Tempt - Is God Enough?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, August 29, 2013 0 comments

A young man has a dream of playing in the NFL and works hard to achieve his goal for many years. Just when he seems to be on the cusp of fulfilling his dreams, he suffers a rare injury during a hit that he receives in what would turn out to be his last college football game. At the hospital, it is discovered he has torn one of the veins that pumps blood into the heart, a condition that is considered to be fatal 95% of the time. He survives emergency surgery to repair the torn vein, but now his football dreams are in serious doubt. The man and those close to him might be tempted to be angry with God or question why something like this would happen. But not D.J. Hayden. He is quoted as saying, “This is all part of God’s plan”. He gets back to work, and just months later, is drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 2013 draft. I encourage you to read more about his story.

Another person struggles with an addiction to pornography. He accepted that Christ died to save him and has made Jesus his Lord throughout his life. But for whatever reason, the struggle just never seems to end. Because the man knows the truth about Jesus, he feels guilty every time he indulges in his sin and experiences the dissatisfaction and empty feeling that comes from the choice to meet his need his own way rather than relying on God and his promises. You could replace pornography in this story with alcohol, drugs, gossip, violence, revenge, and just about any other sin that tempts people. A third person has been a follower of Christ for as long as he can remember. Yet, he suddenly faces imprisonment, torture, and possibly even death if he does not renounce his faith. He stands to lose his family, his friends, and his job at the very least. As he counts the cost of proclaiming his faith in Christ, he is tempted to take what appears to be the easy choice and simply deny Jesus.

The three stories I have shared above all have one thing in common – temptation. When you and I think of being tempted, we usually think of things that we know aren’t good for us but that we desire anyway, like certain unhealthy foods or vices. While those things certainly do tempt us, the Greek word for “tempt” in the New Testament, peiradzo, carries a broader meaning. The word can mean to “tempt, test, or try”, according to both Mounce and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament. As Katie mentioned in Monday’s blog, God does not tempt us, so the word is never used in that fashion with God as the subject. But God does allow us to go through trials and tests. I believe one of the reasons why the same word is used for both is because the times we are tempted (by our own evil desires) are often attached to our tests and trials.

An oft-quoted, and I believe misunderstood, verse is 1 Corinthians 10:13. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it”. We often hear people say “God will not put more on you than you can bear”. But I think it’s unfortunate that we put certain expectations on God and call it truth. If you look at the verse, it is telling us that God will always provide a way out of our overwhelming temptations. The point is that it WILL be more than we can bear on our own, which is why we need God’s way out rather than our own solution. It’s interesting that God provides a “way” because Jesus says, “I am the way” (John 14:6a). The TEST for us is whether we accept the “way out” or give in to the temptation.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about for a long time and have mentioned in other teachings and writings is that we are really all tempted by the same thing. No matter what the situation or trial is, we are tempted to want to be our own God, to believe that what we can see, feel, and understand is a better option than trusting in God and his promises. Now, I understand that this temptation takes on many different forms that have varying levels of power in our lives. Chemically and biologically speaking, it is much harder for those addicted to drugs and alcohol to resist them than it is for someone to resist chocolate. However, NO ADDICTION is more powerful than our Lord! So regardless of your addiction, Christ is your way out of it!

Even if you don’t struggle with some vice, and you are just in the midst of trials in your life that are not your fault, the temptation is still to trust ourselves as “god” instead of the one true God. Peter denied Christ three times because he gave in to the temptation in the face of his fear of persecution. Others over the course of church history have been burned alive, torn apart by wild beasts, and beheaded because they chose to trust in God and his promise of their eternal reward rather than their fear of man. Samson gave in to his temptations of women and alcohol rather than trust God’s promises for his life, yet many of you who struggle with loneliness or desiring a mate today can choose to trust and wait on God rather than figure it out on your own. No matter how you are tempted, whether it’s by a vice or because of the trials you are facing, the only thing you need to decide is whether or not God, his Son Jesus, and his promises are enough for you to resist your temptation to sin. Will you pass that test today? Worry about tomorrow when, or I should say “if”, it gets here.
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Tempt

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, August 26, 2013 0 comments

What are you tempted by? Are you tempted by the taste of chocolate to eat too much? (That’s me!) Are you tempted to buy things you don’t need, by advertisements promoting the next great thing? Are you tempted to ruin a friendship for a momentary pleasure?

