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

"I Love You" Is Imprinted In My Life, Not My Lips

Self-absorption is defined as "a preoccupation with one's own feelings, interests, or situation to the neglect of others." 

By nature, every person is self-absorbed (selfish). We constantly think about how we feel, what we like, and how we can change people around us to more enjoy our lives than we think about what is best for others.

Selfishness is like a slithering snake with a poisonous bite. Nobody sees it as it silently and secretly slithers closer. It is rarely noticed until it strikes. Few flaunt their love for self, and most deny it exists, but selfishness afflicts all of us.

When one thinks about self-absorption biblically (and logically), one may trace the source of every dysfunction and maladjustment in life to the serpent of self-absorption  "For where there is self-absorption and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice" (James 3:16).

Here are a few symptoms of the poison of self-absorption:

1. Your finger freezes in a permanent position of pointing at others.
2. Your brain fixates on fixing others with nary a thought of fixing yourself
3. Your tongue casts continual condemnations of character in others.
4. Your eyes lock on the worst in people but go blind when looking at yourself.
5. Your heart is searing in pain and you're unable to love the person you blame.

Self-absorption must be crushed to live life to its fullest.

I must die to self.

Jesus alone has the power to crush the head of the serpent that poisons my life. Surrendering to Him as Lord moves me to focus only on the sin in me (Genesis 3:15) and to always see the best in others. To be His disciple, "I must daily die to self and follow Him" (Luke 9:23).

So how do I know Jesus has crushed the head of the serpent of selfishness in my life?

Real Love Is the Antidote

"By your love, all will know that you are my disciples." (John 13:35)

There used to run on television a Wendy's commercial where an elderly lady would order a hamburger from a rival hamburger chain, separate the buns, and ask the question, "Where's the beef?"

I think those of us who name Christ as Lord should ask the question: "Where's the love?" 

I can claim to be Christ's disciple and can say "I love you," but the proof is in the way I live. Christ fills my heart with love for others because He daily crushes the serpent of self-absorption in me. 

The result of this crushing of self-absorption in me is similar to what happens when a thorned-stemmed rose is crushed. The sweet aroma that rises from me is the fragrance of love for others. 

Love In the Mirror

When a self-absorbed person says, "I love you," what he means is "You make me feel good," or "You make me look good," or "You make my life good."

Christ slays this self-absorbed concept of love and fills our hearts with real love.

So what does this real love look like?

It is beautifully described in I Corinthians 13. There are fifteen characteristics of real love.

1. Love is patient.

The Greek word translated "patience" is a compound word meaning longsuffering. I don't really display the love of God until I suffer. More pointedly, real love involves suffering a long time. To love while suffering is like the dark side of the moon. It is rarely seen or discussed. We all suffer deceit, broken promises, slander, disrespect, unjust anger, rejection, and innumerable kinds of other injuries. Most people "want out" of relationship when that happens. When self-absorption is not present, I'll suffer long and love others.

2. Love is kind.

Kindness is more than just "grinning and bearing it." This biblical word kindness means "doing good." "Do not repay evil for evil to anyone; but always do good to all" (Romans 12:17, 21). That is real love.  Love is not saying "I love you" because "You make me feel good." Real love is showing "I love you" by doing kind things for you even when you're evil towards me. 

3. Love does not envy. 

Christ causes His people to feel content "whether our rank is as high as that of angels, or as low as that of beggars." We have learned, by God's grace, to be content in any situation we are in (Philippians 4:11). So we "rejoice with those that are rejoicing" (Romans 12:15). Love means we find happiness in seeing others prosper. 

4. Love does not boast.

Love never exalts myself to a superior position by saying, "I would never do that!" or "That's one thing that can't be said about me!" Boasting is a declaration of comparison. Boasting is the belief that others are not as good as I. Rather than saying, "I am the very least of all the saints" (Ephesians 3:8) and "I am the foremost of sinners" (I Timothy 1:15), I'm conveying "I don't deserve this" through a spirit of superiority.  When I compare and boast I am defending myself, not loving others outside of myself.

5. Love is not arrogant (proud).

The difference between boasting and arrogance is similar to the difference between what is displayed on the outside of the house and what actually goes on in inside. Arrogance is an attitude; boasting is a behavior. I must be careful from assigning pride to others (I do not know others' hearts), but I must be diligent in identifying pride within myself. Love is not proud. Humility is not stooping to be smaller than I am, Humility is standing at my true height with an appreciation for the Highest. When I truly see God, I see myself as no big deal.  

6. Love does not dishonor others.

Facebook, politics, and Hollywood seek to convince me that rude, uncouth, unbecoming individuals are people I should admire or imitate. But Christ tells me something different. "Love does not act unbecomingly"  When I am rude, denigrating, and dishonoring to others, it's a sign that self-absorption rules and Christ's love is absent. Outward disappropriation of you is a sign of Divine reprobation in me.

7. Love is not self-seeking.

Before Christ, life was all about self. It was all about demanding my rights, getting what is due me, and forging my way ahead of others. But Jesus performs a transformational change within. He changes the inner compass. "Love is not self-seeking." As Albert Barnes writes,  "No man is a Christian who lives for himself alone. No man is a Christian who does not deny himself. No one who's not willing to sacrifice his own comfort, time, wealth, and ease, to advance the welfare of mankind has any part in Christ."

8. Love is not easily provoked.

The word translated provoke (paroxynomai) means "to make sharp, sharpen" as in stir up, stimulate,  irritate, arouse to anger, or exasperate. This verse is translated "not easily provoked" (KJV), "not provoked" (NASB, NKJV), "not irritable" (ESV), "not upset with others" (NCV). It's used only 4 times in the New Testament. Whenever we allow another person to control our emotions, we reveal self-absorption. We want to "feel," "experience,' or "live" a certain way, and the person who "provokes us" is getting in our way. What is it everyone wants in life? "What is desired in a man is steadfast love" (Proverbs 19:22). When I develop the habit of turning to the steadfast love of God (Psalm 33:20-22).

9. Love keeps no record of wrongs.

There is a distinction to be made between wrongs suffered by me and wrongs suffered by others. Resentment over the former is called hate; resentment over the latter is called honor. The refusal to keep a record of wrongs perpetrated against me is an act of genuine love. But God calls on me to protect the weak, the persecuted, and the defenseless people in our world, so I must notice wrongs done to others (and keep a record). "Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked" (Psalm 82:4).  God never wastes my experiences or sorrows. He reigns over the affairs of my life with transcendent goodness. I can rest, refusing to keep a record of wrongs done to me because "we know that God causes all things to work together for good" (Romans 8:28). Do you know this to be true in your life? If so, you'll keep no list of the wrongs done toward you. 

