Discernment Ministries

In these latter days, there is a great need for discernment in the church (and in the world) because of the rise of heretical teachings and apostasy.  Pastors and teachers, left and right, are embracing what they may think are truths, but upon examination are not Biblical.  This is a strong indication that our time on earth is growing short.  Deception is rampant.  False teachers, messiahs, and doctrines are so prevalent as to make us dizzy as we turn first one way then another to vet their Scriptural veracity.

We know the verses warning of these times:

1 Timothy 4:1-2

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

1 Timothy 6:3-5

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

1 Timothy 4:3-4

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

2 John 7-11

I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

There are many other such verses.

This has led to numerous Discernment Ministries that examine potentially questionable people, both what they say and what they do, potentially being the operative word.  One person’s practices might be of concern to one group, but not to another.  Generally, I think these ministries can be valuable to the Body of Christ.  I say generally because there are countless such ministries that do nothing but criticize in an unscriptural manner.  A quick example is that many of us believe whole-heartedly in the pre-Tribulation Rapture.  There are criticizers of this position who “discern” that it is errant, believing that its supporters are leading many straight into the throes of the Tribulation where those hapless followers will lose their salvation.  From what I’ve seen and heard, there’s quite a rabidity to a lot of these anti-pre-Tribbers.  This has led to numerous un-Christian-like verbal attacks, which leaves a lot of us scratching our heads.  Maybe the discerners in this instance should look in the mirror.

There are also many good ministries bringing a discerning spirit into the marketplace of Christian ideas.  Like all of us, the folks doing these ministries are fallible and subject to error.  They can also jump to conclusions that may be warranted, but perhaps should have been validated more fully.  In any of these circumstances, because of the public nature of the Internet where all things said never die, reputations can be tarnished on one side or the other.

Mistakes happen.  Misunderstandings can abound.  People and ministries get hurt.  Resolving a discerned error from either side of the position can be difficult.  Once the damage is done, again warranted or not, it’s hard to undo.

In a prior post I mentioned that recently I got involved at the periphery in a discernment dispute.  Because I happen to have some minor connections to the people on both sides of the issue, I believe the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me just watch from the sidelines.  My heart in this instance was to attempt to bring truth and resolution into the issue.  Both sides had valid arguments in my estimation.  It grieved me that the public nature of this situation seemed to bring a hardening from both camps.

The purpose of this particular message is ultimately one of methodology.  How should a discernment ministry go about its task?  I won’t dwell on these points, but try to succinctly lay them out.

  • The first and most obvious is that the Word of God should be the foremost means by which anyone is judged. Does the ministry in question adhere to Scripture?
  • When an issue arises and a question is asked whether someone is deviating from Scripture in their teachings, the source should always be noted.
  • There should be an investigation of the one accused of heretical teaching. Is there a consistent pattern of errant doctrine?  Or, are there simply things spoken that could be up for misinterpretation?  I think one aspect of this should also be to validate those various sources that led to the issue at hand.
  • The evidence should be accumulated and examined. Does it rise to the level of concern?  If the answer is yes, then the case continues.
  • If the discerning ministry believes a teacher has gone off the rails, the resolution effort MUST begin with the admonition of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

  • Every attempt should be made to go directly to the source for a direct confrontation in love. If we can’t follow the example of Jesus here, we’ve got more issues than discernment.
  • This one-on-one discussion should address all the issues of concern through a Biblical lens. From this encounter all aspects of the issue should be explored.  Resolution is the most desirable outcome in which one or both of the parties repents.  It’s possible the discerner was wrong; there must be admittance of error on whichever side it lies.  Paul in 1 Timothy 4:6 tells us the value of a discussion that gets at the truth:

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.

  • Sometimes, for one reason or another, access to the potentially offending party is difficult. Hopefully, however, the discerner can reach out to others who might have access to the person accused of speaking falsely.  If a public ministry, perhaps there’s an accountability board through which someone can go.  If the ministry has a public presence on Facebook or other social media, perhaps there is a closed group that can be joined and access attempted through the administrators of the group.
  • If neither of these approaches is successful and the discerner believes the public outing of the errors is necessary, that point is the one which corresponds to Jesus saying that it must be told to the church, in this case whatever forum the discernment ministry uses for its public exposure.
  • Even after this public outing, there should be every attempt at resolution. Often publishing on the Internet has the effect of getting people’s attention.  As Christian brothers and sisters, we MUST do everything in our power to bring the love of Christ into the situation.  Repentance, apology, forgiveness, whatever is needed should happen.  Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6:15:

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are NOT optional in the Kingdom of God.


