"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

I Find Myself in a Levite Priest Named Shabbethai

Shabbethai.

It is spelled שבתי in Hebrew.

It's an ancient name that means "my rest" or even possibly "the rest of Yahweh" since the yod in Hebrew could actually be an abbreviation for the LORD'S covenant name (Yahweh).

The name Shabbethai comes from the Hebrew word shabbat, from which we get our English word "sabbath." Sabbath means "rest."

Shabbethai is the name of a Levite priest who is mentioned three separate times in the Bible (Nehemiah 8:7; Nehemiah 11:16; and Ezra 10:15).

From those three references we learn three things about this priest:
1. Shabbethai was a "guide or teacher of God's ways (the Torah)" to the Jews (Nehemiah 8:7), 
2. Shabbethai was responsible for the care of the Temple's outer court, including being the "wood-bearer" for the altar (according to the Jewish rabbi Jarchi) and doing other "outside work for the house of God" (Nehemiah 11:16). 
I find myself in Shabbethai.

I teach people the ways of God and I do things to care for the church that are often unseen. In today's world, being a pastor of an evangelical church is definitely not all praise and glamour.

But the most important thing that we learn about Shabbethai is from Ezra 10:15.
3. Shabbatai the Levite opposed Ezra and Nehemiah's plan to "send away (from Judea) all foreign wives and children" (Ezra 10:4) by forcing the Jewish men to "take action," and "divorce their foreign wives" and set them and their children outside the land.

I find myself in Shabbethai. 

Most Christians don't stop and ask the question if it was "God's will" for Ezra and Nehemiah to set these foreign women and children "outside the camp" of the Jews. They just assume that these men (Ezra and Nehemiah) would never propose or do something that God did not command be done.

People today also never question a decision made by their favorite politician. Church members are guilty of assuming that everything their pastor says comes from God. The average follower of Jesus  would never consider opposing someone in authority as Shabbethai did Ezra and Nehemiah.

Even worse, many Christians have a hard time believing that biblical characters could ever make a mistake! But they do!

I am reminded of what author Doug Adams wrote in his excellent book The Prostitute in the Family Tree:
“Biblical stories are mirrors for identity and not models for morality. If we clean up the biblical stories, we can no longer identify with them; if we share the whole story, we can see ourselves in them”
Shabbethai and three other Jewish leaders named Jonathan, Jahaziah, and Meshullam (see Ezra 10:15) opposed Ezra and Nehemiah's attempts at nationalizing Judea, purifying the people by force, and establishing a closed community of ethnic Jews.

Shabbethai did not believe the forced removal of foreign women married to Jewish men and the forced expulsion from Judea of the children from these mixed marriages was Yahweh's will.

I find myself in Shabbethai.

A conservative biblical scholar and Hebrew professor named Ray Lubeck has written a superb article on this issue. Dr. Lubeck presented his paper at the 2010 Evangelical Theological Society Called Ezra-Nehemiah Reconsidered: Aiming the Canon at "Godly Leaders, Ray Lubeck's paper takes the same position that Shabbethai took against Ezra and Nehemiah.

Dr. Lubeck's brilliantly shows how Ezra and Nehemiah's decision to forcibly remove foreign women and children through mandated divorces was morally, spiritually, ethically, and theologically wrong.

In other words, Yahweh was against Ezra's and Nehemiah's unscriptural exclusivism.

Shabbethai the Levite priest and three others opposed Ezra and Nehemiah to their faces, representing the heart of God to two men who had missed Him.

It seems the prophet Zechariah agrees with Shabbethai about God's heart.
"Many peoples and inhabitants of many cities shall come...and many peoples and and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek YAHWEH Almighty and to entreat him. This is what YAHWEH Almighty said, "In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, "Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you." (Zechariah 8:22-23)
"Jerusalem will be a city without walls...many nations will be joined with YAHWEH in that day and will become my people" (Zechariah 2:3-4, 11).
The prophet Jeremiah also agrees with Shabbethai.
"This is what YAHWEH says: "As for all my wicked neighbors... I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back ... and if they learn well the ways of my people...then they will be established among my people" (Jeremiah 12:14-16). 
The prophet Isaiah agrees with Shabbethai.
Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you.
Though in anger I struck you,
in favor I will show you compassion.
Your gates will always stand open,
they will never be shut
, day or night,
so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations—
their kings led in triumphal procession." (Isaiah 60:10-11
"This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles..." (Isaiah 42:5-6)
Ironically, the Pharisees, those strict separatists and extreme nationalists of Jesus' day who promoted racism, classism, and fervent legalism consider Ezra their founder.

