Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tour Israel with Wade and Rachelle Burleson
March 8 - 17, 2017

The Dome of the Rock (Temple Mount) behind Wade
Some of the most treasured times Rachelle and I have ever experienced are the trips we've taken to Israel with friends from around the world. I have led multiple tours to Israel, and Rachelle and I have had the privilege of becoming close friends with two brothers who serve in the Israeli military and serve as our hosts while in Israel.

In March of 2017, we will again be going back to Israel. There's no better time for you to go. It's not getting any cheaper (and won't). We have a few spaces left on this Spring Break 2017 tour. We are excited about the people who have already signed up, and know that you will love traveling with this group. Rachelle and I would be delighted for you to join us for a trip of a lifetime.

We'll travel all over the land of Israel in a comfortable tour bus (with huge bay windows), from the Golan Heights in northern Israel which borders the countries of Lebanon and Syria, to the Dead Sea in far southern Israel. We will start our tour on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on the western edge of Israel, and will eventually make our way to the eastern border with the country of Jordan. The sites are incredible!

The Bible comes alive. The best way I can explain it is that before you go to Israel, reading the Bible is like watching black and white television in the 1950's. After Israel, reading the Bible is like watching hi-definition 3-D television in 2016.

The Israel trip is all inclusive from Oklahoma City and will last for 10 days and is as follows:
At the Valley of Armageddon

DAY 1:  Depart from Oklahoma City to Tel Aviv.

We arrive in Israel. Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, we will be met and assisted to our motor coach. We proceed to our hotel on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

This day's tour includes the ancient seaport and Roman theater at Caesarea, Mount Carmel, Megiddo and the Valley of Armageddon. We arrive in Tiberias at our hotel overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
The Mount of Beatitudes

On this day we will cross the Sea of Galilee by boat landing at Kibbutz Nof Ginosar where we view the ancient Jesus Boat. We will continue to the site of Peter’s restoration and the Mt. of the Beatitudes before arriving at Kibbutz En Gev for a lunch of St. Peter’s fish. Later we visit Capernaum, Jesus’ ministry base with its ancient synagogue. We will travel north to Caesarea Philippi and the mouth of the Jordan River.

This morning we will have a short ride south to the ancient city of Bet Shean and continue to Gideon’s Spring at En Harod. We will then go up to the City of Jerusalem! Throughout the day there will be teaching on the importance of the city of Jerusalem, and an opportunity to take some incredible pictures overlooking the vast city. Before going to our hotel spend some reflective time on the Mount of Olives.  
The Golan Heights

We will begin our day on the top of the Mt. of Olives before walking down to the Garden of Gethsemane. We have a devotional and prayer time in a private garden next to Gethsemane. Later we enter the Old City through the Lion’s Gate and visit the famous Church of St. Anne with its rich, deep acoustics and the Pool of Bethesda. We continue to the Sisters of Zion Convent to visit the site of Pilate’s Judgment Hall/Antonio Fortress. We continue to the house of Caiaphas.

Today we will visit the Jewish Quarter, Wailing (Western) Wall and Temple Mount where we view the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aksa Mosque and the site where The Temple once stood, and we will also go underneath the actual ancient walls through a hidden tunnel.

The Garden Tomb
We depart Jerusalem and proceed through the Judean Wilderness to Qumran, the site where a Bedouin shepherd found the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. Wewill travel south along the shore of the Dead Sea on the lowest road in the world to Masada, truly a remarkable piece of history. En Gedi, a beautiful oasis on the shores of the Dead Sea is our last stop before returning to Jerusalem.

Today we will visit the the Garden Tomb for a time of study on why this spot is believed to be the site "outside the walls" of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. We will view Golgotha and then tour the Garden itself with a visit to the empty tomb and participating in the Lord's Supper. Time permitting we may visit additional sites before returning to our hotel to freshen up and have dinner.

DAY 10: - HOME :
This morning we check out early and depart for the Tel Aviv airport for our flight to Frankfurt. After a plane change, we continue on to Oklahoma City via Newark. We will return with memories and new friends to last a lifetime and beyond!
Our Group at Caesarea by the Sea
 More detailed information on the tour is available here. If you are interested in going, you may scroll to the bottom of the page and click "Book Tour."

Discovery World Wide Tours is helping us with this trip. We've been going with Discovery for over twenty years and find them to be a wonderful company to work with on trips to Israel.

If you have any questions, feel free to call me at 580-237-0602.  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tim Price on The Tale of Two Masters

Tim Price (Omaha, Nebraska) is a friend of mine who works as an editor, publisher and writer. Tim is currently working on a book called The Tale of Two Masters, uploading individual chapters to academia.com as he completes. He has given me permission to copy one chapter of his new book on this blog, a chapter I believe is extremely important for Jesus followers who are living through America's charged political atmosphere of 2016. If you take seriously the call for Jesus to be the Lord and Master of your life, then take a few moments and be challenged from Tim's writing on the difference between Jesus being your master and the machinations of the world being your master.

In God's Kingdom - the very thing Jesus brings - there is equity, equality, etc. But in the kingdoms of this world there is none of this. Oh sure, there are attempts at altruism, but the world can only attempt to achieve what God's Kingdom already brings. Christians often make the mistake of believing altruism can be achieved through unregenerate people. The New Testament teachings of Christ are clear; God alone is able to make people capable of true goodness. The machinations of the world can only make attempts at altruism, but they are destined to always fail. It is Christ in us who is our hope of true goodness.

