Prophecy Update Newsletter
December 22, 2016
IN TODAY'S NEWSLETTER...
The Greatest Mystery: Unlocked - Jack Kinsella - www.omegaletter.com
During His First Advent, the Lord Jesus unlocked many mysteries for the Church, not the least of which is what happens when we die. The Old Testament doesn't provide a lot in terms of specifics, since OT believers operated under the terms of a different Dispensation.
During the Dispensation of the Law, believers were not immediately whisked into the presence of the Lord at the moment of death. The blood of bullocks and lambs was insufficient to cover their sin.
Old Testament believers expected to stand in the Resurrection at the Last Day, but had no expectation of eternal life in the sense that the Church understands it.
"As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more." (Job 7:9)
"For in death there is no remembrance of Thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?" (Psalms 6:5)
"For the grave cannot praise Thee, death can not celebrate Thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth." (Isaiah 38:18)
Until Jesus defeated death at His resurrection, death was still pretty much a mystery. The general understanding was that first a man dies, and then he awaits the resurrection of the dead at the last day.
The Book of Job, chronologically the oldest book in the Bible, spoke of the resurrection of the dead even before the time of Abraham, confidently saying;
". . . all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. . . " Job awaited the call of the trumpet at the Rapture, thousands of years before it was generally known as doctrine. "Thou shalt call . . ." (Job 14:14-15)
"For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." (Job 19:25-27)
The Lord Jesus filled in the missing details about death and the grave under the Dispensation of the Law when He told the story of the rich man and Lazarus. I want you to note that Jesus did NOT say, "learn the parable of the rich man." He began with a definite statement of fact: "There was a certain rich man. . "
And Jesus says that there was a "certain" beggar named Lazarus. The rich man and Lazarus were real people; this is not a parable or Jesus would have identified it as such.
"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried. And in hell, he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom."
Let's stop there for a second and examine this newly-revealed truth. Until now, OT believers thought that when they died, they stayed in the grave until the Resurrection. They had no expectation of continued consciousness - until Jesus revealed the truth to His Disciples.
Jesus told them that the rich man went immediately to hell. Lazarus was immediately carried by the angels into a place called "Abraham's bosom."
This was a totally new revelation. The Lord revealed that hell was divided - there was a place of comfort for the righteous dead with Abraham on one side.
In the middle was a great gulf or chasm, and on the other side was hell, a place of flames and torment and loneliness. Moreover, the Lord reveals that those in hell could see across to Paradise.
There are several other things we learn from Jesus about hell, and about those who are condemned to it. First, the rich man has no name, whereas Lazarus is addressed by name throughout the passage. The rich man needs no name. Nobody will ever call it again.
He is eternally separated from God; to all intents and purposes, he is 'dead' to God, and to everyone who ever knew him. He is only alive to himself. But the rich man is cognizant of his life, how he ended up in hell, and those he left behind. His memories of his earthly life are intact:
"Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment." (Luke 16:22-28)
Jesus teaches us that those condemned to hell are; a) in fiery torment, b) are self-aware, c) are nameless and without hope of reprieve, d) are conscious of their situation, and, e) their memories of their earthly lives are intact.
The Book of the Revelation teaches that what we call 'hell' is more analogous to a county jail, where prisoners are held pending trial and conviction. Once a county jail inmate is convicted, he is transferred to a state penitentiary to serve out his sentence.
"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." (Revelation 20:13-14)
When John describes the judgment against the devil, he writes: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
Note two things. First, the beast and false prophet 'are' - present tense -- in the lake of fire. They were not consumed. Secondly, it is a 'lake of fire and brimstone' and its inhabitants 'shall be tormented day and night forever and ever'.
Thus is the fate of those we fail to reach in our effort to discharge our Great Commission. It's a sobering thought.
Jesus taught specifically and incontrovertibly that, when the moment of death comes, our conscious spirit lives on, AWAITING the resurrection of the dead, which is when our spirit is united with our new and improved physical bodies.
At the Cross, Jesus told the repentant thief, "Verily I say unto thee, TODAY shalt thou be with Me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
When Jesus descended into hell after His Crucifixion, He went to Paradise to "lead captivity captive", the Scriptures say. He went to Paradise to preach the Gospel and to present Himself as Savior and bring them from Paradise to Heaven.