Who is right? Shabbethai or Ezra?

Why It Matters

Our church has an incredible ministry to men and women in the Oklahoma State Department of

Corrections. We have men and women (volunteers) who go through training to transport offenders from prison to Emmanuel's auditorium each Sunday. They spend time with them, encourage them, take them to small group after the worship service, and transport them back to the place where they are incarcerated in Enid.

Recently, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections changed its requirements in terms of offenders attending church. The offenders have been told they must now wear their orange jump suits.

We have multiple services at Emmanuel, and some men who attend wear a suit and tie, others wear jeans and t-shirts, and still others are in between casual and formal. In other words, the way one dresses at Emmanuel is not an issue.

But try wearing an orange prison suit and come to church. Not only will you immediately draw attention to the fact you are an "offender" who is incarcerated in prison, you will most likely become extremely self-conscious, asking yourself if there are church people looking at you and secretly wanting prisoners like you not come to worship services at Emmanuel.

Many of the prisoners who attend have never been to church before. They are "strangers and foreigners" to Christian worship services.

Are they welcome?

I find myself in Shabbethai.

Preaching in DOC inmate uniform on October 16, 2019
"Let them come! Welcome them into the Lord's presence! By all means, 'Yes!' These orange clad prisoners are welcome at Emmanuel"

Because of the recent changes placed on these men by the Department of Corrections, I chose to preach last Sunday in an orange jump suit.

I told people attending Emmanuel:
 "A person's identity is found in the cross he bears, not the clothes he wears."
The people of Emmanuel applauded. They agree.

We are 'keeping the gates open' at Emmanuel Enid.

But there's another illustration that amplifies the difficulties with open door policies.

Emmanuel has a man who attends corporate worship services and dresses like a woman. He wears dresses, leg hosiery, painted nails, pearls, purse, ribbons in his long hair, etc.  The religious and the exclusionists among us want him out. He's been attending Emmanuel for two years. He comes to Sunday morning corporate worship and Wednesday night’s hour long Bible study, and when he walks into the room, he is in full female regalia.

There are a few Ezras and Nehemiahs left at Emmanuel, friends of mine who are Kingdom people. They don't like this man attending. “Tell him to leave.” “Let him know this church isn’t for people like him.” "We don't want this stranger among us."

But there are also many Shabbethais, Jeremiahs, Isaiahs, and Zehcariahs at Emmanuel Enid who say,  "Let's welcome him." "Let's love him." "Let's get to know him."

I find myself in Shabbethai.

I’ve resisted the calls for this man's removal from among us. When he began attending two years ago at the invitation of one of our church members, he said he'd attend to see “if Christians really mean it when they say ‘We love everyone.’” 

I argue that our gates should remain open to this stranger.

I have chosen to welcome him with open arms. I’ve taken him to lunch. I’ve gotten to know his story. I’ve been a friend to him. I call him by name. I treat him with love and grace and accept him where he is.

Sure, his presence makes some uncomfortable, but we have a greater purpose than our personal comfort at Emmanuel.

I've spoken with this cross dresser about which public restroom he is to use. By state law, he must use the men's, not the women's public restroom. However,  sometimes mothers of young boys are uncomfortable watching their sons go into a public restroom with a man dressed as a woman.

This man isn't a criminal. He doesn't prey on children. He's not a predator. We have security at Emmanuel and we understand what it means to protect attenders from predator behavior.

That's why I've gotten to know the person who dresses like a woman. I want to know his story. He began dressing publicly as a woman after his wife left him. He has grown children of his own. He has a distinguished career in government work.

I've asked him to use the Family Restroom at Emmanuel for the sake of other attenders who don't know him. He's agreed, and he's still attending.

I've chosen to love this man as Jesus loves me. He’s not publicly professed Christianity through baptism, but he's asking questions.

Our church walls are down and are gates are to be open at Emmanuel Enid so that those who seek God may find him. This man has not yet his professed faith in Christ through public baptism, but he seems closer today than he was when he first started attending.

Someone might ask, "Well, Wade, why don't you dress up like a woman and preach in a dress? That might make him more comfortable like you are making more comfortable the convicts who must wear orange."

