Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The World's Last Night & Christ's Eternal Kingdom

I am a C.S. Lewis fan.

But I believe Lewis is guilty of one massive theological mistake. 

In his essay, The World's Last Night, C.S. Lewis focuses on Jesus' words in Mark 13:30 where Jesus declares:
 "Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.
"All these things" to which Jesus refers include  "the return of the Son of Man in clouds with great power and glory" (Mark 13:26).

The return of the Son of Man with great power and glory is the event that most evangelicals, including C.S. Lewis, identify as "The Second Coming of Jesus." That event, they say, is the time when Jesus comes to establish the eternal Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.

C.S. Lewis believed that Jesus made a mistake in the timing of His prediction to come again to establish His Kingdom on earth.

Jesus said in Mark 13:30 that His coming in glory and power to establish His eternal Kingdom would occur "before this generation passes away" (Mark 13:30).

C.S. Lewis believed Jesus truly expected to return to establish His Kingdom before the generation to whom He was speaking passed away. The reality, says Lewis, doesn't match the expectation, for the eternal Kingdom hasn't yet come.

A generation in Jesus' day was considered to be 40 years.  Jesus spoke the words in Mark 13:30 in AD 30, shortly before his death at Calvary. The fulfillment of Jesus coming in power to establish His eternal Kingdom means it must take place no later than AD 70.

C.S. Lewis writes in The World's Last Night:
"Say what you like," we shall be told, "the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.” It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.
I believe C.S. Lewis and most modern evangelicals make a massive theological mistake.

Jesus is not wrong by telling us He would come to establish the eternal Kingdom within a generation.

Rather, followers of Jesus, including C.S. Lewis, are wrong. 

Jesus established the eternal Kingdom in power and glory within a generation of His death, burial and resurrection.

The "last days" of the darkness of the old world were those days when Jesus ministered among the people during His public ministry. 
"From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the Kingdom is near" (Matthew 4:17). 
 At the cross, darkness enveloped the land at midday (Mark 15:33). For those who think the only "light" in the universe comes from the sun, I would encourage you to listen to Dr. Wallace Thornhill's brilliant explanation of The Electric Universe.

At the cross, God turned out the lights on darkness through the death of His Son (Colossians 2:14).

For 40 years after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Good News of life and real LIGHT through Jesus Christ went "to the Jews first, then the Gentiles" (Romans 1:16).
"We give thanks to the Father for He has qualified us to share in the inheritance of saints in LIGHT" (Colossians 1:12). 
The Father qualified us as members of the eternal Kingdom through the work of His Son, who is PREEMINENT in everything (Colossians 1:18).

40 is always the number of transition.

For 40 years (AD 30-AD 70), God's people lived in what the Bible calls "the last days" (Hebrews 1:2). Those years were "the last days" of the Old Covenant. This covenant with the Jewish people revolved around the Temple, ritual sacrifices, and a "come and see" religion. For 40 years, it was fading away. The time was coming for the official inauguration of the eternal Kingdom through a New Covenant.
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
After those days," says the Lord:
"I will put My laws into their minds,
And I will write them on their hearts.
And I will be their God,
And they shall be My people."
“And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen,
And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
For all will know Me,
From the least to the greatest of them."
“For I will be merciful to their iniquities,
And I will remember their sins no more.”
When Jesus said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsoleteBut whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. (Hebrews 8:10-13)
In AD 70, within a generation after His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus came in great power and glory to establish the eternal Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and King Jesus now is taking rule over the nations through the spreading of the Good News, which turns "swords into plowshares" (Isaiah 2:4). The gates of hell will not prevail.

The eternal Kingdom commenced at the cross when darkness descended and Christ died, and exploded in LIGHT when three days later Christ rose. The official "coronation" of the King of Kings took place when Jesus fulfilled His prediction of "coming in power and glory" to establish His Kingdom within a generation (AD 70).

The eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ continues to advance to this day and beyond through the spreading of the Good News to all the nations.

One day the Kingdom will be consummated, and Creation itself will experience the full effect of redemption (Romans 8:19-23), at the moment "the dead in Christ shall be raised" and that which is mortal puts on immortality, and that which is perishable shall become imperishable (I Corinthians 15:54)

Don't make the mistake of C.S. Lewis.

If you think you are only"waiting for something to come," then you'll miss out on what "now is." Our lives are to reflect the Kingdom principles of the King, not the Old Covenant principles of Israel.

A Kingdom church will look different than an Old Covenant church.