Please read Tim's article below carefully. After reading it, see if you don't have a better appreciation of the difference between what God is actually doing in His people and what the world is deceiving people into doing and believing through political, social, and cultural change.


The Tale of Two Masters
Tim Price

No one would be surprised that the average church person could quote a number of isolated biblical texts. Or even that a few small snippets of Bible verses are commonly known in unregenerate circles. Yet, I wonder at the penetration level of these texts. For the church folk, are these texts applied in real life? Does the well-knownness of a text equate to a full understanding or application of it in our life? Many would like to think so, yet I wonder. Let’s consider just one such text:

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."  (Matthew 6:24 NIV)
Many a churchman could quote Matthew 6:24 verbatim. However, is it understood in a circumspect application or is it another of those texts we quote that has no real root in our lives? To answer such a query one would have to know what does Matthew 6:24 mean. Does it refer to: money, idolatry, control, all of the foregoing or even more?

In an attempt to answer my own question I went straight to the Internet in search of meanings inferred from this text. I wanted to know what currently shapes the collective notions about this text as far as general understanding. There were no shortages of commentary. Those cited below were randomly chosen from the first page of search results.

1. John Gill’s exposition on the Bible regarding the stated text says:
Whereas it (mammon) is not a Hebrew word, nor an adjective, but a substantive, and signifies riches; which are opposed to God, being by some men loved, admired, trusted in, and worshipped, as if they were God; and which is incompatible with the service of the true God. A
2. The Bible Hub provided their commentary concerning our text. They listed many interpretations. This one is from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

…Literally, can be the slave of two masters. The clauses that follow describe two distinct results of the attempt to combine the two forms of service which are really incompatible…there is obviously an approach to a personification (of mammon) for the sake of contrasting the service or worship of money with that which is due to God. B

3. The Christian Resource Institute notes:
The two words "serve" and "masters" refer to a slave's relationship to a slave-owner… The verse ends with a summary statement: You cannot serve both God and Money. The Greek word for Money is Mammon, which was taken from Aramaic, the language of Jesus. It meant wealth, property, or possessions…C
It appears the commonly understood meaning of this text is anchored to the final word in the verse: mammon (money). However, is this all the verse is speaking about? Another detail to consider is in reference No. 3, which reminds us, “The two words ‘serve’ and ‘masters’ refer to a slave's relationship to a slave-owner.”D This detail cannot be missed, nor subordinated to the other point concerning mammon. It is astonishing that the money detail carries a disproportionate weight of interpretation in many, many commentaries. E

One can only wonder why the master-slave context of this verse has apparently been glossed over. Slave has become a dirty, evil word in our day. Christians consider themselves very much a part of “mankind”: the milieu of general society and human existence. And thus, we, more often than not, reflect society’s sensitivities. Since abolition, the word slavery carries a stigma and curse, so much so that it can’t be referenced without a subconscious undercurrent of denial and strickenness rising up to slam any door that could be opened on meaningful understanding from biblical references to the topic. As an example of this palpable reticence, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary clearly avoids articulation on the connection between master and slave in its “definition” of master.F

I observed this common aversion in another piece I wrote: Chapter 4 - A Kingdom of Bond-Servants. Other authors have also taken notice of this inclination—prompting books like Slaves of Christ, by Murray J. Harris and Slavery as Salvation by Dale. B. Martin. Both authors hope to remind us of the exquisiteness and purpose of servile terminology in the New Testament. The need is to restore a rightful understanding and application of the imagery of slavery unhindered by the popularized misinformation that the culture of our day has sought to rendition us with.

Matthew’s verse starts by noting two masters… What is a master?

A master in the time and context of the text’s authorship was (and still is) a person who owned slaves. Slavery was about being completely occupied in one’s existence to the allowance of whoever owned you for the purpose of doing work that did not profit you. A slave had no sense of self other than mere existence. Murray J. Harris noted, “…the slave's alienation from family and tribe, including communal religion, so that his focus of attachment became his master; his identity became so inseparable from his master.”

Today, how many things occupy our minds about the existence in this world and all the choices ostensibly forced upon us in our modern situation? How many of the factors in our existence limit our choices? How many of these things foster a sense of belonging and identity that in turn require our cooperation?

Few church people can see past the political and temporal reality around us. More importantly, they are totally owned by this reality. Being a Christian, to most, is just another of 20 things to which we are connected rather than following Christ owning us and everything in life being trimmed and defined by that Master-slave relationship. We allow the world order and temporal existence to own us, but not God. Christ was addressing this unfortunate reality in the Sermon on the Mount; most pointedly in Matthew 6:24.

Christians correctly expose the Evolutionists’ interpretations of what they observe when the Christian says something like, “You (Evolutionists) interpret what you see in the strata according to an explanation in which you’ve attached subjective meaning.” Point being—made by the Christian exposé—is that this self-serving understanding only confirms the Evolutionists’ theory as being legitimate. Yet, Christians do almost the exact same thing regarding politics, society, life and existence. Christians see a reality around them and then use it to interpret the Bible. This approach only supports the course of the world as it is. G The Bible was never meant to be interpreted by history or current events or the way things seem at one point or another. The Bible transcends all that. Instead, the Bible tells us how to understand what we see while we maintain God’s purpose and direction.

