What Does the Bible Say About Being Shrewd?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 17, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

The word “shrewd” is kind of a weird word, don’t you think? It’s not one I use often in my daily speech. But it is a concept taught in the Bible, so today we’re going to take a look at what it is.

Google’s definition of shrewd is, “having or showing sharp powers of judgment; astute.” Some synonyms for shrewd are “astute, sharp-witted, sharp, smart, acute, intelligent, clever, canny, perceptive, perspicacious, sagacious, wise.” The idea of being shrewd can be either a positive or a negative thing, depending on the circumstances. You can be shrewd in a crafty way to steal from others, or you can be shrewd in a positive way by making wise choices that help others.

The first Bible passage that comes to my mind when I think of the word shrewd is what’s known as the Parable of the Shrewd Manager (sometimes also called the Parable of the Unjust Steward) in Luke 16:1-13. In this parable, a wealthy man has a manager or steward to take care of his finances. The manager had been accused of wasting his master’s money, so when he’s faced with losing his job, the manager calls in each person who owes a debt to his master and decreases those debts, thus making friends with the debtors so they would return the favor to him once he lost his job. The manager then gets commended by his wealthy master for being shrewd since the master sees how the manager used his position to help himself. This is a negative example of being shrewd.

With this parable, Jesus is showing the difference between those who are of the world and those who are believers in Him. We as followers of Jesus should use the worldly wealth that we have to build relationships with others and to help them (shrewd in a positive way), not for our own selfish gain like the shrewd manager did (shrewd in a negative way). We should use what we have been given by the master (in our case, God, who has given us all that we have) for the master’s purposes, not our own.

Another example of shrewdness is the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders found in Matthew 7:24-27. The foolish man built his house on sand so it couldn’t stand up to the wind and rain, while the wise man built his house on a solid rock foundation and it could withstand whatever came. The wise man was shrewd in a positive way, making intelligent choices that took care of his possessions.

Jesus explains shrewdness also in Luke 12:42-46, with a similar account recorded in Matthew 24:45-51. Luke 12:42-46 says, “The Lord answered, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.’” Jesus shows the benefits of being shrewd in a positive way, by taking care of what God has entrusted to us, and the negative consequences of not doing so.

The book of Proverbs also has a number of verses about being shrewd or prudent. Proverbs 12:23 says, “The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.” Proverbs 13:16 says, “All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly.” Proverbs 18:15 says, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.”

How are you being shrewd in your own life? Are you being positively shrewd, or negatively shrewd? Ponder these parables and the shrewdness in your life as you go about your week.

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He is Seated at the Right Hand of the Father

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, September 16, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

During Holy Week this past spring, my wife and I joined about 125 other believers from our community and packed a local movie theater to see the latest God’s Not Dead movie. The movie was fantastic, but I want to tell you how I, the pastor of one of the churches involved, represented myself in front of so many others that night. Clara and I got a big bag of popcorn to share and when we got to our seats, she put it on the armrest between our two seats and then went to the restroom. Before she walked away, she looked at me and said, “Be careful and don’t knock it over." I sort of half-listened because I was confident in my ability to not spill the popcorn. But as Proverbs 16:18 tells us, pride goes before the fall, so you can pretty much assume what happened next. A minute or so later, I turned to my left away from the popcorn to speak to the person sitting beside me. As I turned, the outer edge of the sleeve of my shirt on my right arm barely bumped into the bag of popcorn and it was instantly all over the floor in front of our seats. As my wife returned, she just looked at me, shook her head, and said, “Seriously?” How could I have possibly managed to do the one thing she told me not to do?

I’m thinking that Jesus probably felt similarly before he left his disciples and ascended back into heaven. As we learned in last week’s post, one of the last things Jesus told his disciples was to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). He had told them that the Holy Spirit would be given to them as promised, but they had to actually wait for it. This is not what we’re used to. Jesus normally wanted his followers to GO, not STAY. They were to go and share the good news with the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 10:6), and were later told to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). But here, Jesus is very clear that they are not to “go” anywhere without him or the Holy Spirit because they would have no power and would be in danger of “spilling the popcorn." Trying to operate in their own power with no help from the Spirit would be disastrous, so he commands them to stay and wait.