Jesus taught us that leadership in His Kingdom should be based upon our giftings, not our gender; our humility, not our hubris; our character, not our control; and our loving actions for others, not our lordship authority over others (see Matthew 20:25-28).

If you wish to know better the theological basis for why I believe there should be shared leadership among men and women in our homes,  our churches, and our societies, read this blog post again.

His Kingdom has commenced. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Five Striking Similarities Between Same Sex Church Leadership and the Union of Homosexual Marriage

God designed the marriage union to be between a biological female and a biological male.

God also designed churches to have shared leadership between men and women.

When men seek to rule over women and to keep gifted Christian females from shared leadership in the church, then church practice, church accommodation, and church outcomes are similar to those of same-sex marital unions.

In other words, there are striking similarities between same-sex leadership in churches and same-sex marriages in culture.  I'll share those similarities in a moment.

Speaking the truth in love never means I can't be friends with those who disagree with the truth I speak. "Jesus was a friend of sinners" (Luke 7:34).  I usually find that when friendships end, it's not because God's people can't love sinners. Rather, those doing something contrary to God's design don't like to be labeled "sinners."

I'm quite comfortable being any sinner's friend. My sins may be different from yours, but I trust that when you discover them, you can be my friend too!

Love is the mark of real Christianity (John 13:35). All of us are called to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). So, here goes my attempt to speak the truth in love.

The only proof needed that same sex marriage unions are "sin" - that is, contrary to God's design - is biological proof.

Two men can't procreate children. Two women can't procreate children.

It takes both a man and a woman to have a marriage the way God designs it.

Of course, two men can love each other. That's friendship, not marriage. Two women can love each other. That also is friendship, not marriage. Same-sex couples can even pleasure themselves sexually, but they can't procreate. To have children, things must be done to accommodate the fact that same-sex unions are non-productive biologically.

God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman.

I'm not attempting to take away homosexual couples' civil rights in employment, nor their civil access to health insurance, nor even civil recognition of their homosexual marriage.

I'm quite comfortable to live in a land of liberty, where all citizens are free to pursue their happiness as they deem fit. Any religion that seeks submission by force is no religion from God. 

The United States government isn't God. Our government hasn't the wisdom of God, the power of God, nor the eternality of God.

The U.S. government is designed to protect civil liberties, including the liberties of Christian men like me who call homosexual marriage a violation of God's design. My homosexual friends know that I love them. They'll never convince me homosexual marriage is designed by God. But on the other hand, it's never my desire to force them to live like me.

But what if a civilly recognized same-sex married couple seeks membership or leadership at the congregation of faith that I lead?  Will they be able to become members and/or leaders at my church  where we believe that a marriage union, as defined by God, is between one man and one woman?


In the same manner that an adulterous man or woman doesn't have the privilege of leading others,  a practicing same-sex couple doesn't have the privilege of leading others at our church. An attitude of  "I'll do what I want no matter what God designs" disqualifies from both membership and leadership.

Same-Sex Church Leadership Is a Similar Sin to Same-Sex Marital Union

Christ describes leadership in His Kingdom by spiritual gifting, not sexual gender; by humble character, not hubris control; by graceful persuasion of argument, not any given position of authority. 

Those who are older, both male and female (elders), who have exhibited the character of self-control, gentleness, love, and other qualities befitting a Christian leader (Titus 1:5-9) , are qualified to shepherd God's people. Note: The word translated "man" in Titus 1:6 is the Greek word 'tis' (anyone) not "arren" or "anr," the typical Greek words used for "man").

Women are called by God to share in leadership with men.

If your church leadership is all male, I propose to you that your men in leadership are battling the same sin in homosexual unions. Your church leaders are doing something contrary to God's design.

Now to the heart of the matter.

5 Striking Similarities Between Same-Sex Church Leadership and Homosexual Marriage

Each of the following similarities will be the subject of a post at a later time.

1. Both Selectively Use the Sacred Text.

Those who advocate same-sex marriage avoid texts that speak clearly about the unnatural nature of same-sex marriage (Romans 1:26-27). In a similar manner, those who advocate same-sex leadership in churches avoid texts that speak clearly about shared leadership in Christ's Kingdom (see this superb article by Marg Mowczko).

2. Both Separate Themselves from Those Who Disagree.

Those who advocate same-sex marriage separate from those who refuse to affirm their practice as normal and natural. In a similar manner, those Christian men who advocate same-sex leadership separate from those who refuse to affirm their practice of same-sex leadership as normal, natural, and biblical.

