Jesus’ Disciples: Judas

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 21, 2020 0 comments


by Katie Erickson

Judas, also known as Judas Iscariot, is often singled out among Jesus’ twelve disciples. He is best known for being the one who betrayed Jesus so He could be crucified. But what else do we know about Judas?

Similar to the name James that we discussed previously, there are multiple men named Judas in the New Testament. Another is one of Jesus’ disciples who goes by the name of Jude that we’ll discuss soon. The names Judas and Jude are basically the same name, with Jude being similar to a nickname for Judas, which is likely why the Judas we’re talking about today goes by Judas Iscariot. Jesus had a half-brother named Judas (Matthew 13:55) who is also the writer of the book of Jude. In addition, there was a church leader and prophet named Jude in Acts 15:22-32.

Back in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, and Luke 6:13-16 where the twelve apostles are listed, Judas is already called out as the one who betrays Jesus. Obviously, the disciples did not know that at the time, but since the gospel accounts were written after Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension, the writers thought it important to mention that when looking back - spoiler alert!

The question has been raised of why Jesus would choose a betrayer as one of his twelve disciples. We do not know this, as we cannot know the mind of God, but we do know that Jesus knew this was how everything would play out. In John 6:61-64, we see that “Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him” (verse 64b).

Why did Judas, who faithfully followed Jesus for the entire 3 years of His earthly ministry, feel the desire to betray Jesus? We could place the blame on greed, which is a very powerful emotion. Perhaps that was Judas’ purpose in God’s Kingdom: to play a part in bringing about Jesus’ death that would lead to the opportunity for the salvation of all mankind. It’s definitely not a glamorous part that he played and he’s not remembered well for it, but it was also necessary for those events to happen.

But what else do we know about this Judas other than his betrayal of Jesus? John 12:4-6 says, “But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” Judas was the treasurer for the group of disciples, but clearly he wasn’t a very good one. It’s very likely that this fact of stealing the disciples’ money was lost on the disciples until after Judas’ death, which is another reason the authors of the gospel accounts wanted to constantly call him out as the betrayer when writing about Judas. Judas’ greed is very apparent in this passage, which is why that greed was a very likely motive for him to betray Jesus.

We read about Judas’ final downfall in John 13:27-30: “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’ But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.” Judas’ role as treasurer made it not unusual for him to leave to go do something, even while they were having this big meal to celebrate the Passover festival. Judas was not just greedy in this act, but we see that “Satan entered into him” as well. These events needed to happen so the Scriptures would be fulfilled, but that doesn’t mean they were good events.

Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was predicted even in the Old Testament, though not by his name of course. We see this in Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.” It is also alluded to in Zechariah 11:12-13: “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.”

Judas meets his end by suicide as read about in Matthew 27:3-10. He realized how wrong his actions had been, he tried to return his payment of 30 pieces of silver (equivalent to around $600 today) to the chief priests and elders, then hanged himself. The chief priests and elders used the money to buy a potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners, just as was alluded to in Zechariah 11 above.

Later, in Acts 1:18 when the remaining 11 disciples were choosing who would replace Judas, we see, “With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.” That’s a bit of a different story than what was recorded in Matthew, but the main idea is still the same: Judas died a terrible death which he perceived as penance for this horrible act he had committed, and the betrayal money was used to buy a field.

So what can we learn from Judas to help us as disciples of Jesus today? First of all, don’t be greedy as it can lead you to bad things. (You can read a bit more on what the Bible says about greed here.) While greed is a sin in and of itself, greed often causes us to commit additional sinful actions because of it. Greed is generally the root of theft, embezzlement, and often even murder.

We can also learn from Judas that Jesus loves us no matter what. Jesus knew that Judas would be the one to betray him, for a lousy 30 pieces of silver, and yet Jesus still spent 3 years of His life teaching Judas along with the rest of the disciples. If Jesus still loved the man He knew would betray Him to a very gruesome death, He surely still loves us in spite of all the ways we sin!

Be encouraged by Judas’ example to live in Jesus’ love and forgiveness, and to not live a life of greed but to follow Jesus in His ways.

