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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can this be?

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

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

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

Definitions of Immortal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is a yes.

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

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

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

I close with a few applicable truths that precede from a belief in conditional immortality:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One could further break down the Old Testament like this:

(5 - 12) - 5 - (5 - 12).  

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

Then come the 5 books of poetry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me explain.

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

It was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MOPS and Its Move Away from Biblical Christianity

Emmanuel Enid MOPS Group, September 1, 2016
I (Wade Burleson) have been writing articles for Istoria for nearly fifteen years. During that time, only a handful of posts have attracted as many views in such a short period of time as last month's Open Letter of Concern Over MOPS International. Obviously, a number of people have an interest in the ministry of MOPS, and not a few are concerned about the direction of MOPS. Sarah Wilkins, whose testimony of coming to faith in Christ is extremely moving, works as our MOPS Outreach Director. Sarah has been the person responsible for our emphasis on outreach through our MOPS ministry over the last several years.

Since the publication of Sarah's Open Letter of Concern regarding MOPS, she has been flooded with phone calls, emails, and requests for materials that she has put together in place of the MOPS International material for this fall. Using the same theme, Sarah has put together material that is more Christ-centered. She will send her  materials to anyone who asks, free of charge. It's not in Sarah's personality to be a critic of MOPS. She is not a "fundamentalist" in the way that the word is usually cast. In fact, because of our grace perspective at Emmanuel, we are often called "liberal," and Sarah majors on grace. We love people, accept people where they are, and we focus on outreach. However, we also treasure Jesus Christ, and we believe that God's grace through the Person and work of Jesus Christ is the only hope for sinners in need of transformation. Grace transforms; and grace is never understood apart from clarity on the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

We have a very specific reason for following up on Sarah's initial Open Letter of Concern regarding the direction of MOPS International. Since the August 12, 2016 publication of the Open Letter of Concern, some employees of MOPS have sent electronic communication, accusing Sarah of "factual misrepresentation" and suggesting that Sarah's Open Letter of Concern is "based on assumptions, and is no way an accurate assessment of MOPS materials." Further, an official with MOPS has written, "It is disturbing to us the body of Christ is choosing to gossip, slander, and...wound its fellow believers." 

In light of MOPS International's denial that anything is wrong with the direction of this fall's MOPS materials (EDIT: see MOPS International board of directors official response to Sarah at the end of this article), I have decided to publish Sarah's follow-up. I trust that if you are a pastor or leader in your church, you will not take Sarah's word (or mine), but you will do your own research. In our opinion, what is at stake is not one's perception of a book, a ministry, or even a blog, but the Gospel itself.

_____________________________________________________________________________

A Follow-Up Blog to the Response We Received from MOPS International to Our Open Letter


This is a follow up blog to the Open Letter of Concern we initially published on August 12, 2016. 

Our MOPS group had our first meeting on September 1st.  It was a joy.  76 women filled the chairs, and we know of at least 5 more who told us they could not attend the first meeting, but will be at the next meeting.  25 of the women raised their hands to indicate it was their first MOPS meeting to attend. 19 of them listed no church on their registration forms. It’s a brave thing to walk into a church building where you’ve never been, and to join a group of women whom you’ve never met. God is at work in the hearts of His people.

The MOPS International Board of Directors contend that the 2016 MOPS material was written for the purpose of outreach in order to spark discussions among moms who don't know Christ and have no church experience (see their official response to me at the bottom of this page). 

Emmanuel’s first MOPS meeting this fall is proof that one does not have to downgrade the theological content of the MOPS material to reach more people.  Quoting and emphasizing other belief systems will not make your church's MOPS group open to women who have no church background.   Being intentional in getting to know and issuing invitations to all kinds of women in your community to attend MOPS will create an atmosphere where women with no church background are accepted.

After thinking deeply about what was written in Starry Eyed, the companion book and online resources from MOPS, and after watching and reading the sources that heavily influence the book Starry Eyed, I realized my core issue with the MOPS curriculum this fall is how sin, truth and Biblical sufficiency are addressed in the materials.  I also have realized that MOPS International seems to have become a major player in a loose trend within traditional Christian churches, a trend in which Truth is represented as something that changes and can't be known. It is a trend where sin is not addressed because personal salvation is deeply rooted in self transcendence. It is a trend in where anyone who takes the Bible as sufficient for one's faith and life is scoffed at as a closed minded and archaic person.

This years’ Starry Eyed theme seems designed to help moms navigate through life's dark challenges, as well as to encourage moms to find hope. Much of the material seems based on the core views of people like John Philip Newell and Rob Bell. The teaching of these two men are linked below for your viewing. 

