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

True Success from the Life of Uriah the Prophet

When we think of the prophets in the Bible, our minds move toward the famous Elijah and Elisha, or Jeremiah and Isaiah, or Daniel and Ezekiel.

Calling down a ball of fire from heaven for God's glory or going up to heaven in a blaze of fire with God's glory are events that typify the lives of biblical prophets in our minds.

But the life of Uriah the prophet is a closer reality to what happens to any prophet, ancient or modern,  who speaks truth to power.

Uriah prophesied in Judah during the eleven-year wicked reign of King Jehoiakim (609 to 598 BC).

Uriah's story is found in only five verses in the Bible:
"Now Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath Jearim was another man who prophesied in the name of the Lord; he prophesied the same things against this city and this land as Jeremiah did. When King Jehoiakim and all his officers and officials heard his words, the king was determined to put him to death. But Uriah heard of it and fled in fear to Egypt. King Jehoiakim, however, sent Elnathan son of Acbor to Egypt, along with some other men. They brought Uriah out of Egypt and took him to King Jehoiakim, who had him struck down with a sword and his body thrown into the burial place of the common people." (Jeremiah 26:20-24)
 Notice five things that happened to Uriah when he spoke truth to the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem, to the political and religious leaders of Judah, and to King Jehoiakim himself."
1. Because Uriah's words didn't flatter those in power and made it clear that the Lord and truth from Him were the highest authority in Judah, those in civil, religious, and political power turned on Uriah. 
2. Uriah lost his home, his reputation, and all future speaking engagements before the king and his court.
3. Uriah fled to Egypt because he was in danger of losing his life. 
4. King Jehoiakim sent troops to Egypt under the leadership of Elnathan to capture Uriah.
5. Brought back to Jerusalem, Uriah stood again before King Jehoiakim, and this time the king "struck down the prophet with the sword."
6. King Jehoiakim would not allow Uriah's body to be buried in his family's grave plot and ordered that the prophet's body be thrown into a pauper's grave. 
Notice something about Uriah and his contemporary friend and prophet Jeremiah.

Both men proclaimed the same message of the impending judgment of God on Jerusalem for refusing to follow the covenant Yahweh had made with His people.

Both men spoke to the same people (the Jewish religious leaders, King Jehoiakim, and his court, and the people at large).

Both men were faithful prophets.

But notice the differences: 
When God called Jeremiah to be his prophet, God told Jeremiah that He would protect Jeremiah. He did so throughout Jeremiah’s life. This promise was never made to Uriah.

In contrast to Uriah, Jeremiah had the powerful scribe Ahikam ben Shaphan who literally served as Jeremiah's protector and body guard. Uriah had little if any support from powerful or influential men in Jerusalem.
People today talk about Jeremiah; few mention much less know about Uriah. When you hear the name Uriah, you think of Uriah the Hittite, the faithful husband of Bathsheba whom King David had killed, not the Uriah the prophet whom Jehoiakim killed. 
The Lesson from the Life of Uriah the Prophet 
Because begin a spokesman for eternal truth involves speaking that truth to power, success should be measured by faithfulness to the message rather than the number of those who follow the messenger.
Measuring success by the numbers of people who follow you on social media, or the size of church you lead, or the number of times you get mentioned at the local coffee shop ultimately causes the prophet to lose focus of his mission by being more concerned with his reputation and material success than his Redeemer and the eternal Kingdom.

Louisiana College and Ladies Mowing Their Lawns

On Sunday, February 10, 2019, investigative reporters Robert Downen (Houston Chronicle),  Lise Olsen (Houston Chronicle), and John Tedesco (San Antonio Express-News) published the first of their stomach-churching three-part series entitled Abuse of Faith.

With bulldog determination and Pulitzer-Prize level reporting, these three reporters uncovered a systemic problem in the Southern Baptist Convention, one that we refused to confront ourselves.

Southern Baptists have a pattern of covering up for their own.

On Thursday, February 14, 2019, just four days after the release of Abuse of Faith, Dr. Joshua Dara, the Dean of The School of Human Behavior at Louisiana College (Southern Baptist-affiliated), spoke at the school's chapel service.

A video or audio recording of Dr. Dara's chapel presentation has never been released to the public.  Other recordings of chapel sermons at Louisiana College, both before and after Dr. Dara's message, can be watched or heard at Louisiana College's website.

Louisiana College, Pineville, Louisiana
According to those present at the chapel service, Dr. Joshua Dara spoke on the topic of relationships. It was an appropriate topic for Valentine's Day. But what he said was extremely inappropriate.

In the course of his message, Dr. Joshua Dara suggested to the ladies listening that he knew why their phones were not ringing, meaning why members of the opposite sex weren't calling them. Dr. Joshua Dara suggested that men like the ladies who keep their houses clean and mow their lawns.

Stop.

People fifty years of age and older who compose a majority of the Southern Baptist Convention probably think that mow your lawn means getting on a John Deer lawnmower and cutting the grass in front of your house.

Of course, in the context of a college talk where most ladies live in dorms, that definition of mow your lawn doesn't fit. And besides, cutting grass in your yard as the definition of mow your lawn is from a culture that existed long ago.

Today, in our pornographic "women-are-sex-objects" culture, mow your lawn means "shave your pubic hair." The kids at Louisiana College got the pornographic reference. That's why many burst out laughing.

But there's more.

Dr. Dara suggested that someone who has men go in and out of her house is like a "crackhouse." So, keep your house clean and mow your lawn to get your phone ringing, but don't let all those men who are calling you go in and out of your house at their pleasure or you'll be known as a "crackhouse."

Of course, entering a lady's house is a cultural euphemism for sexual union. To give Dr. Dara the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure he was attempting to relate to college kids with humor.

But even assuming the best intentions of the chapel speaker, the language used by Dr. Dara is wholly inappropriate and offensive. That's why the recording has not been released. Administrators are keeping it under wraps.

That's also why Karen Watkins, the Executive Assistant to Louisiana College President Rick Brewer, sent the following email to faculty and staff less than a week after the chapel message. The first part is written by Philip Caples, the LC administrator in charge of chapel services,  and the second by Josh Dara. Read carefully the apology contained within it:


"What occurred was evidence of differences in cultural perceptions and nomenclatures."