Jesus ascended into heaven when his mission on earth was complete, and it was time for his true followers to put their complete confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than continuing to depend on his physical presence. This was the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another one. So, with Jesus returning to the Father, he was about to give them the promised Spirit to guide them and remind them of everything he had taught them. It is recorded in Acts 1:8-9 that right after Jesus told the disciples that they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit to help them live as witnesses wherever they would go, he was “taken up” right in front of them and was hidden from their sight. While this tells us that he “ascended," it does not tells us about where he went and what he is doing there.

For that information, we have to read a little bit further in the New Testament. Jesus told his followers right before he left that they would be “baptized by the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). The Apostle Peter then was able to understand the craziness that was happening on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) as the power of the Holy Spirit resting on them. However, seeing the power of the Spirit in physical form was just the beginning. As Peter and the rest of the apostles grew in their faith and practice of the Christian life, they began to learn what it was like to have the Spirit work in them and also through them. Sometimes, the power of the Holy Spirit allowed them to do supernatural things that others could see; sometimes it did the supernatural work of change within them. Peter describes this power in 1 Peter 3:21-22. He says the baptism of the Spirit, which is only symbolized by water baptism, gives us a “clear conscience toward God." Then, he says that this baptism “saves us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." In other words, unless there has been a change in our hearts that comes as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in us, how can we be sure we’re truly saved?

In the midst of talking about salvation through Christ, Peter says in verse 22 that Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand - with angels, authorities, and powers in submission to him." So, now we know that Jesus didn’t just ascend into air and evaporate; he went straight to heaven and is now seated at God’s right hand, which is why the Apostles’ Creed says as much. This is a big deal! If someone were at my “right hand," that wouldn’t mean a thing. But describing Jesus as being “at God’s right hand” meant that he is in a position of great power, lordship, and authority.

As we dig further into the core roots of our Christian faith, this is the first time that we are talking about Jesus in this light. We are used to Jesus being loving, humble, and even meek. When we think of Jesus, we see the suffering servant who was willing to endure the pain of the cross in our place. Yet, we must never forget that his suffering was only part of his story. When he was seated at God’s right hand, he became the judge over all. This means we should not take him lightly. We should not live as though he doesn’t care about our sins. We ought not mistake his kindness and love for weakness. He sees everything we do, hears everything we say, and knows everything we think. If he is truly our Lord, that means that we seek to do what he desires for us and what would please him. One day, regardless of whether you believe in him or not, you are going to stand before him as the Righteous Judge and Ruler of all. Will you be ready? Will you stand there assuming that he’s okay with your choices? Have you been living under the assumption that you’ve been “good enough” to get to heaven? I encourage you to take some time to get to know Jesus through his Spirit. Ask him to reveal the areas of your life where things need to change. Then, understanding his authority, make a choice to surrender anything that doesn’t belong in your life to Jesus. In doing this, you truly show Jesus and those around you that he is your Lord.

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The Nature of Information

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 14, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

One of the critical details about the monkey-typewriter argument that by chance it is possible to reproduce any work of man is the nature of information. This is another detail that it appears Evolutionists still have yet to grasp. It is also one so obvious that a child can understand it, and yet so complex even the most learned men have a difficult time explaining it. I want to address the nature of written language in this post. A few years ago, I addressed the topic of “Telenomy” which I wrote on the heels of reading A.E. Wilder-Smith’s The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution (a book which has been argued against but still has no refutation, despite being written in 1975). I want to take another look at this issue.

Perhaps the simplest language out there is binary code, also known as computer language. How is that simple? There are only two letters: 0 and 1. In an actual computer it is 5 volts or 0 volts passing through a reader. This physical detail makes it impossible to introduce a more complicated language for computers. All computer scientists have been able to do to create a more complex language for computers is group the binary code into certain length segments. We can represent any letter of the English Alphabet, with CAPS, numbers, and symbols with a set of 8 0s or 1s. If you have heard of ASCII Code, this is what that is.

One of the major computer architecture languages is called MIPS, and it puts the entire programming language into sets of 32 ‘bits’ (or 0s and 1s). Every letter, number, symbol, memory location, mathematical operation, logical operation, color, or anything a computer does is defined and set by groups of 32 bits. Now, this is critical. It is absolutely impossible for any computer programmer to take a plain set of binary code and tell you what it does UNLESS they know what context it is being used for.

