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

Do Southern Baptists Believe in Free Speech Anymore? Confronting Censorship in the SBC

Written by Lee Enochs from Princeton University

“But examine everything carefully, hold fast to the truth” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

As I commence this guest post, I want to thank my friend, Pastor Wade Burleson of Enid, Oklahoma for allowing me to contribute what I believe to be an important article on the subject of Free Speech and Censorship in the Southern Baptist Convention.

I first became acquainted with Wade Burleson during the Muslim student controversy at my Alma Mater, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary a few years ago. a few years ago. In full disclosure, I am the student who blew the whistle on the whole matter at SWBTS and ultimately shared my grave concerns about Paige Patterson’s admittance of a Muslim student into the Ph.D. program at SWBTS.

During that time, I greatly disagreed with Dr. Patterson’s unilateral decision to wave crucial admissions requirements such as the need to be a Christian to attend a Southern Baptist and Cooperative Program sponsored seminary.

I also had concerns about allowing a Muslim student to attend a Southern Baptist Seminary our of concerns for the safety of our IMB missionaries and have first-hand experience with a Muslim who pretended to be a Christian Pastor and visited churches in America, ultimately to gain crucial information about the location of Christian missionaries in Middle Eastern countries. This was also during the time period when ISIS was savagely beheading people for being Christians and I was not sure if the Muslim student should be allowed to live on campus with us students and take classes with us. The charter and stated purpose of SWBTS from its inception in 1908, was to train “Christian ministers,” not unbelievers from an antithetical religion such as Islam which is openly antagonistic to the claims of Jesus Christ and Biblical Christianity.

When I brought my concerns up to the administration at SWBTS, I was told to “leave it alone” and commanded not to discuss the matter ever again. However, I persisted to discuss the matter amongst my fellow students and SWBTS professors. I was ultimately called into one of the dean’s offices at SWBTS and told I could not discuss the matter anymore, and if I caused Dr. Patterson any more problems, they would make it difficult for me to pursue graduate studies in Princeton, New Jersey even though I was on the Dean’s List, an academic scholarship student, President of the Southwestern Apologetics Club and on the verge of graduating at the top of my class at the College at Southwestern.

Because my conscience and understanding of Biblical discipleship would not allow me “drop the issue,” I began to anonymously correspond with Pastor Wade, under the alias “Deep Throat,” made famous during the Watergate scandal, which ultimately brought down the Presidency of Richard Nixon in August of 1974.

While I love Dr. Patterson, and greatly respect his stand for Biblical inerrancy during the conservative resurgence, I adamantly disagreed with his fiat decision to wave SWBTS’ admissions requirements that state in no uncertain terms, that a person must be a Christian to be admitted as a student at SWBTS

While I believe in submitting myself to the elders God has entrusted over me, I also believe each Christian and Southern Baptist has been endowed by God with an individual conscience, which he or she must obey, along with God’s Word to be a faithful Christian.

Thus, with fear and trembling, I blew the whistle on the whole Muslim student controversy at SWBTS by reporting it to Wade Burleson, a godly and courageous man who has taken a lot of heat over the years for his stances in the Southern Baptist Convention.

As a Southern Baptist student who fully subscribes to the 2000 edition of The Baptist Faith and Message, who is in good standing with my local church, I thought that the issue of allowing a non-Christian to attend a Southern Baptist seminary should not be decided by one man, irrespective of how powerful he is. Rather, I believe the matter should have been reported to the messengers of the SBC for open debate at the Southern Baptist Convention that year. I contended then and do so now, that it is a serious matter to admit to wave the admissions requirement of being a Christian at a Southern Baptist seminary since it could allow for a pattern of allowing non-Christians at our beloved SBC seminaries, which is explicitly not the intention of our seminary charters.

Needless to say, the administration of SWBTS did not like that I exposed the matter and I have now been banned from SWBTS, my college alma mater forever and was told by the head of campus security that if I ever stepped foot on campus again, he would use physical violence against me to violently remove me forcefully from campus with extreme prejudice.

I think that is beyond the pale of human decency and outrageous in the extreme since I was a respected student leader, 4.0 Dean’s List student and the recipient of SWBTS prestigious “Opal Cox” academic scholarship two years in a row before reporting to Pastor Wade on the Muslim student issue. The treatment I received from Patterson and Nichols at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is bizarre and displays the absolute worst form of ruthless repression.

Despite claims to the contrary, I am a Southern Baptist too and I love my convention very much. I grew up reading W.A. Criswell’s famous book, “Why I Preach the Bible as Literally True,” and I am a great admirer of Dr. Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and appreciative of Dr. Mohler spending time with me during my visit to SBTS.

In full disclosure, I love Dr. Patterson very much and I miss his impact in my life. However, I am now a prodigal son, a castaway and wayward son of the Southern Baptist Convention. This breaks my heart and I want to come home.

After graduating at the top of my class from the undergraduate program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I became a graduate student at Princeton where I have studied political philosophy at Princeton University and theological studies at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Being an Evangelical Christian and Southern Baptist student at Princeton who believes in inerrancy and all the doctrines of historic Christianity has certainly been a challenge since these schools and community largely maintain presuppositions’ and beliefs that are entirely incongruent with historic Christianity.

Recently, Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Religious Liberty Commission was invited to speak here at Princeton and during the “question and answer” segment, televised by C-SPAN, I asked Dr. Moore why free speech is being suppressed on Southern Baptist campuses. He replied rather glibly that private religious institutions have the right to determine what should be distributed amongst the student body. I agree, but openly question if censorship of a free press is the best philosophy of education.

I believe the suppression of free speech on Southern Baptist seminary and college campuses is a grave issue and violates the principle of religious liberty that Southern Baptists have stood forever since the Danbury Baptists petitioned President Thomas Jefferson for religious liberty in the face of persecution in their home state of Connecticut in 1801.

Thomas Jefferson eloquently and benevolently responded in part to our Baptist forefathers of Danbury in part with the following eloquent words that helped establish religious liberty in the United States. Jefferson said:
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
I also learned the importance of free speech historically in a graduate class in political philosophy at Princeton University last semester that in ancient Greek civilization, democracy was characterized by the principles of Isonomia (ἰσονομία) "Equality of political rights, Isegoria (ἰσηγορία) “Equality of all in freedom of speech,” and, Parrhēsía (παρρησία) “The ability to speak freely and candidly”

There have been recent news reports making the rounds lately Baptist schools like Cedarville College and Liberty University have been censoring their student population and do not allow free speech or a free press.

This is troubling since Southern Baptists, at least since the time of Thomas Jefferson, have always stood for religious liberty and “Soul Competency,” The basic concept of individual soul liberty, is that, in matters of religion, each person has the liberty to choose what his/her conscience or soul dictates is right, and is responsible to no one but God for the decision that is made.

I would like to humbly ask Dr. Thomas White, president of Cedarville College and Jerry Falwell Jr., President of Liberty University if free speech is being repressed at their academic institutions.

While I believe we should submit to our elders as God’s inerrant Scriptures declare (Hebrews 13:17), I also believe we should obey we should be able to express ourselves freely without fear of recrimination or reprisal.

As a Christian, I am also aware that there could be non-believers who might read this post and want to communicate to you that the Bible is Word of God and communicates that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the cross for sin and rose again from the dead. According to the Bible, if we turn from our sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ, we can obtain the gift of eternal life. “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

I am also a staunch advocate of the First Amendment which says,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Are Southern Baptists now suppressing free speech and religious liberty on their seminary and college campuses?