When I spoke to Mandy via phone, I directly asked her about her view on sin. She was nice to me over the phone, and even offered to fly me to Denver to speak on Emmanuel's outreach successes through MOPS, as well as our outreach strategies. But Mandy didn't answer my question on her view of sin.  She did talk to me about next years theme, but my heart grew even more troubled by what I heard. There seemed to be deep theological differences between her theology and my understanding of biblical Christianity. Those differences may even be irreconcilable. because it seems to me through hearing Mandy's own words, her views are entrenched. After listening to Mandy's review regarding next year's MOPS theme, I felt compelled to ask her again about her view of sin.  Mandy would not speak to me about sin, and it seemed to me that because I pressed for an answer, I was the problem. Our church has partnered with MOPS for over 20 years in ministering to women, and to ask the President of MOPS her view on sin seems like a question that MOPS partners should be able to ask. 

Mandy did tell me about how important mystics are to her.  On page 93 in Starry Eyed Mandy writes:
"One of my favorite books is The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings by Celtic mystic John Philip Newell.
It is only this chapter in Mandy's book, but it seems that a large chunk of Starry Eyed is devoted to the thoughts of John Philip Newell. This man does not believe in sin.  This man writes and speaks that at birth “We forget our deepest truth.” Newell believes Jesus came to help us remember, and that our goal on earth is to become one with each other, with created things, and with nature itself. Newell teaches in opposition to original sin and the sufficiency of Scripture. This YouTube video of his teaching from February 7, 2016 at a Price Lecture series is a succinct delivery of his non-biblical beliefs, many of which are incorporated into this years MOPS book.  At the end of the 45 minutes presentation, John Philip Newell and the participants all chant verses from the Koran, Hebrew texts and the sayings of Jesus, as if they are all on equal footing. I suggest those in doubt to read the book and watch the videos.

You might be wondering why I’m concerned over Newell and his teachings.  Mandy Arioto has been traveling the country speaking. Recently in Arizona, Mandy focused heavily in her speech on mysticism where she referenced John Philip Newell. A mentor mom from Arizona emailed me this information. She had gone to hear Arioto speak, and she told me she was sickened by the content of the speech and the absoluteness in which it was delivered. This mentor mom had gone to Mandy's speech having never seen our original Open Letter of Concern. I found MOPS whole strategy this year to sound strikingly similar to the description of Newell’s The Rebirthing of God. Did you know that Newell teaches at the ILLIFF School of Theology in Denver? Did you know that MOPS is paying for employees to go to seminary? I’m left wondering if it’s the one where Newell teaches.

I can prove that this years’ MOPS’ material, based on Newell's ideology, is outside of MOPS International's Statement of Faith. How?  Newell speaks openly and often about how his ideas come from Pelagius whom he devoutly follows as an admired mystic.  Church history records Pelagius as a heretic from A.D. 420.  He was accused by Augustine of Hippo of heresy and tossed out by the Council of Carthage. Seminaries to this day have students write essays about this Pelagius' heretical belief system. Newell (and Pelagius) are not the kind of men I want influencing my moms who are without the Holy Spirit.  St. Augustine of Hippo wanted to protect his flock from Pelagius. He and I have something in common to chat about in eternity. It’s worth noting that Newell's and Rob Bell’s belief systems are strikingly similar. Rob Bell even writes a glowing review printed inside Newell’s book.

Though I appreciate that the MOPS Board of Directors have said they will be reviewing the MOPS content more closely to make sure it is not as controversial as this year's material,  I think one of their main jobs is to set and maintain MOPS Internationals Statement of Faith. After all, the MOPS Statement of Faith is supposed to be the basis of our partnership contracts.  MOPS partnership churches from all over the United States have come to their own conclusions on the materials and have been emailing me to get replacement materials and board contacts to write the board of directors. I don’t believe healthy discussion is Mandy Arioto’s goal.  I think Mandy thinks we have it all theologically wrong.   I think she thinks we all need to be exposed to Newell’s, Bells’ and mysticism's higher ways of thinking.

MOPS and the board knew this controversy would happen in May when they released the Starry Eyed theme to our MOPS coaches. Many coaches quit.  Seven coaches in Illinois quit after their concerns were ignored.  Many of these coaches wrote letters to the board and received no response.  Instead of keeping the well-being of all MOPS groups in mind and focusing on how MOPS groups can join together for a common cause, MOPS seems to have decided moms really needed to hear this year's message. 

There are other controversial thinkers and teachers of beliefs contrary to MOPS Internationals statement of faith in the book Starry Eyed. According to the letter from the board, MOPS believes these mystical ideas are a good way to spark conversation within MOPS.  In addition to Rob Bell (modern day controversial teacher), the material references is Carl Sagan, Albert Schweitzer (a mystic against justification by faith), and Carl Jung (the father of self-actualization).

