"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

My Kingdom In this World but not Of this World - Calm Confidence in the 2016 Presidential Election

"My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36). 

In the current political climate of the United States, it is worth reflecting on the actions and words of the only Leader who really matters. In John 18 we read that Jesus is taken captive by the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans for prosecution. Pilate, the Roman governor, stands before a bound and captive Jesus and asks, "Your own people have handed You over to me. What have you done?" 

Pilate hated Jews, particularly Galilean Jews, the Jews from the region where Jesus lived. Pilate deemed Galilean Jews seditious and rebellious toward Roman rule. Just a few months earlier Pilate killed dozens of them in Jerusalem and "mingled their blood with their sacrifices" (Luke 13:1). 

Pilate feared anyone who sought to subvert his political authority. Could it be that the Jewish religious leaders, desiring to curry Pilate's favor, had brought to Pilate a seditious Galilean who was rumored to be establishing His own kingdom? Could it be that this Jesus, whom the Jews had delivered to Pilate, wanted to rule the Jews in the place of Pilate? Is this why the Jews handed Jesus over to Pilate? The Roman rulers asks our Lord ...

"What have you done, Jesus of Galilee?"

Jesus responds with an answer that so convinces Pilate that Jesus is a harmless Galilean with no political ambitions,  that after hearing Jesus' answer, Pilate washes his hands of the matter and says to the Jews, "I find no basis for a charge (of sedition) against this man?" (Luke 23:4). Look again at what Jesus said to Pilate. Here is Jesus' statement in full. 
 "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this world."(John 18:36)
Pilate was convinced.

Jesus was no political threat. Pilate saw a calm, relaxed Man who did not fight His arrest or the loss of His personal liberties, much less cower in fear at the threat of imprisonment or death at the hands of a Roman imperialist. Pilate knew after hearing Him, that Jesus posed no threat to the political establishment.

It is through what Jesus said to Pilate that we discover what caused Jesus to be so calm during personal persecution. It is through the principle Jesus articulated to Pilate that we can learn how He was so relaxed before a powerful Roman ruler who had already killed hundreds of Galileans.

If you are a Christian - that is, if you follow Christ's example (e.g. "Christian" means "little Christ") - you can learn from Christ's words how to stay calm during a time when the country you love seems to be falling under imperial power.  You can discover in Christ's words the secret to help you stay relaxed even when threatened with the loss of personal liberties. 

"My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). 

What does that mean? 

Contrary to what some think, Jesus did NOT say "My kingdom is not IN this world." He couldn't say that, because His kingdom is in this world. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not OF this world." 

What's the difference?

Have you ever been on a plane when the oxygen masks fall? Probably not. However, if you've paid attention, you know that if the masks ever do fall, you are instructed to put it over your mouth and nose first before you ever help anyone with their mask. 

Suppose you are in a plane when the oxygen masks fall. You immediately put yours on, but everyone else is shocked and surprised by the suddenness of it all, and they aren't as fast as you. In the four or five seconds between the time you get your mask on and everybody else is without it, the air in the plane is filled with a poison that instantly kills everyone else. You alone are the survivor. 

You are IN a plane full of dead people, but you are not OF the dead people in the plane.

That's the difference between IN and OF.

The grace from God that enables us to be part of His Kingdom means that we live in a world full of people dead on the inside, but we ourselves are alive.  

We have faith. We have hope. We have love.

We have these things when everybody else in this world is without faith, without hope, without love.

Our source of life and happiness is not found in who wins the election, or who is able through politics and power to protect our personal liberties. Our source is found in the Father who has given us His Son, and through faith in Him, we find our full and free forgiveness and our personal purpose in this world (I Corinthians 2:2 and II Corinthians 5:20). Our source of life and happiness comes from the Father who rules over all nations and kings, and from Him we find our hope no matter how dark things might seem, for He is always good and is able "to work all things for our good" (Romans 8:28). Our source only increases in its power as we come to know more fully His love for us, for from this deeper understanding of His love, we "are filled with all the fullness of God" and are in need of nothing else (Ephesians 3:14-21).  

We "little Christs" ought to possess the relaxed attitude and calm confidence Christ had before Pilate during our own Presidential election process - regardless of the outcome - because "our kingdom is not of this world."

We are in it, but we are not of it.

Just Be

When you begin to follow Jesus, one of the things Jesus will do is teach you how to be. Our lives are lived to their fullest potential when we learn just to be.

Let me explain.

God's personal name is an unpronounceable four-letter Hebrew word  - YHWH  -  and translated in the English Bible as LORD (all caps). The LORD revealed to Moses that His name means "I am that I am" (Exodus 3:14).

God is the the great "I am." He is as He is. God may not be as people perceive Him; but He is who He is. God is in no need of being perceived a certain way; He is as He is. "I Am that I Am." We only know the invisible and immortal Creator God because He's condescended to our level and revealed Himself to us. Jesus is Emmanuel, "God with us." 

One of the things you notice about Jesus is He is who He is. Jesus doesn't change to win people over. Jesus doesn't waver at the opinions of others. Jesus is. People either love Him or hate Him, but He is who He is. He simply is.

That means, we who follow Him should simply be.

A Christian is. A Jesus' follower is who he is in public; he is who he is in private. We don't change because of perception or even persecution, for we are who we are, and we are learning by the grace of God to simply be.

Those not filled with the love of Christ live in fear.  "I don't want them to believe that I am ...." Those not resting in Christ for their identity (see Ephesians 3:19) live a life revolving around others'  perceptions of them, not the reality of who they are. "I don't want you to think that I am ..."

I used to work with a person who would say, "I just don't want others on staff to think I'm disloyal to them." I reminded this staff member that he is never in control of what others think, nor is God calling him to focus on how others perceive him. I would say to him, "Just be loyal." That's enough. Just be. When you are filled up with all the fullness of God, you live like God lives. He is. Just be.

It takes a lot of work, control and manipulation to affect the perception of others. It's what's called "Public Relations" or PR in our world. Jesus isn't in the PR business. He's in the business of teaching people how to be.
Next time you find yourself more concerned with what others think of you, or how others perceive you, or where you fall on the scale of acceptance in the eyes of others, remember that those who know the great I AM live their lives by being. Just be.

12 Dates to Know that Make My Bible Reading Flow

Most people understand that time is measured by the coming of God as a Man to this world, an act called "the Incarnation." Chili with "meat" is "chili con carne." So too, when the invisible, immortal, immutable God who created all things took upon Himself meat (flesh), we call it the In-carn-ation.

We measure time around God humbling Himself to become a Man. 

Why is it important to know that God has come as a Man? The mission of the Messiah was to die for sinners, bearing our punishment, that we might live forever. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. God can't die. Man can. "For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation" (II Corinthians 5:19). 

B.C. is an abbreviation for "Before Christ" and A.D. is the Latin abbreviation "Anno Domini" which in English means, "The Year of Our Lord."  When the abbrevations are properly used,  B.C. is placed after the year, and A.D. comes before the year (ex. 1500 B.C. or A.D. 1500) Since the 8th century A.D., Western Civilization has dated events with the tags B.C. or A.D. to quickly tell if those events occurred before the birth of Christ or after. 

Prior to the coming of Christ, dates were measured in relation to the first Olympics (776 B.C.) so that people would say "in the third year of the XI Olympiad" which would be the date we know as 743 B.C., since an Olympiad occurred once every four years. Later, dates would be measured by the reigns of Roman Emperors. The Jews have kept time (and still do) using the A.M. (anno mundi) which is Latin for "Year of the World." The Jews measure time from the year they believe God created the world. So, A.D. 2016 is to the Jew 5777 A.M. 

