Thursday, October 31, 2019

Kodi Lee and a Tribute to Truett Foster McKeehan

Christian artist TobyMac and his son, Truett Foster McKeehan

On Wednesday, October 23, 2019, 21-year-old Truett Foster McKeehan, son of Christian music artist TobyMac, died suddenly and unexpectedly in his parents' home. Medics responded to a cardiac arrest call to the McKeehan home, but they could not review Truett.

TobyMac and his wife have a faith in Christ that is not be shattered by unexpected suffering. Their official statement about the death of their son is filled with tributes to God's grace and goodness, not to mention His sovereignty and control over all things.

At Liberty University's convocation the day after Truett died, university officials asked guest artist Kodi Lee, this year's winner of America's Got Talent, to listen to an unfinished song written by Truett.

Kodi listened to Truett's song, completed it, and then sang it to thousands of college students, merging the song with "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe.

Well done, Liberty University.

Watch Kodi Lee's and LU's tribute to the Truett and the TobyMac family.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Prophetic Voice, FBC Naples. and Marcus Hayes

This past Sunday, October 27, 2019, Marcus Hayes went with his wife Mandy and their three precious children "in-view-of-a-call" at First Baptist Church, Naples, Florida.

Marcus Hayes, the pastoral candidate presented to FBC by the church's Pastor Search Committee, was rejected to be the church's next pastor.

For the uninformed about Southern Baptist policies and practices, a "view-of-a-call" Sunday is when a visiting pastor preaches to the congregation and then the congregation votes on whether or not to hire the visiting pastor.

Pastor Marcus is an outstanding preacher. For the past several years he has been a Campus Pastor at Biltmore Baptist Church in North Carolina. He is also serving on the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.

FBC Naples is filled with some wonderful Christian people. Their former pastor, Dr. Hayes Wicker, once served as the pastor of Emmanuel Enid.

Letter to FBC Congregation 
Why did the church reject Marcus Hayes as their pastor? The staff of FBC Naples explains why in a letter they sent to the congregation this past Monday, October 28, 2019.
"Last week, through social media, texting, phone calls, and emails, racial prejudice was introduced into our voting process."
Let that sink in.

The Southern Baptist Convention began with racism, and the Southern Baptist Convention, unless there is radical, deep, personal and corporate repentance, will continue in latent racism.

Those are the facts. We best begin changing them. No more talk. Action.

As a parliamentarian, I know that a church's constitution can be changed by a 75% vote. I would change the constitution of  FBC Naples post-haste, re-vote, and call Marcus Hayes as Senior Pastor. IF that is impossible, FBC needs to imitate the 1860 Republican Convention. The delegates eventually voted for Abraham Lincoln to be President. They couldn't get the number of votes they needed, so they voted, re-voted, re-voted, and re-voted until eventually Lincoln became the United States Presidential Republican candidate.

In fact, I predict that will happen at FBC Naples.

Why? Because FBC Naples has a heritage of correcting wrongs. Listen to the prophetic voice of their former pastor, Max E. Cadenhead. It's a story told by Charles Colson, a member of FBC Naples during his lifetime of Christian service, and recounted in the 2015 book The New Pharisee by Jeff Saxton:
The late Max Cadenhead, when he was pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Florida, riveted his congregation one day with a bold confession. "My message today is on the parable of the Good Samaritan," Max announced. "Let me start with an illustration. Remember last year when the Browns came forward to join the church?" he asked. Everyone nodded; the Browns were a very influential family. "Well the same day a young man came forward and gave his life to Christ. I could tell he needed help - and we counseled him." No heads nodded; no one remembered. "We worked with the Browns, got them onto committees. They've been wonderful folks," Cadenhead said to muffled amen's. "And the young man...well, we lost track. Until yesterday, that is., as I was preparing today's message on the good Samaritan. I picked up the paper, and there was that young man's picture. He had shot and killed an elderly woman." Chins dropped throughout the congregation, mine (Colson's) included, as the pastor continued. "I never followed up on that young man, so I am the priest who saw the man in trouble and crossed to the other side of the road. I am the hypocrite." More of that kind of sober honesty in the church would be very healthy.
FBC Naples has a history of prophetic leaders.

The 81% of members who voted for Marcus Hayes should follow the pastoral staff's recommendations and do something about the racism.

No more talk.

Do something.

(UPDATE: FBC Naples' Pastor Search Committee announced this past weekend (November 2-3, 2019) that FBC Naples is going to conduct a re-vote on Marcus Hayes as their Senior Pastor. The announcement in the services received a standing ovation - begin watching at the 1:06:00 mark. ).

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Planning Ahead and Emergency Blood Transfusion

Blood Transfusion Bottle (Wikimedia)
Many leaders struggle with vision.

Planning ahead is essential for future prosperity. As a wise man once said, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18).

Non-profits are notorious for not "thinking ahead." For-profit businesses must "think ahead" because they'll go out of business if they don't. Non-profits assume people will give regardless. The problem of assuming continual donations is "today's financial supporters are tomorrow's funeral services."

Non-profits must plan ahead to captivate a new generation.