The highest number of Christians will fight the notion that anything is their master other than God. They’ve been taught by the institutional church to excuse various details as a reality of the world we live in, in spite of NT teaching. Yet, their dependence on and abdication to the temporal order; its divisiveness, its logic and direction tells us that indeed that the highest number Christians are owned by the temporal order. They see no other way to be present for God in the context of the world order other than to play its games. Jacques Ellul noted this poor trend by saying, “Other pronouncements show that the moment one speaks of ‘presence to the world’ Christians translate this as political presence. It would seem that there is absolutely no other way to be present to the world other than to engage in politics.”H

Christians cannot conceive of another means to engage an unbelieving society. They send missionaries to other cultures, nations, and places to engage those groups of unbelieving people with the truth of the Bible. Yet, “here at home”—a notion utterly foreign to the NT teaching for the follower of Christ—they set aside the NT and stay entrenched in society as a co-owners and benefactors of the state.

What’s wrong with that picture?

Ultimately, the tale of two masters is the story of the master of the temporal order and the master of the eternal now-reality order of the Kingdom of God (KOG). There are only two realities. Yet, for the last 1700 years, the organized church has sold believers the false idea that we—as the collective body of Christ—are NOT the KOG amongst the kingdoms of men. The KOG has been spiritualized into meaninglessness by turning it in to mere metaphor and/or pushing its reality into next life.

This is clearly in spite of what the NT teaches, where most references to the KOG are in the now-reality tense. For example, Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first”—what—“the Kingdom of God.” Then it says, “and all these things will be added to you,” speaking of material/temporal things. Let’s consider a couple of questions:

When is the seeking—and finding—of the KOG to occur? Now or in the next life?
And when will everything be added to us in having sought the KOG? In this life or the next?

Clearly, this text is speaking of a now-reality, why? Simple! Of what need or use would all these things—what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or what shall we wear,—mean to us in the next life? This is just one of 40+ such now-reality texts concerning the KOG. What was Jesus doing, teaching about the KOG if it were only a hereafter reality? It is in fact that the KOG is a now-reality that was the basis for which Christ spent so much time teaching about it.

The state, in Christ’s day, meant enslavement to all in the realm to the reigning actuary of the day. The state was about belonging, identity, and protection. Today is no different. Today, people—to include Christians—are just as enslaved to the state in order to keep the freedoms it offers and to protect the way of life they have come to enjoy in this country from it’s enemies foreign and domestic… The KOG in Christ’s day meant real freedom, real love, and a transcendent reality outside the manipulation of the state. Serving God meant real, palpable reward in this life as well as the next, see: Mark 10:29-30. The order of the KOG was the antithesis of the world order, and still is.

Today, many believers foolishly look upon modern society as good, as ascending, and as improving… The world order has abolished many “evils.“ But has it brought anyone closer to God? It offers “rights”, “freedoms” and the establishment of a reality where mankind seems to becoming better all the time.I The unregenerate or mankind proposes “social justice”, “egalitarianism”, “social equity”, and “gender equality” J as basic human rights. Not only this, but also these “rights” are part of ever widening the array of what “inclusiveness” and “identity” can mean. There is serious expectation of these “improvements” and hell to pay from the masses if it were ever exposed that such are just political footballs, not a reality of an accomplished continuum.

The list of inclusions, under the leadership of the unregenerate world order, has grown to the point where many Christians can’t agree biblically on these “acceptable paths,” i.e. transgenderism, the normalization of homosexual choices and even the move to normalize pedophilia.K These latest moves of the temporal order threaten “the church” because it depends on the state for inclusion, identity and belonging within the state’s order, as well as protection. Yet, the state requires a price for such, which the religious community is finally beginning to wake up to.

The tale of two masters is a tremendously sad story. It is indeed about two competing kingdoms. Unfortunately, it has become a history of treachery. The followers of Christ have been offered and awarded a reality beyond compare in this life. However, the response of most Christians historically has been to minimize the now-reality of eternal order in favor of the temporal order; expecting to benefit from the latter and enjoy it for all its worth. They don’t realize they’ve sold their birthright for a bowl of soup like someone else we ought to have learned from.

Jesus lived the KOG, which contrasted the reality of the world order of His time; and people flocked to Him even though they had to give up everything to follow Him, see: Matt. 19:27. We’ve deceived ourselves into thinking that the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t say what it does… We’ve shoveled what “master” and “slave” mean under a rug as far as the KOG. And thus the kingdom of the world, the order run by the enemy of God, has nothing to contrast it. If the Christians won’t live the KOG, in keeping with Christ, how is anyone to see that the world order is a fraud and grandiose failure? Without the KOG, the temporal order can appear credible in its attempts to prove God wrong about mankind: humanity is not utterly evil, right?

The gospel—the good news—of the kingdom of God is that the KOG is something utterly different, but every bit as real as the order of the world. The KOG offered something the world order could not and would not offer people. The KOG is an exclusive reality with a high price that even the poorest of the poor in the world order can afford.

Christians have reduced what it means to follow Jesus into thinking that “engaging the world” is holding to a different belief in a belief in one’s head, staying aloof in religious clubs so as not to be surrounded by evil, and then going out and manipulating public policy with their esoteric ideals so they can feel comfortable as they wait for the grave where everything will be the betterment of the KOG in the hereafter. They have no realization that one can be MORE present in the world and utterly contrast it by being the KOG amongst the kingdoms of men in the everyday living within the world, by being slaves of Another.

What is the KOG amongst the kingdoms of men?

It’s letting the world be as it is, as most missionaries do, yet living and being a contrast within a foreign order. If the world order is air, we are perfume. Its air carries us, but it is not us. The KOG is about being truth, love and justice in our dealing with one-another. It’s about offering what we are to the people we meet and interact with. The KOG is about being a contrasting reality within the temporality of the world. But it is not a continuum that is a dependable benefit to the world. The KOG isn’t about fixing the world or changing it. Mud is mud and we need to get over that fact and allow it to be as it is.