Answer: The men who must wear orange are forced to wear the prison uniform, but the man who attends dressed like a woman is making a choice. If the prisoners could choose, they would choose not to be in prison garb when they come to church. But they must be.
Grace is bearing burdens forced upon people as well as respecting free choices made by people. 
That's why, though we believe the Bible teaches that homosexual and lesbian behavior is a sin (just like adultery, gossip, drunkenness, etc. are called sinful behaviors), we no more tell a lesbian couple they can't attend church than we do a gossiper, or an adulterer, or a person who struggles with addiction.

Some, like Ezra and Nehemiah, might ask that we "close the gates" and "build walls" so that our assembly can be like the Jews of Ezra's day, excluding all the foreigners and strangers who are not like us.

Because they believe the Bible, they will use what Ezra and Nehemiah did in the 5th Century BC as their rationalization for constructing the walls and keeping strangers out in the 21st Century AD. 

I, too, believe that the Bible is the infallible and inspired Word of God, but...

I find myself in Shabbethai. 

I rest in Christ's work for me and choose to trust His work in the lives of others. I will refrain from making, and resist approving, any demands for conformity by forcibly removing the foreigners and strangers from among us.

Sure we have standards of conduct and behavior for members and leaders of Emmanuel Enid. But that's not the issue here. The question before us is our love for people who are not like us.
"How are we to live in a culture where we're surrounded by strangers and foreigners, people different from us?"
We are to live with the identifying mark of "love" (John 13:35).
"Do we or do we not open the gates and allow the foreigners and strangers to mingle among us so that they might learn from us who God is?"
I believe the answer to the above question is a resounding "Yes!"

That's why Shabbethai opposed Ezra in closing the gates.

It's why we warmly welcome people at Emmanuel who are different than us.

I believe that's the heart of God.

And I'm content to "rest" in the fact that God alone must do the work necessary to change the heart of another human being.

Until the LORD does, our job is to love. 

Who Are the Kurds and Why Should America Care?

The Kurdish people are under attack by the erratic President Erdogan of Turkey, the modern-day equivalent of Adolph Hitler.

For the sake of Kurdistan and the lives of the Kurds, I can not understand why President Trump is siding with President Erdogan.

Who are the Kurdish people?

They are the Medes in the Bible. They are the descendants of Madai, one of the sixteen grandsons of Noah (see Genesis 10:2).

The Medes settled in Amida, a city that carried their name (a-madai). Amida was renamed Diyarbakur in the 7th century AD by the conquering Muslim Arabs during during the early Muslim conquests of Persia.  The Arabs called the ethnic Medes who lived in the Zagros Mountains by the Arabic name Kurds. The Arabs had found the land of the highly intelligent and industrial Medes dotted with cities surrounded by beautiful black asphalt walls and copper resources. Divarbakir is an Arabic name which means "land of bakr (Kurd) people." The ethnic Medes fell under Arab Muslim domination.

Today Divarbakir (or ancient Amida) is the largest city in southeastern Turkey and it has an overwhelming majority of ethnic Kurds that populate the city and region.  Ancient Amida (modern Divarbakir) is the unofficial capital of Kurdistan, the name for the region that encompasses portions of four countries (Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran) where the Kurdish people live. The ethnic Kurds number 35 million strong and compose the world's largest stateless nation. Kurdistan is only a geographical region; but according to an October 9, 2019 statement from Ayelet Shaked, the former Israel Justice Minister, Kurdistan should be its own nation.

The Muslim Arabs (Sunnis and Shias) of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq have always struggled with what to do with the ethnic Kurds. Why?
The Medes (Kurds) of southeast Turkey, northern Syria, northwestern Iran, and northern Iraq are different ethnically, culturally, and historically from the conquering Sunni Muslim Arabs in Turkey and Iraq and from the conquering Shia Muslim Arabs in Syria and Iran.
A Kurdish woman and her children fleeing Turkey's invasion
The Kurds are the descendants of the ancient Medes and are not ethnically and culturally Arabic.

What we have going on during this October 2019 Turkish invasion of Kurdistan is an ethnic cleansing. It's a holocaust. President Trump should know better than to allow it to happen.

Close family members to the Medes (or modern Kurds) are the Persians in Iran. The descendants of Medai began to multiply and move east from the Zagros Mountains, the mountain range where Noah's ark settled. As the Medes moved south and east, they eventually built cities in modern day Iran where they became known as the Persian people.

