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

Robert Moffat, Setswana, and the Information Age

Robert Moffat (1795-1883) was one of the earliest and most extraordinary evangelical missionaries to the dark continent of Africa.

Robert, his wife Mary, and their ten children settled at Kuruman, to the north of the Vaal River, among the Batswana people. Here Robert lived and worked passionately for the cause of Christ.

Robert endured many hardships, including once going for days without water. His mouth became so dry he was unable to speak. Often he bound his stomach to help him endure fasting when he could not find food to eat.

Robert translated the whole of the Bible and The Pilgrim's Progress into Setswana language of the African tribes to whom he ministered.

Robert Moffat was an extraordinary missionary to the African people. He communicated the results of these journeys to the Royal Geographical Society. While in Great Britain on furlough (1839–43), Robert wrote an account of his family's experiences, entitled Missionary Labours and Scenes in South Africa (1842).

It was in London during his leave (1839-1843) that he met a doctor named David Livingstone. That meeting was influential in leading David Livingstone to leave his safe and secure medical practice and go to Africa as a Christian missionary. 

Livingstone would later marry Moffat's eldest daughter, Mary. 

While in London, on June 20, 1842, Robert Moffat penned a note to a pastor friend named Rev. Edward Jenkings (see picture above). 

I have Robert Moffat's note to Rev. Jenkings in my private collection in my home office. 

At the bottom of the note, Robert Moffat writes: 
Behold the Lamb of God
Underneath, Moffat writes something that I didn't understand. 
Bonany Kusena la Mossino
So, I went to the Internet. 

I assumed the words were in Setswana. 


I typed in the words..,

Presto. 

Behold the Lamb of God in the Setswana tribal language. 

Application:

We who have the privilege of living in the 21st century have the world at our fingertips. Even twenty years ago it would have taken me time, energy, and effort to find a BOOK that translated English into African Setswana. 

It took me 30 seconds with the Internet.

Let's not waste our days. 

The Internet makes learning a lifelong hobby. 

Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of living in this Information Age.

Abortion, 12 Boys in a Cave, and a Profound Riddle

This week's announcement that Brett Kavanaugh has been selected as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's replacement has many expressing fear and anger that Roe v. Wade might be overturned and that abortion in America will be outlawed.

Juxtapose those negative emotions with America's collective joy over 12 boys being safely rescued this week from a Thai cave.

It's confusing to me how many Americans can feel such happiness over boys being dramatically rescued from death in Thailand, while at the same time express such anger over the possibility of Americans being unable to bring intentional death to babies. 

I may be the only person who thinks along these lines, but I'd like to point out the similarities between the boys in Thailand and babies in American mothers' wombs.

Both babies and the boys are alive.
Both babies and the boys are in a dark place.
Both babies and the boys are surrounded by water.
Both babies and the boys are in need of oxygen from others.
Both babies and the boys are in need of nourishment from others.
Both babies and the boys are completely dependent on other people.
Both babies and the boys will survive with preparation and careful removal.
Both babies and the boys have people around the world who are willing to help.

Those who know me recognize there's not a judgmental bone in my body. I listen to people. I can change my mind when sound, logical reasoning convinces me of my faulty thinking. 

I'm listening. 

I'm looking for an answer to the riddle. 

I have friends who've had abortions. I've spoken with them about their decisions. Typically, an abortion seems to be a way out of the consequences of poor choices made in life.

Not always. 

Sometimes there are mitigating circumstances (e.g. rape, potential deformities, etc.). 

But during mitigating circumstances, sorrow is the emotion of all involved. Sorrow is never the endpoint. God has a way of turning sorrow into joy. 

But that's another post. 

I'm confused over choosing death for healthy American babies to relieve the consequences of unwise choices 

Let's go further in comparisons of the Thai boys' dilemma with those of babies in American wombs.

The coach made a poor choice to go exploring with his soccer boys during monsoon season when caves often flood. 

But did we kill the boys because of the soccer coach's poor choice? 

No. We saved the boys' lives. 

Again, I'm confused. 

In seeking to resolve the riddle some might conclude that expectant American mothers' could say:
"It's my cave. It's my decision. It's my life. I want to abort the baby and end its life, and anybody who tries to stop me is my enemy."
I'm thinking. Give me a moment.

That argument makes me want to find the owner of the cave in Thailand and ask him if anyone sought his permission to enter, or if the government asked for permission to save the lives of those boys. 

I would think, though I don't know for sure, that the cave owner was not involved in the decision to save lives. 

Saving lives is not an individual choice; it seems by necessity to be a societal responsibility. Prizing life is evidence of civilization. When society wishes to bring intentional death, it means the downgrade and eventual collapse of civilization (e.g. "war"). 

Maybe somebody believes babies in the womb are not human until they can breathe, eat, and live without help from others. 

But that doesn't answer the riddle over differences either. The boys in the cave couldn't breathe, eat, or live without help from others. 

What's the difference between boys in a cave in Thailand and babies in wombs in America? 

Why did so many Americans rejoice over saving the lives of the Thai boys but angrily demand the right to kill American babies? 

I seriously want to know the answer to the riddle. 

I'm not stupid. 

I'm just confused.

Einstein, Creativity, and the Battle with Conformity

Without hesitation, we who follow Christ affirm the unchangeable nature of His message.

However, the methods by which we deliver this fixed message should constantly be evaluated and often changed for advancing Christ's Kingdom in an ever-changing culture.

Fluid methodologies with a fixed message are the ticket for creative, thriving institutions.

Unfortunately, many institutional leaders reverse the pattern and find their institutions becoming increasingly irrelevant.

When methodologies are fixed and the message is fluid - whether it's a business, a team sport, or a church - the institution slides into a slow, irreversible death.

Within 10 seconds of walking into a building, one can tell the direction the institution is headed. If the building looks and feels straight out of the 60's, 70's, or 80's, and even 90's,  then it is dying. Methodologies for reaching people must change.

Leaders insecure about who they often find their identity in the things they do. That's why organizational change can become very personal.

Authoritative people demand conformity to established methodologies for their self-preservation. An organization must rid itself of authoritative, controlling, insecure leaders prior to realizing institutional advancement.

Take science and mathematics for examples.

One learns science or math through learning established, constant truths that never change. But it is often as difficult for creative geniuses to rise out of the institutional centers of science as it is for Christian leaders to rise out of the institutional and denominational conformities of religion because the methodologies of the institutions rarely change.

Albert Einstein was seventeen years old when he entered the German science and mathematics schools of Munich. Most German schools, including Albert's school, were run with a Prussian sense of military style and efficiency. The students were like privates while the teachers acted as authoritarian officers. Learning was regimented and mechanical with an emphasis on rote memorization and repetitive lessons.

Just like religious institutions.

Rewards were based on conformity and creative learning methodologies were stifled.

Einstein struggled.

