Monday, December 30, 2019

Would Jesus Carry a Gun with Him to Church?

Shooting at West Freeway Church of Christ, Dec. 29, 2019
That's the question I read on Twitter yesterday.

"Would Jesus carry a gun with Him to church services?"

It was posted by a person who thought it odd that churchgoers pulled out concealed weapons and shot and killed an armed assailant during church services yesterday near Forth Worth, Texas.

The gunman had already killed one person and was turning his weapon to kill or maim others when church attendees jumped up, pulled out their concealed weapons, and shot and killed the armed assailant.

Dozens could have died without the churchgoers intervening.

I found the question posed about Jesus carrying a gun to church sincere but stupid.

Jesus wouldn't need a gun. He could stop a bullet by fiat without Smith & Wesson's help.

But we're not Jesus.

That's why we have a volunteer armed security team composed of men and women with communication devices and concealed weapons stationed at every entrance and every worship service at Emmanuel Enid.

Jesus doesn't need to carry a gun with Him to church services.

But we do.

That's also why we have defibrillators on every floor and building of our church.

Jesus can raise the dead by declaration, but we need a defibrillator to assist us.

But guns? Why guns at church?

Because of what Jesus taught us:
"But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me--it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. " (Mark 9:42, Holman Christian Standard Bible)
I counted at least a dozen children in the photo above. I am going to update Mark 9:42 with a modern translation.
"But whoever walks into a church to take down one of these little ones who believe in Me - it would be better for him if a Smith & Wesson .45 took him down immediately than to harm one of My little ones." (Mark 9:42, Wade Burleson Translation)
Law-abiding citizens in Chicago and New York are scared of guns. People in Oklahoma and the south grew up with guns. We're not scared to carry them concealed. That's why criminals think twice about taking property, harming people, and committing various other felonious crimes in Oklahoma, more so than in Illinois or New York.

Never measure a person's Christianity by whether he or she carries a concealed weapon to protect others.

If a few teachers had guns at Sandy Hook Elementary, maybe things would have been different.

If church members at West Freeway Church of Christ had no weapons yesterday at church, things definitely would have been different.

So, would Jesus carry a gun with Him to church?


But thank God some of His followers do.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Artificial Division Between Secular and Sacred

Santa at Emmanuel Enid
Like most 501 C-3 religious organizations that identify as "Christian churches," Emmanuel Enid does some things that are not necessarily proscribed by the Bible, but neither are they prohibited by the Bible.

For example, this past Sunday we had a photo opportunity for families with one of our pastors (David Camp) posing as Santa Claus. There were a few who wondered about the appropriateness of having Santa on the premises.

It's only a problem if people consider Santa Claus "sinful" (as did the Puritans). I'm ambivalent about Saint Nicholas. Being familiar with the original St. Nick, the modern version is a little silly to me, but cute if you have young children or grandchildren in the family.

As another example, we will occasionally play what Christians call "secular" songs for our announcement slides during the pre-service.

Some followers of Jesus might be "shocked" to think that a "church" would play "secular" music.

Most of those who are shocked have created an artificial separation between "the sacred" and "the secular."

Since Christians are the church, whenever a follower of Jesus enters any building, the presence of God is there.

There are some unique advantages for not seeing any division between secular and sacred.

Several months ago we noticed very few people were paying attention to the pre-service announcement videos.

So one Sunday, we experimented a little and played the song Let It Go from the movie Frozen to underscore the announcements.

An amazing thing happened. The instant Let It Go began playing, every child under 14 looked up at the screen and began paying attention to the announcement of a new AWANA children's program we were launching.

Maybe the artificial division between "church" (the sacred) and life ("the secular") put the kids to sleep while at church. 

Since then, we've been known to occasionally play Pharrell Williams' song "Happy" from the movie Despicable Me, or the Imagine Dragons song "I'm on Top of the World," or CeeLo and the Muppets song "All I Need Is Love." For the adults, we'll even throw in some Christmas music from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

I received a letter from a church member who asked some excellent questions about playing "secular" music in "church." Another person who watches our services online also wrote and asked similar things.

A summary of their queries include:
 (1). What about character of the artist that is singing?
(2). What about other songs that the artist may sing? 
(3). Though 'secular' music is enjoyed by all, should a 'secular' song be played in a sacred church service?
I responded with the following email.
Thanks for your kind email. I agree with you that the lives of some of the artists (including Pharrell Williams) don't always reflect Christian character. In addition, OTHER songs that the artist sings don't always reflect Christian values. We agree.
However, we think you'll find that many Christian artists have the same issues. Not always do Christian artists' lives reflect Christian character. In addition, there are SOME songs that are sung by Christian artists that we would not agree with theologically.
Nevertheless, our disagreement with the artist's OTHER songs doesn't necessarily mean we can't express agreement in the message of some of their songs.
Finally, it's our desire to not separate the 'secular' from the 'spiritual' (or sacred)."
Personally, we believe  in life and all life is spiritual - even when a Christian is listening to country music. We want people to feel that what you do in a church building is no different than what you do in a truck or car.
So if it's fine to listen to some country music in your car, it would be fine to listen to that same country music in a church building.
With that said, I'd suggest you offer us a country song that we can choose to play in the pre-service portion of our worship service for December or January.
We do go over the words of songs very carefully and discuss what is being said before the song is approved. If we feel there is something in the song that does not reflect our 'values' or mission statement, then the song will not be played.
I hope that answers your question!
I'd like to focus one phrase I used in the above email: - "It's our desire to not separate the 'secular' from the 'spiritual' (or sacred)."