Now there is absolutely nothing inherent about 5V and 0V which indicates anything resembling a code or language. It is something installed by programmers onto the voltage; we give these voltages meaning. The same concept is true for many different things. Wilder-Smith gives a very simple example of code being installed onto an object. He took a rope and he tied three knots into the rope. Each knot in its location was to mean something. So someone who understood the intention of the code could feel the knots on the rope, access the spacing, and get the message.

We do the same concept with flashes of light. Two kids will use a mirror to reflect light in a particular pattern that only they can understand. To anyone else, the pattern has no meaning, though someone outside the “circle” can judge that a pattern is there, therefore someone is behind the pattern. Any government spy agency understands this. During WWII the Germans had a special code system called Enigma that was virtually unbreakable, until the British code breaking agency Ultra found out the secret. Prior to that, the British knew and understood that information was being passed on between the Germans, however it was gibberish to them and did not make sense until with the help of Alan Turing, the Ultra Program broke through to decipher the code.

Letters in a written language convey information. We are taught these letters from infancy but we really do not grasp what a “letter” is unless we study information theory (even if indirectly through other language studies). An “A” in this blog post is not a ‘letter.’ It is a collection of pixels on a computer screen organized in a particular way that any person who can read the English language can understand to be the letter “A.” A letter in written language is just a symbol which represents a given sound in spoken language. Just like a written “number” like a “9” or a “4” is not a number; it is a symbol which represents how many objects are being discussed. Because you are able to read, you can take the vast arrangement of pixels, organized in patterns and structures, and you are able to understand what I am thinking. Language is what gives us the ability to pass on and understand each other’s thoughts. But that language must be understood by both parties or the information contained in those letters does not come through.

One of the great flaws of the Monkey-Typewriter Theory is that the typewriter already has information packed into the device itself. It is already designed and programmed to be able to read and deliver combinations of the 26 letters and ten numerals along with symbols. So when the ape (or computer) randomly puts out letters, yes eventually something will come resembling the 23rd Psalm or the works of Shakespeare. However, this is actually cheating, because in order for this set up to even be possible, you need an intelligent mind designing the typewriter to produce a text AND you need an intelligent mind able to READ the text and get something out of it.

If Thomas Henry Huxley’s argument were to be more accurate to the position he held, he would have to argue that you take infinite amount of ink and infinite amount of paper and throw the ink on the paper randomly so that when it dries it will be organized to land precisely in a such a way that a letter will be recognizable, let alone an entire passage. Any thinking person would know that such a notion is utterly ridiculous. And even if one were to argue that the ink could land in such a way to produce a readable text, the problem is that the text itself has to have information instilled onto it for anyone to make sense of it being text. If ink were to fall in such a way to produce “BOOK,” how would anyone have a concept that this collection of ink had any relation to a written collection of words UNLESS they already knew and understood what each symbol of “B” “O” “O” and “K” meant? To someone who has never seen English and only seen Chinese, there would not be any “information” received because they do not have the software to understand it. Any person is able to recognize that ink splashed on paper will NEVER produce organized “letters” by itself. He will know that someone intelligently put it there and may seek to find out what it is and what it means. This applies to an English-speaking person looking at Chinese or any person looking at a foreign language.

Now, Huxley made his argument well before the discovery of DNA. Each point I made here has a relation to DNA and such notions are completely destroying any hint of salvageability of Darwin’s model of Evolution. Next week, I’ll dig deeper into how Information and DNA work together.

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Origins of Hebrews

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, September 13, 2018 1 comments

by Steve Risner

Last week, we began talking about the descendants of Shem, Noah's oldest son. This was the sixth blog post in a series on the Table of Nations found in Genesis 10, which describes where all the people groups of the world came from. We're tracing those lineages to the modern people groups we see today. I've found it fascinating and hope you have as well. Aside from a few, “No, sir! That's not true!” comments, I've not found anything that can explain how these things can be and the Bible not be true. In other words, there is no refutation I am aware of that is greater than, “I don't want this to be true, so I'll call you names and make fun of the information.”

Let's move on to the beginning of the Hebrew people—where did the Jews come from and why were they called Hebrews originally? Last week, we discussed a battle that took place and was written about in Genesis. This was a battle where Abraham went to war against several kings of Elamites to get back his nephew, Lot. That's where I'll pick up for just a moment as we look at a topic that is not only interesting but may be controversial. I hope not, but we'll see.