Who Travels the Stairway to Heaven?

This morning in my daily Bible reading I came across the following verse in John 1:51, in which Jesus tells his soon-to-be disciples the wonders that await them as they follow Him:

“I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

How many times have I read that and moved on?  Quite a few, but not today.  The study notes in my Bible stated:

“Jesus represents himself as the ladder by which God’s revelation comes to the world (cf. Genesis 28:12).”

Because of the ladder reference, I knew what Genesis 28:12 was going to tell me before I turned there.  This is the story of Jacob on his journey back to reconcile with Esau.  He stops for the night, pulls up a comfortable rock to rest his head upon, and then:

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

Wow!  Once again, how many times have I read that and never related it to Jesus?  Yet the purpose of the entire Old Testament is to point to Jesus.

What does this tell us about the communication between heaven and earth and the access from earth to heaven?  Why did these verses rise to such an intense level of interest for me today?

Very briefly, I’ll answer the second question first.  Without using any names or specifics, let me just say that I got into the middle of a controversy and am trying to act as a facilitator/mediator.  The core issue is whether or not there is heavenly communication to loved ones or others on earth following death.

To most of us the answer should be obvious.  The Bible in Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says:

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.

Very clear.  We are not to communicate with the dead.  Doing so is an abomination to the Lord.  This is called necromancy.

What happens following death?  For a clear picture we turn to Luke 16:19-31, which is Jesus’ story of The Rich Man and Lazarus.  Most Bible commentators believe this is a real incident since Jesus uses a real name, the only time He does so in such a story.  The rich man dies and goes to Hades; Lazarus dies and goes into the arms of Father Abraham.  There is an unbreachable chasm between the two places.  The rich man begs Abraham to help him in some way, but that is impossible.  Then he begs for Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers about this awful place.

First, in Luke 16:26 Abraham says:

“And besides all that, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross from there to us.”

Then in Luke 16:31, Abraham nails the coffin shut on the rich man’s hopes that his brothers will turn from their wicked ways:

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Apparently, some people will never turn to the Lord.

The account in Luke 16 may raise the question, how does Jesus figure into this death scenario given Abraham as a main actor?  Personally, I think, since Jesus is the teller of this, that He may be using Abraham symbolically for Himself.  The reason I think this is because of 2 Corinthians 5:8, which says:

we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

Our New Testament understanding is that upon death we immediately go to be with Jesus.  I think this may also be a disembodied spiritual state at this point.  We are at rest following death and remain that way until certain prophetic events occur.  The main one in this regard is the Rapture.  In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 Paul spells this out:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

We learn in this passage that it’s ONLY upon the Rapture that those who have died in Christ are raised into glorified bodies.  How do I know this?  Because of 1 John 3:2:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

Okay, what do we know from all this?  Luke 16 doesn’t refer to a chasm between earth and heaven, but between Hades and heaven.  However, I think we can infer from Jesus’ own words that there is also a separation between earth and heaven.  When we die, we go to be with Jesus.  We’re only given new bodies following the Rapture.

That would mean that those in heaven right now do not have bodies.  That would also mean that anyone having a glimpse into heaven—which may or may not be valid; that’s not my point of contention here—will see, not necessarily their loved ones in actual glorified bodies, but perhaps a vision of that as a representation of what will be in the future.  (If it’s a true vision from God, which again, is another issue altogether.)

Now let’s go back to my original verses in John 1 and Genesis 28.  I believe the Bible tells us here that the only means by which there is communication or passage between heaven and earth is through Jesus.  He is the ladder.  Who do we see traversing Him, i.e. the ladder?  Only angels.  We know that angels are God’s messengers, so this makes sense.  They go from heaven to earth on divine missions and then return.  The key to any of that is Jesus.  He has to be the purpose and completely integral to what the angels do at God’s direction.

We have absolutely no evidence that deceased loved ones go up and down this ladder, nor that there’s any approval of anything remotely like that.

The only conclusion, then, is that anyone thinking they’ve had a visitation from heaven by a deceased loved one is being deceived.  As 2 Corinthians 11:14 says:

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

Thus, for someone to see their deceased son, daughter, mother, father, etc. is seeing a deception from Satan himself.  He can appear as an angel.  Surely, he appears as a dead son to grieving parents.

And unfortunately from this, many people can be led astray away from the truth that is Jesus, and Him only.

