Wednesday, December 30, 2015

'Woulda,' 'Coulda,' 'Shoulda' and God's Goodness

Regrets have no place in the life of a Jesus follower.

That is a strong sentence because it is opposite of the way most people, even Christians, live their lives. Most people think "Oh my, if I would have only..." or "What a shame, if I could have just..." or "I'm so sad because I should have ...."

Because of these thoughts, many people live lives full of regret. I want to show you from Scripture that there's no place for regretful thoughts in the life of a Christ-believer. Stuff happens; but God happens to be over our happenstances. He promises to those of us who've embraced His Son that He will turn all things, even our mistakes, into ultimate good for His eternal glory. Let me show you a powerful example of this Romans 8:28 principle.

There's a verse in Acts 26:31 that many Christians pass quickly over without giving it serious thought. I'll quote the verse in just a moment, but let me set the context. Paul has been accused of blasphemy for bringing Gentiles into the Temple, a capital offense among the Jews. He stands trial before Felix in Caesarea on charges of inciting riots, being the leader of a sect of people who follow "the Nazarene," and of desecrating the Temple (see Acts 24:5-8).

Eventually King Agrippa, the Roman puppet king over the Jews, assists Felix during Paul's trial because Paul had appealed to Rome as a Roman citizen, being from the Roman city of Tarsus. Paul convincingly argues to both Felix and Agrippa that he is doing nothing contrary to the Jewish religion and that he "worships the God of our fathers" (Acts 24:14-15) and is innocent of all charges. Both Felix and Agrippa believe Paul is innocent of blasphemy charges, but in Acts 26:31 Agrippa makes a stunning statement:

"This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar"

Ouch. Don't gloss over that statement lightly. Paul, in chains and in prison for two years, facing capital charges, could have been set free, if he had not...

Put yourself in Paul's shoes. What do you think he's thinking at that moment? Prison is not fun. Two years is a long time. This episode of arrest, two-year imprisonment, and ultimate trial in Caesarea occured after Paul's third missionary journey. While Paul had been waiting for his hearing before Festus and Agrippa, there had not many people to whom Paul could minister the gospel. Paul had known what it meant to be a success in Christ's Kingdom, but for two years he's been a prisoner in chains. Surely Paul wanted out of prison, right? Certainly Paul wanted to go on a fourth missionary trip, yes? If Paul is like us, he had to have believed being in prison was far worse than being out of prison. Wouldn't you? I think so.

Yet Paul hears, "You could have been set free if you had not...." At that moment, I'm sure the enemy launched the fiery darts of deep disappointment toward Paul. Regret had to have been assaulting the gate of Paul's heart.  It's a little like you hearing, "You could have....if you had not...", or you thinking, "I should have...but I did not..." and all the feelings that come your way during those occasions of regret.

But let me remind you what happened next to Paul.  He is sent to Rome and placed in custody there.  While in prison he shares Christ with both his fellow inmates and officials from Caesar's court. He also writes letters that we know as the Prison Epistles— Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians. It's possible that the initial infiltration of the gospel into the Legion of Thunder and Caesar's court began with Paul's imprisonment in Rome. It is certain that all the encouragement we've received from the Prison Epistles can be traced to Paul's imprisonment in Rome.

More precisely, all the good that's come our way through reading Paul's epistles can be traced back to a day of potentially great disappointment for Paul.

He coulda, woulda, shoulda been free from prison after two years, but he appealed to Rome. Again, I imagine Paul initially thought he had messed up. However, we learn from Paul's life the Romans 8:28 principle that God always has other plans for us, much better plans, even when we think we've screwed-up big time.

Regret is a poison pill. It darkens the soul and deadens the senses. It's a fog that descends and clouds your surroundings, so that you have difficulty engaging what's in front of you, enjoying what's around you, and escaping what's behind you.

Regret has no place in the Christian life because our good Father turns around everything in our lives for our good. Everything. Everything includes our mistakes, our sins, our tragedies, our screw-ups, our "wrong" decisions, and everything else that leads us to "coulda, shoulda, woulda" thinking.

When your mind begins to be filled with regret, squash it and get rid of it like you do a roach found in your kitchen. It's an invader; it's an intruder in a space where it does not belong. God takes all of our couldas, wouldas and shouldas and works them for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory. That's the kind of Heavenly Father we have; He is all-powerful and always good.

Believe it and live it.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Adele and Contemporary Christian Worship Songs

Recently our contemporary worship team at Emmanuel Enid (e.g., Refuge Band) spent a creative planning time discussing the possibility of Emmanuel beginning to write its own music. We have a very talented team of musicians and writers, particularly when you consider the population of cattle outnumbers humans by 100 times in western Oklahoma.

I registered a concern to our worship leaders that though I enjoy the stylistic approach of contemporary Christian worship, I sometimes wonder about the words of the songs we sing. I enjoy contemporary worship because it is not vapid, meaning "missing life or energy" in its lyrical style, but sometimes the words of contemporary worship songs seem void of content and meaning.

In response to my concern, I was told that there is a 'beat' or 'style' of contemporary worship that seems to drive the train in writing new music. The phrase Golden Ratio was used, and I discovered that Christian song writers will often create a rhythmic style first, a musical formula that sounds good, and then will add words later. It's one of the reasons, I was told, that popular contemporary worship sounds similar. I responded that I don't necessarily object to songs sounding similar--classical music carries a distinct lyrical sound--as much as I object to the words of contemporary worship songs which sometimes lack meaning, depth or theological content. 

I suggested a solution to the dilemma might be to go to Google books and find some wonderful ancient hymns, songs rich in theological and Christological content, adapt them to modern English and begin writing contemporary worship songs around the meaning and content of words. I suggested that if we write music ourselves, we shift the way the songs are written: Words will always be primary, lyrical sound secondary. 

I even offered an illustration. There is a hymn written in Latin nearly two hundred years ago (1837) by Reverend John Chandler of Oxford, England. The song, now in public domain, is available on Google books, It is based on Psalm 59:12, "O look upon me and be merciful to me." The song's English translation (page 13) goes like this:

Lord, on the Cross Thine Arms
were stretched,
To draw Thy people nigh; 
O grant us then that cross to love,
And in those arms to die.

All glory to the Father be,
All glory to the Son,
All glory to the Holy Ghost, to Thee, 
While endless ages run.

I suggested a new song be written using the same concepts of God's effectual love in drawing us to the cross, the importance of never abandoning faith and love for the cross, and the blessing of dying while resting in the love of the One who died for us. In the newer version I offered, I changed the "Thine" and "Thy" to "You" and "Your's," and I also changed the objects of God's love in the hymn from the third person plural to the second person singular. 

The Refuge team was quiet and respectful, but I could sense their mental wheels were turning. Mark Twain once said, "It's not what you don't know that hurts you. It's what you do know that ain't so." Modern contemporary worship leaders might need to rethink (in my opinion) how songs are written. We have the good news. Let's be sure that we always sing about the Christ who made the news.

