The Faith of Abel

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, September 24, 2017 0 comments

by Logan Ames

If you have a sibling with whom you are very close, chances are that you’ve had moments in your life when you felt like you were doing everything right and still got the shaft. You probably felt that your parents favored your brother or sister and that just really irked you. I remember when I turned 16 years old and was eager to get my driver’s license. However, I already had my own car and it had a manual transmission. Because of this, my parents made me learn how to drive stick shift before I was allowed to get my license. Two years later, my younger brother turned 16 and was allowed to get his license right away even though he had no vehicle and had to share my mom’s car. This annoyed me and seemed unfair! Eventually, I got over it because ultimately, it could only affect me if I let it. Plus, there’s always the fact that it was a completely immature view of things.

Most of us grow out of these feelings, yet there are some who allow them to grow into a bitter root that ultimately consumes them. That’s been going on for almost as long as human beings have been around on this planet. Today, we’ll learn about someone who allowed his jealousy and selfish feelings to overpower him, as well as someone who didn’t focus on such petty things because his focus and faith were in the Lord.

Our foundational verse for this series about our faithful heroes is Hebrews 11:3, which says, “By faith, we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” With this understanding of what God was able to accomplish as our foundation, the miracles we need seem entirely possible and our complaints seem all the more pointless. We see in the next verse that the first person mentioned by the writer of Hebrews as one who was faithful is Abel. You can read Genesis 4 on your own and see that Abel is the younger brother of Cain, and they were the first two sons of Adam and Eve.

In Hebrews 11:4, we’re told that Abel’s faith caused him to bring a “better offering” to God than Cain did. Right off the bat, that makes us a little uncomfortable because we are comparing something that seems like it shouldn’t be compared. I mean, none of us would approve of someone sitting and judging one person’s offering at church as “better” than someone else’s. But the NIV translation of the Bible doesn’t give us anything else to go with. Take a look at the same verse here in The Message. It wasn’t just about what they brought to the Lord, because the Lord also knew their hearts, and Abel’s offering was based on faith. If we go back to Genesis 4, we see that Abel and Cain had separate jobs that they did, they each brought offerings to the Lord, and the Lord favored Abel’s offering but not Cain’s (vv. 3-5). The question is, why?

Let me go ahead and put the disclaimer out there that anytime we are trying to dig into the mind of God, we should tread carefully, especially if the answer is not crystal clear in Scripture. In this case, however, we can gain an understanding with a little deeper look into Genesis 4:3-5. They tell us that Cain brought SOME of the fruits of his soil, while Abel brought fat portions from the firstborn of his flock. This may seem insignificant, but their actions reveal a little bit about their hearts. Cain’s offering appears to have been a little more reluctant than Abel’s. We don’t know that for certain, but we do know that he brought “some” of what the Lord provided for him. In other words, he gave God his leftovers. Abel, however, gave the fat portions (considered to be the most luxurious part of the meat) of the firstborn of his flock. This means that before he took anything for himself, he gave the very best that he had to the Lord.

As I said earlier, the Lord knew each man’s heart. So, we can’t say for sure that his favor was based only on the nature of the offering. But this does teach us something about our own attitudes toward our giving. Do we recognize that God has given us literally everything we have? Does that even matter to us? When we decide to give back to him through the local church or in other ways, is it something that we do out of religious necessity only after we have taken care of everything we want first? Or do we offer to God the very best of what we’ve been given because, by faith, we trust him to meet all of our other needs? These are the questions we must answer individually, and how we answer them says a lot about our faith.

You can read the rest of the story in Genesis 4 to see what transpired. In short, Cain is angry and sad about God not accepting his offering. He is given the chance by God to master his own emotions, repent, and choose to do what is right. He doesn’t, so his emotions lead him to a fit of jealousy and rage in which he kills his own brother. The Lord confronts him and he lies, even mocking God in the process. Then he gets a persecution complex and believes that everyone will be out to get him for the rest of his life. We never see any sign that Cain repents in any way.

