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

Castro, the CIA, and Christ's Second Coming

There are true stories so bizarre they read like fiction.

This is one of them.

Fidel Castro died this past week (November 25, 2016). This brutal communist dictator had been an enemy of the United States government since he seized power in Cuba in 1959. President Kennedy attempted to overthrow Castro by promising military support for Cuban exiles who would launch a coup against Castro. In the greatest failure of Kennedy's administration, the Cuban exiles invaded Cuba on April 27, 1961, but were left to die at the Bay of Pigs without the promised U.S. support ever materializing.

On November 30, 1961 a second attempt to overthrow the Cuban dictator commenced. It was called Operation Mongoose, and was led by U.S. Air Force General Edward Lansdale of the United States Department of Defense (DOD). Lansdale worked closely with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to implement the 33 individual phases of Operation Mongoose. The end goal was the overthrow of Castro.

Here's where it gets weird.

General Lansdale and his agents designed a plan to try and convince the people of Cuba that:
  1. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ had arrived.
  2. Fidel Castro was the anti-Christ.
  3. Jesus wanted the people of Cuba to overthrow the anti-Christ.
How the DOD and CIA proposed to execute a fake Second Coming of Jesus Christ to overthrow Castro is revealed by Assistant Deputy Director for National Intelligence Programs Thomas A. Parrott in his 1974 report to the United States Senate.
"Lansdale's plan consisted of spreading the word that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent and that Christ was against Castro who was anti-Christ. And you would spread this word around Cuba, and then on whatever date it was, that there would be a manifestation of this thing. And at the time – this was absolutely true – and at the time just over the horizon there would be an American submarine that would surface off of Cuba and send up some star-shells. And this would be the manifestation of the Second Coming and Castro would be overthrown.”
Star-shells are powerful pyrotechnic flares designed to fill the skies at night with widespread illumination. Parrott reported to the Senate that Lansdale intended for a U.S. Navy submarine to project images of Jesus Christ onto low lying clouds off the coast of the Cuban capital of Havana. While the image of Christ appeared over Havana, a crew from a U.S. military plane - camouflaged by the clouds and using new technology that muffled the plane engines - would broadcast  messages from Jesus Christ over a loudspeaker to the people of Cuba (in Spanish of course), ordering them by the authority of God Himself to overthrow Castro the anti-Christ and renounce communism.

The operation was never executed out of fear that either the submarine or the airplane might actually be discovered by the Cuban military and the potential loss of American life was too great a risk.

Castro's death and the 45th anniversary of Operation Mongoose this week have led me to some reflection. I realize that today's America is mostly pagan and we are ruled by many pagan political leaders. 45 years ago we had many professing Christians in government leadership, including General Lansdale. Which America is more conducive to the growth of true Christianity?
  1. An America where the government and political leaders are hostile to the message of Jesus Christ and to those people who follow Jesus? or
  2. An America where the government and political leaders concoct a covert plan to fake the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in order to overthrow a communist dictator.
I think the former.

Grateful


Jim has given me permission to share his story.

He's a big reason why I'm grateful this Thanksgiving 2016. Jim illustrates why a Kingdom focus is so important for churches like the one I pastor. The Lord calls us to be transformational, not comfortable. Salt and light, that's who we are. Yet, too often, we preachers are more interested in pleasing people and making budgets than we are in pleasing God and making disciples.

Jim reminds me of the power of God's grace and the transformation through Jesus centered ministry.

7 years ago Jim came to see me. He told me he didn't wish to live. Every day Jim would get up and tell his wife, "Today's the day I'm going to kill myself."  His threats were real. He had attempted suicide seven times. When you hear his story, you'll understand why. He came to see me at the request of his wife.

Jim was beaten by his mother beginning at the age of 3. Not spanked; beaten. The physical abuse intensified over the years. At age 12, after his mother caught him at an R-rated movie, Jim was told to remove his pants and underwear and bend over the kitchen counter. His mother removed Jim's metal three-pronged belt from his pants, and she proceeded to beat him with the metal end on his bare buttocks.

She told Jim she would keep beating him until he cried. "I'd been beaten so much by her I was determined to die before I cried," Jim told me. The beating didn't stop until Jim's older sister finally intervened and grabbed the belt out their mother's hands. Enraged that her pre-puberty son had not yet cried, Jim's mother yelled, "You two clean up this mess." It took more than an hour to clean Jim's spattered blood spots from the floors, countertops, and ceilings.

