What do you do when you're in the midst of something that pushes you farther than you thought you could go?For our family, 2012 was exceptionally challenging financially. One of those years filled with financial "emergencies" & unexpected expenses. Those challenges combined with a decrease in income were just about enough to push me over the edge. At one point last December with $16.53 in our checking account and the savings under 1 month's living expenses, I'd reached a point thinking it was time to find another occupation that had more financial "security" than being a missionary. But as I sought the Lord, I was reminded again that there is nothing more secure than being in the center of His will. This season of testing was another opportunity for me to grow intrusting Him even more. This test, like others before, push me to live what I teach, not just telling others to put their trust in THE PROVIDER in tough times, but to live it, then testify to God's faithfulness & provision! It's easy when things get tough to look for a way out, but to stay where God places us until He moves us is hard! I don't like hard times, but it's in those hard times I've grown the most! I hate to admit the number of times I've felt like quitting (seems like thousands). But my feelings can sometimes deceive me and lead me away from the place where God is developing my character. Let me encourage you with this: Whatever "test" you may be facing now or will face in the future, remember that God is always at work in our hearts, developing our character, drawing us closer to Him, even in times when it doesn't feel good. As you can see by this newsletter, I'm still here and committed to fulfilling God's call on my life...To learn & apply God's financial principles and help others to do the same...even when it's hard! This is my prayer for you & me: Lord, would you help us remain steadfast; committed to following you even when it's hard, doesn't make sense or seems impossible. Let your Holy Spirit unleash a love for you that results in a growing trust to follow You, no matter the circumstances around us. May our love for you be more than a feeling! Dan will be joining the Worship band To The Sky on the 2013 June leg of the Restore and Embrace Tour sponsored by Worldview Warriors.
For many years now, when my mom cleans the wood furniture in her house, she uses lemon-scented Pledge. Years ago when my brother was little, he loved the smell of that Pledge! Whenever he was around when Mom was cleaning with it he would inhale deeply and say, “Mmmm! Smells like paradise!” To this day we still laugh about that, and any time I smell the scent of lemon or use Pledge, I think of that too - “smells like paradise!”
This is a funny example of what paradise can mean. My brother enjoyed the lemon scent so much he exclaimed that was paradise. My aunt says that paradise will smell like lilacs. But maybe you don’t particularly care for either of those scents, so is paradise something subjective, where we each have our own idea of it?
As we usually do, let’s see what the Bible says about paradise. The book of Revelation speaks a lot about paradise and what it will be like. I’d encourage you to read the chapter of Revelation 21:1-22:5 for all the exciting details. Specifically, Revelation 21:4 says, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” This echoes a prophesy from the Old Testament book of Isaiah 25:8: “He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.”
So what will paradise be like? There will be no sadness or mourning or crying anymore, since all of those things will have passed away. We will be able to spend all of our days - from the day we arrive there into all eternity - just praising God and being in His glorious presence.
How do we get to paradise? There’s a great example of how simple it really is, from when Jesus was dying on the cross. Go read Luke 23:39-43 for the story. Essentially, one of the criminals who’s dying on a cross next to Jesus realized who He is and that Jesus has done nothing wrong. The criminal asks Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
All the criminal had to do was acknowledge Jesus as Lord and accept the salvation that Jesus offered, and he would be joining Jesus in paradise! That sounds too good to be true, but it is true! If you want to live out eternity in paradise, all you have to do is the same thing. Accept Jesus as Lord of your entire life and have faith that He died and was raised again just for you. Receive the grace He has to offer you, and you too will be in paradise one day.
I don’t know if paradise will smell like lemons or lilacs or something else entirely better that we can’t even imagine, but I know it will be absolutely amazing!
Quite possibly the biggest test of patience I had in my life as a youngster was the 3 or 4 days out of each year that I would go deer-hunting with my dad and brother. I wasn’t really into the actual shooting of the animal. In fact, I only killed one deer in about 7 years of hunting. I agreed to go each year because I loved the idea of being in the woods and seeing animals, including the deer, in their natural habitat and often unaware that someone is out there with them. The problem with my thinking was that it’s not uncommon in hunting to sit there for an entire day, sometimes in the extreme cold temperatures, rain, wind, or snow, and not see a single furry creature. I’d look at my watch thinking I had been sitting there for several hours and find out it had only been 30 minutes!
One particular morning, however, I learned a valuable lesson at the expense of my younger brother. He and I were both junior hunters (under age 16) at the time and were each positioned about 100 yards away from my dad to each side of him. We could each see our dad from where we were sitting, but not each other. It was a cold day and we weren’t seeing much of anything, so our patience was wearing thin. Around 11:00a.m., my brother decided it was too cold for him to continue sitting in the woods and walked over to my dad to tell him he was going to walk back to the camp. When he then came to me to ask if I wanted to go back with him, I said “yes”. I wasn’t feeling cold at all, but I was bored out of my mind! I mean seriously, what teenager wants to sit and stare at the same trees over and over again all day? Now, I would probably enjoy that kind of down time. But as a teenager, I needed more excitement. My brother and I walked down the mountain and back to our camp and just as we were arriving, we heard a shot in the vicinity of where my dad was. An hour later, he came back to the camp dragging a trophy 8-point buck. He proceeded to explain that he shot it at about 80 yards from his stand, and only about 20 yards from my brother’s stand! The deer likely knew that a human being was nearby and only began to move when he figured the person had walked away and wasn’t coming back. So, my dad reaped the benefit of his patience and my brother’s impatience!