_________________________

About Lee Enochs: (B.A., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), is a Southern Baptist theologian and apologist who is currently a graduate student in Princeton, New Jersey. Lee also studied at Biola University, the Moody Bible Institute, and the Master's Seminary. Lee is an ordained Southern Baptist minister who is also the author of the books, "A Biblical Defense of Capitalism," and, "The Case for Rand Paul." Lee Enochs is also a conservative media pundit with Libertarian views in the tradition of Ron Paul and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and regularly blogs on his "Libertarian Shaman website" Since studying at Princeton, over one million people have read Lee's op-ed articles and political videos. Lee has also appeared on Fox News, NBC and several different radio broadcasts across the country. One may watch Lee Enochs' passionate defense of Free Speech in the SBC. and visit Lee Enoch's page on Amazon.com.


The Greatest Showman, PT Barnum, and True Joy

Last night, Rachelle and I watched The Greatest Showman.

We loved it. 

I'm not a musical kind of guy. I lost all my front teeth playing football, separated my shoulder three times playing softball, and still comprehend manhood through athletic competition.

But oh how I wish I could sing like Hugh Jackman (aka. Wolverine).

As I listened to Hugh sing From Now On, the joy within my heart was almost unspeakable. Rachelle and I could literally feel the music, but the words primarily moved me:
I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else's dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more
But when I stop
And see you here
I remember who all this was for
And from now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on
What's waited till tomorrow starts tonight
It starts tonight
And let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on
From now on
From now on
And we will come back home
We will come back home.

One of the blessings (and periodic curse) of being an avocational historian is that you know the real history of people. As I watched The Greatest Showman, I couldn't help but think of the real Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum.

Like my friend, Paul Young, P.T. Barnum was a hopeful Christian universalist.

Paul Young believes, and P.T. Barnum believed, that a loving God will at some point save all sinners through the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

P.T. Barnum even wrote a book entitled Why I Am a Universalist.

In his book, P.T. Barnum wrote this:
"I shall assume, without giving my reasons, the being of God, the authority of Jesus, the truth of the trend of Scripture, and the immortality of all Souls."
P.T. Barnum goes on to give more specifics of what he believes:
(I) believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain a revelation of the character of God and of the duty, interest, and destination of mankind.
(I) believe there is one God, whose nature is love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.
(I) believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice good works; for these things are good and profitable unto men.
P.T. Barnum was not a heretic.

He was a man who loved the unlovely, rescued the perishing, and served the less fortunate (despite what the agnostics will tell you about him).

The movie The Greatest Showman, based loosely on the life of P.T. Barnum, is an uplifting, inspiring, and hopeful movie about finding value and fulfillment in a life that is lived for others.

I am not a Christian universalist. I believe the God of love will eventually destroy those who live selfish lives, those who've rejected the selfless Savior who died in place of sinners, the One who gives the power to live an unselfish life.

But I'm not writing this post to debate universalism.

I write this because the film The Greatest Showman reveals that life is meant to be lived full of inexpressible joy, focusing on loving deeply the people God places right in front of us.

When you are more concerned with disciplining and correcting a woman who is divorcing her husband over his use of pornography than you are the wounded woman, you've missed the joy of Christianity.

When you focus more on a glass of wine than you do the woman who comes to Christ while enjoying a glass of wine, then you've missed the joy of true Christianity.

When you can't live, sing, dance, and be full of joy like the circus performers in the bar with their ringmaster in the climactic scene of The Greatest Showman, then you've missed the true joy of genuine Christianity.

The Christian life is all about the joy of bringing happiness to this world.

The Creator, in love for you and His world, has placed you in a specific arena of life so that you may demonstrate His love to those in need of Him - those right in front of you.

The real P.T. Barnum said:
"The noblest art is that of making others happy."
I agree. But those with the art of making others happy have come home to the true joy found in Christ, finding the well-spring of their joy in Him. Happiness within bubbles up as the fountain of happiness for others.

You may not be able to sing like Hugh Jackman.

But you sure can love people the way God loves you.

Anything less is Never Enough.

Political Correctness Is a Loss of Individual Liberty

During October and November of 2015, something happened on the campus of Yale University that few Americans living in the midwest even know occurred.

What happened at Yale a little over two years ago serves as a microcosm of the problems we are facing in the United States today.

Individual liberties are being removed. Americans are being coerced to accept specific cultural ideologies and forcibly silenced from speaking opposing views. 

The land of liberty is becoming a tributary of totalitarianism.

The 2015 controversy at Yale started with an email from the administration to students.  Halloween was approaching, and school administrators encouraged students to refrain from wearing insensitive costumes on Halloween. 

Rather than focus on finances, or pay attention to enrollment numbers, or even work harder to better the curriculum, Yale administrators chose to spend their time policing the Halloween costumes of Yale's students. Administrators wrote: 
"Halloween is, unfortunately, a time when the normal thoughtfulness and sensitivity of most Yale students can sometimes be forgotten and some poor decisions can be made including wearing feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing ‘war paint’ or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface.."
In other words, don't dress up as an Indian, an Arab, a person of color, or wear any other ethnic costume on Halloween. Those costumes might offend someone or hurt peoples' feelings, wrote the Yale administration. 

Yale professor Erika Christakis, a childhood education specialist and published author, wrote an email in response to administration. Erika questioned the wisdom of attempting to police Halloween costumes of Yale students. Listen to her argument:  
"What happens when one person’s offense is another person’s pride? Should a costume-wearer’s intent or context matter? Can we always tell the difference between a mocking costume and one that satirizes ignorance? In what circumstances should we allow — or punish — youthful transgression?
Dr. Christakis - remember she is a childhood education specialist - has long taught that adults deprive children and young people of learning experiences by over-policing their behaviors. In fact, Dr. Christakis actually believes that such micromanaging behavior to avoid potential offense leads to problem children and problematic educational cultures.

Thus, her email of counter-opinion.

Erika's husband, Yale Professor Nicholas Christakis, lived with his wife in a Yale dormitory during the fall of 2015. They taught courses on the campus, and also served as dorm parents. When his wife's email began to be shared among the students at Yale, both Nicholas and his wife Erika became the targets of personal attacks. 

Watch the video of Yale students coming after Dr. Nicholas Christakis as he seeks to defend his wife's views. Watch the cursing, bullying, and intimidation of one young Yale female student and see if the same chills go up your spine as they did mine when I saw it.

Every liberty-loving American should be aware of what happened at Yale in 2015. It's happening on all our college campuses. Our liberty is being lost in the laboratory of learning. 

Professor Erika Christakis was forced to resign


The victims in today's politically correct climate are lovers of individual liberty.

Did the husband and wife professors at Yale have any support from Yale faculty?

Sure. Numerous professors, including those at Yale’s top-rated law school, contacted them personally to offer personal support, but they all said it was too risky to speak their minds publicly. 

And lest we think political correctness is only on the coasts, Oklahoma City is fast becoming a place where one must conform to group think or lose one's job

It's time we Americans stopped worrying about feelings and started fretting about whether or not we are thinking. 

Internal Strength to Break Free of Spiritual Abuse

I have written in the past about church and religious leaders using their so-called spiritual authority to control people in their churches. Attempts to control others is the number one problem of leaders in religious organizations. It's called spiritual abuse.

Spiritual abuse isn't pretty. The abuse is done "in the name of the Lord,." This kind of abuse has subtle but enormous power. The religious abuser who controls and manipulates others for personal or institutional advantage proclaims his words and actions are "the will of God."

