Thursday, April 25, 2019

Jesus Died Most Likely on the Mount of Olives

Any casual perusal of the Old Testament reveals that the Hebrew people worshiped God through a very elaborate sacrificial system.

There were the daily national "morning and evening sacrifices." offered by the priests on behalf of the entire Hebrew nation. There were special sacrifices on annual national "holy days" (holidays) which revolved around the seven annual Hebrew festivals. And then there were sacrifices offered by individuals during specific times of need (e.g., "leprosy") as well as after committing specific sins

But there was one special sacrifice offered by the High Priest which was not daily, nor even annual. It was offered whenever the ashes of the previous sacrifice had been depleted through cleansing ceremonies.

This special offering is called the Red Heifer sacrifice.

A heifer is a young female cow which has never given birth to a calf.  A red heifer is an anomaly. Most cows don't have a skin color that is red. The Old Testament Hebrews specifically bred red heifers for this particular sacrifice.

Instructions for the special kind of red heifer to be sacrificed are given in Numbers 19. It was to be a red heifer in the prime of its life, "without blemish," and one that "has never been yoked" (Numbers 19:2).

The red heifer was to be taken "outside the city" (Numbers 19:3). It was to be slain and then "burned with fire" (Numbers 19:5). 

Then "the ashes of the red heifer" were to be gathered (Numbers 19:9). When an Israelite "dies in his tent" (Numbers 19:14) or when a living Israelite "touches a corpse" (Numbers 19:13), the tent and/or the living Israelite were to be deemed "unclean" for seven days (Numbers 19:11). 

A small portion of the ashes of the red heifer which had been sacrificed and burned was to be mixed in a basin filled with "flowing water" (Numbers 19:17), which means water from a living source such as a river or a spring.

Then a branch of hyssop, which is an aromatic herbal plant, would be dipped into the water mixed with the ashes. The ashes of the red heifer with living water would then be sprinkled on the unclean person or tent on both the third day and the seventh day of the week after contact with death.

After this seven-day process of cleansing, the Israelite would be pronounced "clean" and allowed into the assembly and the courtyard of the Temple. 
"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7). 
If this ceremony of cleansing with the ashes of the red heifer was not performed on the unclean person, the Israelite would be "defile" the Lord and be "cut off from Israel" (Numbers 19:13).

The Ashes of the Red Heifer kept the nation of Israel clean before the Lord.

It was an important sacrifice.

During the entire Old Testament as well during the time between the Testaments (e.g., the intertestamental time period), there were only nine red heifers sacrificed by the priests of Israel.

Orthodox Jews today believe the Messiah is coming to reinstate the sacrifice of the red heifer by offering the tenth red heifer for Temple worship. Orthodox Jews are already breeding heifers to obtain the unusual red heifer line in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

But I believe our Jewish friends have missed the symbolism of their own religion.

Jesus Christ is the true Red Heifer. He is the final Sacrifice.

Jesus the Anointed One "came to fulfill the Law" (Matthew 5:17-20).

The Red Heifer of the Old Covenant foreshadowed the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Jesus died "outside the city" (Hebrews 13:12). It seems quite probable that Jesus died in the exact spot the Red Heifer was sacrificed because the High Priest could see directly into the Temple from the offering site. The centurion soldier at the crucifixion saw the curtain in the Temple torn (see Matthew 27:54).

In Jesus day, there was a bridge that went across the Kidron Valley that connected the Mt. of Olives with the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem. It was called by the Jews the Red Heifer bridge. on the Mount of Olives is where the Red Heifer ritual took place.

It's also most likely where Jesus died to cleanse God's people.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional Roman Catholic site where Jesus was crucified is west of the Temple grounds, making it impossible for the Centurian to see the Temple curtain being torn. In addition, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher that Emperor Constantine's mother had built in the 4th century was inside the city of Jerusalem, not outside the city walls.

Jesus died in the prime of His life (age 33).

Jesus was "without fault or blemish" (I Peter 1:19John 1:47).

Jesus died that those "unclean" before God might "washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ"  (I Corinthians 6:11II Corinthians 5:21).

Hyssop throughout Scripture is an emblem of faith.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).

We live in a day when the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ is often mocked and ridiculed. 

But it seems to me if a person wishes to be pronounced "clean" before the Creator, then one must embrace Jesus as a gift from God (John 3:16) who fulfills the Law for us.

Jesus came to cleanse sinners (Matthew 1:21).

The Apostle Paul wrote:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). 
Paul was not ashamed of the Good News. He never would have said that had there not been some people ashamed of the gospel in his day. 

And in ours.

There is something in the Good News of Jesus Christ that causes people to shrink back in embarrassment and shame. 

What is it about Christianity that causes people to be offended?

The world isn't offended by our worship buildings.

People definitely aren't offended by the good things  Christian organizations do to help the poor.

The world, in general, isn't embarrassed by anything truly Christian, except for one thing.

Blood sacrifice.

Specifically, people seem offended by the truth that Jesus came to shed His blood for sinners, to make sinners who trust Him clean before God.

To believe that God planned from the beginning to give His Son to die, shedding His own blood for the remission of our sins, invites ridicule from others.

The Gospel is offensive.

I don't get it.

Songwriter Andre Crouch wrote a song that describes how I feel:
The blood that Jesus shed for me
Way back on Calvary
The blood that gives me strength
From day to day
It will never lose its power.
It reaches to the highest mountain
It flows to the lowest valley
The blood that gives me strength
From day to day
It will never lose its power.
It soothes my doubts and calms my fears
And it dries all my tears
The blood that gives me strength
From day to day
It will never lose its power.
Peter ignored the offense and shame that Christ's death brings and declared at Pentecost:
"This Jesus, delivered by the determined plan and foreknowledge of God ... is raised up again, putting an end to the agony of death" (Acts 2:23-24). 
The Spirit used Peter's message to bring deliverance to 3,000 people from their bondage to sin and death as Peter proclaimed the truth of Christ's sacrifice for sinners (Acts 2:41). 

But when Stephen later took this same gospel message to the religious leaders they stoned him (Acts 7). 

People in their natural state, even refined religious people, do not wish to hear about the blood-shedding of Jesus Christ. 

We like our religions clean and neat. 

But the gospel teaches us that Jesus Christ died as our Red Heifer. 

God commanded the Hebrews in the Old Covenant to kill the red heifer in order to cleanse them of their defilement, but that ordinance was only a picture and foreshadowing of the Son of God whom the Father in His love for sinners sent for our cleansing (Matthew 1:21). 

The death Jesus died should have been the death we died. The fire that consumes all sin and wickedness, Jesus endured (Matthew 27:46). The death He died, He died for the cleansing and deliverance of sinners  (I Timothy 1:15).

For the prostitute. For the drug addict. For the liar. For the cheat. For the adulterer. For the prideful. For the blasphemer. For the self-righteous. For the bullies. For the selfish. For all sinners who destroy their lives with sin. For the blind who are leading the blind down the road of self-absorbed religiosity.