Patience goes against just about everything that is natural for us, especially when we have all the time in the world to think about our unpleasant situations. In my opening story, if my brother could’ve just resisted the temptation to give in to his feeling of being cold for just a little bit longer, something else may have spooked the deer to move toward him. If I had chosen to resist my feeling of boredom, I may have reaped the benefit of my brother leaving because my dad would’ve likely let the deer come to me. The problem for us as humans is that we never know when our waiting will produce positive results. It could be tomorrow; it could be 20 years from now. On top of that, we have an enemy making us question God’s goodness.
James, the brother of Jesus for whom a book of the New Testament is named, knew all about the importance of patience. Most scholars agree that James was the earliest of the New Testament books to be written, given that our Bible does not list them in chronological order. James addresses his letter to some of the first Jerusalem believers who have been scattered throughout the Roman Empire because of intense persecution. In James 5, he encourages the believers to be “patient until the Lord’s coming” (v. 7a). The reason for this specific type of urging is that the Christians had already suffered so much for the sake of their faith. Most of their worldly treasures had been taken away and the only thing they had left to give them any hope was their knowledge that Christ would return and make everything new. At that point, it had been some 20 years or so since Jesus was crucified, buried, raised again, and welcomed back to heaven by the Father. So, you can imagine how greatly the persecuted believers’ patience was being tested!
James uses the example of a farmer who diligently does his work in planting and then waiting patiently for nature to run its course and yield the results of his labor (v. 7b). After pointing out the common example, James writes, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (v. 8). I want you to think about something. Was James correct in saying that the Lord’s coming was “near”? His letter was written around 49A.D. It’s now almost 2,000 years later and unless I missed it, Jesus has yet to return. But I still submit to you that James was not wrong. The word “near” in that sentence is intentionally subjective. The challenge for all believers that James is implying there is to be patient for just a little bit longer, because what we’re waiting for is just around the corner. If a persecuted Christian can resist the temptation to throw in the towel just a little bit longer, and can take that same attitude each time that he is tempted, the eventual result is that perseverance becomes the habit, not the exception to it.
Brothers and sisters, it works the same way in the battles we face on a day-to-day basis. If your goal is to lose weight and exercise, the initial discomfort of the lifestyle changes is going to try your patience because the results will not happen right away. Just focus on being patient a little bit longer and I promise you the momentary discomfort will fade away until your new habits are firmly planted in your lifestyle. The same goes for anyone out there struggling with addiction. Even if you have all the desire in the world to quit whatever it is, the discomfort of the change will make you want to give up. I urge you to persevere in patience for just a little bit longer and God will reward your faith. For anyone having their patience tested in ways I have not mentioned here, the truth is the same. No one can tell you when your “near” will actually happen, but God promises to reward your perseverance. So, no matter what you’re facing, I urge you to hold on to your faith and be patient for just a little bit longer!
I must admit I am so shocked at how quickly some Christians are in giving up the creation account in Genesis saying it is a secondary issue to the cross of Christ.
If you are one of these people please see that these two events are linked. Why have people bought so much into worldly wisdom? How can these people not see that the death of anything that breathes air before the fall of man cannot co-exist with the cross of Christ?
I have wrestled greatly with this subject since I was about 13 years old. My pastor told me I could believe in the Bible and in the theory of evolution but the fact of the matter was I knew even at a young age that was impossible. At a young age I chose the path of destruction, the evolutionary path. Why do I say path of destruction? Evolution at its core is about pure selfishness. Survival of the fittest. Tooth and claw. The strong survive, the weak die out. This is the basic premise of the molecules to man evolutionary theory. Knowing this, I did my best to get what I thought I deserved and what was coming to me.
That, my friends, is a very lonely road and I implore all of you not to take it.
Thank God He was with me all along the way. Once I started studying and looking at the evidence out there and actually going into the source of these teachings I began to see the holes in this evolutionary logic. I also began to see how people of my day had built on a faulty foundation even though at the time of their initial thought the foundation seemed solid.
Scientific ideas are always changing. I am reminded of this day in and day out by people who say science has the answers. They remind me that this is its strength because it isn’t rigid and unchanging like the Bible They seem to forget though that they need to revisit some things they built on as well when it changes. Which could change a whole lot of things.
If you are in this “boat” and you are a Christian please think about the following:
• If Jesus Christ is the literal second Adam, who is the first literal Adam?
