord's return has to be the re-establishment of the nation of Israel. The Bible says over and over and over that in the end times the Jewish people are going to be regathered from the four corners of the earth and their nation will be reestablished. They'll be put back in the city of Jerusalem and the whole world will come against them over one issue — the control of Jerusalem. And, that's where we are in history.

The world witnessed Israel becoming a nation again in 1948. Of course, I was only a youngster at that time so it was of no significance to me, but when it became significant to me was in 1967. I began to really study Bible prophecy and begin to see prophecy after prophecy being fulfilled before my very eyes that had been written more than 2,000 years ago.

End time Bible prophecy focuses on the nation of Israel. It is God's prophetic time-clock. God says when these things start happening Jesus is going to be at the very gates of Heaven. That's why the very beginning of our tour starts in Tel Aviv at the Hall of Independence. Let me just say, the Hall of Independence is one of the most moving places where I take people in Israel. There are a number of places that are moving, but that one is particularly special. Most groups that go to Israel never go there and they completely bypass Tel Aviv, but to go to that place where Bible prophecy was literally fulfilled, where David Ben-Gurion stood up and spoke those words reestablishing the nation of Israel, touches me every time.

There are so many prophecies about the recreation of the Israeli state in the end times, but the one that I love the most because it's symbolic (and I love the symbolism) is in Isaiah 66:7. "Before she travailed she brought forth," talks about a pregnant woman giving birth. It continues, "before the birth pains came she gives birth. Before her pain came upon her she gave birth to a boy. Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once?"

That's exactly what happened on May 14, 1948 — the nation of Israel was born. The next day the labor pains began with the war of 1948-49, the War of Independence, the Suez War of 1956, the Six-Day War of 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the Lebanese War of 1982, the Gulf War of 1991, the Arab Intifada from 2000-2004, the Hezbollah War and the Gaza Conflict. It's just war after war after war. The birth pains continue.

That's why our tour begins in Tel Aviv at the Hall of Independence, for we learn how Israel becoming a nation once again is in direct fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

As we continue throughout the land, I try to give people a survey of the life of Christ. We see places where Jesus walked that have not just only seen their fulfillment of First Coming prophecies, but will see the near fulfillment of Second Coming prophecies as well.


What's it like traveling to the Mount of Olives?

One thing about the Mount of Olives is that when you stand there and you look out over the city of Jerusalem, if you have any sense of the Bible whatsoever, you will sense that you are standing at the center of the world. Ezekiel said Jerusalem is the center of the earth. Jerusalem is where Jesus spilled His blood. Jerusalem is where He is returning.

When I look out there I can see something that had a tremendous impact on my life — the Eastern Gate. In 1967 during the Six-Day War, I was following the news very closely. I was a professor of International Politics at that time. One day I read in the paper where the Israelis had broken into the Old City through the Lion's Gate and had won back the city. They had recaptured it for the first time in 1,897 years.

I also read in that article how the Israeli army had originally proposed to blow open the Eastern Gate because they felt like that tactic would catch the Jordanians by surprise. But, an orthodox Jew had said to the affect, "You will do that over my dead body, because that gate is not to be opened until the Messiah returns." I didn't know what he was talking about. At that time I had never been taught Bible Prophecy. So, in 1967, I went to a concordance and I looked up the word "gate." To my astonishment, in Ezekiel 44 there's a statement where Ezekiel is taken on a tour and he basically says, "This gate — the Eastern Gate — will be closed and it will not be opened until the Messiah returns."

I wanted to know the history of the Eastern Gate, and so discovered that when the walls were rebuilt in the 1500s, that gate of all the eight gates of Jerusalem was closed. It was bricked up and nobody knows for sure why. But, the rumor and legend is that as the Turks were rebuilding the Old City walls a rumor swept the city that the Messiah was coming. Suleiman the Magnificent called in the rabbis and asked, "Who is this Messiah?" The rabbis replied something like, "The Messiah is going to come and run you out of town, and He's coming through the Eastern Gate." In response, Suleiman ordered his builders to brick up that gate and put a Muslim cemetery in front of it. He believed that no Jewish holy man would ever step into a Muslim cemetery, so the Messiah would never walk through the Eastern Gate." And I thought, "This is incredible!"

So, every time I go to Israel and I go to the Mount of Olives I look down at the Eastern Gate. I think there is Bible prophecy fulfilled — right before my very eyes! The Bible said that gate would be closed and it was closed. The Bible says it will not be open until Jesus returns. Many times people have tried to open it and every time they've been stopped. But, one day the Eastern Gate will be opened by Jesus the Messiah at His Second Coming.

So come, join us on a tour of Israel this April 2013 and share in the passion for God's living word!

Tour Israel

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Rabid Nation?

(Editor's note: Al Gist is the founder and director of Maranatha Evangelistic Ministries, located in Longville, Louisiana. He conducts Bible prophecy conferences and takes pilgrimage groups to Israel. He also publishes an insightful newsletter which you can sign up to receive at maranathaevangelisticministries.com. This article is taken from one of his newsletters.)