Spiritual abuse, regardless of the religion where it occurs, is a profound problem. So how does one break free? Whether you are the spiritual abuser or the spiritually abused, how do you stop it?

Imitate Jesus.

Jesus never pressured anyone to follow Him. His words, "Come, follow Me" (Mark 10:21) form a selfless invitation, not a strategic manipulation. Followers of Christ always benefit when they accept the invitation to follow, but Christ is unaffected and unchanged whether the call is received or not.

There is no need for Jesus to coerce, manipulate or control others to follow Him because Jesus doesn't need people to follow Him to feel worthy, significant and valued. Jesus is worthy, significant and valuable in Himself.

Our Lord knows and feels His worth and significance. He doesn't need others to follow Him to feel worthy. He doesn't He doesn't need to know that other people value His words to feel significant.

He does what He does for others, not Himself. 

That's why Jesus never manipulates or controls anyone. He is purely selfless because He is without internal need

Jesus wins us over by His love and inner strength. He finds fulfillment in who He is, not what others think of Him. Our rejection of Jesus' call to follow Him does not reduce His worth.  Jesus does not manipulate or coerce others because He has nothing to gain for Himself. 

We need that same kind of internal strength to break free of spiritual abuse. 

Christ can give us the internal strength needed to live life His way (John 10:10). He came to give us our value, our significance and our worth through a demonstration of His love for us and the depositing of real life within us.

When Jesus becomes our primary Source of life, we do not need alternative sources of life. When we are complete in Him, we don't need anything from others. 
When the love of Christ becomes my primary source of love, then my life is not threatened by the absence or withdrawal of another person's love.
When the significance I feel in life comes from knowing how much Christ values me, then I don't need to manipulate my circumstances or control my environment to ensure other people value me. 
When I begin to understand that what makes me honorable as a person is the honor I have in God coming and dying for me, then I don't worry too much whether or not people around me see me as honorable. 
When I begin to see that my reputation is all about what He thinks of me (and what He thinks of me must be pretty doggone good to do what He's done for me), then I don't care what others think of me.
When He is my Source, I don't panic at the lack of alternative sources.
So next time you find yourself being manipulated, controlled, or bullied, ask yourself, "What does that person need?"  Answer: The internal life and strength that only Christ can give. As long as the abuser, manipulator, or controller thinks I can do something to make him more fulfilled, then he will continue to squeeze the life he needs out of me. The most loving thing I can do for the abuser is to say no to his demands for his sake. 

Likewise, if I find myself getting angry with an unexpected response from others, or feeling worried about what others are doing, or fearful and depressed that people aren't responding properly, then I must ask myself: What am I needing? Answer: I wrongly believe I need something from someone else; something that God already has provided for me. "My God shall supply ALL your needs according to His riches" (Philippians 4:19).

I can almost know hear the objections from Christian leaders: "But what I'm saying and doing is for the good of the people I am trying to help!"

 Are you sure? There's one way to know. You love other people whatever they decide to do.

Controllers and manipulators always need something. 

And, no matter how good and godly anybody tries to make it sound, controlling and manipulating other people to say, do, feel and behave a certain way is evidence that there is a great void in the inner life of the manipulator and controller.

That inner void can only be filled with the life and strength that comes from Jesus Christ.

For this reason, to give in to abusive behavior in a religious environment - even if the abuse is in the name of God - is to enable the manipulator to continue finding his life in secondary sources rather than Christ.

God needs nothing from me and neither should the preacher. 

To give in to the abuse or to give up over the abuse is the most unloving thing you could ever do for the abuser in your life.

Say "No way" to the spiritual abuser for the glory of God and the good of the abuser. 

______________

My friend Jeff VanVonderen once told me that his and David Johnson's book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse is by far the best-selling book of all the books they've written.  I highly encourage the reader to purchase this book. Also, it is our privilege at Emmanuel Enid to host both David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen, November 11-14, 2018, for a conference entitled Too Good to Be True...But It Is. If you are anywhere near Enid, you will want to hear these two each evening from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm (2 sessions each night). 

Jesus Is the True Israel in the Everlasting Covenant

Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians have very little in common. The English usage of the adjective Judeo-Christian may make a person think that evangelicalism and orthodox Judaism are similar. The two religions have little in common.

Admittedly, Judeo-Christian sounds more pleasant to the ears than Islamic-Christian to most American Christians, but there's about as much in common between religious Muslims and evangelicals as there is between religious Jews and evangelicals.

Don't misunderstand. I have some wonderful, delightful friends who are orthodox Jews and orthodox Muslims. I cherish our friendship and know my Jewish and Islamic friends to be just as American as I, and will fight for their right to worship freely.

I am puzzled, however, by fellow Christians who believe it is "of God" to support Jewish attempts to extricate Muslims from Jerusalem, tear down the Dome of the Rock -  a major Islamic shrine - and rebuild the Jewish Temple, re-institute Old Testament blood sacrifices, and re-establish Old Covenant Festivals outlined in The Law (the five books of Moses).

I don't get it. I don't get it at all.

"Kiss the Son..." (Psalm 2:12) is the instruction of God for all people of every nation, tribe, and family during these New Covenant times. It is God's command for both Jews and Gentiles. It matters not if you are born in the land of Israel, a Muslim land, a secular land, or even a so-called "Christian" land, every single human is instructed by God to embrace Jesus Christ.

To come to Christ by faith, and to declare "I have no righteousness except Him" is the essence of "good news," and it is the only way by which anyone will ever experience right standing with God and eternal blessings from God.

Orthodox Jews oppose the proclamation of faith in the Person and work Jesus Christ as much as Muslims do.  For evangelicals to support the re-building of a Jewish Temple, the re-instituting of Jewish institutional sacrifices, and the re-establishing of annual Jewish Festivals -- all of which Jesus Christ caused to disappear (Hebrews 8:13) -- strikes me as anti-Christ.

God established a New Covenant (agreement) with the world through the obedience of His Son. The Old Covenant was made with one nation (Israel) and is now gone (disappeared).  In the Old Covenant, the nation of Israel experienced God's blessings through their obedience to the Law and God's wrath for their disobedience to the Law. In the New Covenant, God's blessings are only received by not being ashamed of "the Christ of God" (Luke 9:20) and putting one's trust in Him.

This why our obedience to God in the New Covenant is called "the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26). We believe in Jesus Christ, embrace Him, refuse to be ashamed of Him, and claim we have no righteousness of our own, but only that righteousness which is found in Him.

When Christians spend their time attempting to explain why it's necessary for Jews to re-institute the rituals of Old Covenant, promoting the religion of Orthodox Judaism -- while at the same time denigrating Orthodox Islam -- we may have missed entirely the beauty of Jesus Christ and the good news (i.e. "the gospel").


Jesus Christ is the New Israel

Most evangelicals read the New Testament and come across the phrase "the last days" and think it has to do with "the last days" of this world. Not true. The New Testament writers, all of whom were Jews, wrote of "the last days" of the Old Covenant! God was bringing to an end the covenant He made with national Israel. Through His Son, God was launching a New Agreement (Covenant) with the world (Hebrews 8:13).

The Twelve original disciples of Christ knew they were in "the last days" of the Old Covenant, and this is why the Apostle John wrote in I John 2:18 that he was indeed living in "the last hour." Peter, when preaching on the day of Pentecost, quoted the prophet Joel and said Joel's words about "the last days" were then (in Peter's day) being fulfilled (Acts 2:17). Other passages like Hebrews 1:1–2 say the early disciples were living in "the last days,"  and that the "consummation of the ages" was "now" (i.e. during the time of the early disciples - see Hebrews 9:26).