• If Jesus Christ came to give life and defeat death.
o Why would he need to do that if death came before the fall of man?
o Wouldn’t this actually mean death is “very good” according to Genesis 1:31?
• Is the creation broken or not?
o If it is then the science we have is based on a broken creation.
o If it is not broken, then that would mean creation is still perfect.
• Is it a coincidence that the Roman soldiers put a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head or does that have a deeper meaning?
o According to Genesis thorns and thistles showed up after the fall of man.
I hope you are starting to see this is not a secondary issue. It affects how you look at the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Wouldn’t it make sense for Christ to tell us the truth about the creation account found in Genesis?
Go see what Jesus said about the beginning of time and how He sure seems to look at it as real history. He seemed to think it was pretty important and even based His teachings off of it.
See who Jesus really is: John 1:1-4, 14 / By the way “The Word” is “Jesus Christ”.
“Patience is a virtue.”
“I want patience, and I want it right now!”
“Patience is the companion of wisdom.”
“If you pray for patience, you’ll get something that really tries your patience.”
We have a lot of sayings about patience, don’t we? I think that’s because it’s such a tough thing for us humans to do. While some people are better at being patient than others, I don’t think anybody really likes waiting patiently for something they really want!
I looked up the word “patient” in the dictionary, and Merriam and Webster give five primary definitions for it. One of them is “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint.” Another is, “steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.
We see from the Bible that patience is something that we should strive for. Romans 8:24-25 says, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” We also see that patience is included in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23); this is a list of things that we should have evidence of in our lives as a Christ follower. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us that it’s part of our calling from God to be patient (Ephesians 4:1-3)!
But why should we be patient? As a Christ follower, we try to imitate Jesus Christ, who is God. We see evidence in the Bible that God is very patient. For example, Psalm 86:15 says, “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Also, 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
We are called to be patient through whatever life has in store for us. We need to go through both the good days and the bad days without complaining, and continue on in spite of what happens. We need to be patiently steadfast in following God’s plan for our lives, even when it doesn’t feel the way we want it to. God is supremely patient, and He has everything all worked out for us, if we will just wait on His patient timing for our lives.
Editor’s Note: Just a reminder that the purpose of the Worldview Warriors blog is to hopefully generate a lot of thought, learning, and good discussion between each other. Enjoy and please continue to be respectful to one another. Thank you so much!
Isn’t it fascinating how the same exact word can mean two completely different things depending on the tone or context in which it is used? There are many examples of this in the English language and I won’t bore you with them. But I remember first discovering this concept when I was much younger and realized how our family dog responded to the different things that we said. If I wanted to tell him he was being a bad dog and I said it with a smile and tone of happiness, he wouldn’t get the point. He’d probably get excited and think we were going outside to play. The context of my statement was just as important. If I said, “T.J., you’re a bad dog” while running towards the door with a tennis ball and bat in my hand, he’d still be running with me like we’re about to go have some fun.
Context and tone mattered a great deal in the Bible too, especially as they pertain to this week’s word “pagan”. While we certainly can’t read tone, we can and should make every effort to understand the context in which something was said or written. One of the resources I use when studying certain words is William D. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, which gives its readers the equivalents of certain key Biblical words in their original languages. I was surprised to find that Mounce has a listing for “pagan” in the Old Testament Hebrew language, and even more surprised that he does NOT have a listing for it in the New Testament Greek. Jesus uses the word often, or so I thought. If you use the NIV when reading your Bible, you’ll find the word “pagan” as spoken by Jesus in any one of those passages that Katie mentioned in Monday’s post. So how could a “complete” expository dictionary not have a listing for it? It was time for me to dig a little deeper.
Mounce’s word for “pagan” in the Hebrew is “goy”, which is usually translated “nation”. Ironically, it’s the same word used in Exodus 32:10 when God threatened to destroy the people who had turned their backs on Him in worshipping their golden calf and then make Moses into a great “nation”. The word is used throughout the Old Testament when talking about a political kingdom, but can also refer more generally to people groups, like non-Jews for example. One key Scripture where this delineation jumped out at me is in Deuteronomy 9:4-6. In this passage and the previous chapter, Moses is warning the Israelites not to forget what God did in leading them to the Promised Land or why He did it. To summarize what he says to them, I’ll just tell you that he is warning the people not to think that God is blessing them because of their righteousness, but instead to recognize that it is because of the wickedness of the “nations” in the land that God is driving them out. Along with that warning is the charge to be set apart and different than the “nations”, or pagans, so as not to face the same fate.