Around 1980, some influential academicians, including scientists at the Smithsonian, began using B.C.E. and C.E. to avoid having to use the name of Christ or the offensive "year of our Lord" in dating abbreviations. C.E. means "Common Era" and B.C.E. means "Before the Common Era." Of course, a person might ask "What makes our era common?" and one could respond, "The common Creator of all things has come into His Creation as a Man" (see Colossians 1:16). 

The use of B.C.E. and C.E. may be an attempt to avoid usage of Christ's name, but I am reminded that those who are ashamed of Him will one day find He is ashamed of them (see Luke 9:26). So, using the dates B.C. and A.D., the following 12 dates - when memorized - will give you a remarkable understanding of the Bible and the flow of its history. The dates I give are approximate dates until we get to the year of the first Olympics (776 B.C.), when the dates will be precise. 

4000 B.C. 
The Creation of Adam

We will let people fall all over themselves attempting to prove the age of the earth, but we will politely bow out. Whether you believe the earth and universe is "billions and billions" of years old, or relatively young (e.g. "thousands of years"), knock yourself out proving it. I only point out the creation of Adam, the first man, on this date. Scientists recently finished tracing the human genome and "discovered" that all human beings descend from one man and one woman. Science only confirmed what the Bible reveals. Since nobody was around when the first man and woman appeared, it seems to me it takes greater faith to believe all humans evolved from amoebas and apes than it does Adam and Eve were created by God in His image (see Genesis 1:27). 

2345 B.C.
The Flood of Noah

This date is easy to remember - 2 3 4 5 - years before Christ, a flood came. Some believe this flood is global and catastrophic, others believe this biblical flood is local and hyperbolic (exaggerated). As for me, since every nation of the world has a flood legend in her history, I lean toward a worldwide cataclysmic flood. God caused the population of the earth to perish because "man was evil." The re-population of the earth began again with Noah's sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth) and their descendants, from whom all the people groups of the world can be traced. The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 is a stunning study on the world's population growth, as well as a key that unlocks the door to different cultures that cover the globe. The population of the world can only be what it is today if you begin populating the world with people from scratch in 2500 B.C. Otherwise, the world's population by the scientific rate of growth (a doubling of population every 74 years) would have our world population in the trillions (instead of 7 billion). 

2000 B.C.
The Call of Abram

Abram was living in "Ur of the Chaldees" (an ancient city in modern Iraq), when God told him to leave his country, his people, and his father's family to go "to a land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). This call of God to Abram is key to understanding the Bible. The Creator of the world is calling Abram to Himself to "make of him a great nation" (Genesis 12:2), through whom "all the peoples of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). This call is the beginning the nation called Israel, through whom the Messiah - who would bless all peoples of the earth - would come. Abram had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob, whose name God changed to "Israel." Israel had twelve sons, from whom the 12 Tribes of Israel find their origin. Thus, in the Old Testament, God identifies Himself as "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (Exodus 3:6).

1500 B.C. 
The Call of Moses

Though this date is approximate, I believe it is very close to accurate. We know that Israel and his family went down to Egypt during a great famine and stayed because of Joseph's influence (one of Israel's sons). Over the next three centuries the Israelites "multiplied greatly" (Exodus 1:7) and grew into a mighty nation. The Pharaoh of Egypt who came to power grew afraid of the Israelites, so he enslaved them. God called an Israelite named Moses to lead His people out of their bondage in Egypt. The United States has been a nation for 240 years, less time than Israel lived in Egypt. and we have grown from 100 early settlers to 325,000,000 people. Even without population growth by "immigration" like the United States has had, its not hard to understand how Israel became a "great nation" while in Egypt. When God call Moses at the burning bush, He said, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Exodus 3:6). Moses led God's people out of Egypt back to the land that God originally gave to Abraham, the land of Canaan. When the Israelites left Egypt in the 15th century B.C., God made a covenant with them at Mt. Sinai. This conditional covenant of Law was a promise that IF Israel obeyed God, THEN Israel would be blessed by God. But IF Israel violated their conditions of the covenant, THEN Israel would experience the wrath of God. We call this covenant "the Old Covenant." Israel called it "The Law." The Law included everything about Israeli life in their new land - the calendar, the festivals, the taxes, the sacrifices, Temple worship, Sabbath days, dietary laws, civil laws, etc.,, - literally everything about Israel revolved around God's Law. Why? The Law pointed to the the Messiah who was to come through Israel to "bless all the peoples of the earth." (Genesis 12:3).  Jesus came "to fulfill the Law." Jesus is the true and faithful Israel who is fulfills the Law and deserves all the blessings of God.

1050 B.C. 
The Kingdom of Israel

God led Covenant Israel to the land of Canaan and empowered them to defeat the Canaanites and subdue the land (read Joshua and Judges). For the next four hundred years, God's people sought to live by the Covenant, but eventually they began to forget they were a special people in covenant with God. The Israelites began looking at neighboring nations with kings and wanted "a king" for themselves. They asked their prophet Samuel for God to give them a king over Israel "like other nations" (I Samuel 8). When God allowed Israel to have a king, it was the beginning of a decline that eventually led to a complete divorce of God from national Israel because Israel "broke the covenant with God" (Jeremiah 3:8)  Of course, this was all part of the providential. God's Law was intended to reveal the depths of man's sin (Romans 3:7-25) and the beauty of mankind's Savior. Jesus fulfills the Law and gives perfect righteousness and corresponding blessings from God to all those who trust Him (Philippians 3:7-11).  A kingdom is "a king's dominion" - and Israel had three kings in their history as a kingdom: 
Saul (1051-1011 B.C.) - David (101 - 971 B.C.) - Solomon (971 - 931 B.C.)

931 B.C.
The Division of the Kingdom of Israel

When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam wished to continue the heavy taxes his father had imposed to build the Temple. 10 tribes of Israel rebelled and started their own kingdom with another son of Solomon named Jeroboam. This split in Israel led to two nations. The 10 tribes formed a northern kingdom they called Israel and they moved their capital to a city they called Samaria. They built for themselves their own temple, and began to worship pagan gods. Two tribes - Judah and Benjamin - remained in the south and formed the southern kingdom called Judah. The southern kingdom kept Jerusalem as their capital, continued to worship at the Temple, and tried to keep their covenant with God. Of the nineteen kings that would eventually rule the northern kingdom of Israel, not one of them was a good king in the sight of God.  Of the twenty kings that would eventually rule the southern kingdom of Judah, about half were good, and the other half were evil. I used to joke with my daughter that I would only allow her to date when the boy requesting a date could quote for me the nineteen kings of the northern kingdom in order, and the twenty kings of the southern kingdom in order. You will never understand the Old Testament until you know that the prophetical books of the Old Testament are words of warning to either the northern kingdom or the southern kingdom to repent of their violations of their covenant with God and return to Him.  The books of the Old Testament look like this: 

Historical books (17 - Genesis to Esther)
Poetical books (5 - Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)
Prophetical books (17 - Isaiah to Malachi)

You will only comprehend the last seventeen books of the Old Testament when you understand that the prophets who wrote the prophetical books were either speaking to Israel, Judah or both kingdoms. 

