The Faith of Jeremiah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, May 20, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Have you ever stopped and reflected on your life and wondered how in the world you ended up where you are? This can happen in either a very positive or a very negative light. Personally, I’ve had those moments when I’ve found myself leading a church in Marion, Ohio or ministering to the homeless in Findlay, Ohio after spending the first twenty-seven years of my life in Pennsylvania. Currently, I’m living back in Pennsylvania, residing and ministering in a town forty minutes from where I grew up yet still very familiar to me because of the four years that God allowed me to earn an income as a driver for FedEx Ground here. I’m experiencing all of this with my wife who “just happened” to wind up in Ohio at the same time I was and “just happened” to get a job at the homeless shelter where I was working, even though she spent most of her life growing up in Virginia. When I look back on my life, I realize not much of it could’ve been predicted and most of it is an example of God’s grace, his providence, and his GOOD plan.

Most of you could probably say the same thing about your own lives and the directions they have taken. We don’t always realize that God is working when he is, but it’s fairly easy to see when we take a moment to reflect on our lives. However, the question I shared above can also be asked when we find ourselves in the midst of negative circumstances. I can think of very specific times in my life when I looked around at the destruction and misery that surrounded me as a result of my own choices and wondered how I could have ever gotten that far down the wrong path. Again, I’m sure many of you reading this could say you’ve had those moments as well. The results in our lives can often be traced back to either God’s goodness or our own sins.

What we should know as believers in the Lord is that when we follow him, it’s a dangerous thing to evaluate our decisions and lives solely on our circumstances. While “reaping what you sow” is generally a true concept and is even Biblical (Galatians 6:7), the reaping doesn’t always make sense to our finite minds and worldly ways of examining our circumstances. One thing we’ve seen through this series on the heroes of our faith is that God sometimes blesses them even when they are caught in sin and allows them to suffer when they appear to be following him wholeheartedly. God uses everything according to his will and sometimes we don’t reap the rewards of our faith until we spend eternity with him.

One faithful hero who likely often wondered how he could end up where he did was the prophet Jeremiah. Despite his faithfulness to God, he was known as “the weeping prophet” and rarely reaped any positive consequences from his obedient sowing. More than just mental anguish over the state of his people, he also experienced great physical and emotional torment. Hebrews 11:36 tells us that some of the anonymously faithful “faced jeers and flogging," which could probably be characterized today as severe verbal and physical abuse. Jeremiah was one of several people from the Old Testament who would likely fit this description. In Jeremiah 20, we see that a priest named Pashhur, who at the time was the official in charge of the temple of the Lord, has Jeremiah “beaten and put in stocks” because he was upset about the things Jeremiah was preaching regarding the Lord’s anger toward the sins of the nation (vv. 1-2). A commentary I was reading from Enduring Word suggests that the expression translated as “beaten” most likely referred to the “forty lashes minus one” concept applied during a severe flogging. If you read last week’s post, you may remember that the Apostle Paul experienced this most painful of beatings five times. In addition, the “stocks” refers to a structure in which a prisoner was locked into a twisted and confined position to cause increasing pain and discomfort. By the way, this was likely AFTER he had already been flogged. So, it’s not like his wounds were healed before his body was forcefully contorted. Verse 3 tells us that Jeremiah was released the next day, which means he was kept in that position for the rest of the day!

This didn’t stop Jeremiah from continuing to speak whatever the Lord commanded him to speak. He was a prophet of the Lord and was not willing to water down the message in order to make people happy and save himself from harm. Jeremiah would face many other obstacles and extreme punishments during his time as a prophet, including being thrown in prison in Jeremiah 37 and then lowered into a cistern with no water and only mud in Jeremiah 38. That last punishment was intended to kill him; he was done. Jeremiah 38:6 says that he “sank down into the mud." If those are the cruelest of circumstances for someone who has done nothing but obey God, I don’t know what is. He was literally sinking into the mud in a cistern deep in the ground with no way to save himself or meet any of his other needs. He would die by either suffocation in the mud or starvation, whichever happened first.