My digital copy of Time Magazine came on my phone today. The cover story is on Adele. In reading the article I came across four paragraphs that sought to explain the counter-cultural popularity of Adele (emphasis mine).
Much of what’s on the radio is cooked up by A-list producers and songwriters who churn out hooks, snippets of melody, lyrics and song concepts. Their work is then mined for precious No. 1 hits. It’s a sound rooted in the late ’90s, when artists like Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys began recording tracks written by superproducers like Max Martin and his Stockholm team of songwriters, who expertly blended American R&B and European dance music. Nearly two decades later, Martin is still shaping hits for artists including Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.
Top songs are also often written to track, which means a producer makes a beat, then a songwriter listens to it and attempts to generate words that fit that beat, sometimes singing nonsense until the language begins to take shape. It’s more about how lyrics sound than what they mean. This has become a bedrock part of the industry, as laid out in John Seabrook’s recent book The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory. And it’s how you end up with something like Ariana Grande’s dance-pop confection “Break Free”: “I only wanna die alive … Now that I’ve become who I really am.”
"Break Free" is a popular contemporary secular song with stupid words which are void of meaning. Some popular contemporary worship songs seemingly follow the pattern of  "Break Free" -  amazing lyrical sound and emotion, but void in meaning and content. The next two paragraphs explain how Adele does it differently.
Adele writes the way music used to be written, decades ago, before that teen-pop boom of the late ’90s. “I’m not precious about writing credits—it’s whatever makes the best song,” she says. “But I can’t do that. I can’t write a song based on a track.” Her songs aren’t a Frankenstein’s monster of her best ideas, either. “I write a song from beginning to end,” she says. “I don’t go in sections. It’s a story.” Even though she, too, recorded songs for 25 with Martin, their cut—“Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”—doesn’t have the stitched-together feel of many radio hits.
Greg Kurstin, who co-wrote and produced “Hello,” says Adele’s process is increasingly rare. “She would start out with actual lyrics,” he says. “I don’t see that in the pop world.” Accordingly, Adele’s songs stand out against much of what’s popular now. “I’m not saying my album is incredible, but there’s conviction in it,” she says. “
My hope is that we can see a movement toward writing contemporary worship songs with an emphasis on the content of what is being sung. Maybe we can be a part of a new breed of contemporary Christian songwriters who begin with the the authentic gospel story of  the Person and work of Jesus Christ. 

Gospel power is not so much about the way we feel as it is about the way we think. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Biblical Response to "It's Not Christian" to Arm Yourself by Carrying a Concealed Weapon

John Piper recently wrote an article entitled Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves?. I really respect the tone and content of Piper's article. He wrote in response to Jerry Falwell Jr., President of Liberty University, who recently said his university campus would be safer if the students were armed, and went on to encourage students to obtain conceal carry permits. I understand completely the position Piper is taking.

Piper's article has been shared by numerous friends of mine who agree with Piper's nine biblical reasons for why a Christian should not carry a weapon. Their views are not too dissimilar from Pope Francis who said, "Those who manufacture or sale weapons cannot call themselves Christians." This issue is often divisive among Christians.

My response to Christian's arming or not arming themselves is similar to my take on whether the consumption of beer or wine is permissable, or whether the Bible allows women in positions of church leadership, or other controversial issues within evangelical, Bible-believing circles. I understand both sides, and do not believe I'm called to convince others of their "error" unless someone begins saying "It's not Christian" to hold a particular view.

Thus, this article.

We who follow Jesus are called to be prepared to give a reason for our beliefs and behaviors, grant grace and freedom to those who disagree, and continue to live life based on our understanding of New Testament biblical principles. In short, it's important for me to accept unconditionally those who disagree, which is the empowering relationship principle of grace, and yet be personally unconcerned with whether or not people accept me, which is the practical implication of understanding Christ's personal and eternal full acceptance of me.

With that in mind, I'll give you the Biblical principle which grants me the freedom (from my perspective) to obtain a concealed weapons permit and carry a concealed handgun. Remember, I'm not trying to convince anyone else that the Spirit is leading them to do what I've done. I'm only sharing with you the biblical basis by which I carry a concealed weapon.

Romans 13:4 is specific:
"For (government authority) is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for (government authority) is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil."
Back in the day - before the invention of firearms - the sword was the best and most effective weapon against evil doers. Government authorities are ordained by God to stop evil through force.

The United States Constitution is also specific:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
The United States is not an aristocracy, nor a monarchy - We the People form the government. Our Founding Fathers made it very clear that the People of the United States were the highest authority in the newly established country. God makes nations, but the people of this nation (the United States) are the authority behind the government. Listen to the Founding Fathers:
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…. That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men…. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. … Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Declaration of Independence (1776).
It was for this purpose that the Second Amendment was established - guaranteeing the right of the People of the United States to "keep and bear arms."

Contrary to almost every other nation in the world, the People of the United States of America are the highest authority and have the right and duty to abolish their government and form a new government to provide "new Guards for the nation's future security and to provide for the common defense." I arm myself as a citizen of the United States of America. I am the government.

I have often worked through my mind whether or not I would give my life for the good news and gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a question that I take seriously. Would I allow myself "to be burned at the stake," or to "have my head chopped off" because I refuse to deny Christ? Answer: Of course. I'm ready to die, and will never be ashamed to die for Christ. I will not deny Him in order to live.

However, I live in America. And as long as our founding documents remain, and the citizens of the United States are called the highest authority in the land, then I will hold a concealed weapons permit and carry a concealed weapon. I will not hesitate to use it if I'm in a mall and someone opens fire on innocent bystanders, or I'm in a movie theater and someone opens up on American moms and dads and children, or I'm in any other public forum and evil doers seek to do harm on citizens of the United States.

I'm a Baptist by conviction, so I believe in the separation of church and state. As a member of my state, I will arm myself to insure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense. As a member of the church, I will be willing to die for Christ. But as long as I'm an American, I will defend the right of all Americans, even American Christians who give primary allegiance to the New Testament, to arm themselves if they so desire.

I realize John Piper's problem with Jerry Falwell is that Falwell was encouraging other Christians to arm themselves as American citizens. However, Piper does precisely what Falwell did; he's encouraging Christians in America not to arm themselves.

I'm doing what neither man has done. I'm telling you to follow the Spirit and do as He leads. As a Christian who lives in America, I do not have one stab of conviction from the Spirit of God that carrying a concealed weapon is wrong from a New Testament perspective. Were I to live in another country, say Germany, then maybe I'd rethink what I'm doing.

But I don't live in Germany. I live in America. I carry a concealed weapon as a follower of Jesus Christ who loves my country and the principles upon which it was founded. In America, citizens are the authority mentioned in Romans 13:4, and we "do not carry the sword (weapon) in vain."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hymns Called Whims and Changing Worship Styles

Monday night my wife and I listed to Jordan Smith sing an amazing vocal rendition of the Christmas hymn "Mary Did You Know?" on the television show The Voice. Rachelle told me later that she found herself worshiping while listening to Jordan sing, another confirmation that worship does not require one's personal vocal chords vibrating. Few evangelicals know that Mary Did You Know? is a recent hymn. Christian comedian and songwriter Mark Lowry helped write this classic song in 1991.

When it is considered that Silent Night was written in 1818 and Joy to the World in 1719, it shouldn't surprise us that mega-pop star Adam Levine confessed on national television he'd never before heard "Mary Did You Know?" 

The strength of Mary Did You Know? is in the message of the song. Read the words in verse two:
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.
Oh Mary did you know?
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the Lamb.
This song is a very powerful presentation of the gospel. It is a modern Christmas hymn, quickly becoming as popular as other classics like Silent Night and Joy to the World.