The Psalm 83 War: Part 1 of 6

This entry is the first of a 6-part series plus a 7th entry addendum on the Psalm 83 War.  The potential for such a war is disputed among Bible prophecy experts.  One of the first that I’m aware of to explore that this war is not yet a completely fulfilled prophecy was Bill Salus.  I consider Salus an original thinker when it comes to examining Bible prophecy with a fresh set of eyes and thinking out of the box.  I highly recommend his works.

The controversy of this psalm concerns the time and extent of the war’s fulfillment.  Many prophecy teachers conclude that it was completed at the time of Israel’s birth on May 14, 1948.  Many of the same attacking nations discussed in Psalm 83 were a part of those hostilities.  In my mind, again heavily influenced in this regard by Bill Salus, I think the Psalm 83 War has yet to see a final conclusion.  I’ll give my reasons as this series unfolds.

First, let’s look at Psalm 83:

1 Do not keep silent, O God!
Do not hold Your peace,
And do not be still, O God!
For behold, Your enemies make a tumult;
And those who hate You have lifted up their head.
They have taken crafty counsel against Your people,
And consulted together against Your sheltered ones.
They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation,
That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”

For they have consulted together with one consent;
They form a confederacy against You:
The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites;
Moab and the Hagrites;
Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek;
Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
Assyria also has joined with them;
They have helped the children of Lot. Selah

Deal with them as with Midian,
As with Sisera,
As with Jabin at the Brook Kishon,
10 Who perished at En Dor,
Who became as refuse on the earth.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb and like Zeeb,
Yes, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12 Who said, “Let us take for ourselves
The pastures of God for a possession.”

13 O my God, make them like the whirling dust,
Like the chaff before the wind!
14 As the fire burns the woods,
And as the flame sets the mountains on fire,
15 So pursue them with Your tempest,
And frighten them with Your storm.
16 Fill their faces with shame,
That they may seek Your name, O Lord.
17 Let them be confounded and dismayed forever;
Yes, let them be put to shame and perish,
18 That they may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord,
Are the Most High over all the earth.

We’ll break this down a little and initially discuss verses 1-4 and then verses 5-8 in this post, with subsequent verses and analysis in latter blog entries.

Verses 1-4:

Here we see that the enemies that are gathering are considered to actually be against God, even though their intent is to come against Israel.  We can’t ever forget that Israel is the Promised Land and the Jews are God’s Chosen People.  He considers them the apple of His eye.  Is it any wonder that when nations come against her, they come against the One who created her for a special purpose?  Never forget the seminal verse regarding this point.  It is Genesis 12:3:

I will bless those who bless you [Israel],
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

As you can see, coming against Israel is a risky business.  Doing so exacts the wrath of God upon anyone or any nation who tries harming Israel.

The enemies are cunning.  They are plotting against Israel, conspiring to come against this nation that God loves so much.  In fact, God cherishes the nation of Israel.  If we ask why He loves Israel so much, we may as well ask why He loves each of us so much.  He simply does.

The intent of Israel’s enemies is to completely destroy her, to bring about her total annihilation.  There’s nothing subtle about this.  They want to wipe Israel out as if she has never existed.

So much do they desire this destruction that they believe in accomplishing it that Israel’s name will be remembered no more over the face of the entire earth.

Verses 5-8:

The purpose of Israel’s enemies is unified.  They meet and plot together in a formal alliance.  They form a confederacy and have a covenant among them to accomplish their single purpose.

There are 10 members of this group, and the psalm names the conspirators.  Depending on the Bible translation you read, the names can be slightly different, but that’s only a matter of semantics.  Here are the 10 nations noted with the indication of who they are today.  Remember, the way the world looked back at the writing of this psalm is not the same as we have today, but we do have the remaining people groups that still exist and populate today’s various nations.

  1. Tents of Edom – Palestinians and Southern Jordanians
  2. Ishmaelites – Saudis (Ishmael is the father of the Arabs)
  3. Moab – Palestinians and Central Jordanians
  4. Hagrites – Egyptians, aka Hagarenes (Hagar, the consort of Abraham, was Egyptian; Ishmael was their son by permission of Sarah, Abraham’s wife)
  5. Gebal – Hezbollah and Northern Lebanese
  6. Ammon – Palestinians and Northern Jordanians
  7. Amalek – Arabs of the Egyptian Sinai area
  8. Philistia – Hamas of Gaza Strip
  9. Tyre – Hezbollah and Southern Lebanese
  10. Assyria – Syrians and Northern Iraqis

As you can see, this is an intriguing group.  Who are some of them?  Aren’t there various peace treaties in place that seem to make the inclusion of various ones of these peoples problematic?