Cain’s sinful choices began with emotions, which by themselves are not necessarily considered “sin.” God spoke to him at a critical moment when the temptation to act out of his sin was strong and urged him to master that temptation. But Cain gave into it and became a murderer, only one generation after sin entered the world. While Abel is our faith hero for the week, we read very little about him. Why is that?

Friends, doing the right thing in God’s eyes won’t get you much fame or attention. But when your actions are lined up against the actions of those who do not follow him or live by faith, you’ll be an example to others. Depending on the situation God puts you in, you might even get the chance to be a witness to the whole world. Abel was a human being. I’m sure he was tempted to sin just as Cain was. But his proper perspective on who God is caused him to make his faith his first priority. It wasn’t just about what Abel believed intellectually, but moreso about how his beliefs translated to action.

What is God asking you to do by faith? What sins are in your life that you recognize desperately want to have power over you? If you believe that God created the entire universe out of nothing as the Word says he did, then let that faith influence how you approach every area of your life, including giving, resisting sin, and letting God be your defender when someone is jealous or bitter toward you. Let’s learn from Abel’s example and apply it to our own lives.

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Check Your Vertical, Part 4

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, September 23, 2017 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

After a long and struggling summer, some serious issues at work, health issues within our extended family, and then some doubt about our vacation even happening, we finally got the “all clear” to go. It was amazing. Everything we looked forward to was just perfect, and we UNWOUND.

I am sad to say that when we returned, it only took 48 hours for me to be completely WOUND again. Just that quick, on the heels of an amazing time of relaxation, I was stressed out. It was hard for me to see the way forward, especially since I let the horizontal struggles sweep me back off my bearings.

What are some simple principles that can help us move forward, to grow and to go the way God wants, moving forward in the horizontal, without losing sight of the vertical? This sounds like it should be easy. But there are plenty of things that can lead us off course, and most of them need to be handled FIRST in our mind, before we lose our way.

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-2. Paul is encouraging a young leader in the Lord and giving Him guidelines to stay on course. Those guidelines are just as relevant to us today as they were to Timothy then. 

Paul starts this chapter saying that he “solemnly charges” Timothy in regards to His purpose and calling. The Greek words Paul uses for “solemnly charges” mean to testify or give witness like in a court case. In other words, this is important, and it has the weight of life, death, and eternity connected to it.

What does he charge Timothy with? To be ready in season and out of season, to preach the Word of God. Do you know that we are all supposed to do this? If we believe what the Bible teaches that we are all ministers of the good news of Jesus, if we believe we are the priesthood of all believers, then we all share in this charge to preach. Maybe not on a platform or to audiences, but in and out of season. So, ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE.

In order to preach the Word, you have to know the Word. In order to know the Word, we have to learn the Word. So, what is the best way to learn? Check out these statistics in regard to learning. People remember: 
10% of what they read
20% of what they hear
30% of what they see
50% of what they see and hear
70% of what they discuss with others
80% of what they personally experience

But there is one more method that causes us to remember and learn better than all these. In fact, it has a whopping 95% retention by those who absorb and assimilate knowledge this way. Maximum learning comes from TEACHING OTHERS!

When we break something down and help someone else learn it, we actually improve our own abilities exponentially. Children who take on their own student actually learn faster and become stronger at whatever they are learning, because they are engaging every aspect of what it takes to grow and mature in their own abilities – at the same time they are helping someone else develop theirs. The same is true of our faith.

Knowing God is the most important aspect of your life and the most significant relationship you have. Are you passionately seeking to understand His Word, so that you can live and share His teachings and promises? Who are you learning from, and who are you teaching? Are you ready to preach in season and out of season? If not, who will you partner with for your learning and development? Who will you teach in order to galvanize and refine your own learning? Will you make the time to do so in regards to your faith?

The way forward starts with a solid understanding of our VERTICAL bearings and intentional growth and teaching from God's Word to keep us from being overrun and burnt out by the ways of the world.

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Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 22, 2017 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

I am one of those hyper-focused guys where while it may take me a while to get started on something, once I get going, don’t interrupt me on it until I am at a good place to stop. I used to hate unexpected interruptions and it would make me shut down. I don’t remember it, but rumor has it that the worst tantrum I threw as a child was when my babysitter sent me to bed half an hour late. Why? It threw me off my schedule and I was not prepared for it. I am much better at dealing with this now, but I was not exactly the best person to be around when I was interrupted and inconvenienced. How do we handle interruptions and inconveniences?