God moved in the heart of one of the officials to rescue him before it was too late, but Jeremiah was certainly aware of how much pain had come to his life because he was obedient. There is a section in the book that specifically lays out Jeremiah’s complaint to God. It’s found in Jeremiah 20:7-18 and I encourage you to read it yourself. At first glance, it may come across like he is deranged and literally going back and forth between worship and whining. But such is the life of one who obeys the Lord in the face of intense opposition and endures all of the pain that comes with it. He says he is “ridiculed all day long” and mocked by everyone (v. 7). He adds, “The word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long” (v. 8). And we already know about his being beaten/flogged. He reflects on his life and has the thoughts most of us would: “Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame”? (v. 18) Yet, even in the midst of all the pain and suffering he faced, Jeremiah reminds himself that he was born to be the very prophet of the Lord that he was: “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name’, his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (v. 9).

Jeremiah knew what he was born to do (God told him in Jeremiah 1:5 that he knew him BEFORE he was even born and that he had appointed him as a prophet to the nations) and the thought of not doing it was worse than enduring the pain and suffering that came because he was obedient to the Lord. This is a faithful hero if I ever read about one. He may have faced jeers and flogging, but his obedience forced the people who should’ve been honoring God all along to have to face their own wickedness. And while they ultimately did not listen to Jeremiah and were overtaken by the Babylonians as a result, Jeremiah could rest knowing that he did everything he could to stop it. Are you willing to speak the truth of God’s word to others no matter what it causes to take place in your life? People may not listen to you, but that’s between them and God. What you share and how you represent God’s word to them is between YOU and God. You may not reap good circumstances for yourself in this lifetime, but trust in God as your full reward and reap the benefits for all of eternity.

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It's No Longer OK to Be Broken?? Part 2

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, May 19, 2018 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

If you didn't read last week's blog post, please click here to do so before continuing.

When I went to the doctor a few years ago and complained of abdominal pain and spasms, the doctor checked my bowels, my muscles, and my lower digestive organs to see if there might be issues with any of them. Because I am male, these were the standard things to check. If I had been female, my doctor would have considered my symptoms differently and checked my reproductive organs as well as asked me about any abnormalities in my cycle. The same complaint from a male or female prompts different responses regarding diagnosis and treatment, because each is different and distinct. In fact, over 6000 genes in our bodies express themselves directly related to our sex. Biologically, sex is not fluid. Classically, sex has been equated with gender as one in the same. This is why psychology has maintained for a very long time that those who believe they are male when their sex is clearly female, or vice versa, had gender dysphoria. Simply stated, it’s a psychological confusion about their gender.

Modern psychological trends are attempting to re-write the definitions and standards around this topic to separate the idea of gender from sex - making "gender" a perceptual norm and "sex" a physical norm. By doing so, there can be support to set aside the classic diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Why? Because it presents this disconnect as abnormal (broken) and indicates that treatment to helps realign perception with biological reality should follow. In the new methodology, gender dysphoric separation in psychological perception is validated as normal (not broken). Counsel given under this method supports changing physical reality to match perception through gender reassignment.

I explain all of this not to engage in debate about the topic specifically, but to point out the shift in assumptions regarding what is broken or not broken, and what is helpful or not helpful. With the rise of relativist morality, the self-centered determination of reality has been promoted as normal and good. In other words, if it feels good, do it; if it's right for you, do it. The problem is there is no objective standard to settle conflict in this way of thinking. Even "social contracts" fail, whenever it is more beneficial to an individual to no longer honor the contract than to keep it. Everything becomes based on our perception of what is real, rather than any evidence, fact, commitment, etc.

Here's another way of seeing this. The expression cogito ergo sum ("I think therefore I am"), was originally meant to express consciousness. It was an expression of what we can be certain of, even in the midst of doubt. Descartes coined the phrase while trying to explain that in the face of uncertainty, our ability to doubt and think about our doubt is an expression of the certainty that we really exist. Ok, I know that is deep stuff. But look at this subtle shift I can make to that quote.

What if I said, "I think therefore I am," was a statement to support that I control my own reality? What if I said, "my thinking determined that I am," or "my thinking creates my reality"? I would be taking Descartes’ proof of existence and twisting it into a justification for bending my physical reality to how I think, which would be a very different focus and result for his statement. I would be borrowing the credibility of Descartes’ legitimate proof and turning it into a statement of my assumption. My assumption has glaring holes that Descartes would never agree with, the first and most obvious being that I have no real control over my reality - thinking a thing to be true or factual doesn't make it so. This is what is happening constantly in our culture right now. Elements of fact or truth are loaded into political statements, pop science, media stories, etc., and are then layered with perceptions and beliefs that people desperately want to be real. Many of these statements attempt to validate exceptions as normal and make what is accepted as normal to be evil or oppressive by nature just because it's the most prevalent. The ultimate goal behind all of this is power and control, and it stems from the thinking that we can force reality to become what we think it should be. This is the heart of vanity and the foundation of all human conflict.