This is the time to write more letters to MOPS International.  This is the time to read the source material and watch the videos for yourselves. This is the time to take action and ask your ministry partner MOPS to be transparent in theological matters and enforce MOPS' Statement of Faith or change it.

In His Grace,

Sarah Wilkins
MOPS, Emmanuel Enid
sarah.wilkinsdevconsulting@gmail.com

Sources:

Listen for yourself to John Philip Newell's lecture on Listening for the Heartbeat of God: An Introduction to Celtic Christianity.  

Listen for yourself to Rob Bell's lecture on Everything Is Spiritual


EDIT - At the request of several readers, MOPS Response to Sarah Wilkins' initial Open Letter of Concern is posted below ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


MOPS International
OPEN LETTER FROM MOPS BOARD: 

Dear Sarah: 

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts about MOPS and our 2016 materials. It is clear from your letter that you are passionate about MOPS as a vehicle to point moms toward Jesus. The MOPS board of directors and leadership team share that passion. This has always been the bottom-line mission of MOPS.

The leaders' materials for the Starry Eyed theme state very clearly that a variety of resources are provided as springboards for deeper conversation about individual relationships with Jesus. We deeply value the trust that churches have in the resources that we provide. We regret that some of these materials designed to encourage discussion with moms who don't currently follow Jesus, have been interpreted instead as promoting a non-Christ-centered theology. This is not our intent. In the future, we will enhance our editorial process to more carefully screen for such potential misunderstandings. 

Additional evangelism and devotional tools surrounding this year's theme are available to all leaders via MOPS website. These include monthly devotionals, tips for sharing your Christian journey, Bible studies and more, for your group to download for your MOPS moms.

Thank you for sharing your concerns. They have been heard. Rest assured that MOPS is still a very much gospel-centered mission. As we begin this MOPS year, we would ask that all MOPS leaders and groups unite under the vision of sharing Jesus with moms who don't know Him yet. This is the heart of MOPS. We can be Starry Eyed in this endeavor, with excitement and enthusiasm for this mission, with His light in our eyes and His strength in the darkness.

In Jesus' name,

Roger Franklin
Chairman
On behalf of the MOPS International board of directors


Francis Scott Key and America's National Anthem

Colin Kaepernick:  Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images
Colin Kaepernick is a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Colin is refusing to stand before games during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, America's national anthem. He says his refusal to stand is because he "will not show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses people of color." I can't help but note the irony of a black quarterback making $126 million dollars to play football in America speaking about oppression. If Mr. Kapernick wants to see real oppression of people with color, he ought to follow us to Africa where we bring thousands of bags of rice to feed starving families, while at the same time spending tens of thousands of our America non-profit dollars drilling for water for our African friends, in conjunction with teaching them how to farm for themselves. All this effort because the country our African friends live in is a country filled with politicians whose greed blossoms into graft. That's oppression.

One might overlook Mr. Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner if it were an isolated instance of ignorance. But there is a growing movement in America designed to relegate our national anthem into the pantheon of oblivion. Some call the anthem's author, Francis Scott Key, "a stone cold bigot." They attempt  to discredit Mr. Key because he once owned slaves. "How can you sing a song written by a racist?" Using their logic, America would also have to rid itself of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and other founding documents because they too were written by men who once owned slaves, including the erudite Thomas Jefferson. Slavery, sadly, was once a part of this world's culture. Thank God people of color in America are now free.

But before you acquiesce over attempts to discredit Francis Scott Key, and before you grow more sympathetic to those who ridicule or disrespect our national anthem, let me offer a few counter arguments about the character of the anthem's author.

Francis Scott Key
Francis Scott Key was a devout follower of Christ. He was an Episcopalian from Maryland, and was instrumental in starting the American Sunday School Union, the first public education offered for people of color. Francis Scott Key's daughter, Alice Key Pendleton, wife of Senator George Pendleton, spent countless hours with Oklahoman Cheyenne warrior Okuhhatuh (a man of color), teaching him the ways  of Christ. In appreciation for Alice Key Pendleton,  Okuhhatuh changed his name at his Christian baptism to David (in honor of King David in the Bible), Pendleton (in honor of George Pendleton and Alice Key Pendleton), Oakerhater (the anglicized version of Okuhhatuh). David Oakerhater would come back to Oklahoma and serve his native Cheyenne people as a missionary of Jesus Christ for over 50 years. As to why Alice Key felt compelled to devote time and energy teaching a man of color the ways of Christ, the best explanation comes from the home in which she was raised. The Frank Leslie Sunday School Magazine describes the character of her father, Francis Scott Key, in this manner:
"He possessed a character of almost religious perfection. A firm believer in the Christian dispensation, Francis Scott Key's conduct was regulated by the doctrines inculcated by its Founder (Jesus Christ), and this being so, Key's life was one of perfect purity."
Poetry is called "the soul's expression." The author of our Star-Spangled Banner once wrote a poem that expressed his faith in Jesus Christ. It was later put to music and serves as a wonderful hymn in the Christian Church. Key's poem is called Lord, With Glowing Heart I'd Praise Thee.

