Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Dr. Livingston, I presume?" - Henry M. Stanley and the Role Indian Territory Played in the Discovery of Dr. Livingstone

"When I contrast what I have achieved in my measurably brief life with what Henry M. Stanley has achieved in his possibly briefer one, the effect is to sweep utterly away the ten-story edifice of my own self-appreciation and leave nothing behind but the cellar" Mark Twain

The statement Mark Twain makes of of Henry M. Stanley is rather remarkable, considering most Americans know little or nothing about the man Twain praises. Henry Morton Stanley is most famous for uttering the words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"  He had been dispatched to Africa by the New York Herald in 1871 to find the famous and missing missionary and explorer Dr. David Livingstone. Livingstone had not been heard from for nearly four years, and all of England feared he was either lost or dead somewhere in the interior of Africa.  Stanley led an expedition that found Livingstone alive,  and upon seeing the only white man within thousands of miles, Stanley uttered his humorous and iconic query. What you may not know is that Stanley was chosen for the Livingstone expedition because of what he accomplished four years earlier in the heart of Indian Territory. In October of 1867, Henry Morton Stanley made a treacherous and dangerous journey with two hundred U.S. cavalry troops to Medicine Lodge, a Plainsmen Indian tribal site that sits directly northwest of where I live in Enid, Oklahoma. The Plainsmen Indians were at war with the United States, and it was at Medicine Lodge, in October of 1867, that negotiations for peace began. Henry M. Stanley served as the newspaper correspondent for the St. Louis Daily Missouri Democrat. He reported on the negotiations that led to the first treaties between the United States government and the Plainsmen Indian tribes (Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne and Arapahoe) roaming America's southern plains.  His letters detailing the Indian expedition and subsequent Peace Treaties were reprinted in many major metropolitan cities of America's east cost. Stanley's colorful and accurate reporting caught the eye of James Gordon Bennett, Jr, editor of the New York Herald, and Gordon hired Stanley as a reporter in 1869.

Henry M. Stanley was born John Rowlands on January 28, 1841 in Wales. He was an illegimitate child, born to a woman some alleged to be a prostitute. John's mother would abandon him, and John grew up as an impoverished and orphaned child in Wales. When he was seventeen years old, John caught a cargo ship to America, arriving in New Orleans in the summer of 1859. In that city John met a  wealthy trader named Henry Hope Stanley. John saw Stanley sitting on a chair outside his store and asked him if he had any job openings. He asked his question in the British style of the day, "Do you want a boy, sir?" It so happened, Henry Stanley was childless and had been wishing he had a boy of his own. John's inquiry led not only to a job, but to a close relationship that culminated in John Rowlands taking Henry Stanley's name as his own. The young Henry M. Stanley assumed the local accent and began to deny that he was a foreigner.

Stanley in 1890
Stanley, needing work,  so he joined the Confederate Army and participated in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862 He was taken prisoner and it was while confined in Illinois that Union Colonel James A. Mulligan convinced the Stanley to become a Galvanized Yankee and join the Union Army. So it was, the Welsh-born John Rowlands a.k.a. Henry Stanley left the Confederates and joined the Union army on June 4, 1862. However, he was medically discharged less than a month later because he became very ill. Two years later in the summer of 1864, after his complete recovery, Stanley joined the US Navy. His job was that of a record keeper, a task that helped him in his future journalism career. He left the employement of the Union Navy shortly before the end of the war. It is thought that Henry Morton Stanley is the only man to have served in the Confederate Army, the Union Army, and the Union Navy during the Civil War. It was after the Civil War that Stanley began his career as a journalist, including the task of reporting on the Peace Commission's efforts to make peace with the Plainsmen Indians. As a direct result of the the October 1867 expedition to Indian Territory and Stanley's colorful reporting of the events for the St. Louis Dispatch , the editor of the New York Herald hired the twenty-eight-year-old reporter to work for his newspaper, the largest newspaper in the United States in terms of circulation at the time.

The Smithsonian Magazine records what happened after Stanley was hired by the New York Herald. "James Gordon Bennett, the hard-drinking 28-year-old editor of the New York Herald, saw a means to boost the paper’s already astronomical circulation of 60,000 copies a day. He hoped to exploit the fame and mystery surrounding British explorer Dr. David Livingstone, who had been missing in Africa for four years. Although Livingstone’s achievements charting the unknown African continent had galvanized Britain, his government had been apathetic about rescuing him. Bennett decided Americans would do what the British would not. From a hotel room in Paris, he ordered Henry Morton Stanley, the newcomer to the Herald, to lead an expedition into the African wilderness to find the explorer, or “bring back all possible proofs of his being dead.”

Of course,  less than two years later, on November 10, 1871 Stanley found Livingstone alive! Eighteen months later Livingstone died (May 1, 1873). Henry Stanley's fame continued to grow world-wide! He left journalism and became the premier explorer of the continent of Africa, surpassing the accomplishments of Livingstone himself. In 2008 author Tim Jeal and Yale University Press published the definitive biography of Henry M. Stanley entitled Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer.