Our spirits exist and have substance, and they are not only conscious after death, they are completely self-aware. Death is not the end of our existence.
Death does not, evidently, even impair our consciousness.
During the Dispensation of the Church, the Apostle Paul noted that for believers to be 'absent from the body' meant to be 'present with the Lord.'
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2nd Corinthians 5:10)
The Apostle Paul wrote of physical death as it pertains to believers, saying; "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." (1st Thessalonians 4:13)
But yet we do sorrow when a loved one dies. Even when we know that our loved one is now safely resting in the arms of Jesus. We know that our loved one's race is run and their burdens have been lifted.
They are now where we all wish to be - but that does little to dry our tears. It is one of the conundrums of Christianity - everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.
Why do we sorrow when we know the truth? Would we be sad if our loved one had won the lottery? Of course not. But Heaven is the ultimate winning ticket. When your number comes up, you win.
And all your family and friends cry.
Why is that? Does that mean that their faith is weak? Are they really secret doubters? Paul intended to offer words of comfort -- indeed, the chapter closes; "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
Paul offers words of comfort because of the sorrow that comes with losing a loved one. Being sorrowful at the loss of the loved one is not evidence of a lack of faith. If you think about it, your sorrow isn't because you have any doubt that your loved one is safe in the arms of Jesus.
You haven't betrayed the faith. You sorrow because they aren't here. Our loved ones are a gift from God given to us to make our sojourn on the Big Blue Marble bearable. The gift is deliberately temporary, which is what gives it its value.
When a loved one dies, we lose the gift of their companionship. Even though we know loss is also temporary, which mitigates the tragedy - it does little to ease the pain of loss in this life.
Our sorrow is not for our loved one - it is for ourselves. Their gain is our loss. It's just that simple.
There's nothing selfish in that - if one of my children got a fabulous job on the other side of the world I would be very happy for him - but personally devastated by the loss of his companionship.
The fact that I know I would see him again would mitigate the sense of loss. But it wouldn't keep me from missing him while he was gone. Or wishing he was still here. (Or make me feel guilty because I did.)
Death comes to us all - we know that. But death doesn't come to us once. It comes to us all the time - death is the one certain part of this existence. Our own death is simply the last one we have to endure.
At the Rapture, some believers will not yet have experienced death. They will be instantly changed into their incorruptible bodies. Those who have experienced physical death will be reunited with their bodies, which will be raised and changed.
But their spirits and consciousness are already awake and alive and in the presence of the Lord. Those who are 'asleep' in Christ are those who have experienced PHYSICAL, but not conscious death.
At the Rapture, the "Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise (physically incorruptible) first: Then we which are (physically) alive and remain (in our natural bodies) shall be caught up together with them (changed and incorruptible) in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Our loved ones who have gone home to the Lord are ALREADY in His Presence, enjoying Heaven and its unimaginable joy and riches. They are NOT mouldering the grave, unconsciously awaiting the call of the Trumpet.
They are alive and aware and eagerly anticipating the opportunity to meet with us in the air and embrace us once more. We will see them again. We will recognize them and they will recognize us.
". . . and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words." (1st Thessalonians 4:18)
UN to Vote on Draft Resolution, Demands Israel "Immediately Cease All Settlement Activities" - By Ilana Messika - https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/80686/un-set-vote-settlement-activity-resolution/#bwBlJPrLs9wavmuW.97
And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Genesis 50:20 (The Israel Bible™)
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is expected to vote on Thursday afternoon, New York time, on a draft resolution presented by Egypt demanding that Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."
The draft resolution further stipulates that the construction of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem has "no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace."
Spokespeople for Israel's foreign ministry refused to comment on the resolution, but anticipating the vote, Education Minister and Jewish Home MK Naftali Bennett released a video statement Thursday saying ""Here in Israel we are at the forefront of the battle between radical Islamic terror and freedom [...] we are out there fighting for you, for the free world. Whoever today supports a resolution against Israel is in effect raising his hand for the forces of evil."
Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Danny Danon similarly criticized the "anti-Israeli resolution" and described it as "the peak of hypocrisy."
