Facing Our 'Dark Side,' Part 2

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, July 22, 2017 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Please read last week’s post to get the context of this one.

What Paul explains in Romans 7 is something VERY different than the concept of light/dark sides, within our spiritual nature. God expresses that we are spiritual and physical beings, and apart from God we will do whatever seems right to us, which usually is whatever benefits or feels good to us. When we encounter God, He opens our eyes to see what is truly good and what is truly evil. It's a perspective we can only gain from Him, because He is the only one who is eternal and able to know which is which. God gave us His teaching, recorded in the Bible, as the primary way to know right and wrong / good and evil.

The challenge is, once we know right from wrong, it doesn't change our desires for things that benefit us. Even when we know something is wrong according to God, we see a potential advantage for ourselves or a potential pleasure in doing something, and our struggle begins. This is what Paul calls the desires of the "flesh." Our flesh desires personal gain, feeling, advantage, pleasure, avoidance of pain, etc. It is the moment we stop asking God what is right, and chose to do what we feel will improve our situation. This is different than wisdom, although we can use our wisdom to justify making a self-focused decision.

So, do we have a 'dark side'? Not in the way Star Wars presents it. We do not have two impersonal spiritual forces at war within us. We are not freed from the struggle through enlightenment, and we are not able to overcome evil by being good enough, humble enough, and 'zen' enough.

We are beings who are material and spiritual in ONE nature, and we are given to serve ourselves and protect our own interests. Only through God's teaching and perspective can we discern the difference between good and evil, and only by His power are we able to overcome our self-serving nature. The challenge for us is that God is not an impersonal force or a vending machine of 'force powers' that we can just tap into by meditation and self-denial. God is a person, He has a distinct identity, and He exists unto Himself. We are not God. Only through relationship with Him can we access His power and overcome evil with good.

Come back and read next week's blog post to explore more about how that may be possible.

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The Power of Your Testimony

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, July 21, 2017 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“And they overcame him with the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” ~Revelation 12:11

A couple months ago, I spoke at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I had a two-week notice on a workshop about how to use your past in your fiction, and in my preparation for teaching the workshop was this key factor: the power of your testimony. I would like to share what God made clear for me to teach at this workshop.

There are two primary types of testimonies: those who have been through the gutter and come out, and those who have been preserved from the gutter. The former is what most of us think of when the topic of testimonies come up: “I used to be this, now I am that.” The latter is for those who never did go through gutter. Each of these types of testimonies are necessary in the church.

The “rescue from the gutter” testimonies cover the lives of those who fell into darkness, either by their own choices or were dragged into the gutter by someone else and then escaped. Many of us have heard of the former drug addicts, alcoholics, porn addicts, slaves to anger or gossip, and those who lost it all only to rise up and get back on their feet.

Every Christian has some rescue from the gutter testimony, because every one of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If we had not fallen into the gutter of sin, we would not need a Savior. The blood of Jesus brought us out of our sin and now we should either be walking in victory or walking towards victory. But I want to zoom in on specifics. What did Jesus really save us from? Greed? Lust? Pride? Anger? Rebellion against authority? Is there any change in us after we became a Christian? If not, perhaps we should evaluate ourselves to see if we are indeed in the faith.

People who have come out of the gutter have great value. They can give those in the gutter hope of getting out, and they can go back into the darkness and use their escape to guide others to the light. I have not experienced the pain of divorce or a broken family. I cannot relate to people who have in that area. However, I can relate to people who deal with special needs kids. Last month, I got to spend some time with a dear friend I met at this writer’s conference a few years ago. He has an autistic child, and I am able to encourage him because of my own experiences in dealing with the issue.

The other type of testimony tends to be frowned upon in many churches: the preservation from the gutter. Why? This type of testimony does not have the dramatic story behind it. People who never went through the gutter tend to feel like their testimony does not demonstrate God’s power. I used to think this as well, but I was wrong. God demonstrates his power not only in his ability to get us out of the gutter, but also to keep us from it.

I have this type of testimony. I was raised in a Christian home, in the mission field. I was saved when I was seven years old. I have never tried drugs, never had a drink, never faced a broken family, never dealt with the death of a loved one prematurely, and most would say I’ve never had a real problem to face. That doesn’t mean I really don’t have issues, but I simply do not have that classic gutter-to-glory story. That being said, my story is also needed.