The KOG is about doing the will of our Father in Heaven. It’s about doing only what He shows us to do… So many of us do what we think is best and offer our best efforts. But this so misses direct guidance; say nothing of obedience. The problem with Christians is that they have gagged God, theologically. They’ve limited themselves to trying to figure out a book, while not being concerned that Jesus sits in heaven with a proverbial sock in His mouth. It wouldn’t matter if He could speak because nobody is listening for direct guidance. Christians continue to listen to Constantine, that the church and the state can rule together and affect change in the world. Yet, they have failed to realize that putting their lamp under the basket of the state has hidden (obscured) their light.

In these latter days, God is going to purify His Bride. The state will continue to pressure change in the way of perversions, counterfeit progress and other political footballs to keep the simpleminded pre-occupied. What calls itself church will be forced to either throw out Constantine—and our belonging and identity with him—or continue as the state’s pet and perish in God’s confrontation of the order of the world. If believers do what is right, following Jesus will once again become a persecuted involvement. In this renewed outlook, we will not allow the state to tell us what we will and won’t do as far as the application of scripture. We will become uncompliant with the state’s progressive developments. We will disband our huge institutional edifices and take up action in our homes through functional relationships; utterly depending on God to meet, to minister, and to exist.

So! The question is:

When won’t there be the tale of two masters in your life? As a follower of Jesus, when are you going to take God serious as your master and throw out the impostor of the state and quit trying to belong to it? Christians continually look for allowable options, but Jesus’ gospel is a very narrow way. God is listening and seeking repentance from His followers who have not realized that He is seeking differentiation between the order of the world and His order (KOG). God’s word is clear, if you have not been taught to miss it.

 End Notes

B. Bible Hub Commentaries: Matthew 6:24

C. CriVoice: Matthew 6

D. Ibid

E. The following sources park the chief meaning of Matt. 6:24 at dealing with money and little else. Few of these do not deal with “serve two masters” other than to say that money is the one master this verse is talking about: Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Pulpit Commentary (Joseph Exell), Expositor's Greek Testament, Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament, Matthew Poole's Commentary, Adam Clarke’s Commentary, John Lightfoot Commentary, Wesley's Explanatory Notes, John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible, Phillip Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament, Greek Testament, Critical Exegetical Commentary, F.B. Meyers’ Through The Bible Commentary, Chuck Smith Bible Commentary, E.W. Bullinger’s Companion Bible Notes

F. Merriam-Webster Dictionary - this dictionary goes as far as to deemphasize “a servant” as being nothing more than being “managed” instead of owned in reference to servants.

G. I noted this reality in my first book, The Diluted Church: Calling Believers to Live out of their True Heritage, pg. 23

H. False Presence of the Kingdom, Seabury Press 1972 Congress Catalog Card Number 77-163369-736-272-C-6 pg. 96

I. Hawk and the Eagle, by John Denver. In the lyrics Denver writes this notion of human perfectability, “and reach for the heavens and hope for the future, and all that we can be and not what we are.”

J. Social justice, egalitarianism, social equity, and gender equality are knock offs of what the earliest of church lived, which embodied the KOG as a now-reality. These new articulations are strictly humanistic attempts to make mankind appear better and transcending his old self…

K. Salon Magazine has published three articles in the last two years concerning a pedophile who wants you to empathize with him, that is see life through his eyes… Some admit this is a move to start normalizing pedophilia: "I'm a Pedophile, but Not a Monster," "I'm a Pedophile and You're the Monster: My Week Inside the Vile Right Wing Hate Machine," and "The Pedophile I Could Not Help, but He Was Not a Monster."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Five Things I've Learned from the Flat Earth Myth

Original Manuscript of Irving's Columbus in Wade's Office
When I was in grade school I remember one of my teachers saying, "When Christopher Columbus 'sailed the ocean blue in 1492,' Europe thought Columbus would fall off the edge of the earth, because the Church taught people that the earth was flat." 

I was too young, too naive, and too ignorant to question my teacher about her statement. I know now that European Christians during the Middle Ages knew and taught others that the world was a sphere. 

Writings from the ancient Jews (1500 B.C.), the Greeks (500 B.C.), the early church fathers (A.D. 200) and even the medieval church (A.D. 1200) all represent the earth as a sphere. Columbus sailed west from Europe in order to discover a shorter route to the East Indies. Columbus sailed west to ultimately get east because he and everybody else knew that the earth was round. The idea that the Church believed the earth was flat and that Columbus' voyage proved them wrong is an outright myth.

However, for the past century, American school children have been taught this myth. Students have been told that the Church tried to prevent Columbus from sailing west to Asia, fearing that he and his sailors would sail off the edge of the earth. American school children have been taught that Columbus persevered and overcame religious opposition.

Americans who grew up in educational systems that taught this myth, have now become our leaders, and they too are perpetrating the myth. When President Obama spoke at Prince George's County Community College in Largo, Maryland on March 15, 2012, he used an illustration similar to my grade school teacher, perpetuating the flat earth myth. President Obama said:
Let me tell you something. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail–[laughter]–they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society [laughter]. They would not have believed that the world was round [applause]. We’ve heard these folks in the past.
Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell has destroyed the flat earth myth in his definitive work Inventing the Flat Earth. Famous evolutionist Stephen Gould (1941-2002) reviewed Russell's book and said:
There never was a period of ‘flat earth darkness...' Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.
The Jewish prophet Isaiah wrote 600 years before Christ that God sits above "the circle of the earth" (Isaiah 40:22). The Greeks, like the Jews, knew the earth was a globe by observing lunar eclipses. They saw the earth's shadow on the moon when the earth came directly between the moon and the sun, and they observed a circular shadow of the earth's outline. This was 2,000 years before Columbus sailed the Atlantic.