"It is absurd that at a time when thousands are being massacred in Syria, the Security Council is devoting time and energy to convene and discuss condemning the only true democracy in the Middle East. This resolution will do nothing to promote a diplomatic process, and will only reward the Palestinian policy of incitement and terror,"
At least one legal expert told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that the vote could present significant problems for Jerusalem - whether or not the resolution is binding.
"Not all security council resolutions are binding," said Prof. Robbie Sabel, former Legal Adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and expert in International Law. "For a Security Council resolution to be binding, the text must be adopted within the mandate of under Chapter VII, Art. 39 which demands the UNSC to determine 'the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression."
"Even if the resolution is non-binding, however, it would still carry the status of a recommendation which Israel could legally ignore, but it would also create a diplomatic storm, it would obviously prove politically damaging," Sabel concluded.
The UNSC vote follows on the heels of two UNESCO resolutions in October that omitted Jewish connections to the Jerusalem, as well as the controversial Legalization Bill, which passed a first reading in the Knesset plenum earlier this month, to retroactively legalize Jewish communities built on privately owned Palestinian land in Judea and Samaria.
Locally, all eyes were focused on the United States' vote on the resolution. The State Department has not commented on the issue, and American diplomats in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv did not respond to email requests for comment.
But Israeli officials and pro-Israel lawmakers have been concerned for months that stalled Israel-Palestinian negotiations and combative relations between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu over construction in the settlements might lead to a drastic anti-Israel US initiative prior to the inauguration of Donald J. Trump on January 20.
The United States has long been Israel's sole backer on the Security Council, vetoing at least 28 one-sided resolutions since 1972, most recently in 2011.
Previous UNSC resolutions have already stated that the building and existence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are a violation of international law, such as UNSC Res. 446 (1979) and UNSC Res. 465 (1980).
Hezbollah Fighting in Syria With U.S. Weapons Supplied to Lebanese Army, IDF Says - Anshel Pfeffer - http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.760464
Senior IDF officer says Hezbollah obtained weapons as part of 'deal' with Lebanon, adding that Hezbollah has 'strengthened grip on Lebanese national institutions.'
Hezbollah is fighting in Syria with American weapon systems supplied by the United States to the Lebanese Army, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer speaking under conditions of anonymity said Wednesday.
According to the officer, Israel has supplied the U.S. administration with evidence, including photographs, of American-supplied armored personnel carriers being used by Hezbollah in Syria.
The senior officer added that while it is not clear under which circumstances Hezbollah obtained the American APC's from the Lebanese Armed Forces, he believed that it was part of "a deal" and that Hezbollah has recently "strengthened its grip on the main national institutions in Lebanon," including its army.
Lebanon is currently the fifth-highest recipient of U.S. military aid in the form of light and medium weapons and armored vehicles, supplied by the Obama administration in order to help the Lebanese fight Islamist terror organizations. This includes M-113 APC's and M-60 tanks. The latest shipment in August was worth an estimated $50 million and included 50 new APCs and 40 artillery pieces.
According to the officer, "Israel wants to see Lebanon flourish and believes that it needs an army but doesn't want to see Hezbollah play a major role in it." Israeli intelligence believes that cooperation between the LAF and Hezbollah has reached a level whereby the two forces patrol together on the Israel-Lebanon border and Hezbollah directs the LAF where to build its new observation posts on the border and shares in the intelligence collected.
In recent weeks, Israel has obtained evidence of some of the U.S.-supplied APCs being used by Hezbollah on the battlefield in Syria. Hezbollah has been fighting for most of the last six years alongside the Assad regime and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Syria and has lost by now over 1,700 of its fighters. The evidence was passed on the U.S. through the standard intelligence cooperation channels and it is not clear yet whether the administration has acted upon it with the Lebanese government.
Earlier in December, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that although "Israel has no intention of intervening in the civil war in Syria," it would not allow chemical weapons to reach Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Speaking a day after Israel's second reported attack in Syria, the defense minister said that "Israel's policy is clear and based on three red lines: We won't allow any harm to come to our citizens, we won't allow our sovereignty to be infringed on and we will not allow advanced weapons or chemical weapons from Syria to be smuggled to Lebanon for Hezbollah."
In a possible reference to Russian presence in Syria, Lieberman asked to clarify that Israel acts "freely" in the area "without taking into account the circumstances or other restrictions."