Albert found the style of teaching - rote drills, impatience with questioning, and corporate conformity - to be repugnant. His beloved sister, Maja, made this observation of Einstein's feelings:
"The military tone of the school, the systematic training in the worship of authority that was supposed to accustom pupils at an early age to military discipline, was particularly unpleasant to Albert."
According to biographer Walter Isaacson, in his book Einstein, Albert developed a deep contempt for the authoritarian style and militarist atmosphere of German schools. One day when troops in a parade marched down the street where Einstein lived, and all the children came pouring out of their apartments to watch, Einstein refused to join in. He told his parents . . .
When I grow up, I don't want to be one of those poor people. When a person can take pleasure marching in step to a piece of music it is enough to make me despise him. He has been given his big brain only by mistake.
The Reason Einstein Began to Flourish Academically

In 1895, when Einstein was seventeen, his family moved to Switzerland for reasons associated with his father's business. Einstein enrolled at the cantonal school in the village of Aarau before his entrance into the Zurich Polytechnic School.

Aaru was a perfect school for Einstein. According to Isaacson,
The teaching was based on the philosophy of a Swiss educational reformer of the early nineteenth century, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, who believed in encouraging students to visualize images. He also thought it important to nurture the 'inner dignity' and individuality of each child. Students should be allowed to reach their own conclusions, Pestalozzi preached, by using a series of steps that began with hands-on observations and then proceeded to intuitions, conceptual thinking, and visual imagery. It was even possible to learn - and truly understand - the laws of math and physics that way. Rote drills, memorization, and force-fed facts were avoided.
Einstein loved Aarau. Maja, Einstein's sister, said of the school,
Pupils were treated individually. More emphasis was placed on independent thought than on punditry, and young people saw the teacher not as a figure of authority, but, alongside the student, a man of distinct personality.
It was the exact opposite of the German instruction Einstein hated. His love for Swiss education and the freedom of individuality eventually led Einstein to renounce his German citizenship. Of course, the German system of worshipping human authority eventually led to the rise of one of the world's worst dictators just a four decades later.

Einstein later said of his year at Aarau,
When compared to six years' schooling at a German authoritarian gymnasium, Aarau made me clearly realize how much superior an education based on free action and personal responsibility is to one relying on outward authority.
Application for Evangelicals

(1). Young evangelical pastors and leaders need an institutional atmosphere where they are free to think and flourish in their own, individual, and creative ways according to how God has gifted each of them.

(2). Demands to submit to authoritarian control by blindly giving allegiance to established methodologies of ministry will thwart any Kingdom creativity and restrict new and more effective methods of reaching an ever-changing world.

(3). Effective missions and ministries come from the hands-on experience of doing new and creative things rather than hearing others declare how it ought to be done. Mistakes will be made, but mistakes of motion are always better than stagnation of status-quo. Methodologies should be fluid.

(4). The threat to the future of any religious institution does not come from more freedom. On the contrary, institutional death springs from authoritative leadership, tight controls, and fixed methodologies.

Ask Albert Einstein.

SWBTS Donors and the Folly of Funding Scrolls and Museums Instead of Scholars and Ministries

Offices of Square Mile Energy (Gary Loveless) in Houston
The new leadership of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is worthy of Southern Baptist's full confidence.  College graduates from our church who are interested in ministry are now considering enrolling at Southwestern, the first time SWBTS has been a viable option for over a dozen years. The future is bright.

However, there remain a few people who need to completely sever ties with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some of them are employed by the school. The new administrative leadership will handle the resolution of their employment with professional courtesy and class.

Others who need to completely sever ties with the school are financial donors. Seventeen donors to Southwestern to be exact

These SWBTS donors have made a tragic mistake that could have ongoing consequences for both the school and for them personally.

They have signed a letter written by Houston oilman Gary Loveless, a letter in which Mr. Loveless lambasts the Executive Committee of Southwestern for their unanimous vote to sever ties with former SWBTS President Paige Patterson. Mr. Loveless is a close personal friend of Paige Patterson, a former trustee at SWBTS, and a previous multi-million dollar donor to SWBTS. 

Many news outlets have published Gary Loveless' letter.

I have three serious questions that I'd like to ask Mr. Loveless about his letter. I've called his office in Houston (twice) and left my personal cell number. I've not heard back from him  I have friends in North Carolina who have also read the letter. Megan and Vincent Lively have asked me what I thought of it. I told them that before I wrote a response, I wanted to speak with Gary Loveless. Another friend from North Carolina, a man named Wade Smith,  has also visited with me about the letter.  I think Mr. Loveless and the other SWBTS donors would rather this Wade (me) ask questions more so than the other Wade

Meet Gary Loveless


Gary and Stephanie Loveless
Gary and Stephanie Loveless seem like a nice couple. They are members of Second Baptist, Houston, Texas. They are involved in philanthropic work around the world. They are people who give evidence of desiring to serve Christ and His Kingdom.

But they seem to me to be a tad naive. 

Or, to be more specific, Gary and Stephanie Loveless may be guilty of "hero-worship,"

Hero-worship is the deadly disease that plagues many Southern Baptists, particularly since 1979 and the beginning of the Southern Baptist Conservative Resurgence.

Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlisle (1795-1881) says hero-worship is a part of human societies throughout the world:
"Society is founded on Hero-worship. Human association rests on what we may call a Hero-archy (a Government of Heroes). Society everywhere is some representation, not insupportably inaccurate, of a graduated Worship of Heroes—reverence and obedience done to men."
Carlyle is correct about societies in this world.

But Christ's Kingdom is not of this world. Christians are called to worship none but Christ.

Gary Loveless gave over a million dollars to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to purchase fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He also assisted in the fundraising required to permanently display those fragments at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Gary did so because Paige and Dorothy Patterson told Gary that the scroll fragments were real Dead Sea Scroll fragments. The Seminary, the Pattersons told Gary Loveless, would benefit from having them.

Gary believed his heroes.

The Houston Chronicle reported six years ago how Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary came into possession of the scrolls. It all started when Gary and Stephanie Loveless were on a tour of Israel with Paige and Dorothy Patterson in 2009.
Gary Loveless said they were busy visiting the usual sights of Holy Land travelers, and the group stopped at Kando's Shop, now run by Mr. Kando's son, William Kando Jr. Stephanie Loveless purchased a small oil lamp, and the couple returned to the tour bus, with her husband thinking he'd just gotten out of a pricey store with way more money in his pocket than he expected.
Then the Pattersons waved at him to return to the shop. Kando had just made them an offer they couldn't refuse: His family had decided that their Dead Sea Scroll fragments, locked away in a Swiss vault for decades, should be on public display. And they wanted them to be exhibited with his treasured friends at Southwestern Baptist.
The Lovelesses knew it was time for the important work of Christian charity - and they ultimately became the major sponsors of the exhibit with their $1 million donation.
 Let that visual sink in.

Khallil Kando at his Jerusalem Shop
The President and First Lady of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are running out of a souvenir trinket shop in Jerusalem with hands raised, shouting at their millionaire friend (Mr. Loveless) to come and hear of "Dead Sea Scroll fragments locked away in a Swiss vault for decades."

Cynthia Loveless must have been rubbing her recently purchased oil lamp and a Hebrew genie popped out.

Gary Loveless didn't seem bothered by the fact Mr. Kando kept these artifacts a secret for decades.

Nobody seemed to question why a souvenir gift shop owner, known for "making deals" might suddenly want to make a deal with a rich Texas oilman.

The Hebrew scrolls were real. The Pattersons said so.