"I am sorry to hear some of you were offended..." 


Dr. Russell Meek and His Offense at the Chapel Message He Heard

Dr. Russ Meek
Dr. Russell Meek, Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Louisiana College, sat horrified listening to Dr. Dara speak during the February 14 student chapel. As a faculty member representing Louisiana College, Russ knew he had to do something.

The next morning, Friday, February 15, 2019,  following the school's Handbook and Procedure Policy Manual,  Dr. Meek asked for and received a meeting with Dr. Philip Caples. Dr. Caples is the Vice-President for Integration of Faith and Learning at Louisiana College, and he is over the school's mandatory chapels.

Dr. Caples listened as Dr. Meek expressed his concerns. He let Russ know that he had heard from other faculty as well. Though the meeting was brief,  Russ felt hopeful. He believed that the administration of Louisiana College would issue some kind of formal discipline against Dr. Dara, or at the very least, a public statement distancing the college from what Dr. Dara had said.

Dr. Meek went on to teach his classes that day and heard from many of his students, both male and female, who expressed their frustrations and confusion over the chapel message. Dr. Meek would later write an email to his students:
 "I just wanted to thank you for speaking up in class today about your feelings regarding the chapel sermon. A biblical view of humans as created in God's image and intrinsically valuable because of that is very important to me, as it is to you."
Then, the following Wednesday (Feb 20), the President's Executive Assistant Karen Watkins sent the email from Caples and Dara which seemed to fault listeners at the previous week's chapel for not understanding the "cultural perceptions and nomenclatures" of the speaker.

Twenty-one minutes after that email from Karen went out, President Rick Brewer sent another email to the faculty and staff of Louisiana College a second email. This email, sent from the office of Norman Miller, Director of Communications at Louisiana College, warns the reader about Matthew 18.


Norm Miller, one of the contributors to the now-defunct SBC Today, followed the instructions of the Louisiana College President and sent this second email as a warning to Louisiana College faculty and staff that they were not to speak of this chapel message to anyone other than to the speaker himself.

President Brewer also sent a Matthew 18 reminder email to students on the same day he sent one to the faculty (Wednesday, February 20, 2019). That email, according to a student who spoke to the President, was intended to protect Dr. Dara.


An Appeal to Address the Issue of the Sexualization of Women at Baptist Institutions


After receiving both emails from the President's staff, Dr. Russ Meek drafted and sent an email to President Rick Brewer on Friday, February 22, 2019.

In his email to the President, Russ stated clearly his offense, not only with Dr. Joshua Dara (the chapel speaker) but now his offense with the administration of Louisiana College and President Rick Brewer himself for not addressing the issue.

Russ wrote, "You admonished us to reach out personally to someone when offended, so I am sending you this email as a brother in Christ. I realize that you are my boss and the leader of LC, so please know that I write this with humility and with a deeply grieving heart. I am not angry; I am very saddened by the events that transpired last week. This is indeed much more than an issue of being offended,; it is an issue of biblical truth and how God himself views women and tells us to view them."

Dr. Russ Meek then wrote the following to President Brewer. It's rather lengthy, but it's important for you to read carefully. It represents the kind of leaders we need in the SBC to change the culture.
"On Thursday morning, still reeling from the sexual abuse uncovered by the Houston Chronicle and reported on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I came to chapel at Louisiana College looking for a reprieve from the darkness swirling around the SBC. Instead, I was confronted head-on with the culture that makes such abuse possible.
Joshua Joy Dara, the dean of LC's school of human behavior, delivered a message on relationships-fitting for Valentine's Day. He offered sound advice to women about finding a godly spouse. Toward the end of his sermon, his language took an offensive and unbiblical turn. He addressed specifically the women in the chapel service, telling them to think of their bodies as houses. He then told them to "mow your lawn" and advised that if they were not getting attention from men, it was because they were "not taking care of your house." He continued in this vein, at one point stating that women who have "let too many men" into their house are a crackhouse. Let that sink in - crackhouse.
In those final minutes of his sermon, Dara reduced women to physical objects who existed for a man's pleasure. He then told them that if they had sex with too many men, they were not only valueless but indeed repulsive. A crackhouse.
This sermon has not been posted on LC's YouTube channel, which houses dozens of other chapel messages, and those who have asked for a copy of the sermon, including the school's Title IX coordinator, have been denied access to it. I -along with others at LC - expressed my concerns and the concerns of several of my students to the vice president for the integration of faith and learning. I was shocked that a dean at LC had presented such an unbiblical, false picture of women.
Let me say this clearly: no woman is a crackhouse. No woman exists for the pleasure of a man. No woman's value is in her physical appearance. The Bible is very clear about this. In the poem of the valiant woman in Proverbs 31, the only thing said about beauty is that it is fleeting. Peter calls women to be beautiful on the inside rather than focusing on their outward appearance (1 Peter 1:3- 4). The Lord said to Samuel when he was seeking to anoint the next of Israel, "Do not look on his [Eliab's] appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7). Think even of our Lord Jesus Christ, who "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" (Isa 53: 2). When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, did he call her a crackhouse? No, he gave her living water.
Dara wrote an apology that was emailed to the faculty, staff, and student body. In it, he apologized for "the tone" of his sermon, expressed gratitude that it was brought to his attention, and ended by saying, "I'll be sure to weigh my warped sense of humor against my sense of propriety and choose something that isn't controversial. " I am thankful for Dara's apology, but it still troubled me that he did not address the misogynistic view of women in his sermon.
Dara delivered a public message in chapel, at the least implicitly endorsed by those who gave him the platform to do so, in which he reduced women to sexual objects and communicated that their value was in how many sexual partners they had. Yes, this is offensive. Yes, this is a false gospel. And yes, this message was delivered publicly as biblical truth. Such a message goes far beyond the confines of Matthew 18. Louisiana College is not  a church, and this was not  a private sin. In addition, one wonders how victims of sexual abuse and harassment are to feel safe in a place that rebukes them for complaining about misogyny preached in the school's chapel. Is a rape victim supposed to confront her rapist privately before seeking "more 'official' redress"? And what if the rapist repents? Is the  victim supposed to forego "more 'official' redress"? I know such questions are absurd, but  Brewer's email was sent in the context of concern over degrading and sexualized comments about women. How can we protect the abused from the powerful if the powerful are able to hide behind Matthew 18?
The fruits of misogyny are abuse. Physical, verbal, sexual abuse. Men  are told that women are objects for their pleasure. Women are told that their value is in their sexuality and physical appearance. And all this is presented as true . As the  Southern Baptist Convention reckons with the current sexual abuse scandal, we must address institutions that foster the teaching and worldview that engenders such abuse."
Problems at Louisiana College 

If you've made it this far reading this blog,  then you a Christian interested in solutions, not just the problems.