Since Mounce does not have a New Testament Greek word for “pagan”, I decided to look up the Greek word translated as such by the NIV in each of the passages Katie’s post referenced. In all 4 of those passages, the Greek word is “ethnos”, which is where we get the English word “ethnicity”. Other translations of those passages use the word “Gentile” instead of “pagan”. But the interesting thing regarding the first 2 of those passages, Matthew 5:45-47 and Matthew 6:6-8, is that right between them Jesus mentions a third group of people – the Greek “hypokrites”, which is simply translated as “hypocrite”. Before Jesus tells the crowd not to be like the pagans, he tells them not to be like the hypocrites (Matthew 6:2,5), who love to give to the needy and pray so that others will see them. The hypocrites in this context are the Pharisees (Jewish teachers) who were very self-righteous. This is awesome! In the Old Testament, Moses simply told the Israelites (God’s chosen people) not to be like the common, pagan nations around them. But then in the New Testament, some members of that very same race Moses was talking TO are now part of the groups of people that Jesus is speaking AGAINST! And this was all because they did not heed Moses’ words, but instead got carried away in their own righteousness and forgot just how desperately they needed a Savior.
There it is, friends, right out in the open in the middle of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. It IS possible for “God’s people” to be grouped in with the pagans. While our context today tells us that pagans are those who don’t follow or worship God, the reality is that the word was originally used to describe those nations which were common. The Israelites in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament are urged to be anything but “common”. We are urged to LIVE in such a way, by God’s grace, that sets us apart so that the world will take notice. But the warning is also very clear. If we begin to think that what sets us apart from those “pagans” is our own righteousness, something we’ve earned, or even some ethnic background that makes us favored, then we will be what Jesus refers to as “hypocrites”, and we’ll be just as far from him spiritually as the pagans. So here’s my challenge for you and even for myself: Don’t be a hypocrite, don’t be a pagan, but be a Bible-believing, truth-declaring, love-sharing, life-modeling CHRISTian who is saved by grace through faith!
In 1894, scientist Percival Lowell claimed that with the aid of his telescope he could make out very distinct lines on the surface of Mars. According to him, these lines were nothing less than a canal system that must have been built by extraterrestrial intelligent life; Martians! He was so convinced of this observation that he started naming the different canal systems that he observed on Mars’ surface. Eventually he started inviting his fellow scientists over to observe this incredible discovery through his telescope. Upon their observation, some of the scientists marveled at the implications of this discovery…but many of them said they saw absolutely nothing of the sort. Nobody truly saw canals on Mars. The notion that little green men live on Mars is laughable. But that’s not to say that people do not believe that life did not previously exist there nor do certain people deny the possibility that little green men may pop up in the future (creationism.org/booksTaylorInMindsMen/TaylorImmg07.htm).
Towards the end of last year (2012), Space Rover Curiosity made a remarkable discovery. It was so exciting that the scientific community chose to wait to reveal its findings until a few weeks later. This way they could review the discovery with absolute certainty. Before unveiling this monumental find, they boasted that Curiosity’s discovery would go down in history books. They believed that they had uncovered organically based compounds on the surface of Mars.
According to evolutionists, organic compounds are one of the essential ingredients for the evolution of life. Proving that they could exist on another planet, according to their perspective, opens up the possibility that life does indeed evolve elsewhere. Of course, this assumption is absurd since chemical compounds are not essentially one step away from life; no more than what the presence of water equates to the existence of life on an alien planet.
Nonetheless, their balloon of hope quickly deflated. Despite their attempt to continue the hype over Curiosity’s discovery, it was concluded that one of the compounds was definitely not organic and the other was inconclusive (the reason being that they suspected that organic debris from Curiosity may have contaminated the sample). Before the final results, this was blown up to be the discovery of the millennium; of utmost important to man’s understanding of the universe. Very little discussion about the find took place after the disappointing results (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-12-03/national/35623329_1_mars-rover-mars-science-laboratory-john-grotzinger). You would think that the scientific community would learn from its mistakes, but they are already at it again!
An article has recently come out titled Strongest evidence yet to there being life on Mars. This article does nothing more than describe how minerals altered by water were kicked up around a crater that had crashed into Mars. This has stirred up excitement again; they were quick to announce what sort of possibilities this could indicate. And I quote, “There can be no life on the surface of Mars because it is bathed in radiation and it’s completely frozen However, life in the subsurface would be protected from that. And there is no reason why there isn’t bacteria or other microbes that were or still are living in the small cracks below the surface of Mars.” (Strongest evidence yet to there being life on Mars, by telegraph reporters, quote by Professor Parnell, accessed through drudgereport.com, 20 January, 2013). Makes you start to wonder if the inside of a watermelon is blue before you cut it…I mean, the reason why there is probably life on the inside of Mars is because life can’t possibly exist on its surface? Give me a break!
In case you are wondering what this has to do with the creation evolution debate, it’s simple: If life can be observed evolving on other planets, how can we possibly conclude that life did not evolve on earth as well? It is an attempt to eliminate the hand of the Creator God from the equation of life.
