Monday, October 31, 2011


[This article is primarily for parents wondering about or wrestling with the issue of Harry Potter and a biblical worldview. For further information, please read my articles on the Harry Potter books under the Articles section in the Table of Contents]. (See:


There is fantasy and good story telling in the Harry Potter books. At the same time, the stories are infused with references to actual occult practices, [†] some of which I once studied and practiced. But since these practices are mixed in with fantasy, readers may think these practices are fantasy, too.
The hero of the book is a wizard who attends a school, Hogwarts, where he is learning how to use his powers through studying and learning occult arts such as divination, casting spells, astrology, magical potions, and others. He is not a figure of contemporary pagan religions (such as Wicca), nor is he an imaginary wizard, but he is presented as a real boy who comes to the school to hone his innate magical abilities and develop into a practitioner of occult arts.
Many people today, influenced by television, movies, and fictional books, tend to think that magic is just made-up. There is fantasy magic such as a cartoon figure tapping a wand and turning a mushroom turns into a leopard, or something similar. Real magic is quite different, but does involve an attempt to use supernatural powers, or to connect with powers (sometimes seen as natural) through incantations, spirit contact, spells, reading hidden meanings, "powers" of the mind, and other forms of paranormal activity.
That Harry was born as a wizard is fantasy (though there are Witches today who believe they are born that way), but several occult arts referred to in the books are part of the real world and are not fantasy. In addition to those already mentioned above, other real occult practices in the books are: the Runes, numerology (arithmancy), and crystal gazing (scyring). The books also refer to alchemy, amulets, charms, contact with the dead, Nicolas Flamel (a real historical alchemist), the Dark Side, and many other occult practices or concepts. Using "good" magic to fight "bad" magic is a major component of the plot.
In 1996, the heroine of a movie called The Craft was a witch who used her powers to fight "bad" witches. This movie helped to galvanize the growing Wicca/witchcraft movement and attracted a lot of teen girls to Wicca (Llewellyn's New Worlds of Mind and Spirit, Sept/Oct. 1996, p. 6: "Whether you loved it or hated it, The Craft created a surge of interest in magick, the occult, and Witchcraft"). Ask any Wiccan if using magick is good, and most will respond that magick is "natural" and "neutral;" therefore, it is okay to use magick "for good." How does this message differ from the Harry Potter books? Harry Potter echoes these ideas and demonstrates that using the occult arts is permissible and good if the intention or outcome is good.
We are in a world where many intelligent and nice people seriously practice the occult. When I was a professional astrologer, I had many clients who were involved in the occult. A June 14, 1999 article of "Publishers' Weekly Online," discussed how popular pagan books have become among younger readers. One of the books discussed is a book on "white witchcraft." Essential to this philosophy is to avoid going over to the "dark side" to practice "dark" or "black" witchcraft, exactly the idea that is taught in Harry Potter.
As a former Literature major, I am aware that fiction and fantasy can be powerful vehicles of ideas and beliefs. The issue is not whether readers know the difference between reality and fantasy, but whether they realize that some things in these books are not fantasy and are used by real people in the real world as a good thing.
And the question is not whether these books will cause a child to get interested in the occult, but whether these books can desensitize children to the occult, a more subtle but nevertheless entirely real effect. Fantasy is a wonderful literary genre, but it can be misused as a vehicle for harmful messages.
If Harry is good, then it must be good to use spells and other powers for good, since that is what the books advocate. If Harry lies and puts himself above the rules, which he does consistently, then that must be good as well, since Harry is the hero and is presumed to be good. Many defend these books on the ground that this is a story of good versus evil. If this is true, then one must conclude that in order to do good, one can lie, deceive, act maliciously, and use sorcery if the intention is good, or if the results are acceptable. This is a philosophy called pragmatism. In other words, the ends justify the means. Is this an ethic that one wishes to model for young people?
Ultimately, it is not that the Potter books provide an immoral universe, which at least acknowledges good and bad, but rather it is that the books present a morally neutral universe -- an amoral worldview, in which the practice of the occult for benevolent purposes is permissible and even encouraged. In essence, this is the occult worldview.

Brief overview of magic:

Magic as a ritual or technique to supernaturally manipulate forces goes back as far as early man and is found in cave paintings. Magic is common in Greek mythology, Homer, Canaanite religious literature, Akkadian myths, and Egyptian religion and myths (Colin Brown, ed. and trans., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 2 {Grand Rapids: Zondervan and Paternoster, 1976}, 552-4). Magical practices infiltrated Judaism, often using the name of God (New Int'l Dictionary, 556), although these practices were strictly forbidden in Hebrew Scripture (Deut. 18: 9-12; Lev. 19: 26, 31, 20:6; Jer. 27: 9-10; Malachi 3:5).
Magic, also known historically as sorcery (though the term "sorcery" is not popular today and usually connotes negative practices), can be defined as casting spells using a special formula of words or actions to gain control or bend reality to one's will, and also as a technique to attain certain ends through contact with spirits and psychic realms. White magic was believed to be used for good ends; black magic for evil ends (New Int'l. Dictionary, 552, 6). A magician can be defined as one possessing occult knowledge as a diviner, or an astrologer. It is one who tries to bring about certain results beyond man's normal abilities. In Egypt and Babylon, magicians were educated and wise in the science of the day; they were priests. They were thought to possess special knowledge and so were used by rulers to interpret dreams (Tenney, Merrill C. and Steven Barabas, eds., The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5 Volumes [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975]vol. 4, 38). The New International Dictionary lists pharmakos as a related term (though a different word) because herbs were traditionally gathered and used for spells and to invoke spirits at magical ceremonies (p. 558).
Contemporary magic, usually spelled magick, is connected to different beliefs. In contemporary Wicca or witchcraft, or in ritual/ceremonial magick, the use of magic is overt, and may involve invoking and/or evoking the powers of gods, spirits, and/or forces of nature (elementals and devas). Magick can be also practiced apart from these traditions in more subtle ways, such as the use of visualization. This is the technique of visualizing, and sometimes verbally affirming in a repetitive fashion (affirmations), one's goals or desires in the belief that doing this will bring about that which is desired.
Another subtle use of magic is found in the concept of accessing or channeling energies or forces for healing. In fact, popular forms of so-called alternative healing, such as Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, acupuncture, shiatsu, and other related practices, are based on the same concept of channeling or manipulating a force. In these cases, the force is viewed as a healing force from God or as a flow of chi believed to be part of a universal energy. However, these practices are nothing more than thinly disguised occult healing methods. Many people do not realize that such healing has been a part of magic and sorcery for centuries. Therapeutic Touch is exactly like psychic healing (and derives from that, originating with a member the occult Theosophical Society who taught this to a nurse), and Reiki originates from similar occult beliefs.
Occultists readily admit the connection between energy and magick. Starhawk, a well-known witch and author, states that energy "what the Chinese call chi – flows in certain patterns throughout the human body and can be raised, stored, shaped, and sent. . . . this is the theory that underlies acupuncture and other naturopathic systems of healing, as well as the casting of spells and magical workings," (Starhawk, Truth or Dare [HarperSanFrancisco; New York: HarperCollins paperback, 1987], 24).
If you would like to read more about this topic, the author's book, SpellBound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today's Kids (Sept, 2006), goes into these issues in-depth. This book is available on many sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD, and in Christian bookstores, or it can be ordered for you by any bookstore.