After this battle mentioned above, Abram (later Abraham) was met by a king and priest from Salem, which was a small town that eventually became Jerusalem. I think that's awesome! This king and priest (a priest BEFORE the Levitical priesthood and before the Law was given at all) was called Melchizedek. This name has been translated “King of Righteousness” but I've found that it is also accurately translated “My King is Righteous.” That's a very different rendering. What's right? I don't know. This was not likely the man's name but was a title given to him. However, it doesn't answer the question: who was this guy? Some say it may have been Jesus (a theophany). Maybe. The neat thing about this is we can speculate all we want and no one can tell us anything beyond what is written in Genesis, Psalms, and Hebrews (the three books of the Bible that mention him), as long as we don't get hung up on it and act like our belief has to be right since there is just not enough information to go from Scripture. Some say he was an angel that was sent to protect Salem and bless Abraham. Maybe, but I tend to think probably not. Jewish tradition holds this was Shem! That's right—the oldest son of Noah who lived 600 years (pretty impressive to most of those living at that time since he outlived most of his great grandchildren). He certainly did live during Abraham's life and, depending on the texts we view, possibly beyond Abraham's life. This is wild! I'm not saying Shem was Melchizedek. I am saying it could be and no one knows, but it would be pretty cool if he was. I don't think that diminishes the priesthood spoken of in Hebrews.

Traditionally according to the Jews, Shem created an academy in Salem (later Jerusalem) where people could acquire knowledge about the Most High. This is another reason it could be possible Shem and Melchizedek are one in the same—they lived in the same place. Yes, Hebrews says the man didn't have a genealogy or a funeral, but I don't necessarily think that needs to be taken 100% literally. He was simply saying this king and priest was exceptional and was making a big deal out of him since he was clearly greater than Abraham, the great patriarch. The writer was also indicating that his priesthood was greater than that of any descendant of Abraham since this priest preceded Abraham and his priesthood came before the priesthood of Levi's tribe. And perhaps, like many other things in Scripture, it may have a double meaning/attribute. There are several things from Scripture that are considered a “type” of Christ—Melchizedek being one of them. The Ark is another, Abraham nearly sacrificing Isaac is another, and so on.

What is crazy is that from Adam to Abraham we have need for only 2 intermediaries—probably Methuselah and Shem. That's because Methuselah probably knew Adam (which, again, blows my mind) so he likely received information and history from him. Methuselah knew Noah and Shem. Shem would have had the history passed on to him from Methuselah, who knew Adam. He then could pass it on to Abraham. Crazy! The book of Genesis covers almost 1/3 of the world's history. Christians would do well to respect that and take the history as it was clearly intended by how it's written—as history. So, again, I'm not saying I know who Melchizedek was. I'm simply saying that, in my studies, I've found there is a case to be made for him being Shem. Why not? He was the oldest son of Noah. He is the great great grandfather of the Heber, who the Hebrews were named after. He was alive at the time and possibly the place. But who can say? There are other cases to be made for him being someone else. I don't know. It is true either way that the history of the creation through the Flood could easily have passed from Adam to Methuselah to Shem and then to Abraham who is considered the father of our faith. I find that very cool.

According to Josephus, Shem's son Arphaxad was the father of the Arphaxadites, also known as Chaldeans. Arphaxad had a son named Sala. His son was Eber. Eber, or Heber, is where the term Hebrew comes from. Eber was the great great great grandfather of Terah, who was Abraham's father. From Abraham come the Jewish people (so named after Abraham's great grandson, Judah).

Abraham's sons have been at war ever since this time. Abraham had a son named Ishmael. This son was from an unlawful union between Abraham and his servant, Hagar—an Egyptian or Hamite. So Ishmael is half Semitic and half Hamitic. The son of promise was Abraham's second son, Isaac. Arabian Muslims claim Ishmael as their father. The Israelites claim Isaac. These two family lines have been at war over land and spiritual authority for quite some time.

Again, as I stated in the previous posts, the evidence for this Table of Nations being accurate and true is found all over the world, especially in the Middle East and surrounding areas. Names of places, rivers, cities, peoples, languages, gods, and the like are found all over the place that confirm this list of families that descend from Noah were real people. Trust in the Bible. It's always found to be true. We'll look at this topic some more in the near future. Thanks for reading.