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Rejecting Wisdom

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 18, 2020 0 comments


by Charlie Wolcott

“Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.” ~Proverbs 1:28

I started reading through Proverbs again to start out September, doing a chapter a day, and the first chapter leapt out to me. It’s something I’ve read numerous times, but this time there was an emphasis there which I had not seen before. The above verse of Proverbs 1:28 and the surrounding verses fly in the face of so many teachings we hear today.

The average church today describes how God will give us so many chances because He is so full of love and mercy. After all, He is longsuffering, not willing that any would perish but all might come to repentance. There is a lot of truth to this, but it’s often out of balance. Proverbs is telling us here that there may come a time where we may call out of to God for help, to seek wisdom in time of trouble, and because we refused to seek Him for so long, He won’t answer. Yes, I am saying that there could come a time where no matter how much we cry for help that God will not hear us. It happened at least once: with Noah’s Flood. God said He would not strive with man forever. He wasn’t going to let them sin for the sake of “love” and “mercy” forever. Many people would have banged on the Ark when the floods finally came, and God did not answer them. That should frighten us.

Jesus warned against the blasphemy of the Holy Spirt as being the unpardonable sin. While many interpret that as “rejecting Jesus as your Savior,” John MacArthur put a different twist on it that I had only vaguely heard of in this sermon 51 years ago. He made the comment that because this verse directly follows the Pharisees calling the acts of Jesus as being of the devil, that Jesus was suggesting that if you could see all the works He did and the only conclusion you could come up with was it was of the devil, then you were beyond the possibility of being saved. It’s a rather bold statement, but he’s not alone either.

Adrian Rogers, in addressing how God handles those who have never heard to the Gospel, said this: “Light received gives more light. Light rejected increases darkness.” Here is his message. Every person will be held responsible for the “light” or the knowledge he has been given. If someone did not have a lot, he won’t be held responsible for that which he wasn’t not given. But as Scripture declares every person has been given at least some knowledge of God, every person has enough knowledge and evidence to damn them. What is this knowledge? Paul describes both creation and conscious in Romans 1. None have any excuses. Each must make an account for what they know and how they responded to it.

So, what about those jungle warriors who never heard the Gospel? Paris Reidhead got to see that firsthand. He went to Africa initially thinking they had such a poor existence on earth that he’d bring the Gospel to them to give them hope, yet when he got there, he learned that the heathen there already knew more about God than he dreamed they knew of, and they wanted nothing to do with it. Reidhead noticed they knew of God, but they loved their sin and wanted to stay in it. God’s message to Reidhead shook him up. The Holy Spirit impressed upon his spirit this concept: “I didn’t send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen. I sent you to Africa for my sake.” Reidhead learned he was sent to claim what Christ purchased on the cross. God wasn’t so concerned about their “souls” as He was about His glory and what His Kingdom stood for.

We have got to learn that while God does take interest in us, we are not His first priority. His first priority is His Kingdom and His glory. That means when we choose to get in His way, things don’t go well for us. When we reject God and when we reject His wisdom, God is going to let us suffer the consequences. If we continue in that sin, then God will continue to let that sin boil and fester. Eventually the time will come when God will simply hand us over to a reprobate mind.

Several clich├ęs come to mind. “If you made the bed, lay in it.” “Many people like to sow wild oats and pray for a crop failure.” Look, God is full of love and He is full of mercy. I am not questioning or challenging this. But we cannot use that as an excuse to take sin as flippantly as I’ve seen, including in my own life. I hate the fact that I don’t take God as seriously as I should. I know what I am, and I know what I can be apart from Christ. If God doesn’t apply His grace and mercy to me every day, even when I don’t ask for it, I know how evil I can become. And don’t think you are any different. You know who you are, too, and what you would be capable of doing if the guards and checks in your heart and mind were removed. Some of you may think you don’t do something because society says, “Don’t do it.” That’s fine. But if society didn’t check up on you about it, what would stop you? Don’t blame God when we choose to sin against Him and He lets us experience the consequences.

God gives grace and mercy when we disobey out of childish foolishness. Jesus prayed for His Father to forgive those crucifying Him because they knew not what they were doing. Paul affirmed that. If they did know what they were doing, they would not have crucified Christ. But when that childish foolishness becomes and grows into intentional defiance, then God will lay down the hammer of justice. And if it continues after repeated cases of mercy and grace being offered, there will come a point where God says, “It’s over. You are lost forever.”