Dr. Russ Meek's email to President Brewer led to a meeting on February 25, 2019, in Dr. Brewer's office with the following four people present: 1).  Dr. Rick Brewer, President of Louisiana College, 2). Dr. Cheryl Clark, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, 3). Dr. Philip Caples, Vice-President for the Integraton of Faith and Learning, and 4). Dr. Russell Meek. 

Dr. Caples didn't say much in the meeting, but Dr. Brewer and Dr. Clark had a great deal to say to Dr. Meek. Three days after this meeting, on February 28, 2019, Dr. Russell Meek resigned from his position at Louisiana College, effective May 4, 2019. 

What was said in the President's office to Dr. Meek will be summarized in five statements with a sentence or two of commentary from me:

1. Dr. Clark said to Dr. Meek, "Why do you want to do that at all (make public what happened at the chapel)?  Why do it? If every action that we take at this institution is either for the good of the institution or it harms the institution? Which do you think that's going to do? How is that going to help the institution? What good comes out of that? That's what I don't really get. I really don't."
Dr. Clark, go back and read article Abuse of Faith. The systemic problem in the SBC is leaders are more concerned with the institution than with the abused. You, of all people, should know better. 
2. Dr. Brewer said to Dr. Meek, "This (Russ's email above)  has already been reviewed by our attorney. He says it's actionable. It's libelous. It's slanderous. It's defamatory, and it's inflammatory. And by the way, you're taking on one of the most powerful, if not one of the Top Five most powerful people, in Central Louisiana. Not me, Joshua Dara. He's an attorney as well, Russ. He's got a strong legal mind."
Dr. Brewer, take it from one who has been threatened multiple times (me). When threats like yours are made, it's a tell-tale sign that the threatened person should keep pressing.
3. Dr. Brewer said to Dr. Meek, "Go see Dr. Dara. Go sit down with him. He's one of our own. He's a dean. Now what if he had been a person who just came and spoke and flew out and he wasn't a member of our team, a member a family? We'd take a different approach most likely on that. Yeah. But, uh, he (Dr. Joshua Dara) is with us. He's a member of our family."
Dr. Brewer, are you serious? Protecting your own is never a Christian principle. Judgment should begin in the house of God. 
4.  Dr. Meek said to all LC Administrators present: "I'm concerned for the women who think that what Dr. Dara said is true. Their identity is not found in how many sexual partners they've had.  My concern is for the women who think, 'I've had sex with a lot of guys.' Is she a crackhouse? I have a family member who was molested as a child by multiple people in her family. Is she a crackhouse? Is her identity bound up in how many sexual partners she's had? If men don't pursue a woman is it because the woman is ugly? He said if your phones aren't ringing It's because you're not getting taking care of your house. Dr. Brewer, women are made in God's image. This is a fundamental gospel issue. Who humans are. I'm not mad; I'm grieved.  If I had a daughter I would be horrified to know that she was being told these things about herself."
Standing...applauding. 
5. Dr. Brewer said to Dr. Meek about the chapel video: "We'll post it. But I heard so much riff-raff, why would I put that out there for some of the cynics on this campus, faculty, and students, who will take the clips they don't approve and post them on Twitter and make fun of this man. Would you want me to do that Russ? It's uncontrollable at that point, isn't it? But I'll be glad to put it out there if that's what bothering you and other people that you think I'm trying to hide. I'm not trying to hide anything."
Sitting...waiting. 
The Follow-Up

The video of the chapel sermon is still not posted. 

Louisiana College administrators canceled the scheduled April 2019 conference entitled "What is a Woman Worth?" - a conference that was to be led by Dr. Meek - and refused to reschedule it for later in the semester.

Dr. Russ Meek resigned and is no longer a faculty member at Louisiana College. 

All the administrators named above remain at Louisiana College. 

On the official last day of employment at Louisiana College, Dr. Russell Meek wrote a paper entitled Misogyny in Baptist Higher Education.

At some point, all Southern Baptists will understand what the issues really are. 

Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Carter, Russell Moore, the SBC "Deep State," and Forever Friends of Liberty

 President Jimmy Carter at Liberty's 2018 Commencement
Rachelle and I were at a banquet in Norman, Oklahoma a few years ago, seated around a table with six other people when I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Before I could turn around, I heard a man's voice whisper in my ear, "I'd like to meet one of my heroes."

I turned around, and to my shock, I saw former President Jimmy Carter.

As I stood to greet him, Jimmy Carter said, "Wade, I read everything you write."

To many, President Carter's commendation of me is an indictment of me.

For you see, in Southern Baptist circles, Jimmy Carter is the "arch-villain" of the Conservative Resurgence. He stands for everything the SBC opposes and opposes everything for which the SBC stands.

Yet last year, Jerry Falwell (Jr.) invited President Jimmy Carter to give the commencement address to the 2018 graduating seniors of Liberty University.

Jerry Falwell (Jr.) spent a couple of days with President Carter on Liberty's campus. It seems Mr. Carter desired to come a day earlier to get to know the students.

After the historic address, President Falwell took to Liberty's Journal to give his official appraisal of President Jimmy Carter's visit:
"Unexpected. Unlikely. Surprising." 
After those three words, President Falwell went on to speak effusive praise of Jimmy Carter:
“It was my distinct honor to introduce him as our keynote speaker and to introduce him to Liberty because of his extended stay. We are proud of our team for doing such a great job hosting him. He’s become a friend of Liberty’s, forever.”
Fast forward one year to May 2019.

President Jerry Falwell sends out this tweet about the Southern Baptist Convention:

  ______

Uh... Dr. Falwell, I am bumfuzzled by your Tweet.