I recently read a book entitled Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood.

Author Rose George recounts how a woman saved Great Britain from devastating casualties during World War II by thinking ahead and being prepared for blood transfusions that would be needed by the people of Great Britain during Germany's attack. It's a leadership lesson on vision and planning.

The following is an excerpt from Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood.
Janet Vaughan (Wikimedia Commons)
Few women have had a bigger impact on British medical care than Dame Janet Vaughan.
Born in 1899, Vaughan fought to receive an education when educated women were frowned upon, studying medical sciences at the University of Oxford and graduating with distinction. While at Oxford, she also first encountered her lifelong passion: the research of blood.

After graduating, she received a Rockefeller Scholarship to study at Harvard. The only female student at the university during her time there, she wasn’t even permitted to study the blood of human patients – instead, she had to study pigeon blood.Even so, she managed to conduct pioneering research on vitamin B12 deficiencies in blood.
Back in England, Vaughan established herself as an expert on blood diseases. In 1934, she published The Anaemias, a groundbreaking textbook in the field of hematology – the study of blood.

But her most important medical contribution lay ahead. 
With the Spanish Civil War raging, Vaughan read about the trailblazing Catalan doctor Frederic Durán-Jordà. During the conflict, Durán-Jordà set up an astoundingly efficient system for the collection, storage and transportation of blood. In this system, nurses were permitted to collect blood before it was whisked off to the front lines, freeing up doctors’ time. The blood was then taken in converted fish vans, showing an improvisational approach toward available resources – a strategy Vaughan would later borrow.
With another world war looming, Vaughan knew Britain needed a similar system. In the Spanish Civil War, 10 percent of the casualties of bombing raids needed blood transfusions. Based on these figures, a bombed London could need 6,500 transfusions per day.

So, Vaughan set up the Emergency Blood Transfusion Service (EBTS). There would be four EBTS depots set up just outside London, taking blood from donors and delivering it to city hospitals. It would be stored in milk bottles and delivered in converted ice cream trucks, which were capable of refrigeration.

The EBTS was prepared when war began. Each depot distributed tens of thousands of bottles of blood, and during wartime, the EBTS saved countless lives. In 1946 – two years before the NHS, Britain’s National Health Service, was founded – the EBTS became the Blood Transfusion Service, serving a peacetime population. None of this would have happened if war hadn’t instilled the value of collective sacrifice in the British population, along with the idea of blood as a donation, which persists to this day. And it also wouldn’t have happened without Dame Janet Vaughan.
Hundreds of thousands of lives were saved in Great Britain during World War II because of the foresight of one woman, Dame Janet Vaughan. She serves as an illustration to us all of the importance of planning and vision.  

Thursday, October 24, 2019

5 Reasons Why Women Can Pastor God's People

When it comes to women who pastor, some of my conservative evangelical friends - that is, people like me who believe that the Bible is God's inspired and infallible Word - often find themselves struggling with the thought that a woman can pastor God's people.

And many of them can't understand why I don't struggle with it.

To these friends of mine, believing a woman can pastor is akin to believing the devil is the fourth person of the sacred Trinity Tetrarchy.

"It just can't be," they say.  "It's unbiblical, impractical, immoral, and violates centuries of church tradition, not to mention modern confessions like The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message."

To my conservative evangelical friends who bristle at the mere mention of women pastoring, I offer 5 reasons why women can pastor God's people by addressing those who say they can’t pastor.

1. Your definition of "pastor" is not biblical. 

The moment you believe that the word "pastor" is a "noun of status" which speaks of a person "in an office of authority" over God's people, where "the pastor" (or ruling elders) exert(s) spiritual authority or control over other people, then you have defined pastor contrary to Jesus and the sacred Scriptures.
"But Jesus called His followers aside and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave." (Matt. 20:25-27)
I've written an entire book on this issue. Its called Fraudulent Authority: Pastors Who Seek To Rule Over Others.

The basic problem with churches that establish "male elders" who "rule over" their church membership is that they've established a structure contrary to the teachings of Jesus. That church has come under the misguided belief that men only are to "exercise spiritual authority" over God's church and the Christian family. In this system, nobody - especially females - can disagree with, contradict, or speak out against the male elders because they'd be arguing with "God's anointed authority."

Read Jesus again to His followers. "It shall not be this way among you." The word "pastor" should be viewed as a "verb of service" and not a "noun of status." Every Christian, male and female, is called to shepherd others to Jesus. If your church's definition of pastor is "one with spiritual authority or divine power over others" then Christian women cannot be pastors. But neither can Christian men. No Christian rules over anyone else. Pastors are to be servants of all and masters of none.

Jesus is the only authority over His people.

Some who have grown up on the King James Version of the Bible might object:
"Remember them which have rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith you follow, considering the end of their conversation." (Hebrews 13:17 KJV).
Listen to my message on Hebrews 13:17 from 2008. The English translation of the Greek for the King James Version of Hebrews 13:17 is very poor. The words "rule" and "over" are not even present in Hebrews 13:17 in the original Greek language.