Ahab was one such case. God revealed Himself to Ahab through a 3 ½ year drought, through fire from heaven, through an old prophet outrunning his best horses, through two battles against Syria, and even a final chance after getting Naboth murdered for a vineyard. In every case, God offered Ahab a chance to repent, but in each case a woman named Jezebel got in the way and kept him reeled in. Eventually God had enough and asked a lying spirit to convince Ahab to go to war to be killed in battle. Ahab rejected wisdom and rejected God. It cost him his life and to be forever marked as the evilest king of all the rulers, a king who refused to hear God despite the numerous attempts God made to draw him. Did God fail? No. He let Ahab make his choices. Ahab’s loss was Ahab’s loss, not God’s. Let us remember that. When we disobey God, we are the ones who lose, not God.

There is only one escape to this judgment. Accept the light while we can. What has God shown you? What truth do you know God has given you? Start with that. My pastor gives very solid advice: when you don’t know what to do, go back to the last thing you know for sure God told you to do and do it. You may not get further or clearer instructions until you do. Seek wisdom. Seek God’s knowledge. Only by obeying it can we get more, and the mine of God’s wisdom is inexhaustible. If we reject God’s wisdom, we truly become stupid, but if we receive it and search after it, we’ll keep getting more and more. And this treasure is simply invaluable. It’s beyond comprehension of how valuable it is. We are to pursue it, and if we get God, we get all that comes with Him. No words can describe that prize. Go after it and don’t scorn it.

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Jesus' Disciples: James the Less

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 14, 2020 0 comments


by Katie Erickson

As I wrote previously when writing about Jesus’ disciple James, there are multiple men named James associated with Jesus and the New Testament. Today, we’re going to look at the other James who was part of the Twelve Disciples.

This James was the son of Alphaeus, whereas the other was brother to John and son of Zebedee. He is often referred to as James the Less, not because he was less important but likely because he was of smaller stature. He is mentioned in all of the lists of the Twelve in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16.

It is believed that James was related to Jesus. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 1:18-19, “Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.” Some scholars believe this was Jesus’ actual half brother (biological son of Mary and Joseph), whereas other scholars believe he was actually a cousin or other relative of Jesus. Early Christian men often called each other “brother” even if they were not actually biological brothers, so there is some ambiguity in Paul’s statement.

There is additional support for the theory of James being Jesus’ brother from 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 says, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” There in verse 7, this is the James who is mentioned. Jesus may have singled James out among the rest of the apostles in this appearance because of their biological relation.

But, the fact that James the Less is also called James son of Alphaeus indicates that he was not Jesus’ half brother, or else he would have been James son of Joseph. Acts 1:12-14 says, “Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” This was right Jesus’ ascension into heaven and before the day of Pentecost, so we see that James son of Alphaeus was present there, still very much a part of the Twelve.

In Acts 12:1-19, we see the story of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. Verse 17 records, “Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. ‘Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,’ he said, and then he left for another place.” This is believed to be James the Less that Peter spoke of.

We see in Acts 15 that James presided at the council held to consider what to do with the Gentiles in the church. He is specifically mentioned in verses 13-21 where he quotes the prophet Amos in saying that God intended for the Gentiles to be included in His church. We see James as head of the church in Jerusalem when Paul comes to visit, as recorded in Acts 21:17-26. Specifically, verse 18 says, “The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present.”

But was this the James who wrote the letter of James included in our New Testament? James was a common name in that era, just as it is today, and they didn’t use last names then like we do today. It is believed by many scholars that the same James who was head of the church in Jerusalem is the same James who wrote this letter, as its tone matches what we see in Acts 15 and 21 referenced above, but there is still some uncertainty there.

All that is great for historical knowledge, but what can we learn from James the Less for us as disciples of Jesus today? Our culture today, and even the Church today, is very divided on a number of issues. It is so easy for us to put ourselves and others into different groups based on all sorts of factors. We often separate between Christians and non-Christians, and even among our faith, we divide ourselves into different denominations, different congregations, and even different groups within congregations. With all that division, it’s difficult for those who are outside of our faith to see how we are all unified, and this could be a stumbling block to those who want to have faith in Jesus but don’t want to deal with the confusion of all that division.