722 B.C. 
The Fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel

The northern kingdom of Israel never followed God in covenant relationship. Their nineteen kings were all evil. Stories like that of King Ahab and Jezebel reveal how lost the people of Israel and their leaders were. Prophets like Elijah, Hosea, and others came to northern Israel and spoke to the people and kings on behalf of God. Their message was "repent" or "perish." The people of Israel closed their ears to the warnings of God through the prophets,  God then raised up the Assyrians, the world's first empire, to bring to an end the northern kingdom of Israel. In 722 B.C. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom, took the Israeli men into captivity (Ninevah was Assyria's capital), and brought in pagan men they'd captured in other nations and forced them to intermarry with the Israeli women. The descendants of these "mixed marriages" were the Samaritans, considered "half-breeds" by the Jews of Jesus day. In fact, the Jews (Jew is an abbreviation for Judah, the people of the southern kingdom) would go to great lengths to avoid the Samaritans and the land in which they lived (Samraria). But not Jesus. "He must go through Samaria" (John 4:4) because Jesus is interested in giving life to the least, the lost and the littlest - those the world rejects. It was in the land of Samaria that Jesus met the woman at the well and gave her the water of life. Though the descendants of the mixed marriages were called "Samaritans," after the fall of the northern kingdom, the 10 northern tribes of Israel were forever lost - thus they are called the "Lost Tribes." The Mormons wrongly teach that these lost tribes became the Native Americans. In reality, the tribal identity of northern Israel was lost because they broke covenant with God, and God divorced Himself from them as a nation.

586 B.C.
The Fall of the Southern Kingdom 

After the fall of the northern kingdom, the southern kingdom (Judah), composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, would be the only families of Israel remaining. Of course, the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Jesus) was to come from Judah, and the Messiah would "reign over the house of David forever." King David was from the tribe of Benjamin. So the promise God originally made to Abraham that through Him "all the nations of the earth would be blessed" was still in effect. However, the people of Judah began to go the way of their northern brothers. Prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others began to warn Judah that they too would perish if they didn't repent and return to God. The world's second empire, the Babylonians, conquered the Assyrians, and in a series of three increasingly severe attacks on Jerusalem (609, 597 and 586 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, eventually destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, and took the Jews (the abbreviation for the people of Judah) into captivity. This captivity into Babylon (modern Iraq and Iran) is called "The Babylonian Exile." I date this 70 years of captivity from 609 B.C. when Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are taken by Nebuchadnezzar from Jerusalem to Babylon, to the fall of Babylon to the Persians in October of 539 B.C. Many amazing things occurred during the Jews captivity in Babylon. Synagogue worship begins. Daniel wrotes his prophetical books and names the date for the coming of the Messiah. The "magi' from the East who came looking for "he who has been born king of the Jews' came because they knew Daniel's scroll. He was the most revered magi of them all, and he was a Jew who never went back to Jerusalem, but stayed in Babylon (and is buried in Iran). 

400 B.C.
The Close of the Old Testament

When the Jews returned from Israel after their Babylonian captivity, they were led by men like Zerubabbel, Ezra and Nehemiah, and they rebuilt the walls and the city of Jerusalem. The Jews rebuilt the Temple itself  and re-dedicated it in 516 B.C. They tried to get back to their normal lives in the land of Israel. Esther, a Jew born in Babylonian captivity, would remain in Babylon and eventually marry a Persian king named Xerxes. Her story is the last historical book of the Old Testament. A ton of people read the Old Testament and get confused because they don't realize if you wish to read the Bible chronologically, you must stop at the 17th book (Esther). The middle five books of poetry in the Old Testament, and the last seventeen books of the Old Testament (the books of the prophets) fit within the first seventeen books of the Old Testament according to the history of Israel. It's interesting to note that though the Jews picked up their worship of God at the re-dedication of the rebuilt Temple in 516 B.C., the Spirit of God was never again present in the Temple worship of the Jews. It is during this time period (from the close of the Old Testament, to the coming of Christ) that there is the rise of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. When there is the worship of God without the Spirit of God, you will either have the rise of legalism (Pharisees) or the rise of liberalism (Sadducees).  From the close of the Old Testament to the birth of Christ, you have a period where the Persians are defeated by the Greeks, the Greeks are then defeated by the Romans, and during the Roman rule of the world, the Messiah appears (see Daniel 11). Daniel prophesied all these events so precisely, skeptics assumed Daniel couldn't have written it (because man can't tell the future). These skeptics were silenced at the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls which contained the complete book of Daniel and showed it was written before the events occurred. Man may not know the future, but God does.

4 B.C.
The Birth of Christ

I won't get into the reasons why the scholars in the middle ages made a four year error when they started B.C. and A.D. dating (Clue: It has to due with leap years), but it will help to you understand the span and scope of the Old Testament if you remember the numbers 4 and 0. 4000 B.C. - The Creation of Adam. Take away a zero. 400 B.C. - The Close of the Old Testament. Take away two zeroes. 4 B.C. - The Coming of Christ. Remember, Jesus Christ came "to fulfill the Law" and make a New Agreement with the world. The Old Covenant was a conditional agreement whereby those who perfectly obeyed God were perfectly blessed by God. In the New Agreement (Covenant), all those who trust Christ -  who came to fulfill the Law - are perfectly blessed by God.  The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a life that actively fulfilled the Law through His personal obedience, and passively fulfilled the Law through His death in the place of sinners. The coming of God in Christ to this world is the center point of history. History is His story. I find it absolutely without excuse that Christians are very excited and talk to others more about Christ's second coming than we do His first coming. His coming in 4 B.C. changes everything.

A.D. 30 
The Death, Burial and Resurrection of Christ

The death of Jesus Christ is God's mercy for sinners. God forsook the Son He loved that He might never forsake those who love His Son. The demons of hell will leave alone anyone who talks generically about God. But when someone begins telling others that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" the demons go crazy. For those who have a hard time understanding how God can come to earth as a Man, it usually revolves around how the immortal, invisible and immutable Creator could ever be "limited" to a Man.  The answer is beautiful. We worship and serve only one God. But this God who created us so transcends our ability that we could never know Him except for the fact in His love for us God condescends to our level and reveals Himself to us. Christ came that we might know God. He is Emmanuel - God with us. When you come to understand that God conquered sin and death for those who will trust Christ, then the same power that raised Christ from the dead goes to work within you. Jesus came that we might have life, and this life is for those who trust Him. 

A.D. 70 
The Destruction of the Jewish Temple

The time between the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (A.D. 30) to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans (A.D. 70) is what the Bible calls "the last days."  It's the last days of the Old Covenant, not the last days of the world. In fact, during this time of transition (40 years), the good news of what Christ came to do went to "the Jews first, then the Gentile" (Romans 1:16). Daniel prophesied the end of the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:24-27), and just like God gives a period of mercy during transitions in His dealings with His people (40 days of the flood; 40 years in the wilderness; 40 days of temptation, etc...), God gave His people 40 years before He brought the worship of the Jews at the Temple to an end. "The last days" of the Old Covenant are the beginning of a New Agreement between God and the world. 

Trust Christ and live.

He that sells what isn't his'n must buy it back or go to pris'n - Corrupt Politics vs. Cornelius Vanderbilt

People today are "up in arms' over corruption in local, state and national politicians - and well we should be. However, it's important to remember that "there's nothing new under the sun," and truth be told, people in power have been crafting laws for personal benefit since the day of Nimrod, the founder of Babylon.