List keeping of the wrongs done toward you is not a list kept on a refrigerator door. It is a list locked in your mind and heart and revealed through your language:
List keepers use absolute language. "You always, you never, I would never, etc."
List keepers relate based on performance. Loved ones get tired of trying to measure up.
List keepers can't trust; they protect themselves. The prospect of future hurt paralyzes relationships.
List keepers hurt people because they hurt themselves. Healing only comes from Christ.
10. Love does not delight in unrighteousness.

What does this mean? The word unrighteousness translates the Greek adikia (a = not + dikê = right) and means "a condition of not being right."  A loving person will take steps to make right what is not right, help straighten what is bent, correct what is crooked, and adust what is unjust. But the motivation is always for the betterment of others, never oneself. Since God alone has the power to make right the unrighteous, God's people are only tools in God's hand. The tools remain on the shelf if the crooked one is blind to his crookedness. So we pray that God will turn on the light in another person's heart and patiently wait to be used by God when He turns the light on.

11. Love rejoices with the truth.

When Jesus is Lord, we come to grips with reality and rejoice! This is who I am. This is what I've done. This is where I've been. This is me. Truth in Greek is the compound word alethia. The little "a" means—not,  and "lethe" means - hiding; So truth means "not forgetting" or "not hiding" In ancient Greek mythology Lethe was the daughter of Eris, goddess of strife and discord. Lethe was known for her sleeping and hiding in the shadows. She is often contrasted to the goddess of memory and light—Mnemosyne. The Greeks gave to the river that flows through the valley of Hades the name Lethe. Ancient Greeks believed that souls were made to drink from the river Lethe before being reincarnated so that they would not remember their past lives. This forgetting and concealing were "good things" to the ancients.

But for the Christian, the little "a" (not) before "lethe" (hiding) best describes who we are. We are people who don't hide or cover. Real love never allows us to forget our faults and never encourages us to hide our harmful habits. We rejoice in alethia because God loves us "even when we were sinners." Why seek to get steadfast love from anyone else but Him.  The person who rejoices with the truth is always quick to seek forgiveness of others and never hides in shame when faults are pointed out by others because he or she is secure in God's love for them.

12. Love bears all things.

The word "bear" in English translates the Greek word stego. This words means "to cover" or "to hide." It conveys the idea that you will "cover" or "hide" the faults of those you love. You might object and say, "Wait! We just read that love "rejoices in the truth!" You're correct. Alethia means "to not hide" and people who love always rejoice in not hiding. So which is it? Do we hide and cover or do we not hide and not cover? 

Answer: Love means I am open about my faults, but I cover the faults of others. In every marriage counseling session when one spouse is more vocal about their mates' faults, I immediately began asking probing questions of the one pointing his or her finger at the other person. Marriages ultimately break down because someone is refusing to love the other person. "Love covers a multitude of sins" (I Peter 4:8). We are not ashamed to reveal our faults, our failures, our wrongs, our past, our sins. Jesus Christ has removed the guilt we feel and given us the love we need; we are open. But we get no joy or satisfaction pointing out weaknesses and failures in those we love.

This "bearing" does not mean "enabling." Not at all. Love means that I will always talk to the one I love about his problems for his sake, but I will refuse to talk with other people the problems of the one I love. 

13. Love believes all things.

Love looks beyond where a person has been to where a person is headed. That means one who loves looks beyond what others have done to what others are declaring. Love believes. This truth might cause some concern in some because it's different than what many have been taught. "Talk is cheap," we are told. "Doing is proving it." That's true when it comes to a personal evaluation of myself. But placing others on a performance scale is the opposite of loving people. Peter asked, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him? (Matthew 18:21). Jesus responded, "Seventy times seven!" which actually is a Hebraism for infinity.

There is never an occasion where you are not to forgive the one you love.  In a parallel passage, Jesus says. "If your loved one sins against you seven times in a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him" (Luke 17:4). The disciples respond, "Lord, increase our faith." (Matthew 5:38-48). It's not increased faith that is needed; it's increased love. Love believes the person who says, even if the person does repeatedly opposite of what he says. Believing others doesn't do us any real harm because being hoodwinked and defrauded by others is in God's hands, not ours. It's better to believe in someone and have your heart broken than to have no heart. British poet Alfred Tennyson wrote, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." If you've ever told somebody, "I don't believe you," you're actually saying, "I don't love you."

14. Love hopes all things.

"Love hopes" is not "wishful thinking" about other people. Hope conveys a settled certainty. Hope is the Greek word elpizo, and if you make elpizo negative by adding the preposition "a" in Greek (apelpizo), you have the Greek word  for "despair."  Hope in all people means you never despair over people. When I love others by never losing hope in people, I will not let myself become dependant on the actions of another for my personal happiness. I will never shut myself off from one who has mistreated me or wronged me. I will recognize that life's events are orchestrated by God for my good and His glory. I will always be conscious and aware that my need for control reveals my distrust in God. I will live life with the joy of each present moment and without any fear over the future. "Therefore having such a hope, we have great boldness" (II Corinthians 3:12).

15. Love endures all things.

When I endure, I abide in a relationship and do not personally abandon. This word "endure" is the Greek word hupomeno and occurs seventeen times in the New Testament. It is a compound word: hupounder and menoabide. It means "to abide under a burden." When I love someone, I don't abandon him or her, but you abide in the relationship. When I endure, I support you and feel no need to shame you. I am not enduring when things are going well; I am enjoying.  Endurance speaks of a burden. "Hupo" refers a willingness to abide under a burden, to lift, and to support. When I endure others and the burdens they bring, I love people the way Christ loves me. "Let's fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God" (Hebrews 12:2). 

Summary: Next time we're moved to declare our love, we might consider reading I Corinthians 13 to ensure the love we profess is our way of living and not just our way of speaking. 

The Scepter Shall Not Depart Judah Until Shiloh Comes, and to Him Shall Be Obedience (Gen 49:10)

Of the dozens of Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament, each of them beautifully fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ to bring "peace" (i.e. the meaning of the Hebrew word Shiloh) between sinners and our Creator, the prophecy from Genesis 49:10 is my favorite.
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, 
until Shiloh comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples."
If you half an hour to spare and a willing mind, watch this video to help cement your understanding of why the Bible is unique among all other books and Jesus is sent from God as the Savior and Messiah of the world.

Wade Burleson: Until Shiloh Comes from Emmanuel Enid on Vimeo.