The Medes and the Persians come from the same ancestral stock. If you look at the language of today's Medes (Kurds) in Turkey and Syria (a language called Kurmanj or sometimes Kurdish) and compare it to the language of today's Persians in Iran (a language called Farsi), you will see how similar they are when you count from one (yak) to ten (da).


The Medes and the Persians have had their own separate culture, religion, and history from that of the Arabs. When the Arab Muslims moved north from the Arabian Peninsula and conquered the Medes and the Persians during the early Arab Muslim invasions, the Arabs forced Islam on the Medes and Persians. But there has always been hostility between the native ethnic Kurds and Persians and their conquering leaders.

The Arab Muslim fundamentalist Shia government in Iran no more likes the ethnic Persians in their country than the Arab Muslim fundamentalist Sunni government of Turkey likes the ethnic Medes (Kurds) who form the majority of the population in the southeastern portion of their country (Turkey) as well as northern Syria and northern Iraq.

The Mede prophet Balaam prophesying the Messiah's coming
Let me give you some insight into a few people you might know from your readings of the Bible who are of Mede and Persian descent. It's interesting to note that the Bible speaks of the Medes and Persians as one people.

The Medes/Persians gave us the prophet Balaam who in 1500 B.C. announced:
"I see Him... I behold Him... "A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out Israel...One out of Jacob shall rule." (Numbers 24:17)
The oracle from this ancient Mede is considered the first Messianic prophecy of Jesus to come from a foreigner, or one not a Hebrew. Balaam was what people today call a Kurd.

During the 10th century BC, the Hebrews who lived in the northern Kingdom of Israel were captured by an Assyrian king and taken "to the towns of the Medes" (II Kings 18:11), towns and locations that are today in northern Syria, northern Iraq, and southeastern Turkey. The 10 northern tribes of Israel settled in this region of the Zagros mountains called Kurdistan (see map at the top of this blog).

Map from Christopher Crossan's book Children of the Magi. 
Over time, the Hebrews of the 10 northern tribes of Israel in the Bible INTERMARRIED with the Medes.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a radical Sunni Muslim group responsible for terror around the world, including the World Trade Center bombings. (Note: Since 2001, ISIS and Al Qaeda have split into two groups, but originally there was only Al Qaeda).

Guess who has helped us fight ISIS?

The Medes of Kurdistan. They've lost 11,000 men fighting side by side with United States soldiers against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

In 2001, The American Journal of Human Genetics issued a report entitled "The Y Chromosome Pool of Jews as Part of the Genetic Landscape of the Middle East." The article states:
"Jews are more closely related to groups in the north of the Fertile Crescent (i.e. Kurds) than to their Arab neighbors. 
In other words, the Kurds are more Jewish than Arab. For more information on this migration of Jews to Kurdistan, see Christopher Crossan's superb book entitled Children of the Magi.

The Medes/Persians gave us King Cyrus, whom the prophet Isaiah calls "The Messiah of the Jews" (see Isaiah chapters 44 and 45). King Cyrus freed the Jews of Judea from Babylonian captivity in 539 BC. Even Jews living  today revere the ancient Mede/Persian King Cyrus.

The Magi (Wise Men) from the East (Mede/Persia)
The prophet Daniel settled among the Medes and the Persians in 605 BC. He led a School of the Magi where he served as "chief administrator" (Daniel 2:48), training the Medes and the Persians in the art of knowing the One true God. Daniel is buried in modern Iran.

The Medes/Persians gave us the Wise Men from the East who came looking for the newborn "King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:1-12).  They'd read Daniel's scroll and had been trained in the Mede/Persian School of the Magi.

These Wise Men are what we'd call modern Kurds.

They knew Daniel understood that a great Messiah, "the star from Jacob" mentioned by the Mede prophet Balaam, would be born at that time (see Daniel 11).

After the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ in AD 30, the Good News of Jesus spread rapidly among the areas of the Medes and the Persians during the days of the Parthian Empire (until AD 224) and the days of the Sasinian Empire (until 651 AD). The Medes and Persians (Kurds) came to faith in Jesus because their ancient religion, Zoroastrianism, shared a few similar teachings to the Christian faith, including belief in a Supreme God, a final judgment, and a desire to do good for your fellow man.

But then came the Arab Muslim conquest.  Soon, the Medes (e.g. Kurds) and the Persians were forced to submit to Islam (Islam means "submission").