By Marcia Montenegro [*] (updated February 2007)


Saturday, October 29, 2011


Halloween has origins in Celtic and pagan rituals when people believed that Samhain (the Celtic name for Halloween, pronounced 'sow-ain') was a time when the veil between this world and the next was thinnest; therefore, communication and contact with spirits or the spiritual realm was strongest.
Rosemary Guiley states that Samhain "celebrates the beginning of winter, marked by death, and the beginning of the Celtic New Year.....(....)....Samhain is a time for taking inventory of life and getting rid of weaknesses and what is no longer desired," [__The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft__, 2nd ed., (NY, NY: Checkmark Books/Facts on File, p. 356)].
Halloween is one of the eight sacred or special days of celebration for many in the Pagan community. However, there is no evidence that any group uses this day as a day of sacrificing animals or people, and Christians therefore should not assume this nor believe wild stories about such practices, nor should Christians spread such stories. Christians need to remember the commandment about not bearing false witness. Pagan holidays are connected to the Pagans' reverence for nature and the seasonal changes; sometimes these beliefs incorporate and celebrate the stories of various pagan gods. And no matter what beliefs people hold, as Christians we are called on to respect all people because all men have been created in the image of God.
Christians should not buy into rumors that witches or Satanists are killing people or sacrificing them on this day. Christians should consider Halloween a good day to pray for those in the occult, that they would come to know the love and grace of Christ, and the forgiveness of sins through trusting Christ as the Savior who shed His blood on the cross for them. This is the message they need to hear in love.
As for trick-or-treating, that is up to the individual parent. Certainly, one hopes that Christians would not let their child dress up as a witch, demon, devil, ghost, or other figure that belongs to the world of death or the occult.
Churches can offer alternative celebrations, such as a harvest day, and invite the area children to come play games, have treats, and hear Bible stories.
Since Halloween is my birthday, I have a special concern for this day. It is ever a personal reminder to me of the passage of time, and a reminder of those in the occult who embrace darkness and need the Light of Christ.
Jesus read in the Temple these words from Isaiah 61: "'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'" (Luke 4:18-21; Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy).
"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14).

By Marcia Montenegro, CANA (

Other Views:



The Law Reveals Sin

“What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” - Romans 7:7
God’s holy standard exposes man’s rebellious heart.
So far in Romans, Paul has told us what the law can’t do: it can’t save us (3—5) or sanctify us (6). At this point the apostle anticipates and answers a question that naturally arises: What, then, was the purpose of the law? Was it evil? In the next few days we’re going to consider three important purposes the law served.
First, the law reveals sin. Sin is a violation of God’s righteous standard (1 John 3:4); if no such standard existed, there would be no sin. In Romans 3:20 Paul said that “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Romans 4:15 adds, “Where there is no law, neither is there violation,” and Romans 5:13 reveals that “sin is not imputed when there is no law.”
To the question “Is the Law sin?” Paul replies emphatically, “May it never be!” Such a question is as absurd as it is blasphemous; an evil law could never proceed from a holy God. Paul goes on to say, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law.” The law brought the proud Pharisee Saul of Tarsus face to face with his utter sinfulness, revealing his need for a Savior and preparing his heart for his life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.
The specific commandment Paul cites, the injunction against coveting, is revealing. Coveting is an internal attitude, not an external act. It was the realization that God’s law applied to his attitudes, not merely his external behavior, that devastated Paul. He was forced to realize that all his external self-righteousness was worthless because his heart wasn’t right. I pray that you too will be “obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (Rom. 6:17).
Suggestions for Prayer:
Pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Ps. 139:23-24).
For Further Study:
Read Isaiah 1:14-20; Amos 5:21-27; Matthew 23:25-28. What does God think of mere outward conformity to His law?


Friday, October 28, 2011

Following Your Heart

Have you ever heard someone tell you that you should follow your heart? That phrase is very descriptive of the worldly philosophy which says, “ let your heart guide you.” No matter how major the decision we have to make in life, we are encouraged to do what we “feel” our heart tells us to do. We are told that we are being “untrue to ourselves” if we do not follow the yearnings of our hearts. Even in Christianity we are told that God speaks directly to our hearts, giving us direction for life. Are we instructed by God to follow our hearts? What does the Bible have to say on this subject? 
I believe Jeremiah describes our heart best:
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
The Bible is replete with passages warning us of the evil of our own hearts. 

 Eccl 9:3 ...The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.
Ps 10:2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. 3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. 4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
Matt 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander
Rom 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts...
Our hearts are wicked and as Jeremiah said, deceitful above all things. It is, according to Jeremiah, beyond cure!
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
There is nothing man can do to cure the evil within his heart. His heart is deceitful and no amount of therapy, medication, or religion can cure it. But what about Jesus? When a person is saved, does Jesus cure their evil heart? No, the Bible says we are given a new heart and a new spirit.
Ezek 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
The New Testament often refers to this change. We are told that when we are saved we are not creatures with repaired hearts but rather we are a new creation!
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation ; the old has gone, the new has come!
Eph 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness
While there is a new heart and spirit within us, the fleshly desires of our hearts still remain. We will continue, as Paul did, to battle between the two (Rom 7:14-25). We must decide, each and every day, whether or not we live by the Spirit or give into the flesh.
Gal 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law...25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
So, how do we know which one we are following? How can you be certain that the tugging or desire of your heart is coming from God rather than the flesh? Is there a certain way we feel, a certain sign we will have, or a miraculous gift such as tongues that will confirm it for us? NO! The only way to be sure you are following the Spirit is to compare what you desire with what God's Word says. In this same passage Paul tells us what the acts of the flesh are and what the fruit of the Spirit will be. We are constantly reminded of what is and is not acceptable behavior for a Christian.
Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
If your heart tells you to divorce your spouse, have an affair, have premarital sexual relations, be involved in a homosexual lifestyle, to have an abortion, to abuse our spouse, or anything that is contrary to God's Word we can know that is not the Spirit leading us! That is a desire of the flesh! We can NOT trust our feelings, emotions, or the desires of hearts to be our guide in life. Our hearts are deceitful above all things, do not let it lead you into hardship. That is why God gave us His Word. It is useful for teaching us what is right and what is wrong.
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The word follow appears 189 times in the NIV. In the Old Testament we are told over and over again to follow the commands of God and to follow the Lord. Between all four gospels, Jesus is recorded as saying “follow me” 18 times. Not one of those verses tells us to follow our hearts. There is no indication in Scripture that we are should be guided by the feelings, desires, or tugging at our hearts. The only way we can follow Jesus is to know what He said. To do that we must read and study God's Word.
Jude warned us well. He told us we must contend for the faith that was entrusted to the saints. How can we contend for that faith, if we do not know what the saints believed? He then warned us that in the last days, instead of following that faith, many would follow their own evil desires, their own ungodly ways, and mere natural instincts. We are warned that people would be following these things (as so many are today), but Jude instructs us not to do so.
Jude 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord... 16 These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. 17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." 19 These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
We can only know if we are following the “most holy faith” by comparing our faith with what the Bible teaches. If your heart is deceitful above all things, then you cannot trust it to guide you in life. That tugging in your heart could simply be a mere natural instinct. The strong desire you have could be an evil and fleshly one. The decision you feel “led” to make could be an ungodly one. We do not have to be in the dark about these matters. While the world tells us to follow our hearts, God gives us something more reliable and stable to follow. Something that will never pass away. His Word is the lamp that sheds light on the path we are to follow.
Ps 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Trust in His Word and let it be your guide. 

