Sunday, May 20, 2018

LAST DAYS, Some will depart the faith!

Dear friends and readers,

This is one of those articles that I must be very careful in writing so as not to shake anyones confidence in their salvation.

But we must face Biblical facts; 1 Timothy 4:1 gives us a stark warning, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron----"!

As I was coming up through the ranks of the church, one of the most prolific comments heard was "once saved always saved". And after all who can doubt that? Romans chapter 10 verse 9 gives the ONLY requirement for salvation, "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you WILL (SHALL) be saved". Couple that with sincere repentance (John the Baptist, Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand), and your salvation is assured. Well, lets stipulate that SINCERE repentance is required!

And yes water baptism is also mentioned; Peter speaking in Acts 3:2 "Repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins----"! And yes for those who understand the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 it does call for being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit". So now that we have covered the bases, lets talk about those who might depart from the faith.

First, I believe in quoting scripture in context to the entire message in the word. 1 Timothy chapter 4 verses 1-2 is then followed by admonitions which lead us to believe that these particular folks might become tied up in legalism, forbidding marriage,  food issues and "old wives fables" and so forth. This theme is also echoed in Colossians chapter 2 verses 18-23 which is also all about legalism within the church.

Legalism kills! Love and Grace and Mercy give life!

I had my first lesson as a young pastor in legalism on the day of my marriage to my sweet wife. During our reception we DARED to dance a waltz together. Oh my goodness you would have thought that we stole the church treasury, spit on the pulpit and denied Christ! I have fought legalism within the church with every breath of my being ever since. It is one of the main reasons that so many people have dropped out of church fellowship. But dropping out of church fellowship (not a good idea by the way) is vastly different than departing from the faith (in Christ).

But the fact remains that for whatever reason, some people will depart from the faith. How is that possible once having had a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ? Allow me right here and now to register a disclaimer. It is not up to me to judge anyone. I just write the articles so lets stick to scripture and then you decide for yourselves.

First I must tell you that in many churches, the message regarding the fruits of the spirit and love, grace and mercy are center stage. As they should be by the way. But there is also another side to that particular coin. Few if any want to hear anything that even remotely touches on the subject of anyone actually loosing their salvation. And how could that be anyway? After all Jesus Himself said in John 17:12 "---Those whom You gave Me I have kept, and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that scripture might be fulfilled". (Son of perdition in this context was Judas the betrayer of Christ).

Oh, Oh, did I Leave something out? Actually John 17:12 begins by saying "WHILE I WAS WITH THEM IN THE WORLD". Jesus did keep them and none was lost but how about now that He is no longer in the world with His followers?

Wait, don't hit the delete button just yet.

The very same Jesus is speaking in Matthew chapter 7: 21-23. By the way, from the context it is plain that He is speaking to people who really believe they are His followers. "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 (NOTE---did you register the word MANY?) will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name? Cast of demons in Your Name? And done many wonders in Your Name?

These folks have obviously been in church and are asking Jesus a very serious question based on their belief that they are saved. But Jesus answers them and says "And then I will declare to them, I NEVER KNEW YOU; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness"! While this article is not specifically about Matthew 7, please do note that Jesus is qualifying His remarks and is identifying folks who believe that they are Christians but who are NOT actually doing the will of the Heavenly Father. Instead, while apparently attending church, they are still practicing evil.

 And it is very obvious that simply being a church participant is not the qualifying factor for very real eternal salvation. The Apostle Paul warns the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29) "For I know this, that after my departure, SAVAGE WOLVES will come among you, not sparing the flock". Remember that the church of Ephesus is named by Jesus in Revelation chapter 2 as being among the churches at the end of the church age. For those who have been taught that the Apostolic age ended with the death of the last original Apostle, we must remember that we are told in Ephesians chapter 4 verses 11-12 "And He Himself (Jesus) gave some to be Apostles, some Prophets, some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers" and then goes on to tell us why He did so "for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ".

When I was a young pastor the world seemed a much simpler place. I looked at scriptures like 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 3 (the falling away comes first) and honestly thought the day would come when folks would stream out of churches everywhere and flatly deny Christ. I thought that would signal the great falling away. After nearly 34 years of ministry I have long since realized the fallacy of my early thinking. With few exceptions, the falling away will not be people openly denying Christ. No, No!