I would be slightly surprised, but not alarmed if they discover bacteria, fungus, or even plant life on other planets because they would not fall under the Biblical definition of life. Such a definition is exclusive to the animal kingdom and humans. So the discovery of these or even “organic compounds” (chemical compounds that include carbon) would not be proof of evolution in the slightest sense. However, the double standard is maddening. Christians are scrutinized for starting with their conclusions, derived from the Bible, that God created the heavens and the earth and then practice science with that in mind. Secular scientists, on the other hand, for the sake of their worldview, atheism, are empowered to make these multi-billion dollar pilgrimages to foreign planets to search for life. Upon the discovery that there is no life on the surface, they are allowed to assert that life exists beneath the surface. Such an assertion will no doubt require further exploration.
Think of the headline Strongest evidence yet to there being life on Mars. Now, think of the magazine rack by the cash register at Wal Mart. This is where such an article belongs because it is nothing more than a tabloid headline. Next thing you know, they’ll be trying to tell us that Bigfoot is a missing link…oh, wait…they already have!
What is a pagan? The word itself comes from the Latin paganus, which literally means “peasant.” In my research for this blog post, I’ve seen multiple definitions for the English word pagan. These definitions go from simply a person who has little or no religion, to one who is not a Christian and does not worship God, to a follower of a religion with many gods.
Since there are slight differences in the definition from various dictionary sources, what does the Bible say about pagan? In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives us descriptions of pagans based on their actions. Click the links to read the following verses and note the contradiction between those who follow Christ and those who are pagans:
In these passages, we see the differences between pagans and Christ followers. Pagans love those who love them; Christ followers are called to love everyone. Pagans keep babbling on with empty words in their prayers to their gods; Christ followers pray from the heart. Pagans worry about everything; Christ followers don’t have to. Pagans are described by their actions.
So what is a pagan? Based on these passages from Jesus’ teachings, a pagan is a person who does not follow God based on their actions. Actions are key in determining, as best as we can, what a person believes. We read in James 2:18-20, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?”
If a person acts like a pagan, then they believe like a pagan - they don’t believe in the one true God, and they are not following Christ. We all make mistakes and don’t act perfectly like we should, and we all sometimes mess up and act more like a pagan than a Christ follower. But that’s where God’s grace comes in! God has grace for both followers of Christ and those who are still pagans.
I challenge you to strive to live your life so that your actions show more like a Christ follower and less like a pagan!
How do you feel when people constantly deal in hypothetical situations? Does it aggravate the heck out of you because you just wish they would live in reality for a minute? As a full-time social worker in the field of child abuse prevention and a part-time preacher, I am not bothered one bit by those who begin every other question with “hypothetically speaking”. In fact, I rather enjoy it because I love to be able to make connections to every day life and I love thinking about and sharing how certain truths could impact a person in a variety of likely scenarios.
But I get that not everyone is wired that way and I understand that dealing with someone like me might drive many of you crazy! I know that, particularly, people who are much more academic, factual, and theological might have a hard time with constantly addressing or pondering hypothetical situations. In Jesus’ day, those who were much more concerned about the academics of the Law but often missed its point were the Pharisees and teachers. Now, before everyone jumps all over me, I am not saying that anyone who emphasizes academics and the letter of the law over the spirit of it is automatically a Pharisee. It is important to have an appropriate balance of knowing the letter of the law and understanding the spirit of it. What made the Pharisees who they were was their stubborn and willing ignorance of the basic truth of Jesus Christ. Instead of looking for ways to follow in his footsteps and love him and others, they were constantly trying to trap him or prove him wrong so that they could justify themselves. Since telling them direct truth did not work, Jesus often resorted to parables to try to get them to see what they were missing.
Three of the most well-known parables that Jesus told the Pharisees are found in Luke 15. If you take a look at that chapter, you’ll see that Jesus talks about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost (aka “prodigal”) son. You may know these stories, but did you know that Jesus brought at least the first two up hypothetically to try to get the Pharisees to understand his purpose of reaching the lost? The Pharisees and teachers of the law were disappointed at Jesus that he would be so misguided as to welcome “sinners” (v. 2). He then tells them a parable beginning with, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them” (v. 4). All of you non-hypothetical people out there would right away be like, “Move on, Jesus, because I don’t even have any sheep”. Jesus desperately wanted these “experts” to think about how valuable something that is lost would seem to them, so he told two more parables to further emphasize his point. These examples weren’t mere fairytales. Collectively, they were the truth being told through stories.
Jesus did not give up on the Pharisees and experts of the law. He believed that if he could just get them to connect his truth with their everyday “common experiences”, then maybe they would believe and surrender to his authority and will. It wasn’t about “story time with Jesus”. This was about Jesus knowing that these are the leaders of the people and he needed to find ways of relating his message to their lives.
Another well-known parable where Jesus very directly challenged their long-held traditions is the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. The stubborn one in this passage is a man only referred to as “an expert in the law” (v. 25). If you read vv. 25-29, you see that the man had good knowledge of the Law, particularly the ones about loving God and loving one’s neighbor. “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” He wanted to justify himself because Jesus had simply said that he would have eternal life if he just followed the two commands the man himself knew. Mistakenly, the man assumed he already had the first command covered. He felt no need to address it. However, when it came to the second command, he knew that his obedience to it depended on who all was included in the category of “neighbors”.