This week’s word is tempt, which literally means being enticed into evil or sin. Ever since the first man and woman on earth committed the first sin, every person alive has been tempted, probably millions of times. Sometimes we are able to make the right choice and resist the temptation, but other times we give in to being tempted.

But who is the one doing all this tempting of mankind? Well, it definitely isn’t God. James 1:13-14 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” You and I are tempted because of our sinful nature. We are human, therefore we are sinful, therefore we are tempted to indulge that sinful nature.

But, temptation can also be used to prove a person’s desire to stay strong for God. I would encourage you to read the entire story of Job, but especially chapters 1-2. In this story, a man named Job is tempted by Satan to dishonor God. Throughout all of the catastrophe that happens (which believe me, is way worse than your life!), Job does not give in to the tempting and remains faithful to God.

As in everything, when we are tempted, the example we should strive to be like is that of Jesus. While He was tempted everyday like we are, He also went through an intense period of being tempted early on in His ministry. You can read about it in Matthew 4:1-11 or Luke 4:1-13. However, Jesus is different than you or I; He was able to resist every single temptation thrown at Him! We read about this in Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”

What tempts you in your daily life? What can you do to resist that temptation, to live your life for God?
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Teacher - A Position to Take Seriously

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, August 22, 2013 0 comments

What makes a teacher great? This is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about in my life because I’ve had so many great teachers, and a few that weren’t so great. I’ve studied at two colleges and one seminary, as well as classroom training sessions for several different jobs. I’ve been fortunate to have many men in my life who were the “rabbi” type of teacher that Katie and I wrote about a couple months ago. They were men who allowed me to see how they live their lives and how they face difficult circumstances rather than just talking about how I should be living. So, to answer the question I posed at the beginning, the greatest teachers are the ones whose lives and experiences are consistent with what they teach.

In order for students to know that their teachers’ lives mirror their words, they have to be able to know a little bit about their teachers’ experiences outside of the classroom. That may sound like an obvious statement, but the reality of what happens in many “higher education” settings nowadays is that some teachers are only speaking based on what they have learned IN the classroom themselves!

I’ve been telling people for years that I received a better education at the local two-year community college in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania than I did at the four-year state university to which I transferred to finish my degree. I understand that it may not always be the case depending on the major, but it certainly was the case for me as a criminal justice student. The reason was because my professors at the community college were part-timers who were either recently retired from or still currently working in the field they were teaching. My teachers there included retired officers, a current police chief, a lawyer, a forensic scientist, and a former officer who was also a polygraph expert. At the state school, my teachers were people who had never actually worked in the field but had “studied” the field long enough to earn some high-level degree. The experiences of those in the field made all the difference in their teaching.

Back in the time of the New Testament, the position of teacher was generally one of honor. It was seen as such in the Jewish culture mainly because of how intelligent and learned the person was. Many Jewish teachers had incredible knowledge of the Law and of tradition, but lacked the humility and repentance that Christ desired in his followers. When some of the Jews converted to Christianity and made up the early church, they struggled to allow their minds to be renewed, like most of us do.

In the early church, many wanted to be teachers because they still viewed the position as highly praised. That is when James, the brother of Jesus and writer of the earliest New Testament book, issued a warning and challenge. “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). He goes on to explain through the rest of the chapter how the hardest thing for man to do is keep a tight rein on his tongue. James includes himself in saying that “we all stumble in many ways” (v. 2). His point is that we ought to count the cost before desiring to be teachers rather than just going after the position for all of its accolades. James is warning would-be teachers that the position comes with greater accountability and stricter judgment, and challenging current teachers to understand the magnitude of responsibility they have. Not only must the teacher’s words be consistent with the life and teaching of Jesus, but the teacher’s deeds must also match what he teaches. Anything else would suggest a lack of integrity.