Here is the counter story. Humanity was created to live fully in the design God gave us, in His image and with gifts and abilities that display His character and nature. We decided to take our lives into our own hands and go our own way. The consequence of our decision was separation from God and an inability to live up to the design and image we had been given, as well as an inability to control the consequences for our shortcomings (Genesis 1-3). Our design had been made to function in relationship with the one whose image we reflected. Apart from that relationship, from our own desires, our existence and example became counterfeit. Humanity, apart from God, is broken and sick. Our sickness is our desires to satisfy ourselves, and it continues our brokenness, just like a virus that keeps evading our immune system. If we do not acknowledge that brokenness and seek correction, healing, redemption, and/or rescue, we will become more sick. Or worse, we will recover from this sickness and be vulnerable to an even greater sickness that follows.

I encourage you to read what James had to say in the very first chapter of his letter to the early believers in Jesus. Reflect on each verse and write down your first thoughts as you read through the verses. Then go back and consider how you respond to verses 22-25. Do you adjust your thinking to the reality and the standards God has given, or do you try to adjust God to your thinking? Have you accepted the world's perceptions of what is or is not broken, or are you willing to see your own brokenness honestly and seek God's help?

His promises to Israel are still true: I will rescue you, I will free you, I will redeem you, and I will take you in and protect you as my family. What started with God's promise to Israel and a hope from Israel for the world, Jesus Christ made true and available for anyone who will trust Him with their life.

Will you?

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Basic Christianity

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, May 18, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

In the last two weeks, I have written about the big picture and how to build according to the instructions we have been given. Today, I want to hit what that big picture is. It doesn’t matter how mature you are in your faith, it never hurts to return back to basics.

A key thing about Christianity that has been missed is the fact that it does not matter how many times you go over the basic truths, you never will reach the depths of those truths. Karl Barth was known to be one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. He was asked, “What is the most profound thing you know?” The answer was “Oh, that’s easy: Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so.” Several years ago I would have laughed at that response. I would have been like “Really? That’s it? That’s a kid’s song.” That was then. Now, I see more and more how deep and rich that simple statement truly is. A Christian can go over the same basic truth over and over and over again and never exhaust the depth of it. The problem is so few are digging to get deeper into those simple basic truths. So, what are they? What are these basic truths?

First, I need to explain what Christianity is NOT because too many people live these false ‘truths.’ Christianity is NOT a religion as most people understand religions. While there are aspects to Christianity which are religious in nature, there is much more to Christianity than a mere religion. It is not merely something people believe to give them comfort or feel good, nor it is a set of doctrines to adhere to. Christianity is NOT something we agree to for what we get out of it. Too many people only embrace Christianity for the idea of going to heaven and getting out of hell. That’s not what it is, nor what it is about. Christianity is NOT something we give intellectual ascent to and then practically live however we want otherwise. If I had a weakness in my faith, this would be it – knowing the theory and the facts but not making it real in my life. Any time we take one of these routes, we cut ourselves short for what it really is. Many are disillusioned because they hear the grand thoughts but see lives that never demonstrate the real deal. As Leonard Ravenhill is famous for saying, “The world isn’t waiting for a new definition of Christianity. It’s waiting for a new demonstration of Christianity.”

Christianity is also not the common plan of salvation. When most people think of the Gospel, they think of the four spiritual laws or the Big Story. In a nutshell, the four truths are: “God created a perfect world, man sinned and created havoc as a result, God sent Christ to the cross to break the power of sin and death, and Jesus has been in the process of restoring man and soon the whole creation back to God.” This is a very quick summary of the big story that is Genesis through Revelation. However, most people think getting people through this and agreeing to it is all there is to it. That’s just the story. Christianity is not about a story. It is something real, something no other religion nor holy book nor ideal can grasp.