Having not been through the gutter, I can show those who have been through the gutter what it should look like to live outside the gutter. In the movie Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman’s character, Red, describes the “institutionalization” of inmates and how those who have been in prison for years forget how to life outside the prison system. The “rehabilitation” process never prepares inmates to return to society. The same idea is true for us. We who were formally sinners do not know how to live as a Christian because all we know is how to live in sin. We need someone who knows how to live outside sin to show us how to live outside of sin. Jesus is the ultimate example of this, however we can do that job as well.

There is another advantage to having the preservation testimony. If you have not fallen for alcohol, drugs, lust, or whatever, you can go to those in the gutter because what is a weakness to someone else is just water off a duck’s back to someone else. You can go help someone walk that mile and not be afraid of falling into the mire, because that issue is not a temptation for you.

The power of the testimony cannot be underestimated. Which do you have? Have you been caught in the gutter and need help escaping? Look for someone who has been in the gutter. Do you want to know how to live free from an area of sin? Look for someone who escaped or someone has never had to face it for encouragement. But remember this one key: the most important element of any testimony is Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, too many people make their story about them and God is just a side-character. He is our rescuer and/or our preserver. This is His story. We are the damsel in distress, and Jesus is the knight in shining armor. He is the one who rescues us and the one who preserves us. Let us make sure he gets the glory and the center of attention in our testimonies.

While I have a preservation from the gutter testimony, I realized shortly after I taught this workshop at the writer’s conference exactly what God has preserved me from. In some of the issues I have struggled with in my mind, I have not carried them out in action and I realized just how much Jesus has preserved me. I have realized how easily I could have fallen into the gutter apart from God’s grace, and with that is the very scary reality that God could pull his grace at any point and he will not have to explain to me why. I have to take that warning seriously. God does not have to save us or preserve us. He loves to do so, but he has no obligation to save us. Whether we are saved or preserved, let us not forget that what we go through is for God’s purposes and for God’s glory. He will get his glory if we are rescued or preserved. Let us give him what he is due in our testimonies.

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Another Encounter with the Ark

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, July 20, 2017 2 comments

by Steve Risner

Last week we started a journey aboard the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. The Ark Encounter is a full-scale representation of Noah's Ark that demonstrates the feasibility of the account in Scripture. Last week we talked about the size of the Ark and the number of animals that may have been on it. I discussed what we found on the first 2 decks of the Ark. This week, we'll move to the third deck.

The third deck at the Ark Encounter was built for living quarters and food preparation. Again, as I said last week, the people at Answers in Genesis who put this all together took the freedom to fill in gaps where we simply don't know the specific details from the Bible. They make sure this is clear numerous times as you walk about the decks of the Ark. They give us what the Book of Jubilees says is the name of Noah's wife—calling her Emzara—and give us possible names and physical characteristics of Noah's sons' wives and skills they may have had, given the mission to survive on a wooden vessel for about a year with thousands of animals. Whether any of this information is accurate really is of no consequence. It just helps fill in the gaps that the Bible leaves out, because the details were not important. My wife and I enjoyed every bit of it.

A couple of side notes: if you plan a trip to the Ark, which I highly recommend, plan on eating there. Emzara's Kitchen is right next to the Ark with outdoor seating if you like and is exceptionally reasonably priced. In fact, I couldn't believe the cost; for a tourist attraction, it was very inexpensive.

The other side note is the impact this attraction has made on the area. There were nearly a million visitors to the Ark last year (keeping in mind the park opened in the summer) and is projected to draw about 2 million this year. That's an amazing amount of revenue for local businesses which will, in turn, put money in the state's purse. Gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and many other local businesses have had a great deal of added business from out of state or at least out of area travelers. Not only has the media not mentioned this at all, but they've painted a very different picture where the Ark Encounter actually cost the state tax money out of the budget. This is not true at all and you can find factual reports on this online. Kentucky’s tax payers will see a great benefit to having this park in the area, bringing in millions of people and tons of revenue and tax dollars from around the country.

The truly beautiful thing I appreciate with the Ark Encounter is it stays true to God's Word. It fully incorporates the narrative told in the Biblical account of the Flood. Sure, gaps are filled in where there are no details, but these things don't impact the account as a whole. The Bible makes a few things clear and AiG doesn't water these things down: God created the universe and therefore the earth about 6000 years ago, He hates sin and there is a penalty for sin, God destroyed all mankind in the Flood about 4400 years ago saving only 8 people, and this Flood covered the entire planet. Rather than bow to the currently popular humanistic interpretations of the evidence (which are largely contrary to the evidence, in reality), AiG has determined to honor the Word of God. They've decided that it's more important to stick to the clear teaching of the Bible instead of manipulating it to say something it obviously doesn't. There is no room in a Biblical worldview for millions or billions of years of geologic time and no room for evolution or a Big Bang. There simply is no way to be consistent and mingle the Word of God with humanism. Single common ancestry and Big Bang cosmology are nothing more than humanism, and it's impossible to marry them to Christianity and still be a faithful to the Word of God.