Jesus is the Red Heifer. 
"He (Jesus) who knew no sin, became sin for us" (II Corinthians 5:21
His blood will cleanse the sinner.

The blood of bulls and goats in the Old Covenant could not cleanse the sinner's conscience or put an end to sin that leads to death.

But the blood of Jesus Christ shed at Calvary does this and so much more. 

This is the reason for the celebration of the cross. 
 "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13-14).
The message of the early apostles of Christ was clear:
"No one is justified by the Law before God, for 'the righteous person will live by faith.' The Law is not of faith; on the contrary, 'the one who practices the Law will live (and die) by the commandments.' But Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree--in order that in Christ Jesus the blessings of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:12-14). 
The early Hebrew Christians had been steeped in their 'ancestral traditions' of animal sacrifice (Galatians 1:14). 

After the resurrection of Christ, God's people were no longer required to offer the sacrifices.

 Animal sacrifice is over. 

The Righteous Judge had fulfilled the Law for us in His Son. God did not lay aside the Law of sin and death, but rather He fulfilled it in Jesus Christ so "He might be just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).

The message of blood sacrifice is the message of the Gospel.

Jesus came to die. 

Christ's sacrifice brings an at-one-moment (atonement) between sinners and God. The Creator is good to sinners, but it is only because of Jesus' death and the sinners' faith in Christ. 

Jesus is the fulfillment of the red heifer sacrifice, and it is His blood that cleanses us. And it is this message of blood sacrifice which offends so many, but it is the only message that gives hope to the defiled. 

When you join your family in worship this weekend, you will not be bringing a lamb to be sacrificed, because God has provided the Lamb.

You will not be bringing a red heifer to the altar, for God has given the Red Heifer. 

You will not be shedding blood with your own hands, for God has shed His own blood for us. 

Turn your eye of faith toward the shed blood of Jesus Christ and believe what He has accomplished for sinners. Our conscience is cleansed because we rest in Christ. 

The promise of God's goodness for eternity is ours because we approach God through the merits and sacrifice of His Son. We rejoice in the Father's love because He gave us His Son. Jesus Christ has come, Jesus Christ has died, and Jesus Christ has risen from the grave. 

This is the gospel. 

It may offend some, but the truth of this message draws from us our worship of God. It may be ridiculed by some, but it is adored by us. It may cause some shame, but we echo the words of the Apostle Paul:
 "We are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16).

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

When Talk Doesn't Match Walk Others Will Balk

One of the reasons the world has such a hard time with Christianity, particularly when Christians get caught in scandals, is that we Christians have the poor habit of spiritualizing our talk, attaching God to just about everything we say, while He is far from what we do.

Christians are often the worst kind of sinners. We smoothly speak a spiritual language designed to cover a sensual lifestyle.

We must stop speaking as if everything we do is God directed and find the humility to speak truthfully about our agendas, our need for control and power, and our self-absorption.

If we were to become brutally honest about our failures then others might find the gospel we stalk about more authentic.

In short, our talk needs to match our walk. God saves sinners, but you'd never know Christians sin by the way we speak. We often do things that are sinful, but we can't speak honestly about the things we do.

We spiritualize even our sins.

The only cure from the pride that leads "the foot that slides in due time" is an honest assessment that God isn't always the reason behind what we choose to do.

Let me illustrate

Back in the early 1990s, the Southern Baptist Public Affairs Committee and the Christian Life Commission were the targets of some fundamentalist leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention.

 These fundamentalists believed that the aforementioned SBC agencies needed to be purged of the "liberal" leadership they possessed.

Two of the people strategically placed by Judge Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson to serve as board members on the Public Affairs Committee and the Christian Life Commission during the proposed merger were North Carolinians Sam Currin and Coy Privette. These two Southern Baptist men were closely identified with the Southern Baptist Convention's Conservative Resurgence were also friends and associates of U.S. Senator Jesse Helms.

Currin and Privette worked behind the scenes, and eventually publicly, to get the Public Affairs Committee and the Christian Life Commission to merge into an entity that would be named The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

The intended goal was to put the newly formed ERLC under the direct control and influence of Dr. Richard Land through getting Dr. Land elected as the President of the new organization.

They succeeded.

But that is not the end of the story.

Sam Currin, a former United States attorney later served over three years of a six-year jail sentence for fraud. Coy Privette--a politician, director of missions and pastor who was known in all three positions as an outspoken moralist--was arrested and charged in 2007 with six counts of aiding and abetting prostitution.

These were the two men that leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention (Pressler and Patterson) strategically assigned to bring about a change in Washington D.C. on religious issues, morality, and ethics.

I've gone back and read as many quotes I could find from the mouths Sam Currin and Coy Privette regarding the merging of the two Southern Baptist entities into the ELRC and Dr. Richard Land's election as President.

Not one time did I read either of these men publicly acknowledge that they had an agenda to merge the two institutions and get their friend and like-minded idealogue Richard Land elected as President.

Their language was all filled with phrases like, "The Lord has directed. . ." or "We are grateful to God for His leadership . . . " or "This historic day is part of God's plan . . ." etc...

I wish people who profess to be Christians would simply state the plain truth and stop spiritualizing everything.

How many pastors say "God has called me to another church" when it would be more accurate to say "I have an opportunity to go to a bigger church that will pay me a larger salary which will possibly enhance the opportunities and influence I have in terms of my ministerial career." 

A talk consistent with a walk is far more convincing of gospel reality.

Monday, April 22, 2019

James MacDonald and Christianity Today

Last week I wrote an article entitled Boys and Their Toys: Understanding the Southern Baptist Convention's Celebrity Leadership Politics. In essence, I challenged Christianity Today's decision to publish a guest editorial (Nov.2, 2018), written by James MacDonald, the pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel. In his CT guest editorial, Pastor James MacDonald defended his decision to file suit against three families - Julie Roys, Scott Bryant, Ryan Mahoney, and the men's respective spouses - for their writing of articles that outlined what the authors believed to be Pastor MacDonald's' gross mismanagement of people, resources, and ministries at Harvest Bible Chapel. Eventually, James MacDonald dropped the suit that he defended in his CT editorial. Subsequently, the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel fired James MacDonald for some of the very things the one-time defendants of his lawsuit revealed in their writings.

In the comment section of my blog, Mark Galli, the Editor in Chief of Christianity Today, entered into a written dialogue with me. I appreciate Mark's transparency as he took issue with what I wrote. He said the decision for Christianity Today to publish James MacDonald's opinion piece was his alone, and it had nothing to do with James MacDonald giving a vintage 1971 VW Beetle automobile to Ed Stetzer. Ed is a contributing editor to Christianity Today.