The physical abuse was nothing compared to the sexual abuse. From age 8 to age 11, an older male cousin repeatedly sexually violated Jim. Unless you've experienced sexual abuse, it's difficult to imagine the soul-crushing agony. At the age of 12, Jim's mother began sexually abusing her son too. It would be inappropriate for me to detail how his mom sexually abused him, but Jim's psychosis began around the time he grappled with why his drug-addicted mother crossed over from inflicting physical pain to demanding sexual pleasure.

At the age of 13, Jim began to get in trouble with the law. The police arrested him for setting fires and other acts of vandalism. "I was arrested too many times to count," Jim said.  The fights were frequent and fierce. "I once put a boy in the ICU for bashing his head with a brick on our way home from school." Jim's anger was uncontrollable. On those occasions he managed to suppress it and not express it, Jim plunged into deep depression. He turned to drugs and alcohol for relief but found none.

That's when he began to have actual mental breakdowns. "I've been institutionalized nine times. I've been diagnosed as bi-polar. All I know it's been difficult to even want to live." His suicide attempts were frequent and often the cause of his institutionalization.

Seven years ago, when I first heard Jim's story, my heart went out to him. Jim could barely look me in the eye. His voice was so quiet I strained to hear him. I knew he was a wreck inside. I encouraged Jim as best I could. I recommended that Jim begin attending a new recovery program that Emmanuel Enid was beginning.

Fast forward to this evening, Thanksgiving week 2016.

I went with Jim to a local mental health facility that Jim visits each week.

He is no longer a patient. Jim goes every week to minister to patients. Jim is now Emmanuel Enid's recovery minister.

I listened as Jim shared his story of abuse, addiction, psychosis  and recovery through Jesus Christ to the patients in the mental health facility. I watched the mental health patients listen intently as Jim shared his story. I mean, they really listened.

Jim captivated them with the message of God's grace in Jesus Christ. One man wore a shirt that said, "Nothing to fear, but the loss of beer." But in listening to these men open up to Jim after, I realized that they all feared so much more. Many of them had been sexually abused like Jim. All of them faced addictions like Jim. These men connected with Jim because he was one of them; the walking wounded.

I too listened intently as Jim explained to the men how he began attending Emmanuel Enid's recovery program seven years ago at my request. Four weeks into the step recovery program participants are asked to pick an accountability partner. The recovery leader at the time asked everyone to stand and look around and find someone to be their accountability partner.

"I ran to the bathroom and hid," said Jim. "I did what I always did. I withdrew. In that bathroom, I committed to taking my life that night. I determined to kill myself, and this time to make it a successful suicide. I washed my face and walked out of the bathroom. That's when two men in Emmanuel's recovery program were standing there in the hall waiting for me. 'Jim,' they said, 'We want you to be our accountability partner. We love you.'"

Jim cried all the way home. "If these men actually loved me, maybe God could love me too." That night, Jim gave his life to Christ. Jim surrendered to Christ everything; his life; his hurts, his hang-ups, and his habits. Jim's recovery was beginning.

The last seven years have been transformational for Jim. "Jesus Christ has worked miracle after miracle within me."

I saw the transformation in Jim tonight. As Jim spoke, he looked men in the eyes. As he shared, the hesitant, embarrassed man full of shame that I met seven years ago was gone. The Spirit of God was now in control of Jim.

It was my privilege to pray with the men tonight as we finished our time together. I couldn't help but get emotional as I prayed for Christ's power and love to transform these men's lives, just as He had transformed Jim's life. The men all hugged Jim and me before we left.

As we were leaving the hospital I said, "Jim, it's absolutely amazing to see the impact you had on these men tonight. You are so totally transformed from the man I first talked to seven years ago."

Jim smiled and said, "We serve a very big God, don't we?"

As an adult, Jim didn't avoid the mom who'd inflicted so much pain. Christ gave him the power to love her, in spite of her sins. Jim's now aged mother recently sought forgiveness of Jim. The power of God's grace in Jim has been seen in his ability to forgive.

When you and I walk the halls of the church building on Sundays, there are many people just like Jim who are walking those same halls. They are unimpressed with outward appearances because everything inside them is falling apart.

I'm grateful to pastor a church who thinks about everything we do, with the primary focusing on being transformational rather than comfortable.

I'm grateful for friends like Jim who continually remind me that the grace of God makes us all "more than conquerors through Him who loved us."

I'm grateful that after 35 years of vocational ministry, I'm finally learning that the measurement of a great ministry is the people whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ.