I worked in retail for six years after high school and into my first couple years of college at a local grocery store. They had made me a jack-of-all-trades at this store. The only departments I did not work were meat market, bakery, and produce. I worked warehouse, I worked the shelves, I worked cashier, I sacked/carried out groceries, dairy, frozen, and even janitorial stuff from time to time. I remember one summer, I sought to do a thorough cleaning of the shelves I was primarily responsible for and I long lost count of how many times the front called me up to sack groceries or cashier for one or two customers when there were plenty of other people in the story who truly weren’t doing much. It was frustrating, and the more I reflect upon it, I did not exactly handle it the way I should have.

What dislodged this from my mind was Eric Ludy’s sermon “Fixing Broken Pots.” In this sermon, Ludy describes the mission work of Otto Conning in Ira Jaya and Papua New Guinea. Otto was sent to do language studies and to translate the Gospel of John, and yet every time he turned around the people came to him to fix their broken pots, busted shovels, bent machetes, and a rusty harmonica. Ludy shows how Otto had to get to the point where dealing with all these interruptions was more important than the primary job he was sent to do, and in the end he ended up being ahead of nearly every other missionary sent by the board by ten years. It was hard, but he learned to appreciate the inconveniences and that ultimately God was the one responsible for how and when he got things done.

When I first heard that sermon, I knew I was guilty of not handling things the right way. When things go as expected, life is easy. But something I have known for some time but never really appreciated so much is that God likes to make us uncomfortable because that is the only way to get us to grow. I can say this from experience and I am sure many of you can say it too. If you want God to teach you patience, I can guarantee you will get many opportunities to practice patience. I can also say from experience that if you want to have a time completely separated from everything else so you can focus on a project, you can expect a number of interruptions and inconveniences to come your way. My project I tried to do at this grocery store was a fine example.

What kind of inconveniences do we face? What are they for? How should we respond to them? Interruptions and inconveniences come from two sources: God or Satan, and between them there are three primary motivations in throwing them at us.

The first motivation for God to throw us inconveniences is when he wants to teach us something. Some of these are small things. A flat tire that actually kept you out of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Getting called to the front of the store when you are focused on a project in the back end. Dealing with the “customer from hell.” Having a manager constantly micromanage your work. In growing up serving on mission teams, the sewer line of our Colorado home would back up every Friday night, right before we were to leave before sunrise the next morning for Juarez, Mexico. Every time. Paul had his thorn in the flesh. He repeatedly asked for it to be removed, but God was teaching Paul to trust in God alone and not his own skills, abilities, and intellect. These inconveniences are to help us build our character and to make us stronger so we can handle even bigger issues.

The second motivation for inconveniences are where God wants you to set up your plans and then he will redirect your steps when you get there. A case of major inconveniences that years earlier would have really messed me up took place in 2011. I was the leader of one of the Christian organizations at my college and I had spearheaded an outreach with a professional pool player, Steve Lillis. The very week he was to arrive, we got hit with a massive deep freeze that impacted the entire country. He got on the first plane out of New Jersey only to arrive in El Paso, to high temperatures of 15 degrees. Never in recorded history had El Paso stayed more than 48 hours below freezing. This storm killed the power generators, which killed the water pumps, and El Paso was forced to manage rolling blackouts and boil water because the major pipes had busted because they were frozen. For our outreach, we lost our venues and our intended audience. Yet God opened up other venues and other audiences, and Steve Lillis told me that week was his best in 15 years of international presentations. He included this trip in his autobiography. Man makes his plans but God directs his steps. He created inconveniences to get us to reach those he wanted to reach.

But thirdly, Satan also gives us inconveniences which God allows but did not necessarily authorize. While God will use inconveniences to help us grow, the enemy uses them to distract us and pull us off our position. We are soldiers in God’s army, positioned at certain stations. Satan will try to throw interruptions and inconveniences at us to try to get us to respond to them and leave our post, because once we leave our post, he invades our territory to try to take it over. These are such inconveniences were are to silence. Paul did so in Acts 16:16-18. A girl kept following them and proclaiming their message in a not so appropriate way. Paul got annoyed and cast the demon out of the girl. This of course caused her owners to get mad and they started a riot.