The word 'sacred' comes from the Latin "to make holy." It is the root word for 'sacrament' which is something that 'is made holy' by a priest's blessing. To the religious crowd of the Middle Ages, the sacred was segmented from the profane (Latin: "before the fence"). Contrary to the New Testament teaching that the ekklesia is the body of Christ, and wherever we go, Christ is, Christians in the Middle Ages began to compartmentalize their lives.

The 'sacred' things they did occurred 'inside the fence' of the church (building) and everything else they did (outside the fence - i.e. 'profane') was NOT sacred. So, in the mind of a Christian during the Middle Ages, he could do things outside of 'church' that he would never consider doing 'inside' a church (building).

We think that divide between secular and sacred is artificial. Our belief, which we believe is biblical and inspired of the Spirit, is that if it is okay for a believer in Jesus Christ to listen to music outside a church building, then its okay for a believer in Jesus Christ to listen to the same music inside the church building.

Our kids listen to the music from Frozen.  Our members work out at the YMCA with Happy playing loudly as they lift weights. Our radio stations will play constantly All I Need Is Love this Christmas season, sung by Ceelo and the Muppets. If we aren't offended with the songs outside the church building, then there's no reason to be offended with them inside the church building.

We are the church.

We live life, and the presence of Christ in us makes this life very special.

As Michael Stewart eloquently writes:
Many people (wrongly) view their lives as divided into separate, unrelated parts. There are the parts that some view as secular, such as work, hobbies and recreation. These parts occur outside a sacred place, such as a church, and therefore are not related, in their minds, to faith. Then there are parts that are usually identified with a sacred place. A subtle dualism has developed among many people that divorces the sacred from anything that is considered secular.
Living out one's faith should be a natural overflow of the soul-stream within. Faith is interwoven into life, not reduced to a mere Sunday ritual. The principles of the Bible guide decisions, plans and actions.
This understanding of the unity of the sacred and the secular means, for the believer, nothing is secular. Everything one does, thinks or feels has something to do with God. The Bible presents a challenge: "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).
The challenge is to live in the fullness of this unity. The marketplace and the church hold opportunities to fight the dualism of thought and live as a whole person for God.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Christianity Today and Poor Judgment in Timing

President Donald Trump. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Abraham Wright and I are beginning a new podcast in 2020. Yesterday, we went through a dry run.

The podcast will be organic and raw as we respond with unrehearsed answers to spontaneous questions from our listeners.

The question yesterday was, "My seven-year-old just died of cancer. He had never made a profession of faith and had never been baptized. Will my seven-year-old son be in hell for eternity."

Without going into details, suffice it to say I refused to answer the woman's question. 

Instead, I expressed my sympathy, told her that I did not believe now was either the time or place to discuss the eternity of judgment. I promised our prayerful, financial, and emotional support in the days ahead for her and her family.

Only dogmatists speak without consideration of timing. 

Yesterday, Christianity Today spoke out about President Trump in an article entitled He Should Be Removed from Office.

The timing of the magazine's article is curious.

Our country is built on the rule of law. The Constitution of the United States requires the House of Representatives to send Articles of Impeachment to the United States Senate for a trial for removal of the President.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is refusing to send the Articles of Impeachment to the U.S. Senate.

President Trump's political opponents believe he will be found innocent by trial.

The rule of law is not being followed in the impeachment process. The Constitutional requirement for a Senate trial is being ignored for political gain.

Even if the moral convictions of Christianity Today are just and right, it is more prudent for the magazine to properly and rightly judge the times. Wait to speak out until the process of law has run its due course.

My respect for Christianity Today has been diminished.

And most dogmatists consider me a liberal.

In reality, I'm a libertarian who believes the rule of law is more important than politics.

I have many Christian friends who can't stand President Donald Trump. I have many Christian friends who love President Donald Trump.

I just returned from Nuremberg. I know World War II history. I'm quite familiar with the background of Adolph Hitler.

Americans must realize it is more Hitler-esque to skirt the rule of law and demand by fiat the removal from office of political opponents than it is to follow the Constitution.