I like to tell people that Indian Territory has some of the most colorful and fascinating history in the United States. This history is often made by people known world-wide for other reasons. For example, President Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore the Louisiana Purchase and to search for the rumored Mountain of Salt. The salt mountain, which was actually a salt plain, was eventually discovered in northwestern Indian Territory (Oklahoma) by the nephew of theologian Jonathan Edwards.  The first Protestant mission west of the Mississippi River, called Union Mission, was established in 1820 in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) at the location President Jefferson called Three Rivers in his 1806 speech to Congress. The missionary work among the Osage Indians at Union Mission by Epaphras Chapman excels that of David Brainard in both courage and drama. Likewise, one of the greatest missionaries in the history of Christianity, David Livingstone, was rescued by a Henry Morton Stanley, a man who became known for his courage and colorful writing while witnessing the  historic Medicine Lodge Peace Treaties of 1867.

Next time you hear the phrase, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" remember the part Indian Territory played in Stanley's discovery of Livingstone.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Said and Done" by Raquel Carlson, Emmanuel Enid

Raquel Carlson is our REFUGE worship leader at Emmanuel Enid. She cordinates two REFUGE contemporary worship services each Sunday in our multi-purpose building. Raquel is a gifted musician and songwriter. One of her original compositions is entitled Said and Done. Sit back and enjoy this song from Emmanuel's REFUGE worship band (click on the play button).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Sin of Opinions Becoming the Test of Orthodoxy

Recently, while doing research on another subject, I came across a statement Paige Patterson made to faculty of Truett-McConnell College on October 31, 2011. Dr. Patterson was present when faculty at Truett-McConnell were requested to sign the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. After observing each faculty member place his John Hancock on the 2000 BFM, Patterson said, "Better be dead, better never be remembered on this earth, than to fail to be true to that document which you have signed. May God bless you as you serve and teach in line with that which you have confessed. Hold to it, and someday you will hear, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Patterson's statement illustrates the dilemma the Southern Baptist Convention has created for herself. On the one hand, we Southern Baptists have successfully walled-off 'theological liberalism' from influencing our future direction, but on the other hand we have loosed an even worse demon among us. When a man-made document (2000 BFM), filled with possible fallible interpretations of the sacred and inspired text, is demanded by SBC leaders to be placed on equal footing with--and given equal authority to--holy Scripture, then we have a massive theological problem. John Leland, a Baptist forefather and an astute 18th century theologian himself, said, "Uninspired, fallible men make their own opinions tests of orthodoxy, and use their own systems as Procrustes used his iron bedstead, to stretch and measure the consciences of all other by. Supposing it was right for a man to bind his own consccience, yet surely it is very iniquitous to bind the consciences of his children--to make fetters for them before they are born, is very cruel."

Amen, John Leland. Amen.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is There Enough Gospel In Modern Sermons to Save?

Last night I watched a little Christian television. I don't normally spend much time listening to the preachers on Daystar, TBN, or other television networks, but I watched enough last night to cause Rachelle to implore me to turn it off. After listening to a couple of the messages, I couldn't help but wonder if a lost person in bondage to sin could have listened to those same messages and heard enough gospel to have their lives transformed by the Spirit of God. I realize that the Spirit produces regeneration, but the Bible indicates the means by which He transforms lives is the "foolishness of the message" of the cross (I Corinthians 1:21). My thoughts last night drifted toward the preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Mr. Spurgeon preached in London, England during the mid-1800's at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Every week, the previous Sunday's message was edited, published and sold world-wide for a penny. These "Penny Pulpit Sermons" were bestsellers, and many circuit-riding preachers in the American western frontier read them to their congregations in place of delivering a message of their own. Spurgeon was famous before there was Internet, television or even radio. He used print media to spread the gospel until his death. On Sunday, February 7, 1892, Southern Baptist theologian B.H. Carroll, the pastor of First Baptist Church, Waco, Texas (1871-1899) and later the first president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas (1908-1914), delivered an address in Nashville, Tennessee commemorating Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The "Prince of Preachers" had died in Mentone, France the week before on Sunday, January 31, 1892. The following words of B.H. Carroll, commemorating Spurgeon's preaching, came from Carroll's hour-long address:
"Mr. Spurgeon was pre-eminently a preacher. He preached more sermons, perhaps, than any other man. More people have heard him than have heard any other man. More people have read and do read his sermons than the sermons of any other man. More of them have been translated into foreign tongues than any other sermons. More people have been converted by reading them, in more countries, than by, perhaps, all other published sermons. Livingstone had one of them in his hat when he died, having carried it through Africa. A widow was found half frozen on an Alpine mountain peak, reading one of them through her tears. A bush-ranger in Australia was converted by reading one, blood-stained, which he had taken from the body of a man he had murdered."
I consider the above paragraph one of the greatest testimonies to the power and effectiveness of Spurgeon's messages. He, unlike many today, knew what it meant to saturate his sermons with the power of the gospel.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Memo to Mars Hill: The Suppression of Church Women Is Not the Cure For the Feminization of Church Men