Isaac Watts wrote Joy to the World in 1719. Many evangelicals in Watt's day opposed the writing of hymns to be sung in worship. One of those leading evangelicals, William Romaine (1714-1795), saw contemporary hymns as a departure from the Scriptural norm. Romaine believed that the decline in psalmody (i.e. "singing the psalms in worship") had gone hand in hand with the decline in "vital religion." 

 Romaine felt people were losing their spirituality because they were now preferring the words of man to the Word of God. He said, 
“I have no quarrel with Dr Watts, or with any living or dead versifier. I would not have all their poems burnt. My concern is to see Christian congregations shut out divinely inspired Psalms, and take in Dr Watts’ flights of fancy, as if the words of a poet were better than those of a prophet." (Abbey and Overton, Sacred Poetry, pages 269-272)
William Romaine’s voice was far from being a lone one in his day. It became a running joke among English churchmen in the first half of the 18th century that ‘Watts’ hymns’ were ‘Watts’ whims’.
 My point of is Christian music has always been in a state of flux. Even those who say, "It's not the style of music, but the message that matters," need to remember that churchmen in the 1700's denigrated doctrinally sound and complex hymns like Joy to the World as whims. In the end, personal taste is what drives one's enjoyment of worship. Some like classical styles of worship, others like contemporary expressions with phrases repeated over and over, while others like more doctrinally complex narratives (hymns), while some insist one should only sing the Scriptures.
In my study of church history, I've concluded that worship wars are mostly wars of the flesh and not of the Spirit.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Extraordinary Beauty of Loving without Needing

I will often begin a talk with husbands or wives at various marriage conferences with the statement, "The best marriages are those where a husband and wife love each other, but don't need each other." Most of the time after saying this, couples look at me with a "deer-in-the-headlights" expression. I can see the wheels turning as they try to grasp what's been said. Usually speakers at marriage conferences say the opposite. The typical marriage speaker will tell wives that they are to expect their basic human needs to be met by their husband, and husbands that they should expect their wives to meet their basic needs. Then a list of the wife's needs is given to the husband, and a list of the husband's needs is given to the wife. Couples often leave average marriage conferences with both huge expectations and even greater burdens to do for their mate what God never designed us to do, to be the source of one's identity through the meeting of each other's spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical needs.  

I can prove from Scripture that God never designed a spouse to be the person on whom one depends for basic needs. At first, such a concept might seem strange. But follow the logic. We innately know, and the Bible affirms, that the basic needs of all human beings, both men and women, are (1). the need to connect with others (love or social belonging), (2). the need for respect (significance) and (3). the need to protect ( security). 

God designed us to have these basic needs met by Him, not our spouses. My basic needs are to be met by union with Christ, not the union I have with my mate. Let me prove it:

"My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory" (Philippians 4:19).

It is not "your husband" (or "your wife") who shall supply all your needs. The Bible reveals that Jesus gave much practical comfort to His disciples, both men and women (see Luke 8:1-3). Christ explicitly said that those who receive Him as Savior and Lord are not to worry about their future. He, their King, has everything under His control.  He, not your spouse, will provide for all your needs. See Matthew 6:25-34 as an example of Christ's teaching on this subject. Any spouse who looks to a mate to provide basic needs is substituting that mate for Christ.

"At the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage" (Matthew 22:30).

These are the words of Jesus. The resurrection is that time when God raises believers in Christ from the dead to live forever on the earth where the curse has been reversed. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "The meek will inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). When the redeemed earth is given to us as an inheritance, the city that Christ has been preparing for His people (see John 14:1-4, Hebrews 11:10, and Revelation 20) will descend from heaven and unite with this redeemed earth. This is the day that "all of creation is groaning for" (Romans 8:22).

Note to wives: Contrary to what Muslims, Mormons and other radical patriarchal advocates say, no woman will ever have her identity associated with a man for eternity. 

Jesus will give each of us "a new name" (see Revelation 2:17).  Names in Scripture represent a "change in identity or character." In heaven, you will "unfold the riches of His grace" and see all that He has prepared for you. Your worth, significance, identity and value will be found in Him. In your marriage here and now, you are to reflect your growing understanding of who you are in Christ as you love your mate the way Christ loves you. Jesus doesn't need you, but He sure does love you.

Any religion on this earth that refuses to assist women to find their basic needs met in Jesus Christ, any religion that refrains from pointing women to the King of Kings and encourages them to revel in the riches of being "wed to Christ," and any religion that somehow tries to make a woman think she needs her husband (spiritually, emotionally, or materially) is a religion that is not based on the infallible Scriptures or the truth of God's Kingdom. On the other hand, those Christian women who have been set free from the bondage of believing that they need their husbands to meet their basic needs, and then simply love their husbands from the overflow of  resting in the love and provisions of Christ, will find a slice of heaven in their homes.

"What causes quarrels and fightings among you? Don't they come from a battle over desires within you? You want something but don't get it. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God" (James 4:1-2).

Angry quarrels, scornful fights, and other efforts to control and manipulate your spouse arise from a desire to have your basic needs met by your mate rather than by your God. God never designed your husband to take His place in your life. Christ alone is your Source of real and lasting love, personal and abiding significance, and unqualified daily security.

"Seek first the Kingdom of God," Jesus said. The Kingdom of God is best defined as God's reign in your life through Jesus Christ. His Kingdom is within you (Luke 17:21). One day His Kingdom will be all around you, but until then, His reign is within. For this reason, you don't need your husband to be a certain way. You may want certain things from your husband, and of course, there is nothing wrong with asking; but you don't need him to be a certain way. Why? Because every need you have is designed to be met by God.


"Why does the Bible speak of a man and a woman becoming 'one flesh' in marriage if marriage is not designed to be permanent and marriage is not the place that a man or woman is to receive his or her identity?"

Answer: Marriage is a picture of the union that a man and a woman individually have with Christ. One should never replace the reality with the picture. When you embrace and kiss the picture to the exclusion of what the picture represents, you become an unhealthy Christian. For example, if I pick my wife up from the airport after a long absence,  run toward her to greet her, and then suddenly stop, ignore my wife, pull out a picture of her and then kiss the picture, I am an unhealthy person. I have made an idol of the picture and missed the reality of what the picture represents.

Pictures and picture frames break. They rip, burn, fade, and are often destroyed. So, too, marriages break and fall apart, but they are only pictures of the reality of one's union with Christ. If the picture is destroyed, it never means the reality conveyed by the picture is gone.   A spouse is to get his or her significance, security, and love from a  union with Jesus Christ, and never a union with any man.

"What happens when my spouse breaks the vow of sexual fidelity or becomes emotional or physically abusive to me?"

Answer: To say that a spouse's infidelity doesn't hurt would be false, thus all married persons want their spouse to be faithful. However, to say I don't need a faithful mate is true. To say that a spouse's emotional and physical abuse doesn't hurt would be false. To say that I don't need my spouse to be kind, loving and gracious is true. A married person doesn't need to be married. I may want to be married, but I don't need to be married.