First, Christianity is about God, not man. God is the star and lead character, not man. If you ask the average church goer about who God is, most will reveal a very distorted view. Part of that is because so few are teaching about who God is. They will cite the love of God and the mercy of God, but not his holiness nor his righteousness. Many churchgoers will describe a god who likes what they like, hates what they hate, and seems to look a lot like them or how they would operate if they were God. Most people’s image of God is themselves. Christianity embraces God as he reveals himself to be and as the one who determines all things and as the standard of all standards. I wrote about the attributes of God a couple years ago and I am working on a devotional about them as well.

Christianity understands the nature of depravity of sin. It is something too many of us take too lightly. I struggled through reading the Life and Diary of David Brainard, however what stuck out to me was his constant awareness of his own sin. Sin is not merely something God doesn’t like. It is intentional defiance of God’s commands. When the angels and seraphim, planets and stars, winds and waves, and all creation obeys God at his word, man hears him and snuffs his nose at him. It is utter evil. Sin is an enemy, it only destroys, and it always results in death and destruction. Christ came to undo the work of sin and death. Why should we have anything to do with it?

Christianity recognizes the power and work of the cross. The cross did not just save man from hell, but it broke man from the grip of sin. Too many claim Christian lives and still live in captivity to sin. Why? I understand the struggle. I’m not talking about the daily battle with sin. I’m talking about embracing that sin as “part of who I am.” May it never be. Christianity is not about being freed from the consequences of sin, though that is part of it. It is about being free from the problem of sin and with the expectancy and hope of one day being freed from the very presence of sin.

Many people treat Christianity as a crutch, mere emotional support for coping through the day. Many skeptics think that is what God is for, just being a crutch to hobble through life while they have the strength to do it without God. The true Christian will recognize that Jesus is not a crutch; he is life-support. A Christian understands he isn’t merely sick in need of an aid but is under a life-threatening and life-sucking disease. The Christian knows and acknowledges that he truly cannot live apart from Christ. Christianity is a life-exchange: our lives for his life. We give Christ our lives and all our problems and he gives us his life and all his perfection and rights and power. The problem is, we just want to hang on to the “good” stuff when the whole time, when God’s stuff is so much better.

This post really does not give Christianity the justice it deserves. I hardly scratched the surface here. How can one tell if he is truly a Christian or just a faker? The letter of 1 John gives nine tests which exposes the true born-again believer from the faker just living it by name without any actual power or identity. That is next week.

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More of the Mountain of Evidence

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, May 17, 2018 0 comments

by Steve Risner

Last time, I began to talk about my research into the “mountain of evidence” for evolution. We're often told there is this huge mass of evidence for Darwinian evolution and to not accept it is a denial of documented reality. That is all, of course, nonsense. The “mountain of evidence” for universal common descent is a fraud. Upon looking for this mountain, I found that common traits was a big deal to Darwinian missionaries. This is something someone who doesn't understand evolution would say, in my opinion, because if you actually understand the processes and genetics involved, there's no way to make it work with the currently popular humanist origins myth. I touched on some of these issues last time. I'd like to explain a bit further if that's okay.

The more we learn about microbiology, genetics, and embryology, the less it seems Darwinism is a reality. Of course, the evolutionist will make some wild claims that these things further confirm their beliefs, but that's not the truth at all. Very often, they'll focus on a tiny detail that seems to support their mythology and ignore the large portion of the facts that contradicts their beliefs or at the least casts a shadow of doubt.

The idea is that life evolved from a common ancestor and this is evidenced by the fact that some organisms share similar traits. It stands to reason that if these traits were because we shared a common ancestor, we would develop these traits embryologically the same, and the same genes would account for the coding of these traits. This is largely not the case at all. How can one suggest this is the strongest evidence for Darwinian evolution when it doesn't support evolution at all? This is more of the same. Darwin thought the single cell was not much more than a bag of goo. It’s easy to think that just made itself out of stuff you see in a mud puddle, I guess. Little did he know the indescribable amount of activity going on inside each of these little cells. I briefly wrote on the immensely complex cell in this blog post and in this one. It seems the more we learn, the less we know. And the more details we discover, the less feasible it seems evolution, believed to be driven by mindless copying mistakes, can account for the genetic code and its unknowable intricacies, variation, and specialization. It seems Mother Nature accidentally made the same body plans repeatedly and with very different processes involved—all without trying. Approaching the rule rather than the exception, many traits that appear to be similar between organisms can have very different genes that code for them, very different times during development that they appear, or very different tissue sources that result in their formation. Yet we get the same or similar structures. This stands in the face of common thought in evolution today and in the face of logic if Darwinism is a reality.