I've considered running into Square Mile Energy in Houston with my hand raised, breathlessly shouting:
"Mr. Loveless, the Ark of the Covenant is hidden in my basement in a safe I bought from Lowes and I'm wondering if you'll buy it from me for two million dollars? If you position it properly at SWBTS, you may be able to replicate the Shekina glory as the sun shines through the stained-glass windows"
Think I'm being harsh?

Do you think that questioning the authenticity of SWBTS Hebrew scrolls is off-limits to proper Christian decorum?

CBS News doesn't think so.

Hebrew manuscript scholars don't think so.

The Research Project administered by the University of Agder, Norway, doesn't think so.

But Paige and Dorothy Patterson say they’re real. Dorothy Patterson authenticated them on five trips to Zurich.

Her son, Armour Patterson, wrote the story of the intense negotiations for the scrolls in a self-published e-book entitled Much Clean Paper for Little Dirty Paper.

Southwestern Seminary Buys Hebrew Scroll Fragments (Thanks Gary!)



In 2011/2012, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary - through the generosity of donor Gary Loveless and under the leadership of Paige and Dorothy Patterson - dedicated a 3,500 seat chapel with stained-glassed images of the Pattersons and other SBC Conservative Resurgence leaders, opened an exhibt space for the recently purchased Hebrew scrolls, and began charging $25.00 per person to come see what God has done.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary would later deem the Dead Sea Scroll Exhibit a success.
Self-proclaimed successes always remind me of the Iraqi Minister of Information.

SWBTS was in serious financial trouble during the years 2008-2012, the same time seminary donors and trustees like Gary Loveless were busy building monuments and dedicating museums. For example:
1. SWBTS student enrollment declined to historic lows.
2. Southwestern Seminary stopped contributing to professor's retirement to save money.
3. The SWBTS Counseling Program was closed in 2010 due to a budget shortfall.
4. Faculty positions were cut.
5. The Dead Sea Scroll fragments eventually cost the school millions of dollars. 
As Gary Loveless was contributing millions of dollars to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to build museums and monuments in honor of the Battle for the Bible led by the Pattersons,  the seminary contined to struggle financially. Even if the fragments were actually real, is it wise for seminary leaders to lose focus of the school’s chartered mission?

Fiduciary responsibility for Southwestern Seminary and oversight of ministry training at SWBTS didn't seem nearly as important to SWBTS trustee Gary Loveless as purchasing and displaying the Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

I wrote about Southwestern trustee Gary Loveless over eight years ago. In a post dated January 29, 2010, I expressed concern over the closing of the SWBTS Counseling Program, a center for training pastors how to effectively counsel those in emotional and spiritual need. In that post, I directed readers to an interview with CBS News (link now removed), Gary Loveless revealed his motive for giving the money to purchase the Dead Sea Scroll fragments (quote):
"One day, when we are all standing before Him (Jesus Christ), and we got millions of people out there, when I hold my hand up, He will know who I am. That's really, for me, you know, what it is all about."
Mr. Loveless, there's a lot more people besides Jesus who now know who you are.

Additional information regarding Gary Loveless and his connections to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, including how he led the capital campaign for the now-defunct SWBTS Houston campus (note: the facilities, not the school), can be found in this SWBTS article (page 43).

As someone recently said to me, "Gary Loveless has been the captain of every sinking ship SWBTS has launched in the last dozen years." Gary Loveless' threat of withdrawal from involvement in SWBTS matters may, in the end, be helpful for future seminary accreditation.


Three Serious Questions about Mr. Loveless' Letter to SWBTS Trustees


With that background regarding Mr. Gary Loveless,  I am asking three serious questions of him regarding his letter to SWBTS trustees. The letter is public, so my questions to Mr. Gary Loveless are appropriately public.
1. Who disclosed to you that Dr. Patterson "has no recollection" of the 2003 rape allegation at Southeastern Seminary, that there is "no proof" that he is speaking dishonestly, and that the 2003 "alleged victim" has given "contradictory statements?"
2. Who disclosed to you that the 2015 SWBTS female seminary student you reference in your letter (p. 5) "had engaged in consensual sexual activiites on more than one occasion and those acts had taken place in public buildings at the Seminary, and that campus security were shown the nude pictures she texted to the male student....(and) that she begged Dr. Patterson to not call the police"?
3.  Who led you to believe that "Chairman Ueckert ...acted in a premeditated manner and with malice aforethought to intentionally mislead others, while simulteanerously defaming and disparaging the honorable name of Dr. Patterson"?
Mr. Loveless, these are serious questions. I tried to get a response privately, and it's unfortunate we've not connected.

Your letter causes several concerns. It is possible that some very privileged information in student files may have been released to you without the students' consent. It also seems the letter publicly demeans the character and testimony of an "alleged" (your word) rape victim. Finally, if you are truly concerned about Southwestern Seminary, particularly as a recent SWBTS trustee (2007-2017), then you should know that public statements impugning the motives and character of  SWBTS trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert, while at the same time publicly declaring SWBTS trustee Bart Barber's comments to the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention "false and slanderous," are detrimental to the institution you once served.

I will not presume to answer the three questions for you Mr. Loveless, but after examining your ten-year legacy of serving as a trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, it seems that Dr. and Mrs. Paige Patterson have again waved their hands and asked you to come and listen.

And like all followers in hero-archy societies, you seem to want to believe your heroes to the neglect of both logic and evidence.

Differences Among Christians Matter Not to Pagans

Evan Jones
Most of my heroes are dead.

The Countess of Huntington (1707-1791). William Carey (1761-1834).  Jarena Lee (1783-1864). Adoniram Judson (1788-1850). Evan Jones (1788-1872). Epaphras Chapman (1792-1825). David Livingstone (1813-1873). Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892). Henry M. Stanley (1841-1904). 

They're all gone, only to be met in eternity. It's best for our Christian heroes to be six feet underground before stained glass windows in their likenesses appear six feet above ground.

One of my heroes, Indian missionary Evan Jones and his son John, are called "Champions of the Cherokees" by historian William G. McLoughlin in a book of the same title.

In reading this week about Evan's work among the Cherokees in the mountains of southwest North Carolina, I came across an interesting observation made by the missionaries. A great revival broke out among the Cherokees beginning in 1828 and lasting until 1832. Many Cherokees abandoned their native spiritism (adonisgi), and placed their faith in Christ.

White missionaries among the Cherokees included Moravians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians. All of them, regardless of denomination, saw the Lord add to their churches.

Evan Jones made the observation that the differences among Christians mattered not among the Indians.

Everyone who named Christ as Lord was a Christian to them.

No savage shaman who sought to scalp a saint separated the selected sacrifice by sect.

Differences mattered not.

It brought to mind this axiom:
"The greater my concern over the errors of saints with us, the less my compassion over the eternity of sinners around us."
Or, to put it another way:
"Making a secondary thing primary in ministry will result in Jesus Christ being secondary in message."
May it never be.

Enjoy the 4th of July however you celebrate!

Nationalism, July 4th, and the Kingdom of Christ

First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, on Freedom Sunday
I'm about to make a confession that almost guarantees half of you will immediately stop reading this post.

If possible, don't quit reading, but I understand you'll have a strong desire to stop after you read the next sentence.

I am a political conservative who voted for Donald Trump and think he's doing a pretty good job as President.

I know about half of you reading this are now very angry.  I'm asking you to continue reading even if you disagree with me about my politics, especially if you are a professing Christian. 