Therefore, if your spouse is unfaithful or abusive, confront your husband in love and draw a boundary. Tell your husband that you cannot control his actions, nor is it your desire to control him. Let him know that if he desires another woman, or if he feels the need to abuse you, then you will let him go. You can and will end the marriage because you do not need him. End it, however, not in spite, or anger, or manipulation or control. End the marriage because you refuse to enable your husband in his sin, or be a wife that remains in abuse because you can't live without your man. You can. And, when the marriage is over, treat your former husband with dignity, respect and kindness--the same way you would treat any man who is not your husband, for that is the kind of person a woman who has her needs met in Christ is. Of course, the Spirit may lead you to stay with an adulterous spouse as He did Hosea to stay with Gomer, but it was not for Hosea's sake that he remained committed to an adulterous wife, it was for his wife's sake.

In some marriages, spouses will unintentionally enable their mates to continue in their addictions or sin because they unintentionally substitute their spouses for Christ. When a married person cannot envision a future without their spouse, then the picture (marriage) has become an idol, and the married person has lost perspective on the reality that marriage is intended to represent (my union with Christ).

"Be specific on why my spouse is even more attracted to me when I am love without needing?"

Christ's love for us is magnetic. "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19). Christ does not need us. He doesn't need us to be happy. He doesn't need us to be fulfilled. He doesn't need us to be a certain way for Him to feel significant. When He loves us, it is a selfless love. His love is unconditional, and wells within Him like an artesian spring. We don't pull it out of Him; He loves because He is love. When we begin to understand and experience this unconditional and personal love, we are drawn toward Him.

In the same manner, when a fulfilled, self-sufficient person marries, that person doesn't need marriage. The Kingdom of God is God's total answer for man's total need. What a person needs is Christ. We are wed to Him, and our desires in marriage are to be all that Christ has made us in life.

Selfless love is magnetic. It draws a spouse. Granted, your mate may not at first understand selfless love, mainly because His needs are not yet being fully met by Christ via faith! For this reason, a spouse may become unfaithful by searching for fulfillment in others. A Christian must set boundaries in marriage, but the enforcement of those boundaries should always be done with dignity, respect and love for the unfaithful spouse-for the good of the one unfaithful.

There is an extraordinary beauty in loving without needing.

Monday, December 07, 2015

A "More Devout" Muslim Is a Danger to Civilization

I have some very good friends who are Muslims. I must repeat that first sentence. I have some very good friends who are Muslims. These Muslim friends of mine have treated me superbly, invited me to dinners and banquets, and have come to Enid (from OKC) to spend some time with me. A couple of them are highly influential in Oklahoma and Texas, friends of mine on Facebook, and will be among those who read this article.

I'm not convinced my Muslim friends will agree with what I'm about to write, but I want them to know that my friendship is not on the line. I write what I perceive to be truth. I will not be silent in order to not jeopardize my friendships.  What I write is not about my Muslim friends personally, but it is about the Muslim religion philosophically. I do not consider my friends "devout" Muslims in the same manner growing numbers of Muslims around the world consider real "devotion" to their religion.

The ABC News headline about the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California states that the Islamic woman involved in the California shooting had become "more devout". Think about that headline. The Muslim woman had become "more devout." Those two words are chilling. Our President and other "politically correct" Americans want us to believe that this 21st century war on Islamic terrorism is not about religion. They are wrong.

This war is with a people who believe in their religion so devoutly that they believe anyone who refuses to submit to their god, to their law, and to their authority should be killed. ABC got it right; the California terrorists had become "more devout" in their Islamic faith.

An Atlantic Monthly reporter  spent several months embedded in ISIS and writes that American politicians have misled the American people.
We are misled ... by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. The religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Pretending that ISIS isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. Excluding ideology in explaining ISIS presents a Western bias. "If religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul." When a masked executioner says Allahu akbar while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious reasons.
My Muslim friends have told me that ISIS, Islamic terrorists, and other Muslims who kill are un-Islamic. Not so says the Atlantic Monthly (and I agree):
Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.” 
Of course, after the appearance of the Atlantic Monthly article, progressives immediately went on the offensive, doing all they could to repudiate the conclusions drawn by the Atlantic Monthly and Muslim scholar Bernard Haykel. The major argument against the California husband and wife team being "more devout" Muslims as they brutally killed and maimed three dozen Americans is that "they don't represent the Muslim faith."

That's a weak argument. Do you know why? Those two killers - and other ISIS' terrorists - are telling  Muslims who disagree with killing infidels that they are not devout enough in their Muslim faith.

In the Christian faith, if you lack devotion, you lack love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. Why is it in the Muslim faith (at least in the eyes of the California killers and ISIS terrorists) the lack of devotion means the unwillingness to kill, torture, and maim non-believers?

I believe it is the unwillingness of American leaders to acknowledge the religious devotion and philosophical ideology of the Islamic terrorists that makes our government weak and ineffective in its response to the modern-day terrorism all Americans are now facing.

To my Muslim friends: Please, for the sake of civilization, remain less devoted than your ISIS counterparts . I also urge you to speak out loudly and clearly to the self-radicalization that is happening within our borders among Muslims. The better Way is to love others, express grace and forgiveness, and unconditionally accept people of all faiths because of their intrinsic worth as those created in the image of God.

I have no problem with my friends who are Muslim. It's the way some Muslims are becoming "more devout" that is chilling.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Thomas Jefferson, Founder of the Democratic Party, Advocated Walking with a Gun for Exercise

In the wake of another mass shooting in California, some politicians are calling for tighter gun control. Regardless of one's opinion on guns, it's interesting to read what Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic Party, had to say about Americans and guns.

Jefferson believed you should walk daily with your gun. He wrote to his nephew Peter Carr and said:
"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks."
That's right. Thomas Jefferson advocated that the best exercise for Americans were long walks with their guns. He felt holding a rifle while walking worked the arms, the legs, and the mind at the same time. Jefferson would later give further details on when one should exercise with a gun:
"There is no habit you will value so much as that of walking far without fatigue. I would advise you to take your exercise in the afternoon. Not because it is the best time for exercise for certainly it is not: but because it is the best time to spare from your studies; and habit will soon reconcile it to health, and render it nearly as useful as if you gave to that the more precious hours of the day. A little walk of half an hour in the morning when you first rise is advisable also. It shakes off sleep, and produces other good effects."
Can you imagine Americans today, young and old (Jefferson's nephew was fifteen), walking through their neighborhood streets, city park trails, and their town squares with rifles and shotguns? If not, why not?

Could it be that the desire to ban guns from the hands of Americans is a misplaced concern? Maybe the root problem with gun violence is the mental and emotional instability in the heads and hearts of those who kill innocent people?

Could it be (just asking) that if Americans were to become comfortable with fellow Americans carrying guns and rifles in the open during their morning and afternoon walks, that the few socio-paths among us who wish to kill innocent people might be stopped before they even start?

I wonder how Thomas Jefferson would respond if he were asked how America could solve its gun violence problem today?

Maybe he'd tell us to take a walk.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Defalcation of Clinton Samuel (C.S.) Carnes: The Southern Baptist Convention's Worst Fraud

Defalcation - n. (dē-ˌfal-ˈkā-shən) - Def.  The act or an instance of embezzling

The picture to the left is a never before published 1928 press photo of a group of Southern Baptists and other interested persons waiting for a glimpse of the recently captured Home Mission Board Treasurer Clinton Samuel (C.S.) Carnes at the Atlanta train station.