It will be people (believers) streaming INTO program based churches who have forsaken teaching the pure Word of God. It will be a casual slow walking descent into political correctness (P.C.), false doctrine, feel good Christianity with little or no emphasis on living a Holy lifestyle. It will be like the old proverbial frog in the pot of slowly boiling water. At first the warm water soothes and becomes so comfortable that the frog becomes drowsy and looses track of what is going on around (and in) the pot. The water continues to heat and the frog falls fast asleep. By the time the comfortable temperature rises to a killing point of boiling, the frog is so weakened that he gives up even trying to escape---and death comes.

This is what is happening in some churches today. THE PROGRAM(s), THE PROFESSIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL, THE CONCERTS, GRAPHICS, SMOKE AND MIRRORS becomes a hypnotic replacement for the pure word of God.

But first a disclaimer and full disclosure on my part; As a church pastor for many years, we had baby sitting, children's church, good praise and worship, church dinners, outings and things that did make church fun. No problem with any of that. BUT, teaching the word of God---exactly as written, in context was ALWAYS the first priority. Nothing and I mean nothing supplanted teaching the word.

Also to be honesty here, out there in the highways and byways of the western world are very many great churches and dedicated pastors who keep the word of God foremost in each and every service. These churches range from small community fellowships to huge big city congregations. And by the way, when you hear someone saying that we live in a POST CHRISTIAN ERA, don't you believe it because that statement in itself downsizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the modern church today. No, the church is alive and well. The problem is that we live in such a fast paced world and one in which recreation and the need for escapism is so prevalent that many people are openly searching for the next great revival---of ENTERTAINMENT!

Then there is the fear of P.C. You know, the fear that one must tow the line of acceptable speech no matter the Biblical consequences. This approach rapidly becomes a pervasive cocoon of regulated speech very much like the slowly warming water in the frogs pot. That leads to accepting social behavior that is strictly forbidden in the Bible, evil speaking about other believers, gossip, envies and so forth that soon become the fruits of the flesh spoken about in Galatians chapter 5. Now the cocoon has become so large that it envelops entire congregations and gives rise to even more false teachers. And then satellite churches begin to spring up from these evil pits and soon entire communities fall prey to the great god of the program.

Is there any protection from becoming entrapted in these kinds of churches and falling prey to false teachers and doctrine? YES indeed there is. But it involves actually reading and knowing the Bible for oneself! Being armed with the pure word of God is akin to accomplishing a very basic Biblical tenet. It is found in Ephesians 6:11-17. Back in roughly 60 A.D. the Apostle Paul was writing to the church of Ephesus who's members DAILY saw examples of how the Roman soldiers were dressed for battle. Paul used that manner of dress to demonstrate a spiritual point. Those scriptures begin with the words "PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil".

Allow me to boil that down for you; Putting on the armor of God simply means to know the word of God sufficiently so you can recognize true doctrine from false. So please allow me to be blunt. If you are attending a church in which the pure word of God is being taught, STAY THERE. If you are attending a church that teaches P.C., denominational doctrine, heavy emphasis on programs rather than the word of God---GET OUT!!! Get out quickly and find a church that teaches the word of God exactly as written.

Knowing what the Bible actually says is your protection from becoming sucked into the black hole of false doctrine taught by false teachers.  It is your assurance that you will not be among those in the end times who fall away. Knowing the word of God, true and sincere repentance and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the pathway to an eventual eternal home in the New City of Jerusalem with Christ as your King.

Remember that this life is short but it is also a "one shot deal". We need to get it right the first time around because there will be no second time.

God bless,
Pastor Rance.





Monday, April 30, 2018

TURKEY--NATO'S ENIGMA!

Dear friends and readers,

Ever had a really great friend only to discover they are not really a friend at all? Painful is it not? Well, that is also happening between some nations. Namely Turkey in relationship to ANY Western democratic nations.

And it is becoming serious!

This situation with Turkey, a NATO member who has basically thrown Western democracies "under the bus" for the sake of new alliances with Russia, Iran and even China, has become the elephant in the worldwide room of not so public opinion. In fact I would venture to say that this phenomena is all but unknown by the general public of the western nations and is not being discussed by political leadership outside of securely locked doors. BECAUSE? It is a dilemma of monumental proportions with zero easy answers. Turkey no longer fits in NATO but what to do? And what will be the cost of doing something? Or doing nothing?