So, I believe the most important lesson we today can learn from James is from the speech he gave in Acts 15. In particular, verse 19 says, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” The big division in that time was between Jews and Gentiles. Once the early church decided that Jesus’ gospel message was for Gentiles too, they then struggled with how to incorporate both into one Church that followed Jesus.

While there are certain commands of God that we all are called to follow, we who are in the faith should not make it difficult for anyone else who wants to be a part of our community, whether just our overall community of brothers and sisters in the faith or for joining a particular local congregation. Yes, need to help our fellow believers to follow the commands God has given us, but we primarily are called to build one another up in love (1 Thessalonians 5:11) rather than making it difficult for others to be a part of “our club.”

We are not all called to be leaders over a congregation like James the Less was, but we can still learn from him that we need to be leaders in encouraging all who want to be a part of our faith.

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The Doctrine of Suffering

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 11, 2020 0 comments


by Charlie Wolcott

A few weeks ago, I wrote about preparing to suffer. The context was getting ready for persecution. As I am writing about an objection against God asking why God doesn’t heal amputees, I am going to look at suffering from a different angle: a necessity for growth.

We in America are such spoiled brats, it’s rather embarrassing. In 2011, El Paso, TX was slammed with the harshest winter storm we’d ever seen. Not much for snow and wind, but for the first time in recorded history, El Paso was below freezing for over 72 hours, much of it below 15°F. Now I know most people who are from up north are laughing about this. I grew up in Colorado, so I know cold, but the northern mid-west still has me beat on that one, too. But El Paso is not built for cold. While we do often see temps fall into the teens, it’s only for a few hours and the daytime is above freezing. We had never experienced 2-3 straight days where the high never got above freezing. What happened?

The pipes froze and burst in many homes and buildings. City water pipes also burst, forcing us to be on a one-week “boil water” order, because dirt had leaked into the main water lines. The generators also froze which meant they could not pump water. The city lost 90% of its water, and we had to maintain rolling black outs because we couldn’t produce enough electricity because everything was frozen over. But how did the people respond?

The residents of El Paso whined and complained. They demanded of the mayor and city government to fix the issues immediately, and they put the blame on them for not being prepared. Who living in El Paso would ever think that kind of cold would hit us? How could they be prepared? El Paso citizens were comfortable in our comforts, and when those comforts were taken away even for a couple of days, sin rose up in the forms of selfishness and pride. Just on the other side of the river, Juarez, Mexico had the exact same problems but they had a very different response.

In Juarez, most people were used to suffering so when their pipes burst, they simply went about their business and fixed it. They didn’t whine or complain. No riots. No public protests against the short comings of the government. They just went about their business, dealt with the situation, didn’t whine about it, and basically treated it as just a new obstacle for that day. After all, when you live in homes built with pallets and your doors and walls are blankets and curtains, and the cold wind of winter or the searing sun scorches you anyway, what’s a lack of water for a day or two in which you really only have a barrel of water for everything anyway going to do? The people of Mexico, living in the colonias in third-world settings didn’t bother whining about the cold temps. They were used to being in it anyway. They had been hardened by suffering and so this Deep Freeze event didn’t even bother them.

The same issue applies to us as Christians. There is a satanic doctrine in many American churches that says that “suffering cannot be from God.” The notion of “brokenness” is virtually anathema in many Christian circles (check out this sermon by Voddie Baucham on the value of brokenness). They teach that if we are suffering, it must be because we have sinned or don’t have an enough faith. (Perhaps these people need to read and study the book of Job, because that book specifically refutes such a notion.) So, when people pray for a miracle to answer the suffering and then whine to God because the pain didn’t go away, that’s a problem. Now, no one likes suffering. I’m not suggesting that we should like it. However, our response to suffering should not be “God, please remove this.” Our response should be, “God, what do you need to teach me through this?”