C.S Carnes stole $909,461 from Southern Baptists, the Home Mission Board, and the recently formed Cooperative Program. In today's dollars, the amount Carnes embezzled is a staggering $12,344,066, the worst fraud ever perpetrated on Southern Baptists.

On Wednesday, August 15, 1928, C.S. Carnes locked up his desk in Atlanta, Georgia and said he was going out of state on business. The Home Mission Board's treasurer's job was to lend money to financial strapped rural churches through Home Mission funds. But Carnes went even further. On the good name of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Home Mission Board, he began to make unauthorized contacts and contracts with many small town banks on behalf of Southern Baptist rural churches. Carnes won the banks over with his word alone, often negotiating and borrowing $15,000, $10,000 and other round dollar sums "for the Board." Carnes established accounts "for the board" in 18 different states, using over 150 separate banks, with each bank either "holding funds for the board" or "paper covering loans" made by Carnes.  Unfortunately, all the monies "for the board" promptly went into C.S. Carnes' deep pockets, with Carne's intention to "pay back" the bank loans with future money he would earn through his nefarious personal investments.

As Carnes left Georgia for "business" that hot August day, auditors for the Home Mission Board
began examining his books. Soon, they discovered Carnes' massive fraud. Possibly either tipped off, or sensing imminent discovery of his malfeasance, Carnes never returned to Atlanta, leaving his wife and adult children to face the shame of his actions. After a warrant for Carnes' arrest was issued, newspapers across the nation headlined the nationwide search for the Baptist treasurer. Reporters began digging into Carnes' past, asking questions like "How could this happen?" and "What ever happened to all that money?" 

It was soon discovered that Carnes' embezzlement included the financing of the Hollywood careers of Swedish beauty Sonya Nordlie and American starlet Lois Griffin.  Carnes had the two aspiring actresses sign agreements that they would give him 10% of their future Hollywood earnings in return for his gifts of cash. However, it wasn't just beautiful women that Carnes financed. He became a real estate mogul, investing in commercial property and purchasing a personal mansion in Atlanta. He paid cash for at least four high-end personal vehicles, funded his boys' college education with cash, and soon became a regular in the high society benefits of the greater metropolitan area of Atlanta. Carnes' annual salary was only $4,500, but his lifestyle was extravagant. For the decade he served as the treasurer of the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention nobody seems to have officially questioned Carnes about his material excess. 

Six weeks after C.S. Carnes fled Atlanta on August 15, 1928, he was captured by police in Winnipeg, Canada. One month later, singer/songwriter Dan Hornsby released a hit folk song, putting the story of C.S. Carnes to music. You may listen to the catchy song here.  Time Magazine declared the defalcation of C.S. Carnes "a devastating blow to the image of the Southern Baptist Convention and extremely damaging to the trust Baptists have in their Boards." That was probably a rare understatement for Time.

After a plea bargain agreement, Clinton Samuel Carnes was sentenced in early 1929 to five to seven years imprisonment. Prosecutors stated the agreement would save the state of Georgia a long, expensive trial. Justice would be served, they argued, because of Carnes' advanced age. It was stated at sentencing that Carnes had agreed to aid in untangling the board's accounts on which auditors had been working since his disappearance the previous summer. Only one of the 20 indictments was returned against Carnes, as the state announced the others would be dismissed if the 61-year-old former layman did not seek a pardon or parole before the expiration of his minimum sentence.

In 1933 Carnes' wife (Maude), still living in Atlanta, listed herself as a (wid C S) "widow to C.S." in the city directory. Though her husband was still in prison, and though he would soon be released, shame ended Maude Carnes marriage before death did. In 1935 C.S. Carnes finished serving his prison sentence.  He never returned to Atlanta, but moved to Denver, Colorado. He eventually settled in Salt Lake City, Utah and died there in obscurity on July 31, 1950, one day after his eighty-second birthday. 

Lessons from Carnes' Defalcation

Clinton Samuel (CS) Carnes
I'll close this sad saga by pointing out four little known facts from Carnes' extraordinary embezzlement and include a few of the important lessons worth remembering. Before Carnes went to trial, he grew a mustache and allowed his hair to grow longer (compare the picture of Carnes at the top right to the one bottom left).

(1). C.S. Carnes had been in prison just two years prior to being hired as the treasurer for the Home Mission Board. His first imprisonment (1914-1916) was for "mail fraud," and it seems nobody from the Home Mission Board performed due diligence in checking the background of Mr. Carnes. The surest expectation of future conduct are certified anecdotes of past character. 

(2). C.S. Carnes was known to the Home Mission Board because he had somehow obtained a job with an independent company that sent a team of workers for a perfunctory audit of the Home Mission Board books in 1917. When the audit team gave its report, a tall, ascetic-looking auditor made appropriate suggestions, impressing Home Mission board members.  A few months later when the treasurer of the Home Mission Board resigned, the Board went looking for the man whose bearing and appearance impressed them. The Board hired Carnes in 1918 and for the next decade, the treasurer of the Home Mission Board stole from Southern Baptists. Outward appearance is never a qualification for Kingdom ministry, for some of God's choices servants are often cultures' outcasts. 

(3). C.S. Carnes rewarded loyalist with financial gifts, loans, and ministry appointments. Due to his position of influence and "authority" no Southern Baptists stepped to the microphone to question the expenditures and lifestyle of their Home Mission Board treasurer. Sycophants enable swindlers, and an organization that bestows "authority and power" to its leaders only creates more sycophants, and thus more swindlers. 

(4). C.S. Carnes took nearly a million dollars. On Armistice Day, November 11, 1929, the Southern Baptist Convention asked "each Southern Baptist to give" in order to cover the million dollar debt of C.S. Carnes. The promotional committee of the Convention could not have known when they announced the Armistice Day campaign that the stock market would crash two weeks prior to the event. Unable to cover the financial shortfall, the Southern Baptist Convention's Home Mission Board went out of business and ceased to exist for eight years (1929-1937). It is not always a bad thing when a convention runs short of money, for during dark times, the systemic problems that led to the shortfall are often corrected. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ronald Reagan, Roy Benavidez and YouTube's Best

This weekend marks the 15th anniversary of the death of one America's greatest heroes. Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Major Sergeant Roy Perez Benavidez (August 5, 1935 - November 29, 1998). The video below begins with President Ronald Reagan telling what my wife calls "the most incredible military act of courage" she's ever heard of, and then Roy follows up with a speech that he gave to a group of young men. In my opinion, the video below represents the best 25 minutes you will ever spend on YouTube. This Thanksgiving 2015, I am grateful for Roy Benavidez and the beautiful illustration his life gives of the importance of "duty, honor, country." Get you a cup of coffee and watch. You will not regret it. --

Friday, November 20, 2015

How Do You Know Christianity Is True? Why Every Christian Should Read and Know Daniel 11

We live in a day of texting, not reading. For this reason, we've produced at least a generation of non-critical thinkers in the United States. It's difficult for many Christians to respond to the question, “How do you know Christianity is true?” Sadly, the faith of Christians is becoming increasingly blind and ignorant. 

Many Christians feel their faith is real, but can't explain why. For example, "Since I came to Christ,  my life has taken a turn for the better" is a common refrain of believers. Christianity is real to many because of their experience and feelings.