Paul said the early Jewish followers of Christ were the people "upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (I Corinthians 10:11).  The New Testament books were written before the collapse of Old Covenant Jewish worship (A.D. 70), and the early followers of Jesus - most of whom were Jewish - were prepared by Christ to anticipate the destruction of their Jewish way of worship "in the last days."

In A.D. 70 God brought the Romans to Jerusalem to destroy the Jewish Temple, end the blood sacrifices, and scatter the Jews.  What happened in AD 70 is similar to what God did in bringing the Assyrians to Israel in 722 B.C.  to end the northern kingdom of Israel, destroy the false idols they'd built in the groves, and scatter the ten northern tribes. The judgment of God wrought in AD 70 was also similar to the manner in which He brought an end to Temple worship and the desolation of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. through the army of the Babylonians.

Believing God ended the Old Covenant age A.D. 70 doesn't preclude a belief that Jesus Christ is returning one day to raise the dead, judge the wicked, give His followers the rewards He has earned for them  (i.e., "we are co-heirs with Christ"), and usher in eternity - all of which I believe.

But what a proper understanding of the New Testament "last days" will do for you is help you put more of an emphasis on the Person and work of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom now rather than a nation whose covenant with God (the Old Covenant) has disappeared.

I support "national Israel" today because they are the closest thing to a democracy in the totalitarian despotism of the Middle East. I, like you, watch the news and feel sympathy and support for Israel because of the despotic enemies that surround them. However, to support "national Israel" because of a belief that God desires the re-establishment of an Old Covenant agreement with Israel is  - forgive my expression - to spit in the face of Jesus, the Christ of God.

Jesus is the new Israel in the eternal New Agreement that God has made with the world. God is now only concerned with whether or not people everywhere embrace His Son. That's why you can talk about your religion (i.e. "How you serve God, worship God, obey God, etc...") and the world will leave you alone. But the moment you begin to talk about Jesus Christ, all hell breaks loose.

Jesus is the Christ of God, and even the demons of hell know you must embrace Him or face the wrath of God. When you promote national Israel over the New Israel (Jesus Christ), you are no different in your religion than any other anti-Christ religion. Faith that saves is Christo-centric. Saving faith is "Christ-centered" and not Old Covenant national Israel centered.

"This Is My Son, in Whom I Am Well Pleased"

Let me show you how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the new Israel in the new, eternal agreement that God has made with the world.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, his parents took Him to Egypt to avoid the murderous plot of King Herod. Later, Jesus left Egypt with Joseph and Mary and settled in Nazareth. When Matthew recounts how Jesus was "called out of Egypt" (Matthew 2:15), he says that Christ coming out of Egypt fulfills the statement of Hosea 11:1 - "Out of Egypt I have called My Son."

Wait a minute! That Hosea 11:1 passage says:
"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son."
But the gospel writer (Matthew)  says that this statement from Hosea is fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus becomes the new Israel in the New Covenant. Unlike Old Covenant Israel, Jesus fulfills the Law - every jot and tittle of it! There are some evangelicals who believe that "the church" has replaced Israel in the New Covenant.

Not so.

Jesus is the true Israel.  National Israel only foreshadowed - and failed to accomplish - what Jesus eternally accomplished for those who trust Him. All the blessings of God are ours through Him.
Notice how the life of Jesus as the new Israel parallels the life of Old Covenant national Israel.
(1). The King of Kings was born in Bethlehem, the very place where King David was crowned King of Israel during Old Covenant days.
(2). After Jesus was born, He went to Egypt, just as national Israel fled to Egypt during Old Covenant days to avoid death (see Genesis 46:8) .
(3).  Both national Israel and the new Israel (Jesus Christ) were "called out of Egypt" (Hosea 11:1).
(4).  God gave the Law during the Old Covenant on a mountain (Sinai) through Moses; and He gave the new Law on a mountain through His Son (i.e. "The Sermon on the Mount").
(5). God told Peter, James and John to ignore Moses and Elijah, the great Law-giver and prophet of the Old Covenant, and to listen to "My beloved Son!" (akoute auton - "Hear Him"!"). Because HE is the Christ of God. We are to listen to Him alone! (see Luke 9:28-36).
(6). National Israel has a history of disobedience to God and failure to meet the conditions of  the Old Covenant. The new Israel, Jesus Christ, fulfilled every "jot and tittle" of the Law (Matthew 5:18).
(7).  Since the Law promised "blessings" from God for full obedience, and punishment for disobedience to the Law, national Israel experienced punishments from God throughout the duration of the Old Covenant (ending in AD 70). However, Jesus experienced and felt the full pleasure of His father ("this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased") because of His perfect obedience.
(8).  Before Jesus entered into His public ministry of mercy and grace, He endured 40 days in the wilderness; so too, before national Israel entered into Canaan, they spent 40 years in the wilderness.
(9). Jesus Christ was baptized at the very location (Betharaba) national Israel crossed the Jordan to enter Canaan.
(10). Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law's Festivals (born at Tabernacles, died at Passover, in the tomb during Unleavened Bread, raised on the Feast of Firstfruits, and sending the Comforter at Pentecost, etc...).
Because Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law in His perfect obedience, and passively fulfilled the Law in His substitutionary death (i.e. He paid the Law's penalty for sin) we have good news for the world! Tthe good news is that whoever forsakes trust in their personal obedience and places their faith in the performance and work of Jesus Christ, the gift given to them is life -- real life that lasts forever -- which includes God's forgiveness of every sin, the crediting of Christ's perfect righteousness to my account (i.e. "God sees no sin in His people"), and eternal rewards for Christ's performance ("the meek will inherit the earth when the curse is fully reversed").

In this New Covenant time period, we are thoroughly blessed by God, entirely pleasing to God, and the eternally loved, adopted, and rewarded sons of God (by adoption) because of the obedience of Jesus Christ (not our own) and our faith in Him! As it is written:
But whatever was to my profit (as an orthodox, religious Jew)  I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ. (Philippians 3:7-11
In Jesus Christ, we have true Rest.

So, before you get all caught up in the questions of what how a person should treat modern, national Israel, may I suggest that God is only interested in how you treat the new Israel - His Son, the "Christ of God"?  Christ fulfilled the Law whereas national Israel failed the Law. Christ is pleasing to God for His perfect obedience whereas national Israel experienced punishment from God for their persistent disobedience. Christ is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" for all those who put their faith in Him (i.e. "the obedience of faith," Romans 16:26). Whereas national Israel has gone down a path "that seemed right to man, but the end thereof is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12).

I believe any evangelical more concerned with one's treatment of national Israel than one's trust in the new Israel, Jesus Christ, is doing a disservice to the Kingdom of God. We miss the Gospel by mixing and confusing an Old Covenant with the New Covenant inaugurated by the performance of the New Israel (Jesus Christ).