Learn the difference. Learn what you can learn from God, but don’t let the distractions keep you from your post and your duty. If God needs you to change your duty, he will tell you so. But don’t let the enemy give you that counsel.

I have greatly improved in my handling of interruptions and inconveniences, however I am not perfected. As a substitute teacher, a few weeks ago I had a day where my assignment got changed 4 times before the 1st period ended and I was able to take it with class. There have been other times a few years ago when such a circumstance would have shut me down. Let us handle our inconveniences with grace and tact. Recognize where they may come from, and even if they are from the devil, let us seek what God wants us to learn from it.

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The Price of Utopia

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 20, 2017 1 comments

by David Odegard

Every utopia seeks to create an unchanging, ideal life or society in which persons are the happiest they could be. A utopia seeks to create a static life. Change, dynamic surges of thought or progress aren’t welcome because they upset the status quo. The problem with utopia is that it destroys innovation and freedom. The utopia destroys what it means to be human; instead of making me a slave, it ultimately seeks to make me a robot. Just a little gear in someone else’s great big machine. No thanks!

Alexander the Great was totally enamored with the teachings of Aristotle. He saw himself as a liberator of the barbarian world, bringing them the gift of Greek culture. He brought with him the Polis, a square city plan with a road (called kardia, meaning “heart”) running north and south, an avenue that was three times as wide running east and west, and a giant square in the center where these two roads met. The shops would run along the kardia, and just off the square would be the temple to the principle god. There would be a theatre, a hippodrome (horse racing), public baths (with male and female prostitutes), a gymnasium, etc. It represented a perfectly ordered existence.

Alexander’s idea was that to be fully Greek meant to wake up in the morning and get the blood pumping at the gym—a good workout, then to the baths. After the baths, a vigorous meal and perhaps some spirited public debate at the forum or listening to a lecture. Then on to the theatre or the hippodrome for a little night life, where wine, women, and song was the order of worship.

Ah hedonism, ah Hellenism, ah the good life of being truly Greek. But, if this is the daily routine in utopia, who was planting and reaping the crops, ferrying goods back and forth, providing security, watching the children, or cooking the meals? Alexander had an answer for that too: the slaves. Yes, Alexandrian Hellenism was dependent upon slave labor so it could not be the ideal for all. Every utopian scheme must erase the individual in order to exalt the society in which all the humans must fit. The scheme must whittle all those square pegs to fit into its round society.

There have been Christian models of utopia as well. Some of them have been absolute, Jew-killing nightmares. Others have been fine. There are basically two kinds of attempted Christian utopia: voluntary and involuntary.

Voluntary associations are no problem, even those that wholly embrace socialism or communism. If you don’t like it, you can leave. The Amish, the Hutterites, the Mennonites, and the Quakers, just to name a few, all began as Anabaptist communities that wanted to live out the Christian life in a deliberate way. They voluntarily surrendered their own rights and freedoms in order to live in a way that they felt was consistent with the Bible. Those members, or children of members, who did not wish to live according to the established norm of the community were allowed to leave. They were never killed or jailed; forget the modern depiction of all of these communities as witch burners, it just wasn’t the case.

Another example of this type are the monasteries which are designed to enable the Christians who live in them to pray and meditate in order to draw nearer to God. The Dominican order was established for that reason, but they also had the vision of preaching to the world. It seemed like a utopian ideal. As long as it remained uninfused with secular power, it remained true to its founding vision.

But on April 20, 1233, the Dominican order was tapped by Pope Gregory to enforce orthodoxy on Christians. Hence the Inquisition was born. To be sure, the Inquisition was an illegitimate outgrowth of the Dominican order, which sought to employ reason in defense of the gospel towards pagan and others. Forced conversions were something not intended by the founder. Nevertheless, when the idea utopia gets into the minds of powerful people, it always engenders dehumanization by necessity. Those square pegs ain’t gonna whittle themselves, are they. The difference? The use of force.