A week earlier, Syria said that Israeli jets attacked west of Damascus, with reports in Arab media saying an arms convoy intended for Hezbollah was the target. The news came amid tensions along Israel's northern border after clashes between the Israeli army and militants affiliated with the Islamic State group.
Pentagon: Iran Seeking New Missiles, War Equipment - Adam Kredo - http://freebeacon.com/national-security/pentagon-iran-seeking-new-missiles-war-equipment/
Says American cash has not fueled Tehran's buildup
Pentagon officials are downplaying declarations by Iran that it is spending some $1.7 billion provided by the United States on new advanced weapons systems, while also acknowledging that the Islamic Republic continues to build its military arsenal at an increasing rate, according to a Defense Department assessment obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed Congress in an unclassified communication last week that the Pentagon does not believe Iran has spent some $1.7 billion awarded by the United States as part of what many described as a "ransom" payment to purchase new military equipment.
However, Dunford said that Iran is boosting its war machine, causing "great concern" among regional allies and other groups, according to information provided to Congress that downplayed the impact of the $1.7 billion payment to Tehran.
The assessment has been met with skepticism by congressional sources and foreign policy insiders who pointed to recent statements by Iranian officials who said that U.S. funds have been allocated to military sources.
"Intelligence assesses that the $1.7 billion transferred to Iran probably was allocated predominately to Iran's economic sector, in accordance with Tehran's stated emphasis on economic expansion, modernization, and diversification," Dunford said in response to multiple questions from lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and 17 other senators.
Lawmakers suspect that Iran has used this cash infusion to boost its military operations in the region, including in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.
However, Dunford maintained this is not the case.
"Iran continues to seek improved missile systems and the replacement of aging military equipment, particularly aircraft and naval vessels," he wrote. "However, there is a lack of information to suggest Iran is attempting to use the $1.7 billion towards these interests."
One veteran foreign policy insider who liaises with Congress on the issue told the Free Beacon that the Pentagon is working off of politicized intelligence that aims to downplay Tehran's military aspirations.
"Literally no one on the Hill takes the Obama administration seriously when they talk about the Iran ransom," the source said. "Everyone knows the intelligence is politicized to hide the damage done by the president's diplomacy. There's a reason every Democrat in Congress voted for locking in Iran sanctions in the Iran Sanctions Act a few weeks ago. American lawmakers have had enough."
Iranian leaders claimed earlier this year that Iran had ordered the $1.7 billion be invested in the country's military budget.
When asked about these reports at the time, the State Department declined comment, telling the Free Beacon: "We would refer you to the Iranian government to address questions about its budget."
The nearly $2 billion, which was delivered to Iran in cash, is a substantial cash infusion to the country's coffers and was viewed by lawmakers as a primary means for Iran to invest in advanced military technology.
Since the payment was made, Iran has pursued multiple arms deals with Russia and sought to purchase a slew of new commercial jetliners, which the country has historically integrated into its air force.
Dunford admitted in his correspondence to Congress that Iran's actions-including the buildup of ballistic missiles and other advanced weaponry-continue to cause worry in the Middle East.
"Regional actors have expressed great concern about Iran's activities and intent, but I have not received new, specific concerns regarding an increasing belligerence or growing military investment on the part of Iran," Dunford wrote.
When asked by lawmakers if the $1.7 billion payment has caused Dunford to reassess his view of the region, the top military official bristled.
"This specific transfer of money has not forced me to reconsider or change the advice I provide to the president or guidance I deliver to the Combatant Commands," he wrote.
Dunford said earlier this year that the White House had not consulted with him before sending the $1.7 billion to Iran.
Dunford said there is no correlation between increased financial resources and Iran's increased malign activity in the region, as well as its repeated threats against U.S. assets.
"While Iran seeks to project an image of increasing strength in the region, its malign activities remain within historic norms," he wrote. "There is a lack of information to suggest any change in the overall level of Iran's belligerent activities is directly correlated with an increase in available financial resources."
Microchipping Fears Force Changes To Bill That Allows Tracking People - http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=897
Under the guise of public safety, Democratic and Republican law makers have pushed for a law that would allow for the implantation of tracking microchips in minors with autism and senior citizens with dementia.