I close with the words of the brilliant John Owen on why an understanding of the New Covenant and its corresponding freedom to those who embrace the New Israel (Jesus Christ) will revolutionize one's life and worship:
For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;” namely, to serve God, “not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit.”…And we may briefly consider wherein this deliverance and liberty by the New Covenant does consist, which it does in the following things:—
(1.) In our freedom from the commanding power of the law, as to sinless, perfect obedience, in order to obtain righteousness and justification before God…
(2.) In our freedom from the condemning power of the law, and the sanction of it in the curse. This being undergone and answered by Him who was “made a curse for us,” we are freed from it, Rom. 7:6; Gal. 3:13, 14.
(3.) In our freedom from conscience of sin, Heb. 10:2,—that is, conscience disquieting, perplexing, and condemning our persons; the hearts of all that believe being “sprinkled from an evil conscience” by the blood of Jesus Christ.
(4.) In our freedom from the whole system of Mosaical worship, in all the rites, and ceremonies, and ordinances of it; which what a burden it was the apostles do declare…
(5.) From all the laws of men in things appertaining unto the worship of God, 1 Cor. 7:23.
And by all these, and the like instances of spiritual liberty, does the gospel free believers from that “spirit of bondage unto fear,” which was administered under the Old Covenant.

Next time you experience a "spirit of fear" about the world's future, your personal failures, or the possibility of the loss of God's favor, you might check upon which Israel you are relying - the Old Israel which induces "a bondage unto fear" or the New Israel which brings life, liberty, and real happiness.

Eternal LIFE Is a Gift to Some not a Given for All

LIFE.

Try to define it.

It's not as easy as you might think. 

Living things tend to be complex and highly organized.

A biologist, physicist, geneticist, and spiritualist all define life differently.

So the only definition of life that really matters is the one that comes from the Author of life.
"The breath of the Almighty gives me life" (Job 33:4). 
God's covenant name in Hebrew is the sound of "breath" (Heb. יהוה‬) This Hebrew name for God is YHWH using English letters. It is without vowels in both Hebrew and English and is not even vocalized by orthodox Jews during their prayers.

English speaking Christians will add vowels to this Hebrew name for God to come up with  Y E H O W A H, modernized in English as Jehovah and translated in the Bible as LORD (all caps)

Any attempt to vocalize this covenant Hebrew name for God in the Hebrew language can only be accomplished by breathing in through the nose and exhaling through an open mouth. 

God's covenant name in Hebrew is the sound of breathing

When God formed Adam, He gave to the first man "the breath of life" and man became a "living being" (Heb. נָ֫פֶשׁ ). The Bible declares:
"Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7)
In the Hebrew language of the Bible, Genesis 2:7 reads (right to left):
וַיִּיצֶר֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֗ם עָפָר֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה וַיִּפַּ֥ח בְּאַפָּ֖יו נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים וַֽיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה׃
The Hebrew word לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ (second word from the end on the far left emboldened) is translated living being in some English Bibles but as "living soul" in other translations (e.g. King James Version).
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7 King James Version). 
Unfortunately, the use of the English word "soul" confuses many Christians.

Some have wrongly concluded that a person "has a soul" and that this soul is something independent and distinct from the body. But to think biblically, every time you hear the word "soul," you should think "living being."

You don't have a living being. You are a living being.

The Bible teaches that living beings are those that have been given the breath of life. Both mankind and animals have been given this breath of life from God.
And God said, "Let the land produce living beings (Heb. נָ֫פֶשׁ) according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. (Genesis 1:24).
The same Hebrew word נָ֫פֶשׁ used for mankind in Genesis 2:7 is used for animals in Genesis 1:24.

That both man and animals are considered living beings by God is easily seen in the story of the flood. When God judged the world through the flood, He took away "the breath of life" from all living creatures.
"Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died." (Genesis 7:22).
So animals and mankind are similar in that we both live and we both die.

What makes humans distinct from animals is the image of God in us (see Genesis 1:26).

This image of God revolves around our ability to know good and evil, to choose right or wrong, and to enjoy a familial relationship with the Author of life. The Author of life has also given a promise to those He made in His image (e.g., mankind, not animals) that the breath of life might never be withdrawn upon our perfect obedience.

In summary: The breath of life that comes from God is the biblical definition of life. 


Physical Death

The Author of life promised the withdrawal of the breath of life (Genesis 2:17) if man rebelled. The promised judgment was not immediate physical death, but imminent physical death.

Sin brings for mankind the removal of the breath of life.

Without the breath of life, living beings die.

So God alone is the Author and Sustainer of life.

The biologist, the physicist, the geneticist, and the spiritualist may all have different definitions of life and of death. But the Author of life has the final say in both.

Life begins when God grants the breath of life.  Death occurs when God removes the breath of life. 

When the breath of life is withdrawn man and animals cease being living souls. The body which is made of clay returns to the ground from whence it came (dust). 

The Bible references living beings only in terms of life and death.

For living beings created in God's image (e.g. "mankind"), the Bible refers to death as sleep, or in more graphic depictions, the clay (e.g. "the body") returns to the dust from whence it comes (Psalm 90:3), awaiting resurrection.


The Resurrection

The strange doctrine that the early Apostles and followers of Jesus Christ believed was called anastasis (e.g., resurrection from the dead). Jesus said:
"For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned." (John 5:26-30). 
Paul preached the resurrection of the dead in Athens, Greece, the home of those who proposed that souls never die but only migrate from one home to the next. Paul declared:
"God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Jesus from the dead.” (Acts 17:31). 
Look at the response of the philosophers on Mars Hill: 
"When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” (Acts 17:32). 
The Athenian philosophers required no resurrection in their way of thinking. Souls never die. They just move to other planes of living.

Ancient Greeks like Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato, as well as the eastern religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and most modern New Age movements, teach things similar about the afterlife to what you'll hear from the average Christian preacher today.

You'll often hear that a living being continues to exist after death in the form of the soul or the mind or the consciousness. Many popular books, even those that are Christan in nature,  have been written by people who allegedly have “out of body” experiences, as if its normal for “a soul” to separate from the body. Modern evangelicals are often unaware how their views of the afterlife are more affected by the ancient philosophies of men rather than the inspired truth of God's Word.

If one proclaims that God will one day resurrect former living beings to those who believe living souls simply migrate and continue to live in other forms, you'll get the same reaction that Paul received. 

Some will sneer. 

Others will want to hear more of the resurrection.

The Christian doctrine of the resurrection from death is only powerful when life and death are properly defined.


Spiritual Death

Physical death and spiritual death are not the same. 

Physical death is the absence of the breath of life

Spiritual death is the absence of the inner desire to know the Author of life. Spiritual death is seen in living people who hide from the Author of life. Spiritual death is sometimes even revealed through living beings hating the Author of life.  

Who is this Author of life? On the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed Jesus as the Author of life: 
"You killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead" (Acts 3:15). 
God can't die. So how can it be said, "You killed the Author of life?"

Because God came as a Man.

The Bible tells us Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things (Colossians 1:16).  Jesus is YHWH come in the flesh.

Emmanuel, God with us.

The Author of life.

The Jews to whom Peter preached had cried out two months earlier, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" (Luke 23:21). It is true the Jews wanted Jesus the Anointed One put to death on the cross.

But this same Jesus told His disciples:
"No one takes my life from Me. I lay my life down Myself. I have the power to lay my life down, and I have the power to take it again" (John 10:18). 
Jesus came to voluntarily die the death all living beings created in God's image deserve to die. Jesus accomplished His mission. He lived a perfectly righteous life, died a death as the perfect Substitute for sinners who deserve death, and conquered both sin and death through His resurrection. He now promises to give the gift of immortal life to those who embrace Him (II Timothy 1:10).

To put it another way, Jesus holds "the keys of life and death" for every single person (Revelation 1:18).

To be spiritually dead is to reject the Author of life.


The Spirit and Spiritual Life

The Greek word for Spirit is pneuma which also means breath. We get our word pneumonia (e,g., "inflamed breathing") from this word. 

