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

J. Paul Getty, Kisner Heights, and Enid, Oklahoma

J. Paul Getty (The Getty Museum)
The Cadillac V-8 Roadster bobbed up and down over the muddy section line roads in eastern Garfield County, Oklahoma, pitching its driver like a horse would a rider moving at a slow trot.

The spring of 1918 had been wet in Garfield County, Oklahoma, ending the driest 10-year period of the new century for the state.

Pavement had not yet reached western Oklahoma roads, so the Cadillac Roadster traversed more mud than dirt. The federal system of numbered and paved highways that would eventually crisscross America were still a decade away from being built.

25-year-old Jean Paul Getty didn't mind the drive from Tulsa to northwestern Oklahoma. Dressed in his custom suit with pants tucked into riding boots, Getty drove for oil. He drove for money. Every mile brought him closer to his goal.

Harry Ford Sinclair, a Getty family friend and President of Tulsa's First National Bank, had told the Getty family about an oil pool near Covington, Oklahoma that he'd been drilling since September 1916. There were still more leases to obtain, enough for the Getty Oil Company to take part in the Covington oil play. However, the Garbers and the Champlin families of Garfield County, oilies themselves, would not take kindly to another oil family encroaching on their territory.

J. Paul had done his research quietly.

George Getty, J. Paul Getty's father, lived in Los Angeles and ran the Getty oil operations from California. J. Paul had just begun working (again) for his father's company after spending a couple of years traveling the world while also periodically attending Oxford. J. Paul's job that summer of 1918 was to find available farm leases for oil production in the well-known Bartlesville, Cushing, and Glenpool Oklahoma oil fields.

But this new Covington oil pool would be a fresh entry point for Getty Oil. J. Paul was the only Getty son with an aptitude and appetite to eventually replace George as President of Getty Oil. By 1973, J. Paul Getty would be called The Richest Man in America, worth over $2 billion dollars, equivalent to $12 billion today. But on that hot, wet, and sticky early summer day of  1918, J. Paul Getty wasn't the richest man in America. He was just a man on a mission, sent by his father to obtain the best oil lease in Garfield County, Oklahoma. The Getty's needed in on this hot new oil play in Oklahoma.

J. Paul Getty's Cadillac of choice in 1918
Oklahoma wasn't a strange place to J. Paul Getty.  He first came to the Sooner state as an 11-year-old boy in January 1904. He'd accompanied his father (George Getty) from Minneapolis to the oil boom town of Bartles-ville. At that time, Oklahoma wasn't yet a state, and people still called it "Indian Territory."  The young J. Paul Getty wrote in his diary how he looked forward to the trip to Indian Territory to see "real Cowboys fight'en real Injuns." 

50-year-old attorney George Getty had first come to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) just two months earlier, in November 1903, to settle a life insurance policy on behalf of Northwest Life. After arriving in Bartlesville, he'd listened in the hotel restaurant to the locals talk about how much money could be made with oil leases. After conversing with one man interested in selling some leases, and on a whim, George purchased his first oil lease for 1100 acres in the Osage Indian Nation (Oklahoma). George Getty filled out the paperwork to form an oil company while he was in Tulsa on the insurance matter. One month later (December 1903), George Getty's contracted oil drillers hit a gusher on his lease in Osage Nation (now Osage County, Oklahoma).

He'd struck black gold on his first try.

George went back to Minneapolis by train, and returned to Indian Territory with his eleven-year-old son J. Paul in late January 1904. George came to observe the second well being drilled on the Getty lease in Osage County  The first well had been such an unexpected surprise, turning George a quick and handsome profit and launching his career in oil production. That December 1903 Getty gusher in the Osage Nation also became the impetus for many white businessmen wishing to make their fortune in oil coming to Osage to marry the Osage Indian women. In one of the darkest chapters in American history, some of those men surreptitiously killed their Indian brides and families to obtain their oil rights. This stomach-churning decade (1920s) of white domination and crime is documented in the 2018 bestseller Killers of the Flower Moon.  The Osage murders became the first field case for a young government agent named J. Edgar Hoover

The oil bug bit eleven-year-old J. Paul Getty on his first trip to Oklahoma in January 1904. J. Paul didn't see any "cowboys fight'en injuns," but he did see men working for his daddy on a job that captivated his imagination. George Getty was well on his way to becoming a millionaire through oil. Later that year (1904), George moved his family from Minneapolis to Tulsa to oversee his new oil business.

But the Gettys didn't stay long in Tulsa. J. Paul's mother wanted to live in California to be near her family, so George once again packed up the his family and moved to Los Angeles. But J. Paul Getty would travel back to Oklahoma every summer as a teenager to work as a roustabout, a tool pusher, and then eventually a lease man for his father's oil company.

J. Paul never wished to disappoint his father, even now that he was a young man of twenty-five. As he drove those dirt roads in Garfield County in the late spring/early summer of 1918, J. Paul Getty was determined to find a good oil lease for Getty Oil.

The Robert R. Kisner Farm in Eastern Garfield County

Location of the Kisner Farm, Garfield County
Enid, Oklahoma is the county seat for Garfield County. 17 miles east of Enid and about 4 miles south, Robert and Minnie Riley owned a small farm in 1918. It sat in Olive Township, Section 14 (see map to the left).

Robert and his wife watched as the Cadillac pulled up their long dirt driveway. They looked on as a strange man pulled a shovel from the back seat and walked up to their porch. Robert and Minnie came out to greet him.

"Mr. and Mrs. Kisner. My name is J. Paul Getty. I would like to pay you $50.00 to dig a hole in your back yard."

The name Getty was not yet known around the world, and the Risners didn't know that the Getty family owned an oil company. $50.00 was a lot of money in 1919.

"Don't worry Mr. and Mrs. Kisner. I'll fill the hole back in after I dig it."

Assuming the man in the suit and riding boots was someone hired by an oil company to look for farms to lease, the Kisners agreed. They watched as J. Paul Getty began digging his hole.

 "Getty Road" intersection at US 412, 17 miles east of Enid 
Before professional geology degrees, early oil men would often say they could "sense" where oil could be found. The more scientific of the first generation of oil men would dig in the soil near known producing wells to find the composition of soil that most closely matched known wells.

After digging for an hour, J. Paul Getty paused. Leaning on his shovel for a few minutes, it seemed to the Kisners as if he was contemplating something. Then, as quickly as he dug the hole, he filled it back up.