Put me on the side of liberty.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Tulsa Race Massacre and the Southern Baptists

"If the treatment of the Negro by the Christian Church is called 'divine,' this is an attack on the conception of God more blasphemous than any which the church has always been so ready and eager to punish." W.E.B. Du Bois
HBO Television Show "Watchmen" Recreating the Tulsa Riot
It saddens me to report that archaeologists announced yesterday that they believe they've found a mass grave in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Actually, they may have found two mass graves; one in Oaklawn Cemetery and one at The Canes, a stretch of land by the 11th Street Bridge.

On Memorial Day, May 31, 1921, and on Tuesday, June 1, 1921, whites massacred between 37 and 300 blacks in the Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, (see the 2001 official government report), with 35 city blocks of Greenwood, America's "Black Wall Street," leveled to the ground.

Familiarize yourself with the Tulsa Race Massacre with this superb timeline from the Tulsa World. The massacre has been called "the single worst incident of racial violence in American history."

The Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma after the massacre
There's no way of knowing how many blacks lost their lives. In addition to white men and women walking the streets with weapons, killing blacks in cold blood, private planes piloted by whites flew overhead and dropped nitro-glycerin bombs, indiscriminately killing men, women, and children.

Authorities gathered bodies in the clean-up and buried them in mass graves.

Some white southern Baptist leaders were involved in the riot, the massacre, the cover-up, and the
burials. So were white southern Methodists. So were white southern Presbyterians.

I feel like a piece of me is buried in those mass graves.

I was pastor of a white southern Baptist congregation in Holdenville, Oklahoma (1982-1987).
I was pastor of a white southern Baptist congregation in Tulsa, Oklahoma (1987-1992).
I was President of the mostly white southern Baptist Convention of Oklahoma (2002-2004).

Site of a Mass Grave (Tulsa World photograph)
I no longer live in Tulsa, but I have vivid memories of walking the streets of Greenwood District in downtown Tulsa. Several times I've gone to Oaklawn to officiate funerals.

I've been in the Brady Theater in the Greenwood District for concerts, one of the only surviving buildings of the riot. I've walked on the grassy piece of land near the 11th Street Bridge in Tulsa.

And the bodies of those unnamed murder victims were under my feet.

And white "Christians" massacred them.

Until the last few years, I was mostly ignorant of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Oh sure, members of the church I served in Tulsa would periodically mention it, but it was mostly in hushed tones. I don't fault them for not talking; I fault myself for not asking.

Robert Moats Miller, in his superb paper entitled The Attitudes of American Protestantism Toward the Negro (1919-1939), reminds us:
"There is in truth a vast gulf between ancient Christian creeds and actual Protestant deeds."
During the next 18 months, I will be writing about some and their Southern Baptists' involvement in the Tulsa Race Riot and its aftermath.

W.J. McGlothlin
W.J. McGlothlin, became President of the Southern Baptist Convention in June 1930, less than a decade after the Tulsa Race Riot.

Dr. McGlothlin was appointed chair of the Department of Church History at Southern Seminary in 1906. Greek scholar A.T. Robertson called Dr. McGlothlin "the finest communicator on the faculty."  He wrote several well-received books, including one entitled Baptist Confessions of Faith.

A champion of doctrinal orthodoxy, Dr. McGlothlin believed in the segregation of the races.

As President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. McGlothlin refused to attend a banquet given in his honor by the Rochester, New York, Baptist Association. The chairman of the banquet, Dr. James E. Rose, was the moderator of the Rochester Baptist Association.

Dr. Rose was black.

The President of the Southern Baptist Convention refused to attend the banquet because Dr. Rose was in a position of leadership, and he was a black man.

Apparently a Rose by any other color is no brother.

There may be some who say it's unfair to point out the past sins of the Southern Baptist Convention. But I do so because there are modern parallels.

A 2019 SBC pastor mocking women teachers with a GIF

Today's treatment of women by certain Southern Baptist leaders carry many similarities to Southern Baptists' treatment of blacks during the 1920s:
1. The exclusion, segregation, and domination of women is justified by misinterpretation of the Scriptures, similar to the manner in which Southern Baptists of the 1920s justified their treatment of blacks by pointing to the Old Testament Jewish exclusion of, segregation from, and domination over other races. 
2. Self-professed Southern Baptist leaders, or those desiring SBC leadership, write doctrinal tomes on why their position of male spiritual superiority is biblical, similar to the Southern Baptist predominate teaching of the 1920s that white superiority is biblical
3. Not all Southern Baptists in the 2020s believe in the exclusion of gifted Christian women from leadership, nor did all Southern Baptists believe in the exclusion of and segregation from minority ethnic groups in the 1920s.  
Leading up to the 2021 Centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, I will be writing about the danger of Southern Baptist silence on important issues of our Christian faith.