Those of us who regularly teach in the church, as well as anyone else who occasionally teaches or aspires to do so, need to take seriously the position Christ has given us as members of his body. If you are someone who teaches based on your head knowledge and not the life you experience as a follower of Jesus, beware that you will only become stressed to the point of being overwhelmed in trying to live a double standard. Dr. George Fry said it best at Winebrenner Theological Seminary’s graduation ceremony just a few weeks ago: “How can you expect to introduce people to Jesus if he is a complete stranger to you?” Education in the classroom can be very useful, but it is pointless if not accompanied by experience outside of it. I’ll close with the Apostle Paul’s charge to young Timothy, one who would take over as a leader and teacher in the church. “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
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Teacher

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, August 19, 2013 1 comments

I come from a family of teachers. My grandma taught school (primarily first grade) for 45 years. My mom has taught and helped with preschool and kindergarten for 24 years, and she taught kindergarten Sunday School for 25 years. I enjoyed the privilege of teaching Biblical Greek and Hebrew to one student for the past 3 years, and I hope someday it’s part of God’s plan for me that I get to teach on a bigger scale.

Back in June, we had “rabbi” as the word of the week. While many people consider “teacher” and “rabbi” to be equivalent, they are not quite the same. Go read the rabbi blog post to learn more about that, and why it’s a much more specific form of being a teacher.

Jesus was a key teacher in the Bible. Matthew 4:23 summarizes a lot of what Jesus did: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” (emphasis mine) The apostles (those who hung out with Jesus) were also great teachers. We see this in Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Similarly, the apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:13, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.”

But, why is all this teaching so important? What are we supposed to get out of it? For the people of Israel, God taught them His commands for a purpose, that they would inherit the land they were promised. Deuteronomy 4:1 says, “Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.” As Psalm 78:1 says, we should listen to God’s teaching simply because we are his people.

We also need to listen to those around us as teachers. We are commanded in Proverbs 1:8 to listen to our parents’ teaching, and in Proverbs 13:14 we see that, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.”

As we grow and mature throughout our lives, we need to be constantly learning. We need to learn from Jesus and the other teachers in the Bible, but we also need to have wise teachers in place in our lives, whether they be parents or trusted friends who have walked the journey longer than we have, so we have someone to learn from.

Who is a teacher in your life?
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Talent - It's All God's

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, August 15, 2013 0 comments

Have you ever thought about why we can’t be good at EVERYTHING? I understand that it sounds like an arrogant question, almost like we have the right to be talented. Maybe it’s just me who enjoys contemplating why things are the way they are in our lives. Obviously, some people are more talented than others, and you may even know people who seem to be good at everything. Yet, even those people have weaknesses.

To me, the fact that no single person is good at everything is the best indicator that our talents are not left to chance. If you think about it, the law of averages would suggest that, with the billions of people alive on earth today and the many more billions that have lived or will live at some point, somebody somewhere would be good at everything! But then again, that would be according to the law of averages. We serve a God that does not operate according to the laws of science and nature, because he created those things. Our God operates according to the truth of Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”. Guess what that means, friends? It means that every talent that has ever been exhibited by any human being belongs to God!

We ought to remain humble about the talents God has given us because of the realization that they come from him and can be taken away at any moment. While we may not be able to find anyone else whose talent compares to ours in a given area of life, the reality that God owns it all should keep us grounded. Did you ever think about that? God is better at basketball than Lebron James. He’s a better golfer than Tiger Woods. He’s a better singer and musician than the Beatles. He’s a better preacher than me (okay, that one was kind of obvious). The point is that all of these talents belong to him and he has given them to certain individuals for the purpose of bringing him glory and multiplying his kingdom on earth. Whether the individuals succeed in that purpose or not does not change the fact that it was God’s intention for those talents.

If we choose to take what God has given us and hide it or hoard it for ourselves, we should be mindful of the consequences. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells what we now know as “The Parable of the Talents”. Back in Jesus’ time, the word “talent” referred to an actual monetary unit that would be worth over a thousand dollars in our currency today, according to William D. Mounce. It’s interesting, however, that everything Jesus says in those verses about the monetary “talents” also applies to every other kind of talent God has given us. It also applies to the gift of the gospel that we have received. In the story, the master rewards the two servants who took what he had given them and used it to multiply his investments. In contrast, he punishes the “wicked and lazy” servant who digs a hole and hides his talent out of fear that he will lose it. The lesson for those of us who have received the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as anyone else who recognizes the talent God has given him, is that using them to serve God and bless others is not something that is optional. It’s the ONLY option we have because failing to do so means we will lose what we already have and will not be rewarded with anything else. The parable even suggests that eternal separation from God awaits the one who selfishly hoards his gift! (v. 30)