"Mr. and Mrs. Kisner," J. Paul said as he brushed dirt off his suit pants, "I'd like to lease your farm. I'll give you $2,000 for the lease, and if you like, I'll even buy your farm from you for a higher price. I believe there's oil underneath the soil on your farm, and if we drill for it and strike it, we'll give you a royalty as well."

Robert Riley Kisner  accepted J. Paul Getty's money that day, and the Kisner family would never be the same.

Neither would nearby Enid, Oklahoma.

Kisner Heights Historic District, Enid, Oklahoma

Kisner Heights being developed in Enid (early 1930s).
Robert Riley Kisner had participated in the 1889 Oklahoma Land Run and the 1893 Cherokee Strip Land Run. Not able to stake a claim in either Land Run, he worked at various odd jobs until 1896 when he married a German immigrant named Minnie Laging. The young couple moved to Missouri to be near family, only to return to Oklahoma by 1910, buying a cheap 160 acre farm in eastern Garfield County, near the small community of Covington, with the money he'd saved.

The money given Robert Kisner by J. Paul Getty was more money than he'd ever dreamed of having.

The original Kisner home at 812 S. Van Buren
Deciding not to stay on the farm during the noisy and messy process of drilling, Robert Riley and Minnie thought it best to move to nearby Enid and buy another small farm west of the the city. Just south of the modern intersection of Van Buren and Owen K. Garriott, on the west side of Van Burn, the Kisners purchased a 160 acre farm and built two houses facing east.

According to the 1996 survey of what would become Kisner Heights, the earliest houses built on Kisner’s tract of  farm land were the “original Robert R. Kisner house" at 812 S. Van Buren and a house for their son, the William H. Kisner house, next door at 822 S. Van Buren. The Kisners then built an Olympic-size swimming pool in the back yards, between both houses (see it in the photo above)

By the mid-1920s, Enid development had essentially reached the Kisner property. At the urging of the Enid Chamber of Commerce, Robert Kisner decided to subdivide his farm and create a new housing addition. Kisner Heights is what he and Minnie called it.

Kisner asked an architect from Kansas City to plat his farm. Robert F. Gornall, was one of Kansas City's important architects during the 1920s. Gornall is credited with having designed several significant buildings in the Kansas City area. He was proficient in a wide range of building types and styles, including Tudor Revival, Beaux-Arts, and Classical Revival.

The Kisner Mansion, 1111 Wynona, Enid, Oklahoma
The Kisner Historic District in Enid, Oklahoma strongly resembles midtown and uptown Kansas City neighborhoods because Robert Gornall designed them all.
Kisner Heights lots in Enid could be purchased with an agreement that home construction would be
restricted to three styles: English Type homes, American Colonial Type Homes, or Spanish Type Homes. For the first time in Enid's history (est. 1893), neighborhood roads would be platted with larger home lots, winding streets, and parks (even mini-parks built in the middle of intersections). Streets were named "York," "Wabash," "Wynona," and other English names. The Kisners decided to build their home in the center of Kisner Heights. The Kisner Mansion at 1111 Wynona is the most outstanding example of the Neoclassical style within the Kisner Heights addition.

Soon, several other homes were being built in the Kisner Residential area, including the historic Champlin Mansion (pictured left), located on the western edge of Kisner's farm.

As Enid continued to develop westward, the residential planning commission established a new residential district west of Kisner Heights that they named Indian Hills .
Many Enid residents confuse Kisner Heights with Indian Hills, but Kisner Heights predates Indian Hills by two decades.

Though many of the original homes in the Kisner Heights Historic District of Enid are eligible for entry into the National Register of Historic Places, so far only the Kisner Mansion and the Champlin Mansion have been placed on the register.

Very few people, even those living in Enid, realize that a trip to Garfield County by J. Paul Getty in 1918 led to the establishment of one of Enid's most beautiful and historic neighborhoods.

Next time you're in Los Angeles at the J. Paul Getty Museum, or in the Uptown District of Kansas City, or at Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, or next time you read the tragic story about J. Paul Getty and his family or watch the movie All the Money in the World, remember that day in the summer of 1918 when J. Paul Getty pulled a contract out of his Cadillac and gave the Kisners the resources to buy a farm in 1919 on the outskirts of Enid, now the beautiful neighborhood called Kisner Heights.

100 years have passed, but the connection between Getty and Enid remains evident in Kisner Heights Historic District.

Odell's Watch and a Repeat of the Great Depression

Odell Beckham, Jr.'s watch (Photo: Business Insider)
Odell Beckham, star wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, played his first football game for Cleveland this past Sunday wearing what Business Insider calls a $350,000.00 watch.

That's right. Odell wore on his left wrist  a watch that costs almost double the average price of an American home.


Those of us who know almost as much about the 1910's and 20's as we do today's current events understand the significance of Odell Beckham's watch.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby to expose the opulence of the 1920's, a time historians now call The Era of Excess.

Welcome, America, to 2020.

In an era of excess, money seems limitless and people believe the economic boom will never end.

But the laws of physics and economics are inviolable. Any object or economy that expands to its limit will eventually collapse upon itself.

In economics, its called an economic depression.

Economic depressions always follow eras of excess.

Most young Americans have no clue about the hardships my grandparents endured during the Great Depression which began after the Era of Excess that followed World War I.

The Great Depression (1929-1939)
So the best way to describe a Great Depression is to compare Beckham's opulence in wearing a $350,000.00 watch while playing professional football to my grandfather wearing a $1 Timex watch during the Great Depression.

Odell Beckham doesn't care if his watch is shattered in a violent collision on the football field.

My grandfather would lock his $1 watch in a safe at night lest it be stolen.

When the American rich flaunt their money with minimal concern for its loss, then we are but a short time away from a depression when the rich will wonder where their money has gone and the poor will guard the little money they have with their life.

What goes up must come down.


Odell is only 26. He plays football. Obviously, he doesn't read history or economics.

Mr. Beckham, I would encourage you and those of your generation to also watch...the...economy...carefully.

And don't say you were not warned.

The Problem of Finger Pointing and Finding Fault

Years ago Rachelle and I toured a wine factory in Morocco. The wine master walked us through the very tedious and precise manner in which Moroccans make their fine wine.

