Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Principle, Courage, and Will Equal Real Leadership

The age of mass communication has led to domination by the masses.

Cool rules.

"Where have all of America's great leaders gone?"

They've been crushed by the masses.

It's not that great leaders themselves are crushed, for real leaders are never dominated by their environment. But the ability to lead is thwarted by the false reality of those needing leadership. What the masses perceive is what the masses receive.

I don't think that England would have survived World War II without Winston Churchill. Churchill, a man of principle, knew Nazi Germany presented an existential threat to western civilization. Churchill fought Germany on the basis of his principles, which fueled his courage, and ultimately forged an "iron will" in him and the nation he led.

When Adolph Hitler turned his sights on England, promising to bomb the English to hell and back, Churchill took to the airwaves on June 4, 1940 and gave his famous speech "We shall fight them on the beaches." He said,
"Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender.
And even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
I believe that if Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other forms of social media existed in Churchill's day, one look by the masses of England at the bombed out buildings and horrific bloodshed of men, women and children in London during the 1940 London Blitz would have been enough to lead the English people to capitulate to Germany. Even with only newspapers and black-and-white photos of the Blitz available to the masses in 1940, the pressure by the English to relent and join European capitulation to Nazi Germany was intense. Had it not been for the great leadership of Winston Churchill, England and America today might be very well teaching their school children the German language.

Great leaders arise in times of crisis. Mass opinion, mass desires, and mass thought are not as important in existential crisis as are principles, courage and iron wills. When a nation is in trouble, great leaders lead because the masses become increasingly irrelevant.

This is why America's Founding Father's feared democracy. The Founding Father's knew that democracy prevents great leaders from taking the stage. The only principle that guides politicians in a nation dominated by the masses is "Do others like me?" The only principle that guides the masses of people in a nation dominated by democratic rule is "What has the government done for me?"

Only world war, world conflict, or unthinkable natural disasters give the needed opportunity for a new set of great leaders  to arise - leaders who live by principle, courage and will. In those nations accustomed to domination by the masses, great leaders sit on the sidelines. 

It seems to me that the path of the United States is spiraling toward worldwide conflict. The only good news from this prediction is that the door may be opening for a restoration of great leadership in America.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

My Kingdom In this World but not Of this World - Calm Confidence in the 2016 Presidential Election

"My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36). 

In the current political climate of the United States, it is worth reflecting on the actions and words of the only Leader who really matters. In John 18 we read that Jesus is taken captive by the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans for prosecution. Pilate, the Roman governor, stands before a bound and captive Jesus and asks, "Your own people have handed You over to me. What have you done?" 

Pilate hated Jews, particularly Galilean Jews, the Jews from the region where Jesus lived. Pilate deemed Galilean Jews seditious and rebellious toward Roman rule. Just a few months earlier Pilate killed dozens of them in Jerusalem and "mingled their blood with their sacrifices" (Luke 13:1). 

Pilate feared anyone who sought to subvert his political authority. Could it be that the Jewish religious leaders, desiring to curry Pilate's favor, had brought to Pilate a seditious Galilean who was rumored to be establishing His own kingdom? Could it be that this Jesus, whom the Jews had delivered to Pilate, wanted to rule the Jews in the place of Pilate? Is this why the Jews handed Jesus over to Pilate? The Roman rulers asks our Lord ...

"What have you done, Jesus of Galilee?"

Jesus responds with an answer that so convinces Pilate that Jesus is a harmless Galilean with no political ambitions,  that after hearing Jesus' answer, Pilate washes his hands of the matter and says to the Jews, "I find no basis for a charge (of sedition) against this man?" (Luke 23:4). Look again at what Jesus said to Pilate. Here is Jesus' statement in full. 
 "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this world."(John 18:36)
Pilate was convinced.

Jesus was no political threat. Pilate saw a calm, relaxed Man who did not fight His arrest or the loss of His personal liberties, much less cower in fear at the threat of imprisonment or death at the hands of a Roman imperialist. Pilate knew after hearing Him, that Jesus posed no threat to the political establishment.

It is through what Jesus said to Pilate that we discover what caused Jesus to be so calm during personal persecution. It is through the principle Jesus articulated to Pilate that we can learn how He was so relaxed before a powerful Roman ruler who had already killed hundreds of Galileans.