Jesus then tells the man the parable that I’m sure most of you know. In the story in Luke 10:30-35, a man is beaten by robbers and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, both of whom are men that one might expect to help in a time of need, saw the man and simply walked by (I’m wondering if they mumbled something spiritual like “I’ll pray for you” and then did nothing for his physical needs). Of course, the Good Samaritan does everything he can to help the victim, sacrificing his own plans, time, and money. After telling the story, Jesus asks the expert the rhetorical question, “Which of these three was a neighbor to the victim”? The expert of the law, in his stubbornness, can’t even repeat the Samaritan’s ethnicity because of the Jewish disdain for Samaritans, and can only respond with “the one who had mercy on him”.
Friends, the expert in the law was attempting to justify himself “legally” outside of Jesus’ truth. He and the other Pharisees mistakenly believed that it was possible to both love God and not love His people. They viewed Samaritans and sinners as dirty, rotten enemies and attempted to justify their hatred of these people before their Creator who designed them in His image. So, when Jesus shared these parables with them, some of which may have come from actual events, he wasn’t just telling fairytales. He was speaking truth that he knew would cut right to their heart, right to the places that were contaminated by hatred and prejudice. Jesus did this out of love for them, because he knew that these “hypothetical” scenarios would force them to make the biggest decision of their lives. There was no middle ground. They could either surrender all of their traditions and preconceived notions to God and repent, or they could continue in willful and stubborn ignorance. But the parables weren’t just meant for them. They were meant for all of us, for we all must make that decision. So how do you respond?
I’m going to openly contradict a statement that I made in an earlier blog post: DINOSAURS WERE NEVER REAL!!! Before you think that the cheese finally fell out of my sandwich, hear me out.
The existence of dinosaurs was verified upon the discovery of fossils and bones buried in the earth. When they were uncovered, scientists concluded that these were creatures that had never been seen by human eyes. Through much speculation, these scientists concluded that “dinosaurs” (a word coined in 1841) existed hundreds of thousands of years ago and eventually expanded that notion into tens of millions of years. But I’m a young earth creationist…I don’t believe the earth existed hundreds of thousands of years ago!
I do not deny the existence of fossils and what they represent, but what they represent did not live before mankind existed. What the fossils represent are a multitude of creatures that were swept up in the great flood described in Genesis and preserved for modern eyes to see. Call them dinosaurs if you must, because they were “terrible lizards” as their title suggests. History has a different name for them: Dragons.
I remember reading in a book that despite the fact that dinosaurs and dragons resemble one another, the key difference between the two is that dinosaurs were real and dragons were not. Do you realize the absurdity of this statement? Despite the fact that they could concede the similarities between dragons and dinosaurs, they could not concede that they were indeed the same type of creature because of their presupposition that dinosaurs existed millions of years ago. What if history reveals that these creatures did not live millions of years ago? Here are some real life, historic accounts of dragons:
Roman historian Ammianus Marcellius, from the fourth century B.C., recorded,
Among Egyptian birds, the variety of which is countless, the ibis is sacred, harmless and beloved for the reason that by carrying the eggs of serpents to its nestlings for food it destroys and makes fewer of those destructive pests. The same birds meet winged armies of snakes which issue from the marches of Arabia, producing deadly poisons before they leave their own lands… (Book 22 (XXII) chapter 15 verse 25-26a).
Famous traveler Marco Polo wrote,
In this province are found snakes and great serpents of such vast size as to strike fear into those who see them…some of them are ten paces in length, some are more and some less. And in bulk they are equal to a great cask, for the bigger ones are about ten palms in girth. They have two forelegs near the head, but for foot nothing but a claw like the claw of a hawk or a lion. The head is very big, and the eyes are bigger than a great loaf of bread. The mouth is large enough to swallow a man whole… (The Travels of Marco Polo, Doubleday, Garden City, NY 1948).
What other beasts could these people have been describing? These were not mythological tales that were meant to entertain, but descriptions that were meant to inform. Ammianus Marcellus was actually describing the habits of a particular “sacred” Egyptian bird and happened to mention how they devoured winged serpents. Marco Polo was describing some of the marvelous creatures that he saw while he was on one of his adventures. The creatures they were describing were not entirely unknown by the people of their day.
Many other accounts exist concerning dragons that greatly resemble what we call dinosaurs. Perhaps the most fascinating stories, though, are preserved in the ancient pieces of art that reveal the creatures in detail! A dragon brandishes the wall of the Ishtar gate in Babylon. A Native American Petroglyph in Utah clearly depicts a creature that resembles an Apatosaurus. Peruvian pottery from around the 1500’s A.D. portray dragons that resemble triceratops, ankylosaurus, and a four-limbed winged serpent. Is it possible that these pieces of pottery were depicting creatures that truly existed? Could it be that these creatures are the same as those that were fossilized and buried in the ground?