How then can a church be led? Answer: By older, spiritually gifted, men and women of humble character who guide, shepherd, and lead others through gentle persuasion and encouragement.

I'll be happy to send you our organizational structure at Emmanuel Enid if you email me at Prior to 2011 and our constitutional revision, women weren't included in leadership at Emmanuel and we made many mistakes because half the people gifted by God to lead the church  were being intentionally excluded.

Not anymore.

2. Your continuity of Old Covenant worship patterns is detrimental. 

This is a huge issue. Very few people will talk about this, but you need to understand it.

Anglicans, Presbyterians, historic Episcopalians, and a host of other denominations that style church structure after Old Testament style Yahweh worship are adamant that females can't be in leadership. They believe in the continuity of the Old Testament into New Covenant days. To them,  the church of Jesus Christ has simply replaced the people of Israel, but the manner in which God’s people do worship should be the same today as it was in Old Testament days.

However, Baptists, Methodists, Assemblies of God, and other evangelical organizations  see a discontinuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament worship structures.  These evangelicals historically have had no problem with women pastoring God's people, something I'll show you in a moment.

There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, when Baptists begin to form partnerships with their Reformed cousins (think Al Mohler and Tim Keller), then sometimes church government and leadership styles of reformed denominations begin to make their way into Baptist churches. Though Baptists have been historically congregational in church polity, in these modern days of  New Calvinism, more and more Baptist churches assemble "priests" (elders) around a "high priest" (THE pastor), who are all male. These male "pastors" or "elders"are those that "rule over God's people," just like male priests in ancient Israel.

In the Old Testament, Yahweh worship was led by male priests only. The women were excluded from going beyond the Court of Women in Temple worship. The High Priest was always a first born son from the family of Aaron. Spiritual worship was led by qualified males.

But that Old Covenant with Israel has disappeared, replaced by a New Covenant.
"By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear." (Hebrews 8:13)
When the Old Covenant began disappearing after the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus Christ, and after it "officially ended" in AD 70 at the destruction of the Jewish Templea new way of worship dawned!
"But you (both males and females) are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." (I Peter 2:9). 
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)
I once sent a paper explaining New Covenant worship to a church that restricts church leadership to males only. The paper was disconcerting and even troubling to them. To admit that their exaltation of "Christian male authority" and their "exclusion of Christian females" from Kingdom leadership was harmful to their church was impossible for these male elders. In fact, it became necessary for them to attack the messenger (me) rather than review their ministry with humble, genuine biblical reflection.

Any church that attempts to function with solely male leadership will eventually struggle.

The Covenants have changed.

The Old Covenant agreement between God and Israel was a "come and see" religion. Come and see the Temple. Come and see the rituals. Come and see the festivals.

The New Covenant is a "go and tell" religion. Go tell sinners of the Savior who has guaranteed the Creator’s goodness to those who trust Him. Christianity is radically spiritual, internal, personal, and trans-cultural (all peoples). 

Some of the best worship you can have is with family or a small group of believers around a camp fire at a lake, or at home around the dinner table, or at a backyard barbecue. 

Believers are the church. God dwells in us. Where we are, there He is. We don't behave one way 'at church' and another way everywhere else. We ARE the church.

Further, since the life of God is in the individual who trusts Christ, there is no hierarchical authority in the church.

 Every believer is a pastor (priest) who shepherds others to Jesus. 

3. Your limitation of spiritual gifts according to sexual genitalia is harmful.

This one will be short. Christ's bestows the gifts of teaching, prophesying, exhortation, shepherding, and other spiritual gifts on His people regardless of gender.
"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11).
Gender is never mentioned in the Bible when it comes to spiritual gifts. Never.

When an institutional church overrules the Spirit of God, it will find itself absent the Spirit unless corrected.

This article is one of many that explains that the gifts of the Spirit are granted regardless of gender.

The overwhelming testimony of the New Testament is that gifted, humble men and women of character, preferably older in years (e.g. "elder") will shepherd, guide, and pastor God's people.

Christian men who exclude Christian women from fulfilling the call of God according to the Spirit's gifts are infatuated with their own alleged "authority" and are in danger of losing the unction and anointing of the Holy Spirit in their own ministries.

4. Your narrow view of Christian "ministry" is baneful.

Ordination. "The action of ordaining or conferring holy orders on someone."


We don't ordain anybody at Emmanuel Enid.

The state of Oklahoma requires a "ministerial license" to officiate marriage ceremonies,  to recognize vocational ministers working at a state recognized 501-C3 non-profit, and to grant ministerial tax credits for those working in non-profit vocational ministry.

We will license men and women as vocational employees of our non-profit because the state requires it, but we don't ordain anybody.

Every state government in the United States of America considers "licensing" pastors and "ordaining" pastors" as the same thing. Most churches don't consider them the same thing. Emmanuel Enid does.  We only "license" because the state requires it.

Denominations that "ordain ministers" typically make a non-biblical separation between "clergy" and "laymen."

Only the "ordained," according to these churches, can fulfill the "ordinances of the church" (baptism and the Lord's Supper). It's amazing how traditions in institutional churches carry on through "ordination" ceremonies. It's almost like a cult.