Ludwig Von Mises wrote, “In human life there is never calm and repose. Life is a process, not a perseverance in a status quo. Yet the human mind has always been deluded by the image of an unchangeable existence. The avowed aim of all utopian movements is to put an end to history and to establish a final and permanent calm.”

The 1800’s were filled with many competing utopian models. Marx, Darwin, Bacon, the Republic of France, the frenzy of post-millennialism in the United States, not to mention all the utopias dreamed up by authors, both religious and secular. It seemed that everyone had an ideal shape that human society could be hammered into. The builders of the Tower of Babel would have been proud. Man’s will must be overcome by human force and effort. All of the humanistic ideals that have arisen since the Fall of Man have believed in the perfectibility of man. Religions, Christian denominations, and secularists embraced the ideal of utopia even if they couldn’t agree what exactly the perfect society should be.

The 1900’s became the battleground for all of these ideals. The 20th century was a bloodbath, but the blood was spilled in the name of utopia. Karl Marx’s view of the perfect world started the Russian Revolution—Red over White. Millions dead! Later it would be Chairman Mao, Pol-Pot, and many others filling the killing fields with the bodies of those square pegs who refused to be whittled in the Marx’s perfect socialist order.

Hitler and Mussolini had their own ideas of utopia and they brought all the power of Italy and Germany to bring about a worldwide Pax Germana. Millions more dead. In the United States, the social gospel and the progressive movement completely reordered society with the help of Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and Lyndon Johnson vastly undermining traditional American values and freedom. The “experts” were in control building a New America. They were taking their cues from secular idealists who had so much in common with the National Socialist Party of Germany. I could go on for a thousand pages!

How is the Kingdom of God different? Isn’t heaven the ideal of the ideals? YES! But God is the one who does the whittling of the pegs to fit them into His Kingdom. He does it with perfect love and ability. Humans can only PLAY God, they can’t BE God; therefore, their efforts to recreate the Garden of Eden always fall short. They always dehumanize and enslave. They try to make a human being into an unthinking machine—a robot, a cog in someone else’s machine.

But God works differently. He works through love not power. He works through self-sacrifice not coercion.

1 Peter 2:1-5, 11-12 says, “Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. Like newborn infants, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to Him, the living stone, rejected by men, but chosen and precious in God’s sight, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from the desires of the flesh, which war against your soul. Conduct yourselves with such honor among the Gentiles that, though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us."

Sinful human beings simply cannot be made into a perfect society. It will always fail. God has chosen the way of regeneration. So must you.

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Race, Not Races

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 19, 2017 0 comments

by Aaron Felty

My father is black and my mother is white. We live in a time where there is so much animosity between those two color groups in our country. We hear about the “Black Lives Matter” movement, police officers shooting unarmed black citizens, and we see a variety of protests because of the latent racism and perceived “privilege” that exists. We see white people waving confederate flags and getting upset because they think black folks should just stop complaining and work harder. (Didn't we just have a black president?) Is the black/white issue the only issue? No, but it is the easiest for us in the United States to see the problem of race.

This blog post will not address those topics directly, but is intended to point people to Jesus in the midst of these difficult issues. It all begins with seeking to understand. Philippians 2:3b says, “In humility consider others better than yourself.”

Too often, we are trying to prove “we” are right and “they” are wrong. If we sought to understand the place from which one another was coming, much of this would disappear. For instance, do you understand and can you display compassion for people who do not look like you? Can you humbly answer these questions: Why do black people feel seem so hung up on racism and white privilege? Why are black people always talking about how poorly they are treated? Why do white people bristle when a black person protests the national anthem? Why can’t black people just work harder? There are so many things we need to address and these aren’t even the main ones, but you get the point. Listening and seeking to understand is the first and best way to begin to undo the negative effects of “racism.”

Additionally, we are also influenced by the media and people who push a particular narrative for a living. They are often called “race baiters.” Not only that, but we do have a sense of self-preservation; while something may be true and hurtful, we deny it because we may have contributed to it directly or indirectly, and that is too big of an issue to face on a personal level so we ignore or deny it. We have many influences that contribute to how we view “race” and how we react to it. Some are internal influences and some are external influences.