I believe in dragons! Across cultures and throughout history, accounts of dragons have regularly been reported. People from all sorts of different walks of life have recorded their encounters with these remarkable beasts. What is more, their descriptions of these animals fit the attributes of many of the creatures whose fossils have been dug up from the ground. So, why should we call them dinosaurs any longer? After all, mankind has never seen dinosaurs, but they have seen dragons.
(Citations from Bodie Hodge and Laura Welch, Dragons: Legends and lore about dinosaurs (Master books, 2011)).
What a way to end a day! While on Facebook discussing the hot topic of abortion, among other things, my older children were looking over my shoulder and reading what I, and others were writing.
That night while reading the Bible as a family my oldest son, Ezra, asked me, “Dad, why are you against abortion and what is it?” All of my children were there and I wasn’t sure if I should proceed with this conversation. I decided to though.
I told them what partial birth abortion was and my second son, Elijah, just looked dumbfounded as I told them what happens. My first daughter, Anika, began to tear up and was very silent. My oldest interrupted me and said, “That pisses me off!” The righteous anger was flowing.
You will notice I did not tell them what to think. They just knew it was murder. Ezra and Elijah asked, “Do the babies feel it?” I told them that the babies are given no pain killing medicine and about what nurses have said in their own testimonies. I also informed them that some nurses will not help in performing abortions anymore because of what they have witnessed.
I asked my children if they thought it would be a good idea to let these mothers-to-be to have an ultrasound before they make a decision to have an abortion to educate them on what they will be doing?
Ezra said, “Yes, why aren’t they doing that now?”
I told them that there are people trying to make it so these mothers-to-be and fathers-to-be at least see an ultrasound of their baby before they make a decision to give birth or not to the child. I also informed them though that there are people out there trying to stop this from happening because they say it is the mothers right to choose what to do and they say it is trampling their rights.
Then I heard next was music to my ears, as my oldest said, “What about the rights of the baby?!”
Friends, where are we as a society headed when we will not protect those who cannot protect themselves? Where are we as a people when we freely allow a mother to murder her child under the guise of liberty? What about the liberty of the child?
I actually had someone make an argument once that I should stay out of it because I didn’t know what that child would choose for themselves. He was saying that I didn’t know if the child would choose life or abortion for itself.
It has really gotten that ridiculous! What would you choose for yourself, life or death from the womb? Sure there are people who are suicidal or have had a bad life and maybe you are one of those people. But who would choose it from the beginning? I mean, come on! We all would choose to live.
Most people I know who lean toward the pro-choice position are virtually the same people who want “free” health care for themselves and available to others, claiming they are thinking about others.
Many of those same people want to force others to have to pay for the abortions of those not wanting their child. How sad it has come to this.
Without life, there is no liberty, without liberty there is no pursuit of happiness.
Genesis 1:27 - So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Have you ever been in a situation where you’re trying to explain a difficult concept to the other person, and they’re just not getting it? What do you do? You would probably try and compare the new concept to something they can relate to, perhaps using examples from their daily life. We as humans learn best when we can take something we know as a starting point and stretch our brains a bit to learn the new concept.
That’s exactly what Jesus did when He was telling parables to the people back in biblical times. A parable can be easily defined as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” A parable is a story that the listeners can relate to but that helps explain a deeper truth. The word parable is from the Greek word parabole, which means “a common experience.” Jesus would use experiences that were common to the people of the day to illustrate truths such as about the kingdom of God.
There are a few parables where the meaning is explained by Jesus and recorded in Scripture. One such parable is known as the parable of the sower, and it’s recorded in Mark 4:1-9. Click the link and go read it now; I’ll wait.
So, did you understand the deeper meaning of that parable? If you haven’t studied this parable before and you’re not a farmer in the ancient world, it probably didn’t completely make sense to you. We see in Mark 4:10-12 that it didn’t even make sense to Jesus’ disciples at the time! So, in Mark 4:13-20, Jesus provides them (and us) with an explanation.
The society that Jesus was a part of when He walked this earth was an agrarian one, and so many of the people were either farmers themselves or were close enough to them that they would understand the analogies of the different places the seeds fell, and how that would all work. Jesus used a common situation to help explain the deeper truth of how people would respond to His message of salvation.
Jesus’ parables are a great way for us to try and understand Him and His kingdom better. I would encourage you this week to check out some more parables as listed in this link. What truths about God can you learn from each of those parables?
How do you feel about leftovers? Chances are, that depends on where, when, and how you are getting them. For me personally, cooking is a chore that I absolutely loathe. So, leftovers are pretty much a gift from God for me. Because I don’t like to cook, I will do as much of it as I can at one time so that I am set for my meals for as long as possible before I have to do it again. I love that after setting aside the time to prepare my food on a given night, I can simply walk into the kitchen each night for the rest of that week, grab the leftovers, heat them up, and enjoy a healthy meal that takes no extra time to prepare. Since I view food as something I need and not a source of joy and fun, this plan works for me. But if I have guests over for dinner, especially people I’m trying to impress, there is no chance I’m going to force them to eat something that was made days earlier. In the same way, when I go out to a restaurant and am paying good money for my meal, I don’t expect to be given something they were about to throw away. I expect the best that they have to offer if they expect me to keep coming back!