The definition of Deep State is "a state within a state, where a form of clandestine government of covert networks of power operating independently of political leadership in pursuit of their own agenda and goals."

Dr. Falwell, I've heard that you, Jerry Vines, Paige Patterson, Robert Jeffries and "others" in the SBC are attempting to get rid of Dr. Russell Moore as director of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission through manipulating the trustees of the ELRC (I know the playbook well).

It seems that in your mind (at least, this is what you've been told), Dr. Russell Moore is the head of the "Deep State" in the SBC, and  Dr. Adam Greenway, the new President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (as well as the man responsible for taking down your dad's and Jerry Vine's stained glass windows at Southwestern's chapel) is not - sigh of relief - part of the Deep State.

Chill, Dr. Falwell.

Seriously. Chill out.

Take the commencement advice of Liberty's "forever friend" (Jimmy Carter):
"I try to have two loves in my heart: one love is for God and the other love is for the person who happens to be in front of me at any particular time, We Christians are to promote the use of agape love, self-sacrificial love among people. All people are equal in the eyes of God. We are all one in Jesus Christ.
Right now, you have the maximum opportunity to use the three gifts that God gives every one of us — life, freedom, and an opportunity to live a completely successful life, as judged by God,” Carter said. “We have a perfect example to follow if we are in doubt; we just have to remember the perfect life of Jesus Christ.”
Dr. Russell D. Moore
I promise you, Dr. Falwell, if you ever get to know Russell Moore, you'll see he's much Moore (pun intended) of a "forever friend" to Liberty (pun intended) than you could imagine - even more so than your new "forever friend."

Get to know him.

Get to know his heart. You'll find he's a friend.

This advice comes from one who reminded Dr. Moore over fifteen years ago that we (he and I) can disagree and remain friends.

This comes from one who, like you, also respects Jimmy Carter.

And it comes from one who is even more politically, theologically, and biblically conservative than you are (in the historic western definition of conservativism).

Russell Moore is not the head of any Deep State in the SBC.

Russell Moore is your Christian friend.

And if you still struggle with acknowledging this truth, remember this one factoid: When the current crop laymen and laywomen of the SBC begin to think there's a "power play" in force to take control of the SBC by firing people who don't walk in lock step with your views...

We will always remember the men who made images of themselves in stained glass windows.

And we will not sit by silently as otherwise perfectly clear glass is once again stained.

Choose your friends wisely, Dr. Falwell.

Christ Is the End (τέλος) of the Law for Believers

Last week I spent some time with a gambling addict, a believer in Jesus Christ, who recently found himself on the front page of our local newspaper for confessing to embezzling thousands of dollars from his employer (he's given me permission to tell his story).

A few weeks earlier this man had called me and confessed to his crime.

Having been accused of embezzlement by his employer, this man told me that he faced prison time if the courts convicted him of stealing. His attorney counseled him "not to confess, but to plead 'not guilty.'" The attorney was hoping to get a reduced sentence that could possibly include no prison time."

This man asked me, "What should I do?"

I responded, "Are you guilty?"

He answered "Yes."

I said, "Then go to the police station, turn yourself in, and tell them the truth."

He did.

His picture and the story of his confession appeared on the front page of our paper the following day.

Very few criminals turn themselves in and confess to a crime. To me, what this man did is evidence that God's grace is at work within him.

Anyway, back to the appointment with the gambling addict after his public exposure in the paper.

He told me he thinks he finally has come to an understanding of "why" he gambles.

Pay attention.
"Throughout my life, I've always had the goal of people liking me. I need people to accept and love me. I purpose to get acceptance from others. But most of the time I feel rejected. I feel lacking as a human being. Whenever I feel like a failure (which is most days), and whenever I feel rejected by people (which is very often), I find myself desiring to gamble. It's finally dawned on me that every time I win at the casino, lights go off, people praise me, and I get the "substitute high" of being good enough and being "approved of" as a human. I feel like a "winner," whereas in life I most often feel like a loser.  I'm not giving you an excuse for my gambling addiction; I'm only telling you that I believe I've put my finger on the source of why I gamble."
Wise words indeed.

I believe if all of us will take a close look at any maladjustments in our lives, we'll find the roots of our problems in our misplaced goals and purpose.

I tell people all the time:
"If you ever think, 'I just don't want people to think,' or if you ever say 'I don't want you to feel,' then you have a misplaced goal."
Those who are concerned and try to control what other people think or feel are addicts in waiting. And by the way, addiction to sugar, religion, beauty, work, and other legal (and good things) can be as harmful to the individual person as addictions to gambling, drugs, illicit sex, and other illegal things are. It should go without saying that the latter things (eg. "illegal things") often bring far greater pain to other persons.

With Wrong Goals and Purpose in Place, People Become Addicted

Everyone knows what goals and purpose are.

We all set goals, and we all think about purpose.

Without goals and purpose, a person becomes aimless. 

With wrong goals and purpose, a person becomes addicted.

Now, let's talk about our goals in terms of God.

What is your goal spiritually? What is your purpose in terms of your relationship with God?

99% of all people would respond to those two questions by saying:
 "My purpose is to be pleasing to God."
Then, when it comes to "how" one is pleasing to God, the answer is usually:
 "By doing what He commands."
I propose to you that any attempt to please God by obedience to His standards is a wrong goal that leads to addictions. 

To seek to become pleasing to God by your actions is a misplaced purpose.

You already are pleasing to God through the Christ, who is the end of the law to everyone who believes, for it is written:
"For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:4). 

"But wait," you may say, "I read the Bible for myself and it says that God's acceptance, blessings, and favor are on us when we obey His Law!"

"Listen to this, Wade!"
"If you obey the Lord your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out…. The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your ground in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give you. The Lord will open for you his rich storehouse, the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all your undertakings." (Deuteronomy 28:2-7; 11–12)
"And Wade, listen to these three paragraphs from the Law":
"However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. 
The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your countryinto dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.
The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth. Your carcasses will be food for all the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you." (Detueronomy 28:15-29). 
"Wade Burleson, how can you read those two passages above and ever suggest to anyone that attempting to please God by a goal of obedience to Law is a misplaced goal or a meaningless purpose in life?"