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Care for the Poor

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 12, 2018 0 comments

by David Odegard

“Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” -Ephesians 4:28

I have written extensively concerning care for the poor (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and of course, here). The reason that care for the poor must follow after a robust theology of work is that it is from private earnings that voluntary donations are made to care for the poor. To put it another way, one must work and then have something to share. Relief for the poor must be voluntary, not coerced, or it is not truly generosity. Capitalism has improved the lives of almost everyone on the planet.

In the early church, Christians were selling their lands and goods in order to share with other Christians in need (see Acts 2:45). All of this was voluntary, motivated by love and compassion. The early church continued in this way, holding their own possessions loosely and with an eye on the needs of the Christian community as a whole. Christians would “from time to time” sell a piece of land and give the proceeds to the church to distribute unto the needs of the church at large (see Acts 4:32-37).

Nothing in the text suggests that anyone was forced to do this, but that it was the overflow of generous hearts grateful to be saved by Christ. Then we read of Ananias and Sapphira who also sold a piece of land and brought some of the money to the Apostles. They lied about how much the sale was because they wanted to appear to be generous while still retaining some of the money. No problem would have arisen from this situation if they had not lied. Peter said to them, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?” (Acts 5:3-4).

I write all this to illustrate the point that care for the poor arises out of the fruits of productive labor; furthermore, it must remain voluntary for it to be an act of charity. If I threaten to clobber you over the head with a caveman’s club if you do not give me your money, it makes little difference what I do with the money afterward even if I give it to my poor friend so he can buy noodles. One can never call coerced transactions charitable. They are extractions or extortions, but never an act of generosity.

That being said, Christ has saved my life and therefore, I owe Him my life as a debt. He has become my Lord and Master because I have submitted to His lordship over me. He is my king. Jesus is an absolute monarch, but He is so very benevolent that His “yoke is light,” especially in comparison to the slavery to sin from which He set me free. Therefore, whatever demands Jesus might make on me, I am honor-bound to comply.

Jesus once told a rich young man to sell everything and follow Him (see Mark 10:17-31). This young man was too possessed of his possessions; they held mastery over him. “No one can serve two masters,” Jesus said (Luke 16:13, Matthew 6:24). For this young man to follow Jesus and thereby receive eternal life, he had to lose a master to gain a master. He chose to serve the master of money and damned his eternal soul. Jesus can make any demand on me that He chooses, and I must comply. But only Jesus has this power over me. I have other obligations, to love my wife, to obey civil authority, to worship with the church every Sunday and more, to tithe, to read my Bible, etc., but all of these duties and obligations arise from my acceptance of the Lordship of Christ.

It is from the Lordship of Christ that I take seriously the command to care for the poor. Unless I become convinced that some specific action is required of me, I am able to decide how best to go about making provision for the poor. To put it another way, I might feel in my heart certain compassion for someone and take that as communication from the Holy Spirit to do something specific. I am then responsible to do so.

I recall on one occasion, I felt that God wanted me to give a missionary $50, but I only had $30 at the time (I was still a broke teenager). I shrugged off the suggestion since I obviously didn’t have the money, I plucked a book from my shelf and a $20 dollar bill fell to the floor. I do not believe it was supernaturally minted, but rather that I had long forgotten that it was there. The timing of the circumstances made a lasting impression on me to always respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Even if I do not sense supernatural guidance, however, I still have an obligation to care for the needs of the poor—especially those who are in the household of believers (see Galatians 6:10). I am able to use my reason to make solid lasting plans to not only meet the short-term needs of the poor, but also their long-term needs. We must teach the poor how to care for themselves. In so doing, we transform a negative situation into a positive one. I have always found joy from seeing someone on welfare subsidies come to Christ and be discipled in the proper use of money. To watch them no longer need welfare and to become a productive person who is then a giver to others and a supporter of the church is a tremendous blessing.

In our care for the poor, we must constantly guard ourselves from two conditions: apathy and creating dependency. Apathy is not caring enough about the condition of the poor to make a difference in their lives. Creating a condition of dependency is scandalous. Giving someone cash is almost always a way to create a dependent. Meeting a specific need is better: paying their heating bill, buying a bag of groceries, etc. The potential to misuse cash is too high. I am not talking only about someone using it for booze, gambling, or drugs, although that is a possibility, and in our society these are the main causes of poverty.