A man caught cancer and asked his pastor to come pray for him to heal him of the cancer. The pastor said, “I will not pray for God to heal your cancer, because this cancer has brought you closer to God than 40 years of my preaching. But I will pray that this cancer cannot take another cell of your body without express permission from God.” What was happening? When we suffer, the natural instinct is to turn to God to appeal to His grace and mercy to get us through it. Nowadays, many people have so seared their conscious that they no longer seek after God but after whatever drug they have found that can dull the pain. Russel Berger was a spokesperson for CrossFit and both he and his wife were exceptional athletes. Yet his wife had a genetic disorder that completely sapped her strength and has forced her to live on oxygen, among other issues. But she came to know Christ through the suffering and gladly suffers as long as she gets to be with Christ. Their story can be found on the “American Gospel: Christ Alone” documentary.

Many of us love a good story of a hero rising up to face a great evil and overcoming that evil. We love to watch in the distance from our armchairs because the hero goes through immense suffering, and it is in that suffering that he gains the character and strength needed to face his nemesis and gain victory. Those of us who want to be like the heroes tend to go for the admirable qualities and the action but are not willing to face the suffering from the training or the losses that are required to go there. Eric Ludy preached on Richard Wurmbrand one time and said he admired and wanted the love Wurmbrand had for the Communists who tortured him. God reminded him, “Do you want to go through what he did to get that (14 years of brutal torture in prison)?” Ludy had second thoughts. I greatly admire Ray Comfort for his genuine love for the lost, but what has he had to go through to get that love? He became known as the “Banana Man” and is the center of ridicule for many atheists. Yet through that suffering, he has had the opportunity to witness to so many people including Lawrence Krauss and Penn Jillette. But it took suffering to reach that point.

Suffering is really the only way God can work sin out of our lives without destroying us in the process. When we suffer, it forces us to depend upon God, because we naturally will not do it on our own when we are comfortable. God never calls for His people to be comfortable, because only when we are not comfortable do we actually depend upon His strength instead of our own.

But we must also remember that the suffering we must face in this world is only temporary. Our lives in our sin-cursed bodies will end, and for those of us who are born again, we will be resurrected with a new body, one that is not cursed of sin but rather one that is glorified. Revelation describes how there will be no more pain, no more tears, no more death when God brings it all to a close. We will instead truly have that “they lived happily ever after” ending. The suffering we face is temporary. Let us keep that in mind as we pray and as we address the answer to why God allows suffering in this world.

The suffering we face in this world will end. Those who have put their faith in Christ will receive glorified bodies that will have their full function, without pain or suffering. Yet, those who think the suffering is bad in this world now and don’t receive the free gift of Christ, this is as good as you will get. We deal with the cards we are given and many of us have been dealt a difficult hand. We can whine about it, or we can make the best of it. But if you haven’t noticed in my posts lately, there is a common message: those who know how to handle suffering well tend to be the happiest and most content people alive. Trouble comes their way and it’s just water off a duck’s back. That doesn’t make it any less painful or real, but it doesn’t bring them down. It just makes them stronger. We as Christians in America need to learn how to suffer well, because the end result will be more of Christ and a greater longing to spend eternity with Him. I look forward to that day. Nineteen years ago today, 9/11 happened. We suffered. Only a few people learned from it. We are far worse today than we were 20 years ago. What’s it going to take?

So to wrap up my study on why God doesn’t heal amputees, I’m not going to defend God before a scoffer. I’m not going to put God through a “test.” I’m going to expose what the real issue is, and the real issue is not about not having prayers answered or not having evidence of the supernatural. The real issue is about a sinful heart that is looking for a reason to reject God. We are to give a defense for why we believe what we believe, but God can defend himself just fine. I will say that God is God, and we are not. He is in charge. We are not. He is the standard; we are not. We answer to Him; He doesn’t answer to us. Some will call Him cruel. I’d tell them to look in the mirror first. God’s grace is sufficient for us. Be grateful you get any at all.

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Does It Really “Take a Village to Raise a Child”?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 9, 2020 0 comments


by Jason DeZurik

We’ve almost all heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Most reading this probably even think that this is not only true, but you’re probably thinking it’s a great and encouraging saying. Friends, please bear with me as I tell you: not so much.