For I'm about to upset the other half reading this post as well.
At my request, the American flag has been removed from the auditorium of Emmanuel Enid, the church where I serve as a teaching pastor. 
Some members of Emmanuel Enid don't like that the American flag is gone. It has made them - friends of mine - about as upset as those of you who now know I voted for Trump.

So let me take the time to explain the principle behind the American flag's removal from the building where Christians gather for corporate worship at Emmanuel Enid.
Christ's people belong to an eternal Kingdom which has no flag. 
Some church members have a tough time understanding this principle because they've been raised in America, believing nationalism and Christianity go together like peanut butter and jelly between slices of bread.

In other words, they're comfortable with worship like that at FBC Dallas.

If I were at a political rally, I too would love what took place at FBC Dallas last Sunday during their church services.

I just don't think nationalism is appropriate in a Christian corporate worship service.

As a student of history, I understand that fascists and totalitarian governments always demand nationalism during Christian worship services. Little kings don't like their people bowing to a bigger King.

Some respond: "Wade, aren't you a patriot?" (Yes). "Aren't you a theological, political, and cultural conservative?" (Yes, yes, and yes). "Don't you wish to honor our military and our country?" (Yes). "Aren't we called by God to pray for our country's leaders?" (Yes).

Then why don't you place the American flag in the building where we corporately worship? 

Because too many people in America confuse and fuse Christianity and politics.

Nations come and go. Republics rise and fall. Countries create conflict and collapse or conquer. Nationalism, patriotism, and statism are all temporary.

Christ's Kingdom is eternal.  National kingdoms are not.

Never confuse the two. Our eternal citizenship is in Christ's Kingdom  Our temporary citizenship is in the kingdom (little "k") of the United States (or other countries). Never confuse Christ's Kingdom with an earthly president's or king's kingdom.

By the way, political liberals, as well as political conservatives, get confused over this because they both don't understand the principle that Christ's kingdom transcends every kingdom of the world:
"Political liberals want the government to look like their concept of the church as much as political conservatives want the church to look like their concept of the government."
Avoid the temptation to dilute the Kingdom with other kingdoms.

Emmanuel Enid has a Christian school where every morning we teach our children good citizenship to the United States. Students recite the Pledge of Allegiance. They learn about the Constitution of the United States. They pray for our President, regardless of party or affiliation.

But that's a school that teaches nationalism, patriotism, and good citizenship.

It is not a Kingdom church.

So, this July 4th there will be no patriotic service at Emmanuel. There used to be one every year.

But Emmanuel Enid now understands better the principle that in corporate worship the Kingdom always supersedes kingdoms.

There's nothing wrong with patriotic, fire-works worthy, nationalistic, triumphant celebrations using choirs, flags, military salutes, and bands! I enjoy them as a patriotic American and will participate in a nationalistic, patriotic celebration Wednesday night, July 4th.

But I know that my true citizenship is in a Kingdom that is eternal, one that will long outlast America, and I don't wish to downgrade the eternal with the temporal during worship of the King.

He Took My Place And In Love Bore Death's Sting

Last month I took a swat for the first time since elementary school.

I know that most school districts ban paddle spankings for children, but with parental permission, Emmanuel Christian School still gives "swats" for misbehavior.

I took a swat from Headmaster Steve Glazier and bore the sting of the swat for a second-grade student at ECS. I became the substitute for one I love.

Here's what happened.

The parents of a second-grader at Emmanuel Christian School had asked me to be responsible for their son while they took a trip. The young boy got into trouble while at school. The details are not important. Basically, the student's behavior was disrespectful to a teacher, a secretary, and he'd been disruptive in class as well.

I was called to the office. The offender was still upset, so Dr. Glazier and I sat him down and talked with him about what he'd done. After a while, he admitted that his actions were wrong.

We gave him a choice.

The young man could go seek forgiveness of his teacher, the secretary, and his classmates, or he could receive a "swat" with a paddle; one swat for each offense (a total of three).

I took time to explain the concept behind receive a paddle on the rear end.
"A swat causes a minor, temporary sting which illustrates how if you continue in the behavior that caused the swat, you're actions will eventually lead to deeper and more permanent pain in your life. Of course, seeking forgiveness for your actions means you won't receive a swat because you've humbled yourself, admitted what you did was wrong, and you are expressing a desire to make it right with others."
The second-grader said he would seek forgiveness of his teacher and the secretary, but he would not seek forgiveness of his classmates.

I told him that his parents had given us permission to swat him, and he would receive just one swat since he chose to seek forgiveness for two of the three offenses.

I asked Dr. Glazier for the paddle and told the young man to stand up, to turn around and place his hands on the desk, to bend over and prepare to receive a swat from me.

As he stood, I could see hesitation. I reminded him that if he sought forgiveness from his class, he would not receive any swats. It was his choice.

He said he would not seek forgiveness from his class - but he didn't want to receive a swat either. 

I told him the punishment had been established and could not be revoked.

The young man then lost it. He became hostile and out-of-control emotionally and verbally. For lack of a better term, he had a "melt-down."

I had to leave to officiate at a funeral, so I told our headmaster after the young man calmed down to have him sit in a chair in the headmaster's office and wait for me to return. We would finish the discipline at that time.

As I drove to the graveside, I reflected on what had just happened. Then I had an idea.

I called the headmaster on my cell:
 "Steve, when I get back we'll enforce the agreed upon discipline. I will tell the young man again that he can either seek forgiveness or receive swats. It's his choice. But if he chooses the swats, I want to take them for him."
There was silence on the other end of the line.
"Dr. Glazier?"
Finally, our headmaster spoke:
"On no, Pastor Wade. I can't do that."
I insisted and told Dr. Glazier that it might be an opportunity for me to show my love to this young boy. Dr. Glazier was still not sure, but we hung up with the understanding I'd be back in his office in about 30 minutes and we'd finish the discipline.

When I arrived back at Emmanuel Christian School, I went to Dr. Glazier's office and found the boy sitting in his chair, much calmer than when I'd left an hour earlier.

I sat down and explained again that his disrespect to the teacher and the secretary and his disruption in the classroom harmed all involved, and it was his choice to seek forgiveness from all three people/parties or receive a swat for each offense.

He said the same thing he'd said earlier. He would seek forgiveness from his teacher and the secretary, but he was not going to seek forgiveness from his class.

I told him that was his choice. The punishment was fixed. He would receive one swat.

Then I called him by name and said:
"But I'm going to take the swat for you."
 The young boy's tear-filled eyes got very big, and he looked at me as if he didn't comprehend. I explained:
"I'm asking Dr. Glazier to give me the paddle instead of you."
Dr. Glazier asked me, "Are you sure, Pastor Wade? Do you want to take the place of _______?"

I said that I did. The agreed-upon discipline would be carried out, but I desired to take the swat for the offender.

It had been a long time since I'd been in a principle's office to receive a swat. In fact, I could only recall one occasion during the 1960's and 1970's when I received a spanking with a paddle during my public school education.

I don't mind admitting my heart was racing just a tad.

The secretaries were seated outside the office in the reception area. Dr. Glazier's office door was closed, but there were windows with shades. Dr. Glazier pulled down the shades, asked me to stand, bend over his desk, and prepare to receive a swat.