When I was a boy, my Dad took me to the movie theater to see the 1957 classic "Old Yeller." Not only was it a great treat to go to the movies back then, but this was the only time I remember my father ever taking me to the movies. So, maybe that's why this particular movie made such an impact on my young mind and I still remember it to this day.

The plot of the story is about a young boy who is given the responsibility of caring for his mother, younger brother and their ranch in the 1860's while his father is away on a cattle drive. During that time, a yellow mongrel turns up at the ranch and eventually proves to be the boy's best friend and help, even saving his life on one occasion from a group of wild hogs. Unfortunately, the dog contracts rabies and the boy has the heart-breaking job of putting him down to protect himself and his family from the fatal disease. I can remember how I cried when Travis had to shoot "Old Yeller."

The Nature of Rabies

This was probably my first exposure to the disease of rabies. And even though it didn't involve me directly, it certainly made an emotional impact on me. How could something so good (Old Yeller) die from what at first appeared to be something so minor (a small bite)?

Rabies, if left untreated, is a horrible, 100% fatal disease. It is most often transmitted to its human victim via a bite from an infected, symptomatic animal (bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, dogs, etc.) where the animal's virus-carrying saliva is introduced into the person's bloodstream.

According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia: "After a typical human infection by bite, the virus enters the peripheral nervous system. It then travels along the nerves towards the central nervous system. During this phase, the virus cannot be easily detected within the host, and vaccination may still confer cell-mediated immunity to prevent symptomatic rabies. Once the virus reaches the brain... there is no treatment." (emphasis mine) As the virus progresses to the brain, the symptoms may include "slight or partial paralysis, cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, abnormal behavior, paranoia, terror, hallucinations, progressing to delirium."1

Most of us have probably seen pictures of rabid animals. In their state of "cerebral dysfunction," they stagger and have difficulty moving in a straight direction. They are confused and easily agitated. Their "abnormal behavior" produces "paranoia, terror" and "hallucinations," leading to "delirium."

A Mad Dog Nation?

From what I see in our country today, I wonder if our great nation has not contracted a type of "spiritual rabies" that has led to "cerebral dysfunction." Our leaders (political and religious) seem so confused, and it has gotten many people very agitated.

What started out innocent enough with a desire to NOT OFFEND anyone (seeker friendly churches, etc.), has now led to a behavior that is abnormal (political correctness). Paranoia has set in (global warming, pandemic diseases, etc.) and terrorized the people. It seems that our leadership can no longer see clearly and discern the difference between reality and fantasy (hallucinations). So now, we've reached a point of absolute delirium. Our political and spiritual foundations are crumbling and I find myself sometimes wondering if our nation has gone insane!

What has led to this dilemma? How did it all start? And have we gone too far to recover? Has the virus reached the brain yet?

Symptoms of Madness

In the early 1960s (about the same time I saw "Old Yeller"), our great nation contracted "spiritual rabies"... a potentially "fatal" disease if left untreated. It was at that time that the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Engel v. Vitale decided "that government-directed prayer in public schools was an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause."2 This was followed by subsequent decisions to ban Bible reading as part of the school curriculum (Abington Township School District v. Schempp in 1963),3 and to ban student-led, student-initiated prayer at football games, graduations, and other school activities (Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 2000).4

This chosen path of taking God out of our schools and other public institutions initiated the "spiritual rabies" viral infection almost five decades ago that has now traveled (or, is traveling) to the central nervous system (the federal and state governments). Like the physical disease, once it reaches the "brain," there will be no treatment.

Crucial Questions

My questions are: "Has our nation passed the point of no return in its moral decline? Have we forever abandoned the biblical standards, the Constitutional law, and the rules of free capitalism that this great country was built upon? Has this insidious disease of apostasy and socialism "reached the brain?"

Have we reached a point where spiritual fatality is unavoidable? Some would argue that a great national revival to holiness and biblical morality is still possible. And some even teach that it is prophesied! But actions like the hate crime legislation passed by our Congress make me wonder.

Dangerous Legislation

On October 28, 2009, President Obama signed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act that had been passed by his Democrat Congress.5 Among other things, the bill adds gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation to the list of protected categories under federal hate crimes law.3 This effectively places every homosexual, pedophile, transgendered, and other abominable sexual orientation in a special, federally-protected class under federal hate crimes law. And it opens the door for prosecution against any pastor or other clergyman who openly speaks out against such abhorrent behavior, even if he is just teaching what he believes is Scriptural doctrine.

This legislation could ultimately initiate a day of unheard-of persecution of Christians in this country. Pastors could be fined and jailed for preaching the truth of the Bible. Churches could be prosecuted on charges of discrimination for not hiring an openly homosexual applicant as a staff member. And eventually, no doubt, fundamental, conservative Christianity will be attacked for promoting "anti-social hate doctrine."

This law is just another example of political correctness run amuck. This homophobic paranoia has led Congress to an act of delirium. They are confused and suffering from "cerebral dysfunction!"