In the dialogue, I asked Mark this question:
"If Julie Roys (one of the defendants in James MacDonald's lawsuit) wrote you an email and asked for an editorial on the abusive power of celebrity pastors, or if Ed Stetzer connected Julie Roys with CT (and you) and she requested to write an editorial about the dangers of power run amok among celebrity pastors, would you have responded positively?"
Mark responded:
"Absolutely. Under the same restraints: It would have to have been a biblical argument about the abuse of power in general. The challenge would have been taking the argument forward because we have editorialized on that very theme often over the years."
After reading this exchange, a pastor friend in Florida, Brett Maragni, contacted me. He told me he had two written pieces that had been submitted to Christianity Today for potential guest editorials in response to James MacDonald's opinion piece. Mark Galli and Christianity Today chose not to publish either one of these two written opinion pieces. 

David W. Jones, James MacDonald's research assistant for ten years, wrote the first editorial piece and submitted it to Christianity Today for publication. Joel Anderson, a long-time staff member of Harvest Bible Chapel wrote the second opinion piece and sent it to Christianity Today requesting publication as well. Neither man had conversed with the other before writing and submitting their individual articles, and neither man even knew the other one was writing something to send to Christianity Today

Again, Christianity Today rejected both pieces for publication. The question that keeps ringing in my head is "Why does James MacDonald receive permission to publish a guest editorial in Christianity Today and others who wrote opinion pieces -  better-written articles, definitely more biblically grounded, and more reflective of Christianity today - did not receive permission from CT editors?"

Could it be "Boys and Their Toys" is far closer to the truth than some would like to admit?

Both men rejected by CT for publication of their articles have given me permission to make public their written responses to James MacDonald's opinion piece

Then read the two guest editorials rejected by Christianity Today (below). 

After reading all three pieces, it may be time to draw your own conclusions about the state of Christianity today. Using the little "t" for "today" in the previous sentence and not the big "T" is intentional. So is the pun.

Here are the two articles rejected by Christianity Today. 


Is It Biblical to Sue Another Christian?
By David W. Jones

On October 17, 2018, megachurch pastor James MacDonald and his church, Harvest Bible Chapel, filed a defamation lawsuit against five individuals: Scott and Sarah Bryant, Ryan and Melinda Mahoney, and Julie Roys. The lawsuit seeks damages and a temporary restraining order. The catch?  All five defendants are professing Christians.

Aware that 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 forbids Christians from suing other Christians in secular courts, Pastor MacDonald wrote an opinion piece to explain why his lawsuit is biblically justified. (1) To make his case, he needed to prove two things: (1) that Scripture’s prohibition on Christians suing other Christians is not absolute, but rather allows for certain exceptions; and (2) that his specific situation qualifies as one of these exceptions. His argument fails on both counts.

Did God Actually Say?
Regarding the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, MacDonald argues for what he calls “a deeper understanding of Scripture.” He asserts, rightly, that we must look at all relevant texts regarding an issue, not just one primary text (in this case, 1 Corinthians 6). So he puts forward three additional texts for consideration: Matthew 18:17, John 8:49, and Romans 13:1-7. Yet MacDonald does not demonstrate how these texts give Christians the freedom to set aside 1Corinthians 6 and sue other Christians. An examination of each reveals no such justification.

Matthew 18:17 describes the end of the church discipline process. If a sinning church member refuses to repent after multiple appeals by other members, the sinner is to be excommunicated and treated as an unbeliever. MacDonald infers that the person can then be sued. Yet Jesus does not actually say that; lawsuits are foreign to the context.

Regarding John 8:49, MacDonald cites Wayne Grudem’s recent book on Christian ethics. (2) Grudem shows that, even though Jesus remained silent on his way to the cross, he did not normally allow his character to be slandered. Rather, the Lord responded to critics. Grudem then infers that we need not suffer in silence when our character is maligned. We can follow Christ’s example and refute false statements made about us. This is a valid point and helpful. Yet Grudem does not mention suing fellow Christians, as MacDonald implies. In fact, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 does not appear in that section, nor anywhere else in the book.(3) So Jesus may have corrected his opponents, but he did not sue them (nor their spouses). The record can be set straight without resorting to secular courts, especially for a megachurch pastor with multiple communication platforms.

Romans 13:1-7 does not apply to Christians suing Christians, either. It says government has been ordained to carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer, literally, ‘the one practicing evil’ (verse 4). In the same verse, Paul says a ruler ‘does not bear the sword in vain,’ which is widely understood as a reference to capital punishment. So this passage refers to criminal behavior, such as murder and the like. Presumably, the wrongdoer is not a Christian. So Romans 13 is talking about criminal law, not civil law. (4) Also, it immediately follows Romans 12, which contains one of the longest and clearest passages in the New Testament about not seeking revenge, but rather treating your enemy better than he or she deserves (see Romans 12:14-21). Surely that colors any application of Romans 13:1-7.

So MacDonald uses three texts that are not about civil suits to explain away the one text that is about civil suits (1 Corinthians 6). He also ignores completely the biblical teaching on nonretaliation (e.g., Leviticus 19:18; 1 Samuel 24:12; Proverbs 20:22; 24:29; 25:21-22; Matthew 5:38-45; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:27-36; 23:34; Acts 7:60; Romans 12:14-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 2:19-23; 3:9, 14-18; 4:8; Hebrews 10:32-34 et al). In light of these texts, MacDonald’s so-called “deeper understanding of Scripture” appears shallow and unconvincing—a ham-fisted attempt to justify unbiblical behavior.

Missing the Sarcasm
MacDonald’s handling of 1 Corinthians 6 is also inadequate. He does not seem to grasp how incensed Paul is over Christians suing other Christians. The word dare in verse 1 denotes insolence or presumption. It could be paraphrased, “What nerve you have!” The apostle asks whether they are incompetent (verse 2). He explicitly shames them (verse 5). He incredulously asks rhetorical question after rhetorical question, concluding that the presence of lawsuits shows they are already defeated (verse 7). Commentator Gordon Fee refers to this passage as “the most biting sarcasm in the letter.”(5)

MacDonald, who is normally fluent in sarcasm, downplays this. He says, “1 Corinthians 6 deals with two brothers in a single church dealing with a trivial matter that should just be ‘let go.’” Now the word trivial does appear in verse 2, but it must be understood in context. In verses 7-8, the apostle spells out what was going on: wrongdoing and defrauding. The former term denotes behaviors that harm, such as slander and injury; the latter, various types of cheating, such as breach of contract and property right infringements. Why, then, does Paul call such civil suits trivial? For rhetorical effect. In verses 2-3, he says believers will judge both the world and angels—a reference to eschatological judgment. Craig Blomberg says, this “does not mean that the Corinthian litigation did not involve serious offenses, merely that all human litigation is trivial when viewed in the light of Judgment Day.”(6)

So the Corinthians were not simply arguing over the color of the church carpet. Some believers had wronged others, though not to the level of criminal court. Paul does not just dismissively say “Let it go.” He wants them to resolve their disputes—only among believers (verse 5). If a matter cannot be resolved privately, the apostle urges them to suffer the injustice and be defrauded, rather than parading the church’s dirty laundry into the public square (verse 7). The testimony of Christ and the unity of the church trump personal rights. (7)

MacDonald also seems unaware of the social context. Romans with higher social status had an unfair advantage when it came to civil cases. (8) The rich could hire good attorneys; the poor could not (9).  Juries were typically composed of wealthy citizens, who may be peers and perhaps even
friends of the plaintiff, and thus not completely objective. Justice could also be perverted by a bribe, which the wealthy could afford, and the poor could not. All of these factors made it difficult for a poor person to get justice in civil court. So it is possible that wealthier, more powerful Christians were taking those less fortunate to court, in order to power up on them. This almost certainly factors into Paul’s sense of outrage.