One  hundred years from now, if the Lord tarries, I do not wish anyone to accuse all Southern Baptists of placing our Christian women in spiritual mass graves during the 2020s.

Start asking questions.

More to come...

Saturday, December 14, 2019

What Standard? Founders Flounder over Authority

I spent two hours watching the new documentary By What Standard? published by Founders Ministries.

Before I critique a couple of unfortunate statements in this film, I wish to express my prayer for Tom Ascol, leader of Founders Ministries, for a full recovery from his recent medical episode.

I believe, like those who lead the Founders Ministries, that Scripture is God's infallible, revealed word to mankind. I believe, like they, that Scripture is the sole guide of faith and practice for followers of Jesus Christ.

However, I have a fundamental disagreement with Tom Ascol and others in the Founders Ministries. They hold to a Reformed Presbyterian view of covenant theology which teaches that God established a Covenant of Works in the Garden of Eden with the first Adam, and then entered into a Covenant of Grace with the last Adam (Jesus Christ).

Without getting into the technicalities of Reformed Covenant theology, those who hold to it believe that the Hebrew Scriptures are as binding on followers of Jesus in terms of "faith and practice" as they are to the Jews of ancient days and to orthodox Jews today.

But followers of Jesus have a New Lawgiver, and His name isn't Moses.
While Peter was speaking to the other disciples (about Moses and Elijah), a cloud enveloped them, and they were afraid to enter the cloud. And a voice from the cloud came, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him." Luke 9:35. 
The authors of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message understood the clear and present distinction between the Law of the Old Covenant and the Law of Christ.
"The sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is Jesus Christ whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures...the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ." (Introduction and Section I: The Scriptures, 1963 BFM)
The above two statements were strangely and sadly removed from the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

There is a clear distinction and separation between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. There is a fundamental difference between the faith and practice of a Jew in ancient Israel (Old Testament days) and the faith and practice of a follower of Jesus since the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who fulfilled the Law and then abrogated it.

All the promises of God made to His people in the Old Covenant were conditional upon the obedience of the Jews, but all the promises of God made to His people in the New Covenant are "YES in Christ, and Amen (it is so!)" because Christ is the fulfillment of the Law (II Corinthians 1:20).

In Christ, everything changes.

Whereas only male priests served in the Old Testament Temple, in the church, both males and females ARE the Temple of the Living God (I Corinthians 3:16).

Christ builds His church (us), and He gifts His people (us) with specific gifts, never using "gender" as a prerequisite for His gifting.  In the New Testament, the gifting of service (deacon), teaching (teacher), pastoring (pastor), elder (wisdom), evangelizing (evangelist), or any other Christ-bestowed gift is never restricted to only those with male genitalia, or to only those who are rich, or to only those of a certain ethnicity.
"For 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). 
We are one body, gifted as Christ the Authority pleases.
We are one building, gifted as Christ the Architect designs

But the Founders flounder over spiritual authority.

Like good Orthodox Jews who believe in the Hebrew Scriptures, those books that we Christians call The Old Testament, but Jews call The Tanakh, Tom Ascol and the Founders seemingly join with Orthodox Jews and pray at least two of the three Jewish blessings for themselves every morning:
“Blessed are you O God, King of the Universe, Who has not made me a goy [Gentile], a slave, and a woman.”
Jesus ended that Old Covenant with the Jews and made all things new - radically new.

Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18).

There is only one Teacher with authority in the church: Jesus Christ. Listen to Him.

But Tom Ascol and the Founders believe that men possess spiritual authority over women and children. They believe that male pastors have spiritual authority in the church and that they are called to spiritually rule over people.  This "ruling over" other people is fulfilled by declaring God's will to others, for they alone (male pastors) have this so-called spiritual authority. Thus, according to these authority addicts, any Christian woman who is teaching, preaching, shepherding, evangelizing, (e.g. fulfilling the call of God by exercising her gifts) is breaking God's Rules in God's World (the subtitle of the film), for only men are to have spiritual authority over others.

In summary, Tom Ascol and the Founders say that women who teach, preach, or evangelize men are violating God's "chain of command." And any denomination or convention that allows women in leadership are "sinning" by breaking "God's rules."

But many Bible-believing, Christ-honoring, gifted teachers in the body of Christ disagree with Tom and the Founders.