Persecution

Do you think that expecting such persecution of those who teach the biblical one-man-and-one-woman definition of marriage is being paranoid? Then consider the backlash that came from Carrie Prejean's answer when she was asked about her stance on same-sex marriage in the Miss USA contest in 2009. She responded, "I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised."

How much simpler and more straightforward an answer could you expect? She was simply giving an honest answer to the question about her beliefs. She made no derogatory remark about homosexuals and even said that it was not her intention to offend anyone with her answer.

Yet, she was lambasted by a host of liberals in the media and by the homosexual activists. Some even called for her to be stripped of her Miss California title. And even though she stood by her answer, she said that she believed it cost her the Miss USA crown (she got first runner-up.)

Now, some would surely say that Miss Prejean's ordeal is not very severe persecution. But the point is that she suffered endless ridicule and scorn simply because she dared to take a biblical position. And it certainly showed the sinful degradation of our society. So, I ask you: Has the virus reached the brain?

Conclusion

The list of political and religious departures in the last few years in our society from the sound, conservative, democratic and biblical principles upon which our nation was built, is too lengthy to discuss here. From our nation's fiscal irresponsibility to its new Socialistic agenda to its suicidal foreign relations policy concerning Israel to its widespread religious apostasy — at every turn we hear about some new ill-conceived debacle that is eating away at the fabric of our democratic, capitalistic and Christian foundation. It's enough to make one wonder if the United States has completely lost its way. And more importantly, can we recover, or has "the virus reached the brain?"

Notes

1) Wikipedia, "Rabies," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Rabies# Medical_aspects.

2) Wikipedia, "Engel v. Vitale," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engel_v._Vitale.

3) Wikipedia, "Abington School District v. Schempp," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abington_School_District_v._Schempp.

4) Wikipedia, "Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Fe_Independent_School_Dist._v._Doe.

5) Wikipedia, "Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Shepard_and_James_Byrd,_Jr._Hate_Crimes_Prevention_Act.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Words With Consequences (Part 4 of 4)

[Editor's Note: Pastor Steve Howell is the Adult Education Minister at Tonganoxie Christian Church in Tonganoxie, Kansas. He's a gifted teacher, preacher and writer and all around good friend. The following is an adaptation of one of his insightful sermons concerning Christian living in these last days.]

Steve Howell
Steve Howell
Adult Education Minister
Tonganoxie Christian Church


In the last segment of this series on words with consequences, we looked at "Option #3: Purify the Source" and learned it is the only truly biblical and effective response to controlling our tongue from swearing and saying hurtful things. Finally, let's look at a few practical things that we can do to stay on target.

So where does that leave us concerning taming our tongue?

The book of James has given us some great advice about what not to do. We know that we can't just let our tongues say whatever they want as that would be harmful. We know that we can't gain control ourselves as the tongue is impossible to tame. Rather, we know that the best idea is to work on changing our hearts and minds so that the source which feeds our tongue is pure, and that only comes when we allow Jesus to have control over our hearts.

There are a few other practical things that we can do to help our tongues and to help our hearts and minds focused on Christ. Let me share five things you can do with your tongue to help keep it on the right track.

  1. Recite psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
    "Sing and make music to the Lord with your hearts" (Eph. 5:19).
    If you have a song of praise on your lips, you'll have a harder time switching to slander. Take advantage of K-LOVE or Air1 radio stations, or put in a gospel CD. Listen to music that praises God which will help keep your heart, mind and tongue in check.

  2. Thank God for everything.
    "Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 5:20).
    You have been given hundreds of blessings. Tell God "thank you." Even consider ways that you can praise God when things are rough. Keep a list going in your smart phone of all the blessings you have each day. Thank God for the little things, and your tongue will have a harder time complaining.

  3. Having trouble? Pray!
    "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray" (James 5:13).
    Talk to God. He is willing to hear all of your troubles, even if He knows them anyway. Sharing your thoughts with Him will help you keep perspective and honesty so you don't have to gossip elsewhere. Make a habit of it, say maybe starting your day on your knees by the side of the bed.

  4. Admit your sins to each other, and pray for each other.
    "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).
    Use your tongue to tell others your failures. Confession is great, and it's also humbling, so it makes it harder to do it again, but it opens you up to a world of help as you realize you are not alone in your struggles. The biggest help is that it allows you to pray for one another, thereby tapping into God's strength to help you in your weakness. Go and find a group of other Christians you can trust, like joining a small group, and share.

  5. Be accountable.
    "Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins" (James 5:20).
    If you wander from the truth, someone can bring you back if your accountable to another Christian, and visa versa. With gentleness and love, correct those in error. It can even be done in a fun way, but don't forget to correct and train each other so we can all benefit.

The tongue is a powerful thing, but with God's help, it no longer has to ruin your life. Use it for good, and let the difference bring glory to God.

If you don't yet have the "pure source" to tame your tongue, I'd like to invite you now to use your tongue to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord from a heart of repentance, and make Him the master of your speech and of your life.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Words With Consequences (Part 3 of 4)

[Editor's Note: Pastor Steve Howell is the Adult Education Minister at Tonganoxie Christian Church in Tonganoxie, Kansas. He's a gifted teacher, preacher and writer and all around good friend. The following is an adaptation of one of his insightful sermons concerning Christian living in these last days.]