Years ago, I was discipled and mentored by a pastor for almost 15 months who seriously challenged me in my thinking with this phrase. He allowed me to not only make the claim to defend this phrase, but then he allowed me to give him what I perceived as a good argument for it. My discipler looked at me, put up his hands and said, “Ahhhh!” in frustration. I was like, “What?”

He asked me, “Do you know where that phrase came from?” I said, “From Hillary Clinton.” (The first time I personally heard this phrase was in the 1990’s when Hillary Clinton was the first lady to then President Bill Clinton.)

My mentor went on to tell me about how his daughter had been a missionary in Africa and how she has seen this African proverb in action. He told me that this phrase came from the fact that men and women were choosing not to marry. They were having sex with each other with no lifelong commitment. So, when a child was born, no one knew who the father of the child was because the men and the women had been having sex with multiple partners. So, the men were relinquishing their God-given responsibility to raise and care for their child. This is why this African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” exists and where it came from.

This is a huge issue with this phrase. In that context, this phrase goes directly against the Word of God and the institution of marriage between one man and one woman that God Almighty set up from almost the beginning of time (Genesis 2:21-25).

As time moves on and generation after generation continues, we can now see the very fruit of this phrase and its abhorrent mindset. Not only are we seeing children being raised without fathers, but women are without a husband to help raise these children and even be there for their grandchildren. It is a vicious cycle that tends to be repeated over, and over, and over again.

Now, I am almost certain there are some reading this who are probably upset and more than likely are saying something like, “Well, I’m a teacher and I can help teach someone else’s child,” or “I don’t have children, so are you saying it’s bad to help someone with their child or that I can’t help someone with their child?” Not at all. I am saying that ultimately, the God-given responsibility to raise children has been given to the parents of those children.

Unless a person has been living under a rock, or just flat out is ignoring reality, we can all see the dangerous fruit of this mindset taking over our nation, not just in casual sex but now in the rearing and teaching of children in our society. Getting away from the Biblical principle and God-ordained institution of one man and one woman marriage certainly hasn’t done our society any favors. Not only mothers but fathers, you are extremely important.

#TheWayForwardIsBack

For more study on this subject please consider digging into the following passages:
Ephesians 6:1-9
Colossians 3:15-25

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.

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Jesus' Disciples: Bartholomew / Nathanael

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 7, 2020 0 comments


by Katie Erickson

So far as we’ve looked at Jesus’ disciples, we’ve discussed the most commonly known ones: Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Today, we start getting into some of the lesser-known ones. Why are they lesser known? We simply don’t have as much recorded about them in the gospels, and because of that, we don’t have as much information on them. But they are still important for us to learn about because they were part of Jesus’ twelve disciples, so I will share with you what I can find on them.

Today, we’re looking at Bartholomew. One interesting thing about Bartholomew is that he was also likely known by the name Nathanael. He goes by the name Bartholomew in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, while in the gospel of John we see him known as Nathanael. So there isn’t a place where the Bible equates these two names as being the same person, but that can be inferred by the context of the passages. It’s generally assumed that Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person, though some Biblical scholars reject that theory.

First, here’s some gospel information. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels. In the Greek, ‘syn’ means ‘together’ and ‘optic’ means ‘seen,’ so the word synoptic means they are ‘seen together.’ Generally speaking, these three accounts are pretty similar to each other in the stories they choose, their general structure, etc. The gospel of John was believed to be written much later and it has a different general setup than the synoptic gospels.

So, in the synoptic gospels, we always see Philip and Bartholomew mentioned together. There is no mention of Nathanael in the synoptic gospels. In the gospel of John, we always see Philip and Nathanael mentioned together. There is no mention of Bartholomew in the gospel of John. Therefore, it seems very likely that Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person.

It was common in Biblical times that Jews would go by two different names. For example, Jesus’ disciple Simon also went by the name Peter. Names often carried important meanings in those days, so sometimes a person’s name would be changed depending on what happened in their life.

The name Bartholomew is from the Aramaic and means “son of Tolmai.” Tolmai was clearly the name of Bartholomew’s father, but what does his name mean? It could mean furrows, like the farming term relating to land, or it could be a version of the Greek name Ptolmy. So Bartholomew’s name could mean “son of furrows,” meaning he is rich in land, or it could simply mean Tolmai/Ptolmy’s son.