In Part 2 of this series, I’ll discuss these conspirators at greater length and hopefully bring clarity to some of these questions.

The Parable of the Tenants

Matthew 21:33-46:

“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

In this parable Jesus tells of a landowner with a vineyard who builds a wall around it to protect his investment.  He dig a winepress to harvest the vineyard’s bounty, and he erects a watchtower to oversee all that goes on.  Finally, the landowner rents out the vineyard to tenant farmers, then he goes on a long journey thinking his investment is safe.  When it’s time for harvest, the landowner sends his servants to collect the fruit, but the tenants seize each of the servants and kill them.

The landowner eventually sends his son to collect what’s owed him, but the wicked tenants kill him too.  The consequence for the tenants is that when the landowner himself returns, those tenants will have a wretched end.  The landowner will rent out the vineyard to other tenants who will be honest and faithful and give back their share at harvest time.

The vineyard that Jesus speaks of is Israel.  When God gave the land to the Israelites, He placed His protection around it and assured that it would produce a great bounty.  He promised in Deuteronomy 28 that if Israel followed God and all His ways, she would receive much blessing.

At the time of God’s choosing, i.e. the time of the harvest, He sent many prophets and finally His Son, Jesus Christ, to collect what was due Him.  He expected the Jews to obey, worship, and adore Him.  Instead, they killed the prophets and worshiped idols.  Finally, they killed Jesus and went so far as to accuse Him of being from Satan.

For their disobedience and rebellion, the curses of God—long since prophesied and known from Deuteronomy 28 and many other places in holy Scripture—came upon Israel.

Two times over the centuries Israel was scattered from the land.  The first complete dispersion concluded in 586 BC.  The final scattering was a two-part event.  The destruction of the temple occurred in 70 AD and the final dispersion of Israel from the land happened in 135 AD.

Following the first rebuke by God, he graciously brought them back after seventy years to the land.  Unfortunately, their hard hearts caused such rebellion, ending in their crucifying Christ, that God cast them out of Israel for 2,000 years.

This period since Jesus is known as the Church Age.  The Church is the new tenant that God gave the harvest to in order for them to share with Him.

For 2,000 years Israel was wretched, naked, and seemingly abandoned by God.  But He has gathered them again in the land of Israel.  He is not through with His chosen people, the apple of His eye.

Israel is destined to experience the time of Jacob’s trouble described in Jeremiah 30:7, which is the 7-year Tribulation in order that she might be saved.  Just like many people need to be completely broken in order to truly turn to Jesus, this is how it will be with Israel enduring the horrors of the wrath of the Lamb during this time of judgment:

Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it.

As the verse says, a remnant will survive.  They will acknowledge the landowner’s Son as Messiah and God.

This remnant of Israel—finally obedient—will go into the Millennium with the Name of Jesus on their lips and serve God for all eternity.

Persecution in America

Persecution in America is nothing like in other parts of the world.  If you are at all aware, you know that in the Middle East, i.e. Islamic nations; in China, a Communist/atheist nation; in Hindu; Buddhist; and pagan nations, persecution is so much worse than anything we know.  In these places, Christian believers are beaten, tortured, raped, and killed.  Jesus is a forbidden Name, and having possession of a Bible can lead to severe punishment, even as great as death.  We don’t see these things happening in America.  Yet.

Two recent incidents I’m aware of tell me that there is a gathering storm.

The first came from PJ Media and the American Family Association as they reported on a disturbing incident.  A pastor by the name of Ramin Parsa fled Iran for America to escape persecution.  He and two other Christians were at the Mall of America in Minneapolis.  He struck up a conversation with two Somali-American Muslim women, not at first talking about the gospel.  They asked him if he was Muslim.  He replied he was a Christian.  They asked him about his conversion from Islam, and he began telling them his story.

Another Muslim woman overheard the conversation.  This woman was not a part of it in any way.  Regardless, she summoned a security guard who told Parsa no soliciting was allowed in the mall.  He explained he wasn’t soliciting, simply having a discussion and answering interested questions.  But he stopped at the guard’s request.

Parsa and friends went to a nearby coffee shop in the mall thinking that was the end of it.  They came out of the shop where now three security guards were waiting.  They arrested him, saying, “You cannot talk religion here.”

