The Bible Speaks for Itself

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 30, 2014 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“A voice says, ‘Cry out.’
And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
‘All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.’” - Isaiah 40:6-8

Penn Jillette, a famous atheist, comedian, and magician, once said that the best way to become an atheist is to read the Bible. This assertion comes from the idea that the Bible is full of contradictions, is scientifically inaccurate, is full of absurdities, and tells the story of a god who is full of anger and rage against everyone and is just waiting to punish people for the slightest offense. This is reflected in Richard Dawkins’ statement in The God Delusion: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/23651-the-god-of-the-old-testament-is-arguably-the-most). Now, for someone who is uninformed, this statement might seem witty and intelligent. But for someone who is actually educated in understanding the Bible, it is absolutely maddening.

Both Mr. Jillette and Mr. Dawkins suffer from the same ailment. They may have read the Bible sometime in their lives, or even multiple times, but they were never serious about finding answers to their questions. Now that they are rich and famous they have the luxury of hiring “Bible scholars” that agree with their point of view to promote the nonsensical understanding of Scripture that they themselves possess. Is the God of the Old Testament really evil or, for that matter, any different from the God of the New Testament? The answer is obvious for the person who actually reads the Bible and studies its content.

The Bible speaks for itself. Even for the person who is not trained to read the Bible, in the English language (and I am assuming in others) the Bible is very easy to understand. When a person reads the Bible and merely puts a little bit of thought into what is being read, there are no contradictions or absurdities. The Bible is a very consistent book and mostly details historic events where extravagant miracles are not necessarily present but the hand of God is. Does God wipe out entire nations? Yes. But that does not make him an ethnic cleanser; it means that he is judge over what is good and what is evil. In the Old Testament, God brought righteous judgment against many nations through Israel. What is more, God at times brings judgment upon Israel through their enemies when they go astray from the Lord’s commands. God is just and deals with evil no matter who commits it. What is incredible is that God’s love for humanity is exemplified all through the Old Testament; his longing for Israel and his plan to extend his grace out to all people who would call on his name (Isaiah 65:1-2). These are exactly the same sentiments that God has for humanity in the New Testament. If you do not believe me, read Romans 10:11-13. (For an even more exact example, read Isaiah 65:1 and then read how Paul uses it in the context of Romans 10 and 11.)

But I have not even gotten into how a more advanced reader of the Bible views the so-called “trouble verses.” We have to remember that the Bible, although it is written for all people to understand, was written 2,000 years ago. Not only was it written 2,000 years ago, it was written in three different languages in cultures that are totally different than ours. Often times if something does not make sense to us today, that is precisely the reason why. Also, the things that are clear in Scripture are given an additional layer of awesomeness when they are understood in their fullest context. There is so much to appreciate about the Bible that is just waiting to be revealed to the person who is interested in actually studying it on a deeper level.

For the person who is uncertain about whether it is worth it to invest in reading the entire Bible, it will enhance your faith in a way that few other activities can accomplish. Do not heed the words of the skeptics who try to discourage believers from reading the Word or who mock its content. They are only repeating other people’s ignorance. True scholars don’t merely report on what other people have said, they form an opinion for themselves. If you wish to do this you must read the Bible.
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Are Fear and Worry Real?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 29, 2014 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Are fear and worry real? The short answer to this question is yes - they are as real as we allow them to be. But that would be a very short blog post, so I will elaborate on that answer.

You may have read about fear in Nathan’s blog post from this past Saturday. In it, he quoted this line from a movie: “Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice.“ I would say that the same is true for worry - it is a choice that we make.

The Bible mentions fear many times. There are actually two different types of fear in the Bible, though. One is the fear we commonly think of, like being afraid or terrified. The other is a holy fear, like being in reverence or in awe. We are instructed to have both types of fear of God, because of His power and holiness. But today we’ll be discussing the first type of fear, that of being scared or afraid.

We as humans often experience fear when we are in a situation that is unexpected. For example, every time an angel visited a person, the angel’s greeting started with some form of “Do not fear!” Personally, I’m pretty sure I’d be terrified if an angel of God just appeared in front of me right now! But if that happened, I would have the choice to either let that fear dominate and shut me down, or else to heed the angel’s words and not be afraid of the situation.