The piece raises issues of practical application. To paraphrase MacDonald, what if there is collateral damage? What if the matter is serious, perhaps even illegal? What if the plaintiff and defendant are from different churches? These are legitimate questions, though it should be recognized that they deal with the application of 1 Corinthians 6, not its interpretation. Paul provides no exception for collateral damage or illegality. He urges the Corinthians away from the secular courts, even if it means allowing oneself to suffer injustice or be defrauded. The issue of different churches does pose a difficulty, but it is not insurmountable. In Roman law, a citizen might opt for private arbitration rather than dragging a matter through the courts. (10) Paul points out that Christians could do the same. Surely, there are wise Christians in the area who can step in and mediate—leaders who are respected and trusted by both parties. So MacDonald has not made his case that the Bible allows exceptions to its prohibition on Christians suing other Christians. Both his interpretation and application of the relevant passages
are wanting.

Brother Goes to Law against Brother
The second thing MacDonald needs to prove is that his lawsuit constitutes an exception to the general prohibition in 1 Corinthians 6. Several factors make this highly suspect.

First, the piece says MacDonald is suing “three outspoken critics.” As mentioned above, the lawsuit actually specifies five defendants: two bloggers, their wives, and an independent journalist. The inclusion of the wives casts the lawsuit in a different light. 

Second, the bloggers have published little in the last few years. Why sue them now, especially since MacDonald admits that some of the criticisms had merit and bore good fruit? Why try to get a temporary restraining order against them after six years?

Third, the inclusion of the journalist was initially puzzling, because she had not published anything about MacDonald or Harvest prior to the lawsuit. How could she be labeled an“outspoken critic”?  Why seek a temporary restraining order against her? Turns out that Mrs. Roys had been working on an article about MacDonald, and the latter got wind of it.11 The temporary restraining order appears to have been an attempt to keep the article from seeing the light of day. Mrs. Roys quipped, “I always knew I ran the risk of being sued for speaking the truth. But I always envisioned that it would be for something I actually published, not for something I merely indicated I was going to publish.”(12) If this is the motivation behind the lawsuit, it should be recognized as an attempt to limit freedom of speech.

Finally, MacDonald ends by denying he seeks vengeance. He also denies seeking damages (although the lawsuit does request damages in multiple places). He expresses a willingness “to give grace and forgive,” but that of course assumes it is the bloggers and journalist who sinned. Until MacDonald answers the charges made about him (apart from simply painting them all as “lies”), the question remains open as to who is telling the truth. MacDonald says he prays for “the blogger’s peace,” although that is hard to reconcile with the decision to sue these families for damages. Like the wealthy citizens of Corinth who used the courts to their own advantage, he almost certainly has resources at his disposal beyond that of the defendants.

So MacDonald has not made his case that his lawsuit qualifies as an exception to 1 Corinthians 6. On the contrary, several factors call into question the motive(s) behind the suit.

WWJS—Who Would Jesus Sue?
As a general rule, when someone contravenes the express teaching of Scripture, and then tries to justify it with a “deeper understanding of Scripture,” discerning believers should take note. The question, “Did God actually say?” landed the first couple—and the rest of the human race—in a world of hurt. Jesus says, ‘whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:19). Later, in the same 
chapter, the Lord instructs us to turn the other cheek, renounce our rights in court, and go the extra mile (verses 39-41).

To answer the question posed in the title of this article, it is not biblical to sue a fellow Christian. Perhaps there could be an exception. But MacDonald has not made a case for why his lawsuit is that exception. Mediation is the preferred way of resolving disputes among Christians. Thus, I would urge the leadership of Harvest Bible Chapel to withdraw its lawsuit against these five believers and seek private mediation with a third party.

Dr. David W. Jones is Senior Pastor at Village Church of Barrington in Barrington, Illinois.
From 2001 to 2010, he served at Harvest Bible Chapel as James MacDonald’s research
assistant. He was also Associate Editor for The Holy Bible: English Standard Version
(Crossway, 2001).


1 James MacDonald, “Why Suing Is Sometimes the Biblical Choice,” Christianity Today, Nov 2, 2018,

2 Wayne Grudem, Christian Ethics (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2018), 334-35.

3 Grudem has made a statement regarding this lawsuit: “I have not expressed any opinion on the merits
of the specific lawsuit that James McDonald has initiated, nor have I looked into any details about that lawsuit or the accusations from the people who have criticized his ministry online. Nor do I intend to.”

4 In the Roman world, slander and libel were matters for the lower courts, as they are today. See Bruce Winter, “Civil Litigation in Secular Corinth and the Church: The Forensic Background to 1 Cor 6:1-8,” NTS 37 (1991): 559-72; cited in Thiselton, 420. So also Brian S. Rosner, Paul, Scripture, and Ethics: A Study of 1 Corinthians 5-7 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 112-15.

5 Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987), 229.

6 Craig L. Blomberg, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995), 117.

7 Sadly, the “Friendly Atheist” (Sarabeth Caplin) has already picked up on Harvest’s lawsuit and blogged about it. Accessed Nov 8, 2018.

8 A.C. Mitchell, “Rich and Poor in the Courts of Corinth: Litigiousness and Status in 1 Cor 6:1-11,” NTS 39 (1993): 562-63; cited in Thiselton, 419.

9 Gerd Theissen, The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth (Philadelphia: Fortress,1992), 97; cited in Thiselton, 420.

10 Winter, “Civil Law and Christian Litigiousness,” 67.

11 Julie Roys, “Hard times at Harvest,” World, Dec 13, 2018, Accessed Dec 13, 2018.

12 Kate Shellnutt, “James MacDonald Sues Harvest Bible Chapel Critics for Libel,” Christianity Today, Oct 30, 2018, Accessed Dec 3, 2018.


James MacDonald and The Elephant’s Debt:
The Issues Underneath the Issues
by Joel Anderson

It was 1995 and my wife and I had just moved to the Chicago area to attend seminary. We were in a bagel store where the college student working the counter commented on Christian shirt I was wearing and invited us to church. What college kid is that fired up about their church? We’d been in town less than two weeks and decided to take her up on the offer.

That was our introduction to Harvest Bible Chapel.

We loved the simple, clear and urgent way Pastor James taught God’s Word and the
fresh and meaningful worship. We were hooked.

I joined an early morning men’s small group led by Pastor James, and in a matter of months, had been given an opportunity to join the staff—a dream coming true for a hungry seminary kid.

