Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Conversion of Andrew Jackson

Recently it was announced that the extraordinary Harriett Tubman will be featured on front of the $20 bill. The  portrait of the 7th President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, will be removed by the year 2020. I wish it were possible to celebrate the rise of new heroines while displaying restraint in removing old heroes.

Andrew Jackson is my favorite President of all time.

More so than Lincoln, Washington, and Reagan. Jackson's life story captures me more than all our other Presidents.

Unfortunately, Americans today only hear the rightful criticisms of Jackson's Indian Removal Act and his lack of opposition to slavery, while never hearing the monumental things this founder of the Democrat Party accomplished on behalf of our nation.

Forgetting to appraise people according to their culture and times will sometimes lead us to mistakenly dismiss the worthy. Caution is in order before condemning ancestors, recognizing the general darkness of former days often tainted one's personal behaviors.

Enid, Oklahoma has some very strong connections to the life story of Andrew Jackson. A 1910 graduate of Enid High School, Marquis James, wrote an award winning biography of our nation's 7th President. James' two volumes on the life of Andrew Jackson - Volume 1 The Border Captain (1933) and Volume 2 Portrait of a President (1937) - were combined into the 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Life of Andrew Jackson. To this day, it remains the most colorful and interesting biography of President Jackson.

When President Jackson pushed for the Indian Removal act in 1830, the greatest opponent to the President's ambition of moving all Indians to "Indian Territory" (Oklahoma), was the erudite Cherokee Chief, a man named John Ross. Chief Ross's great-great granddaughter is an across-the-street neighbor and member of the church I pastor. Her family's story of how the Cherokees (and other tribes) were forcibly moved to Indian Territory is not one of the brighter chapters in American history, but any Oklahoman with a mixture of Indian blood is most likely directly connected with President Jackson through the land you now call home (Oklahoma).

The reason I feel a strong affinity for Andrew Jackson is the dramatic story of his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ during the later years of his life. Though raised by a mother who desired him to be a Presbyterian minister and married to a woman devout in her Christian faith, both of these women died very early in their lives, leaving Jackson to serve as President of the United States (1829-1837) without their influence. Though known to defend the Christian faith as President, Andrew Jackson had no personal experience with it until he reached the age of 75.

The Scar of Abuse

Born on the Ides of March (March 15), 1767, Andrew Jackson came into this world just three weeks after his father, Andrew Sr.,  died from injuries sustained attempting to move a log on their land near
Waxhaw, North Carolina. Both North Carolina and South Carolina claim Jackson as a native son, but Marquis James says Mrs. Jackson gave birth to Andrew while staying in her brother's home in South Carolina, not far from Waxhaw, North Carolina.

Andrew's devout Christian mother taught him to read at an early age, and when The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, it was nine-year-old Andrew who stood on a chair and read the Philadelphia newspaper's account as the "town crier" to the inhabitants of Waxhaw. The Declaration of Independence meant war with the British.

An expert horseman,  young Andrew Jackson eventually became a messenger boy for the Revolutionary soldiers.  When Andrew was only 13 years old, he was captured by the British and imprisoned in Camden, South Carolina. While in prison, Andrew contracted small-pox. and he would have died had it not been for his mother coming to Camden to successfully negotiate her son's release. She nursed Andy back to health back, but a year later, Andy's mother would leave for Charles Town to assist in the care of other wounded Revolutionary War soldiers. While ministering to the wounded in Charleston, South Carolina, Andy's mom contracted cholera and died, leaving the future President of the United States orphaned at the age of 14.

But the event that kept Andrew Jackson from "following Christ" occurred on the day he was captured by the British soldiers. It filled his heart with hate.