I broached this topic last time, but let's look at it again because it really makes a mockery out of evolutionism. This, of course, doesn't mean anything because people who have bought evolutionism hook, line, and sinker will simply brush it aside or ignore it. Or, worse yet, they'll cover it up and be dishonest about it. Being ignorant is one thing; being dishonest is a very different story.

Limbs. We like them. We hold stuff up with them. We walk with them. We like our limbs. Having four limbs is a common feature among many animals. But is this because we have a common ancestor? Not at all. Our limbs develop quite frequently from different body segments in a pattern that evolution cannot explain. Dr. Michael Denton writes in his book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, about kidney development in fish and amphibians as compared to reptiles and mammals. One would think that kidneys, if they developed in some earlier ancestor that we all shared, would have a common development embryologically. They do not. Completely different processes exist for the development of the kidney if we compare fish and amphibians with reptiles and mammals. How does this fit with common ancestry? It doesn't, in my opinion.

Biology has also shown us that very often “homologous structures” (structures that seem similar) have different genes that produce them. This seems to not fit the story of Darwinism. The opposite is also true: seemingly similar genes will regulate vastly different processes or structure formation as well. It seems, according to evolutionists, that homology is allegedly what binds us all together. Homology is what evolutionists have built the nested hierarchies on and drawn their nice pictures of lineages from. But the more we investigate these alleged similarities, the more we find that homology actually discredits Dawinism fairly soundly. Yet this is held up as one of the BEST bits of evidence for universal common descent!

What seems interesting, as well, is that some structures are called “vestigial.” These are supposed to be structures that were once something important or useful but, due to evolution over time, have lost their usefulness. To be sure, there are no such structures. There are only naive and somewhat arrogant assertions. And this would actually be evolution in reverse, would it not? A structure is actually becoming less useful or less specialized. When is the evolutionist going to show us new organs that do something completely different that are slowly developing over time? We see none of that. We don't see that in the fossil record or in the present. The fossil record is full of all sorts of interesting organisms who all seem to have all their parts and all of them are fully formed and appear functional. The theory of evolution cannot be found anywhere in the geologic column. There are no ancestors with a lesser developed version of something. Again, this flies in the face of common evolutionist storytelling.

So the bottom line is genetics doesn't support evolution from a common ancestor. Homology or similar traits doesn't support it either. Embryology, the study of embryos and how they develop, doesn't support it. What does support it? “A mountain of evidence” that is also known as the imaginings and/or storytelling of those who accept it.

The Bible tells us in Genesis (and throughout Scripture really) that God created the heavens and the earth and that He made all living things about 6000 years ago. The Word of God is built on the foundation of Genesis and a natural reading of it. The evidence for its accuracy is well documented, from creation to the Flood and beyond. We'll look at some more of the “mountain of evidence” in the future. Thanks for reading.

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What Does the Bible Say About Grace?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 14, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

This is one of those posts where I simply want to write: “What does the Bible say about grace? See: entire Bible.” The entire Bible is full of the overarching story of God’s grace toward humanity, told through the stories of individuals or nations and through the life of Jesus Himself. But in this blog post, I’ll try and highlight a few passages that speak specifically to God’s grace and what it is.

One of my first few blog posts for Worldview Warriors back in 2011 was titled “Grace,” and we as a ministry have written numerous other posts on that same topic. We touch on God’s grace in many of our writings, since it’s such a primary focus of our Christian faith.

So what is grace? Simply put, it’s undeserved favor. We have sinned and don’t deserve to even be in relationship with God, much less be saved by Him, so it’s only through His grace that we can receive that salvation. This is closely related with God’s mercy, which I wrote about last week.

Ephesians 2:8-9 is one of the primary passages that explains salvation through God’s grace: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (I’d encourage you to read the whole chapter of Ephesians 2 to get an even better picture of God’s grace.) Similarly, Romans 11:6 says, “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Grace means we do nothing to earn it; it’s not based at all on our works.