If you are a Christian - that is, if you follow Christ's example (e.g. "Christian" means "little Christ") - you can learn from Christ's words how to stay calm during a time when the country you love seems to be falling under imperial power.  You can discover in Christ's words the secret to help you stay relaxed even when threatened with the loss of personal liberties. 

"My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). 

What does that mean? 

Contrary to what some think, Jesus did NOT say "My kingdom is not IN this world." He couldn't say that, because His kingdom is in this world. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not OF this world." 

What's the difference?

Have you ever been on a plane when the oxygen masks fall? Probably not. However, if you've paid attention, you know that if the masks ever do fall, you are instructed to put it over your mouth and nose first before you ever help anyone with their mask. 

Suppose you are in a plane when the oxygen masks fall. You immediately put yours on, but everyone else is shocked and surprised by the suddenness of it all, and they aren't as fast as you. In the four or five seconds between the time you get your mask on and everybody else is without it, the air in the plane is filled with a poison that instantly kills everyone else. You alone are the survivor. 

You are IN a plane full of dead people, but you are not OF the dead people in the plane.

That's the difference between IN and OF.

The grace from God that enables us to be part of His Kingdom means that we live in a world full of people dead on the inside, but we ourselves are alive.  

We have faith. We have hope. We have love.

We have these things when everybody else in this world is without faith, without hope, without love.

Our source of life and happiness is not found in who wins the election, or who is able through politics and power to protect our personal liberties. Our source is found in the Father who has given us His Son, and through faith in Him, we find our full and free forgiveness and our personal purpose in this world (I Corinthians 2:2 and II Corinthians 5:20). Our source of life and happiness comes from the Father who rules over all nations and kings, and from Him we find our hope no matter how dark things might seem, for He is always good and is able "to work all things for our good" (Romans 8:28). Our source only increases in its power as we come to know more fully His love for us, for from this deeper understanding of His love, we "are filled with all the fullness of God" and are in need of nothing else (Ephesians 3:14-21).  

We "little Christs" ought to possess the relaxed attitude and calm confidence Christ had before Pilate during our own Presidential election process - regardless of the outcome - because "our kingdom is not of this world."

We are in it, but we are not of it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Just Be

When you begin to follow Jesus, one of the things Jesus will do is teach you how to be. Our lives are lived to their fullest potential when we learn just to be.

Let me explain.

God's personal name is an unpronounceable four-letter Hebrew word  - YHWH  -  and translated in the English Bible as LORD (all caps). The LORD revealed to Moses that His name means "I am that I am" (Exodus 3:14).

God is the the great "I am." He is as He is. God may not be as people perceive Him; but He is who He is. God is in no need of being perceived a certain way; He is as He is. "I Am that I Am." We only know the invisible and immortal Creator God because He's condescended to our level and revealed Himself to us. Jesus is Emmanuel, "God with us." 

One of the things you notice about Jesus is He is who He is. Jesus doesn't change to win people over. Jesus doesn't waver at the opinions of others. Jesus is. People either love Him or hate Him, but He is who He is. He simply is.

That means, we who follow Him should simply be.

A Christian is. A Jesus' follower is who he is in public; he is who he is in private. We don't change because of perception or even persecution, for we are who we are, and we are learning by the grace of God to simply be.

Those not filled with the love of Christ live in fear.  "I don't want them to believe that I am ...." Those not resting in Christ for their identity (see Ephesians 3:19) live a life revolving around others'  perceptions of them, not the reality of who they are. "I don't want you to think that I am ..."

I used to work with a person who would say, "I just don't want others on staff to think I'm disloyal to them." I reminded this staff member that he is never in control of what others think, nor is God calling him to focus on how others perceive him. I would say to him, "Just be loyal." That's enough. Just be. When you are filled up with all the fullness of God, you live like God lives. He is. Just be.

It takes a lot of work, control and manipulation to affect the perception of others. It's what's called "Public Relations" or PR in our world. Jesus isn't in the PR business. He's in the business of teaching people how to be.
Next time you find yourself more concerned with what others think of you, or how others perceive you, or where you fall on the scale of acceptance in the eyes of others, remember that those who know the great I AM live their lives by being. Just be.

Friday, October 07, 2016

12 Dates to Know that Make My Bible Reading Flow

I had lunch this week with a highly decorated soldier who has been attending Emmanuel for the past year. "Since I started attending, I've developed a desire to read the Bible. My wife gave me a Bible as a gift for Christmas, and my New Year's resolution is to read it through.  Is there something that could help me understand it better?"