Read what Ray Steadman had to say about authority among Christians.
There is no command structure in Christianity.
Authority among Christians is not derived from the same source as worldly authority, nor is it to be exercised in the same manner. The world's view of authority places men over one another, as in a military command structure, a business executive hierarchy, or a governmental system. This is as it should be. Urged by the competitiveness created by the Fall of the human race, and faced with the rebelliousness and ruthlessness of sinful human nature, the world could not function without the use of command structures and executive decision making.
But as Jesus carefully and clearly stated, "it shall not be so among you." Disciples are always in a different relationship to one another than are the "worldlings," those who are outside of the church. Christians are brothers and sisters, children of one Father and members of one another in the body of Christ. Jesus put it clearly in Matthew 23:8, "You have one teacher, and you are all brethren."
Throughout twenty centuries, the church has virtually ignored these words. Probably with the best of intentions, it has repeatedly borrowed the authority structures of the world, changed the names of executives from kings, generals, captains, presidents, governors, secretaries, heads and chiefs to popes, patriarchs, bishops, stewards, deacons, pastors and elders, and gone merrily on its way, lording it over the brethren and destroying the model of servanthood which our Lord intended.
In most churches today, an unthinking acceptance has been given to the idea that the pastor is the final voice of authority in both doctrine and practice, and that he is the executive officer of the church with respect to administration. But surely, if a pope over the whole church is bad, a pope in every church is no better!
According to Tom Ascol and the Founders, God forbidding women to teach, to preach, to evangelize, to shepherd men "is not unclear, it's just unpopular" (13:10 in the video).

Sorry, Tom. It may be clear in your mind, but it's just as clear in my mind that you are mishandling the Scriptures. You and the Founders flounder over authority.

In Conclusion:

My friend Dwight McKissic is in  the video at minute fifteen. Dwight speaks about the inconsistency of the Southern Baptist Convention sending Lottie Moon to China to preach, teach, and evangelize men and women overseas, but now the SBC is seeking to prevent women like Beth Moore preaching to "white men" in America.

Dwight McKissic makes a valid point.

Tom Ascol comes in with his rebuttal to Dwight McKissic. Read carefully what Tom says (minute 16).
"I sat down with the Vice-President for Global Training of the International Mission Board and asked him about the policies of the IMB with regard to women serving as missionaries. I asked him specifically if we send women overseas to preach to men... and he said, 'Absolutely not....' The International Mission Board is operating on the basis of the Baptist Faith and Message which says, "The role of pastor is limited to qualified men." 
That is a classic "bait and switch" by Tom Ascol.

Tom starts talking about Dwight McKissic's illustration of Lottie Moon going to China to evangelize the Chinese - men, women, and children - by preaching (proclaiming) the gospel. That's the function of the missionary and the purpose for which Lottie Moon was sent as a missionary to China.

But Tom switches to talking about "the role of pastor."

Tom and the Founders are attempting to frame the debate around "pastors" and "pastoral authority" by defining the role or function of a pastor as being something "reserved for males." A member of the Founders also made a (failed) motion at the Southern Baptist Convention this year that "the function of a pastor is to be reserved for males." 

When I heard that motion at the 2019 SBC, I tweeted my response:

When all you care about is protecting authority, you must specifically define the function and role of the person in "authority" so guardians of the galaxy of authority will know when someone without "authority" gets too close to "authority."

It's a crazy game.

Tom Ascol proceeds in the film to call Dwight McKissic "dishonest" and says he is being "sinful" by talking about Lottie Moon preaching to men on the mission field. She never did, says Tom.

Tom needs to catch up on some reading. I realize that revisionists have pressured the IMB to say Lottie Moon went to evangelize only women and children...

But anyone who's read anything about Lottie Moon's ministry understands that she led men to Jesus Christ by preaching and proclaiming the gospel to men, women, and children.

Lottie Moon was gifted by Christ to teach others about the Kingdom.

But she's a woman. The Founders flounder over "spiritual authority," so Lottie Moon doesn't fit neatly into their narrative.

Neither does Joanna P. Moore (1832-1916), a Southern Baptist home missionary appointee (a single woman) who taught preachers about the sin of drunkenness.

I was a trustee of the International Mission Board. I know where views of inherent male authority over women leads, and it's not pretty (please pay attention to Number 4).

Tom Ascol and the Founders are on the losing end of this debate. They are unbiblical and illogical in their arguments, as well as infatuated with authority in their misjudgments.

I've written two books exposing the problem: Hardball Religion  and Fraudulent Authority.

If someone asks me, "Can women be in an office of pastoral authority over men?" I answer, "No."  But I also point out that neither can men be in an office of pastoral authority over women.

The entire problem is fraudulent authority of the pastor.

The only authority in the church is Jesus Christ and He dispenses gifts to His people, building His church, as He sees fit. He is the Head; we are His body.

At the eight minute, ten-second mark, Josh Buice makes this statement:
"When we talk about the abuse of women, I would go on the record stating that if we ask a woman to do something spiritually that God did not intend her to do, that's abuse." 
Tom responded to Josh:
"That's abuse. That's a great point."
Gentlemen, you might want to consider this statement:
"When we talk about the abuse of women, if we prevent a woman from doing something spiritually that God has gifted her to do, that's abuse." 
As my great-grandfather used to say, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it."

More to come. 

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Silence Those Who Disagree and Lose Your Liberty

The far left and the far right of political, religious, and cultural movements both attempt to suppress dissent.