There is a formula to making good wine. Those who don't know the formula--or refuse to follow the formula--cannot produce fine wine. 

Likewise, there is a formula for healthy friendships. 

"You are neither the source nor the solution for the trouble or pain within me."

That's the formula.

No human being is ever the source for any problem within me. Neither is someone else the solution for the pain I feel within.

Oh sure, there are occasions when another person is a problem in terms of crossing boundaries physically or sexually, and those kinds of problems need intervention from outside source, including the police. 

But when it comes to who is responsible for the way I feel, only I am in control.

The actions of another human being can be hurtful and painful, but the Apostle Paul said, "I have learned to be content (i.e. "self-sufficient") in who I am" (Philippians 4:11). 

Many English translations wrongly translate Philippians 4:11 as "I have learned to be content in whatever state (or circumstances) I am" but the words "state" or "circumstances" are not in the original. 

We are to learn to be "self-satisfied" (happy) in who we are.

So, who am I?

Many men receive their identity from work; but that's not who we are, it's what we do. Many women receive their identity from those to whom they are related. "I'm Mary, the mother of..." or "I'm Suzy, the wife of ..." But that's not who you are; that's to whom you are related.

I tell women all the time they better not get their identity from their husbands or kids because for eternity they'll neither be married (according to Jesus) and their kids will be the same age as they are.

Likewise, for both men and women, until we get our identity from some place other than work or our careers, we'll never understand what it means to be content in who we are.

So, again, who am I?

The Apostle Paul said, "I am who I am by the grace of God" (I Corinthians 15:10).

My identity is to come from the incredible grace of my Creator

Who am I by the grace of God?

I can only begin to answer that question by saying, "I am...."

I am loved by God's grace. I am adopted by God's grace. I am guided by God's grace. I am forgiven by God's grace. I am justified by God's grace. And on, and on, and on. That's who you are by God's grace.

When I understand who I am by the grace of God, then I am "self-sufficient" regardless of my circumstances.

I may have a friend whose actions cause all kinds of trouble; but my friend is never the source of or solution for the trouble or pain within me.

God is both the source and solution for what troubles me on the inside.

The problem of pointing a finger and finding fault with others, believing that they are the reasons for the anxiety, fear, depression, hurt, or pain within me, is that I'll never get to a real solution for what ails me. 

The finger pointing is leading me down the wrong path.

My internal happiness is dependent on my comprehension of who I am by the grace of God and not whether others succeed or fail in their behaviors, attitudes, or relationships.

Don't Always Believe What You See on the Internet

Due to growing technologies in computer science, including artificial intelligence, facial recognition software, and "deep fake" programming, the Internet is a veritable field of lies, make-believe, and alternate reality.

A "deep fake" video programmer recently uploaded to YouTube a video of a David Letterman interview with comedian Bill Hader.

Hader, a well-known impersonator of television stars, does impressions of Tom Cruise and Seth Rogen for Letterman during taping for a 2008 David Letterman Show. 

The professional "Deep Fake" computer programmer took the original video from the Letterman Show, then altered it using computer technology, He subtly and expertly placed Tom Cruise's face onto Bill Hader's face as Hader impersonates Cruise. He does the same thing when Hader impersonates Rogen, placing Rogen's face expertly onto Hader's face.

The "Deep Fake" programmer then uploaded the video to YouTube where it's been viewed over 5 million times.

Using the Deep Fake technology, a view of the video on YouTube, not knowing better, might think that Tom Cruise and Seth Rogen were being actually being interviewed by Letterman, not Bill Hader.

This new technology is borderline dangerous.

The significance what you see in the video,  featured in The Guardian's recent newspaper article on "the new face" of Simon Cowell, should be a clear warning to anyone who reads, watches and listens to anything on the Internet.

It is now possible through "Deep Fake" technology to place people in places they weren't, to have people say things they didn't, and to all together create an alternative reality that isn't true.

It's a new day.

Watch the video for yourself and use it as a warning to not always believe what you see on the Internet.

String Theory, the Resurrection, and 11 Dimensions

Many modern Christians have little understanding that the emphasis in the New Testament is not on the cross of Jesus Christ, but the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ.

Millions of people have died on crosses.

But there's One who has been raised bodily from the dead, becoming the firstfruits of every human being's ultimate physical resurrection from the grave. 

It is this physical resurrection from the dead that distinguishes biblical Christianity from all other religions.

The Creator formed your physical being using an intricately designed biological program called DNA. At death, you lose your life, but He who formed you in your mother's womb will put you back together. He's got the code, and this time, all corruption of it will be wiped clean. In your resurrected body, God reprograms your DNA to take away "the sting" of corruption, aging, and death, three things that result from human sin (Romans 6:23).

Jesus Christ conquered death, man's final enemy, at His resurrection.
"The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you" (Romans 6:10-11).
The person who doesn't wish to live forever is a person who isn't really living now.
"I came," Jesus said, "that you might have real and eternal life, more and better life than you ever dreamed of" (John 10:10, The Message).  
 Death is an intruder to life. In fact, death is the absence of life.

So how do we have eternal life if we die?  Jesus tells us:
 "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear My voice and come out" (John 5:28).
Other religions or philosophies teach in the existence of disembodied souls, or one's re-incarnation into the universe, but the Bible teaches that a person will be physically raised from the dead by the power of God.

Is Resurrection Spiritual or Physical?

Some of my evangelical Christian friends have begun to believe in a spiritual resurrection, not a physical one. They say that at the moment a person dies physically, he or she receives a new spiritual body. The physical body remains and turns to dust, but the new spiritual body lives forever. This position, called full preterism, is growing in popularity among Bible students.

But I don't accept the premise that God spiritually raises the physically dead. I believe the Bible teaches that God physically raises the physically dead, just as He raised Christ physically from the dead.

Jesus' physical body left the tomb.
"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! (Luke 24:5-6)
If Christ had been only raised spiritually and not physically, then Christ's physical body would have remained in the tomb.

Christ is the firstfruits or picture of how our physical bodies will one day rise from death and the grave.

If it is true that Jesus physically rose from the dead, then where is He?

Also, if Enoch, Elijah, and possibly others were translated physically into "heaven" without tasting death, then where are their physical bodies? Also, if Jesus either translated or in a few cases "raised to life the bodies of many saints" (see Matthew 27:52) after His resurrection, where are those physical bodies now?