About two years ago two young married men expressed to me their desire to uproot their families from Enid, Oklahoma and move to Seattle, Washington to be a part of the ministry of Mars Hill. Though I was familiar with Mark Driscoll, I was curious why these young family men felt the need to relocate. The reason they gave me was an eye opener. "We want to be some place where the masculinity of God is emphasized in the home, in church, and in leadership." These two men have since left Emmanuel Enid with their families. Their wives have little or no say in family matters or financial decisions. For example, each man has taken a stand against inoculating their children and no amount of objections from mom is sufficient to reverse this patriarchal decision to prevent childhood disease by faith rather than shots. Dad's word is law in the same manner God's Word is law, for the man is in the image of God. Woman is made from man, and her only protection is to obey the man as if she were obeying God. It would seem self-evident that major difficulties will one day arise if this kind of thinking regarding male authority and female subordination persists in any family--much less any church.  

I went back yesterday and listened to a young Mark Driscoll as he preached a message twelve years ago entitled Men and Masculinity. In this bizarre sermon, Mark recounts how as a lost person he never wanted to become a Christian because the only Christians he knew were "feminine men," known for their gentleness and tenderness. Then, after conversion, Mark realized that the feminization of men was not biblical. According to Mark, "Jesus is a man, not a woman. All sixty-six books of the Bible are written by men, not by women. God is our Father, not our Mother. Jesus is our Brother, not our Sister. Jesus came as a Warrior to bring down the enemies of God. Christianity is a masculine religion." Mark was too young at the time to come up with this dogma on his own. I blame John Piper, Bruce Ware and a handful of other evangelical systematic complementarian theologians who gave to Mark Driscoll his warped views regarding God's masculinity and male authority through the sermons they have preached and the books they have written.  The biblical text reveals something far different about God. Sadly, under the leadership of Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill has become a cathedral of male worship. Because of this, Mars Hill Church is in danger of reflecting more the authoritarianism of cultism than the equality of Christianity.

Today I read the incredibly tortuous account of the firing of Mars Hill pastor Paul Petry. Interestingly, it was Paul's wife, Jonna Petry, who wrote the compelling narrative that describes the spiritual abuse she and her husband endured at Mars Hill. Not wanting to take the Petrys solely on their word, I read through every single Mars Hill document that the Petrys provided on their blog as factual support for their account of events. I read the new By-Laws of Mars Hill (see page 112). Only males compose the church's legal standing. Only males vote on church business. Only males serve on leadership teams. Only males determine pastoral salaries. Only males convene for business meetings. Only males determine matters related to the church. Only males are the true members of the church. Females, for the sake of 'spiritual standing,' can be called 'members' and have access to the church's website, but females cannot be, in any form or fashion, in leadership at Mars Hill or considered as people with legal or moral authority.

Unless something changes at Mars Hill in the near future the church is going to implode. The cure for the perceived feminization of church men is never the suppression of church women. Instead of disciplining Jonna Petry for calling other women to prayer under the guise that she was attempting to subvert Pastor Mark's authority, Mars Hill should have asked Jonna Petry to be part of their leadership team and write the response to the hundreds of questions they received about the growing lack of transparency and distrust of the all male leadership at Mars Hill. Jonna is obviously gifted with superb writing skills and she would have done a much better job of communicating a message to the church than the male elders did. But, of course, Jonna Petry and other gifted women are to follow, not lead. Mars Hill men, you had better wake up. A revolution is taking place. Women in the church are waking up to the biblical truth that they are created as much in the image of God as you are. They are realizing that they possess the same gifts of the Spirit as men. They are arousing to the knowledge that when half the body is suppressed, the church is as dysfunctional as it when you perceive feminization in men. So go ahead, Mars Hill men, and act like men. Just don't make the mistake of suppressing your Spirit-filled women who are the only ones right now that might have the ability to keep your church from imploding.

Finally, if my friends who left Emmanuel Enid are reading this post, please know of my love for you. Because of that love I urge you to be willing to follow the leadership and wisdom of your wives. They have much to offer. By the way, they have already expressed their willingness to listen to  your wisdom and follow your leadership! Now its your turn. Christianity is mutual love and mutual leadership. God calls us to be servants of one another, not masters over anyone. It's the way He intends (Matthew 23:8-11).