Marquis James recounts the event:
The British officer in command "in a very imperious tone" directed Andy to clean his boots. 
"This order he very promptly and positively refused, alleging that he expected such treatment as a prisoner of war had a right to look for."
The officer lifted his sword and aimed a violent blow. The boy threw up his left hand. It was cut to the bone, and a gash on his head left a white scar that Andrew Jackson carried through a long life that profited little to England or any Englishman." 
Biographer Marquis James is known as "the unqualified master of understated metaphors."  The phrase "the white scar...profited little to England or any other Englishman" is an understated way of saying Andrew hated the English people and England in general. The scar on his cheek, which turned whiter as the years progressed, served as a visible reminder of this hatred.

Jackson was fueled by this hatred in his amazing defeat of the British in New Orleans to end The War of 1812. He would often skip British protocol with diplomats while President because he despised courtesy to the British. Andrew Jackson's abuse as a boy at the hands of a British officer kept him in a state of perpetual resentment towards all things British.

Until his conversion.

The Conversion of Andrew Jackson

It was in 1842, while in retirement at his homestead (the Hermitage) outside of Nashville, that Jackson came to faith in Christ.  A week long series of meetings was held on his property, led by Dr. Edgar, an evangelical Presbyterian minister from Nashville.

The Hermitage outside Nashville
During the last of the revival meetings, on a Saturday, the guest preacher noticed the former President was paying particularly close attention to the message. Dr. Edgar, on the spur of the moment, decided to give a very personal illustration of God's providence. The preacher sketched the life and career of a Tennessee pioneer who had "escaped the perils of the wilderness, the wiles of the Indian. the dangers of war, the conflicts of politics,  and the attempts of the assassin." This was Andrew Jackson's life.

Then the preacher asked, "How can such a man pass through such scenes as these unharmed and not see in it an Omnipotent Hand?

At the close of the service the former President asked the preacher for a personal visit. However, Dr. Edgar could not do so until Sunday morning. The former President spent the greater part of Saturday night reading the Bible and in prayer. When the preacher came to the Hermitage the next morning, Andrew Jackson announced to the preacher that he had given his life to Christ and would like to "join the church." Dr. Edgar asked Jackson a series of questions about his faith, and the conversation concluded with the following dialogue.
General there is one more question which it is my duty to ask you. 'Can you forgive all your enemies?' 
Jackson was silent for a good while. At length he said, "My political enemies I can freely forgive, but as for those who abused me when I was serving my country in the field, and those who attacked me for serving my country doctor that is a different case.
Dr. Edgar, however, insisted that the forgiveness must be entire and embrace the whole family of man.
After a considerable pause the candidate got so far as to say that he thought he could forgive even the men who had made his defense of his native land a pretext for assailing him.
The scene in the little church that morning was never forgotten by any who witnessed it.
Besides being crowded to the very uttermost the windows were darkened by as many black faces as could get near enough. At length the former President and his daughter stood up to make the usual public profession.
He leaned heavily upon his walking stick with both hands and his face was wet with tears. When finally he was pronounced a member of the church, the feelings of the congregation, which had been restrained during the ceremonial, burst forth in sobs and cries, and the clergyman himself was unable to speak. Some one started a familiar hymn, and in singing this the feelings of the excited company at last found both expression and relief. (General Jackson: Hero of New Orleans by Oliver Dyer, pp. 361-363).
In Andrew Jackson's conversion I am reminded that the mark of genuine Christianity is the ability to forgive even one's enemies. Yes, it may take time. Yes, it isn't easy (it requires the power of God), but the evidence of the presence of God in one's life is the ability to give the same grace which God has given you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Parable of a Fruit Inspector and a Fruit Promoter

Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you seven times a day,
and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him" (Luke 17:4).

In a beautiful village with a bustling town square, Mr. Fruit Promoter sat at his fruit stand and promoted his assorted fruits to all who walked through the market.

Periodically, Mr. Fruit Inspector would come to Mr. Fruit Promoter's stand and stop for a close inspection.

Never a dark spot would he miss. Never a crushed fruit would he overlook. Never a stain would he ignore.

"Get that fruit out of here! Don't you know that one bad apple can spoil the entire stand!"