I'm just simply grateful today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Chisholm Trail Should Be Called Black Beaver's Trail: The Amazing True Story of an American Hero

Something caught my attention in today's Enid News and Eagle newspaper (Nov. 19, 2016). A news photographer took a photo of a mural that is being painted on the side of Garfield Furniture "to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail in 2017." 

I saw two mistakes immediately. The Oklahoma portion of the famous trail known as "The Chisholm Trail," was actually blazed in May 1861, not 1867, Further, it was the famous Delaware Indian Chief and U.S. army scout named Black Beaver who blazed the trail, not Jesse Chisholm. Black Beaver, Jesse Chisholm's good friend, led 750 Union soldiers and some civilians (including Jesse Chisholm) on a dangerous route north out of Indian Territory at the beginning of the Civil War. Four years later, Jesse Chisholm followed Black Beaver 's Trail south as he left Wichita to return to Council Grove (Oklahoma City) to open again his trading business with the Indians. The story of how Black Beaver came to blaze this trail in May 1861 is the culmination of The Civil War's First Secret Mission.

After the Confederate bombing of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, which officially began the Civil War (1861-1865), President Abraham Lincoln and United States General-in-Chief Winfield "Old Fuss and Feather's" Scott, sent U.S. Cavalry Lieutenant William Averell to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) with orders to evacuate the 750 Union officers and troops stationed in Indian Territory. The soldiers were to evacuate to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and then move to Washington Capital. Lincoln needed these troops - the finest in the United States military - to protect the vulnerable nation's capital from what the President called "the insurrection."

Dressed as a Confederate, Lieutenant Averell made his way from the nation's capital to Arkansas, and then entered Indian Territory (Oklahoma) through Fort Smith. The Union fort called Fort Smith had been captured just hours earlier by the Confederates. Observed by a Confederate commander who thought he was up to no good, Averell was chased by Confederate cavalry through Oklahoma Territory in one of the greatest horse rides in American history. Averell eventually made it to Fort Arbuckle, the Union's headquarters in Oklahoma Territory, where he presented to Colonel William H. Emory the order from Lincoln and Scott to evacuate.

The Cherokee Outlet (Yellow)
The problem the Union troops faced in fulfilling this order was the route out. The Union soldiers had come into Indian Territory through Fort Smith - now controlled by the Confederates - and the Union commanders had no experience traversing the Cherokee Outlet to the north. This land was Indian land, given by the government to the Indians as "an outlet to the hunting grounds of the west." However the soldiers stationed at Fort Arbuckle did know a man who was acquainted with the Cherokee Outlet - it was Black Beaver. He had worked as a scout for the United States Army during the Mexican War (1846-1848), and he had also been the personal guide for John James Audubon (1785-1851) during exploratory expeditions of Colorado. Black Beaver had crossed the Rockies and made his way to the Pacific many times, and he was very familiar with Indian Territory, including the Cherokee Outlet. Black Beaver was considered to be the best guide on the western frontier. He was now retired and living about 30 miles from Fort Arbuckle on his farm near present day Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Black Beaver 
On May 3, 1861, just hours after Averell had reached Fort Arbuckle, a Union cavalry party was sent to entice Black Beaver to guide the Union troops north through the Cherokee Outlet. Black Beaver was disinclined to help. He was 55 years old - an age considered elderly in his day - and he didn't want to leave his family alone on the farm. The Union troops appealed to his patriotism, and added to their enticement by promising the United States government would pay him for his services. Finally, Black Beaver agreed.

On May 4, 1861 the flag was lowered at Fort Arbuckle. For the next 27 days, Black Beaver guided a mile-and-a-half long train of troops, supplies, dependents and livestock on their way to U.S. Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Black Beaver knew exactly where to stop along the route north, allowing for the people and horses to drink deeply from the natural springs that dotted the landscape. Black Beaver also knew where to ford major east/west rivers in Oklahoma (Washita, North Canadian, Salt Fork, and the Arkansas). The Union troops made it safely to Fort Leavenworth on Friday, May 31, 1861. Of the 750 troops that Black Beaver led to Fort Leavenworth, at least seven went on to become Union Generals during the Civil War, leading the United States to ultimate victory against the Confederate States of America. In addition, two of the men would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism and valor.