3. Both Reproduce with Surrogates, not Naturally

Those who advocate same-sex marriage can't have children without others' help. So too, those men who practice same-sex leadership can't grow a church without women's help - but they tell them it's best they not lead, just be a surrogate for their leadership; a reproduction of spiritual life that is as unnatural as the physical life which comes from a homosexual union.

4. Both Focus More on Comfortable Delights than the Creator's Designs

Those who advocate same-sex marriage think "God has to be behind something that feels so good," just like those who advocate same-sex leadership in churches think "God has to be behind our all-male elder board because we work so well together."

5. To Change Behavior, Both Must Subdue Personal Desires to God's Design.

There is personal pleasure, personal satisfaction, and personal delight in a homosexual union, just as there is among those involved in same-sex church leadership. It's always more comfortable to be in control and to rule over others than it is to follow the Spirit and let Him lead. God's design is for men and women to marry, and for gifted men and women to lead. To change behaviors, those comfortable living in same-sex union, as well as those comfortable living in same-sex leadership, must subdue personal desires to God's design.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Confessions of a Christian Deconstructionist Pastor

I love Jesus.

Because I love Jesus,  I love His people, for God is love (I John 4:8).

Sometimes, in an attempt to proclaim the blessings of the Redeemer and to prevent the bondage of religion, I've deconstructed religious practices and traditions to the neglect of love.

I feel the need to confess my sin.

To the Christian Men Who Keep Women Subservient 

I realize that you love Jesus. I comprehend that you believe the Scriptures to teach that men should lead and rule, and women should serve and submit.

In my zeal to proclaim the real truth of the Gospel, I have sometimes unintentionally framed my arguments in ways that make you out to be the enemy.

You are not my enemy. You love Jesus. You love the Scriptures.

You're my brother.

You're just wrong in your interpretation of Kingdom leadership.

You don't yet see that in the New Covenant, leadership is always based on humility, not hubris; gifting, not gender; and character, not control.

Please forgive me for my zeal, passion, and often unwise deconstruction of your platforms.

You love Jesus. I know you do. You're just misguided. You misinterpret the Scriptures, and too often, I present you as an enemy.

You are my brother in Christ.

To those Christian Ministers Who Place Personal Kingdom Above Christ's Kingdom

To those who have used the institutional church and its ministries to advance a personal need to be recognized and praised, I seek your forgiveness.

Too many times I've assumed your motives. I've seen your work. I've observed your actions. Unfortunately, too often, I've gone to motive.

Only God knows the heart.

I desire for Christ's Kingdom to be preeminent.

I dislike personal agendas, personal kingdoms, and personal insecurities that translate into "ministry" designed to produce personal praise rather than Kingdom progress.

But in my zeal for the Kingdom, I sometimes push too much.

I seek your forgiveness.

You are my brother in  Christ.

To the Christian Ministries that Place Tradition above Transformation

Sometimes the "traditions of religion" become the center of my cross-hairs without consideration for the shrapnel.

Traditions are not troubling per se.

When I sense the transformation of sinners' characters taking a back seat to the traditions of saints' comforts, I sometimes come across too strong.

I seek forgiveness.

At times, I think deconstruction is needed.

At times, I think deconstruction has gone too far.

We are all on the same side.

Christ reigns.

His Kingdom rules.

We do much better joining as brothers than separating as enemies.

You are my brothers.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Dogs Walking on Hind Legs and Women Preaching

"A woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” (Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, English writer).

"It is no harder for a woman to teach a mixed audience than to only women when one gets used to it. For there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Jesus Christ." (Miss Abbie M. Colby, Missionary to Osaka, Japan, as quoted in Life and Light for Woman, March, 1888, p. 87).

In our day, when some evangelical Christians hear women preach, they feel like Samuel Johnson did almost 200 years ago.They're surprised, and they don't like it.

Allow me to introduce you to Frances Elizabeth Willard (1839-1898).

The famous evangelist, D.L. Moody (1837-1899) supported Frances E. Willard (1839-1898) in her pioneering attempts to change laws that forbade women from voting in public elections. After working with Willard on suffrage, Moody learned of Willard's ability to "walk on her hind feet" (e.g. "preach").