String Theory

Physicists in the last century believed the smallest particle in the universe to be the atom, composed of electrons, neutrons, and protons.

A modern physicist, through scientific research at CERN in Lucerne, Switzerland,  now believes that the smallest elements in the universe are strings.

String theory posits through mathematical formulations that small loops of strings are the building blocks of the universe, vibrating like strings on a violin or other musical instrument to compose the different elements of the world.

In other words, whatever you look at with your eyes - a candle, a desk, a car, an animal, a light beam, an electromagnetic energy field, your spouse, your kids, etc. -- are all fundamentally at the inseparable essence of being -- strings that vibrate, forming the physical object you see.

The universe seems to be a cosmic symphony.

And there is a Conductor behind the composition.

Without going into the math for simplicity's sake, what you need to know about string theory is that the math only works with more dimensions than four.

We were taught when we were young that the universe consisted of four dimensions,  commonly known as length (x), width (y), height (z) and space. Four-dimensional space was first proposed by scientist Jean le Rond d'Alembert in the year 1754. A century and a half later, Albert Einstein would use the concepts of 4-dimensional space and come up with his General Theory of Relativity.

But Einstein lived before the discovery of strings. He died trying to come up with a mathematical formula called The Theory of Everything. He failed.

Modern physicists are much closer because of the discovery of strings and the unusual fact that the universe is expanding faster as time goes by, not slowing down.

That would be like tossing a baseball in the air, and rather than it falling back to the ground, it kept moving higher and faster and continued that higher and faster trajectory as time progressed.

That's the universe.

Science in the last couple of years has discovered a mathematical number to describe the matter which composes 85% of space in this universe. The substance is called Dark Matter. The number for DM to the right of the decimal point (meaning it's very, very small) and includes 118 zeros followed by the numbers 1 3 8.

One - Three - Eight (see the picture to the left).

That's the mathematical number which describes the dark matter that is driving the universe to expand increasingly faster. One and Three are Divine numbers, representing the nature of God. The number Eight is the number for resurrection, representing God's way of making right what man's done wrong.


Physicists will not be attracted to the biblical meaning of those three numbers. Yet modern physicists have shown through their String Theory calculations that our universe is actually composed of 10 dimensions of space and one dimension of time, for a total of 11 dimensions.

The simplest explanation for String Theory can be found on this video. The math that works in String Theory requires 11 dimensions, and modern physicists have now concluded that there is not just one universe, but actually multiverses.

Meaning, the physical can be present in dimensions unseen by mankind on earth, because in other dimensions the DNA God produces can also exist. It's like blowing bubbles into the air. Each bubble separates from one another, floating independently. That's the multiverse. Listen to Brian Greene explain it.

I differ with Brian in that I see intentional music, not random music by chance. The Composer is the Creator and the Symphony which He conducts using strings is one of Divine Providence and Goodness, not a symphony of chance.

String Theory gives a scientific rationale for the Christian teaching that there is coming a physical resurrection.

Where are those whom God has already physically raised from the dead? The same place those who will one day be raised shall venture.  In another universe that you cannot see in our bubble of a universe where our earth exists, but a universe very possibly connected to ours through wormholes of time (think the Mount of Transfiguration).

The Composer of the great Song of Life rules over all eleven dimensions. You are I, unfortunately, are limited to understand three dimensions - at this time.

In Luke 15:11-32, when the Prodigal Son returned home to his father, a beautiful parable of a sinner coming home to his or her heavenly Father, the Bible records something delightful:
"They began to celebrate...and there was music." (Luke 15:24-25)
The word translated “music,” is the Greek word symph┼Źnia, from which we get our English word symphony.

God is the Conductor of the Symphony of Life.

When someone returns home to Him, a symphony is played by the strings of the universe that culminates in a physical resurrection to an eternal inheritance "not made with human hands." You are now unaware of this heaven, but one day you'll see it.  

It is in this New Heaven and the New Earth we'll celebrate God's goodness and be shown His grace and kindness forever - physically (see Ephesians 2:4-7). 


Charles H. Spurgeon and Southern Baptist Racism

Charles H. Spurgeon
In 2019, the Southern Baptist Convention continues to struggle with issues of racism. 

Some question its existence in the SBC, others wrangle over proper ways to confront it, and a few are offering meaningful steps for racial reconciliation within the SBC.

I remain amazed that there are some prominent conservative pastors and convention leaders who deny a spirit of racism in the Southern Baptist Convention. 

The dogmatic are never diplomatic because narrow perspectives are the children of ill-informed studies in history and culture

Christian George, the former curator of the C. H. Spurgeon Library and former assistant professor of historical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, authored a 2017 published book entitled The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon Volume I: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854.

It's an excellent resource for contemporary Southern Baptist opinions of the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Mr. Spurgeon was a strong abolitionist and considered slavery based on race a scourge on humanity, not to mention Christianity.