Before I was "ordained" as a Southern Baptist pastor in 1982, I was told that I would be examined by other "ordained" men. During my "prep" for this ordination, some men who though they were being helpful told me that one of the questions that would be asked was:
"What are the ordinances of the church?"
I was told how to answer: "Say baptism and the Lord's Supper." Dutifully, I answered such, and was promptly "ordained" by the Southern Baptist Convention.

It was only years later that I learned baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances of Jesus, not the church. The word "ordinance" means "law." Jesus gave us both ordinances, not the church:
Jesus came to them and said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). 
"The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,and when he had given thanks, he broke it and he said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (I Corinthians 11:23-29). 
Every believer in Jesus Christ, whether male or female, is called a minister in the New Testament. We are a royal priesthood.

Therefore, gifted women can "go and make disciples," and can "baptize," and can "serve the bread and the wine," and can lead people to remember Jesus.

That's because Jesus told all of His followers, not just males, to "go and make disciples."

But the church that emphasizes "ordination" will tell people to "come." And when they come, they will only see "males" ordained by the church to "rule over" other people and "do the ordinances."

I recently wrote a post about serving as a trustee for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

When I served as an IMB trustee, I got into a heated dispute with trustee leadership (all males).

It seems that we had Christian women missionaries in the Far East who were leading men and women to faith in Jesus Christ and the new Christian converts were ready to be baptized. It was made known to the IMB trustees that there was nobody to baptize the recent Chinese converts.

Not knowing any better, I raised my hand and asked a question of my fellow trustees:
"Why don't the Christian women missionaries who taught these people about Jesus and led them to faith in the Savior baptize them so as to fulfill the command of Jesus in the Great Commission."

Without responding to my question, the chairman of the subgroup determined we would pay $3,000 to fly a male Baptist pastor to a foreign country to baptize the men and women that had been led to faith in Jesus Christ by our female missionaries on the field.

My courteous but firm opposition to the IMB's unbiblical patriarchal policies led to a protracted battle between the world's largest missionary sending organization and its trustee from Oklahoma.

I still marvel, fifteen years later, IMB trustee leadership had the ludicrous, absurd, and unbiblical notion to fly an "ordained male minister" to the Far East to baptize Christian converts who came to faith in Jesus Christ under the discipleship of Christian women. 

Males and females are to minister in the name of Jesus, fulfilling His command to make disciples. 

Tens of millions of people are coming to faith in Jesus around the world, led to Jesus by gifted, humble men and women of character who are fulfilling the ordinance of Jesus Christ, whether recognized by the institutional church or not.

Christian ministry is about following the commands of Christ. Our view of ministry needs to be more biblical than institutional.

As an aside, the moment institutional churches advocate women, homosexuals, and others being ordained to "rule over" Christian people through "an office of authority" received by "ordination" of the church, you'll hear the same objections from me that I'm now giving about the ordination of men.

5. Your understanding of historic church confessions is partial.

Oh, sure, the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message states:
"While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture." (Article VI The Church)
Confessions are not inspired. They are often rife with errors. Some of the local association Southern Baptist confessions of the 1850's advocated slavery as biblical.

The problem of the 2000 BFM is not the exclusion of women from "the office of pastor."

No. It's "the office of pastor" which is unbiblical. The word "office," like "office of the President" or "office of the pastor" is nowhere used in the New Testament.

Reading this paper, called The Bible and Authority in the Church, might help you understand how church tradition has supplanted New Testament teaching.

Christian leadership is based on giftedness and not gender; character, not control; humility, not hubris; selfless service, not self seeking; and personal piety, not powerful positions.

Baptists from days of old understood these concepts.

The earliest recorded comment on the role of Baptist women was by John Smyth, founder of the first identifiable Baptist church of modern history. In his 1609 work Parallels, Censures, Observations, Smyth wrote:
“...the Church hath powre to Elect, approve & ordeyne her owne Elders, also: to elect, approve, & ordeine her owne Deacons both men & woemen."
Baptist women did preach in England in the early days of the 17th century. Most English churchmen found the practice as distasteful as believer's baptism.

Nevertheless Baptists had women preaching. 

The Anabaptist Waterland Confession of 1580 is the first “Baptist” Confession to refer to the setting aside gifted people for ministry.
In times of need the congregation shall prepare itself before God with fasting and prayer, calling upon Him for help--for He alone can send the right servants into His harvest--that our heavenly Father may prepare the right servants among the congregations to the glory of His name; servants who will proclaim His holy Word truthfully, and in true Christian love, according to His pleasure, to hungry souls, [as well as] administering the sacraments and the ban.
This document does not take gender into consideration when assigning roles.

For their views on the ministry, the English Baptists went directly to the Bible for their authority. 

Those women who preached and those men who allowed it thought they found adequate scriptural teaching and precedent.

More recently, I challenged Al Mohler at the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention to answer a question I had about a woman the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention sent in the 1860s to teach and minister to African-American male pastors who were being held on an island in the Mississippi River.