For centuries, science and laypersons alike understood the fossil record and geologic column in general represented a massive worldwide Flood that destroyed everything on land during the time of Noah. Due to the arbitrarily chosen ages assigned to rock layer by Charles Lyell and others (who specifically stated his purpose in doing so was to remove Moses—that is Genesis—from the sciences), humanism hijacked science and has dominated it ever since. Darwin chimed in with a process (an impossible and completely unscientific process, mind you) to create biodiversity, and now we're here. Science was invented by Christians as they studied the world and universe around them. They marveled at the greatness of God as they looked deeper and deeper into His glorious creation. God created nature. For some reason, even mentioning God as we look at nature gets shouts of anti-science or religious nut. The truth is, I believe, that if we refuse to acknowledge the One Who made nature as we study it, we can't possibly expect to unlock its greatest secrets. Humanist interpretations of scientific evidence have effectively stated that, although there are a great many reasons that nature points to a Creator, that is the one thing they will refuse to acknowledge regardless of the evidence. It's the one thing that's right and they've chosen to accept any answer except the right one. It's remarkable, really.

Atheism, in general, is very illogical and inconsistent—inconsistent with science, reason, and reality as well as being internally inconsistent with itself. The depths to which atheists go to deny the God of the Bible and the obvious evidence for Him in creation is pretty amazing.

As an example of the terrific lengths humanism will go, let's look at Mars for a second. NASA will tell you that “Mars used to be covered in water and so could have been ideal for supporting life.” It is believed that Mars has water on it, mostly of the frozen variety although some gas seems to exist there as well. Some scientists want us to believe the Red Planet was covered in water and probably had life on it, but it’s now bone dry. However, if you mention to them that the earth was once covered in water by a huge Flood, even though two-thirds of the earth is still covered by water and large reservoirs of water have been found beneath the earth's surface, they'll laugh and scoff and say, “Where's the evidence for that?”

I plan to explore some of this evidence in the future and also share with you some of the magic atheism must believe in for the universe, sun, earth, and life to exist. It's pretty crazy stuff. Thank you for reading. Be encouraged. The faith of the Christian is backed by the evidence, not in spite of it. We have a faith that is reasonable and well founded.

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The Peace of ‘67

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, July 19, 2017 0 comments

by David Odegard

Scott McKenzie advised the nation that “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair.” This advice captured the mood of the early Haight-Ashbury scene were the hippies had everything they wanted: sex, drugs, rock and roll, communism, and local tolerance. It was the idea that people could define what love, happiness, and peace meant for themselves that was so attractive. It was the rejection of Christianity and the adoption of these redefined values that fueled American culture for decades.

That Summer of Love in 1967 came tantalizingly close to achieving some sort of cohesive community. Young people came from all over the nation to join in with the hippies. Fresh-faced college kids and high school drop-outs showed up in the tens of thousands, ready for sex and drugs. Certainly for some, that is what it was about. But the philosophy behind the Haight-Ashbury experience was not about drugs, it was about self-exploration through LSD and other substances. The community really was trying to find love, happiness, and peace. “There was a whole generation with a new explanation.”

This explanation was entirely contrary to deep tradition of Christianity. Think of this: While Moses was on the mountaintop getting the Ten Commandments, the Israelites developed their own Haight-Ashbury community. They grew impatient that it was taking Moses so long to return and they asked Aaron to make them an idol of gold, a calf.

The day after it was finished was to be a day of festival. They made animal sacrifices and then began to party, hard. “Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” (Exodus 32:6). This Hebrew word used for play there (tsachaq) has the connotation of sex play or gross sexual immorality. This was a drunken orgy on an enormous scale. There were approximately 2 million Hebrews wandering. How many participated? You can get the idea without me going into an inordinate amount of detail. It was so gross that God told Moses while he was still on the mountain that He was going to just destroy them. Moses interceded and God relented. Nevertheless, the Israelites had totally defiled themselves.