I explained that nobody would begin building a house without a set of plans. Properly building a house requires a framework. So too, before one launches into reading the Bible, one must have a proper framework. I explained to him that the Bible is all about Jesus Christ.

"The Scriptures speak of me" (John 5:39), Jesus said.

All the Scriptures speak of Him, both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The problem many have when they start reading the Old Testament is they don't see how everything in the Bible revolves around the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Christmas is that time we celebrate the Creator of the universe coming to earth (Emmanuel) to "humble Himself by becoming obedient to death" (Philippians 2:8) as a Man. God came to fulfill the Law of "sin and death" for sinners, setting His people free from the commanding and condemning power of the Law (Romans 8:2). The Creator told us to live life to its fullest, loving people the way He loves us.

We've broken God's Law, and deserve death for it (Romans 6:23).  But God in His love for sinners came to take our place, placing the penalty of sin (death) on Himself, conquering death through the Resurrection, and promising eternal life to those who trust Him (Romans 6:23).

Time for western civilization has historically been measured by the coming of God to this world in the form of Man, an act called "the Incarnation." Chili with "meat" is "chili con carne." When the invisibleimmortalimmutable God took on "flesh," we call it the In-carn-ation.

Celebrating the Messiah in a manger at Bethlehem has meaning only when comprehending the Messiah on a cross at Jerusalem. The mission of the Messiah was to die for sinners, bearing our punishment, that we might live forever. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. God can't die, but a Man can.
"For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation" (II Corinthians 5:19). 
Christ is the center of history.

Before Christ and The Year of Our Lord (Anno Domini)

B.C. is an abbreviation for "Before Christ" and A.D. is the Latin abbreviation "Anno Domini" which in English means, "The Year of Our Lord."  When the abbreviations are properly used,  B.C. is placed after the year, and A.D. comes before the year (ex. 1500 B.C. or A.D. 1500).

Since the 8th century A.D., Western Civilization has dated events with the tags B.C. or A.D. to quickly tell if those events occurred before the birth of Christ or after. 

Before the coming of Christ, dates were measured according in relation to the first Olympics (776 B.C.) so that people would say "in the third year of the XI Olympiad" which would be the date we know as 743 B.C. since an Olympiad occurred once every four years.

Later, dates would be measured by the reigns of Roman Emperors. The Jews have kept time (and still do) using the A.M. (anno mundi) which is Latin for "Year of the World." The Jews measure time from the year they believe God created the world. So, A.D. 2016 is to the Jew 5777 A.M. 

Around 1980, some influential academicians, including scientists at the Smithsonian, began using B.C.E. and C.E. to avoid having to use the name of Christ or the offensive "year of our Lord" in dating abbreviations. C.E. means "Common Era," and B.C.E. means "Before the Common Era." Of course, a person might ask "What makes our era common?" and one might respond, "The common Creator of all things has come into His Creation as a Man" (see Colossians 1:16). 

The use of B.C.E. and C.E. may be an attempt to avoid usage of Christ's name, but I am reminded that "those who are ashamed of Him will one day find He is ashamed of them" (see Luke 9:26). So, using the dates B.C. and A.D., the following 12 dates - when memorized - will give you a remarkable understanding of the Bible and the flow of its history. The dates I give are approximate dates until we get to the year of the first Olympics (776 B.C.) when the dates will be precise. 

4000 B.C. 
The Creation of Adam

We will let people fall all over themselves attempting to prove the age of the earth, but we will politely bow out. Whether you believe the earth and universe are "billions and billions" of years old, or relatively young (e.g. "thousands of years"), knock yourself out proving it. I only point out the creation of Adam, the first man, on this date. Scientists recently finished tracing the human genome and "discovered" that all human beings descend from one man and one woman. Science only confirmed what the Bible reveals. Since nobody was around when the first man and woman appeared, it seems to me it takes greater faith to believe all humans evolved from amoebas and apes than it does Adam and Eve were created by God in His image (see Genesis 1:27). 

2345 B.C.
The Flood of Noah

This date is easy to remember - 2 3 4 5 - years before Christ, a flood came. Some believe this flood is global and catastrophic, others believe this biblical flood is local and hyperbolic (exaggerated). As for me, since every nation of the world has a flood legend in her history, I lean toward a worldwide cataclysmic flood. God caused the population of the earth to perish because "man was evil." The re-population of the earth began again with Noah's sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) and their descendants, from whom all the people groups of the world can be traced. The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 is a stunning study on the world's population growth, as well as a key that unlocks the door to different cultures that cover the globe. The population of the world can only be what it is today if you begin populating the world with people from scratch in 2500 B.C. Otherwise, the world's population by the scientific rate of growth (a doubling of population every 74 years) would have our world population in the trillions (instead of 7 billion). 