Lord, with glowing heart I'd praise Thee,
For the bliss Thy love bestows,
For the pardoning grace that saves me,
And the peace that from it flows:
Help, O God, my weak endeavor;
This dull soul to rapture raise:
Thou must light the flame, or never
Can my love be warmed to praise.

Praise, my soul, the God that sought thee,
Wretched wanderer, far astray;
Found thee lost, and kindly brought thee
From the paths of death away;
Praise, with love's devoutest feeling,
Him Who saw thy guilt-born fear,
And the light of hope revealing,
Bade the blood-stained cross appear.

Praise thy Savior God that drew thee
To that cross, new life to give,
Held a blood sealed pardon to thee,
Bade thee look to Him and live.
Praise the grace whose threats alarmed thee,
Roused thee from thy fatal ease;
Praise the grace whose promise warmed thee,
Praise the grace that whispered peace.

Lord, this bosom's ardent feeling
Vainly would my lips express.
Low before Thy footstool kneeling,
Deign Thy suppliant's prayer to bless:
Let Thy grace, my soul's chief treasure,
Love's pure flame within me raise;
And, since words can never measure,
Let my life show forth Thy praise. 


Francis Scott Key's life and legacy was one of Christian character. He loved all men, including people of color. In a day and age when people think they know things based upon what they learn from their Twitter feed and social media platforms, I would encourage all Americans to take a fresh look at the author of our Star-Spangled Banner and be impressed with our heritage as a country.

It is worth standing up for.

Tour Israel with Wade and Rachelle Burleson
March 8 - 17, 2017

The Dome of the Rock (Temple Mount) behind Wade
Some of the most treasured times Rachelle and I have ever experienced are the trips we've taken to Israel with friends from around the world. I have led multiple tours to Israel, and Rachelle and I have had the privilege of becoming close friends with two brothers who serve in the Israeli military and serve as our hosts while in Israel.

In March of 2017, we will again be going back to Israel. There's no better time for you to go. It's not getting any cheaper (and won't). We have a few spaces left on this Spring Break 2017 tour. We are excited about the people who have already signed up, and know that you will love traveling with this group. Rachelle and I would be delighted for you to join us for a trip of a lifetime.

We'll travel all over the land of Israel in a comfortable tour bus (with huge bay windows), from the Golan Heights in northern Israel which borders the countries of Lebanon and Syria, to the Dead Sea in far southern Israel. We will start our tour on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on the western edge of Israel, and will eventually make our way to the eastern border with the country of Jordan. The sites are incredible!

The Bible comes alive. The best way I can explain it is that before you go to Israel, reading the Bible is like watching black and white television in the 1950's. After Israel, reading the Bible is like watching hi-definition 3-D television in 2016.

The Israel trip is all inclusive from Oklahoma City and will last for 10 days and is as follows:
At the Valley of Armageddon


DAY 1:  Depart from Oklahoma City to Tel Aviv.

DAY 2: - TEL AVIV / NETANYA: 
We arrive in Israel. Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, we will be met and assisted to our motor coach. We proceed to our hotel on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

DAY 3: - CAESAREA / MEGIDDO / TIBERIAS:
This day's tour includes the ancient seaport and Roman theater at Caesarea, Mount Carmel, Megiddo and the Valley of Armageddon. We arrive in Tiberias at our hotel overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
The Mount of Beatitudes

DAY 4: - SEA OF GALILEE / CAPERNAUM / CAESAREA PHILIPPI:
On this day we will cross the Sea of Galilee by boat landing at Kibbutz Nof Ginosar where we view the ancient Jesus Boat. We will continue to the site of Peter’s restoration and the Mt. of the Beatitudes before arriving at Kibbutz En Gev for a lunch of St. Peter’s fish. Later we visit Capernaum, Jesus’ ministry base with its ancient synagogue. We will travel north to Caesarea Philippi and the mouth of the Jordan River.
 