The church was in a season of explosive growth and moving into their first building. I thrived on the fast-pace of the team and appreciated the strong leadership and uncomplicated, no-nonsense vision Pastor James provided.

We were part of the team that birthed the church planting vision, planted two churches with Harvest (numbers 2 and 27), saw the birth and growth of Harvest Bible Fellowship, served as a founding board member and later served on the Harvest Bible Fellowship staff, recruiting and training church planters.

All told, we’ve served at six different Harvests over 22 years.

During those early days, I served as the young adult pastor and ministry partner for bothScott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney, the authors of The Elephant’s Debt blog. They were small group leaders and helped teach.

All that backstory to say this, I know and love personally each person embroiled in the lawsuit brought by Pastor James and Harvest Bible Chapel against Scott, Ryan and Julie Roys (the only person I haven’t met personally). Through my journey, I’ve been through the ringer because of my own sin and have been shown unbelievable grace, mercy, love, forgiveness and a redemptive path through it all—and that’s what I ache for.

I have no axe to grind and no loyalty or agenda to foist on an already complex matter. My heart is only to attempt to bring some clarity from what may be a unique vantage point.

It may sound trite, but my sole desire is to see Christ honored through this apparent impasse, offering a model for the body of Christ, and a watching world, of what an ambassador of reconciliation truly looks like in the mire of real life.

After reading the first report of the case and the follow up editorial Pastor James wrote, I felt compelled to plead for a Christ-honoring path to “come reason together.” With a legal case pending, those being sued are in many ways, locked out of the public forum to provide an apologetic for their blog. Just as Pastor James has written to offer further clarity, I believe there is helpful, and necessary, dialogue to be added.

My primary concern is this: the presenting issue (the biblical grounds for believers suing believers) isn’t the primary issue. The issue under the issue are the claims Scott, Ryan, and Julie have made, and their right to make them. That’s the real issue. If we allow the discussion to be diverted toward an apologetic about lawsuits, the squirrel has taken our eyes off critical substance that compelled TED to go public with their concerns.

Were their facts correct and do they have a right to report their concerns? That’s the question we should be discussing.

I get it and I’ve been there. None of us love our laundry put out for public display and possible scrutiny. But aren’t we encouraged to bring matters into the light? What often causes fear (and subsequent anger) is what unexpected and undesired exposure will cost us.

But if the Christian’s economy is truth, let’s seek it, and refuse to allow the damage control machinery to engage. The world’s concern is controlling the narrative. That’s not the playbook for the body of Christ. No church or pastor is perfect and shouldn’t be held to an unrealistic and impossible standard. And, no blogger or radio host is perfect either. 

So what do we do? We work through it. If the facts are true, own it. If they aren’t, provide the missing data. This is Christ’s church we’re talking about. And if ministry is done in the open and with integrity, what do we have to fear?

The precious tension in an elder-governed church (Harvest’s model) is what the body “gets to know.” The TED blog exposed details of the Harvest financial story that weren’t public. While we can get stuck in the debate about how much information is necessary and helpful for the body to know, that again isn’t the issue. Were the facts reported accurate and do they have the right and freedom to go public with it?

The answer, I am convinced of, is a clear “yes.”

I love Pastor James. He was a mentor who gave me more than I could return. I love Scott and Ryan and don’t believe their intent was to spread lies or be exacting or malicious. But it isn’t about that either—who we love or like or appreciate or don’t. It’s about honoring Christ in the mess and trusting that He will guide us as we humbly defer to wise counsel, His Word and Spirit.

Bottom line, we cannot allow the matter of suing another believer to eclipse the substance and inception of this debacle. What is true and do people have the right to know and report it?

Shut down the legal process. Stop draining kingdom resources and appeal to godly spiritual peers to help corral and guide this toward a Christ-honoring process of reconciliation.

We’re broken people who need the Gospel every day. Let’s admit our need and work it out.

Let’s get to the issue under the issue and let the church and watching world learn from our frailty that we serve a God who is able to supply all our needs.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

It's Thursday, But Sunday's Coming!

You may think it unimportant to know when Jesus died, but if you take a few moments to read this post, I’ll convince you that Jesus died on a Thursday (not Friday). 

This understanding will help you comprehend why God accepts you based on His Son’s performance, not your own. 

Christ’s death and resurrection are foundational to our Christian faith. 

The Scriptures declare that God delivers sinners by Christ’s death on the cross (Romans 3:25). If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then our hope in life after death and our proclaiming Christ to others "is in vain” (I Corinthians 15:14). 

Without faith in the Person and work of Christ, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Jesus Christ died on Thursday, not Friday.

If this is the first time you've heard that Jesus died on a Thursday, it might sound strange to your ears, mainly when powerful songs, great messages, and vivid memories revolve around Good Friday

If you allow the Scriptures only (sola Scriptura) to guide you on this matter, you will find that the Thursday death of the Messiah becomes a powerful demonstration of God's infinite ability to orchestrate His Story as the centerpiece of history.

  • Jesus died at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 6, AD 30, at the age of 33.

  • The Jews used a lunar calendar, so their date was Thursday, Aviv 14, AD 30, at age 33.

"I have come to fulfill the Law and the prophets" (Matthew 5:17).

Jesus did just as He said He would—He fulfilled the Law.

There is no other day, no other time, no other way Jesus could have died, and no other day, no other time, no other way Jesus could have risen from the dead for the Law of God to be fulfilled.

For all those reading this post who have been duped by religious leaders into believing that sins are swept away by our promises to God or our performance for God, what I am about to write can help you see that those religionists who are stuck on man-oriented religious performance have no idea that true, biblical Christianity sets sinners free to trust Christ's performance.

The truth of what is written in this post will thoroughly erase any belief that our ability to adequately perform determines God's mercy, love, and grace. Take a moment to decide to "Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" and read carefully through this post. You will not regret it.

Jesus dying on Thursday and rising on the following Sunday is thoroughly supported by the Scriptures and is not a new proposition among evangelicals. 

  1. Nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, the scholarly Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 27 (1870), pp. 401–429, published an article entitled The Crucifixion on Thursday – Not Friday by J.K. Aldrich.
  2.  Greek and New Testament scholar Professor Brooke Westcott of Great Britain, author of the classic work An Introduction to the Study of the Gospels (Cambridge: 1881), pp. 343–349, adamantly maintained that Christ's crucifixion was on Thursday, not Friday. 
  3.  In 1974, Christianity Today published The Day He Died by Dr. Roger Rusk, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Tennessee. In this short article, Dr. Rusk shows through his computer-enhanced lunar calculations that Jesus died on Thursday, the 14th of Abib, 30 A.D.

The Way the Jews Measured Time

There are three basic things you need to understand about the way the Jews kept time in Jesus' day before you can know why Jesus died when He did.