Before humankind sinned, there was none of this type of fear. There was nothing to be afraid of, because humanity was in full, right relationship with God. Nothing is stronger or bigger or more powerful than God, and with God so close to them, there was nothing to be afraid of. The enemy had no power in that perfect world. But, when sin came into the world, so did fear. We now have an enemy that we should be afraid of. The danger is real, but fear is a choice.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you will still experience some form of danger in this world. But we don’t have to be afraid of that danger, because God is still on our side! Even if there are temporary things to fear, our permanent home is with Him in the perfect world of heaven.

But what about worry? Worry is what happens when we have fear. If I’m afraid of losing my job, I will worry about it. If I’m afraid of getting into a car accident, I will worry about it. Worry is the result of having fear, which is what happens when we try to control our lives by ourselves. If God is in control, we have nothing to fear, and in fact we can have joy. But if we are in control, we will worry about the situations in our lives and typically mess them up - thus causing more worry.

Fear and worry are definitely both real, but that doesn’t mean we have to give in to them. If you follow Jesus, then God is on our side and there is nothing that we truly need to fear or worry about. As Romans 8:31 says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
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Is Fear Real?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, September 27, 2014 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Recently I saw the movie “After Earth” starring Will Smith and his son. It’s a movie that is not for the squeamish. Will and his son play a father/son duo, stranded on a planet where they are being hunted by a very large creature. Will’s character is injured. His son, Kitai, is afraid, because he saw this creature kill his sister when he was younger. Now, it is up to Kitai to travel through desperate environmental conditions and activate a rescue beacon. As Will’s character preps Kitai for the journey, he tells him about his own journey with fear:

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity Kitai. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice. We are all telling ourselves a story and that day mine [my story] changed.”

I was blown away by that quote and realized in that moment that we give far too much attention to our fears. Danger is real. Caution and protection are often necessary. But fear is a choice. Fear is a response to a circumstance, person, thought, etc. In the Bible, I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” It’s amazing to read that. If we fear, we are not made perfect in love. That Greek word translated as “made perfect” from the original Bible text, also means “made genuine” or “complete.”

So, fear is a reaction from an imperfect or disingenuous place of living. Something that is disingenuous is fake, or not real.

God has not invited us to live in a fake world of our own imagination. He has not invited us to make up our own stories about what we think is real. God has invited us to live as real people in the story that He has written. That story includes danger. He has allowed the consequences of sin and rebellion so that we appreciate and are aware of our need for Him – just like we as parents allow our children to discover results of their own choices, in order to better consider their need for parental wisdom and guidance. Our story includes scary and deadly things – mainly because we continue to create our own stories complete with all the ugliness of human selfishness and cruelty.

And in the face of that, God offers to teach us, guide us, and complete us in HIS love. HIS love drives out fear, because it is saturated with HIS all-knowing perspective and His peace and HIS power. Love pierces through danger, sees the heart of the issue, and goes after what is best for all involved. Love cannot stand shadow or untruth, and it exposes the lies that threaten us. Love faces danger and the potential harm it can bring and says, “You are not alone, I am right here.” Even just the knowledge that we are not alone in the face of danger makes danger smaller, and our courage greater.

I admit that I am not complete in love. You probably aren’t either. So what are we going to do about it? Kitai chose to face his fears, out of his love for his father and the belief in what his father taught him. Will you choose to listen and learn in the same way from your Heavenly Father?
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Anger and Wrath (Part I)

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 26, 2014 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

The River Moe was home to all sorts of life. Fish swam up and down the Moe, while much other wildlife came to the river for a drink of the fresh water. Trees were numerous, healthy, and home to many birds. Downriver, the Moe descended over a plateau with a large waterfall. At the head of the waterfall, a large tower stood with full view of the surrounding landscape. After the waterfall, the Moe spread out into a delta, feeding a lush marshland, before merging together again on its path to the ocean. Upriver, the Moe descended from a huge dormant volcano, Raw, whose glacier provided the source of the river.

The Moe was usually a peaceful river. As it descended from Raw, it rumbled with excitement and jubilance, and as it entered the plateau, it calmed down into a gentle, peaceful river. The tumbling of the waterfall over the edge of the plateau was not angry but soothing. The pool at the base of the waterfall was calm and still, but constantly refreshing with new water. When the rains came, the Moe would swell and provide water for numerous farms. But in times of drought, the Moe would shrink. In severe drought, there were times where parts of the riverbed ran dry and the only water source came from tributaries joining the Moe.