DAY 5: - BET SHEAN / JERUSALEM:

This morning we will have a short ride south to the ancient city of Bet Shean and continue to Gideon’s Spring at En Harod. We will then go up to the City of Jerusalem! Throughout the day there will be teaching on the importance of the city of Jerusalem, and an opportunity to take some incredible pictures overlooking the vast city. Before going to our hotel spend some reflective time on the Mount of Olives.  
The Golan Heights


DAY 6: - JERUSALEM / MOUNT OF OLIVES / GETHSEMANE / OLD CITY:
We will begin our day on the top of the Mt. of Olives before walking down to the Garden of Gethsemane. We have a devotional and prayer time in a private garden next to Gethsemane. Later we enter the Old City through the Lion’s Gate and visit the famous Church of St. Anne with its rich, deep acoustics and the Pool of Bethesda. We continue to the Sisters of Zion Convent to visit the site of Pilate’s Judgment Hall/Antonio Fortress. We continue to the house of Caiaphas.

DAY 7: - OLD CITY / WAILING WALL / TEMPLE MOUNT / SOUTHERN EXCAVATIONS:
Today we will visit the Jewish Quarter, Wailing (Western) Wall and Temple Mount where we view the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aksa Mosque and the site where The Temple once stood, and we will also go underneath the actual ancient walls through a hidden tunnel.

The Garden Tomb
DAY 8: - MASADA / QUMRAN / DEAD SEA:
We depart Jerusalem and proceed through the Judean Wilderness to Qumran, the site where a Bedouin shepherd found the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. Wewill travel south along the shore of the Dead Sea on the lowest road in the world to Masada, truly a remarkable piece of history. En Gedi, a beautiful oasis on the shores of the Dead Sea is our last stop before returning to Jerusalem.

DAY 9: - GARDEN TOMB:
Today we will visit the the Garden Tomb for a time of study on why this spot is believed to be the site "outside the walls" of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. We will view Golgotha and then tour the Garden itself with a visit to the empty tomb and participating in the Lord's Supper. Time permitting we may visit additional sites before returning to our hotel to freshen up and have dinner.

DAY 10: - HOME :
This morning we check out early and depart for the Tel Aviv airport for our flight to Frankfurt. After a plane change, we continue on to Oklahoma City via Newark. We will return with memories and new friends to last a lifetime and beyond!
Our Group at Caesarea by the Sea
 More detailed information on the tour is available here. If you are interested in going, you may scroll to the bottom of the page and click "Book Tour."

Discovery World Wide Tours is helping us with this trip. We've been going with Discovery for over twenty years and find them to be a wonderful company to work with on trips to Israel.

If you have any questions, feel free to call me at 580-237-0602.  

Tim Price on The Tale of Two Masters

Tim Price (Omaha, Nebraska) is a friend of mine who works as an editor, publisher and writer. Tim is currently working on a book called The Tale of Two Masters, uploading individual chapters to academia.com as he completes. He has given me permission to copy one chapter of his new book on this blog, a chapter I believe is extremely important for Jesus followers who are living through America's charged political atmosphere of 2016. If you take seriously the call for Jesus to be the Lord and Master of your life, then take a few moments and be challenged from Tim's writing on the difference between Jesus being your master and the machinations of the world being your master.

In God's Kingdom - the very thing Jesus brings - there is equity, equality, etc. But in the kingdoms of this world there is none of this. Oh sure, there are attempts at altruism, but the world can only attempt to achieve what God's Kingdom already brings. Christians often make the mistake of believing altruism can be achieved through unregenerate people. The New Testament teachings of Christ are clear; God alone is able to make people capable of true goodness. The machinations of the world can only make attempts at altruism, but they are destined to always fail. It is Christ in us who is our hope of true goodness.

Please read Tim's article below carefully. After reading it, see if you don't have a better appreciation of the difference between what God is actually doing in His people and what the world is deceiving people into doing and believing through political, social, and cultural change.



_______________________________________________________________

The Tale of Two Masters
Tim Price

No one would be surprised that the average church person could quote a number of isolated biblical texts. Or even that a few small snippets of Bible verses are commonly known in unregenerate circles. Yet, I wonder at the penetration level of these texts. For the church folk, are these texts applied in real life? Does the well-knownness of a text equate to a full understanding or application of it in our life? Many would like to think so, yet I wonder. Let’s consider just one such text:


"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."  (Matthew 6:24 NIV)
Many a churchman could quote Matthew 6:24 verbatim. However, is it understood in a circumspect application or is it another of those texts we quote that has no real root in our lives? To answer such a query one would have to know what does Matthew 6:24 mean. Does it refer to: money, idolatry, control, all of the foregoing or even more?