The two Somali women he had been speaking with saw this and argued with the guards, saying they wanted to hear what Parsa had to say.  It made no difference.  They handcuffed him to a metal chair in the basement of the mall.  They refused to give him water.  They refused to allow him to go to the bathroom.

The police finally came after four hours of this kind of treatment.  They took mugshots and fingerprints.  Then they charged him with criminal trespassing.

He had to pay $78 to bail himself out at 2 AM, when his friends were at last allowed to pick him up.  Parsa said, “I’ve been through this in Muslim countries for passing out a Bible.  I didn’t expect it to happen in America.”

There’s another incident I’m personally aware of that I want to relate.  A lay pastor in our church got a job that was perfect for him at the time while he continued to send applications for a pastoral position.  On one of his first days at work, he had the opportunity to speak with a woman who was having difficulties.  I believe this had something to do with a homosexual issue in her family.  He spoke lovingly and plainly about God’s plan for us as His creation.

Another woman, not a part of the conversation, overheard it and complained to the boss about the discussion.  As a direct result of this interaction, he was immediately fired.  Oh, yes, one more element in the account: The place of employment was a Christian nursing home.

Here we have people not even involved in a discussion who complain to authorities and drastic measures are then taken against them because they’re Christians.  In America.

Unfortunately, this is only the beginning

Jesus tells us in Luke 6:22 the following:

 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.

Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12 assures us:

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Although we’re very comfortable in America, Scripture tells us this is not the norm as we follow Jesus.  It will continue to get much worse from here as we go deeper into these end times.

Once the world enters the 7-year Tribulation following the Rapture of the true Church, persecution will very much be the norm for those who choose to follow Christ during that horrendous period of lawlessness.

The Apostle John reveals in Revelation 6:9 how people who turn to Jesus will end up:

“I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained.”

The Bible doesn’t tell us to look for the Antichrist.  We are to look for the coming of Jesus for His Church, His virgin bride, those who are true believers and followers of Him.  As importantly, we’re to be aware and ready so that He doesn’t come for us like a thief in the night.

Open your eyes.  Watch what’s going on around us in the world.  Notice those living in darkness and rescue them if you can.  This dramatic increase in tribulation tells us that time in this age is drawing to a close.

Maranatha – Come, Lord Jesus!


There are two kinds of doors mentioned in the Bible.  One is bad, the other is good.  We need to know which door to enter in order for us to live life as God wills for us.

Proverbs 5:8 continues the thoughts of Solomon as he instructs his son.  He gives much advice to avoid sin, particularly that of fornication or adultery.  The verse says:

Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house.

Solomon is saying to his son, and to all men, to avoid the door of the temptress, i.e. the one who will lead you into darkness.

His advice also pertains to other sins, or other temptations that will inevitably take us into dark places.  Think of the door into the bar where you take that first drink of many.  Who are you drinking with?  How about the door of the cupboard in your house where the liquor is stored?  Is temptation always at hand?  What about the door into the drug dealer’s house who supplies weed, meth, or crack?  I know people who have never left the room alive after entering that door.  Don’t forget your car door that enables you to drive to these places.

These are all doors to stay far from if God is first and foremost in our life.

And that ends up being the question: Is God first in your life or do these substances and experiences take a higher priority?

We all have to choose.

Jesus said in John 10:9:

“I am the door.”

How many of us shy away from choosing that door to walk through?  Yet, the door of Jesus brings life, whereas the doors of temptation bring nothing but death.

In Jesus’ letter to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22, He makes this very point in verse 20.  He says:

“Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.”

This invitation is to a church that is lukewarm and about to be spit out of Jesus’ mouth.  It’s a serious invitation with disastrous consequences for not heeding it.

Are you lukewarm in your faith?  Will you be found wanting when Jesus returns for His Church at the soon-to-come Rapture?

I’ve previously expressed that based on numerous verses in the Bible, I have concern that many who are lukewarm in their faith may not be taken in the Rapture in order for them to be refined in the fire of the Tribulation.

I don’t know this for certain and exactly how this will work, but I do know that Jesus will soon take His church from this world that it may be delivered from the wrath to come as 1 Thessalonians 5:9 tells us.  This is not meant to foster fear, the soon return of Jesus is meant to encourage holy living.  All it takes is repentance, a change of heart, and a change of lifestyle.

Be sure you’re not lukewarm.  Don’t take the chance that you’ll be left behind.  Walk through the door to Jesus and truly live for Him.