Dr. Al Mohler might tell you that he wasn't "stumped" by my question,  but it sure seemed to me that he couldn't answer it. Read the back-and-forth for yourself and see how Southern Baptists have not always believed that a woman can’t lead others spiritually. It makes the present exclusion of women by some SBC leaders (not all) seem so silly.

The next time I hear a person state he or she doesn't believe in "women pastors" and cites the 2000 BFM, I might feel compelled to ask, "Do you even understand the purpose of a confession?"

A confession is not a creed. 

A denial of women pastoring God's people based on a Baptist Confession is akin to advocating racial slavery because a Baptist confession once said slavery was biblical.

What people ought to be doing is searching the Scriptures.

And the Scriptures advocate both men and women pastoring people to Jesus. 

Long ago, I called out the problem of "sexual abuse" in the Southern Baptist Convention. Nobody listened then (2007), but people are sure listening now.

I'm calling out my conservative evangelical friends for their exclusion of women from Christian leadership, for their energetic attempts to stifle gifted Christian women from fulfilling the commandments of Christ to "go and make disciples," and for their unbiblical approach to Christian ministry.

Conservative evangelicals must stop: 

1. Debilitating females with God-given gifts,
2. Denigrating females in their Spirit-led ministries,
3. Downplaying females as New Covenant priests.

If not, the Spirit may well depart.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Fool's Gold and the National Basketball Association

NBA Basketball (Wikimedia Commons)
Fool's Gold is defined by investors as any flashy but ultimately worthless investment.

In 2016, the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver portrayed itself as a bastion of morality by demanding North Carolina abandon its recently past law that people may legally only use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender listed on their birth certificate rather than the sex they identify with.

Adam Silver, in his silver-tongued eloquence, demanded rescission of this law or the NBA would move the 2017 NBA All-Star game from Charlotte.

Oh my. 

Recently, the government of China has clamped down on Hong Kong's liberties, including imprisoning and intimidating people who print newspapers critical of the Chinese government, taking people charged with "crimes" in Hong Kong to mainland China for trial and imprisonment which violates Hong Kong's established laws, and otherwise clamping down on all individual liberties of Hong Kong citizens.  

These clampdowns by China on basic human rights have led to riots in the streets by highly educated people who live in Hong Kong.

The Houston Rocket's General Manager,  Daryl Morey, tweeted support for the Hong Kong freedom protesters.

“Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

That is what the Houston Rocket's owner tweeted in early October 2019.

In steps the NBA and Adam Silver.

In a statement that the silver-tongued NBA commissioner issued, he said:
It is inevitable that people around the world – including from America and China – will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences."
At least not in China.

But what about North Carolina?

Adam Silver had ordered the owners of the NBA, the players of the NBA, and everyone associated with the NBA to be silent about China so as not to offend the Chinese government while on a preseason tour of China.

Oh my.

Fool's Gold.

Methinks the NBA and Adam Silver's stance on forcing North Carolina to change it's restroom law, but demanding silence about China's assaults on liberty and democracy in Hong Kong smacks of someone who's trying to sell America a fake bill of goods.

That's why the NBA is silent. 

When someone can buy a person's morality it wasn't morality that person possessed in the first place.

It was posturing. 

It was Fool's Gold morality.

I'll watch the NBA this season, but I won't be listening to any lectures from the NBA's silver-tongued Silver when it comes to morality.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Frenemies of the Faith and Misogynistic Ministers

Women and the Christian Church
Christian social media entered a firestorm last weekend over two words uttered by John MacArthur about Christian teacher/preacher Beth Moore. At a conference this past week at Grace Community Church, the 80-year-old MacArthur said Beth Moore ought to quit teaching the Word of God in churches and other venues and "Go home."

MacArthur believes that Beth Moore or any other Christian woman who teaches God's Word to others should go home and be the wife, mother, and person God intends for them to be and leave it to the men to give spiritual direction. MacArthur believes Christian men are to be the leaders and Christian women are to be the receivers.

To MacArthur and other male misogynistic ministers, qualification for Christian ministry revolves around one's sexual genitalia rather than one's spiritual giftings.

Some might object that my language is too harsh. However, it's high time for people who believe in the infallible and inspired Scriptures to speak out in defense of our Christian sisters and what the Bible says about their freedom to teach, preach, and lead. Christian male leaders who regularly debilitate, denigrate, and dismiss Christian women doing Kingdom work should be confronted.

The viper known as 'the doctrine of male authority' has bitten the  Christian church. The toxin emitted by this errant teaching affects the females within our Christian assemblies. Ministers within infected churches will do three things:
1. They will debilitate females with God-given gifts,
2. They will denigrate females in their Spirit-led ministries,
3. They will downplay females as New Covenant priests. 
Some evangelical conservative churches have misconstrued and misinterpreted Paul's writings on this subject while at the same time ignoring Jesus' words and life example on the same subject. Misogyny is a real problem in American conservative evangelicalism. 

Misogyny is defined as "a hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls, manifesting in social exclusion, patriarchy, male privilege, or belittling of the female sex." 