An Intellectual Defense for the Use of Horns Down

Horns Down
By now most people have heard that Big 12 officials will penalize any Oklahoma Sooner player who flashes the "horns down" hand sign during the 2018 Big 12 Championship in Arlington, Texas.

Unfortunately, many will assume that this ban of the "horns down" is a promotion of good sportsmanship, and they will never consider the implications of banning a gesture that has significant intellectual and religious meaning. As you'll read in this short essay, if there is a symbol that should be "banned" during the Big 12 Championship, it is the "horns up" symbol, otherwise known as "Hook'em Horns."

Allow me to explain.

Horns Up
The traditional Texas Longhorn hand sign of the pinkie and index finger pointing up, called "the sign of the upright horns, is also known as "devil horns," "metal horns," or "rock horns."

The "Hook'em Horns" symbol has a long history in eastern religions as well as western "rock and roll" music. When someone flashes "horns up," it symbolizes cuckoldry. The common words for cuckoldry in Italian, Greek and Spanish are cornuto, κερατάς (keratas) and cornudo respectively. All three words literally mean "horned."

Do you know what a cuckold is? A cuckold is the husband of an adulterous wife. The term is applied to males who are unwittingly investing parental effort in offspring that are not genetically their own. The word cuckold is derived from the cuckoo bird and alludes to the cuckoo's habit of laying its eggs in another's nest. In time, the rightful owner of the nest will recognize that the cuckoo birds he's raising are not his own. They don't belong.

The sign of "the upright horns," is "the cuckhold (horn) symbol" and conveys that one is taking for himself what is not rightfully his to possess.

So when someone flashes the "horns down" gesture, it means just the reverse. The "upside down horns" is a symbol that refers to  "the reversing the curse" or to "the warding off of cuckoldry." It is the modern equivalent of "knocking on wood" to prevent malevolency in one's life.

Warding Off the Spirit of Cuckoldry
In Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean, the "horns down" gesture is the most powerful symbol designed to keep at bay evil spirits.

There are other gestures in those cultures that supposedly keep someone from bad luck, like "touching iron" (tocca ferro), touching one's nose, or grabbing one's testicles. But the "horns down" symbol remains, to this day, the most powerful and least offensive gesture for warding off the spirit of cuckoldry in many countries.

Big 12 officials, I suggest you do a little homework before you penalize a player from Oklahoma.  The "horns down" symbol of the Oklahoma Sooners is definitively more appropriate than the "horns up" symbol of the Texas Longhorns.

When a player flashes and waves "horns up," he is calling the other players cuckolds; stupid, naive players who have no clue that there's illegitimacy in their house, and they (the "horns up" signalers) are the ones responsible for the illegitimacy.

But when a player lashes "horns down," that person is "warding off" the spirit of cuckoldry, making it known that only those who truly belong will be allowed in the house.

The "horns up" symbol should be banned. The "horns down" symbol should be approved.

"Horns down" is how Oklahoma players will ward off the illegitimate cuckoldry spirit of the Texas Longhorns who are trying to lay their eggs in the wrong house.

There's only ONE Oklahoma!

John Chau and Oakchia: Missionaries with Courage

John Allen Chau
John Allen Chau, a 26-year-old graduate of Oral Roberts University and an American missionary in the Pacific, was killed November 21, 2018, by indigenous people on North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal.

For centuries, the Sentinelese people have resisted all contact with the outside world, sometimes violently. As a result, the Sentinelese people have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.

National Public Radio reports that Chau's death has launched a national debate over the appropriateness of evangelizing cultures which are either ignorant of or hostile to Christianity, especially when the evangelist faces potential death for sharing Christ.

The debate is not new.

200 years ago another missionary, a Choctaw Indian named Oakchiah, faced imminent death for boldly sharing Christ with a culture hostile to Christianity.

The culture was the Choctaw tribe.

The threat of death came from Oakchiah's own father.

On the south bank of the Arkansas River, just north of the old fort from which Fort Smith, Arkansas draws its name, lies a grave that contains the body of Oakchiah. His courage to share Christ in a hostile area where his message was not welcome is similar to Chau's story. 

Born in Mississippi in April 1810, Oakchiah grew up in a full-blood Choctaw family steeped in traditional ways. He and other Choctaws lived in what is called "The Old Choctaw Nation," an area that encompasses most of modern Mississippi.

Previous to the Choctaws forcible removal by the U.S. government during the 1830s to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), an awakening of Christian faith came to the Choctaws in Mississippi. Many tribal natives came to faith in Jesus Christ, and those new Indian converts became evangelists for Christ among their southern Indian tribes.

Oakchiah was one of those Christian converts.

According to those acquainted with Oakchiah after his conversion, the young Choctaw Indian became an active, energetic, and zealous evangelist for Christ. He desired that those among his people who still walked in darkness come to know the Savior. Oakchiah took the Christian name William Winans at his baptism, but he also retained his Indian name Oakchiah until his death to move among the Indians as a Chrisitan evangelist.

Whenever an opportunity was given to Oakchiah, he would speak boldly of Christ to his fellow Indians, warning in his native tongue that all should repent of their sins and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Oakchiah stood only about five feet and five inches. He was thin and delicate in frame, with an expressive face. He spoke in a dignified, graceful, and easy manner. His fellow Indians considered him popular, earnest, and very successful preacher. He conveyed his message gently and soothingly, melting the hearts of the hearers. A contemporary said, “In almost every instance when I have heard Oakchiah preach, people have been bathed in tears before the sermon closed.”

But Oakchia's message troubled and offended many others who were wed to the old ways. Bitter persecutions arose against Oakchiah from within his own family. Oakchiah's earthly father told him that if he ever again spoke to the people about Christ, he would kill him.

Duly warned, Oakchiah had a decision to make before the next council meeting.

Would he heed the advice of his father and be silent about Christ? Or would he risk his own life and again appeal to the Choctaws to turn to Christ for salvation?

Oakchiah chose to continue to preach the gospel of Christ. He knew his decision could cost him his life.

Having faithfully preached Christ to his people for the last time, as he supposed, he returned to meet his infuriated parent, at the threshold of the cabin. There the father stood with form erect, broad and athletic, in the vigor of manhood; his tawny visage was rendered almost black by the malice which rankled in his breast; the deadly rifle was in his hand, and he was fully prepared to consummate his fiend like purpose.

Oakchiah approached, expecting to fall, but was calm and fearless; for he was in the discharge of duty, and God’s grace wonderfully strengthened and sustained him in the dark hour of trial. With deep peace in his soul and with love beaming in his countenance, and with unusual tenderness in the intonations of his voice, he addressed his parent:

"Father, will you shoot me? What have I done that I must die so soon? Father, I die a Christian, and shall go to the land of the pure and good to live with the blessed Savior!"