(Taken from:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Most Wonderful Promise

  True Christianity stands in stark contrast to every other religion ever known. It did not take even the casual listener long to realize that the teaching and conduct of Jesus were poles apart from that of the scribes and Pharisees. They argued complex matters of the law, split religious hairs, and attempted to instruct the people in theological dogma that enslaved them in legalistic observances. In contrast, Jesus spoke with an authority that left no room for debate, even while it set men free. Moreover, the freedom He offered to all men was not based upon their ability to achieve it under His inspiration, but upon who He claimed to be what He would personally do for them that they could not possibly do for themselves.
  Startling promises about an unearthly dimension of existence fell continually from the lips of our Lord. In referring to heaven, Jesus used a term previously unknown: He called it "my Father's house." There He had dwelt in eternity past, there He would return, and there He promised to prepare a place of everlasting habitation for His followers.
  In the entire history of Israel not even one of her greatest prophets or kings had ever called God his "Father."  How dare this carpenter do so! In response to the rabbis' angry accusations and questions about His "Father," Jesus replied bluntly: "Ye are from beneath, I am from above; ye are of this world, I am not of this world" (John 8:23). Finally, but with great compassion, He solemnly warned those who rejected Him:

  "I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come...for if ye believe not that I am he( Jehovah, the I AM of the burning bush, the Messiah, the Son of God), ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:21.24).

  Here was a man who authoritatively, yet graciously and humbly, claimed to be different from everyone else- God's one and only Son, who had come from heaven to visit earth on a special mission. He offered to make all men children of God and citizens of heaven. They could be 'born-again' if they would only believe in Him as the Savior of the world who had come to earth to die for their sins.
   Such unorthodox but convicting statements enraged the Jewish religious leaders. Recognizing that Jesus was claiming to be God, the rabbis unsuccessfully attempted several times to stone Him. Eventually, of course, they had Him crucified for this "blasphemy," unaware that they were thereby fulfilling the predictions of their own prophets that Israel would despise and put to death the Messiah the first time He came to His own people (Isaiah 53).
  Instead of presenting a religious philosophy, Christ offered Himself. Nor did He offer to point out the way to heaven or guide men there.  He claimed to be the one and only way to that place of bliss and joy that all men hoped somehow to reach when they died. And to that audacious claim He added yet another, even more astonishing and wonderful. It was a concept beyond the imagination-something that no religious leader had ever conceived of, much less dared to propose.
  The heaven Jesus referred to as His "Father's house of many mansions" was no mere paradise where He would only welcome His followers' disembodied spirits after they died.  On the contrary, He assured them that one day very soon He would take them there alive and bodily. And even if they died before His return, he would resurrect their bodies and completely transform them.  As we have already noted, the Christian's heaven is not only a place but a higher state of being in glorified spiritual yet tangible bodies in the very presence of Christ for eternity.

  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)

  What an incredible promise! It filled their hearts with joy and wonder, but it also raised so many new questions that they were afraid to ask. Where was His "Father's house." and how would He take them there? How long would their Lord need to "prepare" those mansions for them in heaven? Knowing His miraculous power the disciples could not have thought it would take much time.
  There can be no doubt that the early church expected Christ to "come again" very soon to take them back to His heavenly home. This was the great hope that sustained them through the persecution and trials that came on the heels of His departure from this earth. And if they should be martyred first, which seemed more than likely in those days, they knew they would be instantly in His presence though their bodies would temporarily be left behind.

(Excerpt from Dave Hunt's book: "Whatever Happened to Heaven.")

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What is truth?

Depending upon who you ask today, the question "What is Truth" will get you very different answers and, perhaps, lead to even more questions. Here are some current thoughts on truth:

There is No Absolute Truth.

But wait a minute! This statement is making an absolute claim to truth. It defeats its own claim.

Truth is Relative.

Does that include the statement that truth is relative? It would have to, making this statement invalid since no claim to truth can be made by this statement, including the claim that truth is relative.

You have Your Truth and I have My Truth.

And if your truth and my truth are in conflict, what do we have? Can there be conflicting truths? If so, then how do you determine what is valid? If my truth is that there is no God, and your truth is that there is a God, does that really effect whether there is a God or not? Saying that we each have our own truth may make us comfortable but we would have to not care about truth to say this, because no matter what my experience or your experience tells us, the truth exists as it is.

Truth is within You.

Seek truth within yourself and you are back to what your experience tells you or to what you want to be the truth. Your perception may affect you and be true to what you want to believe, but it does not affect what the truth really is. Your experience and belief could be telling you that something false is true.

So what is Truth?

If you're tired of wondering or of playing these mind games, consider that maybe truth is not all that complex. Maybe it is something a child can grasp. Maybe truth is a person. The God-Man Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
Will you be like Pilate, who asked "What is truth?" (John 18:38) right after Jesus said to him, "And I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true," (John 18:37b)?
Or will you be like the Roman officer who saw Jesus die on the cross and said, "Truly, this was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39)
As Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, " (John 11:25) and "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved; and shall go in and out, and find pasture," (John 10:9).

(Taken from:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How Does the Death of Jesus Save Me?

I’ve been told that Jesus died for my sins. What does that mean exactly? How could the death of Jesus help me get to heaven? What does the death of Christ save me from?
One way to understand the meaning of the death of Jesus is to imagine a courtroom scene in which we are on trial for our sins and God is the judge. Our sins against God are capital crimes. God Himself is our judge, and according to divine law our crimes deserve the death penalty. Death, in a spiritual sense, means eternal separation from God in unending torment. That’s a very serious judgment.
By shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus took the punishment we deserve and offered us His righteousness. When we trust Christ for our salvation, essentially we are making a trade. By faith, we trade our sin and its accompanying death penalty for His righteousness and life.
In theological terms, this is called “substitutionary atonement.” Christ died on the cross as our substitute. Without Him, we would suffer the death penalty for our own sins. Here are a few verses that explain this concept:
He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
(1 Peter 2:23-24)
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way: “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). For God to forgive our sins, His judgment had to be satisfied and that required the shedding of blood.
Some object, “Shedding blood seems so barbaric. Is it really necessary? Why doesn’t God simply forgive us?” Because God is holy, He must judge sin. Would a just and righteous judge let evil go unpunished? At the cross, God poured out His judgment on His Son, satisfying His wrath and making it possible for Him to forgive us. That’s why Jesus shed His blood for your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world.
At what moment during the crucifixion ordeal did God pour out His judgment on His precious Son? Many theologians believe it was toward the end of the three-hour period of darkness when Jesus cried out: “‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34). By taking upon Himself the sins of the world, Jesus removed Himself from God’s holy presence, and God, in turn, removed Himself from His Son. It was a temporary but excruciating separation, for at that moment, the Son of God became Father-forsaken.
God unleashed His wrath on His Son so that we might be spared that awful fate. This is the central message of the cross and the reason for our hope: God forsook His Son so that He might never forsake us. God assures us, “‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Isn’t that a wonderful promise?
Have you placed your trust in Jesus Christ as the substitute for your sin? Do you believe that Jesus died for you in order to give you eternal life and that He rose from the dead victorious over sin? If not, we encourage you to receive Jesus as your Savior right now. You can express your desire in a prayer like this:
Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins and rose again. I trust in You as my Savior now. Forgive me of my sins, and make me into the kind of person You would have me to be. Thank You for your gift of eternal life. Amen.
If you truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have eternal life. You can rest in that truth. The apostle John has written: “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11-12). When you have the Son of God, the Lord Jesus, you have eternal life.
If you've prayed this prayer and you wish to find out more about knowing God and His plan for you in the Bible, contact us at Insight for Living. You can speak to one of our pastors on staff by calling (972) 473-5097.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Judgment Day: Islam, Israel, and the Nations

