OBEDIENCE Legalism offers us a set of laws to gain a place in heaven (see PHARISEES). But other kinds of obedience are not legalistic. Abraham's servant did not live by rules to obey, but he was given great responsibility to find a wife for Isaaac (Genesis 24:1-5). Soldiers do not fight by obeying regulations, but they are proud to serve dangerously under a great leader. In North American football there is a mutual obedience of a receiver and his quarterback, and both obey the coach. In each of these cases obedience is functioning as part of an organic relationship. Similarly Paul gives us some principles for congregational life. "Respect those who labor among you, be at peace among yourselves, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them, do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:12-19). These are not arbitrary laws to make us feel guilty if we break them. They are the essentials of Christian fellowship. And our obedience is serving in an organic relationship with others in the Messiah's Kingdom.


OCCULT In most pioneering missionary situations God encourages and confirms the preaching in miraculous ways. "God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit" (Hebrew 2:4). Usually the local shamans, witchdoctors, soothsayers, necromancers, mediums, witches, and exorcists try to oppose and duplicate these signs by their magic arts (as in Exodus 7:11, 22, 8:7, 18). But as a church grows there is always a residue of occult practices and magic rituals in the homes of Christian disciples. Discarding these is not required as a condition of baptism, but inevitably the Holy Spirit will in due course make clear that he refuses to share a human heart with any rival occult practice (contact with the dead, Ouiji boards, Spiritism, Witchcraft, Horoscope Astrology, Tarot cards, Fortune telling by palm and teacup reading, etc.). You cannot receive guidance from the Holy Spirit and from other sources at the same time. Which is why occult practices were already condemned in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:31, 20:6, 27, Deuteronomy 18:10-11). As the church in Ephesus grew, the Holy Spirit moved the disciples to have a public burning of their magic books (Acts 19:18-19).

OIL Its benefits in food are being rediscovered, but olive oil had other very important uses. Olive oil burns brightly to illuminate a wedding, but a bride needs friends who will each bring a lamp, keep it trimmed, and have a sufficient supply of oil on hand for the night's festivities (Matthew 25:1-12). In the days before modern antibiotics olive oil was used to massage the patient, and this still works very well for sick children in India. Jesus' disciples "cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick (Mark 6:13). James used the Greek verb to anoint (aleipho) in the aorist tense so we could translate "Having first anointed the sick person with olive oil (used the usual medication), the elders of the church should pray for his or her healing" (James 5:14). Olive oil was also used to anoint priests (Exodus 29:7, Psalm 133:2) and prophets (1 Kings 19:16). Kings were anointed with olive oil (1 Samuel 10:1, 16:13), which is why the Son of God was called Messiah (mashiakh meaning anointed) for his function as King of kings and Lord of lords. These and other functions of olive oil were all used metaphorically to picture different aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14).

OIL, Mineral  When Abraham prayed for his firstborn son, ISHMAEL God gave him an astonishing promise about the ARABS. The family covenant would be with the Jewish line descended from Isaac and Jacob. But "as for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation" (Genesis 17:20, see the promise to Hagar, 16:10, 21:18). What the Arabs did not know was the vast reserves of oil that God had buried for them under the sands of the desert. In 1933 the Standard Oil Company of California obtained a concession to drill for oil, and within twenty years the Arab world was receiving more income than anyone could have imagined. Soon millions were spent on a railway, highways, electric power, a national airline, and much else. On August 2, 1990 Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait. He could easily have gone on to take over Saudi Arabia and controlled most of the oil needed by the whole world (see BAGHDAD). But the Saudis paid the Americans to drive the Iraqis back. The fact that their huge bases remained on sacred Arab soil angered the WAHHABIS and led to Osama bin Laden's forming of the AL QUAIDA under the protection of the TALIBAN in AFGHANISTAN.

OLD AGE Many of us are not afraid of dying (see RESURRECTION) , but it is the prospect of growing old and losing control that can terrify us (see ALZHEIMER). Three thousand years ago King David prayed "Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent (Psalm 71:9). But then he remembered he still had work to do. "Even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations" (Psalm 71:17). He assumed that in God's house he did not need to become a dried up old stick. "They are planted in the house of the Lord, they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap" (Psalm 92:13-14). As he is no longer able to do some things, the Psalmist's FAITH is very important. We are never too old to be thankful. Instead of getting crabby and complaining, thankful people are a joy to their family and others around them. Their life becomes a masterpiece. The art is to look around and give thanks for everything we see and hear. Even when bad things are experienced, we can thank God that one day we will see what they mean. Then we can engage in prayer, which is perhaps the greatest work we can ever do.