Steve Howell
Steve Howell
Adult Education Minister
Tonganoxie Christian Church


In the last segment of this series on words with consequences, we looked at "Option #2: Master It" as a viable response to controlling our tongue from swearing and saying hurtful things. We learned this option like the first option is neither a workable nor biblical solution. Let's now check out the third option.

Option #3: Purify the Source

Maybe the key to controlling our tongue isn't the tongue at all. Maybe the key is to work on what drives the tongue in the first place.

The tongue usually reflects the mind, unless you've got a bad case of Tourette's that is. What goes in plays a big part in what goes out.

Let me give you a non-verbal example. A few months ago a woman named Jill had taken the church bus to an event. Afterwards, she set to getting the bus cleaned up and ready for the next user. She went to a gas station to fill it up. After she got on the road, though, the bus was just not running well. It responded sluggishly. It was pouring out an odd-looking exhaust. It just felt like the motor was off. After examining everything, the diagnosis was simple. Instead of filling the bus with diesel, it had been filled with unleaded gas. Oops! The problem wasn't the motor at all. It was just that the fuel that was going into the motor was not the kind it needed. The results were bad because the fuel was bad.

I think our tongues are a lot like that bus. We feed it a lot of thoughts, emotions and reactions. So, if the source is bad, we can try to control the tongue all we want, but some of it is going to escape and make us say things that we'll regret.

If you work around a lot of people who say inappropriate things, you'll have a harder time not saying those things on your own. If you listen to music with crude lyrics, they may influence your vocabulary. If you watch celebrity gossip shows, the odds are that you will struggle more to avoid gossip on your own.

James 3:6 warns us about the dangers of the tongue when he teaches, "[the tongue] is a world of evil among the parts of our bodies, and it completely contaminates our bodies. The tongue sets our lives on fire, and is itself set on fire from hell."

When we have a bad source — the allowing our lives to be controlled by the desires of the flesh or the influence of things that God opposes — we can't help but say the wrong things. But, if we work on the source, even an uncontrolled tongue will say things that are innocuous.

James goes on in the following chapters to describe the type of people we should be. In James 3:17-18, he reveals, "The wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure. Then it is peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good deeds, impartial, and sincere. A harvest that has God's approval comes from the peace planted by peacemakers." These attitudes purify the source.

Can you imagine saying something you'd regret if you just had a gentle attitude? Can you imagine flying off the handle if you are full of mercy? Can you speak evil if you are a peacemaker?

If the "wisdom that comes from above" is just not in you, then you will be filled with bitterness and as a result you will say bitter things. When you are filled with anger, you will say angry things. But, if you are filled with love, then you'll speak loving things. If you are filled with joy, then you'll say joyful things.

The key to purifying what you say is to have a mind and heart that are transformed and a spirit that agrees with God's good, pleasing and perfect will. To achieve this you must walk daily in step with the Holy Spirit.

How do we walk in step with the Holy Spirit? Ephesians 5:4 reveals the heart matter with, "it's not right that dirty stories, foolish talk, or obscene jokes should be mentioned among you either. Instead, give thanks to God." And, we should live as children who have the light of the Holy Spirit within us, as the passage continues on a few verses later in 5:9, "Light produces everything that is good, that has God's approval, and that is true."

The light that is supposed to fill us and the mind of Christ we should have and the fruit of the Holy Spirit that should define our pattern of living, these are things that can't happen just by our own willpower. It all comes from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. It is his sacrifice on the cross that wins victory over sin. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that empowers us to live holy lives.

So, if you want to have control over your tongue, then you need to surrender control of your life fully over to Jesus Christ. You may not be able to fully control your surroundings and remove all negative influences, but you can control whether you have given your life to Christ and whether His Spirit lives in you.

Once saved, you still control whether you listen to His guidance and counsel. You decide to whom you submit to. If you have the Spirit and you listen to his guidance and you submit to Him, then you will be filled with that "light." You will have fewer inclinations to speak in ways that would grieve your Heavenly Father and more inclinations to say things that would instead please him.

The most practical and therefore the most biblical solution to gaining control over your tongue then is to purify the source.

In the fourth and final part of this series on words with consequences, I'll give you five things you can do with your tongue to keep it on the right track.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Words With Consequences (Part 2 of 4)

[Editor's Note: Pastor Steve Howell is the Adult Education Minister at Tonganoxie Christian Church in Tonganoxie, Kansas. He's a gifted teacher, preacher and writer and all around good friend. The following is an adaptation of one of his insightful sermons concerning Christian living in these last days.]

Steve Howell
Steve Howell
Adult Education Minister
Tonganoxie Christian Church


In the last segment of this series on words with consequences, we looked at "Option #1: Just Let It Ride" as a viable response to our problem with our tongue swearing and saying hurtful things. We learned this option is neither a good nor biblical solution. Let's now check out the next option.