First, the Jewish months revolved around eyeballing the moon during its phases of brightness in the sky. When a 'new moon' occurred (see chart), the priests would blow their horns and declare that a new 'month' had begun. Aviv was the first month of the new year for the Jews (see Leviticus 23:5), occurring in the spring as God woke nature from her winter slumber. Aviv corresponds to March/April on our calendar. Jesus died on the 14th day of Aviv, 30 A.D. at 3:00 in the afternoon, which would correspond to April 6, 30 A.D. on our Western calendar.

Second, the Jews in Jesus' day did not call the days of their week Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc... as we do. They called them "the first day of the week, the second day of the week, etc..." The seventh day of the week was a Sabbath known to us in the Western world as 'Saturday.' The 'first day of the week is what we call Sunday. Of course, Jesus rose on "the first day of the week" (John 20:1).

Third and finally, a new day began for the Jews at 6:00 p.m. in the evening. In the Western world, we have six hours of night before 12:00 midnight, the last six hours of our day. At midnight, a new day begins.

For the Jews, the hours from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight were the first six hours of a NEW DAY

So, Jesus died at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, the 14th of Aviv, just three hours before the sixth day of the week (Friday), the 15th of Aviv, began. The Jews ate their "Passover Meal" after sunset (6:00 pm), the meal would be consumed in the first hours of a new 24-hour day, not the last hours of a 24-hour day, the 15th of Aviv, the beginning of a week-long celebration called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 

The LAST SUPPER Jesus had with his disciples on Wednesday night was an ordinary meal, so “every time you eat or drink, you are to remember Jesus.”

The LAST SUPPER was not the Passover meal. The disciples didn’t observe the Passover until AFTER Jesus died. 

Jesus Died on Thursday (the 14th of Aviv) in AD 30.

After Moses led the Jews out of their Egyptian bondage fifteen hundred years before Christ was born, God "appointed" seven Holy Days (holidays) for the Jews to keep throughout the year.

 These Holy Days, called High Sabbaths, were national celebrations of God's faithfulness and mercy to His people.

God was particular in His Law (Leviticus 23) regarding when and how Holy Days (holidays) for the Jews would be celebrated.

The first three Holy Days (holidays) occurred in the Spring (Passover, The Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Waving of the First Sheafs). 

The fourth Holy Day, Pentecost, happened in the summer, fifty days after First Sheafs

The last three Holy Days occurred in the Fall (Tabernacles, Atonement, and the Feast of Trumpets)

Since we are only dealing with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will deal with the first three Holy Days in the Spring month of Aviv (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Sheafs).

  1. The first holiday was Passover.

According to Exodus 12:1-14, the Passover lamb for each family was to be chosen on the 10th of Aviv. After the Passover lamb had been selected on the 10th of Aviv, the people would inspect it to ensure there were no spots or blemishes. The lamb could not have broken bones or be defective. Four days after the lamb was chosen, each Jewish family would slay the Passover lamb “between the evenings” (3:00 pm) on the 14th of Aviv.

At 3:00 p.m. on the 14th of Aviv, the lamb would be killed in preparation for the Passover meal. The 14th of Aviv was therefore called "the day of Preparation for Passover" in Scripture (John 19:14) . The Jews would also use the Day of Preparation (the 14th of Aviv) to sweep away any leaven in their houses in preparation for the second Holiday, The Feast of Unleavened Bread.

  1. The second holiday was the Feast of Unleavened Bread (a week-long celebration).

As already stated, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began the next day after Passover preparation, the 15th of Aviv. This is when the Passover Meal was eaten. Jews call this meal “The Seder.”

During the week-long festival of Unleavened Bread, which began with the Passover meal, the Jews were forbidden to consume bread with leaven. As the week of Unleavened Bread started during the early hours of the 15th of Aviv (from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.), the Jewish Passover meal would be eaten.

The lamb killed three hours earlier (at 3:00 p.m. on the 14th of Aviv) was roasted and eaten at the Passover meal after sunset. The lamb would be eaten along with the unleavened bread prepared during the daylight of Aviv 14. Leaven in Scripture is a picture of sin or evil. After the Passover lamb died and was taken into the Jewish houses, sin and evil disappeared.

The Passover lamb always died on Aviv 14, and the leaven was always swept away from the homes on Aviv 14. Again, this day of Aviv 14 was called the day of Preparation for Passover. The actual Feast of Passover was eaten after sunset, in the early hours of Aviv 15, the first day of Unleavened Bread. 

Remember (again) that a new day BEGINS for the Jews at 6:00 p.m., so though the Passover meal was eaten between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on what we in the Western world would consider the SAME day (Passover, Aviv 14) or April 6, AD 30, on the Gregorian Calendar. But the Jews ate the Passover Meal the NEXT DAY, Aviv 15, according to how they kept time.

The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Aviv 15) was considered a High Sabbath for the Jews.

High Sabbaths were not the weekly Sabbath (Saturday) but a special annual Sabbath.

That means Friday, Aviv 15, AD 30, was a High Sabbath, and Saturday, Aviv 16, AD 30, was a regular Sabbath.

Christ's resurrection occurred on Sunday morning (Aviv 17) after two Sabbaths, back to back, had been observed by the Jews.

Two Sabbaths (the plural Shabbaton in Hebrew) occurred back-to-back before the Resurrection of Jesus, which is precisely what the New Testament teaches.

The gospel writer Matthew describes the time when the disciples came to the empty tomb of Christ on Sunday morning by writing:

After the Sabbath(s), at dawn on the first day of the week...” (Matthew 28:1a).

The Greek word translated as Sabbath in this text is “Shabbaton” (plural), not “Shabbat” (singular). Any English translation that does not use "Sabbaths" is mistranslating the Greek text. The crucifixion week had the High Sabbath on Friday plus the weekly Sabbath (on Saturday).

  1. The third holiday was “the Waving of the Sheaves of First Fruits” on “the day after the regular Sabbath following Passover” (see Leviticus 23:9-14)

    This day, “the first day of the week,” was always the Holiday when Jewish men would gather at the Temple at dawn and “wave the first fruits of their harvest” before YHWH and pray, “LORD, as you have blessed these my firstfruits, please bless the full harvest.”

This is the day (First Fruits) that Jesus rose from the grave. It’s why the Apostle Paul, in speaking of the resurrection from the dead in I Corinthians 15, uses the language of Christ as “the First Fruits of resurrection, and our resurrection to come, the full harvest” (see I Corinthians 15). 

In Summary

  • Jesus died on Thursday, AD 30, Passover Preparation Day, Thursday, Aviv 14.

  • The next day, the First Day of Unleavened Bread (Friday), was Aviv 15 and a special High Sabbath for the Jews.

  • The next day, Aviv 16 (Saturday), was the regular Sabbath for the Jews

  • It was not uncommon for the Jews to have TWO Sabbaths back to back during Passover, an event that occurred at least once a decade, and this is precisely what happened during crucifixion week, as stated in Scripture.

  • In further fulfillment of Scripture, Jesus died at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, Aviv 14, at the very time the national Passover lamb was being sacrificed in the Temple. 