In an attempt to answer my own question I went straight to the Internet in search of meanings inferred from this text. I wanted to know what currently shapes the collective notions about this text as far as general understanding. There were no shortages of commentary. Those cited below were randomly chosen from the first page of search results.


1. John Gill’s exposition on the Bible regarding the stated text says:
Whereas it (mammon) is not a Hebrew word, nor an adjective, but a substantive, and signifies riches; which are opposed to God, being by some men loved, admired, trusted in, and worshipped, as if they were God; and which is incompatible with the service of the true God. A
2. The Bible Hub provided their commentary concerning our text. They listed many interpretations. This one is from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

…Literally, can be the slave of two masters. The clauses that follow describe two distinct results of the attempt to combine the two forms of service which are really incompatible…there is obviously an approach to a personification (of mammon) for the sake of contrasting the service or worship of money with that which is due to God. B

3. The Christian Resource Institute notes:
The two words "serve" and "masters" refer to a slave's relationship to a slave-owner… The verse ends with a summary statement: You cannot serve both God and Money. The Greek word for Money is Mammon, which was taken from Aramaic, the language of Jesus. It meant wealth, property, or possessions…C
It appears the commonly understood meaning of this text is anchored to the final word in the verse: mammon (money). However, is this all the verse is speaking about? Another detail to consider is in reference No. 3, which reminds us, “The two words ‘serve’ and ‘masters’ refer to a slave's relationship to a slave-owner.”D This detail cannot be missed, nor subordinated to the other point concerning mammon. It is astonishing that the money detail carries a disproportionate weight of interpretation in many, many commentaries. E

One can only wonder why the master-slave context of this verse has apparently been glossed over. Slave has become a dirty, evil word in our day. Christians consider themselves very much a part of “mankind”: the milieu of general society and human existence. And thus, we, more often than not, reflect society’s sensitivities. Since abolition, the word slavery carries a stigma and curse, so much so that it can’t be referenced without a subconscious undercurrent of denial and strickenness rising up to slam any door that could be opened on meaningful understanding from biblical references to the topic. As an example of this palpable reticence, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary clearly avoids articulation on the connection between master and slave in its “definition” of master.F

I observed this common aversion in another piece I wrote: Chapter 4 - A Kingdom of Bond-Servants. Other authors have also taken notice of this inclination—prompting books like Slaves of Christ, by Murray J. Harris and Slavery as Salvation by Dale. B. Martin. Both authors hope to remind us of the exquisiteness and purpose of servile terminology in the New Testament. The need is to restore a rightful understanding and application of the imagery of slavery unhindered by the popularized misinformation that the culture of our day has sought to rendition us with.

Matthew’s verse starts by noting two masters… What is a master?

A master in the time and context of the text’s authorship was (and still is) a person who owned slaves. Slavery was about being completely occupied in one’s existence to the allowance of whoever owned you for the purpose of doing work that did not profit you. A slave had no sense of self other than mere existence. Murray J. Harris noted, “…the slave's alienation from family and tribe, including communal religion, so that his focus of attachment became his master; his identity became so inseparable from his master.”

Today, how many things occupy our minds about the existence in this world and all the choices ostensibly forced upon us in our modern situation? How many of the factors in our existence limit our choices? How many of these things foster a sense of belonging and identity that in turn require our cooperation?

Few church people can see past the political and temporal reality around us. More importantly, they are totally owned by this reality. Being a Christian, to most, is just another of 20 things to which we are connected rather than following Christ owning us and everything in life being trimmed and defined by that Master-slave relationship. We allow the world order and temporal existence to own us, but not God. Christ was addressing this unfortunate reality in the Sermon on the Mount; most pointedly in Matthew 6:24.

Christians correctly expose the Evolutionists’ interpretations of what they observe when the Christian says something like, “You (Evolutionists) interpret what you see in the strata according to an explanation in which you’ve attached subjective meaning.” Point being—made by the Christian exposé—is that this self-serving understanding only confirms the Evolutionists’ theory as being legitimate. Yet, Christians do almost the exact same thing regarding politics, society, life and existence. Christians see a reality around them and then use it to interpret the Bible. This approach only supports the course of the world as it is. G The Bible was never meant to be interpreted by history or current events or the way things seem at one point or another. The Bible transcends all that. Instead, the Bible tells us how to understand what we see while we maintain God’s purpose and direction.