Monday, March 19, 2012

THREE SEBTS Students Guilty of Serious Sexual Crimes

In the past five years there have been THREE Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary students who have been charged and convicted of serious sexual crimes. Brian "Doug" Goodrich stood in a courtroom and pled guilty in June of 2006 to taking indecent liberties with boys as young as 13 years old. A grand jury had indicted him on 10 counts, including statutory sex offenses, indecent liberties and first-degree sex exploitation. Doug, a student at Southeastern Seminary at the time, is not yet halfway through serving his 13 year prison sentence. Justin Eugene Taylor was arrested and charged in December 2007 with "unlawfully, willfully and feloniously attempting to take immoral, improper and indecent liberties against (a minor) for the purpose of arousing and gratifying sexual desire." Justin pled guilty in 2008 and was released on probation. After violating his probation, Justin was sentenced to serve time in a North Carolina prison where he is scheduled to be released in 2014. At the time of his arrest, Justin was a student at Southeastern Seminary. Last weekend, Southeastern Seminary student William Watson Birch was arrested for sexually assaulting a "mentally incapacitated and physically helpless" male seminary student. William Birch has already confessed his guilt. Southeastern Theological Seminary is a good school.  I recommended SEBTS last Sunday to one of our members interested in pursuing ministry, so nobody should read this post as an attack on SEBTS. I am pointing out that William Birch's sexual assault on a drugged victim this past Saturday is not an uncommon event. Southern Baptists have SIX seminaries. We have over 45,000 churches. We have nearly 5,000 missionaries and tens of thousands of ordained ministers and seminary students. In the past twelve months there have been staggering numbers of Southern Baptists who have either confessed to, been charged with, or convicted of sexual crimes. It's time we Southern Baptists create a database to track sexual predators in our midst. Excuses are no longer acceptable. Get it done. It's time Executive Committee of the SBC. No more excuses. Just get it done.

The Time Has Come: Another Reason the Southern Baptist Convention Needs a Clergy Sexual Abuse Database

A sexual assault occurred on the campus of Southeastern Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina, last Saturday, March 17, 2012. William Watson Birch sexually assaulted a 25-year-old male student at the seminary in the victim’s dorm room. After the incident, the victim called the police. According to television reports, Wake Forest police questioned Birch about the incident and he admitted to sexually assaulting the student. William Birch, 43 years old, previously worked in hotel managment, but was at Southeastern earning a M.Div in Church History. Several website owners have expressed their thoughts and prayers for William Birch. Allow me to express my thoughts and prayers for the victim and his family. According to police reports, the victim was assaulted while "in a mentally incapacitated and physically helpless state." This is usually police language for the victim being drugged (edit: Some defenders of Mr. Birch claim the language could mean the victim was 'sleeping.') Such predatory behavior is bold and brash, often indicative of a pattern of previous criminal activity. Since this is William Birch's first brush with the law, competent legal attorneys may plea bargain to a lesser offense. Regardless, a confession has already been obtained. William Birch's name ought to be placed in a data base accessible to all Southern Baptist churches for all time. Sexual assaults should disqualify William Birch from ever serving as a minister in any church, regardless of his remorse or repentance. According to Birch's LinkedIn profile, he professes to have studied Arminianism for the past ten years and is a now 'former' Calvinist. In spite of Birch's current beliefs, it is ordained that his ministerial career end. God willing, it will be the Southern Baptist Convention, by voting for a clergy sexual abuse database, that will be the means through which God brings an end to his ministry and others like him.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The GCB Name Change and God's Sense of Humor

In less than 90 days the Southern Baptist Convention will vote on a new informal descriptor or tag line. The new public 'name' or descriptor by which the public will be asked to call churches and entities affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention will be Great Commission Baptists--or  GCB for short. Ironically, this month ABC launched a new television series called GCB, which is an abbreviation for Good Christian Bitches. The star of the ABC television show GCB is Southern Baptist Kristin Chenoweth. In 1981, the then twelve-year old Kristin Chenoweth brought messengers to their feet in resounding applause after she sang a stirring gospel solo at the Southern Baptist Convention in Los Angeles, California. One is almost tempted to believe that God possesses a wicked sense of humor when reflecting on the irony that thirty-one years later Kristin is starring in a television show called GCB  at the same time the Southern Baptist Convention is changing its name to GCB. Our church doesn't use SBC as a tag line anywhere, so if the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convetnion meeting in New Orleans this June,  of which I will be one, vote to adopt GCB as the new SBC descriptor, it will mean nothing to the church I pastor. However, if GCB is approved by the Southern Baptist messengers this June, it takes little imagination to know the name the public will begin using with the new acronym. I strongly doubt it will be Great Commission Baptists. And, you know what, if we spend more time working through a name change than we do identifying sexual predators in our midst, then maybe GCB is precisely the name we deserve.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Legalism Gives Birth to Resentment and Rejection

Yesterday I received an email from my father. A friend had forwarded to him an article on "Legalism." His friend wrote that his daughter had sent him the article and said, "This piece reminds me of the saying 'Expectation is always premeditated resentment.'" My dad's friend wanted him to forward me the article and his daughter's quote. I began to read the piece on legalism and about half-way through I thought, "Wow! This is really good." I glanced down to the last paragraph to see who wrote it and was embarrassed to discover that I was the author of the article. Laughing. I had written it nearly eighteen months ago.  I might offer the excuse that I've turned fifty since then and my memory is not what it used to be. Regardless, I am reprinting the article below because I think it summarizes well the dangers I see when legalism is prevalent in marriages, families and other relationships.
"Legalism can be descriptively defined as 'the expectation you have for others to meet a specific standard of behavior, that when unmet, leads you to denigrate those people who fail to adequately perform.'