One of the more fascinating stories of political corruption occurred 150 years ago in the state of New York. It revolves around a native New Yorker named Cornelius Vanderbilt. Born into poverty on Staten Island in 1794, as a teenager Vanderbilt borrowed money from his mother to purchased a small sail boat. He established a ferry from Staten Island across New York Harbor to Manhattan, and through frugal savings, hard work, and an entrepreneurial spirit, Vanderbilt eventually arose to become the wealthiest man in America.

This is a story of how crooked politicians almost took Vanderbilt down financially, but instead, Cornelius Vanderbilt took them down.

With the money Vanderbilt earned from his ferry business, Vanderbilt invested in a new invention called "steam boats." He established a steam boat business that was able to take goods back and forth from Albany to New York, bringing to the ever growing market of Manhattan the furs that frontier trappers brought to Albany from the Great Lakes region. Vanderbilt made his first fortune through this steamboat business, but he saw the proverbial "handwriting on the wall," and decided it was time to invest in railroads.

Vanderbilt bought shares in a small railroad line called the New York and Harlem Railroad in the 1850's. This line, along with the famous Hudson River Railroad line, were the only two railroad companies with access to Manhattan. In 1857, at the age of 61, Vanderbilt began buying even more shares of the New York and Harlem Railroad, and soon he became the majority owner.

Here's where it get's interesting.

The members of the Common Council of New York, what we now call New York's City Council, attempted to line their pockets by following the advice of a Wall Street mogul named Daniel Drew, who also happened to represent Harlem as a city council member.

The shares of Vanderbilt's New York to Harlem Railroad were rising. The company was profitable, and word on the street was that the city council was going to grant Vanderbilt's Railroad the right to have a trolley from Battery Park to Broadway, the length of Manhattan. A trolley was the forerunner of a modern subway, and if the Vanderbilt's railroad had this trolley business, his company's profits would soar even more.

Councilman Drew privately convinced the New York city council members to continue talking publicly about the council's desire to grant Vanderbilt's company the authority to build a streetcar line - a public discussion which only contributed to the skyrocketing share prices of Vanderbilt's New York and Harlem Railroad company.  Drew told council members that if they passed the law granting trolley authority to Vanderbilt, "but at the last minute  rescinded their decision," then the shares for the New York and Harlem railroad would plummet in price. The key to council members making money was "to sell short" New York and Harlem Railroad shares before the rescission announcement was made to the public.

The City Council's bill authorizing the construction of the streetcar line was passed on 23rd April 1863. Council members began selling short Vanderbilt's railroad shares over the next two days.  Vanderbilt had some idea of what was happening and he warned the Council members to cease their actions. However, the city council continued with their illicit plan and formally rescinded the streetcar line franchise on the afternoon of 25th June 1863 for the sole purpose of making themselves rich.

Boom! People the newspapers screamed that the New York and Harlem Railroad stock would plummet during trading the next day.

But it didn't happen. The stock price of the Vanderbilt's company actually rose.

How could this happen?

Unbeknownst to the New York's city council members, Vanderbilt had purchased all of the New York and Harlem railroad stock available. He was not only the majority owner, he was now the sole owner.

When you sell a stock short and there are no shares to trade, the price of the stock rises. It is what is called a short squeeze. Short sellers can't do anything but watch in horror as the price of the stock they promised to buy back goes up in price rather than down. Unwise short selling has bankrupted many an investor.
New York city council members came to Vanderbilt and begged him to help them. Remember, these politicians sought to ruin Vanderbilt through politically corrupt business dealings. But instead, Vanderbilt had them over a barrel. The politicians were obligated to buy Vanderbilt's stock, but Vanderbilt wasn't selling yet - and the price of the stock was rising.

When the short squeeze was over and Vanderbilt finally allowed the city council out of their short positions, the price of the stock was at $180 a share, having grown from the $8 a share Vanderbilt first paid for the stock when he began investing. Vanderbilt made millions off the crooked desires of New York politicians.

Daniel Drew, the architect of the corrupt scheme to line his and other politicians' pockets with ill-gotten gains waxed philosophical about his loss of over a million dollars (over $20,000,000 in today's money). Daniel Drew one of the few politicians in New York who could afford such a massive loss in 1863 because he had already made a fortune on Wall Street. The poem that Drew wrote is something that the federal government of the United States should pay attention to in 2016, particularly since politicians have "borrowed" the Social Security money of participants - money that isn't theirs - with a "promise" to pay it back. Instead, they are funding their respective district's with money that is not theirs. Daniel Drew wrote:
"He that sells what isn't his'n, must buy it back or go to pris'n."
Since those in political power today are not prone to put themselves in prison, I've written another poem that more likely parallels the future of the American government come November 2016.

"The politicians who from others steal will find themselves replaced on Capitol Hill."

Forgiving the Inexcusable Evidences God's Mercy

Have you ever been in a position of wanting to "get back" at somebody you think has behaved inexcusably? Have you ever felt a struggle within to forgive another person? Do you wrestle with a spirit of unforgiveness - fighting against it - or do you succumb to bitterness and shut out those who've wounded you or others?

In a classic work by C.S. Lewis called The Weight of Glory, Lewis shows that forgiveness of others is the irrefutable sign of God's mercy within you.  The brilliance of Lewis' work is that he shows how it's easy for a Christian to say "I forgive," but how forgiveness isn't seen in one's words; it's seen in the way one treats another human being.

In a generation when many get their news and information from Twitter's 140 character bites, Lewis's works are rarely read, much less understood. With this in mind, I am reducing four profound statements by Lewis' on the subject of forgiveness to 140 characters of less. I may tweet them at my leisure, but I must live them for my Christianity to be real. 
"You must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough." C.S. Lewis
Tweet: When I'm thinking about getting even with someone who's hurt me, I'm forgetting the grace and ease with which God has forgiven me.
"As regards my own sin it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought." C.S. Lewis
Tweet: Spending more time creating and accepting excuses for the sins of others than for my own sins is a sign I'm on the path of forgiveness.  

"But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine percent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one percent guilt which is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian character; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." C.S. Lewis
Tweet: To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in me.
"This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There's no hint of exceptions; God means what He says." C.S. Lewis
Tweet: My refusal to forgive evidences my rejection by God,  for my forgiveness of others is the irrefutable sign of His forgiveness of me.

Anachronic Anastasis: The Lost Art of Teaching Christ's Powerful Promise to Resurrect the Dead

Edit: The following article is a collection of views obtained from reading Luther, Stott, Hughes and other conservative evangelicals, and does not necessarily reflect my views. It is offered as a caution to those with a tendency for dogmatism regarding last things.

The resurrection of the dead is a subject of intense interest to every rational mind. Life is short. The grave lies open before us. Every adult has at least once asked, “If someone dies, will they live again?” (Job 14:14). When we gather for a funeral of a love one, we ask ourselves “Will we see them again?—Is there a resurrection of the dead?”

Every Bible-believing Christian says, "Yes, there is a resurrection of the dead."

Yet that same Christian will most likely tell you that their loved one is already in heaven and is enjoying life, waiting for us to join them in heaven. Dead Christians who already enjoy the fruits of the resurrected life before the resurrection, is like a team crowned Super Bowl champion before the game is even played.

Anochronic anastasis, the title of this article, means a discrepancy in the timing of the resurrection. When the timing of the resurrection is missed, the power of the resurrection is lost.