2000 B.C.
The Birth of Abram

As a young man, Abram lived in "Ur of the Chaldees" (an ancient city in modern Iraq).  God told him to leave his country, his people, and his father's family to go "to a land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1; Acts 7:2). This call of God to Abram is key to understanding the Bible. The Creator of the world is calling Abram to Himself to "make of him a great nation" (Genesis 12:2), through whom "all the peoples of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). This call is the beginning the nation called Israel, through whom the Messiah - who would bless all peoples of the earth - would come. Abram had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob, whose name God changed to "Israel." Israel had twelve sons, from whom the 12 Tribes of Israel find their origin. Thus, in the Old Testament, God identifies Himself as "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (Exodus 3:6).

1500 B.C. 
The Call of Moses

Though this date is approximate, I believe it is very close to accurate. We know that Israel (Jacob) and his family went down to Egypt during a great famine (Genesis 46), and Israel sojourned in Egypt, and God turned them into a "great nation" of people due to the influence of Joseph, one of Israel's sons. Over the next three centuries, the Israelites "multiplied greatly" (Exodus 1:7), growing very numerous in number.

The Pharaoh of Egypt who came to power grew afraid of the Israelites, so he enslaved them. God called an Israelite named Moses to lead His people out of their bondage in Egypt. The United States has been a nation for 240 years, less time than Israel lived in Egypt. and we have grown from 100 early settlers to 325,000,000 people. Even without population growth by "immigration" like the United States has had, it's not hard to understand how Israel became a "great nation" while in Egypt. When God called Moses at the burning bush, He said, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Exodus 3:6). Moses led God's people out of Egypt back to the land that God originally gave to Abraham, the land of Canaan. When the Israelites left Egypt in the 15th century B.C., God made a covenant with them at Mt. Sinai.

This conditional covenant of Law was a promise that IF Israel obeyed God, THEN Israel would be blessed by God. But IF Israel violated their conditions of the covenant, THEN Israel would experience the wrath of God. We call this covenant "the Old Covenant." Israel called it "The Law." The Law included everything about Israeli life in their new land - the calendar, the festivals, the taxes, the sacrifices, Temple worship, Sabbath days, dietary laws, civil laws, etc.,, - literally, everything about Israel revolved around God's Law. Why? The Law pointed to the Messiah who was to come through Israel to "bless all the peoples of the earth." (Genesis 12:3).  Jesus came "to fulfill the Law." Jesus is the true and faithful Israel who fulfilled the Law and deserves all the blessings of God.

1051 B.C. 
The Kingdom of Israel

God led Covenant Israel to the land of Canaan and empowered them to defeat the Canaanites and subdue the land (read Joshua and Judges). For the next four hundred years, God's people sought to live by the Covenant, but eventually, they began to forget they were a special people in covenant with God. The Israelites began looking at neighboring nations with kings and wanted "a king" for themselves. They asked their prophet Samuel for God to give them a king over Israel "like other nations" (I Samuel 8).

When God allowed Israel to have a king, it was the beginning of a decline that eventually led to a complete divorce of God from national Israel because Israel "broke the covenant with God" (Jeremiah 3:8)  Of course, this was all part of the providential. God's Law was intended to reveal the depths of man's sin (Romans 3:7-25) and the beauty of mankind's Savior. Jesus fulfilled the Law and gives perfect righteousness and corresponding blessings from God to all those who trust Him (Philippians 3:7-11).

A kingdom is "a king's dominion," and Israel had three kings in their history as a kingdom: Saul (1051-1011 B.C.) - David (101 - 971 B.C.) - Solomon (971 - 931 B.C.)