The evangelical Christian church is filled with pastors who say publicly that they love women but are actually filled with misogyny toward Christian women.  They're "friends" to Christian females with their words, but they are "enemies" to Christian females by their actions.


The scary part is that these frenemies of the faith actually believe that God is on their side when they say "Go home" to Christian women who are preaching the Gospel to others.

I'm a conservative evangelical who believes the Bible and also believes it's past time to call out fellow conservatives whose misinterpretations of a couple of specific passages in the Bible leads them to misogyny.

Religion News Service reports that MacArthur said at his conference:
“When you literally overturn the teaching of Scripture to empower people who want power, you have given up biblical authority. I just know women are not allowed to preach.”
A misogynistic Christian website that reported on the conference, praised Mr. MacArthur with these words:
"Beth Moore is a feminist who is in grave rebellion against God. She travels the country preaching to mixed audiences when the Scriptures are clear, women can’t preachIn classic John MacArthur fashion, MacArthur pulls no punches and tells her to “go home.”
But John MacArthur and other frenemies of the faith need to be corrected about their wrong presuppositions regarding women and preaching.

The Scriptures and Our Savior Both Command Women to Preach

The word "preach" means "to proclaim." It is the Greek word kerusso ("I preach") and originates from ancient farmers noticing the sound roosters made at the rising of the sun. The roosters crowed (kerusso). 

Kerusso is to crow about the risen Son.

Not only are women allowed to proclaim that the Son has risen, they are commanded by Christ to proclaim to others all that the risen Son has taught. Jesus said,
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20)
Women are to teach others about Christ. Women are to make disciples of Christ. Women are to baptize those they reach with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Great Commission is for men and women.

When I served on the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2005-2008, I got into a heated dispute with mysogynistic male ministers who served with me on the board.

It seems that we had Christian women missionaries in the Far East who were leading men and women to faith in Jesus Christ and the new Christian converts were ready to be baptized.  It was made known to the IMB trustees that there was nobody to baptize the recent Chinese converts.

Not knowing any better, I raised my hand and asked a question of my fellow trustees:
"Why don't the Christian women missionaries who taught these new converts about Jesus and led them to faith in the Him be the ones to baptize them to fulfill the command of Jesus in the Great Commission."

Without responding to my question, the chairman of the subgroup determined we would pay $3,000 to fly a male Baptist pastor to a foreign country to baptize the men and women that had been led to faith in Jesus Christ by our female missionaries on the field.

My courteous but firm opposition to the IMB's unbiblical patriarchal policies led to a protracted battle between the world's largest missionary sending organization and its trustee from Oklahoma.

I learned fifteen years ago that if a man says, "the Bible forbids a woman from preaching," more than likely that man has never been humbled to see that his interpretation of the Bible is not on par with the inspiration of the Bible.

The New Testament Evidence that Women Are Free to Proclaim Christ (Preach)

In all four of the Gospel accounts, the risen Jesus Christ first appears women first, and commissions them to "go and proclaim to others" of Christ’s victory over death. See Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:6-7; Luke 24:1-10; John 20:10-18.

Peter uses the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 to establish the preaching agenda for the new community of Christ called the Church. The heart of Peter's message is twice repeated in his affirmation of men and women proclaiming the Good News:
 “In the last days, God says, I will pour out My spirit on ALL people and your sons and daughters will prophesy… Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days—and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18).
Philip, one of the early followers of Jesus, had four Christian daughters "who all prophesied" (Acts 21:9).

Throughout the New Testament there is an equality of genders when it comes to proclaiming the risen Christ. Revelation 19:10 says: “For it is the Spirit of prophecy that gives testimony to Jesus”

Preaching Jesus is determined by the gift of the Spirit not the gender of the speaker. 
In the New Testament church, there is to be a mutuality of service (diachonia) pervading the body of Christ.
As each has received a gift, employ [diachonoutes] it for another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
Romans 16 is a key chapter on women’s roles in the New Testament Church. Paul sends greetings to the leaders and key teachers of the “house churches” of Rome. In this list, Christian women are both preeminent and prominent in the proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ.

The first mentioned is Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2). She is a “servant” of the church in Cenchrea, the term Paul uses to describe himself in Ephesians 3:7 and Colossians 1:23, 25, as well as the word Paul uses to describe his fellow ministers of the Word in Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 1:7; 4:7). In addition, verse 2 describes her as a “helper” (NASB) or “benefactor”(TNIV). The Greek word prostates, from which helper or benefactor is translated, means “one who stands before, front-rank man, leader, chief, protector, champion.”

This not only affirms Phoebes' ministry role, but her leadership of men as well.

In Romans 16:3 Paul greets a wife/husband team, giving preeminence to Priscilla, then affirms they are both “my fellow workers,” a term Paul especially applies to "those who share in teaching the Gospel." This role of Priscilla "teaching the Gospel" to men is confirmed by Acts 18:26 where both Priscilla and Aquila teach Apollos, an evangelist, the clear and full message of the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 16:19 Paul again mentions this couple as the leaders of a “church in their house.”

Priscilla is functioning as a teacher and leader within a “church” community.