Pastor Wade got a loud pop on his broad posterior.

And it did indeed sting.

When the shades were pulled up, I took the young man by the hand and led him through the reception area to go seek forgiveness of his teacher. The secretaries all thought the young boy had received the spanking. But the smile on the young man's face seemed incongruous with the event.

I listened to him as he spoke with his teacher and later the secretary. He was humble, took ownership of his disrespectful behavior, and sought their forgiveness.

As I walked boy back to rejoin his classmates, I asked him if he knew I loved him.

He said he did. He knew Pastor Wade loved him.

Why?

"Because you took my swat for me?"

Is there anybody else that loves you like that?

The boy shook his head no.

"Yes, there is," I told him. "God loves you so much He took your swats on the cross."

We had a little gospel talk, and I think the boy understood much better the love of God for him.

I was told that after the discipline in the headmaster's office, there'd come a remarkable change for the good in the boy's behavior for the rest of the school year.
"It is the love of God that constrains us." II Cor. 5:14 


Just a word to my reformed friends who preach and teach substitutionary atonement. Indeed, Jesus the Messiah died in our place. He took our place and bore the sting of death.

But be careful.

The atonement is not about an angry God being satiated by the death of Jesus Christ.

The atonement is about a loving God putting an end to death by taking death's sting for us.
"The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is etermal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23).
"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Corinthians 15:55-57)
"But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (II Timothy 2:10)
The reason there's so much angry preaching is that preachers think they serve an angry god.

But the God the Scriptures is the loving God who removes the sting of death by His sacrifice.

He took my place and in love bore death's sting for me.

Nobody loves me like He.

Nobody.

The Power of Christ to Turn a Demon into a Petros

Roberto, 31, gave his life to Jesus Christ after the Refuge service at Emmanuel Enid this past Sunday.

Roberto gave me permission to share his story.

Last Sunday was Father's Day, and Roberto was at Emmanuel for only the second time. He came with his girlfriend and their infant daughter.

Roberto listened to Emmanuel's missionary to Africa, Yacouba Seydou, speak about "the Father's love." It was after the service that Roberto sought me ought and said, "That (the message) hit me hard." He asked if he could talk to me. I sat down beside this man I'd met only an hour earlier as he entered the building.

On the front row, with tears streaming down his face, after being assured that God's love extended to even him, this massive man bowed his head and asked for the Father's love to enter his life. Roberto prayed, receiving Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.

Roberto came by my office yesterday to visit with me about some nightmares he's been having since Sunday. He told me his full story and asks that you pray for him.

Roberto never knew love as a child. "The only comfort I ever received was through my grandma. But she died when I was eleven."

It seems Roberto's parents were in the habit of tying Roberto to a chair with a belt and beating him with a hockey stick. "I know when I was nine, ten, and eleven, I did some things that made my parents mad. But the beatings I took were awful."

Roberto was born and grew up in South Central Los Angeles.

To find acceptance and a sense of belonging to a family, at the age of 11, Roberto began hanging around older boys who were part of a gang called Florencia 13 (F13). The number 13 represents the 13th letter of the alphabet (M) which stands for Mexican Mafia.

Florencia is the most dangerous gang in Los Angeles.

At the age of 12,  Roberto "jumped in" (gang slang for "joined") Florencia 13 by enduring 30 seconds of a massive beating by fellow gang members.

Usually, a person is given gang nickname when joining Florencia 13 (e.g. "Whiskey," "Trinny," BullsEye," etc.), nicknames that memorialize something about the gang member.

Roberto was too young to have done anything notorious, so F13 didn't bestow a nickname at the time of Roberto's initiation.

But two weeks later that changed.

Roberto was involved in a fight. "I don't remember much about it, but when it was over, I was on top of my victim, and when the gang members pulled me off I was covered in blood." Roberto said his fellow gang members said, "Dude, you went crazy. Your eyes turned red. Nothing could stop you."

They gave him the name "Demon."

He was 12 years old.

During the decade from 2000 to 2010, F13 was at war with the East Coast Crips. "It was all about drugs. South Central Los Angeles was a war zone."

At the age of sixteen, Roberto got his girlfriend pregnant. She and the baby both died during delivery. "The deaths of my child and my girlfriend shook me. I understood death from gang wars, but why would a baby and a first-time mother die?"

Roberto told me that a local Baptist church would often send "street evangelists" down to Florence Avenue to preach. "I would sometimes hear them say 'God loves you. God loves everyone.' After the death of my girlfriend and baby, I thought I needed to find out about this God who loves."

Roberto went to the local Baptist Church in South Central Los Angeles that next Sunday.

"When I went up the steps to enter the building, one of the street preachers, I think they called him a 'deacon,' stepped up to me and said, 'Where do you think you're going?'

"I'm coming to church."

"The deacon told me, 'We don't want your kind here.' I couldn't believe it. They'd been preaching on Florence that 'God loves everyone,' but they didn't want this one."

Roberto told me he didn't have clothes to dress up for the church, and looking back, he probably looked like a gang member, and the deacon was only trying to 'protect' the church. Bur Roberto was searching for God, and having been turned away by the people he thought could tell him about God, he determined to plunge even deeper into lawlessness.

Roberto told me that a few months later he met the street preacher on Florence Avenue, and this time he put a gun to his head and told him had had to the count of three to leave the neighborhood or "I'll put a bullet in your head."

When Roberto was a senior in high school (2005), devil worshippers who dressed in hoodies and all black told Roberto he was "a vessel" and that their lord had Roberto forever. "I'll never forget the strange coldness I felt and the voices in my head every time the Satanists came around me. They would always call me by my nickname "Demon" and told me I was "a vessel."

Roberto climbed the ranks of F13. The United States federal government stepped in and through a series of raids to clean up South Central Los Angeles, Roberto and several other F13 leaders were arrested and charged under the federal RICO crime act. Roberto went to prison for several years.

"When I got out, I knew I had to leave Los Angeles, or I'd soon be dead."

He came to Enid, Oklahoma because of a job opportunity at a food manufacturing plant. He met his girlfriend in Enid, and just a few weeks ago they had their child.

"For the first time since I was sixteen, I thought I'd try to go to a church. I'm a new father, and we couldn't think of a better time than Father's Day."

Indeed. At Emmanuel Enid this Father's Day, Roberto came to know Christ as his eternal Father.

Roberto told me that since giving his life to Christ, he's had terrible nightmares. He dreams of his friends who were killed in the streets of Los Angeles, three of whom died in his arms. He has nightmares of the occultists telling him "You're a vessel." He wakes up during the night thinking about all the people he's harmed.

The nightmares are vivid and real.

As he shared with me some of the details of his dreams, he wept.

I went to him in my office and hugged him. I prayed for him and with him. I told him that "Christ who is in you, is greater than he who is in the world." I shared with him that Jesus has made him a promise that "the work I've begun in you, I will continue to completion."

Roberto will be baptized soon. Emmanuel Enid has purchased a Bible for Roberto as well as a Bible for his girlfriend. We're engraving their names on the covers of the Bibles.

A few years ago Emmanuel Enid changed our focus.

The changes that have occurred have been tough for some. Traditions ended. How we did worship changed. The church began looking different.

But it was intentional.