Those in power fall into the trap of believing that silencing  minority opinions is somehow beneficial.

But silence those who disagree and it's only a matter of time before citizens of a country, members of a church, or inhabitants of a culture lose their liberty.

Let me give you an example.

In 1950, Immanuel Velikovsky, a polymath student and friend of both Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein, wrote a book called Worlds in Collision.

Velikovsky used documentation from the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Hebrews to explain how volcanoes formed mountain ranges, massive meteoric showers destroyed entire civilizations, and oceanic tidal waves flooded areas of the earth on a regular basis in relatively recent human history (e.g. 2200 BC, 1500 BC, 650 BC).

Velikovsky wrote that all the ancient Greek and Roman legends have their heroes revolve around Jupiter (Greek: Zeus), the god of  "sky and thunder," as well as Saturn, Venus, and Mars, because these planets passed close to earth during early recorded human history on their way to their current planetary orbits. Velikovsky called these near celestial collisions Worlds in Collision.

According to Velikovsky, the ancient cataclysms are  described by religions and people groups across the globe, including the Hebrews in their Scriptures.

An evolutionist himself, Velikovsky believed that mankind is in amnesia about these cataclysms. He writes:
"The agitation and trepidation preceding global upheavals, the destruction and despair that accompanied them and the horror of possible repetition all caused a variety of reactions, at the base of which was the need to forget, but also the urge to emulate."-                                                                                                          Immanuel Velikovsky
When MacMillan Company first published Worlds in Collision in 1950, the radical left of the scientific and academic communities went ballistic. They organized boycotts of university textbooks published by McMillan, forcing the company to transfer publishing rights of Worlds in Collision to another company. The academic intelligentsia personally blackballed Velikovsky, calling him a pseudo-scientist at best, and a quack at worst.

Velikovsky's belief that the earth has been through massive upheavals in mankind's recent past is directly contradictory to steady-state evolutionist theories of academia.

As a result of these intimidating tactics against Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky by the radical left, there has been a loss of true open and frank dialogue with dissenting scholars in our higher education system in America.

In other words, American universities are no longer free.

Faculty, students, and researchers must hold to the leftist party line of those in power.

However, the left has no monopoly on silencing dissent.

Charlemagne (AD 748-814), a "Christian" king and first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, massacred thousands who refused to be "baptized" as a Christian.

Adolph Hitler, following the example of Charlemagne, purged Germany of anyone not Christian and not German. Hitler desired a Third Reich (Empire) of German rule. In the 1930s, the Nazis held official book burning ceremonies to eradicate any publication that offered an alternative view to the principle of blood purity, nationalism, and German colonial expansion.

Radical Muslims today are killing infidels, silencing anyone who opposes their attempt to establish a world-wide caliphate.

But listen carefully. There are some liberty-loving, kind and caring Muslims who oppose the far right radicalism of Islamic fundamentalism.

Read for yourself what these peace-loving Muslims say.

I have many friends who are Muslim. I don't agree with their religion, but I support them in their attempts to publish their dissenting opinions. What no lover of liberty can accept, and my Muslim friends agree, are the intimidation tactics against those who disagree.

Rachelle in the Christmas Market of Nuremberg (white hat)
Rachelle and I were standing this past week in the Christmas Market in the historic downtown square of Nuremberg, Germany, drinking coffee by a warm fire, when a nice German woman asked my wife what she thought of Donald Trump.

I noticed a young German man standing next to the fire, warming his hands, watching my wife very intently as she told the woman that she liked Donald Trump as President, particularly his economic business policies, and she would vote for him again. She also said she wished our President wouldn't do and say some of the stupid things that he has said and done, but she feels he's been good for the economy of the United States.

As the young man listened to my wife, he didn't blink. He stared. You could tell he was angry. Then, in a very intimidating voice, he said something to my wife that made our spirits grow as cold as our hands.

We left the center of Nuremberg and realized that our world is filled with radicals, both left and right, who wish to silence those who disagree with them.

The young German man who rebuked my wife was a radical political liberal. He couldn't stand the thought of my wife's opinion being expressed out loud. He attempted to silence through intimidation someone with whom he disagreed.

The radicals on the right do it. The radicals on the left do it.

I left Nuremberg with a renewed resolved to defend everyone's freedom to speak, write, and believe whatever they wish.

Velikovsky, a close friend of Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, became the target of a coordinated campaign to blackball him and his writings from the leftist intelligentsia in power.