Last week my article on this blog previewed my assertion that Iran (ancient Persia), elements (if not all) of Turkey and several other Islamic strongholds such as Libya and northern Sudan may some day soon be the central players in the future invasion of Israel by Gog from the land of Magog---GOG being the leader of Russia at the time of this massive attempted invasion. I outlined the nature of this alliance both politically, culturally and even more importantly on an extremely dangerous fundamental fanatical religious basis, namely from within ISLAM! I was discussing Ezekiel chapters 38-39 which is a Biblical prophecy of the end times that outlines this horrific invasion, the participants of whom will be destroyed by GOD Himself down to 1/6 of this massive armies entire strength.

Today the question is, why is the nation of Turkey such a big deal considering the fact that many college students probably cannot find it on a map? A bit of background is in order; NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was formed in 1949 to counter the COLD WAR threat of the immense Soviet Union which had gobbled up several Eastern European nations after WWII. There were 15 states in total with Russia in the predominant position of economic, political and military power. These states were 1). Belarus (white Russia) 2). Ukraine 3). Armenia 4). Latvia 5). Lithuania 6). Moldavia 7). Georgia 8). Estonia 9). Kirghizia 10). Azerbaijan and what has become to be known as "THE STANS". 11). Uzbekistan 12). Turkmenistan 13). Tadzhkistan 14). Kazakhstan.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia once again was internationally recognized as the legal successor to the old former Soviet Union (FSU). At that time the NATO nations had but one simple charge in their original charter "To safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of member states and their peoples founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law". In other words the exact opposite across the board from what the Soviet Union stood for.

The original NATO countries in 1949 were only twelve in number but grew over the years to 29. Sorry to be boring here but we need to keep this in context. I have a purpose for displaying the following list---I really do! The current member states of NATO are 1). United States 2). United Kingdom 3). France 4), Germany 5). Greece 6). Hungary 7). Iceland 8). Montenegro 9). Italy 10). Latvia 11). Estonia 12). Lithuania 13). Luxembourg 14). Netherlands 15). Norway 16). Poland 17). Portugal 18). Romania 19). Slovakia 20). Slovenia 21). Spain 22). Albania 23). Belgium 24). Canada 25). Bulgaria 26) Croatia 27). Czech Republic 28) Denmark 29). TURKEY!

This august body of nations stood strong for 42 years countering the Soviet threat until 1991. Then the NATO alliance continued on, post Soviet Union and struggled along WITH NO ACTUAL ROLE TO PLAY, for the next 26 years until the US Presidential election of 2017.  During all this time the United States paid a full 22% of the total NATO budget each and every year while the other 28 members were only expected to pay 2% of their annual GDP. Which by the way very few EVER actually did. But there are multiple categories of spending within the overall annual NATO budget so the 22% forked out by the United States is deceiving. In reality the USA pays 51.1% of the overall GDP and 71.7% of the actual total defense budget.

Along comes an outside challenger for the US Presidency named Donald Trump who committed the monumental  crime of the century by actually suggesting during his campaign that NATO had outlived it's purpose and either needed to come up to speed and face todays growing threats or fold it's tent and go home. And if it remained a viable organization Mr. Trump reiterated, ALL the member nations needed to pony up their fair share.

SCREAM!!! You would have thought that Trump had stolen the Crown Jewels, robbed Fort Knox and sold the entire free world down the river. But it turned out that he was right, NATO had no authority to do anything other than it's original charter and there was no more Soviet Union to contend with plus the United States tax payers were paying an annual fortune for an organization without purpose. NOTE: Since the election and the so called TRUMP TRAIN rumbled into Washington, NATO is now upgrading it's charter and beginning to place emphasis on current worldwide threats not the least of which is massive Fundamental Islamic terror, violence at unprecedented levels and a desire for worldwide dominance. Many nations although still behind the 2% GDP goal are beginning to contribute more to the overall NATO budget.

On a side note, do I need to make the disclaimer that not all members of the Islamic faith are bad guys??? Probably not considering we hear that every single day on the news programs by just about every single politician running for office. Oh, well.