Jesus said:
"Do not marvel this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the graves will hear My voice and come out, those who did good to the resurrection (anastasis) of life, and those who did evil to the resurrection (anastasis) of judgment" (John 5:28-29). 
Most Christians would say the general resurrection that Jesus describes in the above two verses has not yet happened (and I would agree). Yet most Christians also believe that dead Christians are now in heaven enjoying life?

How can this be?

If the dead have not yet been raised, how can those who die in Christ enjoy "standing up again" - the literal meaning of anastasis - if they still remain in their graves?

Martin Luther, the Great Reformer who gave us the 95 Theses and helped restore the biblical truth of justification by grace through faith, would not be comfortable with modern evangelical funerals. As he would listen to pastors extol the blessings that the departed are now enjoying, he would think that these pastors have missed the timing of the resurrected life.

Lutheran scholar Dr. Taito A. Kantonen (1900 -1993) describes Luther's position on death and the resurrection with these words:
Luther, with a greater emphasis on the resurrection, preferred to concentrate on the scriptural metaphor of sleep in reference to death. For just as one who falls asleep and reaches morning unexpectedly when he awakes, without knowing what has happened to him, Luther believed, "we shall suddenly rise on the last day without knowing how we have come into death and through death." At death, ''We shall sleep, until He comes and knocks on the little grave and says, 'Doctor Martin, get up! Then I shall rise in a moment, and be with Him forever.'"
Why do contemporary evangelical Christians, contrary to Luther, believe that people who die continue to live uninterrupted, without yet experiencing Christ's promise to raise the dead (anastasis)? Answer: Because many Christians assume (wrongly) that the Bible teaches man is naturally and inherently immortal.

Definitions of Immortal

Immortal - "Exempt from death; never to die; never-ending; perpetual" - Johnson's Dictionary.
Immortal - "Exempt from death; able never to die; perpetual" - London Encyclopedia
Immortal - "That which lasts to all eternity, having in it no principle of corruption" Brittanica
Immortal - "The condition of being not subject to death." Popular Encyclopedia

Immortality by definition means the state or quality of not being subject to death. The translators of Scripture used the word immortality to translate the Greek terms athanasia, which means  "deathlessness," and aphtharsia, which means "incorruptibility."

Do you remember the birthday candles placed on your cake as a practical joke, candles that no matter how hard you tried to blow them out, you couldn't extinguish them? Christians who believe in natural immortality believe death can't extinguish life.

But Luther and other evangelicals have believed the Scriptures teach differently.

They see the Bible to teach clearly that God alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16). They feel the Scriptures declare that immortality is something that is to be sought (Romans 2:7). Immortality seems to be brought to man by the Good News of Jesus Christ appearance on earth (2 Timothy 1:10). Scripture seems to teach that a man can gain immortality when he receives the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). And finally, Luther and others believed that immortality is put on at the last trumpet when the resurrection (anastasis) occurs for those who have died with faith in Christ (1 Cor. 15:53).

Not so, say other Christians.  God made man naturally and inherently immortal. Therefore, a man must live forever, not only beyond death but also beyond the second death, for ever and ever -  because you can't snuff out a man's life.

Martin Luther believed the Scriptures taught immortality was conditional, and could only be received as a gift from God, and that it was not natural to any man, even Adam and Eve in the beginning. The "Tree of Life" which gave mortal man immortality was eaten of daily, but after Adam and Eve sinned, they were barred from the "Tree of Life" lest "he reach out his hand and take from the tree of life and eat, and live forever" (Genesis 3:22).

Luther felt that if a Christian believes man is inherently immortal, then you believe man is exempt from death, just as God is exempt from death. And, of course, if a man dies but continues to live, then he has not actually died.

John R.W. Stott and Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, two contemporary conservative evangelicals and authors, have both written in opposition to inherent immortality. Like Luther, these two men believed the Bible teaches conditional immortality.  Stott expressed hesitation in placing his views on conditional immortality in writing because:
"I have great respect for long standing tradition which claims to be a true interpretation of Scripture, and do not lightly set it aside, and partly because the unity of the world-wide evangelical constituency has always meant much to me." (Evangelical Essentials, Stott, p. 319).
In other words, though Stott believed the Scriptures teach conditional immortality, he refrained from writing a great deal on his views because modern evangelicals almost universally believe in inherent immortality, and Stott did not wish to upset the proverbial apple-cart.

Philip Hughes, who lectured at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and who also served as one of the editors of Westminster Theological Journal, had no similar hesitations in making his views known. According to John Wenham, Hughes believed that:
"It would be hard to imagine a concept more confusing than that of death which means existing endlessly without the power of dying."
Wenham also said Dr. Hughes wrote him a letter where he stated he had '"long been of this judgment and common Christian candour compelled me to state my position" in writing.

Drs. Stott and Hughes are not alone in their belief that conditional immortality is a biblical truth. Scholar William Reed Huntington (1838-1909), in his book (available online) entitled Conditional Immortality: Plain Sermons on a Top of Present Interest, gives a manuscript of a message he preached based on two texts:

"...What shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God?" (I Peter 4:17)
"...That they shall be destroyed forever" (Psalm 42:7). 

In this message, Huntington speaks clearly on his belief in conditional immortality:
"Search the Scriptures through and through, my friends, and point, if you can, to a single sentence in which it is directly asserted that man is a being who will inevitably exist forever. Strong statements to the effect that man is naturally mortal are strewn with melancholy frequency over those pages, but nowhere is he declared to be immortal apart from the quickening power of Him who only hath immortality to give." (pages 102-103)
English Baptist pastor and theologian Henry Hamlet (H.H.) Dobney (1809-1883) wrote a book entitled The Scripture Doctrine of Future Punishment where he writes:
"The Scriptures attach greatly more importance to the glorious fact of a resurrection from the dead, than the majority of evangelical Christians of the present day are wont to do...The Scriptures nowhere represent any of the human race as consciously existent in a perfectly disembodied state, as naked spirits ... there is no intimation (in Scripture) of a disembodied state." (pages 128-129). 
Greek scholar Charles Frederick Hudson (1821-1867) wrote Christ Our Life, and in this thoroughly biblical book he said:
"The Scriptures speak a thousand times of God's being immortal, but never of man's immortality" (p. 21). 
When one reads the gospels and the writings of the early apostles, the emphasis of the Good News was on the resurrection of the dead. Author Hugh T. Kerr in  Preaching in the Early Church has observed that the resurrection is "the trumpet note of Apostolic preaching." (p. 38).

Jesse Witherspoon in Sent Forth to Preach explains why the resurrection was central to the early apostles:
"They saw triumph in the Resurrection. It was the Resurrection that revealed the triumph of the cross; it proclaimed the Redeemer in the horizon of his glorious Divine Sonship. It proved his power over the last enemy-- death .... They preached a Christ who was Conqueror, and his face alive and glorious was never absent from a single sermon. All their preaching was in the key of the Resurrection. The decisive battle was already won" (p. 99).
The Apostle Paul stated "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23).

Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things, has made an incredible promise to resurrect both the wicked and the good. He will call every person by name on the day of the general resurrection, and those who know Him will be made to stand up to receive immortality as a gift, and those who don't know Him will be made to stand up to be judged for their works.

Judgment for those without Christ will vary according to the deeds done in this life. Punitive justice will be far more severe for the very wicked than it will be for others. When punitive justice has been meted out by God, the unrighteous will be handed over to die a second time, an event the Scripture calls "the second death" (Revelation 20:14).