To meet the definition of legalism there must be both an expectation (standard) and an attitude (superiority or pride). The denigration of other people for their failure to perform to your expected standard of behavior is the sore that surfaces from the cancer of legalism. What's odd about legalism is that it can infect both the liberal and the conservative, the evangelical and the liturgical, the radical and the traditional, the young and the old. Legalism is no respector of persons.

Legalism is not discipline.To set a standard of behavior for yourself and meet it is discipline. Legalism is not accountablity. To set a standard of behavior for others who fall under your responsibility (children or employees), to love and encourage them when they don't meet the standard while enforcing stated consequences for their failure, is accountablity. Legalism is neither discipline nor accountablity. Legalism is cancer.

Legalism kills life. It destroys the marrow of Christianity. Rather than leading others to rest in the Person and work of Christ for their righteousness, legalism leads others to work to obtain their favored status with God. Oddly, the worst kind of legalism is that which finds its standard from the Bible. Whether it be the words of Christ, or the law of God, or an interpretation of a verse that leads to a demand for others to live a certain way, legalism that sounds like radical Christianity destroys.

The truth of grace is revolutionary. God's grace is given without measure to those who trust His Son. To the person who fails, the grace of God is sufficient. To the person who is weak, the grace of God is sufficient. To the person who lives life differently than I, the grace of God is sufficient.

Some might ask, "But is there not any standard to which God calls His people to live?"

Sure. He calls us to love others. To love those who are different. To love those who don't see eye to eye with me. To love those who fail to perform. "By this (love) all people will know that you are my disciples." Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Legalism pushes out love in Christian relationships, including an understanding of God's love for us. With all our might, we ought to fight legalism. We should see it as THE enemy. We should recognize it as the stealthy, deadly spiritual ninja who sneaks up on us when we think we are safe. The legalists were the only people upon whom Christ used His whip and drove them from His Father's house. There is no room for legalism among the people of God.

The best defense against deadly legalism is to contemplate the incarnation of God in Christ and His work for us at the cross. In those moments you begin to think that you must do something to prove the radical nature of your love for God, it would do you well to remember what Charles Spurgeon said of God's love for us:

"We could almost think that God loved us more than He loves his Son.”

Until Spurgeon's statement becomes part of the imbedded fabric of your mind you may be losing your battle with legalism."

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Charitable Spirit of R.E. Lee Toward His Enemies

I am writing an essay on the history of the Lees of Virginia for my father. His mother (my grandmother), Julia Margaret Lee, is the great-grandchild (10x) of Richard Henry "The Immigrant" Lee I. Revolutionary War hero General Lighthorse-Harry Lee and Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee are cousins to our family, descending from another son of Richard Henry "The Immigrant" Lee. While researching the paper I am writing, I came across the funeral message preached at Robert E. Lee's funeral. By all accounts this man was a genuine Spirit-filled man, known for his virtue and character. One can't help reading the funeral message, however, and realizing that when Christian men like Robert E. Lee feel compelled to go to war against their brothers, this world is truly living under a curse.

After the Civil War, both sides gave tribute to the gentleman soldier Robert E. Lee. He became President of a university in Lexington, Virginia that now bears both his name and that of the founder of our country--Washington and Lee University.  While persuing this university's excellent collection of Lee papers, I came across the following anecdote of Robert E. Lee that spoke to my heart:
Robert E. Lee was once asked what he thought of the efficiency of a certain officer of the army. The officer in question had professed to be Lee's bitter enemy. Robert E. Lee spoke very complimentary of the officer. A friend of Lee interrupted him and said, “That man is your worse enemy!” Lee replied by saying “I was asked what I thought of him, not what he thought of me.”
The world would be a better place were we all able to exhibit Lee's charitable spirit toward those who consider us their enemy.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

"God Will Kick Your Tail" - A Critique of Beth Moore's Teaching on James 4:10-11 from Mercy Triumphs

I admire the women of Emmanuel Enid. They are strong thinkers, qualified leaders, and in many instances, Beth Moore enthusiasts. Anybody that encourages other Christians to study the Scriptures for themselves should be deemed an asset to the kingdom of Christ. Beth Moore is one of those valuable assets. I have listened to Beth Moore teach on a few occasions and have been encouraged by much of what I have heard. I have to confess, however, that I am sometimes bumfuzzled. On a few occasions I have even asked other women in a Beth Moore Bible Study: "Is Beth Moore saying what I think she is saying?"