Following the drowning deaths of 9-year-old Kevin Curtis Wills in 2008 and 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo in 2014, both diagnosed with autism, legislators presented Bill H.R. 4919 that would apply to both children and the elderly.
Introduced by Rep. Christ Smith (R., N.J.) and known as Kevin and Avonte's Law, the bill would have allowed for the Attorney General to implement different tracking methods while grants would be given to law enforcement and non-profits for participating and promoting the program, one of which could be microchip tracking.
An expansion of the Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program already in place, the bill would both authorize $2 million for 5 years and extend the program to children with autism as well as see its name changed to Missing Americans Alert Program.
Commenting on the original bill, Rick Manning, President of Americans for Limited Government said, "It is almost too absurd to believe that it is true, but the House Judiciary Committee is considering H.R. 4919 that would allow for the Attorney General to authorize tracking chips to be inserted involuntarily into people who are incapacitated with Alzheimer's and other fatal dementias."
The threat to civil liberties and the slippery slope that this law would rest on should be immediately apparent.
Thankfully, conservative response to the bill forced lawmakers to introduce changes to weaken the law. The bill now requires that the tracking devices be neither invasive nor permanent and that they be voluntary, consented to by the legal guardian of the patient.
Supporters of the bill believe that the changes have addressed the concerns about privacy and government overreach and it has now passed the House in a vote of 436 to 66 and there remains little doubt it will pass the Senate.
A conservative voice of reason in the scramble to submit to more government control, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert has stated that the bill still represents a dangerous level of overreach and could open the door to expansion or more similar programs in the future. Keep in mind that the original bill was passed with "unanimous consent" in a mostly empty Senate chamber, strategically avoiding even a vote on the matter.
Speaking in opposition to the new law, he said on the floor of the house this week, "While this initiative may have noble intentions, 'small and temporary' programs in the name of safety and security often evolve into permanent and enlarged bureaucracies that infringe on the American people's freedoms. That is exactly what we have here.
A safety problem exists for people with Alzheimer's, autism and other mental health issues, so the fix, we are told, is to have the Department of Justice start a tracking program so we can use some device or method to track these individuals 24/7."
He went on to explain both the concerns with the bill itself as well as how easily it was passed through the Senate without a formal vote. "It is absolutely staggering that the Republican majorities in the House and Senate could be so blind to government overreach that they would allow a federal tracking program, not for criminals in the U.S., not for terrorists, not for illegal immigrants or even immigrants who commit crimes, but for people with 'developmental disabilities' a term that is subject to wide misinterpretation."
Addressing the issue of the bill's passage, he continued, "The Senate Republican leaders even brought it to the floor with almost no one there and asked that the new Big Brother program be passed without even having a vote at all - someone just asks for 'unanimous consent.'
Since no one is advised about the bill being brought up, no one who would object knows to be there, so it passes without anyone ever actually voting for it." The revised bill will now face the Senate once again.
It is terrifying to think that a law authorizing tracking via implanted microchips went both ignored in the media and passed the Senate without even a vote.
Now, a marginally improved law that paves the way for an incremental erosion of liberty, has passed the House and still there is little protest or even coverage.
Wandering of Alzheimer's patients may be a problem, but in some cases the solution is worse. Sometimes well-intentioned and limited in scope at first, such programs have a history of expanding and becoming the new normal. It's up to conservatives to hold the line.
My Review of "Rapture Ready...Or Not?"
Over the last 35 years, I have literally read hundreds of books on Bible Prophecy and End Time signs. I especially enjoy books on the Rapture, and I have read almost every Rapture-related book published. In all those years, devouring thousands of pages, and millions of words, I have not read a better book on the Rapture than, Rapture Ready...Or Not?