Dr. George describes what happened to Mr. Spurgeon 140 years ago this month:
In 1859, an American minister named “Rev. H.” traveled to London to meet the famous pastor of the New Park Street Chapel. 
When Spurgeon discovered his guest was from Alabama, his “cordiality sensibly diminished.”
A six-month American preaching tour would expedite the construction of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, but could Southerners tolerate Spurgeon’s stance against slavery?
When Spurgeon asked his guest this question, the Alabamian said he “had better not undertake it.”
This advice might have saved Spurgeon’s life.
The same year, S. A. Corey, pastor of Eighteenth Street Baptist Church in New York City, invited the 24-year-old to preach at the Academy of Music opera house for $10,000. News of Spurgeon’s visit was met with anticipation in the North and hostility in the South.
According to an Alabama newspaper, Spurgeon would receive a beating “so bad as to make him ashamed.” On February 17, 1860, citizens of Montgomery, Alabama, publicly protested the “notorious English abolitionist” by gathering in the jail yard to burn his “dangerous books”:
Last Saturday, we devoted to the ames a large number of copies of Spurgeon’s sermons. . . . We trust that the works of the greasy cockney vociferator may receive the same treatment throughout the South. And if the pharisaical author should ever show himself in these parts, we trust that a stout cord may speedily find its way around his eloquent throat.
On March 22, a “Vigilance Committee” in Montgomery followed suit and burned Spurgeon’s sermons in the public square. A week later Mr. B. B. Davis, a bookstore owner, prepared “a good ore of pine sticks” before reducing about 60 volumes of Spurgeon’s sermons “to smoke and ashes.”
British newspapers quipped that America had given Spurgeon a warm welcome, “a literally brilliant reception.”
Prince of Bonfires
 Anti-Spurgeon bonfires illuminated jail yards, plantations, bookstores, and courthouses throughout the Southern states.
In Virginia, Mr. Humphrey H. Kuber, a Baptist preacher and “highly respectable citizen” of Matthews County, burned seven calf-skinned volumes of Spurgeon’s sermons “on the head of a flour barrel.” The arson was assisted by “many citizens of the highest standing.”
In North Carolina, Spurgeon’s famous sermon “Turn or Burn” found a similar fate when a Mr. Punch “turned the second page and burned the whole.” By 1860, slave-owning pastors were “foaming with rage because they [could not] lay hands on the youthful Spurgeon.”
His life was threatened, his books burned, his sermons censured, and below the Mason-Dixon Line, the media catalyzed character assassinations.
In Florida, Spurgeon was a “beef-eating, puffed-up, vain, over-righteous pharisaical, English blab-mouth.”
In Virginia, he was a “fat, overgrown boy”; in Louisiana, a “hell-deserving Englishman”; and in South Carolina, a “vulgar young man” with “(soiled) sleek hair, prominent teeth, and a self-satisfied air.”
Georgians were encouraged to “pay no attention to him.”
North Carolinians “would like a good opportunity at this hypocritical preacher” and resented his “endish sentiments, against our Constitution and citizens.”
The Weekly Raleigh Register reported that anyone selling Spurgeon’s sermons should be arrested and charged with “circulating incendiary publications.”
Southern Baptists ranked among Spurgeon’s chief antagonists. 
The Mississippi Baptist hoped “no Southern Baptist will now purchase any of that incendiary’s books.”
The Baptist colporteurs of Virginia were forced to return all copies of his sermons to the publisher.
The Alabama Baptist and Mississippi Baptist “gave the Londoner 4,000 miles of an awful raking” and “took the hide off him.” 
The Southwestern Baptist and other denominational newspapers took the “spoiled child to task and administered due castigation.”
More Distant Future
In 1860, an article entitled Mr. Spurgeon and the American Slaveholders offered the following words:
“Southern Baptists will not, hereafter, when they visit London, desire to commune with this prodigy of the 19th century. We venture the prophecy that his books in [the] future will not crowd the shelves of our Southern book merchants. They will not; they should not.”
In 1889, Spurgeon uttered a prophecy of his own:
“For my part, I am quite willing to be eaten of dogs for the next 50 years; but the more distant future shall vindicate me.”
The more distant future did vindicate Spurgeon. His sermons do crowd the shelves of Southern bookstores.
As Carl F. H. Henry rightly noted, Spurgeon has become “one of evangelical Christianity’s immortals.”
Throughout Alabama, Virginia, and the United States of America, the books of “the notorious English abolitionist” still burn—casting light and life in a dark and dying world.
The above narrative has been adapted from Christian George's preface to The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon Volume I: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854 (B&H Academic, 2017).

In light of the past history and culture of the Southern Baptist Convention, I would suggest three things need to occur within the Southern Baptist Convention to move forward in racial reconciliation and eradicate racism:
1. Officially and permanently change the name of the Convention, eradicating Southern.
2. Intentionally and emphatically elect many racial minorities into positions of leadership.
3. Repeatedly and collectively make racial reconciliation a major theme of annual Conventions.
It's time for talk to turn into action. 

Natural Immortality or God's Gift of Immortality?

"Truth is like a young lion who fearlessly welcomes all challengers. Error is like an old lion who must loudly roar to scare away encroachers. The louder someone rants about 'your theological errors,' the less sure that old lion is of his truth." - Wade Burleson

Most people believe what they're taught and do what they're told without thinking for themselves.

I find that a tad disturbing.

The reason professing Christians will sometimes "renounce" their Christian faith is because they've only accepted what they've been taught and never agonized over what they've learned.

Let me give you an example.
"God alone is immortal" (I Timothy 6:16). 
What does that mean? God alone ("nobody else") is immortal

Mortal means "subject to death." God alone is not "subject to death."

Suppose you were in a room with several people, and someone said, "Of all the people in this room, there is one person alone who is a multi-millionaire."

What would that mean?

Obviously, only one person possesses multi-millions of dollars.

So, if God alone is immortal, how can anyone else become immortal?

The same way other people in the room of only one multi-millionaire become millionaires without leaving the room.

The one who has it must gift it to those who don't.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is immortal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). 
For reasons I cannot fathom, many Christians believe that the lives of the wicked are like the trick birthday candles your mom put on your 12th-year-birthday celebration cake.

You can't extinguish them no matter how hard you try.

Christians in these latter days believe that the wicked are naturally immortal. The notion among many evangelicals is that the wicked can't "die" because their souls naturally live forever.

But Jesus said:
"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul (eg "men"); but rather fear Him (eg "God") who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)
God alone is immortal.

The eternal torment of the wicked presupposes that God gifts the wicked with immortal life.

But the Scriptures seem to teach only those in Christ are gifted with immortal life.

The wicked will die a second time as their just sentence for the sins they've committed in this life (Revelation 20:14). The righteous alone - that is, those in Christ - are given God's gift of immortal life.
"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 1:10)
I know of nothing better than the Hope that the God of all grace will gift His people with immortal life and totally destroy everything wicked.

It's Good News.

Just Exactly What Is the Good News in Your Mind?

Jeffrey Epstein
Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide last week.

Jeffrey Epstein, the owner of a $44 million Upper Eastside mansion, a private island, an ocean yacht, a party jet, and access to the worlds' rich and elite is dead.

It seems Jeffrey Epstein's previous convictions for his federal crimes of sexual abuse against young girls and his impending trials for newly revealed sexual abuse activities caused Jeffrey Epstein to take his life.

Jeffrey tried to kill himself two weeks ago and didn't succeed.

Under strange circumstances that seem to indicate powerful people at the federal level wished him success in a second attempt, Jeffrey committed suicide last week.

Jeffrey Epstein is dead.

His thought process at the end seems clear. "If my life isn't worth living, then my life is worth taking."

