Sunday, December 19, 2010

O Come, O Come Immanuel

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14 NKJV

As I took time this week to reflect on the reason we celebrate Christmas, the thought occurred to me that what a wonderful time of the year it would be for God to share another gift with us. What gift would that be? The gift of sending His Son to take us home. Like many, more and more my thoughts are fixed on the hope that we soon will go to be with our Lord and Saviour and begin to enjoy the gift He has given us, the gift of eternal life with Him. O Come, O Come Immanuel.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
Luke 2:1-16 NKJV

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

No Surprise

The burden of the word of the LORD against Israel. Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him: "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. "And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.
Zechariah 12:1-3 NKJV

Once again the headlines this week inform us of yet another attempt at forging a "mideast peace agreement" ending in failure. If you are a student of Bible prophecy this should certainly come as no surprise. As this passage from Zechariah makes clear, any effort to bring peace between Israel and it's enemies is doomed to failure. Why is that? Because what we are seeing is the groundwork laid for the fulfillment of yet another well known prophecy in the Bible, this one from the book of Daniel.

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate."
Daniel 9:27 NKJV

As most know, this verse refers to the coming world leader referred to most often as the "antichrist". When he appears on the scene he will "confirm", (a word meaning "enforce"), a peace agreement between Israel and it's enemies. Why "enforce"? Simply because what we are being told is that it proves impossible for the parties to agree to any sort of peace on their own. As the passage from Zechariah tells us, anyone (other than the coming antichrist) who makes an attempt at forging a peace agreement will fail. The phrase translated to "be cut in pieces" also can be translated "tattooed", which I actually find very interesting. If you think about it, every president in recent memory who has tried to involve himself with the "peace process" comes away "tattooed" with his failure.

If you have never taken the time to read and study the book of Zechariah, I invite you to start today. Often overlooked, the book is one of the "Minor Prophets" of the Old Testament, a name given to twelve books because of their small size, not their importance. In fact, next to Isaiah, there are more prophecies concerning the coming Messiah in it than any other book in the Old Testament. There are also plenty of prophecies concerning the time in history in which we find ourselves today. Oftentimes this book is referred to as the "Apocalypse of the Old Testament" because of the prophecies it contains concerning the future of Israel.

The stage is being set for the appearance of the antichrist. No one has had any success at forging any type of peace between Israel and her enemies, and according to the Bible, no one will. Until of course, the "man of sin" enforces a treaty which ushers in the seven year period of time we know as the Tribulation. How close is it?

Keep watching.

US drops Palestinian-Israeli track, formulates new Turkey-Iran deal

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis December 11, 2010, 12:21 PM (GMT+02:00)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had the thankless task of writing finis on the Obama administration's intense two-year effort to persuade Israelis and Palestinians to discuss peace. Her speech to the Saban Forum early Saturday, Dec. 11 was much awaited as Washington's first comment on the deadlock caused by Israel's refusal to meet the Palestinian demand for a second freeze on new settlement construction as their precondition for direct talks. The Secretary took care not to blame either side for the breakdown. "Palestinians must appreciate Israel's legitimate security concerns. And Israelis must accept the legitimate territorial aspirations of the Palestinians," she said, the closest she came to complaining about the obstacles which had defeated her government's efforts.
"We will not lose hope," she said. "Mr Obama has identified continued US engagement in peace talks as a key political goal." But she omitted the oft-repeated statement of the president's determination to achieve an accord within a year. Without setting out time tables or modes of action, she stressed it was time to "grapple with the core issues of this conflict" which she listed as borders, refugees, settlements, water and Jerusalem. "The land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea was finite," she said "and the people who live there need a clear border to map out their futures."
Clinton did not wait for analysts to define the scale of Washington's setback. She admitted frankly: "Like many of you, I am frustrated that we have not gotten farther, faster."
Obama clearly appreciates that like the presidents before him - Bill Clinton, who failed dramatically, and George W. Bush, who soon dropped out of US Middle East peacemaking - he had bitten off more than he can chew. It was time to pack up and abandon his ambitious bid to crack the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by direct action.
But Hillary Clinton's most intriguing comments was this: "The status quo is untenable. And we will redouble our regional diplomacy. When one way is blocked, we will seek another. "
debkafile's Washington sources disclose that what she had in mind was an alternative path which still remains to be marked out: It would move Middle East peacemaking out of the deadlocked US-Palestinian-Israeli track and introduce a new set of prime movers with the long-term goal of a regional peace settlement.
Washington has taken the first step of trying to resolve the Turkish-Israeli dispute over Ankara's maritime bid to bust the Gaza blockade in order to open the door to restoring the old dialogue and strategic relationship between Ankara and Jerusalem.
In a parallel step, the US has acted to bring Turkey into active mediation on the Iranian nuclear controversy. Washington will approve the talks with Iran the Six Powers (US, Russia, France, China, UK and Germany) embarked on this week ending in a deal for an enriched uranium swap to take place on Turkish soil under international supervision. Tehran has in the past demanded that this swap take place in Turkey. The Americans want to make sure that at no time, Iran holds enough enriched uranium for producing a nuclear bomb.
Once that accord goes through, the Erdogan government will be free to return to its interrupted role of 2007-2008 under the Olmert government as peace broker between Israel and Syria. An accommodation on that track, if achieved, would pave the way for Ankara taking over revived Israel-Palestinian negotiations.
Encouraged by Washington, Israeli diplomat Yosef Ciechanover and Turkey's deputy foreign minister Feridun Sinirlioglu held their first fence-mending talks in Geneva on Dec. 5. The ice was not broken.
Indeed, Friday, Dec. 10, Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said in Ankara: "There has been no change in Turkey's expectations from Israel. Israel has behaved unjustly against Turkey regarding aid ship Mavi Marmara and we are still expecting compensation and an apology."
debkafile: Israel regards the commandos who prevented the Turkish ship from reaching Gaza as having performed their duty to defend the blockade in the face of attacks by armed "peace activists" aboard the vessel.
At the same time, this week, the Israeli security cabinet approved the start of farm produce exports from Gaza to Europe, notwithstanding the rising level of Palestinian missile and mortar attacks from the territory on neighboring Israeli villages. The concession was intended to show Ankara that Jerusalem was willing to partially meet Turkey's demand to lift the Gaza blockade.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Enemy Within