Unfortunately, testifying of one's comfort and changed life in believing the Christian message is not a unique religious testimony. The Taoist, the Buddhist, the Muslim, and the Hindu could all say the same thing. Even the radical Islamic believer trusts his life is better because of his faith in Allah. All faiths have the claim that lives will be changed for the better because of their unique, religious faith. Ironically, even skeptics and atheists will argue that their lack of faith in God brings just as much peace and feels just as right to them as the faith of the religious.

So how do you know Christianity is true? What is the basis for your assurance that Jesus Christ represents the truth of God, and followers of Jesus are in possession of the truth that other faith religions don't have?  How do you know that the God of the Bible is the One True God and the biblical account of Him coming to earth, dying on a cross, and rising from the dead for the deliverance of sinners is the message that should be accepted above all other religious messages?

Other than your personal experience and testimony, you may have little or no idea how to defend your faith. You may even be uncomfortable proclaiming the exclusivity of Christ, as are many theological liberals, because you don't have a firm foundation for believing in the exclusivity of the Christian faith. Even worse, you may know that your inability to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" is probably your greatest weakness as a follower of Christ.  

So let me help you.

*Only the one true God can foretell the future

The Lord says in Isaiah 42:8-9 "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another ... new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you." 

This is an astounding claim which, if true, conclusively proves that the God of the Bible is the one true God. 

God alone or, more precisely, the one true God alone, can tell us future events before they happen. The LORD, the God of the Bible, makes this claim for Himself. He says that He tells us things “before they spring into being” (Isaiah 42:8-9). No other god can do this. This, in the end, is the only way to be sure that Christianity is the one true religion and the God of Christianity is the one true God.

There is not one religious book in the world, other than the Bible, that even attempts prophecy. There are no prophecies in the Quran of Islam, the Diamond Sutra of Buddhism, the Smitri of Hinduism, the Pearl of Great Price of Mormonism, or any other holy book of the world’s religions. No other religious book, other than the Bible, even attempts to prophecy the future. God tells the biblical prophets the future, and the Bible prophecies recorded for us are so accurate in foretelling future events that nobody should ever doubt the message the Bible contains.

The Lord inspires His prophets to speak of things “not yet sprung forth,” and we are able to verify these prophecies because we have lived to see them fulfilled. For example, one set of prophecies, made hundreds of years before their fulfillment, are those prophecies regarding the coming Messiah. These “Messianic prophecies” include statements foretelling that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham (Gen. 12:3; Gen. 22:18), would come from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), and would be a direct descendant of King David, (2 Sam. 7:12 and 13). The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zech. 9:9) and would suffer silently before his accusers (Gen. 3:15; Isa. 53:5; Isa. 53:7). He would be considered a criminal and executed with other criminals (Isa. 53:12) while making intercession for those with whom he died (Isa. 53:12). The Messiah would have his hands and feet pierced (Ps. 22:16). He would be buried in the tomb of a wealthy man (Isa. 53:9) and his dead body would not see decay (Ps. 16:10). He would also rise from the dead (Ps. 2:7-9; Ps. 16:10 and 11; Isa. 53:9-12). These Messianic biblical prophecies (and dozens more) were given at least five hundred years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth came to earth and fulfilled them all.

Skeptics might object that Jesus could have read the writings of the Jewish prophets and self-fulfilled everything they said about the coming Messiah. I find that argument rather ridiculous, but rather than resting my assurance in the veracity of the Christian message on the fulfillment of biblical Messianic prophecies in Jesus Christ, I turn to the the stunning and amazing prophecies of Daniel 11 and 12 and discover the capstone defense of the Christian faith. The fulfilled prophecies of Daniel 11 and 12 give us irrefutable evidence that the God of the Bible is the one true God, and that He has chosen to reveal Himself as Emmanuel (i.e. “God with us”) in the Person of Jesus the Messiah.

Daniel is one of those Bible books that many Christians avoid because they find it difficult to understand. However, with just a little knowledge of world history, the ability to place Daniel in its proper context to ancient Hebrew history, and the patience to study the Bible for something more than serendipitous personal devotionals, you will find yourself supplied with an Anchor of hope in Christianity that can never be shaken or taken away.

The Power of Fulfilled Prophecy

After Persian's conquest of Babylon on October 11, 539 B.C. God told Daniel about other major world events that would occur over the ensuing six hundred years -- from 530 B.C. to 70 A.D--and Daniel, in turn, foretold to the Persian/Mede Prince Darius these future world events.  The prophecies God gave to Daniel included world events that would occur during the years between the close of the Old Testament (Malachi) in 440 B.C. and the beginning of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in 4 B.C. The world events occurring between the Testaments include the fall of the Persian Empire (modern day Iran), the rise of the Grecian Empire (modern day Greece) and Alexander the Great’s conquest of the known world, the premature death of Alexander at thirty-three years of age and the division of Alexander’s empire into four districts (north, south, east and west), the great conflict between the Seleucids of the north (the Syrians) and the Ptolemies of the south (the Egyptians), and the ultimate rise of the Roman Empire and the establishment of Roman emperors as the “gods of the world.” Daniel foretold the first century BC events including the rise in power of Julias Caesar's adopted son Octavius, otherwise known as Augustus Caesar, the attempted revolt by Antony and Cleopatra against Octavius, and the assignment by the Roman Senate that Herod the Great rule the Jews in Judea on behalf of the Romans. Finally, in the first century AD the Roman Empire made the determination to destroy the Jewish Temple and the city of Jerusalem, effectively ending the Old Covenant Hebrew system of worship.   All of the above events occurred during the 600 years from 530 B.C. to A.D. 70.  and Daniel prophesies each and every one of the aforementioned events in specific and mind-blowing detail in Daniel 11 and 12. These prophecies are given by God to Daniel for one purpose--to identify the date of the coming Savior of the world. Daniel is accurate in every detail, giving the precise sequence of order in which these future events would occur, over five hundred years before they happened,

How could Daniel prophesy these things? God told Daniel about world events “before they sprang forth” and commanded Daniel to write down the prophecies hundreds of years before they were fulfilled. Think about this. The ability to foretell world events for the next 600 years in stunning detail would be astonishing confirmation that the One who told you the future is the true God of the universe. We can’t even tell who the next President of the United States will be, but God knows the end from the beginning, and should He choose to tell us the future, we would tell others in order to prove that our God is the one true God. This is precisely what Daniel did. God was telling the world when He was coming to earth, and your confidence that "all the fullness of the Godhead" bodily dwelt in Jesus Christ is supported by fulfilled the fulfilled prophecies of Daniel.

Daniel in the Dead Sea Scrolls
So accurately do the events described in Daniel 11 and Daniel 12 correspond with actual history that the infidel, Porphyry, could not evade the force of the argument that the Bible was written by Divine Inspiration except by claiming Daniel was written by an imposter after the events prophesied had actually occurred. Porphyry and other scoffers of the Bible long claimed that an unknown Hebrew scholar, after the fall of the Persian Empire, after the rise and fall of the Grecian Empire, and after the ultimate rise of the Roman Empire and her emperors, pretended to be Daniel and wrote the book of Daniel. Their theory, however, was dashed to pieces by a shepherd boy who threw a rock into a cave in Israel in 1947 and science discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. It has now been conclusively proven that the Daniel manuscript in the Dead Sea Scrolls dates from before the fulfillment of the prophecies of Daniel 11 and 12.