The highest number of Christians will fight the notion that anything is their master other than God. They’ve been taught by the institutional church to excuse various details as a reality of the world we live in, in spite of NT teaching. Yet, their dependence on and abdication to the temporal order; its divisiveness, its logic and direction tells us that indeed that the highest number Christians are owned by the temporal order. They see no other way to be present for God in the context of the world order other than to play its games. Jacques Ellul noted this poor trend by saying, “Other pronouncements show that the moment one speaks of ‘presence to the world’ Christians translate this as political presence. It would seem that there is absolutely no other way to be present to the world other than to engage in politics.”H

Christians cannot conceive of another means to engage an unbelieving society. They send missionaries to other cultures, nations, and places to engage those groups of unbelieving people with the truth of the Bible. Yet, “here at home”—a notion utterly foreign to the NT teaching for the follower of Christ—they set aside the NT and stay entrenched in society as a co-owners and benefactors of the state.

What’s wrong with that picture?

Ultimately, the tale of two masters is the story of the master of the temporal order and the master of the eternal now-reality order of the Kingdom of God (KOG). There are only two realities. Yet, for the last 1700 years, the organized church has sold believers the false idea that we—as the collective body of Christ—are NOT the KOG amongst the kingdoms of men. The KOG has been spiritualized into meaninglessness by turning it in to mere metaphor and/or pushing its reality into next life.

This is clearly in spite of what the NT teaches, where most references to the KOG are in the now-reality tense. For example, Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first”—what—“the Kingdom of God.” Then it says, “and all these things will be added to you,” speaking of material/temporal things. Let’s consider a couple of questions:

When is the seeking—and finding—of the KOG to occur? Now or in the next life?
And when will everything be added to us in having sought the KOG? In this life or the next?

Clearly, this text is speaking of a now-reality, why? Simple! Of what need or use would all these things—what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or what shall we wear,—mean to us in the next life? This is just one of 40+ such now-reality texts concerning the KOG. What was Jesus doing, teaching about the KOG if it were only a hereafter reality? It is in fact that the KOG is a now-reality that was the basis for which Christ spent so much time teaching about it.

The state, in Christ’s day, meant enslavement to all in the realm to the reigning actuary of the day. The state was about belonging, identity, and protection. Today is no different. Today, people—to include Christians—are just as enslaved to the state in order to keep the freedoms it offers and to protect the way of life they have come to enjoy in this country from it’s enemies foreign and domestic… The KOG in Christ’s day meant real freedom, real love, and a transcendent reality outside the manipulation of the state. Serving God meant real, palpable reward in this life as well as the next, see: Mark 10:29-30. The order of the KOG was the antithesis of the world order, and still is.

Today, many believers foolishly look upon modern society as good, as ascending, and as improving… The world order has abolished many “evils.“ But has it brought anyone closer to God? It offers “rights”, “freedoms” and the establishment of a reality where mankind seems to becoming better all the time.I The unregenerate or mankind proposes “social justice”, “egalitarianism”, “social equity”, and “gender equality” J as basic human rights. Not only this, but also these “rights” are part of ever widening the array of what “inclusiveness” and “identity” can mean. There is serious expectation of these “improvements” and hell to pay from the masses if it were ever exposed that such are just political footballs, not a reality of an accomplished continuum.

The list of inclusions, under the leadership of the unregenerate world order, has grown to the point where many Christians can’t agree biblically on these “acceptable paths,” i.e. transgenderism, the normalization of homosexual choices and even the move to normalize pedophilia.K These latest moves of the temporal order threaten “the church” because it depends on the state for inclusion, identity and belonging within the state’s order, as well as protection. Yet, the state requires a price for such, which the religious community is finally beginning to wake up to.

The tale of two masters is a tremendously sad story. It is indeed about two competing kingdoms. Unfortunately, it has become a history of treachery. The followers of Christ have been offered and awarded a reality beyond compare in this life. However, the response of most Christians historically has been to minimize the now-reality of eternal order in favor of the temporal order; expecting to benefit from the latter and enjoy it for all its worth. They don’t realize they’ve sold their birthright for a bowl of soup like someone else we ought to have learned from.

Jesus lived the KOG, which contrasted the reality of the world order of His time; and people flocked to Him even though they had to give up everything to follow Him, see: Matt. 19:27. We’ve deceived ourselves into thinking that the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t say what it does… We’ve shoveled what “master” and “slave” mean under a rug as far as the KOG. And thus the kingdom of the world, the order run by the enemy of God, has nothing to contrast it. If the Christians won’t live the KOG, in keeping with Christ, how is anyone to see that the world order is a fraud and grandiose failure? Without the KOG, the temporal order can appear credible in its attempts to prove God wrong about mankind: humanity is not utterly evil, right?

The gospel—the good news—of the kingdom of God is that the KOG is something utterly different, but every bit as real as the order of the world. The KOG offered something the world order could not and would not offer people. The KOG is an exclusive reality with a high price that even the poorest of the poor in the world order can afford.