"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, 'These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. "Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. "I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
Revelation 2:18-23 NKJV

Some time back I wrote an article in response to questions I was receiving concerning a movement called the “Emergent Church”. In that article I tried to explain my objections based on the deliberate attempt to misrepresent and outright change the doctrine of God clearly presented to us in the Bible. Sadly, since then this movement has continued to grow and gain popularity within the body of Christ.
In this passage from the book of Revelation, we find Jesus calling out the church at Thyatira for their toleration of apostasy. In this indictment, Jesus says that this evil is embodied in a woman named Jezebel. How appropriate is that considering what we know of the Jezebel of the Old Testament and her hatred of all things related to the worship of the One, True God of Israel. The Jezebel of the Old Testament attempted to combine the worship of God with the worship of idols, and killed many of the prophets. She also attempted to kill the prophet Elijah, resulting in the prophecy by Elijah of her death in 2 Kings.

'The dogs shall eat Jezebel on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her.'" And he opened the door and fled.
2 Kings 9:10 NKJV

Although many find it hard to believe that true believers could be deceived in this way, I think it is important to understand that God makes it clear that Satan's first, and most effective weapon is deception. Something I always like to point out is that when we are first introduced to Satan in the Garden of Eden, he attempts to deceive Eve by using something that looks, feels, and sounds attractive.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Genesis 3:6 NKJV

The theology of the Emergent Church, and others like it which teach a false gospel are fast becoming the most dangerous threat to the Church because it is an attack from within, not without. The following article goes far in explaining what is happening in the Church today, and hopefully will help you to better understand the position we find ourselves in as believers attempting to battle the apostasy prophesied to occur in the last days.

Is It Negative and Unbiblical to Name False Teachers?
By Brannon Howse

After our Worldview Weekend Rally in Rockford, Illinois on Sunday night November 21, 2010, we were informed that the church we had been renting for the past few years does not want us to return. What is really sad is this is the church in which my wife grew up and has included five generations of her family dating back to her great grandparents on both sides of her family. One set of great grandparents were two of the original 13 founders of this church.
At the conclusion of our November 21, 2010, Rockford Worldview Weekend we were told that three months before the rally the church staff had voted for Worldview Weekend not to return in 2011 because our 2009 rally was thought by some of the church staff to be too negative and that it was inappropriate to name the name of false teachers.
I asked what their senior pastor thought about that evening's Worldview Weekend Rally but was informed that the senior pastor had chosen not to attend the conference.
Please understand that I am not going to name the church because those that attended the conference and live in the area know the church of which I speak. I am not writing this article because of some kind of personal offense but to highlight how Biblical truth has become an offense to most of America's churches.
Many such churches would claim to love truth but what they really love is a man-centered Christianity that helps them obtain success in their marriage, finances, family, and a positive attitude that produces health and a successful personal life without the pain of dying to self, picking up the Cross of Christ and being persecuted for proclaiming Truth.
II Timothy 4:3 tells us that many Christians will only want to hear what makes them feel good and appeals to their flesh; "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears."