But here is the really sticky part, the huge elephant in the room; TURKEY is one of the 29 NATO nations and has been since both Turkey and Greece joined NATO in 1952. So? Historically Turkey was the home port for the old Ottoman Empire that ruled most of the Middle East for over 600 years from 1299 A.D. until 1922 when it was replaced by the current Turkish Republic. For most of the past 64 years until 2016, Turkey was viewed by the world as a democratic western leaning nation in which the citizens enjoyed a high level of personal freedoms. Turkey fields NATO's second largest military, and the United States maintains the large INCIRLIK air base which is close to Syria and may still be home to an estimated 50 nuclear bombs.

Things in Turkey took a vast change for the worst in 2016 although I suppose the writing may have been on the wall when Turkey denied use of the US air base in 2003 to launch an offensive against Saddam Hussein. One way or another the world was caught by surprise in 2016 when an attempted coup against the government was discovered and blamed on the followers of FETHULLAH GULEN who had at one time been a contemporary and confidant of the current Turkish President RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN.  Remember, one time not so long ago Turkey was a very pro west leaning civilized nation with a modern rule of law. But after the reported uprising against ERDOGAN and the ruling JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY, it is now believed that the entire issue may have been contrived by the government itself to allow for an excuse to reform the nation into an Islamic fundamental state which has now aligned itself with Russia and Iran and even fields the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. Plus while it was for many years supplied militarily by the United States, it is now fortified by Chinese made fighter aircraft.

How serious is this change in government policies? Since the reported coup of 2016, Erdogan has placed his boot on the necks of the once powerful Turkish secular power block and is strengthening the Islamic political elite class at alarming rates. He has instigated a series of government and private purges that includes firing and in many cases confinement of over 165,000 government officials, seized 11 Billion dollars from over 1000 private company's, fired 2,745 judges, imprisoned journalists, shut down or taken over television stations and news papers, fired teachers, police officers and many within his own military. All replaced by Islamic fundamentalists.

NATO in the mean while has reformed to fight against the very forms of government and terrorist organizations that TURKEY now steadfastly represents. And I might add that the once sound diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel is now basically on life support at best.

The question is? What to do about a once long time friend, at the very center of both a friendly force (NATO) and enemy forces represented by Russia, Iran and Syria? When NATO was formed there was no written way in the original charter that allowed a process for kicking out one of it's members. And one of the reasons Turkey joined NATO in the first place way back in 1952 was because it shares a common boarder with a centuries old enemy, Russia. Now the very same issue---a shared boarder between Turkey and it's new best bud Russia, has become a source of very great concern to Allied forces throughout NATO.

This whole situation is like entire nations walking on broken glass. There is simply no easy way to resolve this problem and that takes me back to my original premise that Turkey or at least vast portions of it will likely be among the troops who will eventually be lead by GOG (RUSSIA) in a massive future attempted invasion of Israel. Ezekiel chapters 38-39.

Coming to a theater near you---perhaps soon! Dates to be announced from "ON HIGH"!

But for several of the NATO countries, particularly those who are members of the EUROPEAN UNION (EU), the show has already begun. The curtain has risen and the tide has changed. All of the following NATO countries opened their doors to the poor immigrants from war torn Middle Eastern countries. Some good folks to be sure BUT, much to their surprise several countries  have also received fire bombings, brutally stabbed innocent bystanders, cars and trucks running down entire families out for a Sunday stroll, mass shootings and violent gang rape(s). Many of these nations are being torn apart and entire ancient cultures put at risk of eventual oblivion. With Middle Eastern birth rates several times that of European, could in the course of time this spell the demise of organizations like NATO?

All of these countries in NATO are currently affected to various degrees by the flood tide of immigrants coming from fundamentalist Islamic nations; United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, Netherlands, Greece, Romania, Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia, Croatia, Latvia, Iceland, Bulgaria, Estonia. 23 nations so far from NATO out of 29 and the flood tide is becoming even stronger. Wars and rumors of wars on every front.

 In view of everything happening in an increasingly violent, unstable world, what should the church be doing? Two things; Praying and working diligently to accomplish the great commission. This is simply not a time to be sitting in our churches waiting for the lost of the world to walk through our doors. We must go out to them. Constantly and with all the vigor we can muster.

Remember that if countries like Turkey, Iran, Syria and Lebanon can change so drastically to fit the mold of what they consider to be todays challenges, should the church do any less? Do we sit tight as spectators in a violent war torn world or do we fight evil with the word of God?

God bless you all,
Pastor Rance.