Option #2: Master It

If we can't just say whatever comes to mind, maybe we would be better doing the opposite. Maybe "self-censoring" is the best bet after all.

Have you ever tried these self-censoring techniques?

  • You count to ten before speaking when you are angry.
  • You live by the motto, "If you can't say anything good, don't say anything at all."
  • You clean up your words with substitute words such as "snap," "fudge," and "gee-willikers."

The main issue here is control. You find a reason to master your tongue and then change the words or don't say anything at all.

Engaging in these techniques reminds me of a joke. There was a lady who had a pet parrot that would not stop cursing. She was at her wits end and so took the bird to her vet for advice. His advice was that every time the bird said something bad, she was to just put him in the freezer for 15 seconds. So, she went home and tried it out. The parrot started swearing like a sailor, so she put him in the freezer. After 15 seconds the parrot came out very contrite and declared, "I'm so sorry about my language. I'll change and it will never happen again. Please accept my apologies." Then, after a pause, he timidly asked, "By the way, what did the chicken do?"

If you try harder to watch what you say, even employing some tricks and having some forethought which is thinking before you speak, maybe you can avoid saying the wrong thing. There would be lots of benefits, such as how you'll:

  • Be more popular — You won't stick your foot in your mouth.
  • Have more control — You'll only say what you should.
  • Enjoy more happiness — Your words will bring joy to the world.

But, there is a fatal flaw to the "Master It" option, as James 3:7-8 reveals, "People have tamed all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures. Yet, no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil filled with deadly poison."

The flaw is that control is impossible!

James talks about the fact that we can control horses with little things like bits in their mouth, or massive ships with a relatively small rudder, but the tongue is like a spark that causes a raging forest fire. It is impossible to control. Even those who seem to have their tongues under control will inevitably lose it.

For example, do you remember in the movie "A Christmas Story" when Ralphie snaps? Facing down a bully who has been giving him a hard time, little innocent Ralphie goes crazy and attacks. He pummels the bully all the while screaming out a string of words that are deserving of a bar of soap in the mouth!

Another example, my wife's dad who is a fine, upstanding guy who worked at a Marine Corps Air Station when he was younger. One time, Deb called her dad at the base and was put on hold while her dad finished what he was doing. Except, she wasn't on hold, merely just waiting while the phone was set down. She heard her dad talking to someone in the background using quite a few choice words, and certainly ones that never came out when they were at home! "Sorry, kiddo," he told her, "I didn't know you could hear that."

While we want to keep our tongue mastered, there just isn't any way to completely eradicate every careless word, every insult, every snide comment, every sarcastic joke, every cutting critique, and every half-truth from our vocabulary. We have to tame our tongue, but it's like keeping a wolf or a tiger for a pet. Even the most domesticated wild animal can still turn wild when things go bad. Our own tongue is far more difficult to control than a tiger!

So "mastering it" is also neither a good nor biblical solution.

Let's look at yet another option, which we'll do in the third part of this series on words with consequences.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Words With Consequences (Part 1 of 4)

[Editor's Note: Pastor Steve Howell is the Adult Education Minister at Tonganoxie Christian Church in Tonganoxie, Kansas. He's a gifted teacher, preacher and writer and all around good friend. The following is an adaptation of one of his insightful sermons concerning Christian living in these last days.]

Steve Howell
Steve Howell
Adult Education Minister
Tonganoxie Christian Church


Can I share an embarrassing story?

It was Thanksgiving Day. My family and I were getting ready to go to a friend's house for dinner. We were in charge of bringing a couple of the food items. My wife Deb had spent hours working on her famous stuffed mushrooms, getting all the flavors blended just right. I don't even like mushrooms, but even I think these are delicious!

As we're getting ready to leave, I was carrying out the mushrooms in a cupcake carrier. It had a lid attached to the bottom instead of the top, which is convenient and effective, if the lid is on tight. Ours, it turned out, was hanging by a thread, even if it seemed solid at the time. Well, I was walking down the front steps and got to the bottom of the stairs. All of the sudden, the bottom drops out of the carrier. All the mushrooms fell out and onto the landing. Stuffed mushrooms splattered everywhere. Nothing is salvageable. Nothing!

I stood in horror looking at the mess. The only thing that I could do was scream out the only word that seemed appropriate. Let's just say that it was not a "minister-approved" word. It may have been four letters long. And, I said it LOUD. It was so loud that my elementary-aged son, who was out in the van in the driveway, come back to the house and asked, "Did Dad just say the s-word?" It was so loud that our neighbors, who were out in their front yard hanging Christmas lights, all heard it (sorry, Gary and Tammy).

I readily admit that this was not the proudest moment of my life or my ministry career.

I'm pretty sure though that I am not the only one who has done such a thing. Confession time! Stand up if you've ever:

  • Cussed at least once during Christmas shopping?
  • Yelled at someone in anger while making Christmas dinner?
  • Got in a pointless argument while opening presents?
  • Talked badly about someone who didn't make the trip for the holidays?

If you didn't stand up yet, well, your time will come.