Christians (and many others) know that when habits of sexuality are loosened, it does not result in a multiplication of love and unity; rather, it produces hatred and betrayal, jealousy and fighting. The Israelite community would not have lasted long in that desert trying to be a free-love community. They would soon have bludgeoned themselves into oblivion.

The summer of 1967 was about as close to free love, peace, and drug-fueled euphoric happiness that the hippies ever got, yet the mood on Haight-Ashbury had already began to change, as it always does, from freedom to exploitation.

By the time some of the innocent-eyed, hitchhiking runaways arrived later that year and in 1968, Haight-Ashbury was already a hard drug scene. The flowers were replaced by needles and the fresh-faced girls found it didn’t really matter if they wore flowers in their hair or not - it was probably going to be pulled. The hippies had the conclusion of their social experiment, but they refused to learn the lesson. They have since tried to conduct this experiment with better results, but the results are always the same. Alas, they won’t give up until everyone is dead.

St. Augustine would have made a good hippie had he lived 1600 years later. Nevertheless, he was a rich young man being educated at college in rhetoric. He tried to fill the void with everything. He confesses the influence of immorality had on him: “Nevertheless, O hellish flood, the sons of men are thrown into you with fees paid, so that they may learn these fables… acted out publicly in the forum… But for this would we never have understood the words ‘golden shower,’ ‘lap,’ ‘deceit,’ ‘temples of heaven,’ and others written in the same place, unless Terence had brought a depraved youth upon the stage who took Jove as his model of adultery? … Yet, O my God, in whose sight I now safely recall this, in my wretchedness I willingly learned these things and took delight in them” (Confessions of St. Augustine: Book 1, Chapter 16, Section 25).

He later confesses “I burned to get my fill of hellish things. I dared to run wild in different darksome ways of love. My comeliness wasted away. I stank in your eyes, but I was pleasing to myself and I desired to be pleasing to the eyes of men (Confessions: 2,1,1). With eloquence, he began to describe the result of this casting off of restraint. “Clouds arose from the slimy desires of the flesh and from youth’s seething spring. They clouded over and darkened my soul, so that I could not distinguish the calm light of chaste love from the fog of lust” (2,2,2).

He was only 16 years old as this was taking place! But many a 16-year-old knows exactly what he is talking about. He embraced sexual immorality. “Then it was that the madness of lust, licensed by human shamelessness but forbidden by your laws, took me completely under its scepter, and I clutched it with both hands” (2,2,4).

Augustine gave himself over to sexual immorality and discovered that it brought no peace and no joy, nor did it bring freedom. It brought hollowness, despair, and a soul in ruins. He confessed that he was in love with pleasure, but he had no real love whatsoever. He would have fit in just fine at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury in 1967.

Nevertheless, he discovered that “our heart is restless until it rests in you [Jesus]” (1,1,1). If you want real and lasting peace, it never comes in a pipe. Peace comes not from the poppy, but by at last agreeing that God is right in His ways. If unrestrained sex produced something other than a destroyed soul, if it produced real life and joy, God himself would have promoted it. But it doesn’t and it never will.

We Christians have been given the ministry of peace. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

We make peace with God, with our fellow man, and with ourselves by confessing that God was right all along. We confess that we threw off God’s restraint because we thought we knew better than God, and it has brought us to its bitter conclusion. I have been at war with God, but now I realize that He was right all along. I make my peace. I surrender. Then through the power of the blood Jesus Christ, by His merit, I am forgiven! Join us in this ministry of reconciliation!

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Judges 19:11-21

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, July 17, 2017 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, 'Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.'
His master replied, 'No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.' He added, 'Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.' So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.
That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, 'Where are you going? Where did you come from?'
He answered, 'We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord. No one has taken me in for the night. We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.'
'You are welcome at my house,' the old man said. 'Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.' So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.” (Judges 19:11-21)

This week’s passage builds on the story of last week’s, so I encourage you to go read that post here before continuing on with this one. The short version is that the Levite’s concubine had gone home to her parents, he went to get her, and now they’re traveling back to their home. They had gotten a late start thanks to the girl’s father, so now they need to stay overnight on their journey.

The city of Jebus was on their way, but it was not an Israelite city, so they likely would not have received good hospitality there and it could have been dangerous for them. It was only 4 more miles to Gibeah, a city belonging to the Israelite tribe of Benjamin, so they continued on there instead. It sounds like these travelers didn’t know this, but Gibeah did not have a good reputation; it was known for being very immoral.