Although the rifle had been leveled to take deadly aim the old man paused, his muscles relaxed, the weapon fell to the ground, and a torrent of tears gushed from his eyes, and flowed down his cheeks. He was a warrior who could boldly meet the deadly foe on the battle-field; his spirit never cowered in presence of danger or of death; he scorned the rage and power of man; but the meek spirit of a follower of Christ completely unmanned him. In such forbearance and love he saw arguments irresistible in favor of the Christian religion.
Thus the father was conquered; his haughty spirit was subdued; he became deeply penitent, and was soon numbered with the believers in Jesus. \

Oakchiah would later move to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and continue faithfully preaching Christ among the Choctaw and Chickasaw people.

Not many Oklahomans know of this preacher of the gospel buried right across Oklahoma's border on the southern bank of the Arkansas River, but the testimony of faithful preachers like Oakchiah and Chau are an encouragement to all of us called to proclaim Christ to the nations.

It's too early to know, but I wouldn't be surprised if God uses Chau like he used Oakchia to soften the hearts of many toward Christ.

They though are dead, yet they speak.

Intelligence or Identity? The International Mission Board of the SBC and New President Paul Chitwood

From all accounts of those who are friends with the new President of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and from my brief interactions with Paul Chitwood while we served together as fellow trustees of the IMB during three contentious and controversial years (2005-2008), Paul Chitwood is a personable fellow.  I wish him the best in his new role as President of the largest missions sending organization in the world.

I also question Paul Chitwood's biblical intelligence and his adherence to Landmark Baptist identity (Please read this link very carefully).

Paul Chitwood was the Chairman of the Personnel Committee of the International Mission Board when trustee leadership unwisely and unsuccessfully sought to remove me from serving as a fellow trustee at the IMB in 2006.

I opposed internal IMB policies on baptism and private prayer language, policies which exceeded the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and were surreptitiously passed in a veiled attempt to remove Jerry Rankin as President of the International Board. Ten years later, with little fanfare, the policies I initially opposed were officially reversed by the trustees of the International Mission Board. The labor and delivery times of the baby named wisdom are often painful and prolonged.

But in the end, wisdom was delivered by the International Mission Board. The unbliblical, unconstitutional policies were reversed.

J.D. Greear, a pastor in North Carolina in 2008 and elected the President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2018, put his name on a list of pastors who opposed the IMB's ill-advised policies way back in 2008.

That was the beginning of wisdom.

Paul Chitwood in 2008 was at the forefront of defending the unwise and unbiblical policies.

That, in my book, was the perpetuation of foolish, unconscionable, and indefensible leadership.

After Paul Chitwood and the Executive Committee of the International Mission Board sought to remove me as an IMB trustee in the spring of 2006, IMB Personnel Chairman Paul Chitwood wrote to Frank Page, asking for a "White Paper" to defend the new policies he had helped implement.

Let me repeat what I just wrote.

Paul Chitwood and the Executive Committee of the International Mission Board implemented doctrinal policies at the IMB in 2005 that exceeded the BFM 2000, violated the constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention in so doing, and only after my opposition to those two policies, then wrote a letter requesting a white paper defending the policy changes.

Typically a white paper is presented before a recommendation of policy changes. Visionary, astute leaders think before acting on behalf of an organization.  When organizational leaders act before thinking, that organization is in trouble.

Could it be...and I'm only asking...that Paul Chitwood and others who lean toward the Baptist Identity Movement (e.g. "Landmarkism") were taking orders from the one orchestrating Jerry Rankin's removal and "without whom the policies would never have been enacted."

I've been warning the Southern Baptist Convention for 15 years about the dangers of Baptist Identity (e.g. "Landmarkism").

Where Paul Chitwood leads the International Mission Board in the future will largely be dependent on whether or not Southern Baptists pay attention to what's happening in Richmond.

Don't Allow Your Life To End in a Grave of Craving

Dave Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen, co-authors of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse (and a host of other helpful books), are speaking at a conference at Emmanuel Enid this week.

Sunday morning, Dave mentioned an obscure passage in Numbers 11:1-3 where the Scripture names a place in the Wilderness where the people of God continually complained about the difficulties of their lives and their dissatisfaction in God's provision for them. The people of Israel kept complaining "it could be better." The discontent people died at a place the English Bible translates Taberah.

The Hebrew name for that place is literally קִבְרוֹת הַתַּאֲוָה (kibroth hattaavah) or in English, "graves of craving."

Hunger is different from craving. Israel wasn't hungry. God fed them with manna every morning. Israel was craving something different. They craved the meats of Egypt rather than the manna (food) God provided every morning.

In the passage immediately following the name of the place where God's people died,  Moses describes their intense cravings for the things they had while they were in Egyptian bondage (Numbers 11:4-35).

A craving is "a strong wanting of what promises enjoyment or pleasure."

Israel's cravings would have taken them back to a place of bondage, destruction, and ultimate death (Egypt), but at least they would "enjoy" the journey.  So they were afflicted, died, and were buried in "graves of craving." 

They never made it to the Promised Land. 

Israel convinced themselves, “It was well with us in Egypt.”

It wasn't. 

But cravings have a way of causing God's people to miss our future purpose, to be confused about our past, and to be blind during the present.

Forgetfulness of  God's goodness and loving purpose is the soil where the plant of craving thrives. 

Next time you feel compelled toward a secret sin that is a compelling addiction that brings you pleasure or joy, ask yourself "Why am I craving this?"

The answer may reside in a lack of comprehension or appreciation for God's miraculous intervention and goodness in your life through the Lord Jesus.

Don't allow your life to end in a grave of craving. 

Calm Balm for the Soul: Healing for Emotional Pain

One of the greatest mistakes we make in life is believing the lie that someone else is in control of my emotions.

Because we wrongly associate the source of our internal pain with the failures of other people, we have a tendency to either control the people around us to be what we need them to be, or we 'shut down' and 'reject' the people in our lives who aren't meeting our expectations because it's too painful for us to even be around them.

That kind of behavior is what psychologists call codependency

Codependency is being so dependent on another person for my source of happiness in life that I do everything I can to fix any problems I see in that person. I work, work, work, to fix the person I need.

When failures occur and I feel pain, I point the finger of blame. "If you would only change, then I..." "If you wouldn't do this, then I..." Controlling and manipulating others to be what I need them to be is a very tiresome job. It often leads to the feelings of frustration and disgust that ends in complete rejection and abandonment of the person I used to believe I couldn't live without.

My problem is a lack of understanding that God never designed my emotions to be controlled by anyone but me.  I hold the remote control.