OLD AGE, Long life The Book of Proverbs suggests that our life is extended by WISDOM. "Long life is in her right hand" (3:16). She promises that "by me your days will be multiplied, and years added to your life" (9:11). It is not only that wisdom keeps us from danger and an unhealthy life style, but it is "the fear of the LORD that prolongs life" (10:27, see HEALING). Obviously some wise and righteous people die young, as did Jesus and some of his apostles. Human SIN also has ravages by war, murder, drunk drivers, and the effects of poisons, pollution, and medical mistakes. Less easy to explain are drowning accidents, earthquakes, tornadoes, and plagues like the Black Death (1347-50). But if we bracket the events which are inexplicable by our logic, it seems true that on the average God blesses us to live on fruitfully into OLD AGE. But we also remember that death at any age is never a disaster, only a doorway into HEAVEN.

OLD AGE Writing The age of 82 is a very creative year. That was when Goethe finished writing Faust (1832),Leo Tolstoy wrote I Cannot be Silent (1910), Winston Churchill was writing A History of the English Speaking People (1956-58), and Aleksandr Kerenski began Russia and History's Turning Point (1963). But 82 is not a cut off point for writers. Michelangelo was still writing poems in addition to producing sculptures the year he died aged 89 (1475). Bernard Shaw wrote the play Farfetched Fables (1949) when he was 93. Of course golfers can keep going even longer. At the age of 96 George C. Selbach scored a 110 yard hole in one at Indian River, Michigan (1983). But that does not compare with "Moses who was one hundred and twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor not abated" (Deuteronomy 34:7). And just before he died he wrote up the account of the wilderness wanderings and composed a song and a blessing for his people (Deuteronomy 31:9-13-33:29). But others have lived longer than that. Thomas Parr died November 1, 1635 in Shropshire at the age of 152, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Zaro Agha worked as a porter, and died in an Istanbul hospital on June 29, 1934 at the age of 164. Mohammed Khalil Abdul Hawa celebrated his 136th. birthday in Jerusalem (1957). Mahmud Eivazov celebrated his 150th. birthday in Azerbaijan (1958). It seems that the art is hard physical work, which may explain why writers don't live that long. But Mollie and I would settle for finishing this Word Thoughts Encyclopedia. When is an encyclopedia finished?

OLD TESTAMENT The first eleven chapters of the Bible introduce us to the emergence of nations. Then we are given the origins of the Arab people descended from Ishmael and the Jewish people from Abraham's grandson Jacob (Israel). The remainder of the Old Testament records the history and culture of the Jewish people before the Messiah took birth among them. There is no glossing over the faults of great leaders like Abraham, Moses, David, and the Jewish line of kings. Jesus made clear that some of their interpretations of the moral law needed correcting, especially as regards murder and the treatment of enemies (Matthew 5:21-26, 38-45). He also introduced a radically new mutuality between men and women, which had huge implications for marriage and divorce (Matthew 5:27-32, 1 Corinthians 7:1-16). Jesus made clear that their kosher food laws (Leviticus 11:1-47), which were useful for the Exodus wanderings, are not part of God's intention for the nations (Mark 7:18-19, Acts 10:13-15, 11:6-10). Nor was the practice of animal sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-14). That means that the Jewish Old Testament laws and practices are not to be taken as normative for us. But having read their story, we use it to interpret our own nations' history and culture in the light of Jesus' sixfold "But I say to you" (Matthew 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44).

OLIGARCHY When a small class of privileged people rule over others there is an oligarchy (Greek oligos meaning few and archy meaning authority, government). Athenian democracy was limited to those who were citizens of that city, which excluded women, foreigners, and the majority who were their slaves. After the EXILE the Jewish people developed a SANHEDRIN or parliament. This was a council of priests, elders, and scribes meaning scholars or rabbis. Although the common people heard Jesus "with delight" (Mark 12:37), the oligarchy decided it was expedient to have him crucified (John 11:47-50). As opposed to being ruled by the King of England, Americans defined democracy as the rule of the people by the people for the people. But at first the vote was restricted to property owners, and it took time before women and black people gained the freedom to vote. The Russian revolution (1919) began with a communist party oligarchy, but under Stalin it became an AUTOCRACY. A governing class can pretend to be a DEMOCRACY but keep power in its own hands for its own agenda by restricting the freedom of the media.