We decided to focus more on a culture in need of a personal Savior instead of church members in need of pleasurable satisfaction. We determined to reach sinners in need of Christ more than saints in need of comfort. We decided to become missional.

Emmanuel Enid has created a worship service that is non-traditional. We call it our Refuge worship service and we make it different in two distinct ways:
1. Members dress down, the lights are left down, and the preacher doesn't talk down. 
2. The music sounds secular, the message stays simple, and the members show sensitivity to sinners who have no religious background
In other words, there's no judgment for people who show up without a clue about Christianity.

We've seen prostitutes come to know the love of Christ. We've seen meth addicts turn their lives around and become greeters at the Refuge service. We've seen men who dress up as women and women who dress up as men. We're sharing the love of Christ with them for we believe that only "the love of Christ constrains us." You don't change to get God's love, but you will change when you experience God's love.

Emmanuel Enid even welcome gang members instead of telling them "You're not welcome."

This Sunday, we'll be presenting to Roberto his first Bible.  We're also giving him a new nickname.  No longer will Roberto be known as "Demon."

Roberto's new nickname is "Petros." Petros is the Greek word for Rock.
"Upon this Rock, I will build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail."

Welcome to the family, Petros.

(Note: Pastor Wade has intentionally changed Roberto’s real name to protect his identity). 

The Pythian of Acts 16:16 and Ancient Divination

"The greatest blessings come by way of madness, indeed of madness that is heaven sent." 
Socrates on The Oracle of Delphi.

The Pythian Oracle at Delphi
When the ancient peoples around the Mediterranean Sea basin wanted wisdom from the gods, they went to oracles. An oracle was a person who spoke (orated) for the gods in various temples. During the time Israel was in Babylonian captivity (6th century B.C.), a ruler in Smyrna, Lydia (modern Turkey) named King Croesus wanted to find the best oracle in the world, one with powers to divine the future better than all others. So in 560 B.C., Croesus sent his emissaries on a 100-day journey to the seven most popular oracles in the world with a question: What is King Croesus doing today?

Croesus kept a diary during those 100 days, and when his messengers returned to Smyrna, he compared notes in his diary to what the oracles said. Of the seven oracles consulted, only the Oracle at Delphi (Greece) accurately described what Croesus was doing on the day the question was asked. The Oracle of Delphi said:
"I count the grains of sand on the beach and measure the sea; I understand the speech of the dumb and hear the voiceless. The smell has come to my sense of a hard shelled tortoise boiling and bubbling with a lamb's flesh in a bronze pot: the cauldron underneath it is of bronze, and bronze is the lid." 
To eat turtle soup mixed with lamb's meat prepared in a bronze pot was exactly what Croesus was doing on that particular day. This dish was not typical cuisine for kings, especially one as rich as Croesus. Amazed at the Oracle of Delphi's prescience, Croesus sent emissaries back to Delphi with gifts of gold and silver for the Oracle, and they asked additional questions.

For the next one thousand years (560 B.C. to A.D. 371), the Oracle of Delphi would serve as the most prestigious and revered fortune teller in the world. Her answers guided the civilized world for the timing of wars, the establishment of new settlements, and wisdom to appease the gods.

The Spartans consulted the Oracle before the Battle of Thermopolae, a turning point in the war between the Greeks and Persians, expertly portrayed in the recent Hollywood motion picture 300. Alexander the Great traveled to Delphi to consult with the Oracle before he set off to conquer the world. Socrates often went to Delphi from Athens with his students. The Oracle once declared Socrates, the wisest man among the Greeks. This led Socrates to say, "This one thing I know: I know nothing." Yet the Pythia's pronouncement made such an impression on Socrates that it propelled him into a lifetime of learning by asking questions of others, something we now call the Socratic method of learning. Every major Greek and Roman leader, soldier, or politician would either personally travel to Delphi or send emissaries to Delphi to consult the Oracle. The influence of the Oracle of Delphi only dissipated after Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and the Roman world adopted Christianity as the official religion of the state.

The Oracles at Delphi Were Women

Delphi (pronounced Delphee in Greek, not Delph eye) is a community in the mountains 100 miles northwest of Athens. Greek mythology declares that Zeus let loose two eagles to find the most beautiful location on earth. The eagles circled the lands and collided at Delphi. The Greeks believed Delphi to be the center of the world (naval), around which the universe revolved.  They built a temple to the god Apollo at Delphi, and within that temple, they placed a chamber where the Oracle of Delphi greeted guests on only one day a month - the 7th day, Apollo's favorite number.

Apollo was often called Pythian Apollo because he allegedly killed a giant python snake at Delphi and took the Oracle of Delphi as his bride own. The women who served as the Oracles at Delphi were given the title of Pythia in honor of Apollo's heroic feat. Two great stone pythons guarded the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and those who wished to have their futures foretold would enter the Temple of Apollo and go to the Oracle's room in the southwest corner of the Temple.

The Pythia were common women from the village of Delphi who had been chosen by the priests of the Temple to serve as the Oracle. The word common defines ancestry, for some of the women from Delphi who served as Pythia were slaves. The word common, however, does not define their physical beauty. Greek and Roman historians often commented in their writings on the striking beauty of the Pythia at Delphi. This beauty seemingly was a prerequisite for being chosen as a Pythia. In her divination room would be the naval stone (omphalos) which marked the Temple as the center of the world, a golden tripod upon which the Pythia would sit as she greeted guests, and across the room from where the Pythia sat was the alleged tomb of Dionysius.

The Temple of Apollo was built on intersecting geographical fault lines at Delphi. The Pythia would sit on her golden tripod over two intersecting crevices in the earth which seeped ethelyne, ethane, and methane--a cocktail of non-addictive but highly hallucinogenic gases. Contemporary Greek historians recorded a strong, sweet smell filled the Oracle's chamber, the tell-tale sign of ethylene, one of the world's first anesthetics.

The Pythia would remove a cap from the naval stone (see picture to the left) that sat beside her chair, releasing the hallucinogenic gases that had collected underneath the naval stone which sat on top of the X of the fault lines. As the gases released, the Pythia would enter into a conscious trance as she considered the questions presented to her. Swaying back and forth, she would eventually utter her answers.  The priests did not invent answers from undecipherable utterances of the Oracle but faithfully recorded what the Oracle said. The Oracle would give a lucid, sometimes cryptic answer, in either poetry or prose. Plutarch called the Oracles of Delphi "inspired maidens." The answers to the questions posed to Oracle would be given to the supplicants, who considered the poetic responses to Apollo's direction for their lives.  Entire nations would wait with baited breath for an answer from the Oracle at Delphi. It is not an exaggeration to say that a woman's words ruled ancient civilization.

Paul and the Pythia

When the Apostle Paul visited Philippi (51 A.D.) during his second missionary journey, he and Silas were followed by a young girl for many days who kept crying out to the people of Philippi, "These men are servants of the Most High God who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17). Many Christians have a hard time understanding what Paul did next. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, 'I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her! 'And it came out at that very moment. (Acts 16:18).