931 B.C.
The Division of the Kingdom of Israel

When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam wished to continue the heavy taxes his father had imposed to build the Temple. 10 tribes of Israel rebelled and started their own kingdom with another son of Solomon named Jeroboam. This split in Israel led to two nations. The 10 tribes formed a northern kingdom they called Israel, and they moved their capital to a city they called Samaria. They built for themselves their own temple, and began to worship pagan gods. Two tribes - Judah and Benjamin - remained in the south and formed the southern kingdom called Judah. The southern kingdom kept Jerusalem as their capital, continued to worship at the Temple, and tried to keep their covenant with God. Of the nineteen kings that would eventually rule the northern kingdom of Israel, not one of them was a good king in the sight of God.  Of the twenty kings that would eventually rule the southern kingdom of Judah, about half were good, and the other half were evil. I used to joke with my daughter that I would only allow her to date when the boy requesting a date could quote for me the nineteen kings of the northern kingdom in order, and the twenty kings of the southern kingdom in order. You will never understand the Old Testament until you know that the prophetical books of the Old Testament are words of warning to either the northern kingdom or the southern kingdom to repent of their violations of their covenant with God and return to Him.  The books of the Old Testament look like this: 

Historical books (17 - Genesis to Esther)
Poetical books (5 - Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)
Prophetical books (17 - Isaiah to Malachi)

You will only comprehend the last seventeen books of the Old Testament when you understand that the prophets who wrote the prophetical books were either speaking to Israel, Judah or both kingdoms. 

722 B.C. 
The Fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel

The northern kingdom of Israel never followed God in covenant relationship. Their nineteen kings were all evil. Stories like that of King Ahab and Jezebel reveal how lost the people of Israel, and their leaders were. Prophets like Elijah, Hosea, and others came to northern Israel and spoke to the people and kings on behalf of God. Their message was "repent" or "perish." The people of Israel closed their ears to the warnings of God through the prophets,  God then raised up the Assyrians, the world's first empire, to bring to an end the northern kingdom of Israel. In 722 B.C. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom, took the Israeli men into captivity (Ninevah was Assyria's capital), and brought in pagan men they'd captured in other nations and forced them to intermarry with the Israeli women. The descendants of these "mixed marriages" were the Samaritans, considered "half-breeds" by the Jews of Jesus day. In fact, the Jews (Jew is an abbreviation for Judah, the people of the southern kingdom) would go to great lengths to avoid the Samaritans and the land in which they lived (Samraria). But not Jesus. "He must go through Samaria" (John 4:4) because Jesus is interested in giving life to the least, the lost and the littlest - those the world rejects. It was in the land of Samaria that Jesus met the woman at the well and gave her the water of life. Though the descendants of the mixed marriages were called "Samaritans," after the fall of the northern kingdom, the 10 northern tribes of Israel were forever lost - thus they are called the "Lost Tribes." The Mormons wrongly teach that these lost tribes became the Native Americans. In reality, the tribal identity of northern Israel was lost because they broke covenant with God, and God divorced Himself from them as a nation.

586 B.C.
The Fall of the Southern Kingdom 

After the fall of the northern kingdom, the southern kingdom (Judah), composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, would be the only families of Israel remaining. Of course, the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Jesus) was to come from Judah, and the Messiah would "reign over the house of David forever." King David was from the tribe of Judah. So the promise God originally made to Abraham that through Him "all the nations of the earth would be blessed" was still in effect. However, the people of Judah began to go the way of their northern brothers. Prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others began to warn Judah that they too would perish if they didn't repent and return to God. The world's second empire, the Babylonians, conquered the Assyrians, and in a series of three increasingly severe attacks on Jerusalem (609, 597 and 586 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, eventually destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, and took the Jews (the abbreviation for the people of Judah) into captivity. This captivity into Babylon (modern Iraq and Iran) is called "The Babylonian Exile." I date this 70 years of captivity from 609 B.C. when Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are taken by Nebuchadnezzar from Jerusalem to Babylon, to the fall of Babylon to the Persians in October of 539 B.C. Many amazing things occurred during the Jews captivity in Babylon. Synagogue worship begins. Daniel wrotes his prophetical books and names the date for the coming of the Messiah. The "magi' from the East who came looking for "he who has been born king of the Jews' came because they knew Daniel's scroll. He was the most revered magi of them all, and he was a Jew who never went back to Jerusalem, but stayed in Babylon (and is buried in Iran). 