Mr. Fruit Promoter calmly responded, "Sir, I see the dark spots on my bad apples better than you. I know the oranges that have been crushed and have dried out, and I'm not blind to the stains on my other fruits. However, I can't throw my bad fruit out."

"But you are promoting rotten fruit?"

"All fruit by nature is rotting. Because I'm a Fruit Promoter, I use even my rotten fruit."

Mr. Fruit Inspector argued back, "But rotten fruit is useless!"

"No sir, it's not. You speak as a Fruit Inspector. I'm a Fruit Promoter. Every rotten fruit has seeds within that spring into something new. Every tainted and stained skin on rotten fruit can be used to enrich an entire field of new fruit, creating life out of decay. Because of my love for fruit in general, I can see good in all fruit, regardless of rottenness."

Mr. Fruit Inspector objected, "But you have an obligation to the public to display a perfect fruit stand. You have an obligation to sell only perfect fruit!"

Mr. Fruit Promoter points to the sign in front of his stand which said:
Come, all you who are hungry, come to the stand. If you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy fruit and wine without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1)
"I'm not in the fruit business to make money or impress people. I'm in the fruit business because I love fruit and want to share that love with others. It's a calling."

Mr. Fruit Inspector made one final argument. "If you promote rotten fruit, you will give people the wrong impression about fruit in general."

"Sir," said Mr. Fruit Promoter, "I still don't think you understand. I promote fruit. You inspect fruit. You are the one calling my fruit rotten. I see the same dark spots that you see, I see the same crushed and bruised skins. I see the same stains. I too am fighting fruit disease. However, I see potential in the future of all my fruit."

Mr. Fruit Inspector walked away in a huff, but turned back and yelled, "You love fruit too much! You are going to ruin the reputation of fruit in general."

To which Mr. Fruit Promoter replied, "Thank you for acknowledging my love for fruit. I'm Mr. Fruit Promoter. I love fruit."

Monday, April 18, 2016

When Women Ruled the World from the Oracle of Delphi

"The greatest blessings come by way of madness, indeed of madness that is heaven sent." - Socrates on the Oracle of Delphi.

When the ancient peoples around the Mediterranean Sea basin wanted wisdom from the gods they went to oracles. An oracle was a person who spoke (orated) for the gods in various temples.

The most famous Temple of oracles was the Oracle of Delphi (Greece). Portions of the Bible can only be understand when one has a working knowledge of ancient Greece and the importance and influence of women at the Oracle of Delphi.

During the time Israel was in Babylonian captivity (6th century B.C.), a ruler Smyrna, Lydia (modern Turkey) named King Croesus wanted to find the best oracle in the world, one with powers to divine the future better than all others.

So in 560 B.C. Croesus sent his emissaries on a 100 day journey to the seven most popular oracles in the world with a question:

What is King Croesus doing today?

Croesus kept a diary during those 100 days and when his messengers returned to Smyrna, he compared notes in his diary to what the oracles said. Of the seven oracles consulted, only the Oracle at Delphi (Greece) accurately described what Croesus was doing on the day the question was asked. The Oracle of Delphi said:
"I count the grains of sand on the beach and measure the sea; I understand the speech of the dumb and hear the voiceless. The smell has come to my sense of a hard shelled tortoise boiling and bubbling with a lamb's flesh in a bronze pot: the cauldron underneath it is of bronze, and bronze is the lid." 
To eat turtle soup mixed with lamb's meat prepared in a bronze pot was exactly what Croesus was doing on that particular day. This dish was not typical cuisine for kings, especially one as rich as Croesus. Amazed at the Oracle of Delphi's prescience, Croesus sent emissaries back to Delphi with gifts of gold and silver for the oracle and they asked additional questions.

For the next one thousand years (560 B.C. to A.D. 371), the Oracle of Delphi would serve as the most prestigious and revered fortune teller in the world. Her answers guided the civilized world for the timing of wars, the establishment of new settlements, and wisdom to appease the gods.