Healing only begins when I stop blaming other people for my internal pain.   

Let me tell you a story. 

There was once a wealthy young man who was in line to inherit his father's business. However, his brothers, jealous that their father had chosen him for such an honor, sought to him. However, they eventually sold their younger brother as a slave to a caravan of traders on their way to Egypt. This young man named Joseph would eventually spend years in a dark, lonely prison as a result of his brothers' behaviors toward him. If any person had a right to stew in pain over the poor performance of family members, it was Joseph (see Genesis 37:18-36). 

But Joseph harbored no grudges. In fact, Joseph wound up reaching out to his brothers in their time of need (Genesis 45). 

How is that possible? How could a man who had been so wronged, so mistreated, so despised and abused, reach out and warmly meet the needs of the very people who had wronged him? 

Joseph discovered that the source of healing for any pain within his soul was independent of the performance of other people. 

Remember that caravan to whom his brothers sold him as a slave?
"They saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt" (Genesis 37:25). 
The balm from Gilead. 

That's what rode beside Joseph all the way down into Egypt.

The region of Gilead was noted for balm which was an aromatic secretion of the balsam tree. The territory where this salve came from (an area north of the Dead Sea in the land of Israel) was originally given by God to Manasseh as an inheritance when the children of Israel entered the Promised Land. It was used by various countries as a fragrant, healing balm for people who'd been cut, wounded, or scarred. 

The prophet Jeremiah was familiar with the balm of Gilead. When God's people refused to realize that the LORD was to be their source of satisfaction in this life, and the Hebrews had turned to idols for their peace, security, and happiness, the LORD said:
 "Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?" (Jeremiah 8:22). 
The Balm of Gilead is a metaphor for the presence of God in one's life.

When J. C. Philpot preached on Jeremiah 8:22 in 1852, he pointed out that God’s grace is always greater than anyone's sin:
“There is more in the balm to heal than there is in the guilt of the wound; for there is more in grace to heal than there is sin to destroy.”
When we mistakenly believe our hurts are greater than His grace, and when we act on the lie that rejecting the person we believe to be the source of our pain is the way to be healed, then we have missed the truth that the Great Physician is the only Person capable of healing any internal pain.  

His grace is sufficient for me.

Resting in His love, His acceptance, His forgiveness, His provision, His promises, His warm embrace, His providence, His guidance, His sufficiency, and His plan for my life is the source of my strength. 

Is there no Balm in Gilead?

Yes, there is.

Jesus makes the wounded whole.

And He's always right beside me in scary journeys that go beyond my control. 

Finding Our Strength Through Knowing Our God

Mt. Paran

"Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." Winston Churchill

The Hebrew word Selah is used often in the Davidic Psalms but is found only in one other chapter of the entire Bible -  the third chapter of the book of Habakkuk. 

Three times in Habakkuk chapter 3, the prophet uses the word Selah (vs. 3, 9, 13).

Selah is typically given one of three definitions.
1. Selah can mean "to lift up" as in a musical crescendo, or in the raising of your head and voice. We get our English word "solo" from this word.
2. Selah can mean "to stop" and "to contemplate." The word is always at the end of a sentence in Scripture, so it seems to convey "what you just read is worthy of pause."
3. Selah, some scholars say, is like English people saying "Amen" or "that is true." 
I personally see the warrant for all three definitions and don't believe them to be exclusive of each other. Combining all three, Selah, therefore, is a Hebrew word that encourages a person to lift his eyes to the heavens and contemplate Divine truth.

Here are the three times Selah is used in Habakkuk.

"God comes from ... Mount Paran. Selah." (Habakkuk 3:3). 

"God's bow was made bare. The rods of chastisement were sworn. Selah." (Habakkuk 3:9)

"You crushed the head of the house of the evil to lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah." (Habakkuk 3:13)

Habakkuk was a prophet of Israel during some very difficult days. Nebuchadnezzar and his army of 'fierce and impetuous' soldiers from Babylon (Hab. 1:6) were marching toward Jerusalem to destroy the city, tear down the Temple, and take God's people captive. 

Habakkuk knew trials, pain, and the day of calamity (Hab. 3:16) were coming. God showed the prophet the Babylonians were coming to destroy Israel through oracles or visions He gave to Habakkuk (see Habakkuk 3:1-2).

Habakkuk uses Selah three times in his writings and all three cause us to pause and contemplate a truth about God. 

1. God's protects us (Habakkuk 3:3).

Paran is a mountain in the desert of Paran in the land of Edom. Israel had to pass by the land of the Edomites, their enemies, as they made their way to the Promised Land. In Moses last public speech to Israel, he to God's people that Yahweh "shone forth" and came from Mount Paran "with ten thousand holy ones" (Deut. 33:2). God resides in the land of one's enemies, and He "comes forth" to the aid of His people even when enemies approach us. Selah.

Habakkuk knew the Law. He'd read Deuteronomy. He knew God was coming for His people from Paran, and that God's good and loving purposes for His people would be fulfilled, even in the face of their enemies. Selah. 

2. God has a purpose for us (Habakkuk 3:9).

The book of Habakkuk opens with the prophet complaining to God about the state of God's people. The Jews had been cold toward the Lord, vicious toward each other (e.g., "violence in the streets of Jerusalem"), and apathetic towards God's Law.

God responded to the prophet (Habakkuk 1:5-6):
"Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—You would not believe if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous peoplewho sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own."
God was about to "disciple" (eg 'discipline) the people He loved.

In Scripture, the bow of God is the metaphor for chastisement.

"God's bow was made bare. The rods of chastisement were sworn. Selah." (Habakkuk 3:9)

God is more interested in our character than He is our comfort.

Therefore, every circumstance in life, even those negative things that happen to us, are designed by our loving, heavenly Father to produce in us the essence of His character.

We are to reflect Him in a dark world; and the Christian who lacks love, grace, the ability to forgive, and every other 'fruit of the Spirit' can rest assured that "He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion" (Philippians 1:6). 

3. God will provide every need for us (Habakkuk 3:13)

"You crushed the head of the house of the evil ... Selah." (Habakkuk 3:13)

I want all of us to pause and think about this Divine truth for a moment.
God will orchestrate and arrange every circumstance in my life - even those Babylon experiences that I don't want - to crush 'the evil' which seeks to destroy me. 
Our loving Father has a perfect way of taking 'self'' out of us and producing the 'fruits of the Spirit' in us. 

That's His job. 

He doesn't fail. 