What about the name Nathanael? Nathanael originally comes from the Hebrew, and it means “God has given” or “given from God.” The Hebrew verb “natan” means “he gave”, and El is one of the Hebrew words for God. The spelling of Nathanael is actually the Greek form of the Hebrew name.

All that being said, what do we know about Bartholomew/Nathanael? In the synoptic gospels, he is only mentioned as one member of the lists of Jesus’ disciples. You can find these in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, and Luke 6:12-16. We also see that Nathanael was with those who Jesus appeared to on the Sea of Tiberias after His resurrection, which you can read about in John 21:1-14.

The most significant narrative about Bartholomew (under the name Nathanael) occurs early in the gospel of John:

“The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, 'Follow me.' Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, 'We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'
'Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?' Nathanael asked.
'Come and see,' said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, 'Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.'
'How do you know me?' Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, 'I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.'
Then Nathanael declared, 'Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.' Jesus said, 'You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.' He then added, 'Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man’” (John 1:43-51)

After Philip began to follow Jesus, he found Nathanael and wanted him to come along on this amazing adventure too. The Jews had been waiting for their Messiah for many years, and Philip realized they had just met him! He wanted his friend to come along and follow Jesus too. But Nathanael first doubts, simply because the Messiah is the person Jesus who came from Nazareth. Nazareth did not have a good reputation, and even people in Biblical times had prejudices about where people came from.

But Jesus knew that about Nathanael, of course, so He specifically proves Himself to Nathanael by showing how well He knew him before they had even met. Jesus showed Nathanael that He was God simply by relaying an encounter that He didn’t physically see, and that’s all it took for Nathanael to believe in Jesus and begin to follow Him. Jesus’ reply to that belief is basically, “You ain’t seen nothing’ yet!”

What can we learn from Bartholomew / Nathanael, other than interesting facts about his names? We can be reminded that Jesus is truly God, and that fact alone should cause us to give our lives to following Him, just as Bartholomew did. He was one of the Twelve and got to see amazing miracles through his faith in Jesus, and we, too, have that opportunity! We may not be able to physically follow around the person of Jesus in bodily form. We may or may not get to see miracles with our own eyes. But we need to follow Him and believe, and we know that one day we will see greater things than what we have on earth when we receive our heavenly reward.

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Praying for Miracles

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 4, 2020 2 comments


by Charlie Wolcott

When I was in college, I wore a T-Shirt that said, “Pray for Juarez” put together by the ministry my parents worked for at the time. This was 10 years ago and Juarez, Mexico was in the middle of a fierce drug cartel war, making it the deadliest city in the world at the time. It was not uncommon to be in Mexico and see a dead body or even a head on a city fountain (yes, that kind of graphic violence). One of my college advisors saw the shirt and said “Did you know that scientific evidence says that when people are sick and pray for healing, there is only about a 50% success rate? Therefore, prayer doesn’t work.” I didn’t answer because I didn’t feel that was the place for the debate, but I brushed it off, knowing this guy knew nothing of prayer and so did his source.

But what’s the deal with this? This is part of the “Why Doesn’t God Heal Amputees?” issue. The claim was, “If Jesus said you can pray for anything in His name and He’ll give it to us, why doesn’t He answer prayers or do miracles?” I want to make this clear. One of the reasons why many people reject the Bible is due to “unanswered prayers.” They have certain expectations, and when the expectations aren’t met, God is to blame. But is the fault with God for not answering a prayer? Is the fault with the person for not asking the right kind of prayer? Is there not enough faith? What’s the deal?

As I’ve studied prayer and tried to practice it, one thing is for certain: prayer is NOT a process. It is not a formula. God is not a “rub the lamp and get three wishes” genie. Prayer is man reaching out to a personal but sovereign God. It is man calling out to God to do what man cannot do. While Scripture does indeed say, “Ask and you shall receive,” there is fine print that goes with it. These aren’t hidden contract fees, but you must interpret what is said in one verse in context with all other verses that talk about the same issue.