James 3:2 reveals about humanity that, "All of us make a lot of mistakes. If someone doesn't make any mistakes when he speaks, he would be perfect. He would be able to control everything he does."

Mistakes of the tongue are everywhere. We all at one time or another have issue with it. So, the question for us is, "What do we do about it?" What do we do about our tongue's tendency to say the wrong things? Let's explore this question and consider a few options.

Option #1: Just Let It Ride

Maybe it's time to stop worrying about it. Maybe we just come to terms with the fact that we say bad things and just let it go. Since we all at some time say some bad stuff, is that then so horrible?

How many times since childhood have we been taught, "Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us?" How often has you wife told you, "You're thinking it, so you might as well say it." The country music philosopher Toby Keith advises, "Don't compromise, even if it hurts to be yourself." As an anonymous pundit once stated, "Anything said on the way to the bathroom is non-binding as you'll agree to anything it that situation."

We may say some things that we don't mean or like or that others don't like, but it could be worse. After all, saying whatever comes to mind has some positives. Take these for example:

  1. Forgivable — Anything you say can be forgiven by others and by God.
  2. Honest — We don't have to worry about being politically correct or be accused of being "fake" when we are brutally honest and say whatever comes to our minds.
  3. Character-building — We're actually helping people around us work on their ability to forgive and forget. We may even be helping address needs, like the husband whose wife said, "I'm fat." In all tenderness and understanding, he replies, "So? I'm fat too."

Just letting it ride may seem like a pretty good way to handle our tongues. But, the Bible obviously has totally different take on this topic. As James 3:9-10 admonishes, "With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father. Yet with the same tongues we curse people who were created in God's likeness. Praise and curses come from the same mouth. Brothers and sisters, this should not happen."

The Bible declares then that "just let it ride" is not a viable option. We should not be saying everything that comes to mind, especially because a lot of what comes to mind is evil.

James goes on in chapters 3-5 to share some of the bad things that come off our tongues when we aren't careful:

  • False teachings (3:1) — We have to be careful about what we teach others.
  • Bragging (3:14; 4:16) — We speak too highly of ourselves, making others look bad resulting in making God displeased.
  • Fighting and Quarrelling (4:1) — Unrestrained tongues lead to arguments and trouble, breaking up any peace that could exist.
  • Slander (4:11) — We hurt others with our words, damaging their reputation and crushing their spirits.
  • Complaining (5:9) — Talking badly about your circumstances leads to discord, hurting any chance of success and making it harder for you and others to work together in the future.
  • Flippantly making oaths (5:12) — When we make promises we don't keep, or don't intend to keep, we damage our own reputation and let down those who count on us.

If we're honest with ourselves, we know that there have been some things said to us at some point in our lives that really hurt. We'd almost rather take the sticks and stones than the words that were said, right? Maybe they were mocking words, or maybe they were hateful words, or maybe they were critical of us personally. Because of the blow to our feelings and self-esteem, we know that words do have power. God Himself spoke the universe into existence, and while we may not have that power to create with our words, we certainly have the power to destroy with them. With a mere word we can destroy someone's confidence, destroy trust, and destroy peace.

I can still remember a careless word once given by my dad. I was a state band competition and had just completed a difficult solo on my euphonium. I knew it wasn't my best performance ever, but I was playing music that was above the difficulty level of the competition. As I walked out, I just wanted some words of encouragement to steady my nerves and lift my spirits. Instead, what I got was my dad who walked out and silently flashed a "two" with his fingers. He was saying that my performance was flawed and there was no chance of me getting a "one," which is the rating that was my goal. What he said with those unspoken words wasn't meant to be mean-spirited, but it wasn't encouraging. To me, it was like he flat out stated, "Son, you just aren't good enough." And it hurt.

I know I've said worse things to people in my life, and so have you. We've heard them from others. That's why "just letting it ride" only causes hurt, regret and sin. We know first-hand that "just letting it ride" when it comes to our tongue is neither a good nor biblical solution.

Maybe it's time to look at another option, which we'll do in the second part of this series on words with consequences.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Plea for Grace (Part 2 of 2)

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy

In the first half of this plea for grace, I examined a number of ministries that I am convinced I would have lost many great spiritual insights if I had written off their teachings because I disagreed with some part of what they have to say. We will now explore where we as Christians should draw the line concerning whether a ministry is apostate or not.

The Crucial Doctrines

So, where should we draw the line with regard to respect and support of a ministry? It has to do with the fundamentals of the faith. Those fundamentals are:

  1. The Virgin Birth of Jesus
  2. The Divinity of Jesus
  3. The Atoning Death of Jesus
  4. The Resurrection of Jesus
  5. The Promise of Jesus to Return

When a Christian leader denies one or more of these fundamentals, his ministry should not be respected or supported, and it can be legitimately considered as apostate. Disagreements over other points of doctrine are important, but they should never serve to disrupt our fellowship in the Lord. Truth is important, but not all truth is equally important. So, for example, whatever the truth may be about the Millennium, it is nothing compared to THE TRUTH that Jesus is Lord.