Yet, the Medes and the Persians (now called "the Kurds" by the Arabs),  would often rebel against their Arab masters and side with western countries during times of world conflict.

For example, the Sunni Arabs in Turkey founded the Ottoman Empire  during the 14th century and attempted to conquer the world and establish a global caliphate. But World War I broke up the Ottoman Empire. Because of the help the Medes (Kurds) gave to western Allies during World War I, the Kurds were promised a land of their own (Kurdistan). The west broke their promise to the Kurds. Kurdistan was never formed. Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran were given their current borders by western powers. The Kurds remained an ethnic group without a country.

Fast forward to World War II.  Turkey signed a Non-Aggression Pact with Nazi Germany in 1941. Turkey didn’t declare war on the Reich until 1945. Meanwhile,  the ancient Medes (the Kurdish people) were largely living under Allied Forces due to the French Mandate in Syria and the British Mandate in Iraq. The Kurds assisted the Allies in the fight against the Nazis. President Trump recently confused Turkey's unwillingness to fight the Nazis with the Kurds.

Because of their assistance against the Nazis, the Kurds (Medes) were again promised a country of their own by western powers. But the United States and its western allies turned its back on the descendants of Medai (the Kurds) again. The decision not to create Kurdistan and back out on our promise probably had to do with not wanting to offend the post-World War II Arabic governments of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

During the Gulf War, President George Bush promised a country to the Kurds if they helped the United States throw off the government of Saddam Hussein. The Kurds delivered. The United States once again backed out on its promise.

The Battle Against ISIS


Kurds fleeing Kurdistan in northern Syria
Now the United States is abandoning the Kurds again after they fight side-by-side with us against ISIS during the last 20 years. .

But don't count the Kurds out yet. And once the U.S. leaves Syria, the Kurds may well turn to Russia for help in their fight against the Turkish Army.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria is called a terrorist organization by President Erdogan of Turkey.

 I don’t believe a dictator who has jailed more journalists than any other world leader during each of the last three years, and whose bodyguards savagely beat protesters at the door of our own White House. Why would the U.S. side with a radical Muslim dictator (Erdogan) and abandon a Democratic Christian ally?

Like the ancient Jews, Turkey may find out that the people they call terrorists (Kurds) are actually smart, civilized, and battle-hardened. They are in an existential war for their survival.

And like their cousin the Jews, when it is an existential battle, woe be to the army that invades.

Pray for the modern Medes as they fight against an erratic Muslim leader named Erdogan.

Please, President Trump, do not abandon the Syrian Christians that need our help more than ever.

Kurdish Democratic Christian soldiers in Syria (source: Christianity Today)

Pride Stains Us All and Is Erased By a Painful Fall

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

If anyone were to ask me how a true Christian can be identified in today's world, it would be the last sentence of the text above.
"In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." 
At the church I pastor we have state prisoners who attend worship services weekly. The state Department of Corrections recently changed the rules for their attendance. Now, the offenders must wear their orange DOC pants and shirts. Unlike other offenders (that means the rest of us), a worshiper can spot incarcerated offenders immediately. They are forced to wear orange. It's a humbling experience to these Department of Correction inmates because they are forced by the state to do something they'd rather not do (wear orange jumpsuits when attending church). But God is changing their hearts. They come. They're different. They've been humbled.

These DOC men are paying for their crimes in prison. Justice is being served. As Christians who are the church called Emmanuel Enid, our job is to put the interests of these prisoners above our own.

These prisoners coming to worship are not sexual offenders. Enid's Department of Corrections facility doesn't house sexual offenders. But Emmanuel has had a few convicted sexual offenders that have gotten out of prison at other facilities and attend corporate worship services or ministries (i.e. Celebrate Recovery) on our campus. The rules for these state convicted "sexual offenders" are a little different. By law the sexual offender must notify Emmanuel in advance of their attendance, and by our church policy we must have a photo of the sexual offender to pass around to all of our greeters, leaders, and workers so that they'll know this person by sight. In addition, state registered sexual offenders are escorted by someone on our staff the moment they step on our campus until they moment they leave our campus. That policy does not negate my desire to get to know these offenders. Any legally tagged sexual offender willing to attend worship under these strict guidelines has been humbled by his crime and is welcome at Emmanuel. We will do our best, however, to protect people who attend Emmanuel from becoming victims of any predatory behavior.