God refuses to share His glory.

For an incredible exposition of the fulfilled prophecies of Daniel 11 and Daniel 12 see this rare 1838 book by James Farquharson, LL.D. F.R.S. entitled "Daniel's Last Vision and Prophecy." To assist the reader who wishes not to dowload the full PDF file linked above, I am offering an abbreviated exposition of Daniel 11, to show the power of fulfilled prophecy and why you never ought to doubt Jesus Christ as the one true God.

A Brief Review of the Fulfilled Prophecies of Daniel 11

(Daniel 11:1) “In the first year of Darius the Mede, I arose to be an encouragement and protection for him" —

Daniel Before King Darius (535 B.C.)
Daniel had been a Hebrew captive in Babylon (modern day Iraq) since 607 B.C. However, God determined that the Babylonian Empire would fall to the Medes and Persians on October 11, 539 B.C., an event chillingly described in Daniel 5. God told the leaders of Babylon – Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin,” which means “you have been weighed in the balances [of God’s justice] and found wanting.” God judged Belshazzar and the Babylonian leaders for their desecration of the Hebrew Temple vessels, and the Lord brought down the kingdom of Babylon through an invasion of the Medes and the Persians. The Hebrew captives in Babylon, including Daniel, became the captives of the Persians. Two kings ruled Babylon simultaneously in 535 B.C., Cyrus (the Persian king) and Darius (the Mede king), as their armies continued a conquest of the known world. Daniel 11 opens with Daniel being encouraged by the angel Gabriel that he (Gabriel) had "encouraged" King Darius the Mede. The order had been given by Cyrus (and Darius) to release the Jews from captivity in order allow them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their city and the Temple. The forces of hell did not like Cyrus' edict to release the Jews, and Gabriel, on behalf of Israel, "strengthened" Darius to follow through. This prophecy of Daniel 11 and 12 is called “the latter prophecy” or “the last prophecy” of Daniel. The prophecy encompasses events that would occur in the world over the next 600 years (530 B.C. to A.D. 70).

(Daniel 11:2) “Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than them all.”

Here Daniel is given a glimpse into the future. Four additional kings of Persia would arise after the reign of Darius and Cyrus. History records that things happened precisely as Daniel recorded them. The first king was Cambyses, the son of Cyrus who ruled the Persian kingdom from 530-522 B.C. The second king was Bardiya (522 B.C.). The third king was Darius, the son of Hystaspes, who ruled from 521-486 B.C. The fourth king was Xerxes, who ruled Persian from 486 B.C. to 465 B.C. and was involved in continual attempts to defeat a newcomer to world power--Greece. After Xerxes, the Persian Empire would be ruled by lesser Persian kings.
Xerxes  as portrayed in the movie 300

Ironically, many young people today are familiar with Xerxes. Fascination with ancient Sparta, and particularly the Battle of Thermopylae, has led to a rise in popularity of Xerxes in modern culture. He is depicted as a massive, evil and incompetent giant in the modern Hollywood version of the movie 300, played by Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro. This portrayal of Xerxes angered the government of modern Iran. The video game Assassin's Creed II gives Xerxes cult status. He is the leader of the Persian Empire in the video game Civilization II and Civilization III. American rapper King Gordy released an album titled Xerxes the God King on August 1, 2010. Most Christians do not even know that the Bible accurately prophesies that the fourth Persian king after Cyrus, King Xerxes, would be the richest (most powerful) king of all Persian kings. Other Persian kings would follow, but none would hold the distinction of being as powerful as Xerxes, the fourth king after Cyrus. It is during the reign of Xerxes that the biblical story of Esther occurs.

(Daniel 11:3-4) “And a mighty king shall stand up that shall rule with great dominion ... but as soon as he has arisen his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendents.”

This “mighty king” that arose was Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.), the ruler of Greece during the rise of the Grecian Empire. Alexander the Great (Greek: Megas Alexandros) conquered all of the former Medo-Persian Empire as well as the rest of the world, and sat down and wept when he realized there were no worlds left to conquer. Alexander died at 33, at the peak of his power, and just like Daniel 11:3-4 prophesies, Alexander’s Grecian Empire was divided among four people—Seleucus (north), Antigonus (east), Philip (west) and Ptolemy (south). These four were Alexander's generals and not his relatives or descendents.

Again, many modern Christians may watch the 2004 epic film Alexander, directed by Oliver Stone and starring Colin Farrell, but never realize that the the prophet Daniel, in Daniel 11:3-4 prophesies accurately and in stunning detail the accomplishments, downfall and division of the kingdom of Alexander the Great--two hundred years before Alexander was even born. It is through a lack of understanding fulfilled prophecy that many Christians have little stomach to stand up against those who pronounce us arrogant for saying Christianity is the only true religion in the world.

From Daniel 11:5 through 11:23 we have a vivid description of the kings of the South (the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt) warring against the kings of the North (Seleucid Dynasty of Syria). The Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt reigned from 305-30 B.C. when it was finally conquered by Roman Empire. The Ptolemies were the 32nd and last dynasty of Ancient Egypt. The Seleucid Dynasty reined over the Greco-Syrian Empire from 312-64 B.C. Again, most people have no clue that the Bible vividly describes the rise of the two greatest kingdoms of the 4th century B.C. and their wars against each other -- hundreds of years before the kingdoms arose and the wars occured. In this section of the prophecy there is a detailed description of the different kings that would reign over the Northern kingdom (the Seleucids of Syria) and the Southern kingdom (the Ptolemies of Egypt).  The prophecies of Daniel in these verses, detailing the various kings of the Ptolemy Dynasty of Egypt and the Seulicid Dynasty of ancient Syria and their actions, can be compared to actual history and it is irrefutible that events in the two major world empires of 300 B.C. to 170 B.C. occurred precisely as Daniel foretold they would.

Slaughtering a pig on the altar
In Daniel 11:24-35  we have a lengthy and vivid description of a Seulicid king named Antiochus Epiphanes (215 B.C. to 165 B.C.) who battled the Egyption Ptolemies, but lost his most aggressive campaign against them when the rising Roman Empire sided with the Egyptian Empire and "drew the line in the sand" in 168 B.C. and told Antiochus not to cross it or he would be entering into war against both Rome and Egypt. This is where the saying "a line in the sand" originates. Antiochus did not cross it for fear of the Romans and, humiliated and angry, Antiochus left the outskirts of the Egyptian empire and made his way back north to Syria. However, he stopped on his journey back home in Jerusalem and vented his anger against the Jews and the Temple of the Jews. In this section of  Daniel's prophecy  (remember the prophecy was made in 535 B.C.), Daniel  vividly foretells what Antiochus would do against the Jews and the Temple in 168 A.D. The "abomination of desolation" (v. 32), which occurred in the Hebrew Temple of Jersualem, included Antiochus slaughtering a pig on the holy altar. Many Jews were also murdered by the wicked king.  

(Daniel 11:33-35) “ ... but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”

The people who “know their God" and are strong, in context, are the Maccabbees. These three verses in Daniel describe the Jewish followers of Judas Maccabeus,  who arose in revolt against the tyranny of the "evil king" Antiochus . They led the Jews to seek to overthrow the Seulicid Empire and Antiochus Epiphanes beginning in 167 B.C. The war of the Maccabbees against the Seulicids lasted for seven years and is recorded in the historical books of I and II Maccabees.