At one time,  Jeffrey Epstein most likely thought his life was good. Others might have even considered Epstein's life very good.

In the end, Jeffrey knew his life wasn't worth living and that he would be a tragic stub on Wikipedia.

That's why Jeffery Epstein took his life.

Good News

All of us need some good news to have a life worth living.

Without something good in our lives, we lose hope. All of us.

The problem becomes defining "good."

The word Gospel comes from an Old English compound word - "God" (the Old English word for "good") and "Spell" (the Old English word for "news").

The Gospel is the only real and lasting Good News.

In Celebrate Recovery, Alcoholics Annonymous, and other recovery groups where people gather to turn their lives around, one of the main principles is to surrender to a Higher Power.

Or, to put it simply:
"To believe that God exists, that I matter to God, and that God has the power to help me recover." 
God is the basis for our Good News.

When you surrender to your Creator:
1. God will give you a higher purpose, a reason to live outside of your own pleasures.
2. God will give you a healthy passion, taking the desire for destructive behaviors out.
3. God will give you a holy promise, that He will give you a life worth living now and for all time, showing you mercy, grace, forgiveness, love, and acceptance which you pass on to others.
The way to prevent future Jeffrey Epsteins from preying on victims is to give them the Gospel.

The only problem is that people who own $44 million Upper Eastside mansions, private islands, ocean yachts, party jets, and access to the worlds' rich and elite never think their lives are not good.

Until they aren't.

We should never take pleasure in the death of the wicked.

It's just another human being who dies without receiving the Good News.

'Good Boys' Glorifies Child Sexuality and We Laugh

I'm not a moral prude. Far from it.

In fact, most religious people think I'm "too gracious," "too loving," "too accepting," and "too merciful."

I plead guilty to the charges.

The Good News of Jesus Christ does not require moralizing people, it requires memorizing facts.

Like a television broadcaster, preaching is recounting historical events that have occurred; some wonderful, amazing events that constitute Good News ("God loves sinners so much He sent us His Son.")

The English word "preacher" comes from the ancient Greek word kerusso, a Greek word which means "I proclaim." In Greek etymology, the word originates from farmers who used it to describe the sound a rooster makes when "proclaiming the risen sun."

So one who "preaches" (kerusso) is one who proclaims "the Risen Son."

My job as a preacher is to broadcast what Jesus has done for sinners, not what sinners should do for Jesus.

When morally blind people are awakened by the Spirit to the light of the Son, they take steps to change their lives. The blind now see, and they naturally avoid moral pitfalls where they previously saw none.

That's why the worse people are morally in our culture, the more compassion Christians ought to feel for them.

"The blind are leading the blind into a deadly pit," said Jesus.

Enter the new movie Good Boys.

My wife and I are celebrating our 36th Wedding Anniversary this week. We went to see a movie last night. I don't like being late to movies, because one of my favorite parts is the previews of upcoming movies.

I wish we'd been late last night.

The trailer for the new movie Good Boys startled me (Warning, do not allow your children to watch the preview, though the stars of the movie are 6th graders).

Even though one should expect spiritually blind people to fall into deadly moral traps, it's surprising when one sees the blind rejoicing in their falls.

Good Boys celebrates:
1. Child sex.
2. Pornographic sex.
3. Multiple sexual partners.
4. Crude, vulgar language.
5. Child sexuality.
I'm astounded how American society rightly condemns grown men for child or female sexual abuse while at the same time remaining silent about movies like Good Boys.

I was shocked at two things during the preview:
1. The over-the-top crude, pornographic, and sexual remarks of 12-year-olds (words that if acted upon are a crime), and
2. The audience laughter.
America has fallen morally, but American society doesn't yet know it.

During the Civil War, World War I, and World War II, American's had 12-year-old boys saving our country from tyranny.

Today, America has 12-year-old boys leading our country into perversity.

Americans sit by silently while other adults show our 12-year-olds the glories of moral perversion. There is a way which seems right to a person, but the end thereof is the way of death. 

I typically say nothing about the moral depravity in our culture because my expectations of morally blind people are very low.

I just don't expect morally blind adults to laugh as they lead children into their perversions.

Good Boys, which opens this August, illustrates how far America has fallen.

The next time tyranny threatens our country, I'm not hopeful we have the moral fiber to resist.

The 2019 Rethinking Hell Conference (Aug. 16-17), Friday Night and Saturday, Emmanuel Enid (OK)

Sign-up for the Friday night (August 16) and all-day Saturday (August 17) 2019 Rethinking Hell Conference online today or go by Emmanuel Enid's offices during the week or to the foyer before or after any of the three Sunday morning worship services to see Tom and Jan Richards at the Conference Table. The Richards will get you registered.


Evangelicals tend to be Bible quoters, not Bible readers. Worse, many assume they know what the Bible teaches about certain subjects because someone's else interpretation supersedes their own careful personal study.

Creeds or formal confessions are like medicine. They can be helpful, but if the professionals misdiagnose, medicine can also be harmful. One of the things I absolutely love about Emmanuel Enid over the 28 years that I've been pastor is that Christ-followers have been taught to question everything, including those self-professed "religious authorities" who demand you to conform, and to take up the Scriptural mandate to be "a workman who rightly divides the Word of truth" giving freedom to other workmen on their unique journey to craft and create.

Truth is like a young lion who by nature is free and fearlessly welcomes all challengers. Error is like an old lion whose teeth are gone and thus must loudly roar to scare away any encroachers. The louder someone rants about your alleged "theological errors," the less sure that old lion of a saint is about his "truth."

On Friday night, August 16 and all-day Saturday, August 17, four leading biblical scholars - Dr. Johnathan Pritchett, Trinity Evangelical; Dr. Marvin Jones, Louisiana Bible College; Dr. Lindsay Brooks, Apologetics.Com; and Dr. Chris Date; RethinkingHell.com - will be at Emmanuel Enid for the Sixth Annual Rethinking Hell Conference.

That's right, "Hell."

If you think you know everything that the Bible says about hell, you may be shocked by what you hear from the Scriptures at this conference. Our view of hell affects everything we think and believe about God and the Gospel. Have you actually studied the subject for yourself? If not, then these four scholars may help you begin your careful study of the Scriptures for yourself, and you may actually conclude that immortal life is a gift for only those "in Christ," and that God's judgment (hell) is temporal and end in those resurrected sinners who are not "in Christ" dying a second time (eg. "the second death"), ceasing to exist.