But one day a disaster happened. Raw, the dormant volcano, woke up. From time to time, Raw would rumble a little, letting some steam and ash out, but then settle down. This time, it blew up, much like Mount St. Helens did. The entire top of the volcano shot out in all directions. The explosion sent a pyroclastic cloud tumbling down the mountain, incinerating everything in its path, leveling trees and annihilating cabins. The heat and pressure melted the glacier almost instantly and sent it roaring down the mountain. The ash, dirt, boulder, water, all gathered to form a lahar, a violent mud slide that tears up anything and everything in its path. In its wake, the lahar ate up the river bed and carved a canyon out of the side of the mountain.

Downriver into the plateau, the mud, ash, and debris from the lahar settled out, but the Moe flowed much faster and much more violently. In its wake, the Moe no longer left the gentle sloped river bed. It now had steep, near vertical cliffs, now five to ten feet tall and as wide as the river in its heavy flooded state.

The excessive water approached the waterfall and the tower at high speeds. The force of the river shook the tower, but it held firm, thanks to a very deep, strong foundation. However, the riverbed at the head of the waterfall disintegrated as the water shot out from the plateau, with a huge berth. The force of the impact of the high-speed water tore up the landscape around the pool, wiping out trees and moving boulders.

The Moe roared towards the marshland, completely flooding it. It formed a few new lakes and burst through the natural dams of other lakes in the marshland. The river bulled over several trees and they settled right where the waters of the marshland merged. In this whole process, the Moe carved out a new river bed, redirecting the river. It eventually made its way back to its original bed before emptying into the ocean.

The River Moe eventually calmed down and returned to a regular flow, but the damage had been done. The canyons it formed were permanent. The trees and wildlife would return but it would never be the same. The landscape had been scarred forever. The mountain, Raw, no longer had the cone top. Instead, a crater remained. The glacier would take years to re-grow, but with a roughly 1000-foot loss of altitude from the explosion, it would not be as big or be able to support the amount of water it used to carry.

The once soft and moist river bed solidified into solid rock, leaving the Moe in a small canyon across the plateau and the plains below. At the waterfall, a gaping gash now stood as the waterfall’s height was now only 2/3 of what it used to be, with steep walls on both sides of the riverbed. But the tower remained standing firm. The foundation was completely exposed but it remained upright.

More canyons were formed from the pool of the waterfall to the marshland. The pool was now only a fraction of what it used to be as the river bed was now lower compared to the pool’s depth. The Moe sent only a trickle of water into the marshland due to the redirection of the river. But with the little flow into the marshland and with the blockade at the end of the marshland, the waters in the marsh grew stagnant. Bacteria and mosquitoes began to multiply and animals that drank from the marshland soon began to get sick. In a short time, the marshland would turn into a dank, mucky bog. All this disaster and destruction was caused by a single volcanic eruption. Why do I tell you this story? Every element in this story is a picture of something else. The River Moe, the Volcano Raw, the waterfall, the glacier, the pool, the marshland, the blockade, and the land itself – all of it is a picture, a metaphor, of what could happen with an eruption of anger. I will let your imagination go from here but stay tuned! Next week, I’ll explain the metaphors.
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Overcoming Anger - Slow Down and Consider the Source

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 24, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Within the last month, we have seen two stories that have come out of the National Football League and have dominated the news media, including those beyond the world of sports. Unfortunately, these two stories have brought nothing but negative attention to the NFL and its participants. I’m of course talking about the recent incidents of violence involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and current Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. While we certainly don’t know all the facts of each case, many have seen the video posted all over the place that shows Mr. Rice punching his now-wife and knocking her out cold in a hotel elevator, and Adrian Peterson has reportedly admitted to using physical discipline on his four-year-old son that resulted in severe bruising and cuts on the boy’s body. In each case, I can’t help but think of one question: What if they had taken just a few minutes to stop, slow down their minds and emotions, and consider the source of their feelings before acting?