In Romans 16:7 Paul speaks of Andronicus (male) and Junia (female) “who are outstanding among the apostles.” In this instance, a woman, Junia, seems in the role of an apostle (see Ephesians 4:11-12). Apostles specifically had the task of the equipping (teaching) in the church. See also Romans 16:12, which identifies two other female workers in the church as “workers in the Lord,” a phrase that usually applies to those who "teach the Gospel."

In Philippians 4:2-3 Paul affirms Euodia and Syntyche as two women who had “contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers.” The whole context puts them on a par with others who labor in sharing the Gospel. See also Colossians 4:15.

In I Corinthians 11:2-16, the Bible presupposes Christian women to be leading corporate worship services through both prayer and prophesying. 

Summary: The overwhelming teaching of the New Testament is that men and women are to teach, preach, lead, and serve as the Spirit gifts us, independent of our specific gender.
"There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28).

Two Passages That Seem to Teach Christian Women Are To Be Silent

There are only two passages that might, at first glance, seem to teach that a woman is "to be silent" around men; or, as John MacArthur would say, "Go home."

If these two passages are truly teaching a woman is to be silent and not teach or preach, then they would be contradicting all the other passages of the New Testament that teach just the opposite (see above). I believe that it is the faulty interpretations of these two passages by ministers that leads to pastors saying to women "Go home." Their misinterpretations of the Word leads them to misogyny of the women.

Rather than delve into the two passages now, I'd like to give you a couple of relevant links for each passage to show you what they teach in the context of the day in which they were written. When properly interpreted, the principles contained in these two passages are consistent with the rest of Scriptural teachings on the New Testament equality of men and women.

I Timothy 2:9-15 -  see Artemis and the End of Us: Evangelical Errors Regarding Women.

I Corinthians 14:34-35 - see Giftedness vs. Gender.

My friend, Dr. Todd Still, Dean and Professor at Baylor University and Truett Seminary, not to mention one of the great New Testament scholars of our day, has also spoken out against MacArthur's remark toward Beth Moore.

Dr. Still writes:
"George W. Truett Theological Seminary will host a National Preaching Conference at the historic First Baptist Church of Waco. In addition to the likes of Alistair Begg, Tony Evans, Joel Gregory, Jimmy Mellado, and Ralph West, Mary Hulst and yes, Beth Moore will be preaching. Then and there, Beth will be warmly welcomed into our hearts and home as we listen to her expound upon God’s Word. John MacArthur is also welcome, but he will need to remain silent."

More to come...

Friday, October 18, 2019

'5 Reasons Socialism Is Not Christian' by Julie Roys

The Christian Post is a wonderful way to keep up on current events and news from a Christian world-view. I'd highly recommend my readers follow The Christian Post.

Recently, a woman named Julie Roys wrote an op-ed for The Christian Post entitled 5 Reasons Socialism Is Not Christian. In recent years I've come to admire Julie for her leadership in the Christian church at large and her courage in confronting abusive leaders in specific churches. Her writing and speaking is also quite insightful.  

I wish all my young readers, especially millennials, would take the time to read Julie's Christian Post editorial. For convenience, it is replicated in full, with credit and without edits here on Istoria Ministries Blog.  


5 Reasons Socialism Is Not Christian

by Julie Roys

Jesus confronted the money-changers and challenged believers to give to the needy. But, would he support socialism?

Increasingly, Americans think he would. In fact, a recent Barna poll found that more Americans think Jesus would prefer socialism (24%) than those who believe he would prefer capitalism (14%). The other 62% responded neither or not sure, but the poll still reveals a disturbing trend.

Last Saturday, Micah Conkling, a Christian writer and podcaster, argued on my radio program that socialism is the political and economic system that best fulfills the Golden Rule. Not surprisingly, Conkling is a Millennial, the most pro-socialist generation America has ever known. According to a recent Reason-Rupe survey, 53% of Americans under 30 view socialism favorably, compared to less than a third of Americans over 30. Similarly, Gallup found that 69% of those under 30 said they would be willing to vote for a socialist presidential candidate.

I understand why Millennials are wary of the current system. They've witnessed a consistently declining economy; one of the most partisan eras in American history; the fall of the twin towers; and a war predicated on weapons of mass destruction that were never found. I agree with them that our political system desperately needs reform. But, socialism is not the answer. Though it may sound compassionate and Christian, it's actually antithetical to everything Christianity teaches.

Here's why:

1. Socialism is Based on a Materialistic Worldview

According to socialists like Bernie Sanders, the greatest problem in the world is the unequal distribution of wealth.

His website declares: "The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time."

This betrays a fundamentally materialistic worldview, which is the basis of socialism.

To socialists, all that really exists is the material world. In fact, Karl Marx, the father of socialism/communism, invented the notion of dialectical materialism — the belief that matter contains a creative power within itself. This enabled Marx to eliminate the need for a creator, essentially erasing the existence of anything non-material.
To socialists, suffering is caused by the unequal distribution of stuff — and salvation is achieved by the re-distribution of stuff. There's no acknowledgment of spiritual issues. There's just an assumption that if everyone is given equal stuff, all the problems in society will somehow dissolve.