  • When the Jews counted days, they measured any portion of a day or night and considered it a day or a night. Jesus was in the grave for three days and three nights.

  • He was placed in the tomb on Thursday (Aviv 14), remained in the tomb all night/day Friday (Aviv 15), all night/day Saturday (Aviv 16), and into the nighttime hours (6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m) of Sunday, Aviv 17, the first day of a new week.

  • Jesus rose from the grave sometime between the sunset following Saturday (Aviv 16) and sunrise of the first day of the week (Mark 16:9), which was Sunday (Aviv 17), for the Scripture says it was still night. 

  • The time Jesus spent in the grave fulfills the prophecy Jesus said about His death and resurrection:

"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40).

The Anti-Type Fulfills the Type

Follow Jesus as He enters Jerusalem in the spring of 30 A.D.

He entered the city on Sunday, Aviv 10, the day we call Palm Sunday. 

The procession for the national Passover lamb of Israel had just taken place. The lamb had been led into the city from the east and was taken to the Temple to be the public sacrifice for the nation of Israel, an event that would occur four days later (Aviv 14). 

The lamb was met by crowds waving palm branches and joyously singing Psalm 118.

Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, following the national Passover lamb (Matthew 21:1-11).

The Jews, many of whom had either known of Jesus or personally witnessed His great miracles, placed their palm branches in front of Him and shouted to Him passages from Psalm 118: 

"Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ 
 ‘Hosanna in the highest!’”

Just as the Jews began to cleanse their homes of leaven in preparation for Passover, Jesus went to His Father's house and cleansed the Temple of evil (Matthew 21:12-13). 

From Aviv 10 to Aviv 14, the national Passover lamb was in full public view at the Temple so the Jews could ensure the lamb was perfect and without defects. 

During those same four days, Jesus was inspected and interrogated by the chief priests, elders, Pharisees, and Sadducees. He left them bumfuzzled because "they could find no fault with His character" (see Matthew 21:23-27). Even the Roman governor of Jerusalem (Pilate) and Herod, the governor of Galilee, could "find no fault with Him."

Jesus ate His last supper with His disciples on Wednesday night, the night BEFORE He was crucified (between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., Aviv 14). 

The Jews would NOT eat their Passover until 24 hours later, but Jesus instituted a New Covenant - with no lamb eaten - giving bread and wine and saying:

 "This is My body, broken for you. Thiis is My blood, which is shed for you." 

As often as you eat or drink, remember Me. 

Jesus was the Lamb of God. 

It was His death that mattered. 

The Law of God in the Old Covenant was about to be fulfilled by the Lamb of God. Within a few hours, the Anti-Type (the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world) would fulfill the type (the Passover lamb of Israel). 

The agreement between God and man changed at Calvary with the institution of the New Covenant. God had Himself a new people (from every tribe, race, and nation), a new Temple (the lives of believers in His Son), a new priesthood (men and women, slave and free, Gentile and Jew), and a New Command ("love one another as I have loved you"). 

The Law pictured that "the just live by faith," but the Lamb made that picture a reality. Faith in Christ's performance for sinners is the only thing that makes a sinner right with God.

Jesus was placed on the cross at "the third hour" (9:00 a.m.) on Aviv 14 (Mark 15:25), less than twelve hours after He shared the New Covenant meal in the Upper Room with His disciples. 

The Jewish national Passover lamb was bound to the Temple's altar at the same hour. 

  As Jesus hung on the cross, darkness came over the land (Luke 23:44-46) from about "the sixth to the ninth hour" (from noon to 3:00 p.m.). At 3:00 p.m. on Aviv 14, 30 A.D., Jesus died. At the same time, the High Priest slain the national Passover lamb in the Temple. 

The Passover lamb was sacrificed in the Temple on Aviv 14 "between the evenings" (3:00 p.m.), just as Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed for the world "between the evenings." 

As the High Priest brought the knife down on the national Passover lamb, he cried, “It is finished!”  Just outside the city gate, at that very hour, Jesus cried on the cross: 

 "It Is Finished!" 

And Jesus died.

Remember, it was forbidden by the Law of God for any of the bones of the Passover lamb to be broken (see Exodus 12:46).  

At the crucifixion, soldiers came by to break the legs of the two criminals crucified along with Jesus, but they discovered Jesus was already dead. 

The reason for breaking the criminal's legs was to ensure that they would die before sunset, the Passover meal, and the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Aviv 15). 

It took Jesus only six hours to die. I am reminded that He said: 

"No one takes my life. I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:18).

Jesus rose three days later, early on "the first day of the week" (Sunday).  

His Resurrection Day was the same day the Jews "waved the sheaf of first fruits" in the Temple during the Feast God appointed in the Law, a Feast called "The Feast of the Waving of the Sheaf of First Fruits." 

Jesus rose on this day, and the fulfillment of the Law in rising as our "First Fruits" of resurrection is quite instructive.

The Application

Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law of God.

Everything in the Hebrew Scriptures was about Him. When He walked with the two men on the road to Emmaus, He "began with Moses and all the prophets and explained to them all those things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27)

God appointed the seven Holy Days for Israel (Leviticus 23) nearly a millennium and a half before Jesus ever walked the streets of Jerusalem!

What are the odds that Jesus enters Jerusalem on the 10th of Aviv, dies on the 14th of Aviv, is in the tomb during the days of Unleavened Bread, and rises on the "morrow after the Sabbath" (Sunday, the 17th of Aviv) on the very day the Jews celebrated the Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits?

I could explain the Anti-type fulfillment of the last four Jewish feasts (Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Feast Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles), but that is another post.

I think you see the beauty of Christ in the Passover.

Next time somebody mocks Christianity and tells you it is a religion of myths and fairy tales, why don't you take a little time to show them that His Story is history itself.

It would be wise for all to see the Holy One in the Holy Days of the Old Testament and how Jesus Christ is the utter fulfillment of the Law.

Finally, when somebody asks you how your sins are swept away, refuse to point that person to any promise of man, commitment, or pledge of religious fidelity by man! Point the questioner to the Man who accomplished what we cannot accomplish for ourselves.

This is the faith once delivered to the saints, and it is worth believing.

Christ sets you free from trusting in your performance and trusting His performance for you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Shortsighted Thinking of "Peace for Our Time"

When England's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) made peace with Adolph Hitler at the 1938 Munich Pact, he triumphantly declared "There is peace for our time."

Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler has gone down in history as one of the worst decisions of the modern age. 6,000,000 Jews eventually lost their lives through the Holocaust. Chamberlain may have secured peace for his time, but the long-term consequences were horrific.

Many have wondered where Chamberlain came up with the phrase "Peace for our time

At best, it was a hollow boast, at worst, it was an intentional attempt to postpone conflict by attaching it to the future. "Let our children fight fascism, but not us."

Chamberlain's boast is similar to a statement made by King Hezekiah of Judah (739 BC - 687 BC) over 2,000 years earlier.