Prophecy Update 2-1-19 – China

In today’s posting I want to call your attention to China.  As most people are aware, China has long been communist and atheist.  Because Christians haven’t worshiped the state there, they have been the target of persecution for many years.  China fears Christians, or any group for that matter, that doesn’t put the regime first.  Essentially, if people don’t say, “Hail Caesar,” they aren’t loyal subjects and are thus worthy of persecution and elimination.

A January 18, 2019 article in LifeSite News led with this headline:

“Chinese government to rewrite Bible to make it more Communist”

According to the article, China last year embarked on a 5-year plan to make Christianity more compatible with so-called authentic Chinese and socialist values.  This is an effort to bring all religions into line with Communist ideology.

It reminds me of Nazi Germany in World War 2.  During that time the government wanted all churches to fall in line with Nazi philosophy and declare it compatible with Christianity.  Sadly, many churches with their high-ranking pastors and leaders agreed to this and experienced a great apostasy.  It was from this situation that Dietrich Bonhoeffer became known for opposing this collaboration between church and state, and ultimately dying for his bold stand against it.

Following the Nazis, Communists came to power in Eastern Europe.  There was a gathering of church leaders in Romania sponsored by the communist government, which convened a congress of all Christians in the capital parliament building.  Over 4,000 priests, pastors, and ministers from all denominations attended.  One after another these “men of God” declared that Christianity and Communism were fundamentally the same and could co-exist.  Shamefully, this gathering became known as the Congress of the Cults.

Richard Wurmbrand, who years later founded Voice of the Martyrs, was in attendance and spoke to the congress.  Because he was well-known, everyone hoped and expected him to praise Communism as the others had.  Instead, he praised only Jesus Christ and said that the loyalty of the church should be to Him first, foremost, and only.  As result, Wurmbrand ended up spending 14 years in prison for opposing the State, much of it in solitary confinement.

Back to the LifeSite news article: Here we have the Chinese government in its attempt to conflate Communism and Christianity; they want to make it “Chinese Christianity.”  They plan to do this by re-translating the Bible and re-writing Biblical commentaries.  They even plan to merge the Old Testament with Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings.

If you’ve read the Book of Revelation, you’ll recall that it has a strong warning against this kind of Biblical corruption.  The Apostle John in Revelation 22:18 says:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.”

These are strong words, and the Chinese aren’t the only ones to not heed them.  They’ve been ignored by various cults over the years, including Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and even the Roman Catholic Church.  Yes, I lump Catholicism in with these other groups as a cult.  Once you examine what the Church in Rome has done to corrupt the Scriptures, you won’t be able to do anything but agree.  We’ll cover this another time to highlight how far from the truth of Bible the Vatican has gone.

A couple more items about China:

  1. According to the ministry, Back To Jerusalem, the Chinese government has hired 500 spies, mostly of college age, to infiltrate the Chinese house church movement. Pastors and others arrested from this effort are being held in so-called “black” detention facilities, i.e. secret prisons.
  2. From a recent VOM newsletter comes a report that at least 250 churches across China have been closed or demolished in the last two years. Most are unregistered house churches.  However, even the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches have come under pressure with 140 of them closed in a single province in the last eight months.  Henan province is reportedly the worst area with persecution.  Government authorities have removed crosses, confiscated or destroyed property, and fined or arrested church leaders in over 4,000 churches there.
  3. Persecution is increasing in China as the State grows more concerned about the flourishing underground church movement that has resulted in 100M believers in the country.

Jesus said in John 15:18:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.

Jesus also said in John 16:33:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

What we see in China is only a small fraction of the tribulation, persecution, and suffering to come for those who come to Christ after the Rapture.  In America, we’ve been greatly blessed and not experienced these things.  Yet, those who do, say that they’ve grown through it to deeply identify with Jesus and His sufferings.  Through these things, the church has grown immensely in these persecuted lands.  Tertullian, an early Christian author, famously said: “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  This couldn’t be more true.  Just look at the growth of the underground church in China that has flourished in difficult times.

One final note about China:  Revelation 9:16 speaks of army of 200M coming across the Euphrates River from the East.  The description could fit that of a massive Chinese army, or some kind of demonic army.  This army is considered the 6th Trumpet plague and will kill many.  If it pertains to China, this adds to the wrath that God is storing up for that nation, i.e. those who don’t bow their knee to Jesus.