Disagreeing Amicably

When we as Christians disagree with doctrine being taught by some Christian leader, we need to do so in a Christ-like manner. We should avoid pejorative labels like "apostate." And we should avoid judging motives. We should simply deal with the issue of whether or not the questionable doctrine is biblical.

With regard to motives, one of my pet peeves is the way people seem compelled to sum up a doctrinal disagreement with me by saying, "I know the only reason you take that position is because it sells books." I hear that accusation over and over again. I want to emphasize that is a sinful accusation.

First, it is sinful because it is based on an evaluation of my motives, and that simply is not possible. We can judge words and actions, but we can never judge motives because we cannot know with certainty what each other's motives may be.

Second, the accusation is sinful because it attributes evil by asserting that I am guided only by monetary concerns. (I can assure you that money is not a motivator to me.)

I've never been able to understand why Christians must attribute evil motives to those they disagree with on a doctrinal point. It's as if they cannot conceive that people can honestly disagree about a biblical interpretation.

Increasing Shrillness

I have also become distressed in recent years by the increasingly strident tone of many Christian apologists. I'm sure this is due to the rapidly increasing apostasy in the Church and their sense of frustration in dealing with it. But this is no excuse for the attack dog mentality that seems to prevail.

A good example is the recent response to the best-selling book, The Harbinger, written by a Messianic Jew named Jonathan Cahn. I personally did not care for the book. I thought his method of scriptural interpretation was highly subjective in nature, and I thought his examples of prophetic fulfillment which he drew from the 9/11 attacks were highly strained. But I thought his overall conclusion that our nation is in rebellion against God and is therefore begging for God's destruction was right on target. So, I was thankful for the book.

But the apologetic attack dogs had a field day picking the book apart and slinging names at the author. One even called him a "false prophet"! They just couldn't seem to say anything good, despite the fact that the book's overall message was a sound one and a needed one.

Another fault of the modern day apologetic attack dogs is their tendency to attribute guilt by association. It's a good thing they were not around when the Apostle Paul delivered his sermon at Athens. They surely would have overlooked his words, while frying him for having the audacity to associate with heathen.

Outstanding Christian spokesmen like Joel Rosenberg have been viciously attacked and defamed simply because they participated in a prayer rally that was called by Governor Rick Perry of Texas. Why? Because there were people present at the rally who were considered unacceptable.

Others have been roundly condemned because they had the audacity to quote from the Bible paraphrase known as The Message. I don't endorse that paraphrase, but I don't believe for a moment that quoting from it renders a person apostate. I recently quoted favorably some words of an ancient Muslim poet. The words were beautiful and biblical, but because they were from a Muslim, I was severely condemned!

I knew that the moment I said anything positive about Oral Roberts and his ministry that the attack dogs would come growling and even, in some cases, howling. But I refuse to be intimidated by them and their rabid negativism.

Constant Condemnations

I have had my Christianity questioned because I refused to condemn the Promise Keeper's Movement.

I have had my Christianity questioned because I do not despise Bible paraphrases like the Living Bible and the New Testament in Modern English by J. B. Phillips.

I have had my Christianity questioned because I do not dislike contemporary Christian music.

I have had my Christianity questioned because I refuse to denounce modern Bible translations like the New King James Version and The New American Standard Version.

I have had my Christianity questioned because I do not despise Billy Graham.

I have had my Christianity questioned because I do not hold Charismatics in disdain.

Tragically, I could extend this list indefinitely!

There are many very fine apologetic ministries existing today who are earnestly contending for the faith. We have interviewed many of their leaders on our television program. But the self-proclaimed "watchmen on the walls" who constantly spew forth hateful condemnations are really nothing more than spiritual pit bulls who are trying to build themselves up by tearing other people down.

I know the attacks will continue, but I want to make it clear that I am not going to allow my Christianity to be defined by what I hate rather than what I believe. And what I believe is that Jesus is Lord!

Conclusion

My conclusion? Let's look for what is biblical, let's embrace it, and let's thank God for it. Criticize what you consider to be unbiblical, but do it in love, with a desire to correct and not defame. Pray for the person you disagree with, and remember, if God can show you grace with all your warts and hang-ups, surely you can show some grace toward those you disagree with.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Plea for Grace (Part 1 of 2)

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy

I have had some favorable things to say recently about Oral Roberts and his ministry — both in this magazine and on one of our television programs. Those statements have prompted a number of negative responses from people who questioned whether or not anything good should be said about the man. One lady denounced him as an "apostate" and said she wanted nothing more to do with me or this ministry.

So, I thought I would share some thoughts with you about evaluating ministries.

First, let's keep in mind that there are no perfect ministries. All of them, including Lamb & Lion, are headed up by people and are composed of people, and people are flawed.

I would urge you, therefore, to look for the good — for that which lines up with the Scriptures — and either ignore or criticize responsibly what does not. Otherwise, you are going to miss some spiritual blessings.

Let me give you some examples from my personal perspective.