Christians have reduced what it means to follow Jesus into thinking that “engaging the world” is holding to a different belief in a belief in one’s head, staying aloof in religious clubs so as not to be surrounded by evil, and then going out and manipulating public policy with their esoteric ideals so they can feel comfortable as they wait for the grave where everything will be the betterment of the KOG in the hereafter. They have no realization that one can be MORE present in the world and utterly contrast it by being the KOG amongst the kingdoms of men in the everyday living within the world, by being slaves of Another.

What is the KOG amongst the kingdoms of men?

It’s letting the world be as it is, as most missionaries do, yet living and being a contrast within a foreign order. If the world order is air, we are perfume. Its air carries us, but it is not us. The KOG is about being truth, love and justice in our dealing with one-another. It’s about offering what we are to the people we meet and interact with. The KOG is about being a contrasting reality within the temporality of the world. But it is not a continuum that is a dependable benefit to the world. The KOG isn’t about fixing the world or changing it. Mud is mud and we need to get over that fact and allow it to be as it is.

The KOG is about doing the will of our Father in Heaven. It’s about doing only what He shows us to do… So many of us do what we think is best and offer our best efforts. But this so misses direct guidance; say nothing of obedience. The problem with Christians is that they have gagged God, theologically. They’ve limited themselves to trying to figure out a book, while not being concerned that Jesus sits in heaven with a proverbial sock in His mouth. It wouldn’t matter if He could speak because nobody is listening for direct guidance. Christians continue to listen to Constantine, that the church and the state can rule together and affect change in the world. Yet, they have failed to realize that putting their lamp under the basket of the state has hidden (obscured) their light.

In these latter days, God is going to purify His Bride. The state will continue to pressure change in the way of perversions, counterfeit progress and other political footballs to keep the simpleminded pre-occupied. What calls itself church will be forced to either throw out Constantine—and our belonging and identity with him—or continue as the state’s pet and perish in God’s confrontation of the order of the world. If believers do what is right, following Jesus will once again become a persecuted involvement. In this renewed outlook, we will not allow the state to tell us what we will and won’t do as far as the application of scripture. We will become uncompliant with the state’s progressive developments. We will disband our huge institutional edifices and take up action in our homes through functional relationships; utterly depending on God to meet, to minister, and to exist.

So! The question is:

When won’t there be the tale of two masters in your life? As a follower of Jesus, when are you going to take God serious as your master and throw out the impostor of the state and quit trying to belong to it? Christians continually look for allowable options, but Jesus’ gospel is a very narrow way. God is listening and seeking repentance from His followers who have not realized that He is seeking differentiation between the order of the world and His order (KOG). God’s word is clear, if you have not been taught to miss it.

 End Notes


B. Bible Hub Commentaries: Matthew 6:24

C. CriVoice: Matthew 6

D. Ibid

E. The following sources park the chief meaning of Matt. 6:24 at dealing with money and little else. Few of these do not deal with “serve two masters” other than to say that money is the one master this verse is talking about: Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Pulpit Commentary (Joseph Exell), Expositor's Greek Testament, Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament, Matthew Poole's Commentary, Adam Clarke’s Commentary, John Lightfoot Commentary, Wesley's Explanatory Notes, John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible, Phillip Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament, Greek Testament, Critical Exegetical Commentary, F.B. Meyers’ Through The Bible Commentary, Chuck Smith Bible Commentary, E.W. Bullinger’s Companion Bible Notes

F. Merriam-Webster Dictionary - this dictionary goes as far as to deemphasize “a servant” as being nothing more than being “managed” instead of owned in reference to servants.

G. I noted this reality in my first book, The Diluted Church: Calling Believers to Live out of their True Heritage, pg. 23

H. False Presence of the Kingdom, Seabury Press 1972 Congress Catalog Card Number 77-163369-736-272-C-6 pg. 96

I. Hawk and the Eagle, by John Denver. In the lyrics Denver writes this notion of human perfectability, “and reach for the heavens and hope for the future, and all that we can be and not what we are.”

J. Social justice, egalitarianism, social equity, and gender equality are knock offs of what the earliest of church lived, which embodied the KOG as a now-reality. These new articulations are strictly humanistic attempts to make mankind appear better and transcending his old self…

K. Salon Magazine has published three articles in the last two years concerning a pedophile who wants you to empathize with him, that is see life through his eyes… Some admit this is a move to start normalizing pedophilia: "I'm a Pedophile, but Not a Monster," "I'm a Pedophile and You're the Monster: My Week Inside the Vile Right Wing Hate Machine," and "The Pedophile I Could Not Help, but He Was Not a Monster."