If you are associated with Emmanuel Enid, you can sign up to attend the August 16-17 Conference this Sunday (August 4) and the next (August 11) or any day during the week (Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm) at the church offices. Emmanuel members pay a discount registration fee of $28 (reg. $40). Emmanuel is underwriting some of the cost, thus the discount for members. Tom and Jan Richards will be in the foyer before and after all three services to register you, and office staff will be in our front office.

Others who are reading this outside of Enid may register online (Google - Rethinking Hell Conference 2019) for $40. I promise you, it will be the best $40 you've ever spent. The food (both physical and spiritual), the fellowship, and the full table of resources will be priceless! I will be introducing each of the speakers before their talk, and will also be enjoying the conference myself.

Agreement and conformity are not required to attend. A love for Scripture, a greater love for Christ-followers, and the greatest love of all for Christ are required (along with the $28 or $40)!

There are a number of hotels available in Enid, and if you wish to stay SATURDAY night too, you'll hear Dr. Jonathan Sarfarti (Australia), my favorite creationist scholar in the entire world, speak at Emmanuel Enid Sunday morning and Sunday night (6:00 pm)

I hope to see you on August 16-17, and possibly on August 18.

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" Is An Oklahoma Song

Armstrong Academy (1861 Civil War Map) in SE Oklahoma
Many people don't realize some of America's most colorful history occurred in what was formerly called Indian Territory, but now the State of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is a Choctaw Indian word which means "red people."

The U.S. States government removed 5 Civilized Indian Tribes to Indian Territory during the 1830s through the Indian Removal Act.

Christian, caucasian missionaries moved with the Indian tribes from the east to Indian Territory, risking life and limb to continue their evangelical work among the Native Americans. Some of the most moving missionary stories throughout world history occurred within Oklahoma.

It is a little known fact the 5 Civilized Tribes brought with them black slaves during the 1830s. The 5 Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, and Chickasaw) were called "Civilized" because they had begun to farm, educate their children, and obtain occupations typically associated with civilization; giving up traditional Indian culture.

Living in southern states throughout the eastern portion of America, the Civilized Tribes used slaves to sow and harvest their crops. Those slaves came with their Indian masters to Oklahoma.

In my home office, I have an Indian Territory Map from 1861 (see picture upper left). Circled in red is a place called Armstrong Academy.

This Choctaw Indian school was established by Christian Missionaries in the 1840s to educate Choctaw children. In 1845, the Domestic (Home) Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention took over the operation of Armstrong Academy.
Spencer Academy (Indian Territory)

Just a few miles south of Armstrong Academy, sitting near the Red River, was another Christian
school for the education of Choctaw Indian children called Spencer Academy.

Wallace Willis and his wife Minerva were two African-American slaves working at Spencer Academy before the war.

"Uncle Wallace" and "Aunt Minerva," as the Choctaw students liked to call them, lived in a little cabin near the school.

During the pleasant evenings, Wallace and Minerva would sit at the door of the cabin and sing songs that they'd composed about slavery and deliverance, going home to heaven, and eternal rest. Uncle Wallace composed the words and Aunt Minerva would sing along with him, using melodies they were familiar with from their old days on Mississippi plantations. Sometimes the Indian students would come to their house and listen to the singing. The songs composed by Uncle Wallace became well-known "negro spirituals" (as they were later called) including, "Roll, Jordan, Roll," "Steal Away to Jesus," "I'm A-Rollin', I'm A-Rollin'," "The Angels Are A-Comin'" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

Many believe that Wallace Willis' song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" may have been inspired by the sight of the nearby Red River which reminded him of the biblical Jordan River and of the Prophet Elijah's being taken to heaven in a chariot (2 Kings 2:11). Some sources claim that this song and "Steal Away" also composed by Wallis Willis, have lyrics that referred to the Underground Railroad, the freedom movement that helped black people escape from Southern slavery to the North and Canada

In 1849 Rev. Alexander Reid came to the Spencer Academy from back east to serve as a missionary to the Indians and superintendent of the school. Shortly after his arrival, Rev. Reid heard Uncle Wallace and Aunt Minerva singing one evening from their front porch. He stopped and listened to the beautiful music. Then, the superintendent came to sit with Wallis and Minerva on the porch and asked them to sing their songs again. This time, Rev. Reid pulled out pen and paper and wrote down the words of the songs he heard. He would later say he'd never heard songs from the soul as beautiful as he head that night.

Rev. Reid and his family grew to love Uncle Wallis and Aunt Minerva and their music.

When the Civil War began in 1861, John Kingsbury, son of Rev. Cyrus Kingsbury, took Wallace, Minerva, and some of their children to nearby Old Boggy Depot for protection.

Later in 1861, Rev. Reid's wife died after bearing their third child. In 1869 Reid and his two surviving children returned to Princeton, New Jersey

In 1871 Rev. Alexander Reid was at a performance of the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in Newark, New Jersey. Rev. Reid thought the songs he had heard Uncle Wallis and Aunt Minerva sing back in Indian Territory were better than the songs sung by the Jubilee Singers.

After the concert, Professor White (program director of the Jubilee Singers) asked the prominent Rev. Alexander Reid how he liked the songs he heard that night, Rev. Reid remarked,

“Very well, but I have heard better ones.”

When asked where he'd heard these "better" songs, the former superintendent of Spencer Academy told the story of Uncle Wallis and Aunt Minerva.

Professor White asked Rev. Reid to write down the words to some of the songs he'd heard and teach the Jubilee singers how to sing them.  Rev. Reid agreed and later met the Professor and the singers in Brooklyn to teach them. They spent an entire day learning and rehearsing the songs which included:

“Steal Away to Jesus.”
“The Angels are Coming,”
“I’m a Rolling,”
“Swing low, Sweet Chariot.”

The Jubilee Singers of Fisk University made the songs of Uncle Willis and Aunt Minerva traveled the world during the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s, singing the Indian Territory slave songs they'd learned, even performing a concert for the Queen of England.

Today, many Americans know the songs, but don't know where they originate.

Next time you hear "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" or other spirituals written by Uncle Wallis, remember that God is able to use people in the lowest circumstances to get a message heard around the world.