Examples of Ministries I Admire But Disagree With

I have always greatly admired the incredible courage that Martin Luther showed when he stood up to the Roman Catholic Church, the most powerful institution of the Middle Ages and one that did not hesitate to burn its critics alive at the stake. I am thankful that he pointed Christendom to God's true plan of salvation of grace through faith in Jesus. And what a blessing it was for him to translate the Bible into the German language and to bless all of Christendom with his marvelous hymns.

Yes, I am very grateful to Martin Luther, and I will always admire his courage, despite the fact that he turned out to be the worst anti-Semite in Church history. The pamphlet he wrote near the end of his life in which he denounced and condemned the Jews served as a blueprint for the Holocaust.

And then there is the example of C. S. Lewis. He was a brilliant Oxford professor of Mediaeval literature when he came to a belief in God and then later placed his faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior. His Christian writings soon established him as the greatest defender of the Christian faith in the 20th Century. Those writings, like Mere Christianity (1943) and The Problem of Pain (1940), greatly impacted my life by drawing me deeper into the Scriptures and closer to the Lord. I will be forever grateful to him for his marvelous spiritual insights. He is going to be one of the first persons I will want to meet personally when I get to Heaven.

Yet, the incredible thing that most people do not know about C. S. Lewis is that near the end of his life he revealed in letters that he believed in Purgatory! To me, it is mind-boggling that a man with so many deep spiritual insights could have been spiritually blind concerning this doctrinal issue. Because he was so off-base on this point, should I throw out everything else he had to offer? I think not.

Bringing my examples more up to date, let's consider two great modern-day ministries whose leaders have recently been called home to the Lord.

The first is the ministry of Dr. James Kennedy who served for 47 years as the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was a powerful spokesman in behalf of the Christian heritage of America, and he was a man who spoke out fearlessly against the secular drift of our nation. I admired him greatly. Yet, he was one of the foremost proponents of Replacement Theology, a theology I consider to be absolutely abominable.

In like manner I highly valued the ministry of Chuck Colson. His conversion story was inspirational, and the prison ministry he established was an outstanding one. I also appreciated his syndicated columns in which he expressed a biblical worldview regarding political, moral and social issues. I praise God for him and his ministry despite the fact that he was a terrible Catholic compromiser and he lacked respect for God's Prophetic Word. Should I have just written him off and refused to pay attention to anything he had to say? I don't think so.

Let's take a look at some contemporary ministries that are alive and well today:

  • I highly respect the preaching and teaching of Charles Stanley, and I have learned much from him, despite the fact that I abhor his hyper-Calvinism.
  • I love the preaching of John MacArthur and his teaching of Bible prophecy. It would be hard to find a better expositor of God's Word. But when he starts talking about the Holy Spirit, I have to tune him out. To me, he just seems to have a spiritual blind spot in that area.
  • I have always had great respect for the Pentecostal Movement — for its zeal, enthusiasm and passion. The praise music it has produced has blessed my soul, and I have been thankful for the Movement's appreciation and understanding of God's Prophetic Word. I am also thankful for the way God worked through the Movement to resurrect the gifts of the Spirit from the dead. But I have never been able to accept their core teaching that the baptism of the Holy Spirit must be manifested in the gift of tongues.
  • I have always respected the wonderful ministry of David Barton and the insights he has provided regarding the Christian heritage of our nation. I hold him in high esteem despite the fact that he is a Postmillennialist who denies that Jesus could return anytime soon.
  • I greatly admire the fantastic Creation ministry of Ken Ham, and I praise God for it, despite the fact that he thinks that a person's end time viewpoint is irrelevant.

I suspect that after having read the list above, some of you are ready to say that I am also spiritually blind in some ways — and that could well be. If you feel that way, I hope you will pray for me to be enlightened and not just write me off as hopeless.

The Point

The point is that I have learned much from each of the men and ministries mentioned above despite the fact that there are areas where I disagree with them and, in some cases, disagree with them strongly.

And I am convinced that I would have lost many great spiritual insights if I would have written off their teachings because I disagreed with some part of what they had to say.

The Ministry of Oral Roberts

The same is true of the ministry of Oral Roberts. I greatly admired his faith. And I appreciate the fact that he revived belief in God's healing power, returning that belief to mainline Christianity. I also respected the fact that he always insisted that those seeking healing had to first hear the Gospel preached. He cared about the welfare of people's souls as well as the health of their physical bodies. Another thing I respected about the way he operated his ministry is that before he would start praying for healing, he would always emphasize that if any healing occurred, it would come from God and not from him.

Oral Roberts was a great man of faith. He was a fabulous Gospel preacher. And he was anointed by God for healing.

I never agreed with his prosperity teachings. And I always felt like his dogged determination to build the City of Faith medical facility was based more on presumption than faith. I think its tragic fate proved that he had run out from under God's anointing on that particular project.

But he dramatically showed us the meaning of faith; he revived belief in healing; he established a great Christian university; and he pioneered Christian television. All of that should make us grateful to God for his life and ministry.


The second half of this plea for grace, I will explain where we as Christians should draw the line with regard to respect and support of a ministry and how we should behave towards one another.