The Spartans consulted the Oracle before the Battle of Thermopolae, a turning point in the war between the Greeks and Persians, expertly portrayed in the recent Hollywood motion picture 300. Alexander the Great traveled to Delphi to consult with the Oracle before he set off to conquer the world. Socrates often went to Delphi from Athens with his students. The Oracle once declared Socrates the wisest man among the Greeks. This led Socrates to say, "This one thing I know: I know nothing." 

Yet the Pythia's pronouncement made such an impression on Socrates that it propelled him into a lifetime of learning by asking questions of others, something we now call the Socratic method of learning.

Every major Greek and Roman leader, soldier, or politician would either personally travel to Delphi or send emissaries to Delphi to consult the Oracle. The influence of the Oracle of Delphi only dissipated after Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and the Roman world adopted Christianity as the official religion of the state.

The Oracles at Delphi Were Women

Delphi (pronounced Delphee in Greek, not Delph eye) is a community in the mountains 100 miles northwest of Athens. Greek mythology declares that Zeus let loose two eagles to find the most beautiful location on earth. The eagles circled the lands and collided at Delphi. The Greeks believed Delphi to be the center of the world (naval), around which the universe revolved.  They built a temple to the god Apollo at Delphi, and within that temple, they placed a chamber where the Oracle of Delphi greeted guests on only one day a month - the 7th day, Apollo's favorite number.

Apollo was often called Pythian Apollo because he allegedly killed a giant python snake at Delphi and took the Oracle of Delphi as his bride own. The women who served as the Oracles at Delphi were given the title of Pythia in honor of Apollo's heroic feat. Two great stone pythons guarded the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and those who wished to have their futures foretold would enter the Temple of Apollo and go to the Oracle's room in the southwest corner of the Temple.

The Pythia were a common women from the village of Delphi who had been chosen by the priests of the Temple to serve as the Oracle. The word common defines ancestry, for some of the women from Delphi who served as Pythia were slaves. The word common, however, does not define their physical beauty. Greek and Roman historians often commented in their writings on the striking beauty of the Pythia at Delphi. This beauty seemingly was a prerequisite for being chosen as a Pythia. In her divination room would be the naval stone (omphalous) which marked the Temple as the center of the world, a golden tripod upon which the Pythia would sit as she greeted guests, and across the room from where the Pythia sat was the alleged tomb of Dionysius.

The Temple of Apollo was built on inersecting geographical fault lines at Delphi. The Pythia would sit on her golden tripod over two interesecting crevices in the earth which seeped ethelyne, ethane, and methane--a cocktail of non-addictive but highly hallucinogenic gases. Contemporary Greek historians recorded a strong, sweet smell filled the Oracle's chamber, the tell-tale sign of ethylene, one of the world's first aenesthetics.

The Pythia would removed a cap from the naval stone (see picture to the left) that sat beside her chair, releasing the hallucinogenic gases that had collected underneath the naval stone which sat on top of the X of the fault lines. As the gases released, the Pythia would enter into a conscious trance as she considered the questions presented her. Swaying back and forth, she would eventually utter her answers.  The priests did not invent answers from uncipherable utterances of the Oracle, but faithfully recorded what the Oracle said. The Oracle would give a lucid, sometimes crytpic answer, in either poetry or prose. Plutarch called the Oracles of Delphi "inspired maidens." The answers to the questions posed to Oracle would be given to the supplicants, who considered the poetic responses Apollo's direction for their lives.  Entire nations would wait with baited breath for an answer from the Oracle at Delphi. It is not an exaggeration to say that a woman's words ruled ancient civilization.

Paul and the Pythia

When the Apostle Paul visited Philippi (51 A.D.) during his second missionary journey, he and Silas were followed by a young girl for many days who kept crying out to the people of Philippi, "These men are servants of the Most High God who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17). Many Christians have a hard time understanding what Paul did next. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, 'I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!'And it came out at that very moment. (Acts 16:18).