Black Beaver would not return to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) until after the Civil War. He couldn't. The Confederates placed a bounty on his head - dead or alive. In addition, news reached Black Beaver while in Kansas that the Confederates who had come north from Texas into Indian Territory and had destroyed his crops, burned down his house, and taken his family as prisoners. Black Beaver stayed in Wichita for the remainder of the Civil War with his good friend Jesse Chisholm. Black Beaver and Chisholm had been friends for more than thirty years/ Both of them had been part of the historic Leavenworth-Dodge Expedition of 1834, the first meeting between whites and the southern Plains Indian tribes, which occurred at the present site of United States Army Military Post Fort Sill

Jesse Chisholm
Jesse Chisholm (1805-1868) was a remarkable cowboy, Indian trader, hunter, guide and scout in his own right.  Chisholm's father, a Scotsman, married Chisholm's mother, a Cherokee in Tennessee. Chisholm came with his mother to future Oklahoma in the early 1820's from their home in Polk County, Tennessee. Fluent in 14 different Indian dialects, Chisholm made his money trading product with Indians in Indian Territory. However, during the Civil War, he stayed in Wichita (Kansas) with his good friend Black Beaver. After the war was over, Chisholm asked Black Beaver the best route to go back to Chisholm's trading post on the North Canadian River (future Oklahoma City). Black Beaver responded, "Follow the trail I blazed with the Union troops four years ago." Chisholm followed that trail. It was Black Beaver who had pointed out the water holes in 1861. It was Black Beaver who had marked the river crossings to avoid the quicksand. Chisholm followed this trail. When cattle drovers from Texas followed the same trail beginning in 1867, they called it Longhorn I-One, a name initially applied to the entire trail, from deep in the heart of Texas to the Kansas rail heads. After Jesse died in March 4, 1868, near Geary, Oklahoma the Longhorn I-One trail was renamed the Chisholm Trail in his honor.  Without detracting from the remarkableness of Jesse Chisholm, the trail should have been named Black Beaver's Trail from the very beginning.

Wade with Black Beaver's family 
Black Beaver moved back to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) after the Civil War and rebuilt his house, replanted his crops, and re-united with his family after a long absence. Black Beaver was not fully reimbursed by the government for his services in guiding the Union army out of Indian Territory. His financial loss was $20,000 - a vast sum in his day. The U.S. government, after forceful urging by Colonel Emory, gave Black Beaver $5,000 for his services.  In Black Beaver's later years he converted to faith Christ and became a Baptist preacher among the Indians. A direct descendant of Tamanend, Black Beaver was the keeper of the original Great Treaty which William Penn had signed and given to Tamanend (or Tammany), the Chief of the Delawares in 1682, the first treaty between white man and Indians. Before Black Beaver's death, a newspaper reporter asked him if he had any regrets guiding the Union Troops north out of Indian Territory in 1861. Black Beaver paused, then said "The only regret I have is that when the Confederates burned my home, the Great Treaty which I kept above my mantle was destroyed." Black Beaver died May 8, 1880 at his home on the outskirts of present day Anadarko, Oklahoma

On August 10, 1975, the United States military exhumed the body of Black Beaver and with full military honors, reburied Black Beaver on the grounds of U.S. Army Military Post Fort Sill, Oklahoma. As Black Beaver's coffin was lowered into the ground, a 21-gun salute fired. Then, Lieutenant General David Ott, base commander, gave a moving tribute to Black Beaver's legacy, closing with these words:
"It is with a great deal of pride that Sill accepts Chief Black Beaver."
Unfortunately, the name Black Beaver is mostly unknown to Americans. Were the Chisholm Trail properly named, Black Beaver's contributions to our nation's heritage would be front and center.

Miley Cyrus, Cyrus the Great and Natural Law

Miley Cyrus gave an interview in 2015 to Paper magazine where she revealed disdain for people who view life differently than she.  Though raised in a Southern Baptist home and baptized in a Southern Baptist church, Miley Cyrus now rejects her parents' beliefs.

According to the magazine, Miley calls herself "the least judgmental person ever.” However, she maintains a "particular contempt" for Christians.  Those people," meaning those she feels are more judgmental than she, "shouldn’t get to make our laws."

The 22-year-old singer went on to slam anyone who believes that Noah and the flood is a true story. “That’s f***ing insane,” she told the magazine. “We’ve outgrown that fairy tale, like we’ve outgrown f***ing Santa and the tooth fairy.” The former Disney Channel star also criticized her parent’s political views, calling them “conservative-ass mother-f***ers.” Cyrus revealed that she views her gender identity as “fluid,” and told her mother that she was attracted to women when she was just 14 years old.