Terry James might be physically blind, but he is spiritually sharp and well discerning beyond most authors. In "Rapture Ready...Or Not?" Terry has nailed the pre-trib Rapture, and removed any doubt what so ever about the Church going through the Tribulation. With great insight and Godly discernment, Terry explains with simple, yet profound words, why and how that he has come to believe the ways he does about the Rapture, the Tribulation, and the End Times scenario. I think after reading "Rapture Ready...Or Not?" you too will believe as Terry does, and be Ready for the Rapture like never before! - Randy Thomas - Publisher / Editor - Prophecy Update
For more information and or to get your copy of "Rapture Ready...Or Not?" use this link: http://www.raptureready.com/terry/book35.html
Worship the King, or a Hallmark Moment - Nathele Graham - firstname.lastname@example.org
Christmas is a busy time of year. We put up a tree and want it to be perfectly decorated to show off the perfectly wrapped gifts. There are office Christmas parties and shopping as well as school plays (don't say Christmas play because that's politically incorrect). By the time Christmas gets here we're just plain tired of the hustle and bustle. On Christmas morning we open gifts, some from "Santa", then either go to visit family and friends or they come to our house. In spite of all the running here and there, warm memories are made. How much of this reflects honoring Christ and how much is done to try to make a scripted Hallmark moment come true? The truth is, none of it honors Christ. Parents seem worried that their children will stop believing in fictional Santa but don't give a thought about their faith in Jesus. The birth of Jesus took place in a humble manger, but that event was more important than any event in history, except for the Resurrection. Our attitude should be more about worshipping the King than about creating the perfect Hallmark moment. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6. There is no gift that compares to this Gift.
The Bible doesn't forbid getting together with loved ones and having a good time. God established Jewish feasts and the first Christians certainly spent time together sharing what they had with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Scripture tells us that Jesus enjoyed being with people while eating meals. Of course the Scribes and Pharisees held this against Him. Jesus called them on their self-righteousness. "For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, an a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!" Luke 7:33-34. It's impossible to please some people. We aren't told that Jesus attended birthday parties but we know He attended at least one wedding where He turned water into wine. The Book of Job might indicate that birthdays were celebrated long ago. "And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them." Job 1:4. Job would offer sacrifices for them on these days, which some scholars believe are birthdays, just in case they had sinned or cursed God. Job loved his family and loved God. There's nothing wrong with having a good time with friends and family, but be sure that you don't sin in the process. We can be sure that Jesus didn't commit any sin, and Job shows the heart of a man who put God first. As you celebrate Christmas, be sure to keep Jesus first and put no other god before Him.
Today we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25, but why that day? Scripture doesn't tell us the day He was born, but just as with Easter it was joined to a pagan celebration day. December in Bethlehem is cool and rainy, so the Shepherds wouldn't have been out in the fields tending their flocks. Some people believe Christ was born in the Spring, while others believe He was born in August or September. The fact is, if God wanted us to know the specific day He would have told us. What we do know is that Caesar Augustus decreed that everyone had to return to their own city to be taxed. "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child." Luke 2:4-5. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem in December would have been more than difficult, especially with Mary being ready to give birth.
We've added Christmas trees to our traditions (another pagan ritual). The prophet Jeremiah talks about decorated trees. "For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." Jeremiah 10:3-4. This sounds like what we do today! Jeremiah is talking about making idols and worshipping them. We may want the lights to shine bright and the ornaments to all be placed perfectly, but I don't know anyone who worships the Christmas tree as an idol. "They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might." Jeremiah 10:5-6. A tree is not an idol unless you worship it. We use it mostly as a decoration and as a place to put our gifts for family and friends. Our gift giving is said to commemorate the visit of the Magi, but it wasn't until sometime after Christ's birth that the Magi came bearing gifts. "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." Matthew 2:11. They went to a house, not a manger, and saw the young child, not a baby. We like to condense the story into something that fits a Sunday school play, but the truth is much more interesting. Are trees and gifts acceptable for a Christian? The answer lies in your heart. Do you worship the tree and give gifts to it? Sadly most people don't even think about worshipping Jesus when getting and giving presents, let alone worshipping pagan gods. Remember His birth and worship Him only.
The traditions we keep make warm memories (Hallmark moments), and there's nothing wrong with that. Special ornaments are brought out each year and they bring back special memories as we place them on the tree branches. Gifts are chosen with love and when our children's eyes pop when they open a box with the special toy they wanted, our hearts melt to see their happiness. This isn't wrong and Scripture doesn't forbid it. On the other hand, Christmas has become more about the hustle, bustle, and gifts than it is about Jesus. That is wrong. The gifts get more expensive because the kids expect more each year. If they don't get the latest video games or the trendiest fashion then they are very disappointed. The materialism that surrounds Christmas is wrong and is a type of idol worship. We need to teach our children who gives the greatest gifts of all, and it isn't Santa. "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Luke 11:11-13. We want to give wonderful gifts to our children, but if we neglect to teach them that God gave the greatest gift of all, then shame on us. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23. Eternal life only comes through Jesus shed blood on the cross. The gift is free, but has to be accepted. That truth is the best gift a child can receive...or an adult.