In the Greek New Testament, there are no capitals. So when a translator comes across the word for spirit (pneuma) when translating the Bible into English, the translator must decide by context if it is a reference to the Spirit of God or to the spirit of man.

 An example of this is found in Romans 8, the great chapter on pneuma.
"You have not received the pneuma of bondage again to fear" (Romans 8:15). 
Is the pneuma here a reference to the Spirit who first leads us to fear God but ultimately brings us to the place of calling God  "Abba (Daddy)"? Or is pneuma here a reference to the spirit of fear within a person?  English translations differ on the interpretation.

I believe that Romans 8:15 is a reference to the Holy Spirit, but my point for this post is that the Holy Spirit and the spirit of man are intertwined and connected. Only the breath of God (the Spirit) gives and sustains both physical and spiritual life in mankind.

The breath of God must breathe on a person to bring about spiritual life that leads to a love for the Author of life (Jesus Christ), and the breath of God must also breathe to sustain physical life for eternity.
"Then Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). 
Breathe, O breath of God, now breathe.

In short, we are all dependent on God for life.
"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD" (Psalm 150:6). 
I know many sincere followers of Jesus who view the afterlife in terms of the transmigration of the soul or the soul’s continuation apart from the body.  Right relationship with God is independent of one's views of the afterlife. Fellowship with other believers should also be independent of differences over this issue.

But if the Bible does indeed speak of living beings in terms of life and death, then it would be wise for us who name Christ as Lord to reflect biblically on what we teach about these four doctrines:

1. The day of judgment  - seems to be a day when God will review the lives of those He created in His image. It only encompasses those whose names are "not in the Lamb's book of life" (Revelation 21:27) and will include "the opening of their books" (Revelation 20:12) where God has recorded every thought, intention, and action of living beings He created in His image (Matthew 12:36). God will take no pleasure in sentencing the wicked to die a second time. Those in union with Christ escape this coming day of wrath because of Christ (Romans 8:1) and will receive the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).

2. The second death - (Revelation 21:8) seems to be the process by which the wicked will die a second time, ultimately destroyed by the fire God prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). How this second death occurs and how long it takes may vary according to God's justice and the sins of the individual (Matthew 10:15).

3. Eternal life - seems to be the gift God gives to those in union with Christ. It includes spiritual life during our time on earth, and immortal life after the resurrection and the unveiling of the new earth. This spiritual life not only includes "faith in Christ" but even more importantly, a love for others as Jesus loves us (John 13:34-35). It is by this love that all will know we are His disciples (John 13:34-35). Immortal life is the gift given to those whose names are in "the Lamb's book of life," (Revelation 21:27) and it is the gift reserved for those deemed perfectly righteous (see Philippians 3:7-11).

4. The Person of Jesus  - is Life (John 1:4). He is the Author of all life. Religion will tell you there are many ways to God, but the Scriptures declare the only hope for sinners is the Person and work of the Anointed One. "For deliverance from death is found in no one else for there is no other name given to mankind by which we can be delivered other than His name." (Acts 4:12).


Four Reasons Why Every Christian Should Feel Free to Question or Criticize Christian Leaders

I recently read where popular evangelical author and speaker Francis Chan warned Christians not to criticize 'anointed' Christian leaders like himself on social media.

Sigh. 

If a soldier could blindfold, beat, and berate my Christ - and the Messiah remained silent - then one might think we Christian "leaders" might want to imitate the Christ from whom we derive our name "Christian."

It seems Christ would have us remain silent in the face of attack rather than to issue warnings against the accusers.

But what about the verse many Christian leaders quote as support warning others that they should refrain from criticizing or questioning Christian leaders? 
"Do not touch My anointed ones" (Psalm 105:15). 
This phrase originates in I Samuel 24:8-15 when David was told by God not to kill King Saul. David would later write Psalm 105 as a reflection on that event.
"Do not touch My anointed ones" (Psalm 105:15).
Church leaders are taking this verse completely out of context when they warn people against criticizing or questioning them.

There are four reasons why a Christian should always feel free to question or even criticize a Christian leader.


1. "Do not touch" means "do not kill."

David finds King Saul sleeping in a cave. David knows he is not to kill King Saul. "Touch not My anointed" is God's injunction against killing a leader, regardless how much pain they've caused you.

But immediately after David finds Saul sleeping in a cave and refuses to "kill him," David questions and criticizes King's Saul's actions, words, and even motives (see I Samuel 26:18-20).

"Touch not the Lord's anointed" never means "question not the Lord's anointed." 


2. The Apostle Paul questioned Christian leaders, and so should we.

Paul considered himself  "the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God"  (I Corinthians 15:9).

But this least of the Apostles publicly questioned the greatest of the Apostles. "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong" (Galatians 2:11).

If Paul opposed Peter, then you can oppose a spiritual leader.


3. The spiritual person refused to give spiritual authority to anyone but Christ.
"Brethren, if someone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness" (Galatians 6:1). 
Who are the spiritual ones among us? 

They are those who never accept what someone says simply because that someone calls himself "anointed by God."

Let me show you an example of those who the Bible deems "spiritual ones."
"Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11)
The Christians in the city of Berea never hesitated to question the words of Paul. They took nothing as authoritative except that which came from the mouth of Christ. So they questioned Paul to see if what he was saying lined up with what Christ taught.

The Scriptures tell us it is a more noble act to verify a leader’s words than it is to accept somebody's words without questioning their authenticity.

It is always a noble, Christian act to question a Christian leader to see if what he or she is saying, doing, or planning lines up with the words of Christ. 


4. The one in danger of God's judgment is the preacher who abuses God's people.
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (I Corinthians 3:16-17)
The people of God are the temple of God. If a preacher "defiles" the temple, then God shall destroy him. 

Mr. Chan would have been better off by declaring:
"It is my solemn Christian duty to refrain from disparaging those of you who question or criticize me on Twitter." 
Pastors should refrain from using "touch not My anointed" as the basis for squelching criticism of their words or actions.

The truth is that verse is a warning to us pastors.

We should allow the temple of God (the church) to often and freely criticize us.

If it was good enough for Jesus to do, it should be good enough for us. 

Oklahoma's Educational Funding Problem Is Real

Oklahoma's teachers are heading to the state capital in Oklahoma City to protest state government's lack of educational funding over the past three decades. Many of the sharpest, most dedicated people I know are public school teachers. They have a difficult, often thankless job. In my estimation, Oklahoma teachers do need additional state funding to make their classrooms conducive to learning and their careers capable of supporting a family. In their shoes, most Oklahomans would not do differently than what Oklahoma teachers are doing today.

I also know many politicians in Oklahoma and have great respect for their dedication to our state. One, a former speaker of the house, recently showed me the state "checkbook register." Similar to a household budget, the state keeps a simple summary of annual expenses and revenue. It's stunning to see that the vast majority expenses for the state of Oklahoma are federally mandated subsidies for medical care and food. Oklahoma state government spends 39% of its budget on health and social services and 21% on education. Next time you drive by a nursing home or hospital, remember that Oklahoma's state government is spending billions on health care and social services for the poor and needy.

I'm not advocating for or against our state welfare subsidies. I'm just pointing out that for every classroom requiring funding, there's a sick, dying, or hungry person in Oklahoma for whom the state is responsible according to the federal government. Sometimes the medical bills for one person's weekly stay in the hospital take more from the Oklahoma treasury than one educational classroom takes annually.