Israel is the major topic of the Bible. The word “Israel” occurs 2,565 times in 2,293 verses. More than enough prophecies have already been fulfilled in Israel’s unique history to prove that “the God of Israel” (203 times) is the true God. In Zechariah 12:2-3, He declares:

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
This is an amazing prophecy not only that Jerusalem, which was then in ruins, would become a burden to the whole world, but that all of Israel’s neighbors would be united against her. They have fought one another in the past. Yet today, for the first time in history, “all the people round about” are united by Islam to destroy Israel.

For more than 50 years, Israel’s neighbors have launched surprise attacks against her and she has proved too strong militarily, even though they outnumber her forty to one. God said, “I [will] make...Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood…and they shall devour all the people round about…” (Zech 12:6). Soundly defeated every time, her Muslim neighbors feign a desire for peace, hoping to deceive and ultimately destroy her—a strategy established by Muhammad.

The real battle is not between Arabs and Jews, but between Allah and Yahweh. There is no question of the outcome, but it will be costly for both sides: Israel will be severely punished for rebellion, and her enemies will be destroyed.

Exactly as foretold, Jerusalem is a burden to all people of the world. More than 60,000 individual votes have been cast in the UN against Israel. This tiny nation with one 1,000th of the world’s population has occupied one-third of the United Nations’ time—a burden indeed!

Skeptics accuse Christians of trying to fit current events to the Bible, claiming that no one recognized such prophecies until Israel was formed in 1948. On the contrary, for centuries most evangelical Christians have preached from the Bible the return of the Jews to their own land. Even John Owen, a leading Calvinist, wrote in the 17th century: “The Jews shall be gathered...into their homeland.” 1 This was also the opinion of the poet John Milton, of John Bunyan, Roger Williams, Oliver Cromwell, and many others.

Martin Luther wrote: “If the Jews are Abraham’s descendants…[they should be] back in their own land [with] a state of their own. But…[they are] scattered and despised.” 2 He therefore wrote off the Jews as God’s chosen people and persecuted them. But today the Jews are back in their own land after 2,500 years of being scattered worldwide, speaking Hebrew just as King David did 3,000 years ago. No other people have returned to reestablish their own nation and language after being cast out of their land for such a period of time.

Some prophecies applicable only to our day are frightening, foretelling God’s judgment. The language is often graphic:

If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine sword shall devour flesh… (Deut 32:41-42). For, behold, the LORD will come…to render his anger with his sword...(Isa 66:15,16). And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other…they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried.... (Jer 25:33)

The question is often asked as to whether the United States (or Canada, Australia, et al.) is in Bible prophecy. Of course! Scripture declares that every nation in the world will join together to invade Israel in the last days and be destroyed in the battle of Armageddon: “I will gather all nations [surely all includes America] against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken….Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations…” (Zech 12:9; 14:2-4).

But wouldn’t the United States be spared for being Israel’s friend? In fact, the U.S. State Department has often been against Israel. This was true in the Yom Kippur War. In a sneak attack (October 1973), 80,000 Egyptians overwhelmed 500 Israeli defenders along the Suez and 1,400 Syrian tanks swept down the Golan with only one Israeli tank in service to oppose them. Israel was taken by surprise. Most of her armed forces were on holiday. The initial success of the attackers so electrified the Arab world that nine other Arab states rushed to get in on the slaughter.

Historian David A. Rausch writes: “Jordan’s King Hussein sent two of his best armored brigades to Syria. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait financially underwrote the huge cost while sending thousands of troops to fight the Israelis. Kuwait lent her British-made Lightning jets to Egypt. Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi turned over forty French-made Mirage III fighters and 100 tanks. Iraqi MiG fighter jets as well as tank and infantry divisions fought on the Golan Heights, while a squadron of Iraqi Hunter jets were utilized by Egypt. Arabs predicted the extermination of the Jewish state and the ‘liberation’ of Palestine....” 3

The Soviet Union blocked any UN attempt at a cease-fire and refortified the Arab forces with armaments and supplies by sea and air. It was the closest Israel ever came to being defeated. But when the war ended, the Israeli tank columns were on the outskirts of Damascus and Cairo and could have taken those cities had they not turned back. Tragically, Israel suffered about 3,000 dead—which would be comparable to the U.S. losing 150,000. Except for a series of miracles from God, Israel would not have survived.

Where was her friend, the United States? Dozens of notices were sent to the Nixon White House by America’s National Security Administration (NSA) that an Arab Pearl Harbor was about to be launched against Israel. Nixon sat on them. Kissinger hid at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York the day of the attack and waited another three days before convening the UN Security Council. Declining to rush desperately needed military supplies to Israel, the White House said it had to be careful not to upset the Arabs and cause an oil crisis.

Six years earlier, on June 8, 1967, the fourth morning of the “Six-day War,” the USS Liberty, an electronics eavesdropping vessel, arrived off the Sinai coast and began to suck in every Israeli military communication, relaying it all to the British Secret Service’s giant computer installation on Cyprus. From there, complete maps of every Israeli military move were transmitted in advance to the Arab armed forces. With that help, the Arabs might have been able to use their overwhelming numerical superiority to turn the tide of the war. Israel had no choice except to sink the Liberty. Of course the media screamed about this “cold-blooded attack.” No one believed Israel’s public excuse that the Liberty had been mistaken for a hostile Egyptian ship—and neither the U.S. nor Israel has publicly told the truth.

Yes, the United States, too, will attack Israel and will be punished at Armageddon. God declares plainly that He will bring all nations against Israel to destroy them:

In the latter days...I will bring thee against my land…my fury shall come up in my face…there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel…the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things [on] the earth, and all the men [on] the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence…[all nations] shall know that I am the Lord. (Eze 38:16-23)

This is terrifying language! What causes this “great shaking” of the entire planet and every living creature upon it? God is personally coming to earth as He did at Mount Sinai when He gave the Law—and He is going to take vengeance upon the enemies of Israel!