The only way you can understand why Paul did what he did is to realize the biblical description of this young girl. The English versions of the Bible say she had "a spirit of divination" (Acts 16:16). The literal Greek word used to describe this woman is Pythia. She could have served in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, or she could have been a lesser oracle. What we do know is she had the spirit of divination. She followed Paul and Silas and spoke of them as being spokespersons of Zeus, the Most High God, and said the people should listen to their words of deliverance in the same manner they listen to the words of an oracle. Of course, the Pythia was misrepresenting Paul and Silas. She was possessed by a demonic spirit and Paul delivered her. Michaelangelo would later paint the Pythia of Delphi on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but the Apostle Paul showed no such reverence to the Pythia he met in Philippi. One should always remember that all that glitters in organized religion is not gold.

When the Pythia's masters saw their hope for profit in Philippi was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities and demanded the disciples of Christ be imprisoned. Paul and Silas were thrown in jail where they would later lead the jailor to faith in Christ (Acts 16:31). The story of the conversion of the Philippian jailor and his family is a vivid reminder that God orchestrates all events (like the Pythia's actions at Philippi) for His glory and the ultimate good of His people (like the Philippian jailor).

Nothing much has changed in the world in the last 2,000 years. People still revere what God considers evil. People still persecute those who preach the gospel. But in the end, God always wins.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

"The Church"- Do You Think People or Steeple?

‘When someone mentions they have a female pastor of their church, I immediately reply that they do not have a pastor and they do not have a church.” John MacArthur
“When a pastor declares a female can’t pastor a church, I immediately reply every Christian female is the church, and she’s more qualified to pastor herself than he is.” Wade Burleson

One of the fundamental problems with institutional Christianity today is the mistaken belief by professional pastors that the church of Jesus Christ is similar to the temple of national Israel. 

It is often said in the institutional church pulpit that the people are the church, but in practice, the church is seen as the institution. Even the esteemed John MacArthur is making the mistake in his quote above of turning the church into an institutional structure like the Old Covenant temple of Israel. 

In the Old Covenant, temple leaders were all male. In the Old Covenant, birthright and gender were everything. In the Old Covenant, a hierarchy of power and authority set apart the priests (all male) from the laymen (males and female). If you were a Jewish, male, temple leader you were both in theory and practice closer to God because you were the priest, and only you could abide in the temple.  

When Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant on the night before He died, He told His disciples that through the sacrifice of His body and blood He would inaugurate a New Agreement between God and sinners whereby the world (not just Israel), males and females (not just males), all people (not just the priests), could come freely and boldly before God's "throne of grace" through faith in the obedience of God's Son. 

The problem of male patriarchy today is a theological one.

John Gill, pastor of Charles Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle Church one hundred years before Spurgeon, taught me that in the New Covenant, the ordinances - baptism and the Lord's Supper - are ordinances (or "commandments") of Christ, and not the "church" (e.g. "institutional church"). I will never forget the light bulb that went on in my head when I read this Baptist preacher's writings (from 250 years ago no less!) and discovered that what keeps men believing the church is an institution is the institutional ritual of only "ordaining" men to carry out "the ordinances."

In other words, John MacArthur and others sees "baptism" and the "Lord's Supper"  as ordinances of "the church" (e.g. institutional church with a "steeple") and so, any "church" that "ordains" females is not a church, because God never allows "females" to participate in the ordinances - they aren't priests unto God.

Well, I believe Christ commanded baptism and the Lord's Supper, and these two things are not under the "authority" of the institutional churches. So any person in Christ (male or female) may properly and biblically baptize a convert to Christ, and any person in Christ (male or female) may properly and biblically share and serve communion (e.g. bread and wine) with other believers in remembrance of Christ.

Any Christian may do this - because any Christian (male or female) is the church. Christ commissioned His church (e.g. "us") to keep the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper!


I understand when MacArthur speaks of "the church" he's talking about a building with a steeple. When I speak of "the church" I am talking about a body of people.