This worldview contradicts Christianity, which affirms the existence of both a material and a non-material world — and teaches that mankind's greatest problems are spiritual. The Bible says the cause of suffering is sin and salvation is found in the cross of Christ, which liberates us from sin. Because of sin, though, there will always be inequalities in wealth. As the parable of the talents shows, those with good character tend to accumulate more; those with bad character may lose everything they have. Yet, even if we are unable to accumulate wealth, Christianity teaches that we can still have an abundant life. That's because our quality of life is not determined by how much stuff we have, but by our relationship to Christ.

2. Socialism Punishes Virtue

Socialists want to distribute wealth to individuals according to their need, regardless of virtue.

As Karl Marx, famously said, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

However, whenever any institution provides aid, it runs the risk of removing God-designed rewards and consequences. It can punish those who are industrious by making them pay for those who are not. And, it can reward those who aren't industrious by giving them the fruits of another man's labor. This is precisely what socialism does.

Interestingly, Marx mooched off others his whole life, and failed to provide for his wife and children.

As Aristotle once noted, "Men start revolutionary changes for reasons connected with their private lives."

The Bible teaches that aid should be tied to responsibility. First, anyone who refuses to work should be refused aid.

As 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat."

Next, no one should be given aid whose family can provide for him. In fact, the Apostle Paul said that a man who fails to provide for his family is "worse than an unbeliever." (1 Tim. 5:8) The church also required widows receiving aid to have "a reputation of good works." (1 Tim. 5:10) So, even in dispensing aid, the church rewarded virtue and discouraged vice. Unfortunately, socialism does just the opposite.

3. Socialism Endorses Stealing

Barack Obama once defended his socialist policies to a little girl by saying, "We've got to make sure that people who have more money help the people who have less money. If you had a whole pizza, and your friend had no pizza, would you give him a slice?"

That sounds pretty Christian, right? What Christian wouldn't endorse sharing your abundance with someone who has nothing? However, Obama wasn't endorsing people voluntarily sharing their wealth with others; he was endorsing the government forcibly taking a piece of the pie from one person and giving it to someone else. Put another way, that's saying that if you have three cars and your neighbor has none, the government has a right to take your car and give it to your neighbor. That's not Christian; that's stealing!

But, socialists don't believe in private property. And, some Christian socialists actually assert that the Bible doesn't either. That's preposterous.

Both the Old Testament and New Testament unequivocally affirm private property. We can't even obey the eighth commandment to not steal, unless we accept the notion of private ownership. Nor, can we steward our money as the Bible commands if the state owns our money, not us. So, for an economic and political system to be Christian, it must protect private ownership and allow individuals freedom to allocate their resources according to their conscience.

4. Socialism Encourages Envy and Class Warfare

Socialists demonize the rich, blaming all of society's problems on them.

Bernie Sanders once posted to his Facebook Page: "Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America."

Here, Sanders is mimicking Karl Marx, who viewed history as a series of class struggles between the rich and the poor — and advocated overthrowing the ruling class.

Scripture strongly warns the rich and powerful not to oppress the poor.

In fact, Proverbs 14:31 says, "Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for his maker . . ."

But, Sanders — and other Leftists, including Hillary Clinton — go far beyond decrying specific acts of injustice. They basically condemn an entire class of people simply for possessing wealth. And, they encourage those who are poor to overthrow them. In fact, Clinton once said the U.S. economy required a "toppling" of the wealthiest 1%.

The rich are not causing all the problems in American society. People like Bill Gates are not acquiring wealth by stealing from the masses. They're creating great products, which produce wealth, and actually provide jobs for many people. But, even if they were exploiting the poor, nowhere does Scripture support the have-nots demanding money from the haves. Instead, it teaches that we should not covet (Exodus 20:17) and should be content in all circumstances (Phil. 4:11-13).

5. Socialism Seeks to Destroy Marriage & Family

A little known fact about socialism is that, from its beginning, it has sought to destroy marriage and family. Grove City Professor Paul Kengor explains this in detail in his book, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Marriage and Family. Essentially, what socialism seeks is for the state to replace the family. That way, it can indoctrinate children in its Leftist way of thinking, and remove from them any notions of God and religion.

Friedrich Engels, co-author with Marx of the "The Communist Manifesto," once wrote that the society he envisioned would be one where "the single family ceases to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is transformed into a social industry. The care and education of the children becomes a public affair."

Similarly today, Bernie Sanders calls for a "revolution" in childcare and for the government to provide early childhood education beginning with children as young as six-weeks-old. And, he's a proud supporter of gay marriage — what Kengor calls "communism's Trojan Horse" to secure the final takedown of traditional marriage.

To socialists, what Bernie describes is a utopia. But, to Christians, it's a dystopia. That's because there's nothing Christian about socialism — and there's absolutely no way Jesus would ever support it.


Julie Roys is a speaker, freelance journalist and blogger at She also is the host of a national radio program on the Moody Radio Network called, Up For Debate. Julie and her husband live in the Chicago suburbs and have three children

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

I Find Myself in a Levite Priest Named 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. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

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)