The prophet Isaiah had told Hezekiah that problems were on the horizon for the nation of Judah:
5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: 6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 7 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. (Isaiah 39:5-7)
Read again the awful things that Isaiah says are coming on the next generation of Jews.
1. All the nation's treasures will be 'carried off to Babylon.'
2. Nothing will be left in Judah.
3. The king's own children will be 'taken away' to Babylon.
4. The king's sons will become Eunuchs.
5. The Jews will serve the king of Babylon as slaves.
Now listen to Hezekiah's response to Isaiah's words:
8 “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” (Isaiah 39:8)
Chamberlain, Hezekiah, and ... we who live in the United States of America in 2019.

We all think alike.
We don't mind that the national debt is over 22 trillion dollars and at some point, the government will collapse under the strain of debt.
We don't mind that credit card debt hits a record 4 trillion dollars and people will one day be unable to pay back what they owe, plunging the economy into a depression worse than the 1930s.
We don't mind that the infrastructure of our country has fallen apart and it will be impossible to repair the outdated grids, bridges, dams, and power plants when the system collapses.
We don't mind that cries for expanding socialism in the US guarantees a collapse of the capitalistic business economy that built the United States.
We don't mind...

Because "There's peace for our time."

Saturday, April 13, 2019

I Use Sonix to Transcribe Audio Recorded Sermons

I've been a pastor and public speaker for over 35 years.

All those jokes about pastors working one day a week are familiar to me. I laugh at them too, but if you've been a pastor for any length of time, you know that those jokes aren't even close to the truth.

Optically, pastors are seen once a week by most people.

Practically, pastors work every day of the week.

The hurting and the dying are in the numerical minority, but they make up the majority of the workload for pastors between those times the pastor is working on fresh, relevant sermon series, or preparing for the next committee and staff meeting, or other duties associated with pastoring.

Only pastors of large churches with a large staff who help with funerals, counseling, planning, and other pastoral responsibilities have had the time to write for the purpose of publishing books.

That is, until now.

Sonix is a service I use to transcribe my sermons. It's propriety artificial intelligence algorithm takes any uploaded audio (or video) file of my public speaking and transcribes them with a 98% accuracy for words and a greater than 95% accuracy on sentence and paragraph structure.

Transcribing sermons to turn them into published books is now super easy.

Of course, there will still have to be the editing of a Sonix transcript, but the time required to get 8 pages of a typed manuscript is reduced by 98% (two minutes to get a Sonix transcript compared to two hours of human typing). It's amazing to see such a swift and accurately typed manuscript of your spoken words.

Let me show you how it works.

Create your own Sonix account.

Then choose an audio file you wish to upload.

Our church uploads both audio files (podcast) and video files (Vimeo) to the Internet.

Your church may do neither, but you can still use Sonix if you simply have an MP3 or MP4 recording of your sermon on your computer.

Let me give you an example of the product.

I downloaded the MP4 Video file of my February 3, 2019, to my computer, a message entitled "A Mind that Thinks "Never Finishing, Alway Completed" from our Vimeo account (if your sound booth takes a digital recording of your sermon, ask them to send you a copy of the digital file).

Then I uploaded my MP4 file to my account at Sonix.

I hit the "Transcribe" button in my account, and within two minutes, Sonix sends me an email saying my transcription file is ready.

Read below the first page of an eight-page transcript of my February 3, 2019, sermon from the Face of Grace series.  Sonix transcribed in two minutes and gave to me in Word format.  I've done nothing to the Sonix transcript below. It's raw, no edits.

You can watch the beginning of my February 3 sermon here to test the accuracy of the transcript from Sonix.

Wade Burleson A Mind That Thinks Never Seeking; Always Pursued - Feb. 3.mp4 
I don't know how many of you like to travel but I've been around the United States and have had the privilege of going to other countries. I have to say to you though I have never seen more beautiful landscape than western Oklahoma. This week I drove about two and a half hours to sentinel for the funeral of Tom Martin's mother Mae and I took the back roads. I came back through Fairview and oh my word. I think living in western Oklahoma we get used to it but if you ever take a moment just to look around in our first service this morning a woman from Fairview Dorothy she's in her 80s. She told me that legend says that a person climbed the glass mountains looked around and said My what a fair view. And right down there in the valley, a city called Fairview was started. I won't ask a question how many of you in this auditorium have at one time or another lived in Fairview Oklahoma. Lift your hand anybody. 
OK, I see about a dozen of you. Well in the second service this morning a couple from Fairview was present Garen and IVA Martins. They've been coming to a manual for about 19 years almost 20. And when you get up on Sunday morning and get dressed and come to corporate worship I know it's a great deal of sacrifice sometimes to come to get the kids ready and and to come to Emmanuel but these folks along with others drive from Fairview every single Sunday 35 miles Garen wrote me an email several months ago and he gave me permission to read a portion of it to you as I said he and his wife even began attending in 1999 and they joined Emmanuel in November of 2000 and in his email he said Pastor I came across my personal journal from December 2000 and one where I wrote these words a new me has emerged one who understands grace and God's acceptance of me without my works I was always incapable of meeting the expectations that I and others placed on me to seal my salvation.
 But since attending Emmanuel I've learned that because I was chosen by God to be his it's his grace and nothing that I do which gives me my security in him. Oh sure. I want to obey Jesus and work in his kingdom but that doesn't affect my salvation or God's favor of me my obedience and service helps others to know him and helps me to avoid the pitfalls of sin. I have learned since coming to Emmanuel that my security is in God's grace for me and that has given me a peace and a contentment that I have never experienced before.

As you can tell, editing will be required. A few commas are needed, the email from Garen Martens needs to be put in "quotations" to set it off, and there may need to be paragraph adjustments, as well as a few words corrected. In my Habakkuk series, Sonix hears the word Habakkuk and will sometimes use "quarterback" or "have her back" etc., so I have to edit it.

But the time saved having artificial intelligence transcribe my sermons is enormous.

It costs me about $5.00 to get 8 pages of a transcript (plus the annual subscription to Sonix).

But compared to the time it would take for me to transcribe, or as is the case during the first 20 years of ministry, to have a super competent secretary (Barbara Ebert) spend countless hours faithfully typing my sermons - unfortunately, getting carpal tunnel in her hands through constant typing - Sonix gives us all an advantage that only modern technology can afford.

Not everybody has a professional editor mother (Mary Burleson) like I do, who is currently editing the transcripts from Sonix that could become a book (Lord willing) called The Face of Grace, but I believe that you could edit your Sonix transcripts yourself, getting them ready for publication.

I did tons of research for months to find the best way to transcribe sermons, and I can truthfully say that Sonix has knocked it out of the park.

It's heads and shoulders above all other companies in terms of accuracy, ease, and price.

If you wish to sign up for Sonix, go here! You'll be helping me write The Face of Grace if you sign up through this link because I get 100 free minutes of free transcription (about 3 Sunday morning sermons) for each new account through this link (a savings to me of about $15.00 in subscription fees). Thank you.

Right now, we are on chapter 6 of The Face of Grace.

I wish you the best in your publishing efforts!