In the course of the interview, one sentence from Miss Cyrus struck me:
"Those people shouldn't get to make our laws."
Miss Cyrus, it seems, has at least a limited understanding of government.  She refers to laws. She understands people "make laws." She may even know the formal definition of law.
"The system of rules that a particular country or community recognize as regulating the action of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties."
In an Islamic country ruled by Sharia Law, Miss Cyrus would be whipped, stoned or beheaded for her violations of Sharia Law, In reading through Sharia Law myself, I'm confident Miss Cyrus is guilty of capital offenses.

In a monarchy (e.g. "a country ruled by a king or queen"), the laws change according to the character of the monarch. For example, one of the greatest kings of all time, a Persian monarch named Cyrus the Great (600 - 529 B.C.), a man referenced by the prophets of the Bible as "God's anointed one" (Isaiah 45:1), allowed the captive Jews to return to Jerusalem and worship and live as they please under Persian rule. The Babylonian king that Cyrus conquered in 539 B.C. was a wicked king named Belshazzar. The laws of Cyrus were good. The laws of Belshazzar were bad. In a land ruled by kings, the character of the laws reflect the character of the king.

In a land of anarchy, there is no law. The very word anarchy means lawlessness. Though Miss Cyrus seems to think that the people who "make laws" should be her kind of people - people who are non-judgmental - it seems to me she hasn't reflected well on the end result of anarchy. It seems she's advocated a country of "no laws" and no "penalties" for personal behavior.

But should someone be allowed to steal Miss Cyrus recordings without paying royalties? Should someone be allowed to enter Miss Cyrus' home and kidnap and torture her? Should someone be allowed to cut off her head because she is refusing to pray to Allah?

Of course not.

So what kind of laws do we need in the United States to protect people like Miss Cyrus and others?

Answer: Natural Law. Natural Law is the foundation of the United States Constitution and the basis for all laws of the United States. Natural Law as a term of politics and jurisprudence may be defined as:
A knit body of rules of action prescribed by an authority superior to the state. These are rules from Nature and Nature's God that govern the operation of the universe, including everything and everyone.
Natural Law is not exclusively Christian or Jewish or any other religion. C.S. Lewis in his classic work The Abolition of Man traces Natural Law throughout history, in all civilized nations. For a great read, go to the Appendix in The Abolition of Man called Illustrations of the Tao and read Lewis' description of the eight points of Natural Law.  They are as follows:

1. The Law of General Beneficence (eg. kindness)
2. The Law of Special Beneficence (eg. kindness)
3. Duties to Parents, Elders, Ancestors
4. Duties to Children and Posterity
5. The Law of Justice
6. The Law of Good Faith and Veracity
7. The Law of Mercy
8. The Law of Magnanimity

If you wish to learn a shorter description of Natural Law, memorize these seventeen word from Richard Maybury:
 "Do all you have agreed to do and do not encroach on other persons or their property."
Killing another person is encroaching. Stealing from another person is encroaching. Forcing another person to worship the Creator in a prescribed way is encroaching. Laws that violate Natural Law are not Divine.

Cyrus the Great was not a Jew, and obviously not a Christian. He was a Persian magistrate. Yet, the Creator called him, "My anointed one" (Isaiah 45:1). Anyone who lives by Natural Law and leads others to live by it is "anointed." Miss Cyrus, any country in which we live must have laws, or we will descend into anarchy. Natural Law is good for government. Without it
"They shall take who have the power, And they shall keep who can."
Russell Kirk writes that Natural Law only works in a country where individuals - regardless of their religion, race or creed are individually governed by it. He writes:
Permit me, ladies and gentlemen, to repeat here that the natural law is more than a guide for statesmen and jurists. It is meant primarily for the governance of persons -- for you and me, that we may restrain will and appetite in our ordinary walks of life. Natural law is not a harsh code that we thrust upon other people: rather, it is an ethical knowledge, innate perhaps, but made more clearly known to us through the operation of right reason. And the more imagination with which a person is endowed, the more will he apprehend the essence of the natural law, and understand its necessity. If such a one, despite his power of imagination, offends against the natural law, the greater must be his suffering. So I have discovered in the course of a peregrine life. And over a good many decades I have found that most contemners of the natural law are dull dogs, afflicted by a paucity of imagination. As Adam Mickiewicz instructs us:
"Your soul deserves the place to which it came, If having entered Hell, you feel no flame."
Miss Cyrus, your interview with Paper magazine violates Natural Law. This has nothing to do with Christianity or religion, and everything to do with right reason, imagination, and honor.