One thing must be made clear: God is only responsible for answering the prayers that He said He would answer. Just asking for a few things and attaching “Jesus’ name” to the end of it and saying “Amen” is not true prayer. To ask in the name of Jesus means to ask as though Jesus Himself is asking. That means we need to have the mind of Christ and pray what He wants to be praying. While we do have the authority in Christ to ask whatever we need and God will grant it, that authority only works if we are submitted under the authority of Christ. The Centurion understood this. He knew Jesus didn’t operate under His own power or agenda. He also knew that Jesus could delegate the power and it would be done. If we want free access to the throne of Grace, we have to do thing God’s way and go after the things God wants.

God’s typical answers prayers are yes, no, or later. Not many people like the “no” or “later” answers, but we have to remember that God is a Person and He is sovereign. That means that God has His will and His Kingdom as the chief agenda. God does indeed love us and seek the best for us, but we are not the center of the universe. We are not what it is all about; God is. We have to keep that in mind. God does not need us, nor did He create us to fill a missing hole. He created us to showcase His glory and His character. That includes His love and mercy, and that includes His justice and His wrath.

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that God is indifferent about us. I’m not saying that God doesn’t actually care about our desires and our feelings. But I am saying that God’s primary focus is what will give Him glory. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. He brought a 14-year old boy back to life after drowning and being formally declared dead for over an hour. But He let a former Muslim and Christian apologist, Nabeel Qureshi, die of cancer. Why? Prayers were offered for both. Does one being saved and one dying mean that God is arbitrary? No. It means God has reasons for letting somethings happen and intervening in another that we don’t see. The boy, John Smith, who died was brought back is not proud or boasting of the gift God gave him. He’s asking: “Why me?” And that’s the attitude anyone of us should have when God acts on our behalf. “Why me?” We don’t deserve it. The only thing we deserve is the wrath of Almighty God.

When God moves, it’s always for a purpose. Miracles are called rare for a reason. If God answered the prayers of every person who wanted a healing or a restored limb, several things would happen. People would get complacent and reckless. They’d start doing stupid things because after all, who cares about safety if only we believe God will fix the problem? There is natural law and consequences for our actions for a reason. Part of it is to teach us not to do stupid things. Be sexually promiscuous, you will likely catch an STD. Drive drunk, you’ll likely crash and kill someone, if not yourself. Tell a lie to your boss, you may get fired. If God were to fix every problem we created, would we ever learn from them?

Another issue is that the miracle would become commonplace and God’s glory would be minimized. I do believe God does miracles still today (though I am against the notion of “miracle workers” where God always does them through the ministry of a specific person), however those are rare what could be called “mercy drops.” The miracles God does are set up so only He can get the glory. God is capable of working through natural means, and often He will orchestrate the natural to do what He wants done. But He also works in the supernatural where He intervenes upon the natural world to do something it won’t do normally.

People say there’s no objective evidence for miracles. I always ask: “What’s your criteria? What are you expecting?” I rarely, if ever, get a straight answer. I’ve been miraculously healed. I’ve seen food multiply. I’ve even been present (though I was too young to recognize it then) when eyeglasses for a giveaway were multiplied and the last pair of donated glasses went to the last person, each with their precise prescription. But I’ve also seen doors shut, the sick remain sick, the lame remain lame, the damaged brain remain damaged though it was no fault of that person. The fact remains that we live in a sinful, fallen, cursed world and the source of that curse is not God. It’s us.

But what about those who need a miracle? The parent whose child is battling cancer, or a defective heart (as a family in my church is dealing with a second child with the same issue, the first died a few years ago before age 6), or those in a serious financial bind (through no fault of their own)? How should they pray? They should pray knowing two things: God is the God of the universe and He loves His children. He loves to give good gifts. He does hear the pleading and desperate heart. But He is also sovereign, and He has a bigger plan than we can imagine. To the parent with a suffering child, God loves your child even more than you do. He knows what is going on, but He also knows what needs to happen for His glory, or what would happen if He intervenes as we request. Make your plea and keep asking for your plea until the answer comes. David did, but God didn’t answer his prayer to save his son. Yet the Syro-Phonecian woman persisted and God did answer her. Pray until you received closure to your request, but accept the answer when it comes, even if it is a no.

Next week, I’ll examine a crucial Christian doctrine that is sadly ignored or even vilified in many churches today: the doctrine of suffering.

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.

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