OMAN According to the Table of Nations (Genesis 10:25-31) the areas now called Oman and Yemen in Eastern Arabia were settled by the descendants of Yoktan (younger son of Eber). There were Arab trading outposts in Oman in the first century AD, and it was conquered (c. 635 AD) for Islam in the reign of the second Caliph Omar (634-44) by his brilliant but ruthless general Khalid . The Portuguese controlled Muscat (1507-1650) till their navy was driven out by the Ya'aribah rulers of Oman. The Turkish empire was then able to control the country (1659-1741). Modern Oman is a monarchy that was established under Imam Ahmad Bin Said (1741-1775). It became a great maritime empire under Sayid Said bin Sultan (1791-1856). He became the ruler (Sayyid) in 1806 and reigned for 50 years. By 1827 his navy was strong enough to control many East African and Indian ocean ports, including Mombasa (1837), and he took control of Zanzibar (1840). His sailors traded with China. In 1845 he agreed to end the slave trade. Since 1891 the Oman monarchy has had close treaty ties with Britain. As thousands of foreign workers have come to work in the country the King has allowed Christians to have church buildings wherever needed, but no conversions of Omani citizens are permitted.

ONCE FOR ALL see JESUS, Sacrifice

ONSIDE  The other day I heard in a sermon that Joshua was the only person in the Bible who was brash enough to ask an angel "whose side are you on?" (Joshua 5:13). Joshua had been taken in by the Gibeonites, and he wasn't going to be conned again. We too have people trying to persuade us to do this or that every day on the radio, TV, newspapers, and by personal contact. I get them coming in from the Internet right on to my computer screen. So Joshua's question was a good one. "Whose side are you on?" If we are not sure, Jesus gave us a very good test. "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:20). Which means that before being taken in we should check the person's track record. And over the centuries nobody ever complained that the Son of God conned them, or ruined their life.

OPEN MARRIAGE Nena and George O'Neill suggested that partners in a marriage could permit caring relationships with others without the need to feel jealous (Open Marriage, 1972). But such marriages inevitably break down into something else. One possibility is to keep the relationship on the side secret, but this can only be maintained by lies. In that case open marriage is inevitably ADULTERY (an adulteration). A second alternative is to share the proposed sexual encounter with one's partner and continue to maintain total honesty as to how the new relationship is experienced. But inevitably the question will arise "If you love me that much, why don't we live together at my place? Or do you really love your partner more?" A common solution is keeping a lover or mistress on the side. But this only appears to work if the marriage is accepted as primary and permanent. Many women handle such a situation by refusing to think about it. "Go and do what you like with that other person, but I don't want to know, and please don't embarrass me or upset our children." (For other forms of marriage arrangement see  POLYGAMY, CONCUBINES, MARRIAGE, Mutuality).

OPUS DEI Josemaria Escriva de Belagur (1902-1975) founded the Opus Dei (Work of God) in 1928 as an order of highly dedicated Roman Catholics who would continue to work in their own professions One third of them lived as celibates segregated by sex in small disciplined communities, and they turned in their pay checks to the organization. They tended to recruit well-connected people who could influence every level of government to protect and promote the interests of the Roman Catholic denomination. The movement opposed the changes of Vatican II, they retained the Latin liturgy, were right wing in their political support, and they were opposed to women having any leadership role in the church. By the year 2002 they numbered about 85,000 world-wide. The hasty canonization of the founder (October 2002) suggests that Pope John Paul II not only viewed the Opus Dei as his most reliable political instrument but he approved many of their emphases. All Christians are saints in the New Testament, but canonizing Mother Teresa might have made sense to me.