Without a doubt, every single one of you who is reading this has experienced a moment of intense anger in your life. In that moment, you desperately feel like doing whatever it is you do to make yourself feel better, be it crying, yelling, screaming, cursing, or even hitting something or someone. I believe this is why James’ words about anger to the early Christians are so practical yet profound. “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20). It’s like that teacher or your parent used to say when you were little and were talking and not listening: “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Basically, listening should be something that happens immediately and shouldn’t require a lot of thought. But when your gut instinct is to start speaking or to get angry, that’s when you need to slow things down. For all of us, the flesh wants to self-preserve and defend, so what James is talking about requires a true reversal of what feels natural.

But what happens AFTER you have slowed down or even stopped yourself from doing what feels right but you know is wrong? As you all know, doing nothing will cause you to sit and stew and possibly just get more angry. If you only think about how you can appease your anger, it will continue to control you. That is when the second half of James’ words I quoted above comes into play. He declares that MAN’S anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. In other words, it accomplishes nothing. James is writing his letter to believers and assumes that anyone who wants to follow Jesus is actually concerned with bringing about righteousness in his own life and the lives of others, rather than just appeasing the flesh. With that assumption, he explains that the goal will NOT be attained through man’s anger.

At this point, some of you may be wondering about “righteous anger” and how that fits into the equation. Well, I can tell you with certainty that the moniker “righteous anger” has been used to justify one’s actions when angry many more times than it actually applied. We often hear that Jesus got angry and that means that righteous anger is possible. However, we must remember that Jesus “was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). His anger was always righteous because HE was always righteous. You and I, however, are sinners saved by grace who still battle the flesh. So, just because we might think our anger is righteous or justified based on the actions of others doesn’t mean it’s true. You have to consider the source of your anger.

The best way to determine whether your anger is righteous or not is to consider whether it would make Jesus angry or not. For example, you may not want to hear this, but any anger you have toward someone else because of some way that they hurt you is NOT righteous. How did Jesus handle his hurt caused by others? He asked the Father, as he was hanging on the cross, to forgive those who harmed him because they didn’t know what they were doing (Luke 23:34). When people rejected him, he moved on and didn’t dwell on it. When he was betrayed and even knew it was going to happen, he still treated his betrayer as a friend. If you want to know what angers Jesus and his Holy Spirit, you have to get to know them. Read the Word and seek their guidance. I will simply tell you that what really seemed to irritate him was anytime those who claimed to be “righteous” based on their works treated others as less than themselves and judged them as unrighteous. So my advice would be to make sure you don’t get too high on your own righteousness.

I can personally testify to all the problems that are caused by not stopping, slowing down, and considering the source when I’m angry. There have been many times in my life when I just acted as though I had a right to be angry and said or did whatever came to my mind. There have been times that I have been wronged, but my overreaction completely overshadowed whatever was done to me and the Lord has shown me that I have no right to be angry when someone hurts me if I want to consider myself a disciple of him. We are called to a different standard. The closer I get to the Holy Spirit and the more I get to know him, the more I am transformed so that what angers me is ONLY what angers him. I can’t say I’m even close to righteous on this, but I know he is transforming me and he can transform you too. Even if you have been held captive by anger and bitterness for a long time in your life, the process is the same. Take time to stop and think about whether your anger is from the Spirit or based on your flesh and your desire to preserve yourself. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what to be angry about. And consider what your goal or purpose is with your anger. Is it about you, or is it about bringing the righteous life that God desires in others? These are questions that only you can answer for yourself and I pray you will take time to reflect on them so that the Holy Spirit can bring you freedom from anger and bitterness and redirect you to that which righteously angers him.
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Knowing Right and Wrong

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 23, 2014 6 comments

by Bill Seng

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (Judges 17:6)

Did you know that the Holocaust is morally justifiable? Think about it. It attempted to eliminate an inferior race as well as other genetic stragglers, such as the mentally and physically handicapped, tiny people, and homosexuals. In the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, Hitler was merely trying to reduce the surplus population.

Now, let’s be real. Was the Holocaust really justifiable in a moral sense? NO! Why would I propose such an absurd notion? Perhaps it is because there is a certain movement in our country, which, if you follow their logic to its obvious conclusions, would have to concede that it was morally justifiable.