Adam's Story of Rejection, Abuse, Drugs, and Love

http://www.emmanuelenid.org/Emmanuel Enid has a powerful thrice-weekly ministry to men and women incarcerated in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Every Sunday morning between 40 to 50 pre-release DOC inmates join us for our corporate worship services and a small group time. Every Sunday night they come back for another small group time at our building we call the Grace Place. Different Emmanuel members bring some home-cooking, and after sharing a meal, the inmates talk about what the Lord is doing in their lives. Many choose to stay in Enid when they get out of the Department of Corrections, moving their families to our city. When they introduce me to their family members, many of them tell me they've decided to move to Enid 'because of Emmanuel.'

Our business owners in the church are giving these recently released offenders jobs. I'm told they are some of the best employees in their respective fields. A couple in our church recently felt led to begin a small group for men and women newly released from prison called FREE WORLD. Last Sunday morning, Justin Parrish, the small group leader, baptized a young man who had surrendered his life to Christ through the ministries of Emmanuel Enid and Free World.

Every Wednesday night, around 20 to 25 of our DOC friends come to my mid-week Bible study. I love these folks. I'm not just saying that; I really mean it. I love them. They are one of the reasons that the ministry at Emmanuel Enid has been so fulfilling these last five years. We are seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ. 

Last night, right before I began to teach the mid-week Bible study, one of the incarcerated men stepped up to me and handed me a folded piece of paper. He said to me, "Pastor Wade, I don't know why I felt the need to write down my life story. I sensed God wanted me to give it to you. I can't thank you enough for what this church has done for me. You've saved my life. I now understand that God can love me because I see and feel people here loving me." He had tears in his eyes as he told me this. He said I could read his letter later, but I snuck away for a couple of minutes and read it before I taught.

Oh my.

My eyes got a little moist too. I later asked Adam if I could share his story on my blog, using only his first name. He said, "Yes. I hope my story helps someone."  Adam has no access to a computer, but after you read his story below, if it impacts you, leave him a message in the comment stream. I'll make sure he gets it.

The best thing that ever happened to our church is the realization that God has called us to stand in streets of conflict and not sit in seats of comfort. The tradition of religion invites trendy people to church, but the message of grace impacts messy people to conversion. Inviting the upper class to "come and see" is definitely easier, cleaner, and cheaper. But impacting a society's forgotten is more fulfilling. It's Kingdom work. It's what our King would have us do. It's a big picture purpose of ministry because it's both eternal and transformational.

The reason churches develop an ingrown isolation from the world is because we've forgotten the King's commission to transform the world. We are salt and light.  We're not supposed to cover our light nor are we to lose our efficacy as salt.  We are to shine where darkness resides and invade decay where it abides.

I'm honored to partner with people who understand this principle.


Adam's Story

Dear Pastor Wade,

I am not quite clear on why I had an urge to tell you about my past, my trials and tribulations, and what kind of impact you and now "my" church home have had on me, so let's start from the beginning. 

I do not recall anything before the age of 4. My first and earliest vivid memory is when the police took me and my brother out of our home in Marietta, Oklahoma. I remember turning around in the cop car as it drove away, seeing my mother running down the street after us screaming "No, my babies!" I was put into a children's shelter and was there for only a short time. Both my brother and I were sexually assaulted. After a few months, we were separated. My brother went to a group home and I was placed in a foster home. 

For a time everything was fine until I was again sexually molested by another foster child. I was then taken away from that foster home for the same reason the police took me away from my parents - "Drugs." From there I was placed in another home where I was secluded to the couch. My foster parents fed me as little as possible. I was told not to move and I was always hungry.

I was rescued from this house and moved back to my original foster mom who had since divorced her drug-addicted husband. About a year later I was returned to my birth parents whom I hadn't seen in four years and had no memory of except for my mom running down the street after the cop car.

I was eight years old when I came home.

For the next two years I was sexually molested by my biological brother; the same brother who was harmed in the children's home four years earlier. At this point, though I was young, I turned from God and blamed Him for everything. I still struggle today with all that happened during those two years.

When I was 11 or 12 years of age, I can remember my parents doing drugs again. Though it wasn't as severe as before, they still shut me out of their lives due to their drug use. I turned to anything to keep me away from home. At 15 I held a full-time job and went to school. I played in the high school band. Those were my high school years; work, band, school. It worked. I kept myself busy until I graduated.

At 18 all I had was my job. My dad started getting really sick. He had triple bypass surgery when I was 18, so I moved back home to help. I started smoking pot. I smoked dope for three years to help me deal with my pain. After three years my dad ended up on dialysis. One day, before his hip surgery, he called me in and told me he was giving up. During surgery, something went wrong and dad ended up in ICU. 3 days later we took him off the ventilator. On July 25, 2011, the last words I spoke to my dad before he died were "Don't worry about Momma. I'll take care of her." 

But I fell really deep into drugs. I got married. A year later we split up. I got caught selling drugs and was charged with 2 counts of distribution. I was discharged from jail the day after Memorial Day 2014. Two months later, in July 2014, I got into an argument with my mom.

I watched her drive away for the last time. 

Two weeks later I found my mom had died (July 25, 2014), three years to the day that my dad had died (July 25, 2011). I never found out why she died, but I believe she overdosed on some of my dad's old medication. I dove even deeper into my addiction after mom's death. I was arrested again on drug charges. On September 15, 2016, I was headed back to prison. I spent one year at the Bill Johnson Correctional Center in Alva. While I was there, my custody of my one-year-old daughter was terminated.

On October 24, 2017, one year ago today, I came to the DOC's Enid Community Corrections Center and currently reside there. 

Let me tell you about this last year.

I began attending Emmanuel. For the past year, you all have taken me in and showed me love and a peace among people that I never in my wildest dreams imagined could have existed. While I've been at Emmanuel, the love and acceptance I've been given mirror the image of the one true, living God. Ya'll have helped me understand His love and grow in faith. I'm learning to love others the way God wants me to love because I'm learning what love is. His love. Your love. 

I am developing a sense of hope. Emmanuel has given that to me. I will never be able to repay you. 
You all have saved my life. 

All I can do is say 'Thank You.'



The History/Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man

I will sometimes look at the metrics of Blogger and be surprised at the number of hits certain blogposts receive. In 2014 I wrote a post entitled The Rich Man and Lazarus: A Warning to Preachers and was recently surprised at the large number of unique "hits" this post has received. I've gone back and read this post and realized it is also one of my favorites.

In an effort to connect with some folks who may have missed this post when first published, I'm re-posting with a couple of edits. My hope is that those who are truly interested in Scripture will consider the caution Jesus gives to the professionally religious from this parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Jesus didn't intend this parable as a doctrinal dissertation on the nature of hell. Rather, He was issuing a strong warning to the religious leaders of His day who used their positions of "authority" to fleece and abuse God’s people.