The Bible teaches that there is one race, the human race, and we in our sinfulness have created artificial walls between us and those who do not look like us, which is why “racism” exists. In Christ, there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, Greek or Scythian (Galatians 3:28). However, in America there certainly are these distinctions, and those of us who claim the name of Jesus would do well to create bridges not walls so that we can understand how to be salt and light in the midst of racial tension.

What is the follower of Jesus Christ to do in regard to the problem of race in the US? I am going to address only a few of the Biblical concepts here.

First of all, as I stated above, we need to consider others better than ourselves. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”

The Bible says in Philippians 2:3 that we are to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves. If we want to solve the problem of “racism,” we must first consider if our motives are selfish and our perspective is arrogance. The above passage says we are to do nothing if either of those exists. In racism, we see our perspective as THE perspective (vain conceit) and if others do not agree with our perspective they are labeled with some nasty epithet. As followers of Christ, we have to resist that activity. When talking with someone who feels as though they are victimized by racism, the Christ-centered thing to do would be to listen and attempt to understand from their perspective. The non-Christ-centered thing to do would be to argue to prove our point. “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).

When we consider others better than ourselves, they will almost always be willing to hear another way, but not until they have been heard. When dealing with a racist it is also best to listen. We do not have to agree with them, but if we understand where they are coming from, perhaps we can influence them away from their racist tendencies and perhaps God will give us an apt word in that moment. I’m not sure about you but I have NEVER convinced someone to change their sinful ways by pointing out their sin, especially if they are coming from a position of pride. However, when I interact humbly, I have seen people respond in humility and consider a different way.

Secondly, we pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). If you are a minority and have been mistreated, how about praying for the one who has mistreated you? If you are white and have been tongue lashed by a black person because you are white and do not “get it,” why not pray for that person? As in the first point, it all begins with listening. If you are in a dangerous situation, by all means flee to safety. However, God is able to change the heart of the persecutors in an instant. If you know someone who uses racial slurs or who is hostile toward other races, add them to your prayer list. Stop shaking your head at them and start bending the knee for them. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b). Ask the Lord to soften or heal their broken hearts, to convict them of their sin, and restore them so they may see others with God’s eyes not their own.

Finally, we see needs and meet them as we are able. This is indicated in Matthew 25:31-46 and James 2:16. This is one of the biggest problems black people seem to have with white people. Recently, a local Black Lives Matter group came out with 10 things white people can do (though I will not link to it because it has some disgusting language in it). I found the list absurd, but I understand the sentiment. Black people often wonder why white people do “nothing” when it comes to the obvious struggles in the black community. I could write an entire blog post on this. Suffice it to say, there is so much more white people could do to demonstrate understanding and compassion to the struggles still facing people of color. Some of these include befriending, supporting legitimate groups that advocate for healthy dialogue within varying ethnic groups, pushing for legislation that improves conditions in communities that are predominantly black or where people of color live, participating in peaceful protests, writing articles, asking good questions, listening, praying, or whatever you can do when a need is made known. If we did these things, we would see transformation in the health of our churches, our cities, our nation, and our world!

All too often, when a person hears talk about these issues, they immediately bristle because of the culture’s approach, which says, "If you are white, you are privileged; if you are black, you are a victim!" While both may be true in certain circumstances, in my opinion, neither are true in every situation. In fact, the argument simply creates more division. The only privilege we are all entitled to is the grace offered to us through our Lord Jesus Christ; it is free for the receiving!

I realize I have made this a completely one-way issue, discussing blacks being mistreated by whites. I am aware that these issues are far more complicated and occur the other way as well and with many other people groups from various cultural backgrounds.

In heaven, there will be people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, so let's practice getting along here on earth!

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.


Judges 21:19-24

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 18, 2017 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.'
So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, 'Go and hide in the vineyards and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin. When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us the favor of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them.’'
So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them. At that time the Israelites left that place and went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance.” (Judges 21:19-24)

Israel was at a dilemma, which you can read about in more detail in last week’s post. The tribe of Benjamin had been nearly wiped out by the civil war in Israel, and they thought they had solved two problems at once by giving the virgins from Jabesh Gilead to the remaining men of Benjamin to repopulate, but there weren’t enough women to go around. So, Israel had to get a bit creative in how to address this.