ORANGE ORDER When William of Orange became King of England (reigned 1689-1702) James II (who had reigned 1685-88 ) tried to regain his throne. He was defeated in Ireland at the battle of the Boyne (July 1, 1690). The Orange Order was founded in 1795 to celebrate that victory over Roman Catholic influence. The main activity of Orangemen in Northern Ireland is attempting to march through Roman Catholic communities dressed in bowler hats and orange sashes to remind them of the victory. Naturally this is not appreciated. There are still parades of men dressed in the same outfit on July the First in parts of Nigeria. In Canada July 1 has been taken over as Canada Day. So in rural Ontario I discovered that a small group of the L.O.L. (Loyal Orange Lodge) and the L.O.B.A. (Ladies Orange Benevolent Association) used to march and attend a different church building each Sunday during July to keep the memory alive. Intermarriage between Protestants and Roman Catholics used to be bitterly opposed. Since the change to English instead of Latin as a result of Pope John XXIII and Vatican II, most people find very little difference between our services - except in Northern Ireland where the Battle of the Boyne lives on.

ORDINATION When a LEADER is to be commissioned it is important for him or her to be given public recognition. Moses was told "Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand upon him" and "he took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priestand the whole congregation; he laid his hands upon him and commissioned him" (Numbers 27:18, 22-23). When ELDERS (bishops) were chosen for the first Greek speaking Christian congregation in Jerusalem "they had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them" (Acts 6:6). Similarly when Barnabas and Paul were sent out on the first missionary journey "after fasting and praying the prophets and teachers laid their hands on them and sent them off" (Acts 13:3). And after planting churches in Galatia they "appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe" (Acts 14:23).

ORIGEN (c.185-c.254) His father Leonidas was martyred (202). Origen studied under Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.215) and then followed him as head of the Catechetical School. He lived as an extreme ascetic, and was reputed to have castrated himself (based on Matthew 19:12, though in his commentary he denied the literal interpretation of that text). . He traveled to study other religions and then moved to the church in CAESAREA(231) where he established a theological school. He was a great biblical scholar and he produced the Hexapla (finished c.245) which set out six versions of the Old Testament in parallel columns. But his interpretations were often allegorical. He also wrote a systematic theology named De Principiis (Greek peri archon). But this and most of his writings were destroyed or mutilated a hundred years later when his views were condemned as heretical (see ORIGENISM). Origen was imprisoned in the persecution under Decius (250) and was tortured for his faith till he died.

ORIGENISM It is hard to know what ORIGEN believed, and like any great thinker he developed his ideas over a long period. He was certainly a committed Trinitarian Christian who never renounced his faith under torture. In the century after his death he was accused of various heresies. Methodius of Olympus (died c.311) opposed Origen's view that Jesus was given a resurrection body when his physical body was put in the grave (which is the model used on this site, see RESURRECTION). He also viewed the ATONEMENT as continuous rather than limited to one moment in time. Origen was certainly wrong in some of his allegorical interpretations. And he was probably wrong in having taught at one time the pre-existence of souls. Origen was posthumously condemned without any opportunity for his views to be properly defended at the Council of Alexandria (400 AD) and again at the Council of Constantinople (553). Origen's opponents made sure his writings were ignored, misquoted, and destroyed, so that we are unable to evaluate the wealth and depth of one of our greatest creative theologians (as recognized by Athanasius, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus).

ORIGINAL SIN In the Garden of Eden (see ADAM and EVE). The "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" was forbidden because "In the day that you eat of it you shall die" (Genesis 2:17). Obviously Adam and Eve did not die physically, so we know that the forbidden fruit is symbolic of the sin that causes spiritual death. As Paul says, " You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who were disobedient" (Ephesians 2:1-2). Paul also explains that "just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, so death spread to all because all have sinned" (Romans 5:12). But this refers to our natural humanity as opposed to our faith situation: "As all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:22). Our original righteousness in the image of God was given to us by the Holy Spirit. So original sin could be viewed as the choice of self-righteousness as opposed to being made right by the Spirit.

ORPHANS Orphans were helpless, and needed protection from injustice (Exodus 22:22, Deuteronomy 24:17, 27:19, Job 22:9, 24:3, Psalm 94:6, Isaiah 1:17, 23, 10:2, Jeremiah 7:6, Ezekiel 22:7, Zechariah 7:10). Part of the tithe and remains of the harvest was reserved for them (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 26:12-13). And, where they were not properly cared for, God himself intervened on their behalf. "The LORD your God is mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribes, who executes justice for the orphan (Deuteronomy 10:17-18). We wonder how many orphans manage to survive the terrible ravages of war and famine. One reason may be that "The LORD upholds the orphan" (Psalm 68:5, 146:9). In the New Testament the care of orphans was an essential task of the church in each city. "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27, referring to the danger of sexual abuse). As a result orphanages have been pioneered by Christians in many countries (see for example George MULLER).