There is another man who dresses like a woman and attends Emmanuel every Sunday and Wednesday night. He's made a choice to dress like a female. I've taken him to lunch and gotten to know his story. He's not homosexual, but he enjoys wearing a dress, pearls, high heels, getting his nails done, and all the lipstick and rouge associated with females in our culture.

The conversations I've had with this cross-dresser have been personal and at times painful. I've had to explain to him that he needs to use the Family Restroom at Emmanuel, not the men's restroom. We had another church attender, a woman with small boys, who expressed fear seeing the cross dresser go into the restroom with her young sons. This man knows that state and local laws forbid him from using the women's restroom. He'd be arrested. The law requires him to use restrooms designed for men because male is his birth gender. Dressing like a woman is a choice he's making, a choice that brings discomfort to some, including the fellow attendee with small boys who were using the same restroom as he. After our lunch meeting and discussion, he said he would use the Family Restroom in deference to others. He still attends Emmanuel.

Ironically, this cross dresser began attending two years ago at the invitation of a friend to see "if Christians mean what they say when they announce "We Love Everyone." He's been coming for two years and I believe he'd tell you that he considers me a friend and that he feels loved by me and others at Emmanuel.

To love someone means that we are willing to get to know that person, accept them regardless of their decisions or differences, and never hesitate to engage in tough, loving conversations for a good purpose. Unlike the Department of Correction inmates who attend Emmanuel, this man dresses the way he does by choice. Were he to desire membership at Emmanuel through publicly professing his faith in Jesus Christ, we would ask him if he's willing to give up dressing like a woman when he attends corporate worship for the sake of others.

Humility by deferring to others is the mark of genuine Christianity.

We don't expect non-Christians to defer to others. Pride puts self first. Humility puts others first. Al of us by nature are proud. Supernatural grace from God breaks the proud and makes them humble. Those who desire membership at Emmanuel must show evidence of a willingness to put others first because humility is the key trait of true Christianity.

Emmanuel has some well-dressed adulterers, addicts, and abusers who also attend our corporate worship services. We welcome them all. Many of them cover their selfish actions and have never been humbled. But every now and then one of them lands on the front page of the local newspaper. The scandalized in Enid are welcome at Emmanuel. We let them know that we accept them where they are, but we also know that God's grace will never leave them where they are. It's God's business to take them to that place where they haven't yet arrived.

God gives His grace to humble the proud. And he uses His people to convey that grace which humbles.

We have homosexual couples and lesbian couples who attend Emmanuel just like we have well-dressed adulterers and sexually immoral heterosexuals who attend Emmanuel. We can't change anybody.

The Problem of Pride

There are number of growing events in American culture that celebrate immoral behaviors with the word PRIDE. Edmond, Oklahoma is hosting its second Edmond Pride event this Saturday, October 12, 2009, celebrating behaviors that the Bible calls sexually immoral.

It's difficult for my homosexual and lesbian friends to see how I can love them like Jesus loves me and still call their sexual behaviors immoral.

I understand why it's hard for them to understand.

They vocally take pride in their sexual orientation, believing it to be the way "God made me." I disagree with them on the origin of their homosexuality, but my disagreement doesn't mean I can't be their friend. It also doesn't mean they can't attend worship at Emmanuel.

It does mean, however, that they can't be a member of Emmanuel Enid.

Why?

The same reason that a known adulterer who takes pride in multiple sexual partners can't be a member. The same reason that a cross dresser who takes pride in cross dressing and bringing discomfort to others can't be a member. The same reason that a prisoner who takes pride in his crimes of violating the boundaries of others can't be a member. The same reason that a child abuser who takes pride in his child abuse can't be a member. The same reason that a person who takes pride in their drunkenness and drug addiction can't be a member. The same reason that a spousal abuser who takes pride in the abuse can't be a member.

Emmanuel Enid loves people where they are. We can't take out someone's pride. Only God can.

To be a member of Emmanuel, one must show evidence of God's grace which is seen in the humility of a heart that puts the interests of others before his own. 

The Scriptures state..
"Flee sexual immorality." (I Corinthians 6:18)
"Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who submit to or perform homosexual acts will inherit the Kingdom of God." (I Corinthians 6:9)
It's not within our capabilities to make a person not proud of behaviors that the Bible calls wicked, selfish, or ungodly.

That's God's business.

We just love people where they are and pray for the grace that humbles. People may get angry that Christians who believe the Bible refuse to celebrate with pride those behaviors the Bible calls immoral.