The oath that Israel had taken before the war (referenced in Judges 21:1) said that the other tribes could not GIVE their daughters to Benjamin in marriage. But if Benjamin STOLE their daughters, that wouldn’t be breaking their oath, right?

There was a festival coming up in Shiloh and many people would be gathered there. This celebration is likely along with the celebration of the Passover, as the dancing may be an imitating Miriam’s dancing in Exodus 15:20-21.

The men of Benjamin were given very detailed instructions on where they were to go, primarily because they would not have been familiar with the hill country of Ephraim. This instruction would help them make a quick escape, should it become necessary. It’s especially interesting that the Benjamite men were essentially told to ambush the young women; this is the same technique that Israel used to defeat Benjamin in the war, and now it would be used to build their tribe back up.

This method was very unorthodox, and it would likely make the family members mad that their girls were essentially stolen from them. Marriages were usually arranged by the father, so this was contrary to their customs. But, the leaders of Israel would support the men of Benjamin in this, in case the families got mad over the action. They needed to fill the gap left by the tribe of Benjamin, and the women of Jabesh Gilead weren’t enough so they needed more. They technically aren’t breaking the oath since they’re not “giving” the girls to them.

After this plan was put into action, Israel had now taken care of the issues with Benjamin, and the army could disband. However, this episode was one of the most tragic in Israel’s history due to the great loss of life in the war and the fact that they were fighting among themselves rather than against an enemy nation.

But what about Israel’s actions to get around their oath - were they acceptable? This issue is often referred to as the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law. They were following the letter of the law in that they technically didn’t break it by not giving their daughters in marriage. But, the spirit of the law is about the heart attitude. Israel was trying to find a loophole to get around what they promised.

This reminds me of something my brother and I did when we were little. It was nap time, but we were getting toward the age of being too old for naps, so Mom told us to stay in our rooms. Well, our bedroom doors were right next to each other in the one corner of the hallway. There was different carpeting in the hallway than our bedrooms, so there was a clear line of what “in our rooms” meant. So, he sat in the doorway at the edge of his room and I sat in the doorway at the edge of mine, and we put a board game on the floor of the hallway and played it.

Did my brother and I follow the letter of the law? Yes - we were technically both in our own bedrooms. However, we were not following the spirit of the law, which was that we were to be by ourselves napping, or at least being quiet separately in our own rooms.

Israel followed the letter of their oath by technically not “giving” their daughters in marriage, but they disobeyed the spirit of their oath by coming up with a conniving way to get around it. They did need to fill the gap in the tribe of Benjamin, but they would have been much better off if they simply hadn’t made the oath in the first place.

Where in your life are you following the letter of the law, but breaking the spirit of the law? Maybe you’re “just friends” with that person, but in your heart you’re wishing it was more and therefore not being true to your significant other in your heart. Maybe you’re reading your Bible every day because you feel you’re supposed to, but your heart really isn’t in it and you aren’t doing it to draw closer to God. Take a look at your life this week and see where your motivation may not be what God would desire, even if your actions appear okay.

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Understanding By Faith

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, September 17, 2017 0 comments

by Logan Ames

When you’re afraid of something in life, how do you overcome it? Do you essentially just close your eyes and wait for the circumstances to pass you by, hoping that you won’t get harmed? Do you “man up” or “woman up” and face them head on? Personally, I rarely take either of those two approaches. God has given me a very analytical mind, so it causes me to approach my fears differently than many people. While others might take the “try not to think about it” path, I gave up on that idea a long time ago. I must find a way to reason in my own head that I’ll be okay. When I was afraid of roller coasters as a child, I watched happy and healthy people with all of their limbs intact walking off The Sidewinder at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania and reasoned that I would not be injured or killed because they were not. Even when I went skydiving as an adult in 2005, I was terrified, yet I reasoned that the odds for survival were in my favor based on seeing other people successfully complete their jumps and knowing that a very large majority of people who do it survive and love it!