Good question.

Let the New Covenant Scriptures answer that question:

Christ Is the End
"For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:4). 

The word translated "end" is the Greek word τέλος which was used by ancient Greek writers to mean goal or purpose.

Most of the anti-Nicene Christian fathers (pre-3rd century AD) translated τέλος as "goal" or "purpose." 

What does it mean that Christ "is the goal or purpose of the Law"? 

Simply put:
"Jesus Christ is God's consummate goal and purpose for which God gave the Law."
The Law's purpose was not given for you to obey and to become "pleasing to God."

Nope.

 In fact, when God introduced the Law, all that did was make you a worse sinner by revealing even more of your sin.
"I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the Law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet'" (Romans 7:7). 
Any church, religious organization, or lifestyle that emphasizes obedience to Law to be pleasing to God has missed the Gospel. 

Christ is the purpose of the Law to everyone who believes.

The Law is about Him.

"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24).
So if you wish to ever be free from addictions in this life (legal or illegal), then get an understanding that you are pleasing to God by the performance and Person of Jesus the Anointed One (Messiah) on your behalf. 

Theologians call this imputed righteousness.

I call it living life feeling the pleasure of God independent of my performance.
"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:7-11). 

Jesus, Zeus, and the Romanization of Evangelicals

If I were to ask the typical Christian who the person is portrayed in this drawing to the left, the answer would be:

"That's Jesus Christ!"

It's amazing to me how many Christians have little or no understanding of history and blindly accept what others say about Jesus and the church.

The drawing to the left is not of Jesus.

It's a drawing of Serapis, the Egyptian Greco-Roman god representing Zeus, the god above all other gods. This ancient drawing now hangs in the British Museum in London.

But why would modern evangelicals identify an icon representing Serapis by the name Jesus?

Because when Constantine, Emperor of Rome, declared "Christianity" as the nation's religion, representations of Jesus were needed by Roman worshipers (or so Constantine and the bishops thought).

So eventually depictions of Serapis, who was the Greek god Zeus and the Roman counterpart Jupiter,  became the depictions of Jesus in the late 4th century Romanized Christian churches.

That's why Christians today think Jesus looks like Serapis.

Truth be known, Jesus was an average looking Hellenized Semitic man of the 1st century AD. He would have kept his hair very short and been clean-shaven and dark-skinned. Jesus might even have even been ugly, or at the very least, deemed unworthy physically by the culture of His day.

The ancient Hebrew Scriptures prophesied of the Messiah
"He has no form or comeliness, and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2). 
Ironic is it not, that the modern church has turned Jesus into a Hollywood model with long, flowing hair, a beautifully kept beard, and the physique of a god?

Modern Christians have followed Rome and adopted the ancient Roman conception of the gods.

But that's not the only area where the modern church has followed ancient pagans.
1. Saturnalia and worship of "the birth of the Sun" in December became Christ Mass and  worship of "the birth of the Son." (Even modern Jews understand this historical fact). 
2. Roman pagan priests became Christian pastors, appointed by Constantine the Great.
3. Church order became Roman Temple order.
4. Women, who were so active in the early ekklesia, serving others as they were gifted by the Holy Spirit, were silenced by this appointed priesthood with "authority" over the people.
5. The catholic (universal) church became the Roman Catholic Church.
By the late 4th century AD, the ekklesia ("those called out by God's grace and gifted by the Spirit"), commonly called "the church," were now being led by appointed Roman powers who ruled "over" the "laity" with so-called "spiritual authority." These priests appointed by the Pontifex Maximus, the person who once held the highest position in the order of Jupiter, ruled over the ekklesia. 

Church ordination bestowed power over others to those ordained.

The Southern Baptist Convention has followed Rome with its concept of spiritual authority, and that is our major problem as a Convention. 

For the first three hundred years of Christianity, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, Christians assembled in homes, catacombs, and anywhere else they could avoid persecution.

There was no "spiritual authority" in those days. Christ alone ruled over His people by the Spirit's indwelling presence in each believer. Ever believer served Christ's people as He gifted them.

Older men and women, humble in spirit and character, with years of faithful service behind them, became leaders in the early church. They were called "elders," which simply means "older" people.

That's why those gifted followers of Jesus Christ who are older and maintain a spirit of humility and an attitude of a servant should be in leadership positions in our churches today; regardless of gender.

Lydia in Philippi, Phillip's seven daughters in Caesarea, Phoebe, Priscilla, and many other women in the New Testament were early church leaders. The notion that you should silence a woman from teaching the Scriptures in the ekklesia is definitely more pagan and Roman than it is Christian.

Be a biblicist.

Be a follower of Jesus.

Don't follow Zeus.

And before you choose to take a stand on whether or not a woman with the gift of teaching should speak publicly in the ekklesia, ask yourself if you see Jesus in the photo above.

If you do, then you might need to evaluate your understanding of the church as well. Hierarchy of authority exists only where there are hearts of arrogance. 

Jesus explicitly taught in Matthew 23:8-11 (read it for yourself to see) that the only person who rules Christian communities is the Lord Himself.

Under Jesus, we are all equals. 

Jesus emphatically rejected the world's system of top-down governance by declaring, "It shall not be so among you" (Mark 10:43). "The greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11). 

There is no emphasis in the New Testament on authority that is derived from any "office" or position. 

Let me repeat that again: Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that a Christian, because of title or position, has moral authority over another Christian. The idea of an 'office' of authority in the church, like that of the office of 'President of the United States,' simply does not exist. Christ alone has the position of authority in the church and He has no vicar on earth but His Spirit, who resides in the life of every believer.

So, called out and gifted men and women are free to serve as Christ leads. 

If you want your further information that will rock your Christian world about men and women in true Christianity, then listen to this video.

It is, as one commentator wrote, "Insanely good!"

Beth Moore, the Growing Controversy of a Woman Teaching in SBC Churches. and a Question for You

Beth Moore
There's growing controversy on social media among those who belong to the Southern Baptist Convention over fellow SBC'er Beth Moore teaching men and women "from the pulpit" on Sunday mornings at various SBC churches.

This is such a silly controversy.