Almost a millennium before Columbus sailed, the Christian historian and theologian Bede (A.D. 672 - 735) wrote
We call the earth a globe, not as if the shape of a sphere were expressed in the diversity of plains and mountains, but because, if all things are included in the outline, the earth’s circumference will represent the figure of a perfect globe.
Again, everybody in Columbus' day knew the earth was a sphere.

The Flat Earth Myth was created in the 19th century, around the same time the theory of evolution was created by Charles Darwin. Too many Christians have swallowed "hook, line, and sinker" that people of faith in earlier centuries were scientifically ignorant. On the contrary, the greatest scientists of all time were people of faith (think BedeIsaac Newton, Albert Einstein, etc.)

Creation Ministries International does a superb job showing how two 19th century "scientists," who were avowed anti-Christian bigots, pushed the Flat Earth Myth to prove Christianity was a religion of ignorant people. John William Draper (1811–1882) and Andrew Dickson White (1832–1918) wrote polemically against Christianity, including Draper's poorly researched History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) and White's anti-Christian tome History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). Both Draper and White wished the world to embrace Darwin's theory of evolution, and with that embrace, approach life from a purely secular and humanistic world view, with no thought of a God to whom anyone is accountable.

However, the average American didn't come to believe the Flat Earth Myth because of Draper's and White's writings. Nobody read them. The major culprit for most Americans believing that medieval Christians thought the earth was flat was America's first best-selling author, a man named Washington Irving (1783-1859).

Born in New York shortly after the Revolutionary War, Irving traveled abroad to England in 1815 and would stay in England and Europe for the next 17 years. In 1819, Irving published The Sketch-Book , which included superb short stories like Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Instantly, Irving became the first best-selling author from America. Irving's works of fiction had historical roots in New York. In fact, Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow could rightly called historical fiction. Irving was a superb story teller, but he never trained as an academic historian.

In 1826, Irving moved to Madrid Spain to work for the American Consulate. While in Madrid, Irving worked on A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (online manuscript here). Irving's handwritten manuscript on Columbus was published as a book in 1828. It was in Irving's book on Columbus that the Flat Earth Myth was first propagated. Irving, ever the great story teller, embellished the account of Columbus' standing before the Council of Salamanca. Irving represented Columbus as having to "defend his new theory of a round earth" before  church dignitaries, learned friars, and other monastic authorities who held to the religious dogma of a flat earth.

This conflict over a new theory of a round earth never happened. Columbus never received opposition to his belief in a round earth because all learned men of Columbus day, particularly church authorities, believed in a spherical earth.

Remember, Irving was a writer of historical fiction, with emphasis on the word fiction. He would base his works on history, but Irving was a creative story teller. Embellishing historical events with colorful fictional anecdotes would sell more books!

Irving was not malevolent toward Christianity. His mother was a loving, pious Episcopalian, and his father was a stern Presbyterian deacon who taught his boys the catechism. Irving wasn't anti-Christian. He was just a good storyteller. His biography of Columbus, which contained the fictional fight with church elders over a global earth, went through 175 editions - a world-wide bestseller! It was Irving's fiction of the Church opposing Columbus belief in a round earth that began the Flat Earth Myth.

Even the erudite Charles Spurgeon would read Irving's book on Columbus and take Irving's anecdote of Columbus before the church council as historical fact. It probably didn't help that Spurgeon was very anti-Catholic, and Irving's work enabled Spurgeon to solidify his view that the Roman Catholic Church was ignorant of truth. Spurgeon lauded Irving's work on Columbus and wrote this about Columbus before the Council of Salamanca.
Notwithstanding the dense bigotry and stupidity of his audience, a few were convinced of the reasonableness of the new theory, and these converts, doubtless, shielded Columbus from the ecclesiastical censures of the prejudiced. But the greater number doggedly persevered in their old opinions, and the poor navigator, as our readers well know, had to fight an uphill battle for years, and had to conquer many adverse circumstances before he saw the "Land of the Free." 
Even the best of men can fall for a myth.

In the spring of 1832 Washington Irving came back to America after a seventeen year absence. In October 1832, he traveled to an army outpost on the far reaches of the frontier (Fort Gibson, Indian Territory) and set out on a six-week tour of what is now the great state of Oklahoma. Irving wrote A Tour on the Prairies (published in 1835), the best-selling book about his adventurous prarie travels, and it remains a delightful glimpse into what the land of Oklahoma looked like in the 1830's (bears, elk, buffalo, Indians, rivers, crosstimbers, prairies, etc.).

I have hanging on my wall a portion of Irving's original 1826 manuscript on the life of Columbus (see picture at the top). I've read every book Irving has written, as well as most biographies written about Irving. In terms of his legacy, Irving is America's first best-selling author. In terms of his writing, it is colorful historical fiction. 

Washington Irving is the unintentional originator of the Flat Earth Myth. 

There are five things we can learn from Irving's Flat Earth Myth, particularly in an age when most people get their "information" from social media. 