Sometimes poverty comes from just not knowing how to manage money or the proper value of things. Once, I helped a man get out of jail on the condition that he would get a job and remain in a counseling relationship with me. He did get a job, and the first paycheck he ever had was entirely blown on the stupidest things. I recall that he bought three ball point writing pens for $45. I explained that he had higher needs than expensive writing pens and that he should return them to the store. “I need some good pens,” was his stubborn reply. Of course, it was his money. But giving him more of it was not his greatest need, obviously.

Constant reader, avoid apathy and create no conditions for scandal. Be smart in your giving and always give as unto the Lord. Tithe, support the mission of the church, and get advice. And, if you see that your helping is actually hurting, please change your strategy.

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.


What Does the Bible Say About Followers?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 10, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Last week I wrote on what the Bible says about leaders, so to follow that up (pun intended), this week I’m writing on what the Bible says about followers.

Really, the whole Bible is about followers. From the very beginning, humans were created to be in fellowship with God and to be obedient to what God calls us to do. That got a lot more difficult after sin entered the world, of course. Humans were also created with free will, which we used to disobey God and not follow His ways. We’re all following something, but the question is what or who are we following?

If we claim to be Christians, then we should be following Jesus Christ. This is also known as being His disciples, which you can read more about here. There are many passages that detail what that looks like, so I’ll highlight a few of them here.

“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, 'I will follow you wherever you go.'
Jesus replied, 'Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'
He said to another man, 'Follow me.'
But he replied, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.'
Jesus said to him, 'Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.'
Still another said, 'I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.'
Jesus replied, 'No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:57-62)

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

“If anyone comes to me [Jesus] and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31-32).

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it’” (Matthew 16:24-25).

From these passages, it’s pretty clear that being a follower of Jesus is not necessarily easy. But making the easy choice to follow the world is generally not the best choice in light of eternity, as Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

We can learn more about being a follower of Jesus by looking at His first followers and the writings they have left us, including Paul’s letters. Paul himself was a great example of a follower of Jesus. As he wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” We should all strive to follow the example of Christ, but we can use other people as examples as well.

But it is important that we are ultimately following only Christ, even as we use others as examples of how to do that. As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:7-9, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

Who or what are you following in this life?

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He Ascended Into Heaven

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, September 9, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

I come from a family that does not embrace the latest technology, at least not to the extent that many other families do. My family of origin only obtained things after it seemed like everyone else did. We didn’t have a computer or email in the home until I was a junior in high school (and even then it was the annoying dial-up access), I didn’t get a mobile phone until I was out of college and working as a driver, and I didn’t join Facebook until late 2009 after I had already been away from friends and family in seminary for over a year. I still have no other social media accounts and honestly don’t even know what technological advances are out there.

For this reason, I found myself out of the loop when I visited my in-laws’ home a year or so ago and everyone was seemingly talking to the air. Then, to my shock and awe, the air started talking back. Even more surprising was that they had to address this “air” by name before speaking to it. Its name was “Alexa." Eventually, I discovered this was a physical device on the shelf or table and not some voice in the wind. For such a small device though, Alexa had power. She controlled the lights and music and even managed to irritate some people when she didn’t do what they wanted. Alexa also had knowledge. We were able to play a trivia game with her and anytime we needed an answer to something, we didn’t even have to type it into Google anymore. We could just simply ask Alexa and we’d receive the necessary information.

My mother-in-law has been visiting weekly to be with our daughter when my wife and I work, and just this past week she commented that “we live in an age where we don’t have to not know something." Double negative aside, she’s right. We can get an answer to almost any question with one or two clicks of a mouse, by asking our Siri, or by calling out to Alexa. It recently struck me that the disciples most likely felt the same way as they walked and ministered with Jesus 2,000 years ago. They didn’t have the technology we have today, but they had something far more powerful and knowledgeable - the Son of God in their midst! Jesus not only would’ve been every person’s favorite teammate in Trivial Pursuit, but he also guided them when it came to difficult moral and spiritual circumstances. Some people say that “knowledge is power." Well, Jesus had and WAS both! He never faced a question that he was forced to answer with, “I don’t know," and he never failed in following God’s commands because of “I can’t."