Raymond English has written:
Natural law cannot be understood except through the elements of poetry and imagination in the soul. The poetic and the moral imagination are parts of human reason. For the man who does not feel himself in some sense a child of God, who is not possessed by the "desire and pursuit of the whole," and for whom words like honor are meaningless, the notion of natural law must be a Mumbojumbo, a bogle to make children behave tolerably well, a fantasy from the adolescence or the childhood of the race. Poets, James Elroy Flecker says, are those who swear that Beauty lives although lilies die; and the natural law is the poetry of political science, the assurance that Justice lives though states are imperfect and ephemeral. Justice is to politics what beauty is to art; indeed, beauty and justice become almost identical at the highest levels of human aspiration.
It seems a generation of Americans, epitomized by Miss Cyrus, have lost what it means to be individuals of dignity, honor and magnanimity.

We need less the spirit of Miley Cyrus and more the spirit of Cyrus the Great.

The Dangerous Desire to Remove the Electoral College

After Hillary Clinton won America's popular vote, but Donald Trump won more state electoral votes and is now the President-elect, many millennials on social media are asking to get rid of the Electoral College.

This is dangerous. Our Founding Fathers feared a pure democracy, and for this reason they created a Constitution that established a democratic Republic, which includes a system whereby representatives (electors) would be the only people who would actually "vote" for the next President of the United States. Donald Trump won more "electoral votes" than Hillary Clinton. These electors will gather at their respective state capitals on Monday, December 19, 2016 and make official Donald Trump's election to the office of President of the United States.

Why did the Founding Fathers establish the Electoral College? For a very important reason:
Our Founding Father's understood the rule of the mob is deleterious while the rule of the law is meritorious
That's right. The Founding Fathers feared a pure democracy.  

When the invalid eighty-one-year-old Benjamin Franklin was carried out of Philadelphia's City Hall at the conclusion of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, it is said that a woman stopped the caravan carrying the most famous American of the 1700's and asked "Mr. Franklin, do we have a monarchy or a republic?" The response came:
"A Republic, Madame, if you can keep it."
I'll never forget my fourth grade teacher asking us if the United States was a democracy or a republic. Most of us didn't know what either term meant, but the majority of us answered "A democracy."

Our teacher then asked us to stand and face the American flag, place our hands over our hearts, and cite the Pledge of Allegiance.
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands..."
Our teacher stopped us..., "Listen to what you just said - 'and to the Republic.' Boys and girls, never forget the United States of America is a Republic, not a democracy."

After we sat down, a boy raised his hand and asked the question, "How is a Republic different from a democracy?"

Our teacher rightly responded - "A Republic is a rule of law, governed by representative leadership. The ancient Roman Republic was the model our American forefathers used in establishing America's republic form of government. Democracy was feared by our forefathers, not favored."

That little exchange when I was ten years old began a lifelong love for governance based on Natural Law. I began to learn what our forefathers believed. For example, during the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Edmund Randolph described the multiple discussions the Constitutional Convention delegates had during the four months of debate regarding "evil" in governments and political systems. He reflected...
 "...that in tracing these evils to their origin, every man (at the Constitutional Convention) had found the origin of evil in the turbulence and follies of democracy."
It was unanimous at the Constitutional Convention that pure democracy was evil.

In our age when everyone thinks that the most Twitter followers, the most Facebook "Likes," and the most popularity is always the best, it's difficult to fathom why the rule of law (e.g.  Natural Law) is always better than a governance by opinions of the most people. The Founding Fathers understood that any government of pure democracy will eventually collapse.

John Adams said,
"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."
John Marshall, who later became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court observed,
"Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos."
If America keeps the rule of law established by the Founding Fathers, then the Electoral College will remain. If the Constitution is abandoned and we move toward a pure democratic (popular) vote, then the United States will become a government ruled by the majority wishes of people (i.e. "a pure democracy").

The Electoral College means that each state elects representatives (electors) who will go to their respective state capital and cast their vote for the next President of the United States. 538 electors are sent by the people of the United States to cast their votes for the President.

An elector can become a "faithless" elector and not vote on Monday, December 19, 2016 as obligated by his or her state. But that is a very rare thing indeed (with penalties). If there is a tie when the electors cast their votes (269 vs. 269), then the United States House of Representatives will cast the tie breaking vote. This is why when a Presidential candidate receives 270 electoral votes - even if he or she doesn't win the popular vote - that candidate will become the next President of the United States.