Titus 2:11-14 speaks of the effects of God’s grace in our lives: “ For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

Receiving God’s grace should not cause us to sin more because we know we’ll receive it. Romans 6:1-2 says, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” For more on that, check out this post.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8-10).

I encourage you this week to live out God’s grace in our life, the favor He gives you that you don’t deserve at all. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV).

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The Faith of the Apostle Paul

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, May 13, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

I recently had a conversation with a man from my church about how every day there are examples of the reality that life is all about choices. He’s going to be sharing a sermon at some point that is based on Deuteronomy 30:15, which says, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction." The Lord has been basically telling the Israelites through Moses that this isn’t rocket science. The choices are clear and each person must make their decision regarding what they really want.

The man from my church was telling me that he had a recent opportunity to begin to teach his 5-year old son about this. They went to a baseball game for the local independent league professional team and were sitting in the grass just beyond the fence. As they were watching, a home run was hit and landed very close to them. The little boy got excited and told his dad he wanted to get a home run ball. As they continued to pay attention waiting for the next one, the little boy looked over and saw a playground nearby. He wanted to go play with other children, so he asked his dad if he could. His dad reminded him that he wanted a home run ball and said that if he goes to the playground, he won’t be there to catch a ball if it’s hit there. The boy asked when the home run ball is going to come and his dad said he doesn’t know and it might not happen either way, but that the boy would have to choose which fun thing matters more to him.

In Hebrews 11:35, we see that some of the anonymously faithful also faced a choice, and some “were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection." The idea of it being a better resurrection pertains to the beginning of the verse, which was discussed in last week’s post, about “women who received back their dead, raised to life again." The writer is reminding believers that while those women had faith and received the joy of their loved ones being raised back to life, those individuals merely returned to a hurting, broken, and imperfect world. The writer explains that those who endured torture all the way to death will receive a resurrection that is “better” because it takes us to glory. It is a permanent and perfect resurrection.

Now, I have to say that this particular description of faithful heroes presents a problem because there is no specific story from the Old Testament that seems to directly correlate to what the writer of Hebrews is describing. We have to remember that there were other writings besides the books of the Bible that were not considered to be part of the canon, but were likely known to many of the educated Jews. Two such books would be 1 and 2 Maccabees, and it appears that 2 Maccabees is where we would find the story of a scribe named Eleazar and the torture he endured. Scholars seem to agree that Eleazar’s story is what the writer of Hebrews was referencing in this description. There’s no doubt in my mind that the writer of Hebrews, whether it was Paul, Peter, or some other educated Jew, knew of the story of Eleazar. That being said, I have no idea whether scholars are right or wrong, so I’m going to veer off the beaten path a bit on this one and talk about someone from the New Testament that fits this week’s description.

When considering who might be the author of Hebrews, many traditionally believed it was Paul, but more recently people have agreed that only God can truly know. Of all the possibilities that scholars have thrown out there, it seems clear that if it wasn’t Paul, it was someone who knew him very well. My personal Bible happens to be the Men’s Devotional Bible from Zondervan and it specifically lists the approximate dates that each book was written. This is certainly not an exact science, but it’s worth noting that 2 Corinthians is said to have been written around 55 AD, while the book of Hebrews is said to have been written 10-15 years after that. If it was written by either Paul or someone who knew him, it stands to reason that they could’ve had Paul’s torture in mind even if they weren’t directly describing his faith in the way they described Eleazar’s.

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul explains some of the tortures he experienced because of his faith in Christ. He states that he was imprisoned, severely flogged, beaten with rods, pelted with stones, and constantly in danger because of those who were dead set on killing him. He specifically says, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one." This is a reference to some of the most cruel torture ever invented. The Jews believed that 40 lashes would kill any person, so the way to exact the most pain on a person without killing them (though at times someone would die well before the 40th lash) was to whip them 1 time less than what would kill him. Paul lived his life for the cause of Christ and to share the good news of Jesus with everyone he could. He didn’t worry about death or pain. In fact, some of his letters lead you to believe that he frankly couldn’t wait for death!