Here is the parable from Luke 16:19-31. I have emphasized in italicized bold the words deserving of your special attention:
"(19) Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. (20) And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, (21) and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. (22) Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. (23) and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. (24) And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ (25) But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. (26) And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ (27) And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— (28) for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ (29) But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ (30) But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ (31) But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)
It is a given that those who seek diamonds must be experts at moving dirt. Digging in dirt is never enjoyable, but the anticipation of reward makes the effort bearable. So it is with Bible study. If you wish to find a diamond, you must work. So, bear with me, and let's do just a little work. It's worth it, I promise.

To understand the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus you must be familiar with a very obscure passage of Scripture that mentions seven political and religious leaders of Jesus day. It's found in Luke 3:1-2.
"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,  in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness." (Luke 3:1-2).
Luke is introducing two Roman rulers, three Hebrew political leaders, and two Jewish religious leaders who were the chief antagonists of Jesus Christ throughout His earthly ministry. One cannot understand the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus without an understanding that Jesus tells this parable in order to rebuke the religious leaders of His day while at the same ignoring the political leaders. Frankly, we would be wise to model ourselves after Christ.

Principle: Quit worrying over the character and the abuse of power of our political leaders (they will always be corrupt), but never hesitate to rebuke those religious leaders who fleece God's people (they should not be corrupt).

(A). The Roman Rulers: Tiberius was the adopted son and sole heir of Augustus Caesar. He was the emperor of Rome (Caesar) throughout Jesus ministry. He became co-regent of the Roman Empire in AD 12 when his ailing adoptive father (Augustus)  became bedridden and could no longer function as emperor. Luke gives the date for the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry as 'the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar' (AD 26/27). Jesus once answered a question about paying taxes to Rome by saying, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's." The Caesar to whom He referred was this Tiberius in Luke 3. Augustus Caesar was emperor over the Roman empire when Christ was born at Bethlehem. Augustus' son, Tiberius Caesar, was emperor over the Roman empire when Christ was crucified. The second Roman official named in this text is the infamous Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea. He is the Roman official who presides over the trial and execution of Jesus Christ. The American modern equivalent to Tiberius Caesar would be the President of the United States, and Pontius Pilate would be a state governor.

(B). The Hebrew Political Leaders: Luke then names three Hebrew political officials who ruled during Jesus' ministry in Judea - Herod, Philip the Tetrarch (Herod's brother), and Lysanias. Who are these three men? They are the 'leaders' of the ethnic Jews in Jesus day. They were also the sons and political heirs of Herod the Great, the former 'king of the Jews' who died in 4 BC. Herod the Great went ballistic when the wise men asked him "Where is He who is born king of the Jews?" because he (Herod the Great) was already king of the Jews. Herod died shortly after the birth of Jesus Christ. His political kingdom was then divided into regional fourths (Greek: tetrarchys) and distributed among his surviving sons to rule (tetrarchs). Leaders of the Judean tetrarchy mentioned in Luke 3 included Herod (nicknamed Antipas), Philip (often called Philip the Tetrarch), and Lysanias. These men were powerful among the Jews, but they couldn't do anything without Rome's permission

At the birth of Jesus, we read in Matthew 2 that Herod the Great was 'king of the Jews.' Thirty-three years later when Jesus is crucified, we read in Luke 23 that Herod orders soldiers to beat Christ and take him to Pilate. This 'Herod' at Christ's crucifixion is the Herod mentioned in Luke 3. He is the son of Herod the Great and is sometimes called Herod Antipas. The quarter of the region Herod was given to 'rule' as tetrarch included Galilee, the land where both John and Jesus based their ministries.  Herod Antipas is the one who had John the Baptist beheaded (picture).

In the ethnic melting pot we call the United States, it is difficult to find a modern equivalent to the tetrarchy positions held by Herod, Philip, and Lysanias. The closest equivalent might be those men who rule over individual political parties, major corporations, unions, and other powerful economic, political, and cultural entities within America. These positions aren't the highest of authority, for they must answer to 'Caesar,' but they have a great deal of influence over a specific category of people.

(C). The Jewish Religious Leaders: Two Wealthy, Powerful Priests. The final two men named by Luke in Luke 3:1-3 are  religious leaders who served as high priests of Israel.  Their names are Annas and Caiaphas. Modern Christians know very little about these two men. Annas was high priest over Israel for ten years (AD 6-15), until at the age of 36, he was removed by the Roman governor Guratus, the predecessor to Pontius Pilate. The other man, Caiaphas, served as high priest over Israel from AD 18 to AD 36, a time period that encompassed all of Jesus adult life and public ministry.

Annas had five sons and one daughter. His daughter married Caiaphas. Interestingly, every one of Annas five sons--as well as his son-in-law Caiaphas--served as the high priest of Israel during Annas' lifetime. Though Caiaphas was high priest during the time of Jesus, Luke names both Annas and Caiaphas because Annas was the power behind the high priest of Israel. It was said that "Annas ruled the religious world," even though his own children were the chief priests of Israel and each had their turn as 'high priest.' It was to Annas that the people first brought Jesus after our Lord's arrest. Only after being questioned by Annas was Jesus sent to Caiaphas for official trial by the Sanhedrin. Modern religious leaders, like Annas, have a tendency to want to control and run things 'behind the scenes.'

Annas and Caiaphas hated everything to do with Christ. Caiaphas particularly was the chief antagonist of our Lord. Caiaphas lived in a palatial mansion inside the walls of Jerusalem. He served as President of the Sanhedrin. If you saw Caiaphas walking around the streets of Jerusalem, he would always have his servants and attendants around him, and he would be dressed in the finest purple and fine linen. He ate the most sumptuous meals, drank the finest wines, always traveled first class, and lived better than the 'common Jew.' The modern equivalent of Caiaphas would be the wealthy religious leaders in America who take a spiritual position of authority and power over the common people of the land.

Jesus Condemns the Religious Leaders and Ignores the Political Leaders

It is striking to discover that Jesus says very little about the corrupt Roman and Judean political leaders of His day. These leaders--men like Tiberius Caesar, Herod Antipas, and Pontius Pilate--were all evil men. Yet, Jesus says very little publicly about any of them. In fact, when questioned about the supreme political leader (Caesar), Jesus simply says "Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar." Jesus is also completely silent before Herod during His trial. Instead of railing against Herod's abuse of political power, Jesus says nothing. It seems Jesus had little to say about politics.

Yet, Jesus boldly and soundly condemned Annas and Caiaphas, the 'rich' religious leaders of His day.