The Velikovsky Affair is something that I've studied for over a decade, and it's given to me three insights into today's political, religious, and cultural conflicts:
1. If either the right or the left uses bullying tactics to intentionally silence dissenting  opinions, it's incumbent on me to resist those in power and defend the minority's right to speak, even if I don't hold to the minority opinion. 
2. University scholars, religious clergy, and national party leaders must be regularly reminded how fragile any institution is unless free and open discussion takes place, which includes the toleration and protection of those who espouse dissenting viewpoints.  
3. Any authoritative demand for absolute  conformity ends in the loss of liberty for all individuals and the eventual collapse of the institutions themselves.
Let freedom ring!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Happiness Doesn't Just Happen and the Holidays

I recently received a letter from a man serving time in prison for a white collar crime he committed. After being sent to prison, a friend gave this businessman a copy of my book Happiness Doesn't Just Happen.

A portion of man’s letter to me is reprinted below. Though my book is now "Out of Print" from the original publishers. I am re-issuing it through Istoria Ministries with a new Foreword for Happiness Doesn't Just Happen. The book contains a few study questions at the end of each chapter for small groups.

If you have a Kindle Unlimited account, you can read it for free. Or, you can purchase the ebook for $3.95 and the new paperback for $8.95. Some book dealers offer the paper book (used) for a much higher price, so make sure you only get the low-cost new paperback on Amazon.

The man’s letter begins with some personal background, and then he writes the following:
"As you might expect, when a man is in prison for a specific sentence, whether he wants to or not, he dwells on his progress toward his release. Then, when something happens to make him doubt the D.O.C.'s (Department of Correction's) calculations, it can really become overwhelming...this is where I've been.
I have been corresponding with a friend for a while now, and he occasionally sends me "Care Packages." I received one this past weekend and there was a copy of your book Happiness Doesn't Just Happen." The timing was perfect. It had to be God's timing. 
God has given me periods of peace in my misery, but nothing really took hold and stayed with me. I would read the Scriptures that dealt with waiting on the Lord. I reminded myself over and over that God's timing is perfect and that He controls my destiny, but it just wasn't sticking - that is, until I read your book Happiness Doesn't Just Happen. It jerked me out of my misery and brought me happiness. 
Wade, praise God, He has used this book to completely change my outlook. Your book has opened my eyes to the grace of God to the point that I told my wife I am going to read it over and over until I can't forget it. Now that I see it, I don't want to lose it. I have read other books by notable Christian authors, but second to the Scriptures, your book has spoken to me more than any of the others. 
This may shock you, but I am actually glad to be in prison now. He has allowed me to see many things I had not seen or understood before. Your book has been a major part of this process.
Thank you for being obedient in writing the book. Thank you for writing true to Scripture. Thank you for helping me work through difficult times."
I can't thank of a better recommendation for Happiness Doesn't Just Happen

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

I Am So Grateful for God's Transformational Power

Every Thanksgiving I like to express my gratefulness for being in a ministry where I get to observe God's transforming power.

On this Thanksgiving, I tell you Jim's story, with his permission, because it illustrates why Kingdom focus is so important for every Christian.

Church is who we are, not what we do. 

The Lord calls us to be transformational, not comfortable.

Salt and light, that's who we are. Good News, that's what we share.

Yet, too often, we pastors are more interested in pleasing people and making budgets than we are in pleasing God and making disciples.

It was ten years ago that Jim first came to see me at Emmanuel Enid.

Jim told me he didn't wish to live. He wanted to die. Every day he'd get out of bed and tell his wife, "Today's the day I'm going to kill myself."  

His threats were real. 

Jim had attempted suicide seven times. When you know his story, you understand why. He only came to see me at the request of his wife.

Jim recounted his life for me at that first meeting. 

He was beaten by his mother beginning at the age of 3. Not spanked; beaten. The physical abuse intensified over the years.

At age 12, after his mother caught him at an R-rated movie, Jim was told to remove his pants and underwear and bend over the kitchen counter. 

His mother removed Jim's metal three-pronged belt from his pants, and she proceeded to beat him with the metal end on his bare buttocks.

She told Jim she would keep beating him until he cried. "I'd been beaten so much by her I was determined to die before I cried," Jim told me.

The beating didn't stop until Jim's older sister finally intervened and grabbed the belt out their mother's hands. 

Enraged that her pre-puberty son had not yet cried, Jim's mother yelled, "You two clean up this mess."

It took more than an hour to clean Jim's spattered blood spots from the floors, countertops, and ceilings.

The physical abuse was nothing compared to the sexual abuse.

From age 8 to age 11, an older male cousin repeatedly sexually violated Jim. Unless you've experienced sexual abuse, it's difficult to imagine the soul-crushing agony. 

After the physical abuse in the kitchen, Jim's mother realized she could no longer control him through physical abuse. So Jim's mother began enticing him sexually.

It would be inappropriate for me to detail how Jim's mom sexually abused him, but Jim's psychosis began around the time he grappled with why his drug-addicted mother crossed over from inflicting physical pain to demanding sexual pleasure.

At the age of 13, Jim began to get in trouble with the law. The police arrested him for setting fires and other acts of vandalism. "I was arrested too many times to count," Jim told me.  