"I'm a Racist" Is a Poor Choice of Words by Dr. Hall

Dr. Matt Hall, Southern Seminary
Twitter and social media is abuzz over a recent statement made by Dr. Matt Hall, the provost and senior vice president for academic administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

It seems Dr. Hall said, "I am a racist" in a video now scrubbed from Southern's website.

That was a poor choice of words on Dr. Hall's part.

This post is a short defense of Dr. Hall and serves as a request from those who would make him out to be "the enemy" to pause before attacking him.

Dr. Hall is transparently confessing to his struggle with the sin of racism in the video.

You have to admire any Christian with the grace and humility to confess his or her sins to others, much less to do it within a public video.

Unfortunately, Dr. Hall used poor wording in his personal confession.

A better way to phrase it would be:
"I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with the sin of racism." 
The statement above is straight from Celebrate Recovery.

Matt Hall is not a racist. That's not who he is.

He may struggle with racism, but Matt's sin doesn't define his person.

A believer's past is not the marker for the believer's future.

Failures and faults aren't permanently tattooed into a Christian's character. 

Jesus defines us, not our sins. Jesus is no racist, and neither is the believer in Jesus Christ.

I've been attending Celebrate Recovery for quite a while now, and it's refreshing to hear people identify themselves as "a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with _________."

Give Dr. Hall the benefit of a doubt.

All of us misspeak at times.

Dr. Dwight McKissic, my friend who's personally experienced the negative effects of the sin of racism, writes of Dr. Matt Hall.
"Dr. Hall is a treasured asset in the SBC and SBTSS. Please don't let naysayers convince you or the trustees that he is a liablity. Dr. Hall revealed a heart of gold on this video. There could be no better promo piece for the heart of SBTS on race than this video." 
I agree with Dwight.

Dr. Hall's heart is gold; his choice of words was not.

The Kingdom needs more transparent leaders. We can forgive slips of the tongue, but we can't transplant hearts.

Keep the guy with the heart of gold.

The Power of Christ to Transform Our Broken Lives

Ricardo Cortez, 31, will be baptized during the Bridge Service at Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma, this Sunday, July 28, 2019, publicly professing his faith in Jesus Christ.

I first told Ricardo's story with his permission a year ago.  Because he was a former gang leader in Los Angeles, I changed his name at that time.

Today, I retell Ricardo's story using his real name and issue you an invitation to join the celebration of Ricardo's baptism by either coming to Emmanuel Enid to attend the 9:00 am Bridge Service in person, or by watching it online.

On Father's Day, 2018, Ricardo was at Emmanuel for only his second time. He came with his girlfriend and their infant daughter.

After the service Ricardo 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. Ricardo prayed, receiving Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.

Ricardo would later come by my office and tell me of some nightmares he'd been having since surrendering his life to Christ.

I asked Ricardo to tell me his story.

Ricardo told me that he 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 Ricardo's parents were in the habit of tying Ricardo 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."

Ricardo 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,  Ricardo "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.

Ricardo 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.

Ricardo 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, Ricardo 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?"

Ricardo 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."

Ricardo 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."

Ricardo 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. But Ricardo 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.

Ricardo 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 Ricardo was a senior in high school (2005), devil worshippers who dressed in hoodies and all-black clothes told Ricardo he was "a vessel" and that their lord had Ricardo 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."

Ricardo 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, Ricardo and several other F13 leaders were arrested and charged under the federal RICO crime act. Ricardo went to prison for several years.

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

When Ricardo got out of prison, he came to Enid.

He'd heard of a job opportunity at a local food manufacturing plant.

He met his girlfriend while working in Enid. They had a child together, and that's what precipitated the desire to attend church on Father's day.

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

It was at Emmanuel Enid on Father's Day 2018 that Ricardo came to know Christ as his eternal Father.

Ricardo's life since becoming a Christian hasn't always a bed of roses.

As mentioned above, 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's had nightmares of the occultists telling him "You're a vessel." He wakes up during the night thinking about all the people he's harmed.

At times, as Ricardo has shared some of the details of his life, he's wept.

On one occasion in my office, I went over to Ricardo and hugged him before I prayed for him and with him.

I told Ricardo 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."

Ricardo told me that the unconditional love he's felt at Emmanuel is difficult for him to accept.

Emmanuel Enid has purchased a Bible for Ricardo.

We had our local Christian bookstore engrave a new name onto the cover of Ricardo's Bible.

Before I tell you the new name on the Bible's cover, allow me to share Emmanuel Enid's new focus since 2015.

Some of the changes that have occurred have been tough for some traditional church members. Traditions have ended. Church began looking different.

But it was intentional.

We decided to focus more on 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.

Instead of begin a church that says "come and see," we are doing our best to be people who "go and tell" the Good News to a community and show people our love by what we do to enhance our community.

Oh sure, we do have one modern service on Sunday morning (REFUGE) where people dress down, the lights are left down, and the speaker doesn't talk down.

But that's not an important change.

We have other services that look and feel like a traditional church, but the spirit is just as warm and accepting as in our modern style worship services.

What we're seeing are changed lives.

We've seen women trapped in prostitution come to know the love of Christ. We've seen meth addicts turn their lives around and become greeters at our Refuge service. We've seen men who dress up as women and women who dress up as men. We have prisoners coming every Sunday, and some are bringing their families to Enid after they get out of the Department of Corrections to be a part of Emmanuel.

We love people and trust Christ to change people. 

We're sharing the love of Christ because we believe only "the love of Christ constrains us." 

Nobody changes to get God's love, but everyone changes after experiencing God's love.

This Sunday Ricardo will be baptized. He's asked us to introduce him by his new nickname.

The new name engraved on his Bible.

Ricardo will not long be known by his street name Demon.

Ricardo's new nickname - the name engraved on his Bible - 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.

You told your story to the clerk who engraved Petros on your Bible. Her husband contacted me and told me that he and his wife will be in the service when you are baptized. 

That's the way to tell others of Jesus. 

You'll still make mistakes in life, but remember 
"We are confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until  the day of Jesus Christ."  (Philippians 1:6).
By the way, if anyone chooses to ride one of the golf carts that bring people from the furthest reaches of Emmanuel's parking lots, be sure to check and see if the nice young man driving you is Ricardo.

He's joined our Welcome Team at Emmanuel. 

We love taking people who once worked in the kingdom of darkness and making them servants in the Kingdom of Light!

Tis truly amazing grace.