The idea of a "pulpit" in a Christian church is foreign to the New Testament. 

The "synagogues" of the Jews had a "pulpit" (wooden elevated stand) upon which teachers (rabbis) unrolled the scrolls and taught from them.

The New Testament ekklesia (the "church") is always defined as gifted and called out people (men and women) and never a building with a pulpit.

Ekklesia, or the church, means "called out ones."

So Spirit-gifted, "called-out" teachers in the ekklesia should teach. That's the purpose for why the Holy Spirit gifted them.

Beth Moore has the gift of teaching. She's Southern Baptist. She's a biblical conservative and a great communicator.

There are a few theological points of doctrine that Beth Moore would see differently than I, but those are minor. It's also a given that Beth Moore would not agree with me on some theological points that I teach. 

What matters is Beth Moore is a gifted teacher. I would love for Beth Moore to teach (preach) at Emmanuel Enid in all three of our Sunday morning services. No restrictions at all.

The current controversy seems to be over the fact that Beth Moore presumes to teach men the truth of Scripture. Comprehendo? Beth Moore dares to teach men biblical truth on a Sunday morning.

Those men upset with it must have intentionally forgotten all those times they've ever asked a woman something. 

What makes you men think spiritual or biblical information that helps someone live better should be categorized as different than any other information that helps someone live better (eg., asking for directions; getting financial counsel, etc.). 


The New Testament teaches us that the Spirit gifts His people as He pleases, and the Spirit's gift-giving is never gender-guarded.

Both men and women have the gift of teaching, and the sooner we learn that men can learn spiritual truths from women, the better off we are.

One year ago, at the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention, I stepped to microphone six and asked Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, a question.

Al really never answered my question. He laughed it off. 

He can't answer it because he knows his illogical, unbiblical, and detrimental view of "women keeping silent" when it comes to teaching men spiritual truths will be exposed with any answer he gives. 

So now I'm asking you the same question. Give me your thoughts.

I originally wrote the following blogpost on  June 14, 2018, just a few days after Dr. Mohler and I engaged in a very cordial and public conversation. 

______________

NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and Wade at Mic 6 
During the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention, I stepped to Microphone 6 to ask Dr. Mohler and the other Southern Baptist seminary Presidents a question.

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

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

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

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

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

None of us is God.

God doesn't stutter when He speaks, but we're often at a loss when we listen. "He that has ears to hear let him hear," Jesus said. The problem is us, not God.

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

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

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

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

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

There are no women. 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Search the Scriptures for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

I've drawn mine. 

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


A Victim Turns To Victor - Megan Lively Graduates

Megan, Danny Akin, and Vincent Lively
On May 10, 2018, one year ago today, Megan Lively, fighting through her fear and inner anxieties, reached out to current administrators at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina to report that the sexual assault (rape) committed against her while she was a student at SEBTS in 2003 had not been properly handled.

Back in 2003, when Megan reported to SEBTS administration that she'd been raped by a fellow SEBTS student, then SEBTS President Paige Patterson and three of his proteges met privately with Megan and shamed her with their questions and lack of empathy. President Patterson told Megan that the matter would be handled "internally." The police were "not to be notified."

Last year, when Megan came forward again to tell her story, the current administration of SEBTS did what they could to help Megan. But due to a lack of access to written records from 2003, and due to the fact police had not been notified, nothing much could be done.

That's when Megan Lively reached out to me, and I put her in contact with my friend at the Washington Post

The rest, as they say, is history.

Well, not really.

Today, May 10, 2019, Megan Lively graduates from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with her Master of Divinity Degree.

Megan dropped out of seminary after her assault in the early 2000s, just hours short of finishing her seminary degree. Megan no longer desired to continue her seminary education.

This past year, through the efforts of SEBTS President Danny Aiken and the encouragement of many others in Megan's life (including her incredible husband Vincent), Megan re-enrolled at SEBTS to finish her degree.

Today, Megan will walk across the stage at SEBTS to receive her Master of Arts diploma from SEBTS.

Congrats, Megan.

You are an example to women everywhere who've been abused sexually or physically.
Abuse doesn't define your personality.
Abuse doesn't determine your opportunity.
Abuse doesn't destroy your equality.
By the way, Megan, you have an open invitation to teach and tell your story at Emmanuel Enid any Sunday morning you desire. After all, you discuss the Scriptures in the seminary classrooms with men present, and until someone can show me from Scriptures that the "building" where the church gathers on Sunday is more sacred than the seminary classrooms on Monday, my invitation stands.

Megan, may your courage, determination, and accomplishments always be an encouragement to abuse victims on their road to recovery victory.

Pulpit and Pen and the Death of Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans died early in the morning, Friday, May 4, 2019, with her family surrounding her bedside. 

Rachel, 37-years old, entered the hospital a few weeks ago with the flu and a urinary tract infection. A mysterious reaction to antibiotics caused seizures that required a medically induced coma to control them.

This week, doctors unsuccessfully tried to bring Rachel out of her coma. She leaves behind a husband, two small children, and many fans from her best-selling books

Though I never had the opportunity to meet Rachel, she corresponded with me via email several times.


Rachel took a different perspective on some theological, social, and political issues than I, but she is a beloved sister in Christ, a wonderful spokesperson for the Royal Law of Love, and an intelligent and articulate Christian author. 

However, Pulpit and Pen, a small group of men who self-identify as reformed, conservative, and "biblical," took to their blog on the day Rachel Evans died and called Rachel Held Evans "a heretic," an "apostate," and suggested her soul was now damned in hell

Be careful Pulpit and Pen, be very careful. 

The Sanhedrin served as the Supreme Court of Israel in the days of the Law. They pronounced judgment on people, including capital punishment by stoning. 

The Sanhedrin met in two places during the days of Jesus. 

First, the Sanhedrin met in a building called The Chamber of Hewn Stone next to Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It was to here that Jesus was taken from Caiaphas' house early on the morning of His crucifixion. At the Chamber of Hewn Stone, the Sanhedrin condemned the Messiah to death

The Sanhedrin then went with Jesus to Antonio's Fortress to obtain Roman permission to kill Him. They needed Pontius Pilate's permission to put Jesus to death because Judah had lost the ability of capital punishment during Jesus' lifetime, fulfilling the prophecy that"the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between His feet until Shiloh come" Genesis 49:10. Shiloh, an ancient Hebrew name for the Messiah, had indeed come. 