At the resurrection, the righteous will be gifted with immortality (eternal life). The Apostle Paul wrote:
"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory'" (1 Cor. 15:51-54).
Paul makes it clear that God does not bestow immortality upon the believer at death, but at the resurrection. It is then that "this mortal" shall "put on immortality." While John writes that we are chosen to receive the gift of eternal life when we believe on Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11-13), the actual realization of this gift takes place when the last trumpet sounds and Christ returns to "raise the dead."

Those who believe in conditional immortality understand that to die in this life does not mean a cessation of existence. Physical death is only a state of temporary unconsciousness until the resurrection that Christ promised (John 5:28-29). The Bible repeatedly calls this intermediate state between death and the resurrection "sleep" (see I Kings 2:10; II Chronicles 21:1; Job 14:10-12; Psalm 13:3; Jeremiah 51:39; Daniel 12:2; I Corinthians 15:51-52; I Thessalonians 4:13-17; II Peter 3:4 as examples).

Though the notion that a human being is not naturally immortal may sound strange to modern evangelical ears, the major question that should be asked is "Does the Bible teach conditional immortality rather than natural immortality?"

If, as one concludes that the Bible does indeed teach conditional immortality, then the second question Christians often ask is, "Are there other Christians throughout the centuries who have believed the Scriptures teach conditional immortality?"

The answer is a yes.

Conditional immortality has been believed by many Bible-believing Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists and other Christians throughout the centuries.

Some of these Christians include Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Frith, George Wishart, Robert Overton, Samuel Richardson, John Milton, George Wither, John Jackson, John Canne, Archbishop John Tillotson, Dr. Isaac Barrow, Dr. William Coward, Henry Layton, Joseph N. Scott, M.D., Dr. Joseph Priestly, Peter Pecard, Archdeacon Francis Blackburne, Bishop William Warburton, Samuel Bourn, Dr. William Whiston, Dr. John Tottie, Prof. Henry Dodwell, Bishop Timothy Kendrick, Dr. William Thomson, Dr. Edward White, Dr. John Thomas, H.H. Dobney; Archbishop Richard Whately; Dean Henry Alford, James Panton Ham, Charles F. Hudson, Dr. Robert W. Dale, Dean Frederick W. Farrar, Hermann Olshausen, Canon Henry Constable, William Gladstone, Joseph Parker, Bishop John J.S. Perowne, Sir George G. Stokes, Dr. W.A. Brown, Dr. J. Agar Beet, Dr. R.F. Weymouth, Dr. Lyman Abbott, Dr. Edward Beecher, Dr. Emmanuel Petavel-Olliff, Dr. Franz Delitzsch, Bishop Charles J. Ellicott, Dr. George Dana Boardman, J.H. Pettingell; twentieth century—Canon William H.M. Hay Aitken, Eric Lewis, Dr. William Temple, Dr. Gerardus van der Leeuw, Dr. Aubrey R. Vine, Dr. Martin J. Heinecken, David R. Davies, Dr. Basil F.C. Atkinson, Dr. Emil Brunner, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, Dr. T.A. Kantonen,  and Dr. D.R.G. Owen.

It would be well worth your time to Google any of the names above and read their writings online. It is very unwise to accept the teaching of someone else without critically examining the issue for yourself. "We are to search the Scriptures," we are told, "for in them we will see testimony of Christ." Your life - in it's essence, existence, and sustenance - rests in the power and authority of Jesus Christ. He holds the "keys of life and death" (Revelation 1:18).

I close with a few applicable truths that precede from a belief in conditional immortality:
1. The resurrection from the dead is the "Christian hope." If resurrection occurs at the same time for all those who died in Christ during all generations, then everyone is raised from the dead at the same time. That means our loved ones will be raised by the power of Christ - to enjoy the blessings of Christ - on the same day we are raised from the dead (or) on the same day we "are caught up to be with Christ" (I Thessalonians 4:17) if we're alive when He comes. 
2. When you close your eyes in death, the next conscious thought you have - a thought which is instantaneous to final closing of your eyes - is the hearing of Christ's voice (John 5:28-29) when He  calls your name to raise you from my grave. It's like going to sleep before surgery. You close your eyes and the next thing you know is you are awakened. From your perspective, the awakening is instantaneous to the closing of your eyes, regardless of how much time has passed.
3.  When the bestowal of the gift of life eternal is tied to the resurrection, then the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the first fruits of all those who rise in Him to becomes the center of Christian teaching. It is the resurrection to eternal life that was the preaching of the apostles and the early church (see I Corinthians 15). Without the resurrection, our faith is in vain.
4. It is only with an understanding of conditional immortality that one can comprehend that the rewards of Christ are received equally by all those who are raised in Him (e.g. "for we are co-heirs of Jesus Christ" Romans 8:17), while the punishments of the wicked will vary accordingly and proportionally to the evil the wicked have done in this life.
5. "But the wicked will be utterly destroyed" (Psalm 37:38), and "the righteous will walk on the ashes of the wicked in that day" (Malachi 4:3). Conditional immortality allows for the judgment of the wicked to vary according to their sins - sins which will be exposed and punished by a righteous God who takes vengeance on evil doers punitively, personally, and proportionally. In the end, after judicial punishment, the wicked will be handed over to "the second death."

Whether you agree with Luther, Stott, Hughes and other evangelicals who teach that immortality is conditional, my prayer is that the anastasis of the dead will become central in your preaching and teaching, and you will not succumb to the common error of assigning immortal life to people without the vivifying and sustaining grace and power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

5 Things Women Who Love Jesus and Believe the Bible Should Know about Their Personal Identity

I have the privilege of knowing many Christian women who love Jesus, believe the Bible, respect their husbands, and have a strong distaste for any beliefs or behaviors that contradict the Scriptures. I have empathy for the struggle these Christ-honoring women have with those who advocate "gender equality." They have long heard the significant men in their lives, including their pastors from the pulpit, declare the Scriptures teach that though women are equal in worth to men, they are not equal to men in authority. Men, it is declared, are designed by God to be "over" women in Christ's church, are the God-ordained authority in Christian families, and are the ones to whom Christian women are to "submit as unto the Lord."

If you are one of those women who struggle with the notion of gender equality because you believe it contradicts the Scriptures you love and the Lord you serve, then I would encourage you to read this short primer from a man who loves the Scriptures as much as you (and believes them to be the inspired and infallible Word of God), desires to honor Christ in his family and his church, and has as strong of a distaste for beliefs or behaviors that contradict Scripture as you. In other words, I am a conservative, Bible-believing, Christ-honoring, evangelical - just like you. There are 5 important things I want to remind your identity as a Christian woman.

1. The only spiritual authority in your life is Jesus Christ, for you are called a "priest unto God." 

Christian men who teach that Christian women are "under the spiritual authority" of another man - be it their husband, or their pastor, or their father - have substituted the authority of a man for the authority of Christ. When the Bible calls a Christian woman a "priest unto God" (Revelation 1:6; I Peter 2:5), it means that nobody comes between you as a woman who follows Jesus and Jesus' authority in your life. There will always be gifted men and women who come alongside you to encourage you, to give you wisdom, and to help you in life - but nobody else has authority over you. The world lives by the concepts of authority and power, granting positions of power and authority to people so that they can rule over and control others. Jesus said to His followers, "This is not the way it shall be among you. Whoever wishes to be great among you must become your servant" (Matthew 20:25-26). Notice, Jesus did not say the great ones in His church are His servants; Jesus said the great ones in His church are your servants. Meaning, any man who demands your submission and uses power or authority to dominate and rule over you is contradicting the teachings of Christ, and is a man that should be resisted for his own good.