In conclusion, we in the church in America may or may not taste of this persecution prior to the Rapture and the 7-Year Tribulation.  Certainly, those who become Christian following the Rapture will experience much.  Conditions are growing darker for Christians in America each day.  It’s certainly possible we could soon see our neighbors, along with the State itself, coming against us in unheard of persecution prior to the day of our Blessed Hope.  One thing we do know: for those who go through the Tribulation because of their unbelief, and for those who don’t choose Christ prior to that period, it will be the most horrific time ever to come into this world.

I urge you: make sure you’re walking with Jesus and following hard after Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Then whatever comes our way, Jesus will see each of us through it.

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

In Matthew 19:30, Jesus tells his disciples:

“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

This leads me to the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16.

Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like this situation:  A landowner hires a number of workers early in the morning and promises to pay them a certain amount.  Throughout the day, the landowner goes out to the marketplace and hires more workers, promising to pay them a day’s wages.  Finally, an hour before quitting time, he hires the last group.

When the day is finished and it’s time to be paid, the last workers to be hired are paid the same wages promised to the very first group of workers early in the morning.  These workers who have labored all day figure that because they’ve worked so hard and so long, surely the landowner will pay them more than the last bunch who only worked an hour.  Unfortunately for them, the landowner says he has no obligation to pay them anymore than what he promised.  That’s what they agreed to and that’s what they’ll get.  The landowner tells them that if he wants to pay someone he hired later the same wage as those whom he hired first, that’s his prerogative.

Jesus then repeats what He said at the beginning of the parable in Matthew 20:16:

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

What does this mean?

The first are those who have status, wealth, and esteem in the world, even in the church.

The last are the unknowns and those considered unimportant.

In the age to come there will be many who considered themselves above others, but will find their position in the kingdom won’t be as exalted as they believe now that it will be.  There will also be those who are left behind when the Rapture comes despite what they considered of themselves, or perhaps are separated as a goat in the Great White Throne Judgment.

Remember Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus warns:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

On that day, many will be surprised—some to eternal torment, some to an unexpected eternal glory.

This teaching of the vineyard reveals that entrance to God’s Kingdom is a matter of privilege—God’s unmerited grace upon us, not of merit.  He has chosen us because our hearts were right with Him.

Jesus warns us of three harmful attitudes:

  1. A feeling of superiority over others
  2. Failure to share God’s grace toward others
  3. A spirit of envy toward the spiritual blessings of others

Let us remember to love God in Christ, and through Him to love others as He has loved us.

On Eagles’ Wings

Our God is a supernatural God.  We see that throughout the Bible in the many miracles, signs, and wonders that He performs.  In the Book of Exodus, He brings about ten terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and the nation of Egypt in the earth, the heavens, and upon man.  No doubt, he can do anything, even what to us is seemingly impossible.  Thus, in their exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites reach the Red Sea and are seemingly trapped, God parts the waters to enable them to cross.

Prior to that, the Israelites went from Rameses, Egypt where Pharaoh had a palace to Succoth by the Red Sea.  According to various maps, that distance from Rameses to Succoth appears to be about fifty miles.  There were 600,000 men that left Egypt.  When women and children are added, the number of individuals likely totaled over 2 million people.  It was a slow-moving caravan with all their goods and everything they brought out of Egypt with them.

For comparison, the caravans of illegal aliens traveling through Mexico these days to breach the U.S. border, typically travel 20-30 miles a day.  These people aren’t hauling nearly the amount of goods that the Israelites did.  Remember, God had them plunder Egypt before they left.  They had gold, silver, and many goods.  Also, although some of the illegal alien caravans are large, i.e. several hundred people, those numbers don’t compare to the number of Israelites fleeing Egypt in the exodus or in another incident I’ll note below.

This leads me to a question.  Does it make sense that this group could have gone fifty miles in the natural course of things before Pharaoh came to his senses, sent chariots after them, and caught up?  It seems doubtful to me.

Now listen to God speaking in Exodus 19:4:

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”

This verse triggers more questions in my mind.

  • Is being carried on eagles’ wings simply an expression?
  • Or was there something more literal that occurred?
  • Could God have supernaturally transported this group some part of the way?
  • He directed them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night—this was supernatural in itself. But did something else go on to get them to their destination?

There’s an interesting corollary, or subsequent event, to this incident in Revelation 12.  Here, Satan and his angels are thrown out of heaven.  He greatly persecutes Israel, which is signified by the woman who had given birth to a Son.  Recall that in Matthew 24:15-16 Jesus warns Israel through His Olivet Discourse to the disciples:

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

The abomination of desolation is the Antichrist wreaking havoc in the temple, desecrating the Holy Place with a pagan sacrifice.  When he does that, Jesus says to the people of Israel, now it’s time to get out of Jerusalem.  Flee to the mountains.