The Founding Father's could have said from the beginning, "The candidate that receives the most number of popular votes will be elected President." But they didn't. Why did the Founding Father's not want the popular vote to elect our President?

I realize it is difficult for people in America today to understand why America needs to preserve our democratic Republic. Instead of quoting the Founding Fathers, I'll give you a simple explanation as to why the Electoral College is needed.
If America were a pure democracy, the Presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in the major metropolitan areas of the coasts will always win the election. The Electoral College gives representation to people who live in the heartland of America. The farmers, ranchers, small businessmen, and others who live in rural America - the people who feed our country and fuel our country - are guaranteed a voice through their electors. The fact that the smaller states in population have greater proportional electoral representation to more populated coastal states insures that the people who live in 95% of the land mass of America are not swallowed up by the masses who live in 5% of the country. In other words, the Electoral College - established by the Constitution - means our country is a democratic Republic, and keeps a pure democracy at bay.
The reason Benjamin Franklin responded, "A Republic, Madame, if you can keep it" is because he--along with the other Founding Fathers--believed that a republic could eventually descend into a democracy, a democracy would always eventually dissolve into anarchy, and anarchy would ultimately lead to totalitarianism.

Again, the Founding Fathers believed through their study of governments throughout world history that a pure democracy will soon descend into anarchy, and that anarchy will soon devolve into totalitarianism, For this reason, it is best, at least according to our Founding Fathers, to avoid pure democracy and "keep" a democratic Republic - if we can.

Weeping and Singing and Forgetting His Kingdom

Have you ever been in a situation where older people mourn the loss of the way things "used to be"? Are you familiar with the tension between generations over change, when young people rejoice with excitement over the future while at the same time older people mourn with sadness over the past? Sometimes the hardest part of ministry is helping both older and younger generations understand that God is more interested in us building His kingdom than He is with us resting in our comforts.

The people of God living in Judah went through traumatic changes. In 586 B.C. the Temple of God in Jerusalem was literally demolished and burnt to the ground by Nebuchadnezzar (II Kings 24). Built by Solomon four hundred years earlier with no expense spared, and dedicated to God by the Israelites with great pomp and ceremony (II Chronicles 7), the Temple in Jerusalem had been at the center of Jewish identity. When it disappeared, the Jews were taken into captivity by the Babylonians where the Jews "hung their harps in the willow trees" (Psalm 137:2). They'd rather the wind vibrate their stringed instruments because there were no more songs in their hearts.

After seventy years of exile, God raised up the Persian King Cyrus, who conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and let the Jews return to Jerusalem to rebuild their city and their Temple (Ezra 1). Within two short years, the Jews laid the foundation for the new Temple. In Ezra 3 we read the different responses of the old men and of the young men when they laid the final foundation stone of the new temple:
"Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord... people sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.” And the young people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many others shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away."(vs. 10-13).
The old people wept and wailed while the young people celebrated and sang.

Why did the old people weep?  They remembered the first temple, and the second temple wasn't like the first (Ezra 3:12). Here were some of the differences between the two temples:
1. The footprint of the foundation of the second temple was much smaller than the footprint of the first.
2. The appearance of the second temple was much plainer - no silver and gold in it - than the fabulous appearance of the first temple which glittered with gold and silver. 
3. Everything associated with second temple - whether it was the amount of sacrifice, the number of priests, or the people who gathered - when compared to the era of the first temple was much lesser in grander, influence and power. 
Smaller. Plainer. Lesser.

Why did the young people celebrate and sing? They were excited about the future! They had no memory of the past. Most of the young were born in a culture that was pagan (Babylon), and just the ability to dance and sing to God in freedom was enough to bring tears to their eyes.

However, the old people who were at first sad, soon got mad. They stopped working on the temple of God. "If we can't do it the way we remember it, then we aren't participating at all."

When the young people saw their elders lose interest in the work of God, they turned to the Samaritans for help. The Samaritans were "enemies of God" (Ezra 4:1-2). As one might expect, the Samaritans provided no help in building the temple. Instead, they sought to destroy Judah from within. When the young people of Judah finally saw the Samaritan threat for what it was, they spent so much time fighting the Samaritans, they left the temple of God unfinished.

For 18 years, the old people of Judah and the young people of Judah took the wood they were going to use as framework for the temple of God, and instead they paneled the walls of their own houses (Haggai 1:4). The people of God would rather sit in comfort and security in their own houses than work together for the Kingdom.  The temple was left unfinished.

Enter the prophet Haggai.