2. You are no more released from the obligation to love your husband than your husband is released from the obligation of submitting to and serving you

When the Apostle Paul gives instructions for how a Christian man and woman are to relate to one another in the family and the home (see Ephesians 5:21-33), he says that husbands and wives are to love each other as Christ loves the church and to serve each other as Christ serves the church. For some reason, evangelical conservative men who love the Scriptures unintentionally skip or ignore Ephesians 5:21, where Paul says we all - men and women - are to submit to one another by serving one another. It's almost as if conservative, Bible-believing Christian men and women think that the role in marriage is for the husband to love, and the wife to submit. No, not at all. The role in a Christian marriage is for both the husband and wife to love each other and to submit to each other. In a shame-filled, curse-filled home, the husband and wife will attempt to manipulate and control the other person, always fighting to get ahead and above the other. But in a grace-filled home where Christ is Lord, the man and the woman are always seeking to serve the other, fighting (if you will) to come under and support the other person. (See this article for a more detailed explanation of a curse-filled home). By the way, for the man who says, "But if I serve my wife, then I'm not reflecting Christ's power and authority over the church. When does Christ ever serve the church?" - Answer: Jesus Himself says that in His Kingdom, He (Jesus Christ) serves His church (see Luke 12;37). Therefore, the Christian husband is just as obligated to serve his wife, as his wife is obligated to love her husband like Christ loves the church. It's mutual love, mutual submission, and mutual servanthood.

3. The image of God is as much seen in the woman He created, as it is in the man He created.

Many Christians have an image of God as a man.  The invisible, immortal God is "not a man." In fact, God will often represent Himself as female.  God says to His people: "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:15). In Calvin's commentary on this verse, the great orthodox theologian writes,
 "God did not satisfy himself with proposing the example of a father, but in order to express his very strong affection, God chose to liken himself to a mother, and calls His people not merely children, but the fruit of His womb, towards which there is usually a warmer affection.” (John Calvin)
In Genesis 1:27 it is said, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." The male and the female were created by God. The male and the female both bear the image of God. The male and the female are both included in the Hebrew word adam (man) -"So God created (adam )... He created them." Notice that God says "so that they (the man and the woman) rule over the animals.…" (Genesis 1;26). The male and the female were both designed by God as equals in the co-regency of the world God created.

Any system, any society, any organization that places one gender as an authority over the other, whether it be patriarchal or matriarchal in nature, is a direct violation of the command and design of the Creator God. When God calls and gifts a person to accomplish a task, restrictions to the accomplishment of that task never take the form of gender. The notion that women can't do some spiritual things that men can do in the church or in the home - like teach, lead, etc. - is a contradiction of the Scriptures themselves.

4. Your identity and worth as an individual should come solely from who you are by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and not your marriage.

Jesus said, "At the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage..." (Matthew 22:30). Marriage is something that is not eternal. At some point, marriage will end for everyone.  If a Christian marriage comes to an end, it is possible for the newly single Christian to find the same fulfillment and joy here and now that he or she will experience eternally. A divorcee who trusts Christ, a graced widow or widower, or even Christian singles who have never married  have as much personal value, identity and significance as any married Christian. In fact, it might be said that there is an advantage for the Christian who is not married; he or she has the opportunity to understand how to function individually now as Christ intends us to function eternally in the resurrection. .

Since all marriages will one day end for everyone, then there should be little emphasis on the form of one's family, and a much greater emphasis on the function of individual Christians within whatever kind of family unit they are in. What is our function or purpose as followers of Jesus? We are to love others as Christ has loved us (John 13:34).  When we learn to function in love, we never fail; even though the form our family once took has come to an end (I Corinthians 13:8).

5. Discover how God has gifted you, love and serve other men and women, and never back down from a servant leadership role, even if you find yourself leading men.

For years I have sought to show that the teachings of the New Covenant Scriptures and the emphasis of Jesus Christ concerning leadership and service in the Christian church and Christian homes is based on giftedness and not gender. Your identity as a Christian woman is found in the grace of God in Christ, and His callings and gifts to you. Avoid placing restrictions on yourself because you are a woman.

May God, by His grace, set you free to be.

Amos, the Earthquake of 760 B.C., and Jesus Christ

One of my favorite verses is Luke 24:27 where Jesus walks with two men on a road to Emmaus, and as they walk, Jesus quotes the Scriptures (what we now call the Old Testament), and "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explains to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27).

Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ.

If our teaching of Scripture doesn't center on the Person and work of Jesus Christ, then we have missed the message of the Bible. Let me put it another way. If in a desire to be "relevant" to a generation of people ignorant of the Bible, we deliver a message to others void of Jesus Christ - in other words, we attempt to improve peoples' lives without reference to Jesus Christ's work on their behalf - then we have preached a vapid message that actually changes nobody.

The grace of God in Christ is the sole message that allows people to discover "contentment whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11), and it is the only message that sets sinners free.

Notice the Scriptures Jesus used as He taught others about Himself. "Beginning with Moses and all the prophets." All the prophets; not some. All. These prophets wrote the last 17 books of the Old Testament; probably some of the most ignored books in the Bible, but Jesus used them to explain "what was said in the Scriptures concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27).

A great little memory aid for learning the 39 books of the Old Testament is to use three numbers:
17 - 5 - 17
The first 17 books of the Old Testament are books about the history of Israel, from the creation of Adam (4000 B.C.) to the rebuilding of the Temple and the walls of the city of Jerusalem (400 B.C.), which had been destroyed by the Babylonians (586 B.C.).

The next 5 books of the Old Testament are books of poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon).

The final 17 books of the Old Testament are books of prophecy. These books of prophecy are written by the prophets that Jesus mentions in Luke 24:27. So in the Old Testament, there are these 39 books:

17 books of history, 5 books of poetry, 17 books of prophecy.

One could further break down the Old Testament like this:

(5 - 12) - 5 - (5 - 12).  

The first 5 books of Old Testament history are called the Pentateuch (or "the five books of Law"), also known as the 5 books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy ). The next 12 books of history deal with the nation of Israel to (400 B.C.). The time break between the close of Old Testament Scriptures and the coming of Christ in the beginning of the New Testament is approximately 400 years. During this inter-Testamental time period of silence, religious sects like the Pharisees and the Sadducees arise in Israel, which is why you don't read about them in the Old Testament history of Israel. So the 17 books of history can be further broken down into 5 - 12.

Then come the 5 books of poetry.

Finally, the 17 books of prophecy that close Old Testament, just like the first 17 books of history that open the Old Testament, can also be broken down 5 - 12. The first 5 books of prophecy (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel) are called the Major Prophets, and the last 12 books of prophecy (which are also the last 12 books of the Old Testament) are called the Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).

All the prophets prophesied to Israel during a period of approximately 500 years, between the death of Solomon (931 B.C.), which resulted in the split of Israel into the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah), to the close of the Old Testament history of the Jews (400 B.C.). All the prophets, both major and minor, either prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel or the southern kingdom of Judah. The Minor Prophets are called "minor" not because their message is less important, but because their books are shorter than the books written by the five major prophets.