There are two specific reasons for God’s judgment: “I will also gather all nations ...into the valley of Jehoshaphat [between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, where God miraculously destroyed invading nations without Israel lifting a finger (2 Chr 21:10-25)], and will plead with [punish] them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have [1] scattered among the nations, and [2] parted my land” (Joel 3:2).

Of course, all nations have participated in persecuting and scattering the Jews from country to country for 2,500 years. The second reason for God’s judgment falling on all nations, however, is something that has only occurred within our generation: “they have…parted [divided] my land.”

Israel has been overrun by invaders many times—but never did any conqueror divide the land. The victor does not share its spoils with others. Since World War I, however, all nations have joined to divide the land of Israel.

The 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, and the 1922 Declaration of Principles by the League of Nations all recognized that the land that had become known as “Palestine” (since the Romans renamed Israel in A.D. 135) belonged to the Jews. It was set aside to become the national homeland of the Jewish people “internationally guaranteed, and…formally recognized to rest upon ancient historic connection.” Of course, history ties Israel to all of “Palestine.”

Britain was given the mandate to see that the Jews were safely settled there. The discovery of huge reservoirs of oil under Arab lands caused Britain to keep Jewish immigrants out and let in tens of thousands of Arabs. Just when millions of Jews desperately needed a haven to which they could flee from Nazi Germany, Britain’s 1939 White Paper limited Jewish immigrants to 10,000 per year for a maximum of five years, plus an additional 25,000 “refugees” during that period—then the door to Palestine would be shut entirely to the Jews. Since the Nazis had marked for extinction 11 million Jews in Europe, the quota of 25,000 defied God and conscience.

A year earlier, President Roosevelt had gathered delegates from 32 countries in Evian, France, to discuss the worsening plight of the Jews. Roosevelt made it clear that the United States would do nothing. Britain said there was no room in Palestine and it was not to be discussed. Professing their great sympathy for Europe’s Jews that everyone knew were to be exterminated, the nations offered various excuses why they could do nothing to intervene.

Hitler shrewdly declared, “We...are ready to put all these criminals at the disposal of these countries...even on luxury ships.” When the conference ended with the Jews completely abandoned, Hitler mocked the participants: “It was recently regarded as wholly incomprehensible why Germany did not wish to preserve in its population...the Jews…[yet these] countries seem in no way anxious to [receive them] now that the opportunity offers.” The entire world was Hitler’s partner in destroying the Jews!

In 1944, Hitler offered to sell to the allies 500,000 Hungarian Jews for $2 each—and no one would take them! England said there was “no room” in Palestine for them! In 1943, Britain and America had agreed to say and do nothing about the Holocaust, fearful that if pressed, Hitler would dump the Jews on his critics. The Allies steadfastly refused the repeated urgent appeals from Jewish organizations to bomb the rail lines going in and out of the extermination camps. God will judge all nations!

After the war, a trickle of emaciated survivors of Hitler’s death machines sought to reach “Palestine” in half-sinking ships. Some who got within sight of the land God had given to them as an everlasting inheritance (1 Chr 16:15-18) were driven back by the British navy and put into internment camps on Cyprus. Many who did manage to find shelter within what would become the new Jewish State of Israel were rounded up by the British and removed to those camps. Britain created Jordan out of most of the Promised Land. The demise of the British Empire, upon which “the sun never sank,” can be counted from the time Britain betrayed the Jews—one more fulfillment of the prophecy, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee…” (Gen 12:3).

When the UN finally voted to partition Palestine on November 29, 1947 (UN Res. 181), God’s “chosen people” received about 13 percent of the land that had once belonged to them! Thus Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled that all nations would join to divide Israel. The only part of that prophecy remaining to be fulfilled is the judgment on the nations for having “parted” God’s land: “The land shall not be sold [partitioned] for ever; for the land is mine” (Lev 25:23).

God’s anger is growing hotter against the nations of this world for robbing Israel of what He gave to her. Yet in continued defiance of God, every peace proposal that the West has imposed upon Israel has involved further dividing of God's land. President Bush, a professing Christian, originated the so-called “road map to peace,” which calls for a further dividing of the land of Israel. He ought to tremble and repent, as should President Putin, the EU, and the UN, who have joined Bush to make up the “quartet” sponsoring this plan.

On her part, Israel has been willing to give away more and more land in exchange for promises of “peace” from the PLO in spite of the fact that its charter calls for the destruction of Israel and that its maps and those of the entire Arab world do not even acknowledge Israel’s existence. The fact that Israel has been forced to do so by the West is no excuse. For this she will be punished severely in what is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7). Yes, God will deliver her, but only after two-thirds of all Jews on earth have been killed (Zec 13:8,9).

There is no more appropriate place and way to destroy the nations that have abused Israel than when they, in the spirit of Satan, come to effect once and for all what Hitler called the “final solution to the Jewish problem.” Believers are to meet together to encourage and exhort one another from Scripture, “so much the more, as ye see the day [of judgment] approaching” (Heb 10:25). Fulfilled prophecies are heralding that day as never before.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Biblically-Anemic Preaching: The Devastating Consequences of a Watered-Down Message

The Devastating Consequences of a Watered-Down MessageThose who are familiar with my ministry know that I am committed to expository preaching. It is my unshakable conviction that the proclamation of God’s Word should always be the heart and the focus of the church’s ministry (2 Tim. 4:2). And proper biblical preaching should be systematic, expositional, theological, and God-centered.

Such preaching is in short supply these days. There are plenty of gifted communicators in the modern evangelical movement, but today’s sermons tend to be short, shallow, topical homilies that massage people’s egos and focus on fairly insipid subjects like human relationships, "successful" living, emotional issues, and other practical but worldly—and not definitively biblical—themes. These messages are lightweight and without substance, cheap and synthetic, leaving little more than an ephemeral impression on the minds of the hearers.

Some time ago I hosted a discussion at the Expositors’ Institute, an annual small-group colloquium on preaching held at our church. In preparation for that seminar, I took a yellow legal pad and a pen and began listing the negative effects of the superficial brand of preaching that is so rife in modern evangelicalism.

I initially thought I might be able to identify about ten, but in the end I had jotted down a list of sixty-one devastating consequences. I’ve distilled them to fifteen by combining and eliminating all but the most crucial ones. I offer them as a warning against superficial, marginally biblical preaching—both to those who stand behind the pulpit and to those who sit in the pew.

1. It usurps the authority of God over the soul. Whether a preacher boldly proclaims the Word of God or not is ultimately a question of authority. Who has the right to speak to the church? The preacher or God? Whenever anything is substituted for the preaching of the Word, God’s authority is usurped. What a prideful thing to do! In fact, it is hard to conceive of anything more insolent that could be done by a man who is called by God to preach.