In August of 520 B.C. Haggai, inspired by God, told the people to "give careful thought to what they were doing" (Haggai 1:5). In an attempt to only do those things comfortable and secure for themselves (e.g. "living in paneled houses," and "seeking their own comfort"), they have neglected the Kingdom.

Haggai's prophetic word "stirred up the spirits" of the old and the young, the governor of Judah (Zerubbabel), and the high priest (Haggai 1:14). They began to work together for the Lord.

But even after they began to build the framework of the temple on the foundation they had established 18 years earlier, the older people still complained  (Haggai 2).

1. "Lord, we have no gold and silver like when we built You the first Temple!"
2. "Lord, this temple is really, really different than the first one we built You!"
3. "Lord, we don't like what we are seeing; it's not the way it used to be!"

God interrupted their complaining by giving to Haggai three additional prophecies (see Haggai 2). The Lord gives the people a promise:
"On that day" (Haggai 2:23), - a day which refers to the coming of Messiah, the son of Zerubbabel (see Matthew 1:12) -  "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:9)
Haggai 2 is probably my favorite chapter in the entire Old Testament. In Haggai's encouragement to the people to build the second temple in Jerusalem, he tells them that the Messiah will do something far greater, far grander, far more glorious than anything seen in the days of the first temple.

God will bring peace to sinners through Zerubbabel's descendant, the Messiah, who will create a temple far more glorious than Solomon's.

For we know that "we ourselves are God's temple, and the Spirit of God dwells in us" (I Corinthians 3:16).

APPLICATION:

If you are weeping over the loss of buildings, programs, and traditions of the past, and because of this sadness you sit in your home and seek personal comforts, then you are guilty of the sin of the old people of Judah. Leave your paneled walls and seek His Kingdom. You seem to have lost your perspective. It is far more glorious when a sinner finds peace with God through Good News of Jesus Christ than remembering the glorious days of Levitical singers performing on the gold encrusted steps of the former temple.

Likewise, if you are celebrating and singing because you are unaware of the traditions of the past, and you're are simply rejoicing over freedom to build His Kingdom, be aware that the Samaritans lay in wait to trap you into believing that they can offer you help by blending what the world cherishes with God's Kingdom. Come out, you young people of God, and be separate from the Samaritans who worship many gods.

Let's build the Kingdom together.

Principle, Courage, and Will Equal Real Leadership

The age of mass communication has led to domination by the masses.

Cool rules.

"Where have all of America's great leaders gone?"

They've been crushed by the masses.

It's not that great leaders themselves are crushed, for real leaders are never dominated by their environment. But the ability to lead is thwarted by the false reality of those needing leadership. What the masses perceive is what the masses receive.

I don't think that England would have survived World War II without Winston Churchill. Churchill, a man of principle, knew Nazi Germany presented an existential threat to western civilization. Churchill fought Germany on the basis of his principles, which fueled his courage, and ultimately forged an "iron will" in him and the nation he led.

When Adolph Hitler turned his sights on England, promising to bomb the English to hell and back, Churchill took to the airwaves on June 4, 1940 and gave his famous speech "We shall fight them on the beaches." He said,
"Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender.
And even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
I believe that if Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other forms of social media existed in Churchill's day, one look by the masses of England at the bombed out buildings and horrific bloodshed of men, women and children in London during the 1940 London Blitz would have been enough to lead the English people to capitulate to Germany. Even with only newspapers and black-and-white photos of the Blitz available to the masses in 1940, the pressure by the English to relent and join European capitulation to Nazi Germany was intense. Had it not been for the great leadership of Winston Churchill, England and America today might be very well teaching their school children the German language.

Great leaders arise in times of crisis. Mass opinion, mass desires, and mass thought are not as important in existential crisis as are principles, courage and iron wills. When a nation is in trouble, great leaders lead because the masses become increasingly irrelevant.

This is why America's Founding Father's feared democracy. The Founding Father's knew that democracy prevents great leaders from taking the stage. The only principle that guides politicians in a nation dominated by the masses is "Do others like me?" The only principle that guides the masses of people in a nation dominated by democratic rule is "What has the government done for me?"

Only world war, world conflict, or unthinkable natural disasters give the needed opportunity for a new set of great leaders  to arise - leaders who live by principle, courage and will. In those nations accustomed to domination by the masses, great leaders sit on the sidelines. 

It seems to me that the path of the United States is spiraling toward worldwide conflict. The only good news from this prediction is that the door may be opening for a restoration of great leadership in America.

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.