So to repeat, the Old Testament is composed of these 39 books:

17 (History) - 5 (Poetry) - 17 (Prophecy)

Jesus said all the prophets - their stories, their messages, their lives, their situations - teach us about Him. Let me show you how Jesus is portrayed in all the prophets by using the prophet Amos as an example. 
"The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel." (Amos 1:1). 
Amos was as shepherd from a small city (Tekoa) just south of Jerusalem. He is called by God to go north to prophesy to the northern kingdom of Israel, telling the Israelites to repent of breaking God's covenant with Israel (established at Mt. Sinai), or they would face catastrophe as a nation. The covenant agreement Israel had with God was an "if...then..." covenant. If Israel would obeyed God's laws as a nation, then God would bless Israel. But if Israel disobeyed God, then
"All these curses will come on you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him" (Deuteronomy 29:15-20
Remember, Amos prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel. Of the 19 kings of northern Israel, not one of them was righteous. They were all evil. But before God fulfilled the promised judgment of sending a foreign nation upon northern Israel to destroy them for violations of His covenant, God sent to them various prophets, including Amos, to urge Israel to repent and to warn Israel of their impending judgment if they did not.

Amos beautifully pictures Jesus Christ in His ministry to Israel. 
1. Both Amos and Jesus Christ were resisted by the priests of Israel. “Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words.’ … Then Amaziah said to Amos: ‘Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, and there prophesy. But never again prophesy at Bethel” (Amos 7:10-13). 
2. Amos, like Jesus Christ, came from a humble background. “Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah: ‘I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheep breeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, “Go, prophesy to My people Israel” (Amos 7:14-15)
3. Amos, like the Messiah, worked as a shepherd. The shepherd imagery found in Amos points toward Jesus Christ as the Great Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd. Amos shepherded sheep; Jesus shepherded people. Jesus called His disciples "My little flock" (Luke 12:32)
4. Amos, like Jesus Christ, was a master teacher who used vivid illustrations in his teaching style. Like Christ, Amos would use nature; birds, flowers, and a host of natural, everyday things to help Israel see God's mercy and righteous judgment (see Amos 3). 
5. Amos, like the Messiah, claimed divine inspiration. Amos uses the phrase, “This is what the LORD says” about forty times in his book. Jesus declared, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).
6. Amos, like the Messiah, was charged with treason (Amos 7:10; John 19:12). 
7. Amos, like Jesus Christ, decried the selfishness of the wealthy (Amos 6:4-6; Luke 12:15-21). 
8. Both Amos and Jesus Christ came to declare God's mercy to the nations. This mercy is seen in the Person and work of Jesus Christ in establishing a New Covenant (agreement) with the world, not just the Jews (see Acts 15:16-17 and Amos 9:11-12; also see Acts 7:42-43 and Amos 5:25-27).
But the stunning manner in which Amos is a picture of Jesus Christ is found in the timing (Amos 1:1) of Amos' message judgment to northern Israel (Amos 3:11-12) which perfectly matches the timing (Matthew 24:1-3) of Jesus Christ's message of judgment to descendants of Judah (Matthew 24:34-35), who in Jesus' day had assumed the name "Israel" and were called "Jews."

Let me explain.

In Amos 1:1, we are told Amos prophesied the destruction of northern Israel "two years before the earthquake." Oklahoma is now the nation's center for earthquake shaking. We have more earthquakes than any other place in the world. Last week, we had a 5.8 magnitude quake, which shook our house to the point Rachelle and I thought about evacuating! But... for an earthquake to strike Israel in the days of Amos and be described as "THE earthquake," then that earthquake must have been a big one.

It was.

Archaeologists excavating the ancient city of Hazor in northern Israel tell us that the earthquake referenced in Amos 1:1, was an 8.0 magnitude earthquake, and it occurred in 760 B.C. - a date that precisely aligns with the the reigns of King Uzziah of Judah and King Jeroboam II Israel, both of whom are mentioned in Amos 1:1.

Now we can precisely date the prophecy Amos regarding the destruction of Israel as 762 B.C., which is "two years before the earthquake" (Amos 1:1).

40 years after Amos' prophecy, in 722 B.C.,  (a generation among the Jews is 40 years),  Assyria - the world's first great empire - descended from the north and devastated northern Israel.

The Assyrians took the men of the 10 northern tribes of Israel into captivity, desolated the major cities of northern Israel (Dan, Bethel, Samaria, etc...), then brought in pagan men to intermarry the Israeli women. The descendants of these mixed marriages were called "Samaritans." The Jews in Jesus' day hated the Samaritans (e.g. abbreviation of "Judites" or people of the southern Kingdom of Judah). The Jews would avoid traveling through the territory (Samaria) of the Samaritans when they went from Jerusalem to Galilee, preferring to mingle in their travels to the festivals with the Gentiles on the eastern side of the Jordan rather than the "half-breeds" of Samaria on the western side of the Jordan River.

But Jesus  "had to go through Samaria" (John 4:4). during His ministry, because His mission was to bring "living Water" (John 4:1-14) to all people, in a Samaritan woman at the well that the Jews would shun as an outcast. Religious people reject those unlike them; Jesus comes to set half-breeds free.

The stunning way in which Amos pictures Jesus is in this manner:  Jesus did exactly what Amos did, and prophesied the destruction of Israel forty years before it occurred.

In A.D. 30, Jesus told His disciples that the end of Israel was coming (see Matthew 24). Everything in Matthew 24 that Jesus said about the destruction of the Temple, Jerusalem, and the scattering of the Jews, exactly parallels the things Amos said 700 years earlier about the destruction of the cities of the northern kingdom of Israel and the scattering of the ten northern tribes.

Even more fascinating is the fact that in A.D 70, exactly 40 years after Jesus prophesied the coming destruction, the Romans came to Jerusalem and desolated the Temple and the city of Jerusalem and scattered the Jews.  This is exactly the same time (e.g. "a generation" see Matthew 24:34) that passed between Amos' prophesy of destruction (762 B.C.) and the fulfillment of the prophecy when the Assyrians came and desolated northern Israel (722 B.C.).

Matthew 24 is a vivid prophecy of the end of the Old Covenant with southern Israel (the Jews) and the establishment of a New Agreement with the world, a prophecy of Jesus that is pictured perfectly through Amos' life and ministry.

Those who view Matthew 24 as a picture of "the end of the world" have made the fundamental mistake of not seeing that everything in the Bible is about the Person and work of Jesus Christ to set sinners free!  It's Christ's first coming that should be emphasized! Sure, He's coming again for you, me, and everyone else (you and I will die!), but if our message is more about the world, politics, current events, culture, and the end of the world, than it is the Person and work of Jesus Christ to change lives now, then we've missed the message of the Bible.

Jesus is the subject of the Bible, and "beginning with Moses and all the prophets" it is possible to see the Person and work of our Savior in ushering in a New Agreement whereby sinners who trust Him and His work are "right with God" and free from condemnation (Romans 10:1) through faith. This New Covenant is not a conditional covenant of promises and curses based upon our obedience, but it is an unconditional, eternal agreement where "all the promises of God has made are yes and amen in Christ" (II Corinthians 1:20).  More importantly, this faith in Christ brings a union with God, whereby the person of faith becomes the "temple of the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 6:19), and this life of God in the soul of man brings the power needed to transform any sinner from the inside out. Christ in us is our hope of transformation. We love people like He loves us; even our enemies (see John 13:34).

When you understand that everything in the Bible is about Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished for His people, then you can declare with the Apostle Paul:
"But whatever was gain to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:7-11).