1. Do not accept everything you read as fact, even if it is presented as historical fact.
2. Every author has bias or an agenda; even those who claim to be neutral science or history writers. Irving's agenda in his work on Columbus was to take the dry, historical record and color it with fictional narrative (like Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow) in order to make Columbus more readable, which ultimately means more book sales and ultimately more profits for the author.
3. Always question for yourself the teaching of those who wish to have authority over you. As  Good teachers, whether it be Socrates or Christ, always allow students to ask questions and even criticize the teacher, desiring students to think for themselves.
4. Recognize the tendency for bias in yourself.
5. The Christian faith and science are not incompatible. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Open Letter of Concern Over MOPS International

One of the most effective Christian outreach ministries for mothers of young children is called MOPS - Mothers of Preschoolers.

For the past two decades, MOPS has been a place of discipleship and encouragement at Emmanuel Enid (the church I pastor) for mothers of preschoolers. One of Emmanuel's leaders for MOPS is Sarah Wilkins. It's been my privilege to know Sarah for many years. Her testimony of conversion to faith in Christ is very moving. She is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, a wife and mom, and a business professional in her own right. 

Recently Sarah came to me with concerns over the direction of MOPS International. I listened. She asked me to read a book that is being featured and promoted by MOPS International, a book written by the current President of MOPS International, and featured in this year's MOPS curriculum.  After reading the book, I too share Sarah's concerns. I recently wrote my thoughts about this book which has yet to be released to the public.

After working through the proper channels and processes for voicing concerns to MOPS International, Sarah Wilkins and Emmanuel Enid's local MOPS leadership felt it appropriate to make their concerns public. Below is Sarah's Open Letter to those involved in MOPS ministry through local churches. She and other MOPS leaders at our church will be available to answer additional questions of concern in the comment section below:


An Open Letter to the Moms and Churches of MOPS International:

My name is Sarah Wilkins, and I love and have lived MOPS ministry for eight years.  I am writing to you my concerns over the new direction that I perceive MOPS to be taking after speaking with two levels of MOPS volunteer coaches, one MOPS employee, and reading and digesting the materials included in the member packet, magazine, leadership group packet, and website.

First, let me tell you about our MOPS group at Emmanuel in Enid, Oklahoma. We have had a MOPS group for over 20 years. Our current group has steering members from multiple denominations including Baptist, charismatic, Catholic, and Lutheran. We have been and continue to be involved in outreach with an “every-mom” focused. We believe that God is working in the lives of these women, because they walk into a church building to meet with women they have never laid eyes on before. God created them. God loves them. God is working in their lives already; our task is to join Him in His work.

I am very concerned about the registration packets MOPS moms will be receiving this year. In fact, so concerned that after our local church MOPS leadership team pre-read the group experience packet sent to us by MOPS International we halted our registration.  This year, after each mom pays, MOPS international intends to mail each mom a packet that contains materials which market the book Starry Eyed. The packet also includes a companion book that directs the reader to read portions out Starry Eyed with each chapter.  This companion book contains snippets of all kinds of belief systems and no gospel.  There is also a "Truth or Dare" 28-Day Challenge. It includes dares that would be highly inappropriate for many of our moms who are not married.

When our steering team gathered to set goals for this year, we watched the online videos made by MOPS, including the Come Alive video by Mandy Arioto, President, who also happens to be the author of the book Starry Eyed.  The last two minutes of the Come Alive video is what prompted our steering group to send letters to Mrs. Arioto and the Board of Directors of MOPS International. When we hear Mrs. Arioto say that women do not find God where people usually say, we hear her to mean the church and the Bible. Her words are murky and therefore open to interpretation.  We also see a refusal to use the word sin throughout all of the MOPS materials and videos. We are hearing Mrs. Arioto. We hear her when she writes she does not like the church,  a sentiment she emphasizes by stating it clearly in a line in her book Starry Eyed. We hear her clearly when she uses her words to caution people away from the “usual places we are told to find God.”

I perceive there to be lots of life directional pointing in the MOPS materials, and my deep concern is that I cannot ascertain exactly where the materials are pointing. Modern American psychology is used heavily. This years’ material is ambiguous in places and encourages the employment of coping mechanisms like saying it out loud, and accepting being human, instead of offering OUR LASTING HOPE.  I have read through everything, and the majority theme seems to be pointing moms to self actualization through new age mysticism, Celtic mysticism, humanism, and other belief systems. My steering team is convinced that Jesus is not whom the women in our group will discover if they receive their package, read the magazine, and read the book. 

After speaking with my MOPS local coach, speaking with my area coach and emailing with MOPS paid employee over the West coast and central US; I believe MOPS incognito strategy is dangerous. Here is an excerpt from the email exchange with MOPS employee.
             “…As far as referencing secular sources, we see several times in Acts where the Apostles quote the audience's own philosophers make a note of the inscriptions on tombs that are to an unknown God, just to be relevant to their audience as well as bring in what their audience is placing their trust in, in order to point to Jesus. By quoting secular sources we are doing just what the apostles did- quoting extra sources that point to Jesus even if they are not coming from a Biblical standpoint. Rather, they come from a very worldly standpoint and are still pointing to Jesus even though they may not realize it. Praise the Lord that His creations sings His praises!...”

There is personal irony here as my third daughter is named Damaris after this very segment of scripture in Acts 17. Paul argued in the Areopagus and cited the altar TO THE UNKOWN GOD as evidence of their religiosity. He then starts describing the ONE true God. He commands them to repent.  There were two converts Damaris and Dionysius.  Many scholars believe that Paul left that city vowing to no longer use this strategy as just two converts was a failure.  He said he left there and decided to only preach the gospel….that is the good news of Jesus. Other scholars argue that it wasn’t a failure and he tailored and countered the domineering mindset of the specific culture of the specific people at a specific period of time and challenged it with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The use of the scripture to justify using secular sources while offering no Biblical counter and no gospel is the root of the problem.  Mrs. Leih’s quote confirms to me what our core conflict with MOPS is. This is not a small conflict of faith.  Her statement contradicts MOPS Internationals own statement of faith.