The fights were frequent and fierce. "I once put a boy in the ICU for bashing his head with a brick on our way home from school." Jim's anger was uncontrollable.

On those occasions he managed to suppress it and not express it, Jim plunged into deep depression. 

Jim turned to drugs and alcohol for relief but found none.

That's when he began to have actual mental breakdowns. "I've been institutionalized nine times. I've been diagnosed as bi-polar. All I know it's been difficult to even want to live." 

His suicide attempts were frequent and often the cause of his institutionalization.

Seven years ago, when I first heard Jim's story, my heart went out to him. Jim could barely look me in the eye. His voice was so quiet I strained to hear him.

I knew Jim was a wreck inside. I encouraged Jim as best I could. I recommended that Jim begin attending a new recovery program that Emmanuel Enid was beginning.

Jim did what I asked. He went to our new recovery program at Emmanuel. In a moment, I'll let Jim share in his own words how God transformed his life at Emmanuel Enid one Thursday night in 2009.

But first, fast forward with me to Thanksgiving week three years ago.

I went with Jim to a local mental health facility that Jim had been visiting every week.

Jim was no longer a patient at the facility. Jim went to minister to patients.

I listened as Jim shared his story of abuse, addiction, psychosis  and recovery through Jesus Christ to the patients in the mental health facility.

I watched the mental health patients listen intently as Jim shared his story. I mean, they really listened.

Jim captivated them with the message of God's grace in Jesus Christ. One man wore a shirt that said, "Nothing to fear, but the loss of beer." But in listening to these men as they conversed with Jim, I realized that they all feared so much more.

Many of them had been sexually abused like Jim. All of them faced addictions like Jim. These men connected with Jim because he was one of them; he was part of the walking wounded.

I too listened intently as Jim explained to the men in the mental health facility how he began attending Emmanuel Enid's recovery program at my request.

It was there that Jim experienced God's transforming power. 

Four weeks into the recovery program, participants are asked to pick an accountability partner. The recovery leader at the time asked everyone to stand and look around and find someone to be their accountability partner.

Jim shared with the mental health patients what happened next:
"I ran to the bathroom and hid," Jim told enraptured mental health patients. "I did what I always did. I withdrew. I decided while sitting on the floor of that bathroom to take my life that night. I resolved to kill myself. I washed my face and walked out of the bathroom."
All the people listening to Jim tell his story weren't even blinking. Jim continued, "That's when I saw two men in Emmanuel's recovery program standing there in the hall. They had seen me go into the bathroom. They were waiting for me.
'Jim,' they said, 'We want you to be our accountability partner. We love you.' They hugged me. It's the first time I can remember anyone ever hugging me. 
I cried all the way home. I thought to myself, 'If these men actually loved me, then maybe God could love me too."
I went home and told my wife, 'Honey, I don't know what happened tonight, but something's changed. I think I experienced the love of God. That night, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. I surrendered everything to Him; my life; my hurts, my hang-ups, and my habits. My recovery began."
There wasn't a dry eye in the room when Jim finished. 

Jim had touched them with his story.

As Jim was speaking, he looked his listeners in the eyes. As he shared, the hesitant, embarrassed man that was full of shame, the man I first met seven years earlier, was now gone.

God had transformed Jim. The Spirit of God now controlled him.

It was my privilege to pray with the mental health patients as we finished our time together. I couldn't help but get emotional as I prayed for Christ's power and love to transform these men's lives, just as He had transformed Jim's life.

The men all hugged Jim and me before we left.

As we were leaving the hospital I said, "Jim, it's absolutely amazing to see the impact you had on these men tonight. You are so totally transformed from the man I first talked to seven years ago."

Jim smiled and said, "We serve a very big God, don't we?"

As an adult, Jim didn't avoid the mom who'd inflicted so much pain. Christ gave him the power to love her, in spite of her sins. Jim's now aged mother recently sought forgiveness of Jim.

The power of God's grace in Jim has been seen in his ability to forgive.

When we walk the halls of the church building on Sundays, there are many people just like Jim who are walking with us.

They are unimpressed with outward appearances because everything inside them is falling apart.

I'm grateful to pastor a church who thinks about everything we do, with the primary focusing on being transformational rather than comfortable.

I'm grateful for friends like Jim who continually remind me that the grace of God makes us all "more than conquerors through Him who loves us."

I'm grateful that after four decades of vocational ministry, I'm finally learning that the measurement of a great ministry is the people whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ, not the number of people who wish to be comfortable in their church. 

I'm grateful that Jim, who after ten years of his own recovery, now heads up our Thursday night recovery program at Emmanuel Enid.

I'm grateful that Jim continues his weekly ministry at our local behavioral health unit, and that we are seeing some of them beginning to come to Emmanuel Enid. 

I'm so grateful today for God's transformational power.

Don't give up on that person you love.

God is in the business of changing lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!