In looking at the state's checkbook register, it's clear that almost every state agency funded by state revenue (e.g., taxes) has seen little or no increase in funding over the past two decades due to skyrocketing health care costs. Unlike the federal government, Oklahoma's state constitution requires the annual budget to balance.

Oklahoma politicians are not malicious. On the contrary, most politicians I know in Oklahoma are good, capable men and women. But they can't do what Houdini did. They can't make revenue appear in the state treasury by magic. They must either increase taxes or cut expenses.

That's why all Oklahoma state agencies are suffering.

For example, every district attorney's office in Oklahoma shows a net decrease in per capita revenue over the past two decades, though there has been an increase in workload. Likewise, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has more inmates than ever, but the department's budget shows a net decrease in per capita revenue. The same pattern is seen in almost every state department and agency in Oklahoma.

The state checkbook register shows that the one area of huge increase during the past two decades is health care costs. The state treasury spends hundreds of millions more annually for health care costs for the indigent in 2018 than it did in 1990. These costs include long-term care (nursing homes), critical care (hospitals), and programs for preventative medical care.

Oklahoma's health care costs have put our state agencies into crisis mode. There's not enough money to go around. And there are no easy answers. On this day when many on social media are blaming either politicians or teachers, I'd like to propose that neither is to blame.

We have a moral issue.

The federal government, which is over twenty trillion dollars in debt, is mandating that a state - which by constitutional law cannot go into debt - completely fund the rising health care costs for the needy.

The state of Oklahoma has only four options:
1. Oklahoma can change the state constitution and put today's expenses on the backs of our children and grandchildren as does the federal government. 
2. Oklahoma can increase taxes on every Oklahoman to increase revenue to pay for rising health care costs for the poor and indigent and adequately fund state agencies.
3. We can audit the rolls of those receiving health care and welfare subsidies and raise the floor of qualification for such subsidies, an option that can only occur in 2019 when Obama care mandates end.
4. We can privatize state agencies and/or reduce the size of state agencies.
The first option is immoral.

The second option is difficult because Oklahomans voted for an initiative petition in the early 1990's that made it exceedingly difficult for politicians to raise taxes (e.g., a super-majority vote is required).

The third option is coming. Oklahoma, the most conservative state in the union, does not carefully audit the health care rolls, something that even the state of Illinois does, to ensure those receiving state funds actually should receive them. The state budget by 2020 should reflect increased revenue through a more careful audit of Oklahoma's health care rolls.

The fourth option is a political nightmare. It could happen, but it requires leadership on the local and state level. Innovative change usually occurs out of necessity.

Today as the teachers gather in Oklahoma, this Oklahoman understands that neither the teachers nor the politicians are the bad guys.

The federal government is playing a different ballgame than we do in Oklahoma:
The feds propose what they can't pay, mandate what they can't manage, and force what they can't fund. 
At least we in Oklahoma balance our budget.

And like families who must make tough decisions when the bank account shows there's little money left, the state of Oklahoma is facing some tough times.


The Marshall Islands and Our Man in the Marshalls

It snowed in the Pacific Ocean on March 1, 1954, or so it seemed to the fishermen casting their nets for tuna near the Marshall Islands on that early Monday morning.

Big, white flakes were falling from the sky.

The men on the Lucky Dragon #5 fishing boat marveled at the falling flakes. One fisherman palmed a snowflake and put it in his mouth. It didn't melt, nor did it have any taste. The fisherman quickly spat out the gritty flake.

It wasn't snow.

Pulverized, radioactive coral was falling from the sky as in a winter snowstorm. The men on the boat concentrated on their tuna fishing while the white ash continued to cover them like icing on a wedding cake. After a few hours, the white stuff stopped falling. The fishermen believed the ash a nuisance, but none thought it deadly.

The red dot is the location of the Marshall Islands
But they had become dead men walking.

The white stuff, later called "death ash" by these same fishermen, was the radioactive fallout from a hydrogen bomb the United States military had detonated in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific.

Those who came in contact with this radioactive substance would suffer from life-long illnesses or die a premature, painful death. Their moving stories are told in the book The Day the Sun Rose in the West.

What had happened? From where had the nuclear ash originated?

At 6:45 am on that Monday morning, March 1, 1952, the United States military detonated in the Marshall Islands the largest thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb ever created. The U.S. government called the bomb Castle Bravo.

From 1946, the year after World War II ended, til 1958, the U.S. military conducted nuclear testing operations in the Marshall Islands, detonating 67 nuclear and thermonuclear bombs. The bomb dropped that Monday morning, March 1, 1954, was the largest of the 67 bombs. The snowflakes that fell on the fisherman 70 miles away were pieces of coral from the island that had been pulverized, radiated, and blown into the stratosphere, only to fall back to earth like snow. The men on the boat had seen and heard the explosion, which seemed like “the sun rising in the west,” but it was the ash that fell during the late morning and afternoon which killed them.

According to nuclear physicist Robert A. Naballa, the combined explosive yield of the sixty-seven nuclear bombs detonated in the Marshall Islands during those twelve years was equivalent to one Hiroshima-sized bomb detonated daily for nineteen years. 

The 29 atolls and islands that are the Marshall Islands
Pacific Islanders who originate from the Marshall Islands are called Marshallese. Because of the American government's testing of nuclear weapons on their islands, the Marshallese found their fish had become contaminated, their coconut trees gave them poisoned milk, and their radiated land grew radioactive vegetables.

The Marshallese people were doomed.

Many Marshallese women began giving birth to children with deformities. Marshallese men died at a young age from cancer. Many Marshallese starved for lack of quality food. The Marshallese needed help.

In 1986 the United States Congress signed into law the Compact of Free Association which allowed Marshallese people to come to America without visas, work at American jobs, and start new lives in America.

Thousands of Marshallese people have come to Enid, Oklahoma.

Enid, Oklahoma has the largest "percentage to population" of Pacific Islanders than any other city in America. Most of the over 5,000 Pacific Islanders in Enid, Oklahoma (Pop. 51,000) are Marshallese.

They need our help.

Though the Marshallese pay taxes, and though the Marshallese are allowed to join the United States military, the Marshallese do not qualify for Medicaid or other government benefit programs.

They are the forgotten people of the Pacific.

The Story of Yohanes Tetuko Arwakon

The jungles of Papua
The little boy had been tied to a tree all night.

The East Java villagers of the Pacific Islands called him "the devil child." His mom had gone to local witch doctors for blood rituals. She had given birth to three girls, but no boy. After the sixth witchdoctor performed a unique fertility blood rite, she became pregnant. The boy was born on March 31, 1979. They named him Yohanes.

The boy's first memories were nights spent tied to a tree in front of the family home. His father refused him to sleep in the family house "lest the devil enter."

The villagers, afraid of the boy, told his traditional tribal parents that they would either have to sacrifice a daughter to the gods to break the curse or give the boy away.

The boy's parents chose the latter option.

The people of Papua, where Yohanes Arwkon lived as a boy 
When the boy was five, an auntie who lived far away came to the boy's village to take him away.  He still remembers the image of his mother in the yellow dress, crying on the porch as her little boy stretched out his hands, screaming to his momma,
 "No, momma. Please, don't let me go." His father stood on the porch with his arms crossed.

The boy would never return to his parents' home. He'd see his mother only once more, shortly before her death.

That's how life began for Yohanes Arwakon, Emmanuel Enid's Pastor to Pacific Islanders.

But the painful memories became the seeds for God's purpose in Yohanes' life.