400 B.C.
The Close of the Old Testament

When the Jews returned from Israel after their Babylonian captivity, they were led by men like Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and they rebuilt the walls and the city of Jerusalem. The Jews rebuilt the Temple itself and re-dedicated it in 516 B.C. They tried to get back to their normal lives in the land of Israel. Esther, a Jew born in Babylonian captivity, would remain in Babylon and eventually marry a Persian king named Xerxes. Her story is the last historical book of the Old Testament. A ton of people read the Old Testament and get confused because they don't realize if you wish to read the Bible chronologically, you must stop at the 17th book (Esther). The middle five books of poetry in the Old Testament and the last seventeen books of the Old Testament (the books of the prophets) fit within the first seventeen books of the Old Testament according to the history of Israel. It's interesting to note that though the Jews picked up their worship of God at the re-dedication of the rebuilt Temple in 516 B.C., the Spirit of God was never again present in the Temple worship of the Jews. It is during this time period (from the close of the Old Testament, to the coming of Christ) that there is the rise of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. When there is the worship of God without the Spirit of God, you will either have the rise of legalism (Pharisees) or the rise of liberalism (Sadducees).  From the close of the Old Testament to the birth of Christ, you have a period where the Persians are defeated by the Greeks, the Greeks are then defeated by the Romans, and during the Roman rule of the world, the Messiah appears (see Daniel 11). Daniel prophesied all these events so precisely, skeptics assumed Daniel couldn't have written it (because a man can't tell the future). These skeptics were silenced at the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls which contained the complete book of Daniel and showed it was written before the events occurred. A man may not know the future, but God does.

4 B.C.
The Birth of Christ

I won't get into the reasons why the scholars in the middle ages made a four year error when they started B.C. and A.D. dating (Clue: It has to due with leap years), but it will help you understand the span and scope of the Old Testament if you remember the numbers 4 and 0. 4000 B.C. - The Creation of Adam. Take away a zero. 400 B.C. - The Close of the Old Testament. Take away two zeroes. 4 B.C. - The Coming of Christ. Remember, Jesus Christ came "to fulfill the Law" and make a New Agreement with the world. The Old Covenant was a conditional agreement whereby those who perfectly obeyed God were perfectly blessed by God. In the New Agreement (Covenant), all those who trust Christ -  who came to fulfill the Law - are perfectly blessed by God.  The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a life that actively fulfilled the Law through His personal obedience and passively fulfilled the Law through His death in the place of sinners. The coming of God in Christ to this world is the center point of history. History is His story. It's odd that followers of Christ speak more of Christ's second coming than we do His first coming. Christ's coming to earth in 4 B.C. changes everything.

A.D. 30 
The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ

The death of Jesus Christ is God's mercy for sinners. God forsook the Son He loved that He might never forsake those who love His Son. The demons of hell will leave alone anyone who talks generically about God. But when someone begins telling others that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" the demons go crazy. For those who have a hard time understanding how God can come to earth as a Man, it usually revolves around how the immortal, invisible and immutable Creator could ever be "limited" to a Man.  The answer is beautiful. We worship and serve only one God. But this God who created us so transcends our ability that we could never know Him except for the fact in His love for us God condescends to our level and reveals Himself to us. Christ came that we might know God. He is Emmanuel - God with us. When you come to understand that God conquered sin and death for those who will trust Christ, then the same power that raised Christ from the dead goes to work within you. Jesus came that we might have life, and this life is for those who trust Him. 

A.D. 70 
The Destruction of the Jewish Temple

The time between the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (A.D. 30) to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans (A.D. 70) is what the Bible calls "the last days."  It's the last days of the Old Covenant, not the last days of the world. In fact, during this time of transition (40 years), the good news of what Christ came to do went to "the Jews first, then the Gentile" (Romans 1:16). Daniel prophesied the end of the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:24-27), and just like God gives a period of mercy during transitions in His dealings with His people (40 days of the flood; 40 years in the wilderness; 40 days of temptation, etc...), God gave His people 40 years before He brought the worship of the Jews at the Temple to an end. "The last days" of the Old Covenant are the beginning of a New Agreement between God and the world. 

Trust Christ and live.

Monday, October 03, 2016

He that sells what isn't his'n must buy it back or go to pris'n - Corrupt Politics vs. Cornelius Vanderbilt

People today are "up in arms' over corruption in local, state and national politicians - and well we should be. However, it's important to remember that "there's nothing new under the sun," and truth be told, people in power have been crafting laws for personal benefit since the days of Nimrod, the founder of Babylon.

One of the more fascinating stories of political corruption occurred 150 years ago in the state of New York. It revolves around a native New Yorker named Cornelius Vanderbilt. Born into poverty on Staten Island in 1794, as a teenager Vanderbilt borrowed money from his mother to purchased a small sail boat. He established a ferry from Staten Island across New York Harbor to Manhattan, and through frugal savings, hard work, and an entrepreneurial spirit, Vanderbilt eventually arose to become the wealthiest man in America.