Friends, I hope you’ll allow what is written here to be an encouragement to you and a wakeup call at the same time. It’s a wakeup call because so many of us have talents and gifts that we have been too afraid to share with others because of the risk involved, and the potential consequences are very real. However, the encouragement is that realizing that we are the servants and that God is the master who owns the talents removes the pressure from us. If we simply let what he has given us shine for all to see, he’ll take care of everything else. “Honest scales and balances are from the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making” (Proverbs 16:11). God has gifted each and every one of you according to what he has in HIS bag that was designed specifically for you. I challenge you to share HIS talents with others through your life, so that both you and others will be even more blessed!
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Talent

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, August 12, 2013 0 comments

What are you good at? Perhaps you’re good at singing, or playing sports, or solving math problems, or listening to people, or any number of other things. I’m good at math and problem solving and working with languages, and back in high school I was a pretty good dancer. Have you ever thought about why you’re good at the things you can do well? Why are you good at what you’re good at?

We all have at least one thing that we’re good at, or maybe more than one thing. Those things we’re good at are called our talents. We can be born with some measure of natural talent, or we can develop them over time, or a combination of both. But either way, talents are a gift from God and should be used to glorify Him.

We read in James 1:17 that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Our talents are gifts from God, because they are good gifts in our lives. Sure it makes us feel happy when we use our talents for ourselves, but what about using them to bless others and further the Kingdom of God?

For a number of years, I couldn’t figure out how being good at math could benefit God’s Kingdom. I mean, what benefit is it if I can solve a differential equation? But, I was able to use my mathematical talents to earn an electrical engineering degree. A couple jobs later, I ended up where I’m at now - Ridge & Associates, Inc. in Findlay, OH. How does that benefit the Kingdom? Well, Ridge is a company founded on Christian values. At the end of the year, 50% of our profits off the top goes to financially support missionaries and mission organizations. The work I do helps Ridge earn money, which in turn gives money to those who are furthering God’s Kingdom as a full-time vocation. In addition, I became connected with Worldview Warriors through my job at Ridge, since the ministry has office space in our building.

We all have different talents and are gifted in different ways. Just read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and you’ll see how we all need to be different in order to fit together. We can’t all be the person preaching a sermon, or there would be nobody to listen. We can’t all write Bible-oriented blogs or there would be no one to read them. Your talents are unique to you. Because God has blessed you with your talents, you can thank Him by using them for His glory.

Regardless of what your God-given talents are, if you’re following Jesus Christ, you can bet that somehow God will use your talents to further His Kingdom and bring Him glory.
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Tabernacle - A Parable of Christ

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, August 8, 2013 0 comments

I wonder how many of you out there have had experiences in your life that you realized later on were important because they taught you valuable lessons that were critical in those later circumstances. I know I’ve had those experiences with what I would say were “smaller” steps of faith that allowed me to trust God in ways that would help me later as I made big changes in my life that were based on faith.

Earlier today, I had a conversation with a man I met through the work that I do that was a perfect example of what I’m talking about. This man, who is getting ready to be the primary caregiver for his two grandchildren for about two months, was addicted to drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes many years ago. He overcame his addictions to the first two in 2002, but still continued to smoke cigarettes. The man relayed to me that his doctor told him very honestly in 2005 that his situation was very simple – either give up smoking or his life would likely be over in less than a year. This man told me today that he told the doctor immediately, “Then I’ll quit”. However, he said that, because he knew how difficult it would be, the first thing he did was get on his knees and ask God for strength through his battle. The man grinned as he told me that he hasn’t had a craving for nicotine since that day eight years ago!

Today, the man is on a list at the Cleveland Clinic waiting for a lung transplant. He currently has to be hooked up to an oxygen tank almost 100% of the time. He stated that, because he is a Christian, he does not fear death. However, he admitted he knows his health is going to get a lot worse before he dies because of his condition and he stated that process is what he fears. As we continued to talk about it, I reminded him of how God gave him strength when he asked for it in the past and that God will surely walk with him through anything he has to face in the future. The man smiled again and said, “I know it to be true”. His earlier experience in life taught him a valuable lesson that turned out only to be a symbol or foreshadowing of what was to come.