Ironic, is it not, that modern evangelicals often rail against political leaders, but there is an appalling silence when it comes to religious leaders who become rich off the money given by God's people?

Notice the anger and greed of the religiously rich in Jesus' day. The Bible tells us in John 12 that after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Caiaphas and Annas sought to kill Lazarus 'because many people were going away and were believing in Jesus.' These people 'going away' from the religious institutions--entities governed by Annas and Caiaphas--did so because they had seen Lazarus, a former dead man, walking around regenerated and enlivened by the power of Christ. These people had seen the power of Christ, and they were now uninterested in institutional religion. John the Apostle puts it like this:
"The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11)
There are many places that Jesus condemns the religiously rich (i.e. 'the chief priests')  throughout the New Testament, but the most striking example is found in this parable that is more than a parable. Let's read the parable again and see the High Priest of the Jews (Caiaphas) is the Rich Man Jesus is condemning:

 "The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus."
“(19) Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. (20) And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, (21) and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. (22) Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. (23) and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. (24) And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ (25) But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. (26) And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ (27) And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— (28) for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ (29) But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ (30) But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ (31) But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Caiaphas, the High Priest of Israel, is the rich man in Jesus parable. Caiaphas is the man "who lifted up his eyes in hell."  Caiaphas, the equivalent to a modern religious leader who becomes rich through his religious service, is the man condemned by Jesus Christ. How do we know this to be true?

  • The rich man wears the robes the color of the High Priest (purple and fine linen).
  • The rich man mistreats the poor man named Lazarus (just as Caiaphas sought to kill Lazarus).
  • The rich man asks a messenger to go to his 'father's house' (Annas' house).
  • The rich man had five brothers (Annas had five sons, Caiaphas was his son-in-law and considered his brothers-in-law to be his brothers).
  • The rich man desires a warning to be given to his five brothers about their behavior (all five of Caiaphas' brothers--the sons of Annas--followed him as 'chief priest' of Israel).
  • The rich man is told that they will not believe "even if someone rises from the dead" (just as Caiaphas, his father Annas, and his five brothers refused to believe in Jesus after Lazarus had been raised from the dead).

If you are a topical preacher you might pick the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus and wax eloquent on the subject of 'hell.' You might say something like (1). Hell is real, (2). Hell is rough. (3). Hell is ready. Then you might give the following application: "If you don't let go of your riches and willingly give your tithes and offerings to the church, you may find yourself waking up one day in hell, wanting to warn others to 'repent' and let go of their riches. Don't wait until it is too late! Give to the Kingdom of God today by giving your tithes and offerings!"

That, my friend, is the sorry state of evangelical preaching today. It's taking a text (the Rich Man and Lazarus) out of its context (the resurrection of Lazarus and the chief priests desire to kill Lazarus and stop others from believing on Christ) and turning it into a pretext (a false conclusion).

The lessons of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus are only obtained when you systematically and intentionally learn the Scriptures, take texts in their contexts, and focus on the life transforming truth from God's word. The lessons of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus are as follows:

(1). Any of us who are working in professional religious ministry in order to become rich through our religious services may wake up one day in hell, facing the holy judgment of God.
(2). Instead of railing against the world and our American culture--be it politics, business, Hollywood or some other segment of society--we preachers ought to reserve our harshest words for the religious who seek to become rich by abusing God's people, and focus more on giving the Bread of Life to those who are hungry, regardless of the cost.
(3). We do our Sunday morning crowd a favor when we teach the Scriptures verse by verse because we create a safeguard from misapplications which arrive out of false conclusions of a text, and we will give our hearer a better appreciation of the Person of Jesus Christ and His power to transform lives.

Those, in my opinion, are the lessons of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

The Official End of Paige Patterson's Control and Domination of the Southern Baptist Convention

Photo: Matt Miller of Baptist Press
United States President Donald Trump has sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to ask direct questions about the disappearance and presumed murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

In the Saudi world, opposition to the absolute power and authority of the royals means imprisonment or death.

In the Southern Baptist world, at least for the past forty years (1978 - 2018), opposition to Paige Patterson meant occupational, personal, and vocational banishment.

The forty years of wandering in a spiritual desert are officially over for the Southern Baptist Convention. The trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will open the doors to their first plenary session since the historic 2018 Southern Baptist Convention.

They will have to answer some questions of their alleged "oversight" of former President Paige Patterson while he served as President of their institution, all the while seeking to control every other institution in the SBC world.

I started this blog in 2005 when I saw for myself how Patterson lackeys fawned over him and did his bidding in banishing opposition from positions of leadership. For nearly 15 years I've been writing of the travesty of what our Convention has become.

Finally, people have listened.

I have heard that there is now freedom among entity heads to speak freely. No more intimidation. No more power plays. No more control.

He's gone.

But now, SWBTS trustees, you must be prepared to answer some tough questions. Rather than comment on the questions that must be answered, I'd encourage readers to peruse the documentation attached to the links and formulate your own opinions.

And listen closely to the answers given by SWBTS trustees.

1. How could you allow your former President to have 18 full-time employees in the "President's Office" tasked with hospitality, transportation, and assisting the President and 'First Lady"?

2. How could you approve either directly or indirectly (by your non-action) the astronomical decrease in enrollment and millions of dollars in 'pet-projects' and creature comforts for the President and 'First Lady' which had no direct bearing on the purpose and mission of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary?

3. Where were you when female professors were fired for their gender?

4. Where was your oversight when bylaws were violated and student admissions to SWBTS by Presidential fiat occurred, allowing students to enroll at Southwestern when they couldn't even give a profession of faith in Jesus Christ?

5. How could you ignore the financial crisis that has been building for at least a decade, approving capital investment in new buildings, while not even able to fund the retirement accounts of current employees?

6. Will you do your due diligence and prevent institutional files from being removed by the Pattersons, or will you fall back to bad habits of either ignoring or allowing harmful actions to occur at the very institution you are tasked to oversee?

7. What are you going to do with the stained glass windows you allowed to be installed at a chapel allegedly devoted to the worship of Christ?

8. What are you going to do with the  "amateurish imitations" (Dr. Arstein Justnes' phrase) of Dead Sea Scrolls your institution purchased and placed on display?

9. Will the retirement house you were building for the Pattersons on the campus of SWBTS now be used for educational purposes?

10. Will you now hold accountable the gentleman you allowed Dr. Patterson to place in a faculty position of authority and oversight, ensuring all things were done according to his wishes?

These are serious questions.

And thankfully, we live in a country where those who ask them aren't murdered.

But the era of blackballing opposition to Fundamentalist SBC Leaders is officially over.