In those days you wouldn’t just find the local Holiday Inn and check if they had vacancy. Instead, you’d wait in the city square until someone would offer you lodging at their residence. The travelers waited at the city square like was customary, and it was very odd that they were refused hospitality by most of the city.

Finally, an old man offers to help them out. It turns out that he was from the hill country of Ephraim, just as they were. It’s always nice to find someone you can connect with when you’re away from home. And, since this man was not native to Gibeah, he may not have shared the immorality of the town.

Normally, the host would supply all the needs of the travelers who would stay with them, including food. This Levite did not want to be a burden to whoever took them in, so he offered to take care of them, they just needed a place to rest. But the old man still took care of their needs, taking them into his house, providing them with food, and even taking care of their donkeys. He definitely seemed welcoming enough.

Sometimes, our expectations can be different than reality. The Levite and the concubine traveled a little farther just to stay at the Israelite town of Gibeah, rather than take their chances at the non-Israelite town of Jebus. But when they get there, for hours no one is willing to offer them hospitality - and these are their own people! The town they expected to welcome them was in fact unwelcoming to them. It seems like a chance encounter with the old man, but thankfully he does offer to help them. Their expectations were for a restful night in his house, but we’ll see next week how that doesn’t happen.

Where in your life have you experience a reality that didn’t measure up to your expectations? Maybe a friend or family member you expected to help you has let you down. Or maybe you have let someone else down.

What are your expectations of God? Do you feel like He has let you down? The reality is that God will never let us down and we can always count on Him, even when His reality may look different than what we expect.

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Flame of your Future

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, July 16, 2017 0 comments

by Ami Samuels

Have you ever tried to start a fire by hand? I haven’t, but I have watched members of Survivor do this for several seasons.

Starting a fire by hand takes a great deal of effort. There is a lot of work that goes into trying to ignite a spark, but the work doesn’t end there. Once there is a spark, you have to carefully blow on the fire while cautiously adding kindling. If you blow too hard, you will put out the flame. Likewise, if you add too much kindling too soon, it can snuff out the fire.

My husband Chuck was in a transferable position with his job, which means that with different job opportunities we often had to move to different locations. We have lived in 5 different states. Every time we moved, it seemed to take some time to reignite my flame. It seems I would be just starting to find my groove in a new community, church, ministry, and then we move again.

I have begun to realize that the primary reason I have a hard time reigniting my flame is because I spend so much time looking back at what I had, that I don’t start living where I am. This type of thinking can be destructive when it goes unrecognized.

My focus on my past life does nothing to help me move forward where I am. I had stopped living in the moment and was living in the past. This is not the plan God intended for our lives.

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Imagine a runner who races toward a finish line, but he keeps looking back over his shoulder for his opponent. That would certainly hinder his race.

Maybe for you it is a certain time in your life, a job or career, a place where you lived, a person you miss, or a past hurt that you cling too. Some people never find freedom from their past. Don’t let that be you!

I will end with a quote from Jim Elliot: “Wherever you are, be all there!”

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Facing Our 'Dark Side,' Part 1

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, July 15, 2017 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

In the final episode of the "Clone Wars" cartoon, Jedi Master Yoda goes on a quest to learn how to transcend death. It's an episode that basically tries to explain why 'force ghosts' are possible in the movies and in the canon of Star Wars 'ideology.'

As part of this episode, Yoda battles a shadowy figure that sounds just like him and has a similar form to him. Initially, Yoda says, "Recognize you, I do not." As they battle, the shadowy figure states that he has been feeding on the enjoyment Yoda has from the Clone Wars - presumably the sense of accomplishment as the battle rages to do good and defeat the Separatists and the Sith.

At the point Yoda seems like he is going to be overwhelmed by this shadowy foe, he stands up and says, "Recognize you, I do. My Dark side, you are. Power over me, you do not have." Then he vaporizes his 'dark side' by channeling his humility and peace in a way that he could use the force to overcome his own ego and hubris. It made for a great story, but it begs questions about our reality. Do we have a dark side? Can we overcome it by just disconnecting ourselves from attachments, channeling humility, and denying our desires?

Read Romans chapter 7, and read it slowly. Take time to reflect on what Paul is explaining. Then come back and finish reading this post.

Initially, it seems like Paul agrees with the ideas Yoda expresses, that there is a struggle between our light and dark sides. But if you read carefully, what God teaches us through Paul? Is He saying good and evil coexist in us? Is He saying that 'enlightenment' and our own purity of spirit have the power to overcome evil?

Come back next week to continue to explore whether we have a 'dark side' and how we might overcome it.

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