I am about to be critical of something Beth Moore said in her Mercy Triumphs series, a study of the book of James.The teaching I will criticize is found in Lesson 6, and I will be very specific. Our ladies at Emmanuel Enid are using Beth Moore's videos on James this spring, and I am thrilled they are doing so. I hesitated posting what I am about to write because some might presume a motive. So, to be clear as mountain air, I want to preface my critique of Beth Moore's summary teaching of Lesson 6 with the following  three caveats:

Christian freedom assumes one's ability to critique Christian teaching. Only in cults and other oppressively authoritarian environments is the freedom to critique what is being said taken away. Even the Apostle Paul says it is a noble and honorable thing to not receive what you hear Christians say (just because of who is saying it), but to search the Scriptures for yourself to see if what you are hearing is true (Acts 17:11).

Christian unity is not the same thing as Christian uniformity. Some Christians might bring their hands to their mouths and gasp if something critical is said about what Beth Moore teaches. Those Christians are the ones who mistake uniformity for unity.

(a). Unity implies diversity; uniformity eliminates it.
(b). Unity makes us different but one; uniformity makes us the same.
(c). Unity creates an organism; uniformity craves an institution.
(d). Unity combines and includes; uniformity confines and excludes.

To critique Beth Moore's teaching may mean an absence of uniformity, but it doesn't mean an absence of unity. For a further understanding of the differences between unity and uniformity, I refer you to this excellent article by Paul Burleson.

The Word of God is infallible, but we who teach the Word of God are not. For this reason, every teacher of God's Word, including me, should view criticism as a gift. It is beneficial whether or not it is accurate.  Regardless of the following criticism, I want the women of Emmanuel Enid to be affirmed in their use of Beth Moore videos. More importantly, the women of Emmanuel Enid are free to disagree with me and side with Beth Moore! Seriously, what I am about to write is a firm conviction within me, but I suggest you don't make what I write your conviction until, or if and when (because it may not happen), the Holy Spirit makes it your conviction. Why do I say this? Because I could be wrong in what I'm about to write and Beth Moore could be right iin what she taught! Of course, I don't believe I'm wrong, but my point to you is it makes no difference if you believe like I do or not! That's God's job, not mine. Now, to the matter at hand:


Beth Moore's Mercy Triumphs: Lesson 6 (James 4:11-12)

In this study Beth makes several statements about the importance of never speaking against another brother or sister in Christ. particularly on the Internet or Twitter, and the importance of affiliation with a local church, avoiding getting your main spiritual encouragement and support from any virtual preaching, virtual website, or virtual church. Beth then gives a few personal illustrations of negative things written about her on the Internet and then closes her study with five reasons why Christians should avoid cynicism toward other Christians. I will skip the first four (some of which are pretty good) and jump to the fifth reason, which confounded me. The following is the actual transcript.

(Begin Quote)

Beth Moore speaking:

"Five top reasons not to get cynical: I wonder what point number five would be?

     5. God will kick your tail. (Laughter; then Beth repeats point 5 slowly and dramatically).

I begged my good friend Dale McCleskey--who is my editor and has been for fourteen Bible studies--I begged him to let me say it like that! There’s no way I can say it the same way if I don’t get to just spit out!  I promise you.. I promise you .. Whatever I know about the Scriptures, and whatever I have learned about God in my tenure … I’ve been around a corner or two, I’ve seen the workings of body of Christ from this angle or that, and  spent some years with the Lord Jesus, and I'm going to tell you, I promise you that if I know anything about what we are talking about tonight, I know this: If you (the believer) continue on in your cynicism, God will kick your tail!

It doesn't even matter how right you think you are, and it doesn't matter if you are on the right side. Once you become cynical about the body you have moved to the other side and you are in a dangerous situation ... God will kick your tail!"

(End quote)

Okie dokie (that's Oklahoman for "All right"), I have four strong disagreements with Beth Moore's teaching above.

(1). God lifts the head of the cynic in mercy and doesn't kick his tail in vengeance.

Were Beth speaking of unbelievers in Christ being cynical of God, I would understand her point (I think). But Beth made it very clear that she is speaking of believers in Christ who get cynical "about the body" -- God will kick your tail. It is unimaginable for me to kick my wife in the tail and the notion that God kicks His Bride in such a manner is so totally contrary to the teaching of Scripture that one wonders from where this sort of teaching arises? Could it possibly be that Beth Moore has fallen into the syndrome of many Southern Baptist who make the error of the ancient Jews (Psalm 50:21) and view God as if He were just like them? Beth Moore may wish to kick a Christian in the tail who is cynical about her or other Christians, but God is altogether different.

(2). Making promises about God's desires to kick any Christian's tail is very unwise on many levels.