2. It removes the lordship of Christ from His church. Who is the Head of the church? Is Christ really the dominant teaching authority in the church? If so, then why are there so many churches where His Word is not being faithfully proclaimed? When we look at contemporary ministry, we see programs and methods that are the fruit of human invention, the offspring of opinion polls and neighborhood surveys, and other pragmatic artifices. Church-growth experts have in essence wrested control of the church’s agenda from her true Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Puritan forefathers resisted the imposition of government-imposed liturgies for precisely this reason: They saw it as a direct attack on the headship of Christ over His own church. Modern preachers who neglect the Word of God have yielded the ground those men fought and sometimes died for. When Jesus Christ is exalted among His people, His power is manifest in the church. When the church is commandeered by compromisers who want to appease the culture, the gospel is minimized, true power is lost, artificial energy must be manufactured, and superficiality takes the place of truth.

3. It hinders the work of the Holy Spirit. What is the instrument the Spirit uses to do His work? The Word of God. He uses the Word as the instrument of regeneration (1 Pet. 1:23; Jas. 1:18). He also uses it as the means of sanctification (John 17:17). In fact, it is the only tool He uses (Eph. 6:17). So when preachers neglect God’s Word, they undermine the work of the Holy Spirit, producing shallow conversions and spiritually lame Christians—if not utterly spurious ones.

4. It demonstrates appalling pride and a lack of submission. In the modern approach to "ministry," the Word of God is deliberately downplayed, the reproach of Christ is quietly repudiated, the offense of the gospel is carefully eliminated, and "worship" is purposely tailored to fit the preferences of unbelievers. That is nothing but a refusal to submit to the biblical mandate for the church. The effrontery of ministers who pursue such a course is, to me, frightening.

5. It severs the preacher personally from the regular sanctifying grace of Scripture. The greatest personal benefit that I get from preaching is the work that the Spirit of God does on my own soul as I study and prepare for two expository messages each Lord’s Day. Week by week the duty of careful exposition keeps my own heart focused and fixed on the Scriptures, and the Word of God nourishes me while I prepare to feed my flock. So I am personally blessed and spiritually strengthened through the enterprise. If for no other reason, I would never abandon biblical preaching. The enemy of our souls is after preachers in particular, and the sanctifying grace of the Word of God is critical to our protection.

6. It clouds the true depth and transcendence of our message and therefore cripples both corporate and personal worship. What passes for preaching in some churches today is literally no more profound than what preachers in our fathers’ generation were teaching in the five-minute children’s sermon they gave before dismissing the kids. That’s no exaggeration. It is often that simplistic, if not utterly inane. There is nothing deep about it. Such an approach makes it impossible for true worship to take place, because worship is a transcendent experience. Worship should take us above the mundane and simplistic. So the only way true worship can occur is if we first come to grips with the depth of spiritual truth. Our people can only rise high in worship in the same proportion to which we have taken them deep into the profound truths of the Word. There is no way they can have lofty thoughts of God unless we have plunged them into the depths of God’s self-revelation. But preaching today is neither profound nor transcendent. It doesn’t go down, and it doesn’t go up. It merely aims to entertain.

By the way, true worship is not something that can be stimulated artificially. A bigger, louder band and more sentimental music might do more to stir people’s emotions. But that is not genuine worship. True worship is a response from the heart to God’s truth (John 4:23). You can actually worship without music if you have seen the glories and the depth of what the Bible teaches.

7. It prevents the preacher from fully developing the mind of Christ. Pastors are supposed to be under-shepherds of Christ. Too many modern preachers are so bent on understanding the culture that they develop the mind of the culture and not the mind of Christ. They start to think like the world, and not like the Savior. Frankly, the nuances of worldly culture are virtually irrelevant to me. I want to know the mind of Christ and bring that to bear on the culture, no matter what culture I may be ministering to. If I’m going to stand up in a pulpit and be a representative of Jesus Christ, I want to know how He thinks—and that must be my message to His people too. The only way to know and proclaim the mind of Christ is by being faithful to study and preach His Word. What happens to preachers who obsess about cultural "relevancy" is that they become worldly, not godly.

8. It depreciates by example the spiritual duty and priority of personal Bible study. Is personal Bible study important? Of course. But what example does the preacher set when he neglects the Bible in his own preaching? Why would people think they need to study the Bible if the preacher doesn’t do serious study himself in the preparation of his sermons? There is now a movement among some in ministry to trim, as much as possible, all explicit references to the Bible from the sermon—and above all, don’t ever ask your people to turn to a specific Bible passage because that kind of thing makes "seekers" uncomfortable. Some churches actively discourage their people from bringing Bibles to church lest the sight of so many Bibles intimidate the "seekers." As if it were dangerous to give your people the impression that the Bible might be important!

9. It prevents the preacher from being the voice of God on every issue of his time. Jeremiah 8:9 says, "The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have?" When I speak, I want to be God’s messenger. I’m not interested in exegeting what some psychologist or business guru or college professor has to say about an issue. My people don’t need my opinion; they need to hear what God has to say. If we preach as Scripture commands us, there should be no ambiguity about whose message is coming from the pulpit.

10. It breeds a congregation that is as weak and indifferent to the glory of God as their pastor is. Such preaching fosters people who are consumed with their own well-being. When you tell people that the church’s primary ministry is to fix for them whatever is wrong in this life—to meet their needs, to help them cope with their worldly disappointments, and so on—the message you are sending is that their mundane problems are more important than the glory of God and the majesty of Christ. Again, that sabotages true worship.

11. It robs people of their only true source of help. People who sit under superficial preaching become dependent on the cleverness and the creativity of the speaker. When preachers punctuate their sermons with laser lights and smoke, video clips and live drama, the message they send is that there isn’t a prayer the people in the pew could ever extract such profound material on their own. Such gimmicks create a kind of dispensing mechanism that people can’t use to serve themselves. So they become spiritual couch potatoes who just come in to be entertained, and whatever superficial spiritual content they get from the preacher’s weekly performance is all they will get. They have no particular interest in the Bible because the sermons they hear don’t cultivate that. They are wowed by the preacher’s creativity and manipulated by the music, and that becomes their whole perspective on spirituality.

12. It encourages people to become indifferent to the Word of God and divine authority. Predictably, in a church where the preaching of Scripture is neglected, it becomes impossible to get people to submit to the authority of Scripture. The preacher who always aims at meeting felt needs and strokes the conceit of worldly people has no platform from which to confront the man who wants to divorce his wife without cause. The man will say, "You don’t understand what I feel. I came here because you promised to meet my felt needs. And I’m telling you, I don’t feel like I want to live with this woman anymore." You can’t inject biblical authority into that. You certainly wouldn’t have an easy time pursuing church discipline. That is the monster that superficial preaching creates. But if you are going to try to deal with sin and apply any kind of authoritative principle to keep the church pure, you must be preaching the Word.

13. It lies to people about what they really need. In Jeremiah 8:11, God condemns the prophets who treated people’s wounds superficially. That verse applies powerfully to the preachers who populate so many prominent evangelical pulpits today. They omit the hard truths about sin and judgment. They tone down the offensive parts of Christ’s message. They lie to people about what they really need, promising them "fulfillment" and earthly well-being when what people really need is an exalted vision of Christ and a true understanding of the splendor of God’s holiness.

14. It strips the pulpit of power. "The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12). Everything else is impotent, giving merely an illusion of power. Human strategy is not more important than Scripture. The showman’s ability to lure people in should not impress us more than the Bible’s ability to transform lives.