The most common understanding of where people will flee is to the mountainous enclave in Jordan known as Petra, which is about 102 miles away.  I was there last year.  It’s an incredible place where the Jews could easily live, be provided for by God., and be protected by Him.  As an aside: if you saw Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, that part was filmed in Petra.

Here’s the narrative: At this time the Antichrist is looking for blood.  He wants to kill all the Jews.  His time has come and bloodlust is upon him.  Again, there will be women and children—how many total people we don’t know.  As of 2015, there were about 850,000 Jews living in Jerusalem alone.  There will have been much persecution of the Jews by this time and likely many will have perished in the Tribulation.  Also, this warning certainly applies to more than just the Jews in Jerusalem proper, but to all in Israel.  Even at the worst case where many have lost their lives, I’d certainly have to estimate that we could be talking half a million people—500,000.  That’s a lot of folks to get from here to there.  Everyone could drive but what if there are roadblocks?  How do all these Jews get to Petra?  Once more we ask: Does God supernaturally deliver His people?

Then we turn to Revelation 12:14:

 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.

As before in Exodus, we have the Israelites being pursued by a bloodthirsty tyrant, and God uses the same symbolic language.  On eagles’ wings He brings them to this safe place.

My thinking is that there may be more going on here than we can see through simply a quick reading of these verses.  God is jealous for those He loves.  He does what He must to protect them.

I want you to remember this in difficult times in your life.  God is jealous for you.  He’ll do for you what He previously did and will do in the future for the people of Israel.

God will deliver you on eagles’ wings.  Trust Him.  Put your faith in Him.

Remember, 1 John 4:4 assures us:

Greater is He who is in each of us, than he who is in the world

Devotion: Jesus & His Father’s House

“Let not your heart be troubled; you 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:1-6

This passage is most familiar to us because of the last verse, John 14:6:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

It’s an amazing statement and one of the most controversial ever made in the world.  Purveyors and followers of the world’s other religions become indignant at the hubris of Jesus.  Can you imagine their outrage that a religion as outlandish as Christianity could have a concept so foreign?  Don’t all paths lead to God?  Well, all except for Buddhism which disavows that there is a God.  Let’s try again.  Don’t we all serve the same God?  Um, not quite.  Islam believes in only the oneness of its god; the Trinity is a heretical concept.  One more.  How about New Age?  Not so much.  New Agers are big on witchcraft, the occult, and divination.  The God of Christianity says those are an abomination.  Maybe this doesn’t work so well after all:

All these different ways contribute to the problems in the world.  Sometimes it seems like we have nothing but trouble.  The teachings of many religions are an attempt to make sense of the ills around us.  Some disavow the concept of reality (Buddhism).  Others dictate that if we make more trouble by killing others that’s a good thing (Islam).  Still others teach that we’ll go around and round through many lives and finally come out perfect in the end (Hinduism and New Age).

Jesus taught that we’ll have trials and tribulations, but in Him and through Him we can persevere.  As a result, we’re not to worry and let our hearts be troubled.  In Him we have peace.  Through our faith in Christ, we also know that our God is not only merciful, He is just.

These troubles we have in this world?  When we’re in Christ we are assured that God’s justice will prevail.  All around us we see those who hate and despise God and seem to prosper.  We also see those who love Jesus and suffer terribly.  Those who have riches in this life, unless they know Jesus as Savior and Lord, won’t be so fortunate in the next life.  People mistreated and persecuted now but who trust in the Lord have a glorious future.

Jesus is preparing a place for them, and all of us who love Him.  The grandeur of such a house will overwhelm us all.  I think of the negro spiritual: I’ll Fly Away and of the slaves who endured such suffering, yet with a song like this looked forward to eternity:

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away

They had hope, despite the terrible conditions under which they lived and labored.  It’s this confident expectation that Jesus brings us in this life.

How will we who live now fly away?  We have the anticipation of the Rapture.  Jesus says in our verse above that He is coming back for us to take us to His father’s house.  These aren’t idle words.  This isn’t a promise that’s in some distant, obscure future.  This is a promise for NOW!

This age in which we live is coming to an end.  All prophetic signs are converging and pointing to the soon-return of Jesus and the coming wrath of God upon an unbelieving world.

That mansion Jesus is building awaits us.  His return is near.  Soon we’ll take up residence in His Father’s house.  Soon, and very soon, we’ll fly away.