Moody believed in Willard's spiritual gift to proclaim the Word of God so much that he invited her to join him in his itinerant work as a fellow preacher. After traveling with Moody, preaching from pulpits across America, Frances Willard wrote her own superb defense of women preachers, a short pamphlet entitled Woman in the Pulpit,

A couple of well-known evangelical pastors commended Willard's book Women in the Pulpit with the following written statements:
"About the subject of a woman's preaching, let me say that I do not think the story of the Gospel will be fully told until Christian women all around the world tell it." (T. De Witt Talmage, 1832-1902, a prominent Presbyterian preacher in America)
"I cannot but feel that women have a greater Christian work to do than many of us have yet realized or admitted, and that they have it to do for the simple reason that they are divinely qualified to do it." (Joseph Parker, 1830-1902, Pastor, The City Temple, London).
Frances Willard graduated from Moody Bible Institute. Yes, that Moody.  The flagship of evangelicalism education in the 1800's, Moody Institute was founded by a woman, Emma Dryer, and D.L. Moody became, in effect, its first dean.

In addition to Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, Wheaton Illinois, was founded in 1860 by abolitionist pastor Jonathan Blanchard (1811-1892). Wheaton, upon opening its doors, became the first college in America to open all courses and programs to males and females, something Harvard University didn't do until 1943, and only then because of the pressures of World War II made male student enrollment impossibly low.

In a superb article published by the Reformed Journal, author and theologian Timothy Larsen talks about what happened at Wheaton in the late 1800's.
"There were women faculty members at Wheaton even in its first decade (1860s). Frances E. Townsley, a student at Wheaton beginning in 1867, was particularly influenced by Helen S. Norton, who taught her Latin. Townsley gave a paper at Wheaton College’s Aelionian Society that was so moving that it prompted Jonathan Blanchard (1811-1892), founder of Wheaton, not only to weep openly, but also to give her a semester of free tuition!
Townsley became a school teacher after her Wheaton days, but she subsequently received a call to ministry. She had already been teaching men in an adult Sunday school class for years. Her first Sunday morning sermon was at Lincoln Park Congregational Church, Chicago. She then began to preach regularly in Congregational and Baptist churches. One minister, who subsequently came to endorse her ministry, approached their first meeting with suspicion and hostility. He protested that men who desire to preach first went to college. Recalling that almost no colleges accepted women at this time, he was considerably disconcerted to learn that she had already fulfilled that requirement. He next protested that the men study courses directly related to the work of public ministry such as theology and homiletics. The astounding reply was that so had she. Again, Wheaton was probably the only college in America at that time where a woman could take a homiletics class. He then proceeded to test the mettle of her theological education by asking if she had read Walker’s The Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation, the leading evangelical work in the field of apologetics at the time. She was able to reply that not only had she read it, but she had been taught by the author (who was a member of the Wheaton faculty) personally, and that he had written to her to confirm and endorse her call to ministry!
In the mid-1870s, Townsley became a full-time preacher and evangelist. Numerous people were converted through her preaching. She specialized in reviving dying churches. This led on to serving as interim pastor for a succession of Baptist churches in need of a minister. In the late 1880s, she was called to be the settled pastor of the Fairfield Baptist Church in Nebraska. She refused to administer Communion, however, as she was not ordained. Townsley observed that Baptist men who were aspiring to ministry but had not yet been ordained often presumed to officiate at the Lord’s Supper at that time, but she “was a stickler for church order.” Her Baptist church therefore unanimously voted that she should be ordained. Following Baptist custom at that time, she was examined as a candidate for ordination by a council that included the ministers and other representatives from no less than 14 Baptist churches from the surrounding area – far larger and more representative council than was the norm. This Baptist council again voted unanimously that she was a suitable candidate for ordination. This decision was praised in the National Baptist newspaper (published in Philadelphia), which added, 'There is not a pulpit in the land she would not grace.'" 
I recently announced that a woman would be "preaching" at Emmanuel Enid.