The 2009 speakers that joined me for the Worldview Weekend Rally in Rockford, Illinois included me, Dr. Erwin Lutzer and Dr. David Reagan.
In my 2009 presentation I spoke on the topic of my book Grave Influence and I did name such Emergent Church, false teachers as Pastor Brian McLaren who has said the cross and hell is false advertising for God. I named Pastor Bill Hybels that signed the Yale document that states that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Hybels has also had Brian McLaren at his church. I also mentioned Pastor Rick Warren who sits on the advisory board of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation that seeks to bring the religions of the world together. I also named Pastor Rob Bell who has proclaimed an abundance of heresy and who has also spoken as Bill Hybel's church. I spoke on why pagan spirituality was doubling in America every eighteen months and how many New Age practices had come into the churches of America such as "Christian" yoga and contemplative prayer. I explained how Christian could proclaim the Gospel to a postmodern culture that has become more interested in spirituality than theology. I also warned last year, as I did this year, that many churches are being compromised from within by church staff that do not adhere to the Biblical mandates and purposes of a New Testament church and are an inch deep and a mile wide in their doctrinal and theological understanding and commitment. I warned that the remnant should understand that our greatest opposition would not come from the government but from those that have the title "reverend" or "pastor" in front of their name. Click here to hear a few minutes of the presentation I presented at this church in 2009.
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In 2009, Dr. Lutzer spoke on seven lessons America should learn from Nazi Germany and Dr. Reagan spoke on 50 signs we are living in the last days. All three of us used a lot of scripture to equip those in attendance to understand the times and know what God would have them to respond.
Worldview Weekend is thankful for the churches that will allow us to rent their buildings but the increasing trend is that we are being forced to rent more and more hotel ballrooms because so few churches have leaders, staff, and pastors that have clear discernment, real courage under fire, and an unwavering commitment to Biblical truth in an age of non-judgmentalism, tolerance, and Christian happy talk.
No one ever said being a watchman on the wall that warns of impending danger was going to be a popular job but if popularity is what we seek then we are not seeking to be faithful to the One we serve and thus we have failed in our calling.
Warning the church of emerging dangerous, unbiblical trends, false teachers, a false gospel, and unbiblical theology and doctrine has now become negative in the eyes of many of today's hirelings. Jesus Himself told us that we would see those that claim to be shepherds/pastors that really have little concern for the sheep. In John 10:11-13 we read:
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
Listen to this audio of Pastor John MacArthur as he explains how Jesus named the names of false teachers and how this is the job of all Biblically minded Christians and true shepherds. In this audio clip Pastor MacArthur calls out Rick Warren by name for teaching a false gospel.
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Worldview Weekend will not be deterred in speaking truth no matter how unpopular it becomes with individuals or members of a church staff.
Needless to say, I was concerned how my wife would respond to this criticism since she was raised in this church. Her response revealed to me, once again, how blessed I am that God gave Melissa to me as a helpmate. Melissa's response was "why are you surprised, you knew this church was becoming increasingly liberal over the past few years. I was shocked they let Worldview Weekend return for the 2010 rally."

Melissa encouraged me to shake the dust from my shoes and go out and find a hotel ballroom. She also encouraged me to continue to bring the Worldview Weekend to Rockford because of all the people, including life-long friends, that come up to her at the resource table to express their thankfulness that Worldview Weekend returns to Rockford, IL each year.
In fact, that night, while standing behind our resource table, a medical doctor, that is a member of this church, handed my wife a letter he had written to his children after last year's Worldview Weekend in Rockford. In his letter he wrote in part:
…I attended a Worldview Weekend Rally at [name of church removed] on Sunday evening, November 22nd, and found it to be very helpful, informative, stimulating and timely."
This father went on to recommend that his children read some of the books written by the speakers.
At this point in time, all three books impress me as being coherent, credible, plausible, relevant, responsible, strategic and timely. I believe that they qualify as priority reading for serous Christian believers and church leaders who need and want to be alert to the crucial times in which we and our families are living."
This letter reveals a common response and a common problem that I have seen all across America-lay leaders that are more Biblically grounded, discerning, and committed to Biblical truth than some of their own church staff.
The Worldview Weekend in Rockford was held at another location a few years ago and has consistently had a large attendance regardless of where it is held. Thus, if you live in or near Rockford please know we will return and have already secured a hotel ballroom for the November 2011 Worldview Weekend Rally in Rockford, IL.
Let me answer the question of our article. Is it negative and unbiblical to name false teachers? The Bible is filled with examples of Jesus and others naming false teachers by name. For example, the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy names numerous people by name.