15. It puts the responsibility on the preacher to change people with his cleverness. Preachers who pursue the modern approach to ministry must think they have the power to change people. That, too, is a frightening expression of pride. We preachers can’t save people, and we can’t sanctify them. We can’t change people with our insights, our cleverness, by entertaining them or by appealing to their human whims and wishes and ambitions. There’s only One who can change sinners. That’s God, and He does it by His Spirit through the Word.

So pastors must preach the Word, even though it is currently out of fashion to do so (2 Tim. 4:2). That is the only way their ministry can ever truly be fruitful. Moreover, it assures that they will be fruitful in ministry, because God’s Word never returns to Him void; it always accomplishes that for which He sends it and prospers in what He sends it to do (Isa. 55:11).

(By John MacArthur:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

God's Perspective on Marriage

In the beginning, God created, among other things, the perfect marriage. He did this by fashioning one of Adam’s ribs into the perfect mate for him. The couple began their new life in a dream home, a virtual masterpiece created by the supreme Architect of all time. In their pre-sin existence, Adam and Eve perfectly complemented and satisfied each other.

And yet there was more to their marital bliss than the absence of the contaminating influences of sin. The idyllic couple lived in close intimacy with God Himself, Whose presence permeated the Garden. In fact, this personal relationship was the primary aspect of the Lord’s plan. It was only after Adam and Eve indulged in sin that their fellowship with the Lord was broken. Once sin entered mankind, marital relationships would forever be marred by selfishness.

Hence, the majority of couples enter the relationship with a selfish viewpoint. For example, a young man first notices a girl’s body and immediately thinks, “Wow! Not only would she make me look good to others, but she would meet my every desire.” The young woman might entertain romantic fantasies about this “cute” guy falling madly in love with her.

Both enter marriage thinking solely about themselves and their own desires. When their spouse fails to measure up to their unrealistic expectations, they begin to fight for their rights. The end result is often divorce.

The Apostle Paul gives us a glimpse into what it takes to make a marriage work when he says, “The one who is married is concerned about… how he may please his wife,” or conversely for the wife, how she “may please her husband.” (I Corinthians 7:32-34)

Although Paul was making a separate point in this brief exchange, he provides one of the greatest insights into this subject that I know of: successful marriage happens when husbands and wives are determined to please each other. In a similar vein of thought, he later exhorted Ephesian men to love their wives the way Christ loved the church, “and gave Himself up for her…” Unquestionably, unselfishness is the foundational principle of love.

There is one more aspect to the perfect marriage that I should mention: Adam and Eve were called to fulfill a higher purpose. “The Lord took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) I believe this verse introduces a vital principal regarding God’s purpose in marriage.

Every couple needs to seek the Lord as to His purpose for their lives. This brings an added dimension to their relationship and shifts their focus off themselves to a higher calling and destiny. Some couples learn to love each other, but never step outside their own little existence to serve God and others.

For those who find their marriage in trouble – don’t despair. God is not only the marriage maker but also the marriage restorer. First, it is important to renounce and repent of selfishness, asking your spouse for forgiveness where necessary. Begin to invest in your spouse’s needs while setting aside your own needs and desires. Finally, and most importantly, begin to seek God together as to His calling and purpose for your marriage.

Habit patterns are not easily changed, so be patient with one another. Spend time daily with the Lord seeking His wisdom, love and patience. Allow the dew of His presence to water your relationship. You’ll find it will flourish.

By: David Ravenhill (Taken from:

David Ravenhill has worked as a missionary, pastor and teacher for over 40 years. He shares the passion of his father, Leonard Ravenhill, for the Body of Christ to return to holy living. For more on David Ravenhill, visit

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Left Behind: Can you still be Saved?

THE SADDEST DAY IN HUMAN HISTORY WILL BE THE DAY FOLLOWING THE RAPTURE OF THE SAINTS OF GOD! Once it sinks into the minds of a multiplied number of “Left Behind” individuals that Jesus has literally come to get the prepared saints and gone back to Heaven, it will be a traumatic moment of heartbreak and regrets. Some will commit suicide; some will go and kill preachers that did not preach the truth, while many will fall on their faces in sad and soul-searching repentance.

The idea of an Antichrist and the number 666 is understood by millions of people. Most ot these do not live a surrendered life to Jesus Christ. Many people are religious, but show no evidence of being truly “born again.” Even among the religious of our day, the “fear of God” is almost totally absent. There is a kind of religious facade that has come to characterize this present generation. Preaching the words of God, like Billy Sunday and D. L. Moody, etc., is utterly rejected by the church world. Many people literally hate old-fashioned ministers.
Suddenly, without warning, the Lord will descend into the clouds and the harvest of the earth will occur in a split second. The dead will rise and the saints that are still alive will be caught up with the resurrected and ascend to meet Him in the air. It will be over in less time than the benediction on Sunday morning. As the truth sinks in, the empty open graves are reported, and the missing ones are identified; an unexplainable fear will grip the hearts of millions. It will not be ordinary fear, but a kind of paralyzing fear that leaves the mind frozen in regrets. Many people who knew all about this event, but made no preparation, will be overtaken with insanity.
Preachers that bought into the liberal versions of Scripture or that did not preach the straightforward Gospel of the transformed life and holiness will be some of the saddest lost souls. Not only are they left, but also, many others are now left because of their compromise. The responsibility of misleading souls will drive some of these ministers to total despair. Liberal professors in church-related colleges and universities will be at the top of the hate list.
But No Escape! The most overwhelming of emotions that will slowly come to grip the “Left Behind” will be the hopelessness of their state. It is impossible to fully explain the kind of world that the “Left Behind” will suddenly discover. We can usually find a light at the end of our tunnels, but the world of that day will offer no such hope. No one who has any understanding of Bible prophesy will have any doubt that it is going to be hell on earth. It will never get any better from the moment the Rapture occurs until the Antichrist is defeated at the end of this future period. Satan will make his best effort to turn God’s creation into a wilderness beyond recovery. Only mercy can save the world from total destruction. The “Left Behind” crowd will find themselves in a world totally different from anything they ever dreamed possible. Let’s try to imagine some of the possible effects of the Rapture of the Saints.

  • 1. The Church Will Be Gone! Nothing will be so overwhelming as the fact that the church will be gone. Whatever is left of church related activities or ministries will be out of business. Just like the Jewish Temple was “out of business” when the veil was rent and Jesus had died on the cross, so the New Testament church will be “out of business” when the church age ends at the Rapture. Whatever activity left in churches will be the false church that will promote the new false messiah or Antichrist. There will be no church revival or anointed evangelist. Religious television will be even more deceiving than at this present time because all restraints will be lifted and utter deception will have a free reign.

  • 2. The Tribulation Church will be a “One World Church” that is already developing between the Catholics, hyper-Charismatics, liberal Protestants, and the pagans of the world. They will produce a religious excitement and fanfare so overwhelming that the whole earth will worship Satan actually believing that he is God. The Antichrist and the false anointing will be so spectacular that miracles, signs, and wonders will flood mankind. It will be paranormal activity that looks so real that only Bible lovers can discern the difference. Anyone who experiences the Blood-cleansing of Jesus Christ and becomes a testimony for Biblical truth will immediately be subject to being martyred for his/her faith.