If MOPS is to be a moms group that will continue to primarily uses modern American secular encouragement on being your best self and discovering your own happiness, than our church must choose something else. We all live in a murky world where truth is hard to determine.  The devil is real, and does his best destructive work through half truths, lies, and the denial of the reality of sin. 

Thank you for your time.  We wholeheartedly believe that Mrs. Arioto is our sister in Christ.  We do not believe there is any malcontent. We do believe that something is terribly wrong at MOPS. Our steering team believes MOPS may have lost its way in terms of gospel-centeredness.

Pastors of churches who have MOPS groups:

Please get the pre-released copy of Mandy Arioto, President of MOPS book Starry Eyed from your MOPS coordinator.  The books do not go on sale until August 30t, but a single copy was mailed to each MOPS group in the Coordinator’s packet. You need to read the book and make a decision for yourself.

With Deep Concern,

Sarah Wilkins, Emmanuel MOPS Public Relations and Coordinator

Truth Is True Regardless How You Feel Or Think

This week I was handed a soon-to-be-released book on motherhood, written by a Christian mom desirous to help other moms. I was asked to read the book and review it for some of the women's ministry leaders of our church. The book is easy to read. The author's writing is above average, but it startled me to read in the introduction that she chose to place Questions at the end of each chapter, but would not give Answers. Instead, there would be a section she calls Questions and Responses because she is "uncomfortable with the idea that there is one right answer." I think I could be sympathetic with the author's sentiments if she meant that there are many applications of one right answer. But she clarified further and wrote the following:
"There are no right or wrong answers, only what is the most true for you at this very moment in life."
Again, I understand that at times in life there are no right or wrong answers. For example, I might face a decision with two potential good choices. There would be no right or wrong choice, just two good choices.  However, I read again the last portion of this Christian author's statement:
"...what is most true for you at this very moment in life."
"Most true for you at this very moment in life"? That logic is absurd. Something is either true or not. It makes no difference how I feel or what I think.

For example, if I go into a store and ask a question about how to operate my I-Phone, and then after receiving an answer,  I respond "Listen, at this very moment in life I don't find your response most true for me," I might find the attendant looking at me as if I was crazy.

Frankly, I would be crazy - or at best illogical.

Truth is truth; and the only real fix for life is to know the truth. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).

When seeking directions we are often given landmarks. "Look for the McDonald's on the corner and turn right, then pass the Jewish Synagogue and turn left..." When giving directions, one better be certain about the landmarks or the person receiving directions will end up lost.

Our Christian forefathers were very particular about maintaining landmarks of truth. They had strong notions about fixed points of revealed doctrine, and they held tenaciously to what they believed to be biblical truth. Modern progressives (liberals) have abandoned landmarks of truth, and as a result people can't find the Way (Acts 9:2).

There is something very definite in the Bible. Spurgeon once said,
"Truth is not a lump of wax to be shaped at your will, or a roll of cloth to be cut according to the prevailing fashion. The Scriptures are not a box of letters to play with, and make what you like of it, like a wizard's bottle, out of which you may pour anything you choose from atheism up to spiritualism. There is something told me in the Bible—told me for certain— not put before me with a "but" and a "perhaps," and an "if," and a "maybe," and fifty thousand suspicions behind it. The Bible is revealed to me as infallible fact, which must be believed, the opposite of which is deadly error, and comes from the father of lies."
Spurgeon goes on to propose seven eternal and unalterable truths:
  • The Bible - God's inspired word which will never lead one astray (e.g. it is infallible).
  • The Triune God - God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is three Persons, but one God.
  • Christ's Atonement - the only hope for sinners to be right with God is through Christ's sacrifice.
  • The New Birth - moral reformation is not enough; God's deliverance is a new birth within.
  • The Evil of Sin -  God will judge the wicked for their sins against Him and their fellow man.
  • Salvation by Grace - Christ has done for sinners what sinners cannot do for themselves.
  • Justification by Faith - Being right with God involves looking to Christ by faith; not one's own works.
These seven truths are inherent to the Good News, or the Gospel. God has not left us in the dark; He has spoken to us in His Word. The Father, the Son and the Spirit is at work in delivering sinners from our sin. Christ saves sinners by becoming their substitute; dying in their stead, bearing our sin and the just consequence of our sin (e.g. "death"). When one comes to faith in Christ, the Spirit "regenerates" (e.g. "makes alive") the inner heart of the believer and grants the gift of "eternal life." This new birth from above begins the transformation of the sinner from the inside/out. This changed life of one in Christ is all by the grace of God, for God is at work in me "both to will and to do His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

When we proclaim the Gospel, we proclaim truth that sets people free. We proclaim the Good News as the mind of God, not our views. The testimony of Jehovah concerning His own Son in reference to the deliverance of sinners is true. We are entrusted with declaring the truth. We cannot alter it to suit the taste of the hearer. We are not originators of the Good News; we are broadcasters of it. We don't make the news; we meme it.

What we've been taught of God, we teach. If I send a message via my secretary, but she alters the message, then she is no longer fit to be my secretary. I need a secretary who will say word for word the message I give. If any one should be angry with my faithful secretary for what was said, then they would be wrong; for their quarrel lies with me. My secretary is a mouthpiece for me; Christians are a mouthpiece for God. The Christian who has God's Word must speak it faithfully as truth.