If you read Katie’s post from Monday, you learned a little bit about the tabernacle of the Old Testament and how it was a place for the people to meet and worship God. It was the place where gifts were offered and sacrifices made for the atonement of sins. It also reminded the Israelites of God’s presence with them. But like the rest of the Old Testament and all of its prophesies, the physical tabernacle was an example of what was to come. In Hebrews 9:9, the writer explains that the tabernacle is “an illustration for the present time indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper”. The Greek word used there for illustration is parabole, from which we get the word “parable”. Just like Jesus told his disciples parables in order to prepare them for something greater, the writer of Hebrews is saying that God gave Moses the instructions for the tabernacle to symbolize what was to come. It would only be through this “true tabernacle set up by the Lord” (Hebrews 8:2) that those who desire a relationship with him would be able to enter the Most Holy Place.

The Most Holy Place was the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle, where only the high priest was allowed to enter and only once a year on the Day of Atonement for all Israel. Jewish tradition suggests that the priest would try not to spend too much time there for fear that God might kill him because of his sin, and also that he would usually throw a party with his friends when he emerged from there and had not been killed. We don’t think like this in today’s churches because we have gotten so comfortable with being able to go to the Father anytime we want regardless of our sins and not fearing that he might demand our lives. But we must not forget the reason why we have gotten to this point.

Friends, that reason is Jesus Christ. I encourage you to read all of Hebrews 8 and 9 on your own time, but I will simply share that Scripture tells us that Christ entered the Most Holy Place ahead of us, paving the way for us. “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place ONCE FOR ALL by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12 [caps mine]). While the Old Testament tabernacle had a physical Most Holy Place, it is a mere parable of heaven. Because Jesus entered heaven and sits at the right hand of God by the perfect sacrifice of his own body and blood, we too can enter heaven by believing in that sacrifice and making him Lord of our lives. And not only was the tabernacle a parable of Christ in the sense that it leads to the Most Holy Place, but also in the sense that Christ is “Immanuel”, or “God with us”. The tabernacle included the presence of God, but Jesus Christ walked the earth and then promised the Holy Spirit for those that believe. So, next time you think you have to be somewhere else to connect with God and invest in your relationship with him like the Israelites did in regards to the tabernacle, remember that it begins with believing in Christ, the more “perfect tabernacle” (Hebrews 9:11), by faith and continues as you recognize his presence with you daily.
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Tabernacle

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, August 5, 2013 0 comments

How would you like to live a portable lifestyle? You wouldn’t have the continuity of going home to the same place every day, and you would probably spend much of your time moving around. I lived in the same house from the time I was born until I went to college, so until that point I really didn’t know what it was like to move. I lived in various residences during college and a few places after that, but even now I have lived in the same house for 7-1/2 years. While moving and living in a new place can be a fun adventure, I do enjoy the consistency of having a place to call home.

Way back in Old Testament times, the people of Israel did not have a permanent home. After they left a life of slavery in Egypt, they ended up wandering in the desert for 40 years. Were they lost? Nope; they were just following God, as He led them and taught them many lessons during that time. One of the lessons they had to learn was that God is always with them, regardless of what geographic location they happened to be at that day.

One way this lesson was taught was through the tabernacle. The tabernacle was essentially their portable church building, also known as the tent of meeting. This was the place they worshipped God while wandering through the desert. It had to be portable, because they lived a portable lifestyle, going wherever God told them to.

I attend the Catalyst Church in Findlay, Ohio. One of the things Findlay is known for is its flooding problem, and the Catalyst building is not excluded from that! In the six or so years I’ve attended there, I believe we’ve been flooded out of our building at least six times. We know what it’s like to have a portable place to worship. When the waters are rising, we pack it all up and head on out, finding a different place to gather and worship until we can return.