A teacher should be very, very careful when it comes to speaking of God's desires or intentions. Why? Because God is God and we are not. I won't go into the other portion of the video tape where Beth Moore represents that she understands the mind of God but the cynic is clueless. Suffice it to say, anytime I ever hear someone making categorical statements about God's inner desires and intentions without the clear support and backing of Scripture, it causes me to cringe. Toward the end of the video Beth displayed a softness toward the cynic and said, "If God can cleanse the leper, He can heal the cynic." Amen! It's a little difficult to picture God healing and God kicking at the same time--unless of course healing  from God is a result and consequence of us ridding ourselves of cynicism. I couldn't help but listen to the entire video and ask, "What kind of healing is it that requires no mercy or grace from God?" The constant "do this... do that... don't do this... and don't do that..." in this particular video made me wonder about Beth's understanding of the immeasurable grace of God (see Ephesians 2:4-5).

(3). When the believer's motive for avoiding sin is to avoid a good tail kicking from God, then Christianity is no different from the pagan religions of the world.

I shall not expound on this point, but simply refer you to a post I wrote entitled Why Do We Keep Remembering What God Forgets?

(4).  It is an axiom of teaching/preaching that those things we most angrily denounce are most usually the very things with which bother us the most.

Beth Moore defines cynicism this way: "Cynicism is carnality that thinks its smart." According to Beth, all cynicism carries an air of superiority. Maybe. What I've seen in my experience is believers in Jesus Christ become cynical when church leaders present themselves as perfect, cover up sin, and take their place as God's alleged vicars on earth (authoritarianism). In my experience, the church is the one producing cynics because our religious teaching has departed from the radical teaching of God's amazing grace in Jesus Christ and has turned the church into a performance place, much like the corporate world, Hollywood, or any other secular environment. The gospel is radical, and the gospel I read about in Scripture is the good news that God takes cynical, hardened sinners and softens them by His goodness and grace. I guess what I'm saying is its Christian leaders pretending they speak for God ("God will kick your tail") that produces cynicism. So maybe cynicism is not such a bad thing after all. It helps keep us Christian teachers down to earth. Cynics could be God's gift to us,! If so, then it's not a kick in the tail God gives them but a pat on the seat and a "Well done, son!"

Oh my! :) I better quit with that! Keep up the good work, Beth! Just know that part of being the church of Jesus Christ is that disagreement is GOOD! It keeps us sharp, humble and on message!

In His Grace,


P.S. And, before anyone makes the silly suggestion that this post should have been sent in the form of a private letter to Beth Moore, it should be remembered that a private letter is never sent by Beth Moore ministries to pastors requesting she teach the ladies in their churches. Beth Moore's ministry is public, and any criticism of her ministry can be public as well. Our ladies are free to do Beth Moore studies anytime they please! Our ladies also know I am free to disagree with what Beth teaches and they are even more free to disagree with what I teach! That, Christians, is real freedom.

Monday, March 05, 2012

What Is It that Drives a Sinner to Faith in Jesus Christ?

Yesterday we had several people after the services profess their desire to know Christ. One particular couple, with tears streaming down their cheeks, voiced their need of Christ. They had no church background and no religious training. All they new after the worship service was that they needed Christ.  Holding hands in my office they confessed their need to Christ and received Him as their Lord and Savior. It was very moving. They will make known their relationship with Christ in the next few weeks through public baptism as they share their faith in the Person and work of Christ with others.

I corresponded with a dear friend today from overseas who believes I am in error regarding the Law, meaning to him, the Ten Commandments. I argue that the Old Covenant Law cannot be artificially separated or divided into moral, civil or ceremonial categories, as many Christians try to do. The Old Covenant Law, otherwise known as Hebrew Law, was one body of work. When Christ died, He FULFILLED the Law, abrograted it, and issued a new law, called the Royal Law of love. Because my friend knows my belief regarding this, he wrote me a very cordial letter where he asked this question: "I suppose the main point of my query to you is 'How are we to apply the gospel to sinners so that they may be saved if the Ten Commandments are like all the other Hebrew laws (the dietary, sacrifical, ceremonial and civil laws) and are deemed fulfilled by Christ and set aside by God?'"

My friend asks a great question. Below is my response. Bottom line, if you believe what I wrote him is truth, then you don't get bent out of shape when people aren't in church every Sunday and you work hard to prevent the crystillization of Sunday rituals and creatively find ways to promote Christian fellowship, love and service through non-traditional means that break religious customs but are true to the spirit of the New Covenant. Read on...


Monday, March 5, 2012

My dear friend _______

I do appreciate your most recent email. I would like to address just a couple of points you make, and I know you know the spirit in which I respond. I have learned so much from your wisdom and kindness to me and my family. I will continue to think through carefully what you have written! I will, of course, listen most carefully to the voice of my Good Shepherd, and if I ever think what I am hearing from my wiser and most esteemed friend is a little off from what I personally hear from my Good Shepherd, I must listen ultimately to the latter. Very rarely does this happen, but if it does, I would be dishonoring to my Lord to agree with you when I don't feel in my spirit true agreement.