"Thus saith the Lord."

Of course, we must be careful about the manner in which we convey truth. Truth shouted angrily does nothing but drive hearers away; but truth whispered personally in love pulls hearers in

In addition, there is no surer method of turning people against God's truth than to have it spoken from the lips of those with suspicious. sullen, or shallow character. Spurgeon said, "It is very ridiculous to hear good truth from a bad person; it is like flour in a coal-sack."

Our challenge in a world that needs Jesus Christ is to live lives that reflect the true character of regenerate people - loving, kind, generous, selfless, patient, etc.- in essence, Christ-like - and to keep speaking unalterable truth to people in need of direction! Truth spoken from the lips of those transformed by Truth is transformational in and of itself.

As messengers of the Message, we can't alter the truth.

Believe it. Live it. Teach it.

It's the only way a mom will be free to be the mom God created her to be.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Smile of One's Father the Highest Honor

Harriett Elizabeth Beecher Stowe
Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) is probably the most influential woman in American history. Sadly, few are familiar with the woman many Americans once considered the equivalent in fame to the Queen of England.

Born Harriet Elizabeth Beecher, and called "Hattie" as a child, Harriett was the daughter of Lyman Beecher, a famous American preacher of his day, and the sister to Henry Ward Beecher, an influential abolitionist pastor. Harriett would later marry a pastor, Calvin Stowe, and she would bear sons who also became pastors.

Hattie's father, Lyman Beecher, moved from Connecticut to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1832 to become the president of Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. Harriett Elizabeth Beecher, 21 years of age at the time, followed her father to Cincinnati. Both Lyman and Harriett Beecher became friends with my great-great grandfather Charles T. Cherry, who was the western agent for the American Sunday School Union and ran a book store and publishing house in downtown Cincinnati near the Ohio River. At the time my grandfather knew Harriet Beecher, she worked as a writer/reporter for the Cincinnati newspaper. While in Cincinnati, Harriett met and fell in love with Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor and ardent abolitionist. The two were married in 1836 and they remained married for the next 50 years, until Calvin's death.

Just across the Ohio River which runs through downtown Cincinnati was the slave state  of Kentucky. Harriett was first exposed to the institution of slavery on her visits to Kentucky. In Cincinnati, she also heard first-person accounts from former slaves who had escaped slave using the Underground Railroad. Harriett began to write about the sinfulness and awfulness of slavery, becoming a well-known advocate for the abolition of slavery.

In 1850, Calvin accepted a teaching position at Bowdoin College in Maine, and Calvin and Harriett moved from Cincinnati to Brunswick, Maine. That same year (1850), Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which forced northerners, under penalty of law, to return runaway slaves to their southern owners. It was the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act which prompted Harriett Beecher Stowe to write the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Stowe’s gripping portrayal of the horrors of racial slavery captured the nation. Abolitionists embraced the book as their manifesto, but those desiring slavery cursed both the book and its author. Abolitionists quickly wrote screen plays of Uncle Tom's Cabin and put the story on stage, with the characters of Tom, Eva and Topsy becoming American icons.

During the height of the Civil War, Harriett traveled to Washington  where she met with President Abraham Lincoln. A popular story about the meeting has the President greeting Harriett with these words: “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” While little is known about the actual meeting, it is without doubt that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was one of the major sources of the national conflict over slavery.

Harriett Beecher Stowe would receive accolades throughout her life and in the decades after her death. The Harriett Beecher Stowe Center in Connecticut is dedicated to keeping her life and legacy alive. The Harriett Beecher Stowe House in Maine, where Hattie wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, is a museum and bookstore that honor the life of a great American woman.

Harriett Beecher Stowe's greatest honor, however, came when she was twelve years old. It happened when she was still in Connecticut, prior to moving to Cincinnati. It was Harriett's first and most rewarding honor. 

When Harriet was eleven, she wrote her first essay. She would later recall how astonished she was at the ease in which she could place in writing her thoughts.  Writing came naturally to her, and she soon began to write for fun.  Even as a child, she would write for hours at a time, and would later go back to what she had written, making revisions as necessary. 

Her first honor and award for writing came after a year of practice writing, when she was all of telve years of age. The students at the Litchfield Academy, where Harriett attended school in Connecticut, were required to submit essays at the end of the school year. The grand prize was for the winning paper to be read aloud by the headmaster at the graduation exercises. 

In 1823, the grand prize was awarded by a unanimous vote of the Litchfield Academy judges to a document entitled Can the Immortality of the Soul Be Proved by the Light of Nature? Reading the twenty-five hundred words aloud, the headmaster kept the audience in rapt attention with the logical and easy to understand narrative on nature's evidence of man's immortality. When the headmaster finished, the audience exploded in applause. 

Then, to the shock of the students and parents in attendance, the headmaster announced that the winner of the the essay contest was 12-year-old Harriet Elizabeth Beecher. 

Harriett turned and glanced at her father when her name was announced, and would later say she never forgot the proud and delightful smile on her father's face as he stood with others and applauded. Time dissipated Hattie's memory of that day; everything but the memory of her father's smile. Toward the end of her life, Harriett reflected on this experience as a 12-year-old and said to her friends: 
"My father's smile is the highest honor I have ever received."
Any of us fathers would do well to remember this anecdote of Harriett Elizabeth Beecher Stowe, and be quick to share a smile with our children, knowing that though they may become highly honored and famous in America, it is the smile of one's father that is their highest honor.