  • Those that refuse the One Word Church will be an enemy of the government and every principle the New World Order loves. The hatred for the multitude that will be converted after they realize they have been “Left Behind” will cause the false church and the unholy trinity to go mad with anger. Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace will be light stuff compared to the evil designs used to martyr the young saints almost as quick as they are converted. The Bible gives a breathtaking picture of those quickly killed following the very beginning of the “Great Tribulation.”

  • Listen to the results of the fifth seal of Revelation six, “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” (Revelation 6:9-11). Remember, every true saint of God was raptured at the beginning of chapter four. Those saints are around the throne of God in Heaven; therefore, all of these new saints have been washed in the blood during the early days after the Rapture. They “were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” There will be no wimpy believers in the hotbed of evil during this period. It is all or nothing. Their deaths will be so vicious and evil that even “saints” will call on God to satisfy the injustice manifest against them.

  • These saints do not yet have their glorified bodies, but are awaiting their special resurrection and their crowns of martyrdom. The Lord’s word is “until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” In other words it had just begun, it was still at the early days of the seven years and many more martyrs were to follow. Anybody who misses the Rapture and decides to surrender to Christ must be prepared to die the kind of horrendous death reserved for the darkest period of wrath and tribulation ever experienced.

  • 3. The Restrainer Is God! The Spirit-filled life will not exist during the seven years of Great Tribulation. The Holy Ghost, as the “Believer’s Baptism,” will have ended that office and period of church history. This office of the Holy Ghost was to birth the church and prepare a Bride for the Bridegroom. While the Holy Spirit is omnipresent and in that sense is present in the world, His central focus during this seven years is to present the Bride to Christ at the Wedding Supper in Heaven. John sees the Holy Spirit before the Throne as the “Seven Lamps Of Fire”. His life giving presence will still be universal and at least open the hearts of repentant sinners to be washed in the Blood.

  • The absence of the Holy Ghost as the Restrainer will unleash evil to a level never known by mankind. >From creation to this dark period, the Holy Ghost has always restrained the devil and his legion of spirits. Satan’s ability to act unchecked and to exert his dark will on the earth will make for an environment so vile that no man can save another, even those of his own household. Listen as the Holy Ghost actually warned of this day in plain words to Ezekiel the prophet. “The word of the LORD came again to me, saying, Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it: Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 14:12-14). Hell is now almost ready to visit planet earth in its darkest acts of vileness known to humankind.

  • 4. Those to be saved must be fully prepared to give their life. While much of the world will be under Satan’s delusion, any person that understands his lies will know the truth of what is happening. There will be a multitude that know they have missed the world’s greatest hope, to be part of Christ’s Bride, and they will see the devil for who he is: a liar, a deceiver, and an imposter of the true God. This multitude will also quickly understand that to own Jesus Christ as Lord is to incur the absolute vengeance of Lucifer. There will be no middle ground. The gray areas will have totally vanished. It is Jesus Christ or Antichrist. It is God the Father or god the imposter. Suddenly, the will to die for Him (Jesus Christ) will become the only hope of the honest hearts that have escaped the deceiver.

  • The ones “Left Behind” now begin to wash themselves in the Blood of Jesus Christ. John describes the love of God that will be manifest in the very jaws of Satan’s fury. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11). Three things are clearly described. They are washed in the Blood of the Lamb, they are bold before the fury of the devil, and they love not their life even unto death. Nothing is so bold as a faith that is manifest when men see the devil for what he really represents. Our present society has lost the Biblical vision of how sadistic and sinister Satan and all of his horde can be. When the “Left Behind” sees the true picture, somehow the best of human action will be on display.

  • 5. This “Left Behind” multitude will fall in love with the Word of God. John indeed calls it a “multitude.” “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9). When John saw this crowd, he was perplexed and one of the elders asked him, “What are these . . . whence came they?” (Revelation 7:13). Apostle John was wise and said to the elder saint, “Sir, thou knowest.” The elder answered his own question, ” And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:14-17).

  • Their love for truth, developed in the heat of the Great Tribulation, will earn them a place “in His temple” and the Lamb Himself will dwell in the midst of them to provide them Heavenly fulfillment.They are not called Elders as the saints that are His Bride; they have no thrones or crowns of the bridal position. These will probably be guests of the Bride at the Marriage Supper. Surely, they will wear crowns of martyrdom. It appears that they are the third order of the “First Resurrection,” which are “Caught Up” near the middle of the Seven Year Tribulation.

  • 6. The Blood of the Lamb! The one factor that unites every victory over Satan and the wickedness on the earth is the “Blood of the Lamb.” Jesus Christ is identified from Revelation chapter four to the very end of this prophetic period (chapter 22) as the Lamb of God.” Twenty-six times in that period He is called the “Lamb of God.” These Tribulation Saints are never called elders; they are not a part of the church for there is no longer a true church. They are not identified in any action that suggest a church. No baptism in water, no opportunity to serve the Lord’s Supper, or any other great acts of His church before the Rapture. Individually, they have surrendered to the Word of God and washed themselves in the Blood of the Lamb.

  • There will be a fresh understanding of the power of the Blood that these Tribulation Saints will discover. The Bible emphasizes this because our generation has mostly forgotten the incredible power of faith in His shed blood. It’s faith in faith today or some strange kind of impartation that the false prophets have promoted. In the heat of the Great Tribulation, faith will return to its pure form and men will seek for simplicity of truth, not some titillation of flesh. These saints are certainly a robust multitude and must be reasoned in our understanding of redemption.

  • 7. Left Behind: Can You Be Saved? Nobody in his/her right mind will dare take this article as an encouragement to wait for salvation after the Rapture. In fact, if you are unsaved or unprepared for His glorious appearing to Rapture the Saints and you ignore this warning, that in itself is very dangerous. There is a multitude of disobedient people that have rejected the truth. They have loved the world more than the Word of God and the Bible warned of a false delusion to follow such action. The Holy Ghost gave us plain words. “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (II Thessalonians 2:10-12). Please do not take this warning lightly. Only God knows when a man/woman passes this point of “no return.”

There will be a multitude of religious people in the Seven Years of Great Tribulation that are worshippers of the Antichrist, deceived to believe that he is the true christ. They will be damned forever. To be a part of this deceived crowd is to be the greatest of foolish souls.
Conclusion! There is a “lawlessness” that prevades the very atmosphere. Never has it been easier to put off serving the Lord or to reject Him outright. Jesus said, “And because iniquity (lawlessness) shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12). There appears to be such a resistance in the world against anything that is narrow or straight-laced. Everything is broad and most people now believe that even Christianity has no sharp standards of right and wrong.
All of this is an evil delusion that Satan is masterminding. It is the last days and the way seems so broad and wide. It is hard to find people that will admit they are lost. Do not be fooled. Jesus gave a breathtaking warning as recorded in the Book of Luke. The Son of God stated,“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting (gluttoning on the world), and drunkenness (not just alcohol, but any state of undisciplined living), and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36).