I’d guess that many of you probably share my thoughts on this matter. Whether you are the owner of the restaurant, hosting others at your home, or just providing food for yourself, your decision on the quality and freshness of the food reflects how you view those who are receiving it. This concept applies to many other areas of life as well, including our attitudes at work, how we manage our physical homes, and how we treat people when we meet them for the first time. The effort and care that goes into those things demonstrates how we feel about them. It started all the way back with the first family that ever walked this earth.
You probably already know a little bit about the story of Cain and Abel, the first two sons of Adam and Eve as recorded in Genesis 4. If you know anything about the story, you probably know that Cain murdered his own brother, Abel and that God mercifully allowed Cain to live while still punishing him for his sin. I learned about the story when I was just a kid in church. The part that I don’t remember being taught and that is still something we miss today is what caused the conflict between the brothers. Believe it or not, it was over an offering to the Lord! That should be a sobering thought when we consider how often we allow personal agendas and feelings to create divisions, even within the Church!
The Bible tells us that Abel’s job was to keep the flocks, while Cain’s was to farm the soil (Genesis 4:2). Both responsibilities were important, and both men gave some of their “earnings” as an offering to the Lord. The difference was that Cain brought “some of the fruits of the soil”, while Abel brought “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” (vv. 3-4). The passage goes on to tell us that the Lord favored Abel and his offering but did not favor Cain and his (vv. 4-5). This caused Cain to become angry and sad to the point where he killed his own brother out of jealousy, lied to God and mocked Him, and then complained about his consequences and disappointing life. And it all started with his individual motivation for bringing his offering to the Lord.
So what was God’s reason for accepting one offering and not the other? Well, we can’t be completely sure because the Bible doesn’t make it clear and frankly, God can do whatever God wants and none of us are going to stop Him or tell Him that He’s wrong. But most scholars agree, based on what later became Jewish Law as given by God through Moses (Deuteronomy 26:2), that it was because Cain did not give from his “first fruits” as Abel did. The writer of Proverbs even tells readers to “honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops” (3:9). Now to be clear, Cain was not breaking any laws regarding his offering because they had not been given at that point. However, we must not forget that the Law wasn’t just created arbitrarily. God has His reasons for each part of the Law. Genesis 4 doesn’t tell us that Cain broke a law; it simply says that God was not pleased with his offering. You see, God saw the difference in the hearts of the two brothers. One (Abel) was willing to give the very best and “first” of the fat portions of his flock, while the other (Cain) simply brought “some of the fruits of the soil”. Whether Cain was trying to win the approval of others (which would have only been immediate family members at that point) or whether he was simply following a religious ritual because he believed it would “earn him brownie points” with God, his heart was clearly not in the right place when he brought the offering.
So where do you stand on this issue? Do you give to God whatever is left over after your bills are paid and you’ve met your own needs, or do you offer up your “first fruits” by faith knowing that it all belongs to God anyway and He will take care of your needs? By the way, this concept applies to more than just money. I say that because, while we have varying levels of economic security, we all have the same amount of time in each hour, each day, and each week. For me, my time is certainly the area where I am most guilty of giving God my “leftovers” after I have done everything else I needed to do as well as thoroughly entertained myself with sports and other useless passions. If we really want God to accept what we offer up to Him, our hearts have to be willing to give it up even BEFORE we have calculated whether we will have “enough” time, money, or food to take care of ourselves. In doing this, we keep God on the throne of our lives where He belongs and remain His servants. I challenge all of you to pursue this lifestyle of faithful offerings along with me!
Ok, admit it - when you first saw the title of this blog post, you immediately thought about putting money into the collection plate at a church service. That’s the first thing we tend to think of when we hear the term offering, right? I grew up in the church so that’s definitely what I think of.
But what is an offering really? The Greek verb for “to offer” is paristemi, which has many meanings. Some of them are: to have in readiness, provide, to place at the disposal of, to present to God, dedicate, consecrate, or devote. Keeping that in mind, look at the following passage from Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Did you see the word “offer” in that passage? What is this verse commanding you to offer to God? We must offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice,” which means that our whole lives must be dedicated to God (see the post on obedience from a few weeks ago for a little more on this).
The importance here is that we need to make that offering to God. Yes, putting money in the collection plate at church is important, but what’s even more important is offering your life to God for His use. Place your life at His disposal; dedicate it to Him; present it to God.
How do we do this? Well, that’s where the second verse of that passage comes in. Verse 2 says that we should not conform to the pattern of this world, and that we should be transformed by renewing our minds. If we do these things, we will be giving a pleasing offering to God. He desires that we be transformed to His will, rather than conforming to the ways of this world. Think about that next time you see an offering plate at a church!