(Daniel 11:36) “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods ...

The description of the king who prospers and exalts himself above every God is a reference to the rise of King Herod the Great, who put an end to Maccabean (Hasmonean Jewish) rule of Judea. Herod was made King of the Jews by the Roman Senate in 39 B.C. but it took him three years to defeat the Maccabeans and gain control of Jerusalem in 36 B.C. Herod's allegience throughout his reign as King of the Jews was to Rome. 

Herodium, one of Herod's walled "fortresses."

(Daniel 11:37-38) “Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his estate shall he honor the god of fortresses [Hebrew: Maozim]: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver …”

This prophecy of the one who worships the god of fortresses (Maozim) refers to Herod the Great (74 B.C. to 4 B.C.).  Herod was an ethnic Idumean and worshiped the "god of fortresses." He built over a dozen heavily fortified fortresses, including Herodium and Masada during his tenure as King of the Jews. His fortresses are still able to be to toured throughout Israel today.

(Daniel 11:39-44) Describes the expansion of the King Herod's influence and grip of power over all Judea, the land of the Jews, and the rebuilding of the Temple with "costly stones," which Herod heavily fortified to garrison his army (i.e. "the Antonia Fortress").  The Roman Senate had designated Herod King of the Jews in 39 B.C., but it took Herod three years to defeat the Maccabeans and gain control of Jerusalem. Herod the Great, ruled Judea with an iron fist from 36 B.C. to 4 B.C. Though he sought to gain favor with the Jews by ordering the rebuilding of the Temple, called "Herod's Temple," he was a singularly vile and wicked 'King' to the Jews. 

Five years into Herod's reign over the Jews (31 B.C.), Cleopatra of Egypt convinced Antony to attack Octavius of Rome. The year long battle between the "king of the south" (i.e. Cleopatra) and the king of the north (i.e. Octavius) is vividly described in Daniel 11:40-44. Octavius initially defeated Antony and Cleopatra in the naval battle called Actium (September 16, 31 B.C.), overwhelming the aggressive Egyptian forces "like a whirlwind" (v. 40). King Herod of Judea, who had initially aligned "with" Cleopatra, eventually switched his allegience to Octavius. After Cleopatra and Antony retreated their forces to Alexandria, Octavius marched his Roman armies south, through Judea,  moving his massive infanty to attack the Egyptians forces in Egypt. Octavius' army defeated Antony and Cleopatra and their Egyptian armies in 30 B.C., putting an end to the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt

After the the conquest of Egypt, Octavius (63 B.C. to A.D. 14) became the first emperor of Rome, receiving the title Augustus Caesar from the Roman Senate. Augustus was the first in a long line of Roman emperors who would claim 'deity' for themselves. The Roman Emperor became known as “The Son of God and the Savior of the World” according to Roman inscriptions of the day. It is to this foolish designation of the Roman Emperor to which Peter refers in Acts 4:12: “For there is none other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

King Herod of Judea, in tribute to the new Emperor of Rome, and possibly hoping to make the Emperor forget Herod had initially alligned "with" Cleopatra, built for Augustus a city on the Mediterranean coast in Judea and called it "Caesarea by the Sea," the place the Apostle Paul would later be held as a prisoner before being shipped to Rome. It was during the reign of Caesar Augustus as Emperor of Rome (30 B.C. to 14 A.D.) and King Herod as Roman tetrarch of Judea  (36 B.C. to 4 B.C.), that the prophesied Savior of the World, the eternal Son of God and true King of Kings would enter the world (i.e. "At that time Michael ... shall arise"). When Herod the Great heard the rumors of this "coming King" he was greatly troubled.

The Magi from the East
(Daniel 11:44-45) “But rumors from the East and from the North will trouble him: and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many. He will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain; yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him."

“Rumors from the East and from of the North shall trouble him” is a reference to the Wise Men who came asking King Herod, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews.” In great trouble and inner turmoil, not only because of the words of the Wise Men, but also because of threats from the North (Rome) against him, Herod ordered all young boys in the land of Judea put to death. Yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him. The death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C. is an astonishing portrayal of isolated abandonment, even by those closest to him, and an inability to cure him of his multiple diseases. Daniel 11 concludes with the death of King Herod in 4 B.C., which corresponds precisely to the year of the birth of Jesus Christ, the true Son of God and Savior of the world (Luke 2:1).

"At that time Michael... shall arise" (Daniel 12:1).

I find it so unfortunate that many modern-day Christians have missed the power of fulfilled prophecy in Daniel 11 and 12 and, as a result, have missed the clearest evidence there is that Jesus Christ is the one true God. The purpose of God giving Daniel a glimpse into the future was to confirm that the Son of God and the Savior of the world, Jesus of Nazareth, born in 4 B.C. was the one true God of the universe come to earth. God gave Daniel a glimpse into the future, something only the one true God can do, in order to reveal WHEN MICHAEL SHALL ARISE.

Futurists--those who constantly try to tell us that Daniel 11 and Daniel 12 are prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled and relate to some future antichrist and a future coming of our Lord--have missed the power, the purpose and the truth of Daniel's prophecy. In closing, I leave you with the words of two people, John Gill, the greatest Hebrew scholar Baptists have ever produced, and 19th century Scottish pastor James Farqurharson as they reveal who "Michael" is in Daniel 12:1 (I trust John and James much more than I do Tim Lahaye or Hal Lindsey).

"Michael the Archangel, who has all the angels of heaven under him, and at his command, is the Son of Godour Lord Jesus Christ; who is as God, as the name signifies, truly and really God, and equal in nature, power, and glory to his divine Father" (John Gill).

"It is  undeniable that the archangel Michael is the only archangel of whom we know any thing from holy writ. It cannot be proved from holy writ,—and if not from holy writ, it cannot be proved at all,—that any archangel exists but the one archangel Michael; and this one archangel Michael is unquestionably the Michael of the book of Daniel. The Archangel, in 1 Thessalonians 4.16, whose voice is to raise the dead, can be no other than our Lord; and in the 9th verse of Jude, the Archangel is named Michael. Although not of “the nature of angels" (Hebrews 2:16), our Lord is their Commander, for authorities, and powers, are subject unto him (I Peter 3:22), and “thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, and all things, were created by him, and for him" (James Farquharson)

In summary: The book of Daniel was written in the 6th Century BC (539/538 B.C. to be exact) and describes in detail the Medo-Persian Empire, the Greek Empire, the Seleucids of Syria, the Ptolemies of Egypt, and the Roman Empire—hundreds of years before they ever existed. The details of these historical events are so accurately foretold by the prophet Daniel that pagan scoffers have ridiculed the book of Daniel by saying it could have only been written AFTER Rome came to power and conquered the world, and that the author of the book "claimed" to be Daniel the prophet. In 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, including full copies of Daniel manuscripts that date back well before the fulfillment of the Daniel prophecies.

The basis for your trust of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is fulfilled prophecy. Only the one true God can tell us the future, long before the events of the future "spring forth." He told us about world events immediately preceding the time "Michael ... shall arise." It happened just as He said.

Michael, the Son of God and Savior of the world, has come. All religions are not the same. There is only one true religion and only one true God, and may an understanding of Daniel 11 and 12 cause you to never shrink away from boldly proclaiming the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, for "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).