You write: 'How are we to apply the gospel to sinners so that they may be saved if the Ten Commandments are like all the other Hebrew laws (the dietary, sacrifical, ceremonial and civil laws) and are deemed fulfilled by Christ and set aside by God?'"

A very, very good question indeed! I press home to sinners the absence of their love for God and their love for fellow man, for this is the summary of the law and the absolute evidence of divine grace. If a sinner has neither, then the sinner will answer to God for His sins, which are all violations of this Royal Law - sins like cheating on a spouse (for how is cheating loving your husband or wife?), sins like stealing (for how is taking your neighbors possessions loving your neighbor?), sins like idolatry (for how is treauring this world and the things of this world more than God loving God?), etc.... What I don't do is press home observance of religious rituals, whether they be the Law of the sabbath, the Law of ceremonial cleansing through sacrifice, the Law of new moon festivals, the Law of kosher diets, etc... - for I see all these Old Covenant Laws as pointing to Christ -- and fulfilled by Christ and abrogated by God.

My Baptist heroes of the early 17th century were concerned that the sinner be shown the goodness of God in the person of Jesus Christ. This is how they put it in the First London Confession of Faith (1644):

Article 25 in the The 1646 London Confession of Faith

The preaching of the gospel to the conversion of sinners, is absolutely free; no way requiring as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, or terrors of the law, or preceding ministry of the law (meaning the Ten Commandments), but only and alone the naked soul, a sinner and ungodly, to receive Christ crucified, dead and buried, and risen again; who is made a prince and a Savior for such sinners as through the gospel shall be brought to believe on Him. John 3:14,15, 1:12; Isa. 55:1; John 7:37; 1 Tim. 1:15; Rom. 4:5, 5:8; Acts 5:30,31, 2:36, 1 Cor. 1:22,24.

The starting point for these 18th Century Baptists was the goodness of God in Christ and not the violations of Law. Christ fulfilled the law of God. The law and the prophets in the Old Testament all pointed to Christ. The law was never given to drive a sinner to be righteousness in himself, but rather to drive the sinner to faith in the Lawgiver to provide a righteousness that comes from outside the sinner's own obedience. The feasts, the Sabbaths, the festivals, the sacrifices, the laws of Israel, the Temple, the priesthood, all the Sabbath laws and all Old Covenant Laws were realized and fulfilled IN Christ. With the establishment of the New Covenant, signed and sealed by the blood of Christ, the Old Covenant faded into oblivion because it possessed a fading glory, but the goodness and grace of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ has an eternal glory (I Corinthians 3:7-18).

You write: "If there is no law for the sinner, there is no fulfillment of it for him in Christ!"

I agree! The question becomes "Which Law is used to drive sinners to Christ?" Is it the ceremonial laws of the Hebrews? Is it the dietary laws of the Hebrews? Is it the Sabbath laws of the Hebrews?" I see NO DISTINCTION in the Hebrew Law--no categorization, no division, and no separation--it was ALL LAW.

I believe you never drive a sinner back to Hebrew Law--you show a sinner His lack of love for God and his fellow man and tell him that disease is a sign of His heart rebellion toward God, and just like the leopard cannot change his spots or the zebra his stripes or the black man his skin, so too a sinner without love for God and man cannot change His heart. Only the power of God in Christ is able to inwardly transform a man to fulfill the commandment of Christ - "love one another as I have loved you, for by this will all know you are my disciples." (John 13:35). THIS is what I press home to the heart of a sinner.

And I absolutely delight in teaching on the Old Testament to show the sinner Christ - and what it means to enter into HIS REST because you realize He has obtained for you a righteousness that you could never obtain yourself by obedience to any law.

I realize we may not agree--but as you know, it makes me no difference in terms of my love and respect for you. I am not even trying to convince you that you are wrong and I am right!! I believe what I have just written, and I listen- ALWAYS- to what you write (and always learn), but I am utterly convinced in my own heart that what I have just written is truth and nothing will ever be able to change my belief on this matter unless the Holy Spirit sees fit to change it in me!

So.... thanks, again for writing, and I think we are pretty clear on the little 5% difference that is inconsequential to me in terms of the gospel. We both point sinners to law - I am simply pointing them to their violation of the law of love, whereas you desire to articulate for them the Ten Commandments - which I believe are summarized quite nicely in the law of love, except of course for any Sabbath regulation (Saturday worship) or the fudging Sunday laws that fall so far short of the TYPE found in the Hebrew Law of resting EVERY DAY in the work of Christ!

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Saturday, March 03, 2012

A Tornado Photographed in Georgia on March 2, 2012 ?

Comment with your caption for this photo:

My former Facebook friend said this was a tornado. I've since been told it is a volcano.  Regardless, it's an amazing photo and still worthy of a caption!