Second, the Sanhedrin also met at a place "outside the camp" of Jerusalem. On top of the Mount of Olives, in a little community of Jewish priests called Bethphage, the Sanhedrin met in a meeting hall where they would make judgments on the "unclean" who were not able to enter the Temple Mount. At Bethphage, the Sanhedrin met to pronounce judgment and death on all those they deemed unworthy of Yawheh. 

Bethphage means "House of the Unripe Fig." 

It was during Jesus' last visit to this city of Bethpage that He cursed the unripe fig tree and it died.

It's no accident Jesus cursed the unripe fig tree at Bethphage.

Bethphage, "The House of the Unripe Fig," was the very place where the Sanhedrin met to promote the Law and condemn the unclean. 

When Jesus cursed the unripe fig tree at Bethphage, He visually portrayed what He thinks of religious people who take it upon themselves to condemn those they deem unclean and unworthy of God.

One should pause and seriously consider the consequences before choosing to take a seat among the Sanhedrin in the House of the Unripe Fig.

It's far better to endure the curse of the religious Sanhedrin for violations of Law than to be cursed by the relational Savior for violations of Love. 

Pulpit and Pen, I call on you to remember Bethphage and take down your Rachel Held Evans posts. 

For those who wish to help in the medical and funeral expenses of Rachel Held Evans, a GoFund Me page can be found here.

The Doctrine of Election and Concern for Our Kids

A few years ago, I received a letter from a delightful believer in our church who is originally from Italy. She worked as an executive with a manufacturing firm that sells goods to the Far East, including Hong Kong and China, but she had given up her career when she married and began raising her children.

This church member is a graduate of the University in Venice, Italy, and she and her United States Air Force officer are stationed in Enid, Oklahoma with their two small boys. This young lady became a believer as an adult and she credits the writings of C.S. Lewis for leading her to an understanding of what it means to be a Christian. She is a vociferous reader, multi-lingual, and quite intelligent.

She emailed me a question about the salvation of her boys, one that I thought worthy of a detailed response. I published this letter and my response a few years ago, but I think it's worthy of republishing, particularly for those of you who have questions about the salvation of your children.

Pastor Wade,

I've been meaning to ask you a question for a long time - it concerns one of the books you gave me, "Chosen for Life" by Sam Storms. I understand what it says, and it makes sense to me; I absolutely believe I was chosen by God vs. choosing God myself, because nothing in my (non-religious) nature and of the circumstances of my life and upbringing justify my search for Him. However: the thought that those whom God has not chosen to be saved won't be saved is frightening; for as long as it's up to a human being to change their mind, that can happen, even in the last moments of their lives; but God's will does not change; and if my own child or my parents have not been chosen, nothing, not prayers, not offering information about Jesus and salvation, will make a difference. This seems very sad, that someone can't choose God because God has not chosen them.

Granted, we don't know who the un-chosen are (save for a few notable ecceptions, I imagine: Hitler, Ted Bundy), for God may call someone the split second before their car crashes under a truck. But the fact remains that it's perfectly possible someone we love may not be chosen, and that's irrevocable.

How do you come to terms with this?

Thank you for your thoughts.


_____________________________________________

Dear M---,


You write, "This seems very sad, that someone can't choose God because God has not chosen them."

It would seem very, very sad to me too – if it were true as you describe it in your letter. You write as if people will one day decide to trust Christ, but they will be unable to be saved because God did not "elect" them. That scenario just can't happen. It is impossible both biblically and logically. Let me explain.

“Choosing God” is a matter of the heart. Human beings are "free moral agents," which means we humans are always free to choose whatever it is we desire. Nobody, nothing, not one thing, even God, impinges on that freedom. This "freedom" to choose between moral good and evil is chiefly what it means to be created in "God's image." So, it is simply not true that a human being "cannot" choose Christ or become a follower of Christ if he desires it - if he desires Christ, he can choose Christ.

This freedom to choose what you desire is self-evident. For instance, if you were on a diet and you walked by the ice cream store, you would be faced with a choice. “Do I continue my diet or do I turn into the store and buy ice cream?” I can tell you what you will choose - and for that matter what every single other human being will choose when he or she is faced with the same decision - every single time. I'll do it right now. I will tell you what you will choose the next time you are on a diet and you walk by the ice cream store and this question comes to you: "Do I turn in and eat ice cream, or do I keep on walking and pass it up?" You will choose to do that which is the strongest desire in in your heart.

Human beings always choose what they desire the most. The chooser always follows the heart. If the thought of eating rich, creamy ice cream (and the enjoyment of it) is greater than the desire to lose weight, you will turn in and eat the ice cream every time. Nobody forces you to choose what you choose. This is what it means to be "created in the image of God." You are a free moral agent and you choose what is your greatest desire. That’s true even when a robber holds a gun to your head and says, “Your wallet or your life!” The robber cannot FORCE you to choose to give your wallet without him shooting you. If you have a great desire to live, you will give up your wallet, but frankly, if your desire to die is greater, you may very well choose to hang on to your wallet. The robber is NOT in control of your choice. You are.

So it is with God. He tells all men everywhere to repent. He commands sinners to “embrace His Son.” And whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord, repents of his sin, and embraces Jesus Christ will be saved. That is a promise!

Yet, the Bible says that all of us like sheep have gone astray. There is nobody who desires the things of God. God's things are “foolishness” (tasteless) to our natural minds because of selfish, sinful hearts. Therefore, no man naturally chooses God (Romans 3:11) – but that is not God’s fault, it is man’s fault. We made ourselves rebels. We desire our sin. We desire our independence from God. We desire to hang on to the things of this life. We do not desire God. We love our sinful, selfish, idolatrous ways because the desires of our hearts are always sinful, selfish and idolatrous. We see no beauty in Christ, and we will not naturally choose Christ.