ORWELL, George (1903-50) Instead of going to University after being at Eton (1917-21), George Orwell served in the British Indian Imperial Police as a police officer in Burma (1922-27). For the next seven years he experienced and wrote about being Down and Out in Paris and London (1934). He engaged in various activities, including fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War (1936) where he was wounded. In and around the ideological struggles in Barcelona he found himself personally attacked by those committed to both ANARCHISM and MARXISM. It was there he saw the implications of STALIN and his ruthless dictatorial system. And this clarified his mind to write ANIMAL FARM (1945) which finally brought him fame as a writer. It is a very powerful extended parable about some pigs who took over a farm, and treated the other animals abominably. It had a great influence throughout the cold war in exposing the horror of Soviet COMMUNISM. A second very influential book was 1984 (published in 1949). It gives a horrifying picture of a country taken over by a totalitarian system. These two books show that imagery and parables are more effective in the face of overwhelming power than prose writing. In the life of our churches we might compare the perennial effectiveness of the PARABLES of Jesus. They are also easy to translate into any language, and they work powerfully in every country of the world.

OTTOMAN Empire The Turkish tribes of eastern TURKEY were united under Osman I (1259-1326), and their empire expanded steadily by wars, alliances, and wise purchase of territories. There was a setback when the MONGOLS under Timur defeated the Ottoman army at Ankara (1402), but having looted and taken tribute the Mongol hordes soon left. An army from Europe that tried to attack Turkey was defeated (1444), and Europeans shuddered (1453) when the Ottomans took Constantinople (now Istanbul). When Selim I (1512-20) took Cairo and defeated the Egyptian Mamlukes (1517) he took over the Muslim CALIPHATE as a Turkish preserve . The Ottoman Turks twice failed to capture Vienna (1529, 1683), but they ruled for four hundred years from Algeria across the Middle East to the Persian Gulf.. Aided by Lawrence of Arabia, General Allenby (1861-1936) entered Jerusalem (1917) and drove the Ottoman Turks from PALESTINE(1918). After the end of the 1914-18 war KEMAL ATATURK (1922) ended the dream of an Ottoman Empire, and he abolished the Turkish Caliphate (1924).

OXFORD MOVEMENT One of the early members of the Oxford Movement (1833-45) was John Henry NEWMAN (1801-90) who wrote 24 of the Tracts for the Times (1933-41. (Nine of these were written by John Keble, 1792-1866). These tracts set out their vision for the renewal of the Church of England as a via media between the Roman Catholics and the various Protestant denominations. Other leaders of the movement included E.B.Pusey, R.H.Froude, R.W.Church, R.I.Wilberforce, C.Marriot, I.Williams. They wanted a strict adherence to the AnglicanBOOK OF COMMON PRAYER. Their scholars looked to the Early Fathers of the Church, and Keble, Newman, and Pusey began editing the Library of the Fathers (1838). There was a high view of the real presence in the Communion Service as in Keble's Eucharistic Adoration (1857). Devotion to God was helped by the use of priestly vestments, processions, ceremonial, the use of incense, bells, etc, and they encouraged Anglican monasteries. But they also had a strong social conscience and worked devotedly in the slums. They were committed to the APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION, but when John Henry Newman and others of their leaders submitted to the Bishop of Rome (1845) the movement fell into disarray. Much of their vision continued among the Anglo-Catholic (often called high church) members of the Church of England and other Anglicans.

OXYGEN Without oxygen animal and plant life cannot survive. We need it for every breath we breathe. In the Bible the taking in of oxygen is a metaphor for INSPIRATION. And inspiration is the welcoming of God to give us wisdom, guidance, the ability to pray, and many other essentials of spiritual life. In that sense Paul pictures the Holy Spirit as the life of the church as a body in each city. "In the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and we were all made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). In a human body any organ that is deprived of oxygen become gangrenous. And in a city those parts of the church which try to do without the Holy Spirit become dead, and gangrene sets in. Again and again there has been a welcoming of spiritual oxygen into the life of the church (a recent example was the  CHARISMATIC movement) , and the result is the REVIVAL of what was dying.