God gifts His people as He sees fit.

Of course, most of us belong to an institutional church. Some Christians may have "problems" with females in a position of "pastor" at an institutional church, but that "problem" is no different than the problem some men once had with a woman being President of the United States, or CEO of a national corporation, or .... well, you get the picture.

As long as there are those who continue to think of the "church" as an institution like the Old Covenant temple of Israel, then male authority will be defended. But when we begin to see the NEW TESTAMENT definition of the church as a body of believers who serve God and each other as He's gifted us (male or female), then we move down the road of true New Covenant living.

Friday, April 01, 2016

A Great Awakening Is Coming to Enid and America

Today a man who's been attending Emmanuel Enid's Refuge worship services came to our church offices. His name is Troy, and he expressed a desire to be baptized, professing he'd come to faith in Jesus Christ. He talked to Melissa, one of our ladies in the outer office, and he came to tears as he explained what Christ had been doing in his life. Melissa listened with interest, and then she went to get one of our pastors, Joseph Drueke. 

Troy recounted to Joseph that he'd recently experienced a very powerful dream. Through this dream, he'd become convinced that he was to profess his faith in Christ through baptism. He explained to Joseph that over the past six months Jesus Christ had invaded his life and had radically changed him from the inside out. He believed Christ had saved Him, and the evidence was very tangible.  His heart for people had softened. His love for Christ had deepened. He was a "different man" because of Christ. He explained that during the worship services he learns "so much about Jesus Christ." 

Joseph talked with Troy about what baptism represents, and then he attempted to make arrangements for Troy to be  baptized at a later date. However, Troy told Joseph that he wanted to be baptized in "the ditch" by the church right then! 

Now, unless you're from Enid, Oklahoma, you'll have difficulty visually comprehending "the ditch" beside our church. It runs at a diagonal to Interstate Highway 412, a highway that runs east/west from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Thousands of cars go by this "ditch" every day, but the last thing anyone would think of when seeing the sparse, dirty water in "the ditch" is someone following Jesus Christ in believer's baptism. Joseph could tell that the Spirit of God had touched this man, and that he wanted to follow Christ in baptism at that very moment!

Our motto among our staff at Emmanuel is to always say "YES" when the Spirit is moving - no matter the potential costs, misunderstandings, or even obstacles. Joseph told Troy he'd baptize him right then in the ditch (without even changing clothes), but said, "I don't know if there is deep enough water to do it in the ditch, let's go look".

Pastor Joseph and Troy walked to the ditch. There wasn't much water, but like the Ethiopian said to Philip, "Look, here's water! What prevents me from being baptized?" Troy told Pastor Joseph there was enough water to profess his faith in Christ. Joseph had Troy sit on his knees. Unknown to the two men, Rachel (Emmanuel's Nursery and Preschool Director) followed them to "the ditch," and she snapped the photograph above right before Joseph baptized Troy. When this new convert to Christ came out of the water, he hugged Joseph, cried, and thanked him for being sensitive to the leadership of the Spirit.

Joseph said it was one of the most emotional, moving baptisms he's ever experienced. "I will never look at that ditch the same again," he says.  

I've told people for a long time that a Great Awakening is coming to Enid, Oklahoma and to America as a whole. I believe this with all my heart. We are beginning to see dozens of lives dramatically changed by the power of the Spirit. Over twenty people came to faith in Christ this past Sunday. People are talking about Christ to others in the their neighborhood grocery stores, their work places, and their schools. The Spirit is moving on, in and through people.

We are amazed at watching God at work. This isn't about Emmanuel Enid. It's an awakening of the lost through the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. It's happening in other churches, other cities, and other countries. The Awakening is coming. The Holy Spirit is supernaturally breathing life into those who were dead in their "trespasses and sins," and those regenerated by the Spirit are seeing their lives radically being changed.

Jesus said, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail."

He was right. The gates of hell aren't prevailing. The lost are being rescued in an Awakening that may have already begun.