Election teaches us that unless God were to choose to give us His grace – to open our eyes of understanding – cause us to see the beauty and glory of Christ – then none of us would ever choose Him. But when His grace truly descends on our hearts and we see Christ's beauty, then we freely and willingly choose to come to Christ. Nobody forces us - we desire Christ because of God's active grace in us. We choose Christ because of God's work in softening our heart (or, in biblical language "turning the heart of stone into a heart of flesh," or "changing the leper's spots"). The Bible calls this gracious act of God in changing a sinner’s heart “regeneration,” or “the new birth,” or “the gift of the Spirit.” The work of the Spirit in the heart of a sinner precedes the free choice of that sinner to embrace Christ, for without a change of heart, we would never desire Christ. Therefore, if a sinner chooses Christ, he must give God the credit; but if a sinner rejects Christ, he must take all the blame because of his own sinful heart. A man's heart is hard by his own choice. God did not initially create man sinful. Man chose that path. We hardened our own hearts. It began with Adam, but every human being since then has loved his sinful state, believing nothing to be wrong. A sinner will only desire Christ when his hardened, blind heart is softened by God's amazing grace.

A lost man might read what I wrote above and say, “But that is circular reasoning. I don’t know Christ. I don’t desire Him. I don’t want God – but you are saying that I can’t desire Him, I can’t choose Him, I can’t love Him because of my natural sinful heart that loves my sin and hates God - and unless God takes care of that in me, I will be forever in my sin.”

That’s right - in so far as it goes. You, a lost man, can't choose God because you don't desire Him, and your lack of desire is your fault. You refusal to choose Christ is simply the natural consequence of your chooser following your sinful desires. But you COULD choose to follow after Christ if you desired to!. You have a mind, a mouth, an intellect, a chooser, a feeler - you are a human being; you are a free moral agent. The problem is simply that the sinful desires of your heart cause you to love your sin and hate the God who created you.

Again, the problem is your sinful desires, and that is YOUR problem. Human beings are the cause of that sin, not God. Adam was the originator of it, and you are willing participant in it. You are freely, willingly and continually choosing to embrace your sin and reject Christ.

Now for the million dollar question for you, the person: “Do you - as a person separated from Christ – do you desire God to give you the Holy Spirit, to cause you to see the beauty of Christ, to enable you to hate your sins and love Christ, to empower you to be the kind of man God created you to be? Do you want God in your life and Christ to be the Lord of your life?”

If you, the lost person, say, “Yes!! I do!! That is precisely what I desire” then we respond to you, “Then ask Christ into your life and He never turns a deaf ear to the sinner who calls to Him.”

But if that lost man says, “NO!! I don’t want Christ. I don't desire Him in my life.” Then we respond, “Then why in the world are you upset with God. He is leaving you alone. He is doing precisely what you want. He is not giving to you a love for Christ.”

The lost man may respond, "But if I believed what you are saying, then I can't desire Christ until my sinful, wicked heart is changed so that I can desire Him." Yes. That's right. So tell me, do you wish for God to remove the wickedness and sin from your heart, turn it soft toward the things of God, and implan within you the desire for Christ to enable you to choose Him?

Silence.

If you, a lost person, don't even desire for God to do the work of removing the wickedness in your life that prevents your from desiring Christ, then why are you blaming God for not giving to you the very thing you REFUSE TO ASK FOR?

But the good news is this. If a lost man, whose heart is hard, and whose mind comprehends his totally inability to see the beauty of Christ, gets on his knees and asks God to remove the wickedness that blinds him, to soften the heart that deceives him about Christ, and to create in him a DESIRE FOR CHRIST - that sinner will be transformed by the power of God, even without voicing 'the sinner's prayer.' There is no formula to this. The Spirit of God moves in power, without constraint and in a variety of ways among His people.

I'd like to give you a final word about your loved ones who do not yet know Christ, and seek to speak to your fears that God may not ever soften their hearts. This is where “the effectual, fervent prayers of a righteous person avails much.” There are some people, particularly loved ones and friends that are blind to Christ. But I believe the Bible teaches that when a child of God prays fervently (which speaks of a burdened heart) for that loved one or family member who is lost, then that lost loved one will effectually and ultimately be saved. The very fact that our Heavenly Father has put the soul of that person as a burden upon our hearts, and the fact that we are praying for that person’s salvation, is all evidence God intends to save. He burdened us to pray for it so we could get in on the rich blessing of seeing a loved one saved, and the reason He doesn’t save that loved one until we fervently and effectually pray is because if He were to save a loved one WITHOUT us praying for it to happen, we might actually think our smooth words, or our great intellect, or our ability to persuade convinced our loved one to choose Christ. Only the Spirit of God has the power to soften a heart and regenerate the sinner.

So, therefore, when sinners are saved – God gets the glory. When sinners die and are condemned – the blame for that condemnation falls on man, not God.

If you say, "But God could regenerate the hearts of every single person that ever lived if He wanted to!"

Yes, He could. And the universalist says he will. But the Bible says He won't. If you ask me why He doesn't regenerate the heart of every single fallen human being, I respond like Spurgeon, "What baffles me is not that God has chosen not to redeem every single sinner, but that He has actually chosen to redeem even one."

Thankfully, He has chosen to redeem "an innumerable company," a "sea of people," a vast "kingdom" - including those for whom you pray. I'm not referring to those old Wednesday night prayers that God would save the world (with no particular names of real individuals), but prayers that He would save that person or those people for whom you petition, by name, for God to save. You are His child. You are given the great treasure of pleading with the King to regenerate the hearts of your loved ones. Your heavenly Father will not turn a deaf ear to your petitions.

And, if you are a Christian who has no burden for the lost (but of course I know you do, but now I write for others), then I would urge you to begin praying that God would give you a burden for the lost. Since God is in the business of saving sinners, and since you, His child, are not in the practice of praying for the salvation of specific sinners, then it would seem evident to me that you are not that much involved in your Father's business.

Thankfully though, I know you are involved in your Father's business. And those prayers you have been offering up for your kids and family members qualify as having an interest in God's business of saving sinners. This is why I know your prayers will be answered. God is the one who burdened you with His business in the first place. He always answers the prayers that are prayed that begin in Heaven.

So, when your kids come to the time when they choose Christ, just remember I told you they would, and that the reason they would is because of God - and the evidence I have that He is choosing to save them is the burden their mom has for them.

Hope that helps.


Wade