In the church, so often we respond to legitimate questions or fears that people have with some form of “that’s why they call it faith." Sometimes, that might be an appropriate response. Other times, it’s an incredibly lazy one. How can followers of Christ expect to develop other potential believers by pretending as if the entire foundation of our belief system is blind faith? If we look at Scripture, there are few circumstances where God requires us to trust him with no basis or foundation whatsoever. As I mentioned in last week’s post, God routinely commanded his people in the Bible to intentionally remember what he had done for them in the past. This wasn’t because God needed some kind of pat on the back. God doesn’t need our approval, our thanks, or our encouragement. The purpose for God telling them to be intentional about remembering what he did for them and how he showed up for them over and over again when they would have otherwise been destroyed was to show them they had REASON to keep trusting him.

Faith is not the opposite of reason. Some people say that faith in an unseen God defies logic, but I guess that all depends on what your standard of reason is. As we embark on a series that will cause us to look at each and every one of the heroes of our faith mentioned in Hebrews 11, including some who are not mentioned by name, we must understand that they trusted God because their standard of reason had been altered. Before addressing any of the specific individuals, the writer of the chapter gives us what I believe is the foundational verse for the whole thing: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3). This is a verse you will see quite a bit in my posts in the coming weeks and months. The men and women of this chapter who put their lives in the hands of their Creator did so with more than a blind and unreasonable belief that he was worthy of their confidence. It was an established truth that they UNDERSTOOD.

We too can have that understanding by faith when we face impossible and trying circumstances. Let’s follow the same logic the writer, and most likely the heroes, in Hebrews 11 did. If you walk outside right now and look up at the stars, down at the flowers, around at the mountains, or out toward the beaches and oceans, you basically have two choices in deciding how you believe it all came to be as it is. You either believe that someone designed it that way, or you believe that it happened by some stroke of luck or chance. Maybe you believe that chance has been accurately described by scientific research, but if so, there is still chance involved because you’d have to decide where the very first form of matter originated. Do you realize that either of the two options I described above requires faith? Since we can’t be 100% sure either way, it’s a matter of faith. If you believe that someone designed what we see outside, then you must decide if it’s the God of the Bible or someone else. This is where faith and understanding go hand in hand. The beginning of the Bible in Genesis tells us all about what God created. Then we go outside and can physically see with our very eyes that it’s designed just as the Word says it is. Even later in Genesis 9, we see that God created the rainbow for a purpose. Today in 2017, we can still walk outside and occasionally see the rainbow as God created it.

God’s not asking you to trust him just because he says so. He’s saying, “Look around and understand that you can trust me." Continuing with the logic of the writer of Hebrews, if God could make everything that we see out of what was not visible, is there anything he can’t handle? We must understand how small our view of God is and how limited our view of his involvement in our circumstances can be at times. If our standard of reasoning through our difficult circumstances is only extended as far as we can have control over them, then we won’t be able to trust God for anything. If our best doctors in the world say there is nothing they can do for a patient with a terminal illness, then we have no reason to have hope. On the flip side, if our standard of reasoning BEGINS with the understanding that God absolutely created everything that we see out of what was not visible, then the things for which we need his intervention seem like small potatoes in comparison. That terminal illness for which there is no cure could easily be healed by God. That drug addiction which has a grip on you or your loved one is nothing compared to God’s love and strength. Those attacks by your enemies don’t stand a chance against God’s power.

In a world with increasing uncertainty, we must stand on the only thing we know IS certain: hope and trust in God. We’ve had major hurricanes, continued terror attacks all over the world, political unrest, and threats of nuclear war. These seem like overwhelming and troubling circumstances to face, and they don’t even include whatever you are facing in your personal life. Left to our own reasoning, fear will overtake us. But when we think about what we know God has already created and accomplished, we are able to reason that he can do what we need and much more. I encourage you to compare the miracles you need from him to creating the world out of what we can’t see, and let your understanding by faith be your guide to get through whatever it is. Do that this week, then join me next week as we begin to look at other men and women just like us who had to go through the same reasoning process.

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.