2 Timothy 1:15: Phygellus and Hermogenes
2 Timothy 2:17: Mymenaeus and Philetus
2 Timothy 3:8: Jannes and Jambress
2 Timothy 4:10: Demas
2 Timothy 4:14: Alexander the coppersmith
In III John 9, John named Diotrephes.
Jesus called out the false teachers in Matthew 23 and Luke 11.
I truly believe that one reason why God allows false teachers is to provide believers with a test of whether they will be faithful in their Biblical mandate to expose false teachers and thus protect the sheep from the spiritual poison of wolves in sheep's clothing.
Ephesians 5:11 makes it clear we are to expose false teachers; "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."
If a shepherd/pastor will not point out the wolves that are among the sheep then this should be a clear warning to the flock that the shepherd/pastor does not have their best interest in mind. Such a hireling is not called of God but is simply involved in an occupation for personal gain as revealed in I Timothy 6:5.
In addition, such non-shepherds are revealing that they are more interested in their reputation and being seen by the larger community as tolerant and non-judgmental as defined by the unsaved world.
False teachers also give the sheep the opportunity to test the commitment of their shepherds/pastors. If the pastors/shepherds on your church staff fail this Biblical test then it is time for the leaders of the church to replace such hirelings with real shepherds. If this Biblical action is not taken, then it is time for you to find a new flock that has a shepherd that will alert the sheep to the spirituality immature and even wolves in sheep's clothing that are on his own church staff.
Show me a shepherd/pastor that will not name false teachers and I will show you a false teacher.
Pastor Jim Bublitz gives further insight into the positive results that come when we name false teachers by name:
From those words it is clear that God allows teachers of error for the same reason as He does persecutors of His people: to test their love, to try their fidelity, to show that their loyalty to him is such that they will not give ear unto His enemies. Error has always been more popular than the Truth, for it lets down the bars and fosters fleshly indulgence, but for that very reason it is obnoxious to the godly.

The one who by grace can say "I have chosen the way of Truth" will be able to add "I have stuck unto Thy testimonies" (Psalm 119:30, 31), none being able to move him therefrom.
"For there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized." (1 Corinthians 11:19).
Committed Christians must publically name false teachers because it is impossible to privately correct public false teaching.
This fall I received an e-mail from a young lady that is a junior in high school near Atlanta, Georgia. In her e-mail she stated that because she had attended two Worldview Weekend Rallies in Atlanta and heard me expose the false teaching of emergent Pastor Rob Bell, she had been equipped to reject his false teaching when a Bible study group at her Christian school decided to read one of his books. She informed me that she immediately recognized the name of Rob Bell and remembered what I had spoken. This young lady had the courage and conviction to politely hand the book back to the group and to warn them of Bell's false teaching.

This young ladies testimony has come to my mind many times this fall and has been a real source of encouragement to me to continue to speak truth no matter how negative or offensive it may be to the non-discerning.
If I had not named the name of Rob Bell, how would this student had known to reject his book and false doctrine? If I had not named the name of Rob Bell would this student now be spiritually deceived? If I had not named Rob Bell by name would she have been able to warn her peers to this spiritual poison?

The late Pastor Vance Havner wrote, "We live what we believe; the rest is religious talk." Living what we believe includes our willingness to name the name of false teachers and to endure the criticism and persecution that will surely follow. To do any less would be treason to our calling, to our mandate, to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When we expose false teaching and false teachers we are proclaiming and defending the authority, accuracy, and application of God's Word; the very thing that false teachers seek to undermine.
Living what we believe requires speaking Biblical truth and Biblical warnings no matter how negative or offensive it may be to the spiritually immature, non-discerning or wolves that crept in among the sheep.
Jude 3:1-4 commands all believers to contend for the faith that is under attack from false teachers.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Truth is never negative to those who seek to serve The Truth.

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The most effective way to spot anything you suspect of being counterfeit, is to compare it side by side with what you know to be genuine. The same rule applies to this problem we face as a body of believers. Satan will use people who appear to be believers to introduce a deceptive theology which does not save. Our responsibility is to compare what is being taught with the original, which we do by searching the scriptures just like the Bereans of Paul's day.

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
Acts 17:11 NKJV

Never be afraid to examine closely what is being presented as coming from God, and neither be afraid to speak out when you suspect it of being false.

Keep watching.