As much as consistency is a comfortable thing, being portable like the tabernacle just goes to show us that we are God’s people wherever we go. During times of displacement from our usual building (often for a month or more), the Catalyst tended to gain more people into the body, and we would grow closer as a community. Not having a specific building to meet in on a Sunday morning doesn’t make us any less of God’s people, just as the people of Israel worshipping God in the tabernacle rather than a permanent temple building didn’t make them any less God’s chosen nation.

What consistencies are you clinging to in your life? Are there things that God is asking you to make more portable like the ancient tabernacle, so that you realize His constant presence in your life, no matter where you’re at? Consider that as you go about your routine this week.

Go read James 1:12-18 for further study on why persevering through trials is so important to your walk with God.
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Shun - Not For the Lost or Hopeless

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, August 1, 2013 0 comments

“Such an attitude runs the risk of denying the existence of evil”. I found this quote in an article on Wikipedia that talked about the criticism that a certain religious group of people faced because of their decision to respond to evil with love and compassion. I chose to begin this post with it because I believe it is at the core of why we are so quick to judge, condemn, and shun others in this world. We fear that an attitude of love and peace in response to acts of evil will paint us as weak, na├»ve, or accepting of that which is wrong. This fear causes us to constantly point out the sins of others so that we can at least appear to be distancing ourselves from them.

On October 2, 2006, a gunman took a classroom full of Amish girls and their teacher hostage in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This story hit particularly close to home for me because I was still living in PA - where I grew up - at the time and was only about a half hour from where it happened. In addition, a friend of mine who is a pastor had the family of the gunman, and the gunman himself at one time, in attendance at his church and had tried to help them through their struggles. The gunman was battling his own past and depression and reportedly had a plan to do much more damage than he was actually able to do that horrible day. Based on the items he had purchased and what he brought to the scene that day, investigators concluded he had planned to molest the girls and then kill them. He had let all the males leave the room before he began to carry out his plan. Before he could follow through with it, however, the police were breaking into the room after they had been called by a family member of one of the released male students. The police were able to save some lives, but not before the gunman was able to shoot ten of the girls, killing five of them, before committing suicide. This one man’s evil actions brought long-lasting grief to an entire community of people, and anger and a desire for vengeance to many more who knew neither the gunman nor the victims. How would you respond if you were one of those young girls’ parents? Would you be upset that the gunman “got off easy”? Would you take out your frustrations on those who associated with him, especially his wife and young children? In a matter of hours, the Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania had gone from their typical avoidance of media and outsiders to being thrust into the national spotlight. How would they respond to this horrible circumstance? How could such a tight-knit community possibly overcome something this destructive?

When I hear the word “shun”, the Amish community is the first thing I think of because it is a common practice of theirs. However, they took a different approach to this devastating situation. Just a few hours after the incident, members of their community were showing up at the home of the wife and children of the gunman and offering their condolences and support. Rather than respond with anger or intentional avoidance, they actually went out of their way to bring love, forgiveness, and hope to the family who had just lost a husband and father. Furthermore, they issued a challenge to the members of their religious community to not hate the man who committed the horrible crime and to instead trust his judgment to the God of justice.

Their response showed the world that the practice of shunning is not for the lost and hopeless. It is meant only for those inside their faith community who have chosen to walk in ways they believe are wicked. While I won’t sit here and argue the Amish standard of morality is based completely on Scripture, I will say that the way this group of Amish people decided to handle this tragedy was an excellent model of Christ for all of us. The criticism they faced also put them in his company. In Luke 15, the Pharisees (Jewish experts in the law) had a problem with the fact that Jesus did not shun those who they thought he should. “They muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them’” (v. 2). Jesus went on to share with them the three well-known parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, explaining in each case that there is much more rejoicing over the return of what is lost than what was never gone in the first place. Through these stories and many others where Jesus went against the expectations of the religious experts, he showed them that the redemption of the lost was always the highest priority.

The question for each of you is what is your highest priority? As Katie shared in Monday’s post, there are times when shunning a person or behavior is appropriate. But even in those situations, we should be examining our true motivations and asking ourselves whether our choices are ultimately more helpful or harmful to Jesus’ mission of bringing the lost to faith in him as Savior and Lord. I challenge you to learn from the example of the Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and welcome even those who have caused you pain, especially if you know they desperately need the Lord and the hope he has given you.
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