The only way you can understand why Paul did what he did is to realize the biblical description of this young girl. The English versions of the Bible say she had "a spirit of divination" (Acts 16:16). The literal Greek word used to describe this woman is Pythia. She could have served in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, or she could have been a lesser oracle. What we do know is she had the spirit of divination. She followed Paul and Silas and spoke of them as being spokespersons of Zeus, the Most High God, and said the people should listen to their words of deliverance in the same manner they listen to the words of an oracle. Of course, the Pythia was misrepresenting Paul and Silas. She was possessed by a demonic spirit, and Paul delivered her. Michaelangelo would later paint the Pythia of Delphi on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but the Apostle Paul showed no such reverence to the Pythia he met in Philippi. One should always remember that all that glitters in organized religion is not gold.

When the Pythia's masters saw their hope for profit in Philippi was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities and demanded the disciples of Christ be imprisoned. Paul and Silas were thrown in jail where they would later lead the jailor to faith in Christ (Acts 16:31). The story of the conversion of the Philippian jailer and his family is a vivid reminder that God orchestrates all events (like the Pythia's actions at Philippi) for His glory and the ultimate good of His people (like the Philippian jailer).

Nothing much has changed in the world in the last 2,000 years. People still revere what God considers evil. People still persecute those who preach the gospel. But in the end, God always wins.

(Originally published by Wade Burleson in 2013 as The Apostle Paul and the Oracle at Delphi).

Gifted Women in Leadership Among Men and Boys

I will sometimes hear Christians say a woman cannot have leadership in the church or teach men in the church because the Apostle Paul said, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet" (I Timothy 2:12).

These Christians fail to understand that Paul's instruction to Timothy in I Timothy 2:12 is a specific and temporary prohibition against a woman in Ephesus instead of a general prohibition against all women everywhere.

Some Christians, however, try to make a distinction between "women in authority" over men "in the church" as compared to "in the world." They say there's nothing wrong with it "outside the church," but "in the church" women can't have leadership.

Using that distinction as a defense in keeping women out of church leadership is bizarre ecclesiology. We are the church, and wherever we go, Jesus is. You can't go to church if you are the church.

Let's be consistent.

So, what does it look like when someone consistently enforces their interpretation of I Timothy 2:12 on women everywhere?

About ten years ago I cam across an Associated Press article on Fox News entitled Female Referee Removed From Officiating Boys' Basketball Game:
Kansas activities officials are investigating a religious school's refusal to let a female referee call a boys' high school basketball game.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association said referees reported that Michelle Campbell was preparing to officiate at St. Mary's Academy near Topeka on Feb. 2 when a school official insisted that Campbell could not call the game.

The reason given, according to the referees: Campbell, as a woman, could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy's beliefs.

St. Mary's Academy is about 25 miles northwest of Topeka, Kansas.
One must admire the administrators of St. Mary's. They are consistent. They take their incorrect interpretation of I Timothy 2:12 and enforce it in their institutional church setting and in the world in which they live.

It's much more courageous - albeit far less admired -  than the inconsistency of Christians who make the artificial distinction of women "in the church" and "in the world."

If Christians continue this artificial distinction, we will look more and more cultish than like the New Testament followers of Jesus Christ we are.

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Is Selectively Ignored by Southern Baptist Pastors and Churches

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is a poorly thought out document on several fronts. I've been saying this for years.

The 2000 BFM is supposed to be "the doctrinal parameters of Southern Baptist missionary cooperation," but the truth is, most Southern Baptists ignore the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message except in the areas they wish to emphasize.

It's more a confession of convenience than it is a confession of conformity. As it should be. Baptists place preeminence on the Scriptures. God's Word alone is infallible. Our confessions are not.

We ought never to mistake our interpretation of the Bible with God's inspiration of the Bible.

So, as I point out to you where many Southern Baptists ignore the 2000 BFM, keep in mind that I'm glad the Bible is our infallible guide and am just reminding you that the 2000 BFM is a fallible interpretation of the Bible in which we believe.

Southern Baptists have changed the Baptist Faith and Message three times in the last 100 years (1925, 1963, and 2000), and a fourth time will come soon.

Let me give you a couple of examples where the current 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is mostly ignored by Southern Baptists.

Example One: Article VII. Baptism and the Lord's Supper 

 Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.
If your church doesn't dismiss everyone who is not a "member" of your local church before observing the Lord's Supper, you are in violation of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.  Many Southern Baptist churches, if not a majority, do not dismiss everyone before observing the Lord's Supper in an attempt to exclude non-church members.

Our church does not dismiss our guests from other churches because we believe those who name Christ as Lord from other denominations will be around the Lord's Table in heaven (Presbyterians, Anglicans, etc.), so why should we exclude them from the Lord's Supper now? "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

We place the Scripture above the BFM at our church.

Example Two: Article XVII. Religious Liberty

Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends.
When Vice-President Pence spoke at this year's 2018 Southern Baptist Convention, he spoke about the United States government bombed the Taliban and other radical Islamicists and how "the radical Muslims are now running from us."

I tweeted the following:


Several Southern Baptists were offended with my tweet. One responded by saying, "You are so ignorant! Both are needed. The government paves the way for our missionaries by getting rid of the radicals." 

Anyone who thinks like that violates the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

But I would fight for the right of those Southern Baptists who stood and applauded Vice-President Pence's statement that the United States government was bombing the radicals, and "and they are running from us."

You may be violating the 2000 BFM, but your conscience and freedom to interpet the Scriptures as a “priest unto God” are a much better guide for your life.

The Baptist Faith and Message Always Changes Over Time


Again, Southern Baptists have changed the Baptist Faith and Message three times in the last 100 years (1925, 1963, and 2000), and a fourth time will come soon.

Why does the BFM change? 

Because at a point in time a majority of messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention think they understand the will of God, but one day the majority wakes up and say, "Ooops. It is possible to see things another way."

Let me show you what I mean.

The 1963 Baptist Faith and Message on the Lord's Day

The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, work of necessity and mercy only being excepted.
Sunday football in 1963 was just beginning. Back in 1963, very few "worldly amusements" tempted Southern Baptists on Sunday. Theaters were shut down.  Sports activities were minimal. Southern Baptists were "firm" in their belief that the Bible demanded worship and spiritual devotion on Sunday, with the work of necessity and mercy only being excepted (police, fire, hospital, etc.)

It's amazing the changes that occur in the Southern Baptist Convention after a couple of decades.


 The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message says about the Lord's Day

The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
It's amazing how the NFL can change a command of God into a matter of conscience.

Laughing.

The Next Changes Coming to the Baptist Faith and Message

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message greatly erred in matters of "male authority" and "pastoral authority." 

The writers emphasized "a wife's submission” yet ignored “mutual submission." (Ephesians 5:21).

The BF&M 2000 committee - rejected every appeal to include Ephesians 5:21 which commands men and women to be mutually submissive to one another.  

In an attempt to battle perceived "feminism," the Southern Baptist Convention has fallen into the opposite pit of "patriarchalism." Both errors destroy families, churches, and conventions.

The Bible requires all Christians to pursue relationships of mutual submission and of reciprocal servanthood. Feminism and patriarchalism both desire to control by power.  A biblical Christian desires to serve others first through humble character.

My wife tells me that I am a visionary. She is usually always right. 

Mutual submission will be part of the next Baptist Faith and Message.

But what about "women pastors?" The answer to that question should always be: "What saith the Scriptures?" As has been shown in this post, Southern Baptist churches and pastors disagree among ourselves as to our interpretations of the infallible Scriptures. 