The auntie who took Yohanes as her own was the only Christian in Yohanes' extended family. She and her native Papuan husband had been unable to bear children. So they adopted Yohanes and gave him their last name, Arwakon. It was under their influence that Yohanes Arwakon received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior as a young boy in the swamplands of Papua.

Yohanes Arwakon, Emmanuel Enid's Pastor to Pacific Islanders

Yohanes and Yenni in Indonesia (2018)
Yohanes Arwakon's adoptive parents were Christian missionaries to the cannibal tribes of Papua, Indonesia. They worked among the Asmat tribe in the early 1960's. Yohanes' adoptive father, Yunus Arwakon, was a fellow missionary with Don Richardson, author of The Peace Child. Don worked among the Sawi tribe, while Yunus Arwakon worked among the Asmat people, the rival tribe to the Sawi.

In 1962, Michael Rockefeller, son of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, disappeared among the Asmat cannibal tribe of Papua. Missionaries serving alongside Don Richardson and Yunus Arwakon reported seeing "a white man" among the cannibal tribes of the swampland of Papua (e.g., the Sawi and the Asmat), but the mystery of what happened to Michael Rockefeller has never been solved.

Paul Young, Pastor Wade Burleson's friend and author of #1 worldwide bestselling novel The Shack, also grew up in the highlands of Papua with his missionary parents during the early 1960's. The Arwakons served with the Youngs, the Richardsons, and were close friends with Finn Torjesen, the TEAM leader in Indonesia, and later China.

Yohanes Arwakon
Born in Java, adopted by Christian missionaries and raised in Papua, Yohanes grew to manhood among the tribes of Papua. His parents sacrificed to send him to the University of Manokwari. Growing up, Yohanes read many missionary biographies such as John Wesley, Charles Wesley, John Newton, William Carey, David Livingstone, Martin Luther, Hudson Taylor in China, DL Moody, Polycarpus in Martyr Rome, Adoniram Judson, Robert Moffat,  and Charles Spurgeon,. He was deeply impressed with their life stories. Yohanes surrendered his life to evangelical Christian missionary service.

But fulfilling his call as a missionary would have to wait for a few years as Yohanes was trained for his ultimate calling. Yohanes' education was in Community Planning. After receiving his college degree, Yohanes Arwakon went to work for the large American company Freeport-McMoran in their Indonesian division. Yohanes worked as the Deputy of the Executive Secretary for the Seven-Tribes Economic Bureau of LPMAK. His high-level position in Freeport-McMoran involved oversight of a billion dollar endowment to assist in Community Planning among some of the same Papua tribes with whom his father had ministered as a Christian missionary - the.Amungme, Kamoro, Moni, Mee, Damal, Dani, Nduga. 

Yohanes' job was to develop free medical clinics for the Papua tribes, expand the educational opportunities among tribal children, and provide job opportunities and training for tribal adults. Yohanes was in charge of the annual disbursements of the billion-dollar endowment that Freeport-McMoran established to "improve the tribal communities" around the world's largest mine, the one owned and operated in Indonesia by Freeport-McMoran.

 2017 Marshallese Children's Christmas Party at Emmanuel
Yohanes was a successful businessman, recognized for his work around the world. The United States Department of State selected Yohanes in 2013 to attend their prestigious International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), a school which names David Cameron, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, and a host of other world leaders as its graduates. Yohanes completed the school, which focused on community planning in 2013, and to this day, remains the only Indonesian ever chosen by the United States government to attend. 

After working for 12 years as a community planner, Yohanes Arwakon and his wife Yenni and their three boys came to Enid, Oklahoma and we interviewed him for the job of Pastor to Pacific Islanders. Our Leadership Team, after hearing Yohanes' Christian testimony, receiving the highest recommendations from his former bosses at Freeport McMoran, and visiting with pastors and missionaries in Papua, voted unanimously to license Yohanes as our Pastor to Pacific Islanders. Unlike Indonesian churches, our church in American recognizes gifted men and women and empowers them to serve according to their giftedness. We see "Pastor" as a "verb" of service and not a "noun" of status.

The 5,000 Marshallese in our community are in need of professional community planning assistance. The United States government has abandoned the Marshallese when it comes to their medical care, the educational opportunities for their children, and providing a host of financial and job training seminars. Emmanuel Enid believes that Yohanes Arwakon is the perfect man to help the Marshallese in Enid assimilate into American culture and to benefit from all that America has to offer.

Our Man in the Marshalls

The United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) gave Emmanuel Enid approval for the Religious Worker (R-1) Visa which allows Yohanes to work in community planning among the Marshallese in Enid as the Pastor to Pacific Islanders.

Yohanes and Yenni and the Marshallese in their home in Enid
Yohanes began his at Emmanuel Enid on August 1, 2017. For the past year, Yohanes has begun connecting social services in our community for the assistance of the Marshallese. He heads our English as a Second Language Program and has been heavily involved in Enid Public Schools, assisting our educators with the fast-growing population of Marshallese children. Emmanuel Enid and Yohanes were beginning to work with state government to apply for better health care for the Marshallese, and it was our goal to develop free medical clinics for the specific needs Marshallese people have.

Yohanes work among the Marshallese came to an abrupt end on March 8, 2018, when the American Consulate in Jakarta, Indonesia refused Yohanes and Yenni to return to America. They'd gone to Indonesia to visit Yenni's ailing father, and when it came time to come back to Enid, the American Consulate said "No."

Yohanes, Yenni, Wade, and the Arwakon Boys in Enid
Why?

The American Consulate says Yohanes needs an E-4 PERMANENT Immigrant Visa, not an R-1 Temporary Immigrant Visa. The E-4 requires a much longer application process, as well as two years of employment at Emmanuel Enid.

So, Emmanuel Enid, the most generous evangelical church in the state of Oklahoma, is not only going to continue to pay Yohanes salary and benefits until the E-4 is approved (August 1, 2019), but the church is also paying to relocate Yohanes, Yenni, and their three boys to the capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the city of Majuro.

For the next 18 months, Emmanuel Enid will have "Our Man in the Marshalls"

Yohanes will learn the Marshallese language, work with the RMI government, connect with families of loved ones who live in Enid and do community planning in the city of Majuro. When Yohanes comes back to Enid in 2019, he will be even better and more qualified to serve the Pacific Islanders.

Christ's Love in Us Becomes Christ's Love from Us


Yohanes, Yenni at the 2017 Marshallese Thanksgiving Dinner
Why would a church go to such great expense for our ministry to the Marshallese people?

Why would Emmanuel Enid move a man and his family to the Marshall Islands to be better prepared to minister to the Marshallese people?

Why would people like Yohanes and Yenni and their three boys (Jonathan, Paul, and Noel) risk everything to fly to Majuro, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, to spend a year or more learning the culture and the language of the Marshallese people with whom they minister in Enid, Oklahoma? The Arwakons could live comfortably in Indonesia with the resources Yohanes has earned from his executive position with Freeport-McMoran. So why be a missionary to the Marshallese, focusing on Community Planning, living and working among people with so many needs?

I'll tell you why.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  (Matthew 25:31-40)
I keep thinking about that fisherman in the Marshall Islands who tasted the white ash in 1954 and died. His grandkids could be living among us in Enid. I want them to know that there are some American Christians who truly care about them as people. We want to love the Marshallese not just with our words but we shall declare our love for the least of these by our actions.

Godspeed, Yohanes Arwakon. The people of Enid, Oklahoma look forward to your return among us.

Majuro, Capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and home for the Arwakon family until August 2019