Christians need to keep Jesus in our hearts and on our minds every day of the year. We say that we celebrate December 25 as the day Christ was born, so let's keep Him in the forefront of our thoughts and activities. Don't be shy about greeting others with "Merry Christmas". Don't be ashamed to put up a nativity scene. If someone is offended by it, that person needs to come to know Jesus. Sing Christmas carols. Actually, sing Christmas carols in March, July, or October. Christ was born and that's a fact that should be celebrated every day. While celebrating His birth, don't forget that He had to be born in order to lay down His life to redeem us from our sins. While trying to create that perfect Hallmark Christmas, don't forget to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is God's gift to us every day of the year.
God bless you all,
Ron Graham's previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is "theopneustos" God breathed.
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Daily Jot: US warned about Islamic immigration--10 years ago today - Bill Wilson - www.dailyjot.com
On December 22, 2006--10 years ago today--The Daily Jot wrote: "Virginia Republican Congressman Virgil Goode is in hot water with a few other congressmen and the radical Islamic civil rights group, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). In a letter to constituents concerned about the election of Islamic Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison from Minnesota, Goode wrote, "The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."
"Goode further said, "I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped." In exercising his free speech and by saying what is on his mind, as American are supposed to do, Goode's remarks are being slammed by some Democratic Congressman as "offensive" to the Muslim American community and CAIR has demanded an apology, saying "there can be no reasonable defense of such bigotry."
"Of course, Ellison,the frontrunner to be chairman of the Democratic Party, is not an illegal immigrant. He converted to Islam in college. And of course, not all illegal immigrants or immigrants in general are Muslim. But Goode's position, though roughly communicated, has merit. The Islamic concept of government through Theocracy as spelled out in the Koran is incompatible with the American form of governing by a Constitutional Republic. The Koran charges all followers of allah to conquer the infidels and put them to death or into submission. The Islamic population growth in Europe, for example, is so extensive that many have predicted an Islamic takeover of Europe within 10 to 20 years. If that happens, Europe will be run like any other Islamic state.
"Anyone who tries to sound a warning on this issue is labeled a bigot and his thoughts and speech are condemned by Islamic apologists who either do not see the danger to this country or they support Islam's strategy...Congressman Goode, like any other American patriot, does not want to see the demise of his country at the hands of those whose beliefs cannot long coexist in a Constitutional Republic. In Jeremiah 51:14, the Lord says, "Surely I will fill you with men as with locusts and they shall lift up a shout against you." This nation must beware of its enemies and Islam has declared itself as such." That was ten years ago, About the only thing that changed is that Goode is no longer in office, and the lame duck "president" has accelerated Islamic immigration.
Daily Devotion: What Christmas Is About - Greg Laurie - www.harvesst.org
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. -Isaiah 9:7
As we look at our world today, we realize that part of the promise of Isaiah 9:6-7 has not yet been fulfilled. The Son has been given. The Child has been born. But He has not yet taken the government upon His shoulders. We do not yet have peace with judgment and justice. But the good news is that there will come a day when Christ will return. He will establish His kingdom on this earth. And it will be the righteous rule of God Himself.
Before Jesus could take the government upon His shoulder, He had to take the cross upon His shoulder. Before He could wear the crown of glory as King of Kings, He had to wear the shameful crown of thorns and give His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. The first time, a star marked His arrival. But the next time He comes, the heavens will roll back like a scroll, all of the stars will fall from the sky, and He Himself will light it.
Christ came to this earth. God came near to you so you can come near to Him-to give your life purpose and meaning, to forgive you of your sins, and to give you the hope of heaven beyond the grave. Christmas is not about tinsel or shopping or presents. Christmas is not about the gifts under the tree. Rather, Christmas is about the gift that was given on the tree when Christ died there for our sins and gave us the gift of eternal life.
FROM THE HEART
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