One of our church members, very politely, stated objections to "a woman" preaching. I listened intently (this person objecting is a friend), and then responded to the objection that "women have their roles" (which does not include preaching), and only "men have authority to preach, not women" by just as politely stating the following points.
1. I used to believe what you believe because I was taught it. After examining the Scriptures for myself, I believe with all my heart that leadership in God's Kingdom is shared by men and women with the requirements being humility, not honor; gifting, not gender; and character, not control (see 5 Reasons Why Women Can Pastor God's People, Divine Authority Is Never Office or Gender Based, and more...).
2. The best argument against a woman not preaching at Emmanuel Enid is that it might violate "the convictions" of some church members (a few, but definitely not the majority). I must then choose between following what I believe to be the leadership of the Holy Spirit or peace with my friends. I believe I know what I must choose.
3. I never seek to "persuade" someone else that I am right - and they are wrong - on the issue of shared leadership based on spiritual gifts. On the other hand, since I am Lead Pastor, I must do what I believe the Spirit and Scripture demands. 
4. I suggested that my friends "take a break" on the Sunday a woman is preaching (three times in 2020), and I would understand (thought I don't like it), if they had to leave Emmanuel Enid because their convictions were different. My conscience is bound to the Word of God, not the approval of men. 
My granddad used to have a lame dog who learned to walk on its back feet. I had much respect for that dog. So too, I respect gifted women preachers proclaiming the risen Christ.

I've grown used to it.

It's biblical.

It's Kingdom oriented.

It's a sign that Spirit-led revival is coming.
"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams" (Acts 2:17). 

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Episode One of a Weekly Podcast Called The WAbe

The WAbe Podcast is a new weekly podcast where "tough questions get real answers" and can be found on your favorite podcast platform.

Abe Wright and I (Wade Burleson) will answer questions that have been submitted to, or respond to comments direct at the #TheWAbe through the broadcast platforms.

The WAbe stands for "Working At Biblical Encouragement," and it's our desire to help bring encouragement to those struggling with the questions they wished they could ask Sunday morning in church.

Abe is a former college football star (Colorado) and NFL player for the Miami Dolphins who has recently earned his Masters in Apologetics. I am an avocational historian and author who has served as teaching pastor at Emmanuel Enid for 28 years.

Abe and I work together well at Emmanuel, and the WAbe will be a lively back-and-forth debate that will leave you wishing Sunday morning church discussions were more like the WAbe.

 Below is Episode One of the WAbe. Listen. Like. Share. And, send us your questions!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Give the Value of Reading a Book Another Look

Abraham Lincoln once said his education occurred “by littles.” That means - a little here, a little there - so much so that all his formal schooling did not amount to one full year of formal schooling. 

Lincoln mostly educated himself by borrowing books and newspapers. Abraham Lincoln loved Robinson Crusoe and the tales of The Arabian Nights, a biography of Washington, and the poetry of Shakespeare and Burns. Abraham Lincoln was a highly educated man because he read. 

A youthful friend of Abraham would later recall, “I never saw Abe after he was twelve that he didn’t have a book in his hand or in his pocket. It didn’t seem natural to see a feller read like that.” 

At 18, Lincoln discovered a book called Lessons in Elocution and began practicing public speaking from a tree stump. He would later become America's 16th President

Give the value of a reading a book another look. 

Chris Hedges, author of the book Empire of Illusion, believes that widespread functional illiteracy is cutting off Americans from reality and creating a cultural state of delusion. 
"Believe it or not, the United States is currently experiencing an illiteracy epidemic. This serious educational failure is helping make Americans the most illusion-prone people in the world.

In North America, functional illiteracy – the inability to accomplish everyday reading and writing tasks – is rising to alarming levels. In fact, approximately one-third of the US population is barely literate or entirely illiterate. For instance, one study found that 7 million Americans are illiterate, another 27 million can’t read enough to complete a job application and 50 million read at a fifth-grade level!

Americans generally aren’t interested in books. Research has shown that after graduation, about one-third of high school students don’t read another book for the rest of their lives. And the same goes for 42 percent of those with a college degree.

This trend was actually foreshadowed by two classic works of dystopian fiction. In the first book, 1984, George Orwell painted a picture of a totalitarian regime in which books were off-limits and information strictly controlled.

But it was one of his contemporaries that really hit the mark. His name was Aldous Huxley and his novel Brave New World portrayed a future society obsessed with entertainment, one in which banning books wasn’t necessary because nobody wanted to read anyway.

However, a lack of interest in reading doesn’t mean that Americans don’t get enough information; the only problem is that the country’s primary form of mass communication, television, is excellent at manipulating images and distorting reality.

One study found that a TV is on for approximately seven hours a day in any given American home. The average American watches TV for about four hours a day – so, by the time a US citizen is 65, they’ll have spent nine years of their life in front of a television!

TV continues to be hugely popular because
it communicates through familiar clich├ęs, presents predictable and easy-to-digest content, such as reality shows and sitcoms, and gives viewers the illusion of an exciting life while comforting them in their passivity."
Give the value of reading a book another look.