Sure, even Christians struggle with sins of sexual immorality and sins of the heart like pride. But once grace breaks through, the pride begins to disappear and a willingness begins to arise to lay aside one's preferences for the sake of God and of others.

The Bible is clear that...
"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18)

Red River Showdown in the Cotton Bowl Est. 1930

It is Red River Showdown Week.

Oklahoma vs. Texas.

Rachelle and I will be in Dallas this Saturday with friends watching the game at Texas State Fair's Cotton Bowl.

I always get a little sentimental this time of year.

The FIRST game ever played in the stadium that is now called the Cotton Bowl occurred Saturday, October 18, 1930.

OU end Fred Cherry
The Cotton Bowl, initially called "Fair Park Stadium," was built during five spring and summer months in 1930. The first college football game played in the new stadium was between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns. My maternal grandfather, Fred Cherry, (picture right) was a sophomore tight end for Oklahoma University that year (1930).

In those years, players played on both offense and defense, and my grandfather started for Oklahoma and played the entire game. Both teams were held scoreless during the first half.

The first touchdown of the game, and for that matter the first touchdown ever scored in the Cotton Bowl, occurred in the middle of the third quarter, and it was a 55-yard touchdown pass to my grandfather.

 According to the Oklahoma Encyclopedia of Football, Oklahoma halfback Bus Mills threw a 55 yard 'bomb' to Fred Cherry who took the ball into the end zone and gave Oklahoma a 7 to 0 lead over Texas. Though Texas would eventually win the game 17 to 7, my grandfather holds the distinction of being the first player to ever score in the Cotton Bowl.

He would go on to play against Texas in 1931 and 1932 before he graduated with a petroleum engineering degree.

 My grandfather was a personal friend of Kappa Alpha fraternity brother and 1931 Oklahoma graduate Carl Albert, future United States Speaker of the House. However, Fred Cherry would himself leave his job in the oil fields and eventually quit a job at the state capital in order to fulfill his calling as a Christian evangelist.

Fred Cherry, Wade's granddad, the left OU tight end (far right)
I was born thirty years after my grandfather played for Oklahoma University, but I can distinctly remember watching OU football games at his house while growing up, particularly at Thanksgiving.

My grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack in 1970 at the age of 58, but my love for OU football continued.

In the early 1970's my father and I crash landed upon returning by private plane from watching the annual OU/Texas Cotton Bowl game.

We were caught in a powerful thunderstorm and landed in a convention center parking lot where U.S. Senator John Tower was holding a fund raiser. The kind Senator loaned us his personal vehicle to finish our trip home.

Over the years I have many, many memories revolving around the Oklahoma vs. Texas rivalry.

Hopefully, a good, new memory of OU vs. Texas will be established this Saturday at the Cotton Bowl.

An Examination of the Body Ritual of the Nacirema

Anthropologist Horace Miner wrote an essay many years ago entitled "The Body Ritual of the Nacirema."

It's a fascinating account of a tribe of people who practice private rituals to sustain their physical beauty and prolong their lives.

Read The Body Ritual of the Nacirema for yourself.

Miner's description of the people group called the Nacirema seemingly portrays a primitive, highly ritualized people addicted to the most bizarre behaviors. The Nacirema come across as the most superstitious people in the world.

The Nacirema culture seems extremely primitive at best or bizarrely neurotic at worst. .

Anthropologist Horace Miner wrote his essay on the Nacriema people to prove a point. 

His essay is a spoof.

Nacirema is American spelled backwards.

Miner writes about the American people.

Once you get it, you'll laugh.

The point being made by Miner?

He wrote the essay to prove that interpretations of new information are based on preexisting suppositions.

If the reader of The Body Ritual of the Nacirema knows that he is reading a spoof about Americans, the essay will be deemed funny, even enjoyable and witty. But if the reader has no idea that the article is a spoof of the American people, then the essay will be mildly interesting, possibly even boring.

Presuppositions are everything.

The decisions we make about the main characters of any story (i.e. "the Nacirema") largely depends upon our biases toward the main characters as we read about them.

In our day of political intrigue, conspiracy theories, and 24/7 news stories about national politics, we most likely interpret what we hear based upon our presuppositions and preconceived biases of the main characters.

It is truly the advanced intellectual who is able to lay down any presuppositions and listen with an intention to learn.

Bias burns.

Openness learns.