This is a story of how crooked politicians almost took Vanderbilt down financially, but instead, Cornelius Vanderbilt took them down.

With the money Vanderbilt earned from his ferry business, Vanderbilt invested in a new invention called "steam boats." He established a steam boat business that was able to take goods back and forth from Albany to New York, bringing to the ever growing market of Manhattan the furs that frontier trappers brought to Albany from the Great Lakes region. Vanderbilt made his first fortune through this steamboat business, but he saw the proverbial "handwriting on the wall," and decided it was time to invest in railroads.

Vanderbilt bought shares in a small railroad line called the New York and Harlem Railroad in the 1850's. This line, along with the famous Hudson River Railroad line, were the only two railroad companies with access to Manhattan. In 1857, at the age of 61, Vanderbilt began buying even more shares of the New York and Harlem Railroad, and soon he became the majority owner.

Here's where it get's interesting.

The members of the Common Council of New York, what we now call New York's City Council, attempted to line their pockets by following the advice of a Wall Street mogul named Daniel Drew, who also happened to represent Harlem as a city council member.

The shares of Vanderbilt's New York to Harlem Railroad were rising. The company was profitable, and word on the street was that the city council was going to grant Vanderbilt's Railroad the right to have a trolley from Battery Park to Broadway, the length of Manhattan. A trolley was the forerunner of a modern subway, and if the Vanderbilt's railroad had this trolley business, his company's profits would soar even more.

Councilman Drew privately convinced the New York city council members to continue talking publicly about the council's desire to grant Vanderbilt's company the authority to build a streetcar line - a public discussion which only contributed to the skyrocketing share prices of Vanderbilt's New York and Harlem Railroad company.  Drew told council members that if they passed the law granting trolley authority to Vanderbilt, "but at the last minute rescinded their decision," then the shares for the New York and Harlem railroad would plummet in price. The key to council members making money was "to sell short" New York and Harlem Railroad shares before the rescission announcement was made to the public.

The City Council's bill authorizing the construction of the streetcar line was passed on 23rd April 1863. Council members began selling short Vanderbilt's railroad shares over the next two days.  Vanderbilt had some idea of what was happening and he warned the Council members to cease their actions. However, the city council continued with their illicit plan and formally rescinded the streetcar line franchise on the afternoon of 25th June 1863 for the sole purpose of making themselves rich.

Boom! People the newspapers screamed that the New York and Harlem Railroad stock would plummet during trading the next day.

But it didn't happen. The stock price of the Vanderbilt's company actually rose.

How could this happen?

Unbeknownst to the New York's city council members, Vanderbilt had purchased all of the New York and Harlem railroad stock available. He was not only the majority owner, he was now the sole owner.

When you sell a stock short and there are no shares to trade, the price of the stock rises. It is what is called a short squeeze. Short sellers can't do anything but watch in horror as the price of the stock they promised to buy back goes up in price rather than down. Unwise short selling has bankrupted many an investor.

New York city council members came to Vanderbilt and begged him to help them. Remember, these politicians sought to ruin Vanderbilt through politically corrupt business dealings. But instead, Vanderbilt had them over a barrel. The politicians were obligated to buy Vanderbilt's stock, but Vanderbilt wasn't selling yet - and the price of the stock was rising.

When the short squeeze was over and Vanderbilt finally allowed the city council out of their short positions, the price of the stock was at $180 a share, having grown from the $8 a share Vanderbilt first paid for the stock when he began investing. Vanderbilt made millions off the crooked desires of New York politicians.

Daniel Drew, the architect of the corrupt scheme to line his and other politicians' pockets with ill-gotten gains waxed philosophical about his loss of over a million dollars (over $20,000,000 in today's money). Daniel Drew one of the few politicians in New York who could afford such a massive loss in 1863 because he had already made a fortune on Wall Street. The poem that Drew wrote is something that the federal government of the United States should pay attention to in 2016, particularly since politicians have "borrowed" the Social Security money of participants - money that isn't theirs - with a "promise" to pay it back. Instead, they are funding their respective districts with money that is not theirs. Daniel Drew wrote:
"He that sells what isn't his'n, must buy it back or go to pris'n."
Since those in political power today are not prone to put themselves in prison, I've written another poem that more likely parallels the future of the American government come November 2016.

"The politicians who from others steal will find themselves replaced on Capitol Hill."