That must have been some luxury for the disciples. Sure, they had to deal with persecution and ridicule from those who didn’t worship Jesus. But having all knowledge and power available in their midst in the person of Jesus meant they always had someone to whom they could turn during tough times. I imagine having this comfort for so long and getting used to it would’ve made it all the more difficult for them to watch him suffer and die. Then, when he rose three days later, they were elated. But that circumstantial happiness would soon come to an end again as he told them he was leaving and going back to the Father in heaven. You can almost hear them complaining, “But, why, Jesus? We stood by you even when it was unpopular. Yeah, we left you alone at the cross but let’s just forget that part. Everyone needs a do-over at some point. We’re here now, together, and we are happy. Why must you insist on leaving AGAIN?”

Jesus’ perspective was probably a bit different. He had to be thinking, “I’ve made myself pretty darn clear about this and you knuckleheads still don’t understand!” For the record, they were Jesus’ friends and if you can’t call your friend a “knucklehead” from time to time, something’s wrong. Jesus knew “he had come from God and was returning to God” (John 13:3), so on the last night he spent with his disciples before he was arrested, he told them that they would only see him a little bit longer and then he would be going to a place where they could not yet go (John 13:33). Though he told them this, they struggled to understand. He tells them in John 14 that there is plenty of room in the Father’s house and that he is going to prepare a place for them so they can one day join him (vv. 2-3). He also tells them that they already know “the way” to where he is going (v. 4). That’s when Thomas gets tired of all the mysterious talk and asks directly, “How can we know the way when we don’t even know where it is you’re going?” (v. 5) Jesus responds that he is “the way and the truth and the life” (v. 6). He adds that he is the ONLY way to the Father because no one can go except through them and concludes that, because they know and have seen him, they also know and have seen the Father (v. 7).

Jesus proceeds to tell them all about the Holy Spirit in the next few chapters. He refers to the Spirit as an advocate or a counselor and describes in detail how the Spirit will work in, through, with, and for them. The key for them is to take the necessary steps to remain or “abide” in Christ. Jesus even tells them it is for THEIR good that he leaves because the Holy Spirit will not come unless he leaves (John 16:7). They don’t have a clue what any of this means yet, but once he appears to them after the resurrection, he does everything he can to remind them and give them hope. He supernaturally enters a room that is locked to the outside world, shows his body, and invites them to touch him so they know he’s real, eats fish with them to further prove that he’s truly alive and not a mere ghost, then sits down with them and teaches them the Scriptures and reminds them of the things he had said when he was with them before his death (Luke 24:36-47). From that point on, he gives them the greatest responsibility the world has ever known - to be his “witnesses” (Luke 24:48).

Their lives, their endurance through trials and hardships, their resistance to temptation when the rest of the world is giving in, their love for one another and for all of God’s children, and their preaching of the truth would all help to tell the world about Jesus and his victory over sin and death that makes forgiveness possible. Jesus puts this responsibility on their shoulders, and it WORKS! We see in Acts 4:13 that the priests and the Sadducees who arrested Peter and John for healing a crippled beggar in Jesus’ name were so surprised by their courage despite being “unschooled, ordinary men” that all they could conclude is “these men have been with Jesus." Even to those who refused to believe the truth, Jesus’ disciples were witnesses.

I said that Jesus put the responsibility to witness on their shoulders, and that’s true. That’s one reason he had to leave. As long as he stayed, they would’ve continued to enjoy this comfort and completely rely on his physical presence in their lives. But he wasn’t about to leave them completely hanging. Luke records that Jesus tells them to stay in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with power from on high” (24:49). He then records something more direct in Acts 1:8, where Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." There is certainly reason to believe this is the same reminder from Jesus recorded by the same writer two different ways in two different books. We can’t know that for sure. But either way, Jesus had told them about the Holy Spirit’s work that would only come AFTER he leaves, and then reminded them of this just before he left. You and I get to sit back and read each recording of it, which is not just a reminder to his first disciples, but a reminder to us as well. Sure, it’d be nice to have Jesus physically with us all the time - much better than Alexa. But through the Holy Spirit, WE get to be the witnesses for Jesus in his physical absence. What a great responsibility, and an even greater JOY!

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.