Paul was assured of the glory and resurrection that awaited him after his very temporary suffering and torture in this world came to an end. He wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). He also spoke to his friends and elders in Ephesus, knowing it would be the last time he would see them, before he went to Jerusalem: “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:23-24). Earlier, in Acts 16, Paul and his ministry partner Silas had been unfairly thrown into prison after being “severely flogged," then refused to leave the prison even after it appeared that God had supernaturally opened the doors for them to do so. Because they stuck around, the jailer who was seconds away from killing himself came to know Jesus along with his entire family and they were all saved and baptized (vv. 26-34).

Paul had many opportunities to choose what was easier at the time. He could choose to follow Jesus fully, knowing it would lead to great suffering temporarily in this world but believing in the “better resurrection," or he could choose to walk away from that task Jesus had given him and take an easier worldly road. You and I face the same choice regularly. Knowing Jesus means you have to do away with sins of comfort and follow him even when it isn’t easy. It means you may face suffering from resisting temptation and eventually may receive it in the way of persecution. But the knowledge that this is all temporary and that someday we’ll be in paradise with Jesus just like the thief who suffered tremendous pain right next to him on the cross motivates us to endure anything we face on this earth. Make the right choice today, then make it again tomorrow. Pretty soon, it’ll be a habit and, like Paul, you’ll live in true freedom!

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It's No Longer OK to Be Broken?? Part 1

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, May 12, 2018 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Recently, I battled a sinus infection that tried desperately to become bronchitis and pneumonia. From fever and congestion, to coughing, draining, more coughing and fatigue, the battle lasted over three weeks. During that time, my focus was on getting better. I knew I was sick, I took steps to fight the virus, and I focused on the hope that I would prevail and be well. This is common to all of us. Some of us fight with optimistic confidence in our journey to be well and some of us lament and talk about our sickness while seeking comfort, but we all take some form of action to be well again, because we know we are sick and something is broken.

This reality of our experience is being denied and aggressively silenced on many levels within our culture. The common cold is still accepted, but other more difficult and personal levels of brokenness and sickness are being "normalized" under radical ideologies. The intent is to make certain broken behaviors and dispositions "normal," and to vilify or outlaw the acknowledgement that there is something wrong. The goal? The same as it has always been: to "feel" ok. The difference? Facing brokenness to get well feels good because it is good to be restored and healed. Denying brokenness and promoting behaviors that mask it as "normal" may feel like relief temporarily, but the brokenness will continue to eat away at our body, mind, and soul - just like a virus - until we are so broken that wellness and healing seem impossible.

The knowledge that humans have brokenness in us, or as a part of our experience, has always been true. The need for healing, rescue, and redemption back to being healthy has also always been true. This is the basis of the four "I WILL..." promises God makes to Israel in Exodus 6:6-7. These promises are celebrated every year by the Jews at Passover as they remember their history and as they pray for these promises to apply to all people everywhere.

The context of these promises from God is important. We will look at them closer next week. For now, reflect on this question: "Where is the media and the world telling me things are normal or ok, and yet it still seems broken?"

Maybe you have a solid grasp on that. Maybe you don't see any place where this is happening. Let me prime the pump for some deeper reflection with additional questions:

* If the vast majority in any situation has a consistent set of norms based on biology, psychology, morality, etc., how can the exceptions to the major trends be called "normal"? And if we classify the exceptions as "normal" to that exceptional group, then what other factors are evaluated to determine if the exception has a good, unhelpful, or destructive divergence?

* If exceptions are "normal" and "good" just because they are divergent, then how do we evaluate climate change, the opioid crisis, sex trafficking, violence, isolation, gender and same sex attraction issues, biological expression vs. psychological perception, racial issues, etc.?

* If what is most prevalent is "evil" or oppressive, just because it is more present than the exceptions, then how do we determine when something has become too common and therefore can no longer be "good" because it excludes the exceptions?

Our ability to know right/wrong, good/evil, and truth/fiction, is all dependent upon being able to understand those things that are unchanging factual realities, and those things that are relative to perspective or experience. We then have to be able to take our changing perspectives or experiences and evaluate them in light of unchanging factual certainties. Where this gets messed up is when we change out facts for relative perspectives and skew what is good toward our experience. The tendency then is to ignore what is broken, or worse to make it normal and good. Our aversion to admitting our own faults and flaws comes from vanity, and vanity will do anything it can to look good in the mirror of public opinion.

If we cannot grasp our own brokenness, and we believe our faults and flaws are normal and to be celebrated, what harm could that do?

Continued next week...

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.