If Southern Baptists truly believe in local church autonomy (and we do), then answering that question should be up to the local congregation, not a national denomination. We are not Roman Catholics with a top-down hierarchy. We are Southern Baptists with grassroots leadership.

We have a problem with "authority" in the Southern Baptist Convention. 

Listen to Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, Professor Emeritus of Wheaton College - and take him up on his challenge. 
The practice of ordaining select people to hold positions of authority in churches should be viewed as an ecclesiastical tradition rather than as a biblical prescription. Thus, Paul and Barnabas were already among the recognized prophets and teachers of the church in Antioch when they received the laying on of hands, not to make them prophets or teachers but to commission them for a short-term sub-ministry (Acts 13: 1-3). It was their recognized spiritual gifts as prophet/teacher that had validated their ministry, not the subsequent laying on of hands.
The organization of the Christian community is never described as a gender-based hierarchy in the Scriptures. To the contrary, it is the doctrine of the community of oneness that sets the norm (Matt. 19:4-6; John 17:11, 20-23; Acts 4:32; Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-14; Eph. 4:4-6; etc.).
There is no text in the Bible forbidding women to be ordained because, according to the New Testament, all believers without exception are ordained by God to do ministry on the basis of their spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:7, 11; 14:31; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11).
The Scripture absolutely forbids racial, class and gender discrimination by reason of the oneness of the church as a body. This oneness is consistently defined in the New Testament as full participation of the total constituency in the ministries of the church. This and other teachings of Scripture rule out gender-based hierarchy as a structure for biblical oneness.
I predict Southern Baptists will one day wake up and say, "Wait! There's another perspective on this issue!"

Just like we did the Lord's Day. 

Dr. Al Mohler, a Baptist Woman Home Missionary Teaching the Bible to Pastors, and Drunkenness

During the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention, I stepped to Microphone 6 to ask Dr. Mohler and the other Southern Baptist seminary Presidents a question.

Before I tell you what I asked, let me give you some background.

I, like all Southern Baptists, believe the Bible is God's infallible and inerrant Word. What I've discovered over the last dozen years is that men in control of the Southern Baptist Convention desire to tell you what the Bible means and don't like people disagreeing.

There's nothing wrong with giving others an interpretation of God's Word. Pastors do it all the time. It's called exegesis or "a critical explanation or interpretation of a text of Scripture."

But the Southern Baptist Convention will always be in trouble when there is a demand for conformity on tertiary matters of theology instead of a decision for cooperation around the primary message of the Gospel.

There is a huge difference between believing the Bible is God's Word and interpreting the Bible as God's Word.

None of us is God. God doesn't stutter when He speaks, but we're often at a loss when we listen. "He that has ears to hear let him hear," Jesus said. The problem is us, not God.

If I don't think I can make a mistake in interpreting God's Word, then I have a problem with pride. I've placed myself in the position of God, telling you that you better believe what I say. God doesn't like pride, and pride will always lead to a personal fall.

That's why we all better be humble about telling others what God is saying. We may actually be misunderstanding God's Word. To believe God's Word is infallible is a confession of faith in God and God's Word. But to believe my interpretation of God's Word is infallible is a confession of faith in myself and my abilities.

So Christians have a simple job as fallible people who follow Jesus Christ.
We are to always make sure we don't confuse our interpretation with God's inspiration. 
That's why I like to ask seminary Presidents questions.

They are some of our most educated,  intellectually astute, and theologically-minded people in the Southern Baptist Convention. But if they're not careful, seminary Presidents - like pastors -  can get in the bad habit of thinking their interpretation of God's Word is infallible.

Al Mohler (Photo: Van Payne, Baptist Press)
Al Mohler does not believe that a woman can teach pastors the Bible. In Southern Seminary's School of Theology, there are  35 professors - 34 white men and 1 black man  - who are teaching and training Southern Baptist preachers and teachers, pastors and theologians, for the purpose of building the kingdom of God to the glory of Jesus Christ.

There are no women. 

Al Mohler, Paige Patterson, and a host of other current and former leaders of the Conservative Resurgence interpret God's Word as saying, "No woman shall ever teach a man or have a position of authority over a man (e.g. especially holy men like pastors)." 

I believe their belief is built on an erroneous interpretation of God's Word.  God commissions His people to serve His Kingdom based on their giftings and not their gender

Male pastors taking "spiritual authority" over people is fraudulent authority in Christ's Kingdom. It's not supposed to be that way. It's contrary to the teachings of Jesus. The idea that male pastors have some kind of "special authority" is the result of a misinterpretation of just one or two passages from the New Testament

Yet SBC Presidents pontificate on pastoral power as if this pagan principle is actually a Papal bull. 

And it's also why female Hebrew professors are wrongly fired in the SBC. It's why male students leave class when a female seminary student exegetes the Scripture. It's why females are not in leadership in the SBC. 

That's all background for why I went to Microphone 6 and asked my question of Dr. Mohler and the other Southern Baptist Seminary Presidents. 


The Question
"Dr. Mohler, I want to thank you and the other seminary Presidents for your leadership and your reports. I've sat through many years of annual meetings, and the reports from our seminary Presidents this year constitute the best I've heard. Thank you all for your transparency, theological acumen, and love for Christ's Kingdom.
In light of several Southern Baptist women writing to me and telling me that Southern Baptist male divinity students are encouraged by seminary professors to walk out when female students fulfilling M.Div. requirements exegete the Scriptures out loud, and personally knowing that there have been unjust terminations of Hebrew and Old Testament professors in our Southern Baptist seminaries because they are females, and observing the lack of competent, gifted women in leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, I have a specific question that I'd like to ask you and the other seminary Presidents.
In 1863,  Joanna P. Moore (1832-1916) was appointed the first female Baptist missionary was appointed to the Home Mission Field by the American Baptist Convention, an original member of the Triennial Convention (1814), the forerunner of the Southern Baptist Convention (1845).
According to the Home Mission Monthly Magazine, Joanna Moore arrived for her first mission assignment on Island #10 in the Mississippi River. She ministered among former African American slaves who were now being protected by the Union Army. These former slaves had their own male pastors, mostly illiterate men who faithfully shepherded their fellow Christians in the plantations of the south.
These African American plantation preachers had never heard or thought it was wrong to get drunk occasionally until Joanna P. Moore arrived. She faithfully taught these pastors the Scriptures, especially expounding I Timothy 3:3 and the biblical prohibition against drunkenness. The pastors reformed their conduct, ceasing their occasional habit of getting drunk, and were better pastors due to the influence of Joanna P. Moore. 
So here's my question: 
Was it sinful for Joanna P. Moore to teach those male pastors the Word of God, and should she have remained silent and let those pastors continue in their drunkenness?"
After some laughter from the crowd, Dr. Mohler gave his response which demonstrated a great deal of inconsistency (I'll write on his response at another time).

My goal with this post is to encourage all fellow Christians who love Christ and His Word to consider and contemplate the illogical, fallible, and impractical interpretation that prevents a woman from teaching men or pastors the Holy Scriptures.

Never give in to demands for conformity on a specific interpretation of Scripture when your Master is Jesus Christ, and only His Word is infallible, not the words of a man.

Search the Scriptures for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

I've drawn mine. 

For more information on Baptist evangelist Joanna P. Moore, watch this short video.