Atheists often get offended when they are accused of having no true standard from which they draw their morals. Most atheists would say that one does not need a supernatural authority in order to be moral. So when they are asked by what authority they can derive morality a typical response is “society.” In some societies, it is moral to kill. A society that believes in preserving the purity of its race and keeping the growth of its population under control for the sake of allocating its resources to the most important people and the advancement of human evolution would deem that killing mass quantities of certain individuals is not only moral, but necessary.

How do we know what is right and wrong? To me, a practice such as killing described above, is despicable and ignores Jesus’ call to love the “least of these.” Aside from my religious convictions, I believe that any sane person would agree with my assertion that ethnic cleansing and serial genocide are horrible practices. Let’s use another example: telling lies.

It is assumed that everybody in every religion and every ideology thinks that lying is wrong. This could not be any further from the truth. Deception and betrayal are honorable traits among certain peoples. The ancient Greeks and many groups of people in the Middle East believe that if you are foolish enough to be deceived, that is your own problem. Unfortunately, in America we are trending in a similar direction. People can be tape-recorded and caught on camera and deny what they said or what they did, with the respective clip playing in the background. We claim to be disgusted at this practice, but we continue to approve of the very people who commit these crimes. Is lying wrong? Is lying evil? YES! Do people, such as atheists, have any incentive to tell a person the truth when lying would be more beneficial? No.

There are so many examples of twisted morality that we can talk about, but let’s change things up a bit. Giving. Is giving good? What about honesty? Consistency? Peace? Justice? Understanding? Helping? You would be hard pressed to find anyone that would disagree with the inherent purity of these practices.

The Bible tells us that there is no excuse to do evil or to deny God’s existence. Without a Divine authority, there truly is no authority. Having studied the creation/evolution debate, politics, and business, it has become very evident to me that there are certain people who do not only lie when necessary, but who are compulsive liars. Such people do not care about God’s authority. Those who love God do not live only to please themselves, but in a manner that is pleasing to Him.
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How Do I Overcome Anger and Bitterness?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 22, 2014 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Anger is a very common human emotion. We’ve all gotten angry at some point in our lives - maybe even at some point every week, or every day. Merriam-Webster defines anger as, “a strong feeling of being upset or annoyed because of something wrong or bad; the feeling that makes someone want to hurt other people, to shout.” Continued experiences of anger make a person become bitter. I’m guessing we can all think of something in our lives, whether big or small, that we’re bitter about due to prolonged anger over the situation.

But what do we do with this anger and bitterness? As Christ followers, we need to follow Jesus’ example. Is anger a sin? Not in and of itself, but our reaction to that anger is often sinful. Jesus Himself got angry when He cleared the money changers out of the temple - go check out that story in John 2:13-22 for example. Jesus never sinned, so we know that anger itself is not sin. But it is a strong temptation to cause us to sin, so we need to be very careful about anger.

The Bible has many verses that warn against being angry. For a few examples, check out Proverbs 29:11, Ecclesiastes 7:9, Colossians 3:8, or Psalm 37:8-9.

In Proverbs 20:22, it says, “Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.” Often when we get angry or we’re bitter about a situation, we want to initiate some sort of revenge. We want to make that person pay for whatever they did to us that made us so angry! But what is God commanding us to do? Nothing! Trust that God will take care of the problem and punish that person as He deems fit. He is God and we are not.

Jesus tells us what to do in a situation like this in Matthew 5:38-42: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Well, that’s a little counter-intuitive, isn’t it? If somebody slaps you on the right cheek, our human nature says to slap them back, not to let them slap you again! Why is Jesus telling us to do this? To trust in Him, that God will take care of that wrong for you. God is the ultimate judge.

Last week, we wrote about joy and happiness. We can (and should) have joy even in difficult times, because we know that God is in control and He uses those times to strengthen us. Anger and bitterness are similar to that - when we feel angry, we need to release that to God and allow Him to take care of the situation. When we take matters into our own hands and act out of our own anger or bitterness, we tend to mess things up even more. God, however, will work all things for His glory and His purposes (Romans 8:28).

So how do I overcome anger and bitterness? Give them to God, and let Him handle it. I guarantee you that God is bigger than any problem you have in your life, and He will handle it in the best way possible. It may not seem like the best to us in the short term, but it will be for the best in the long run.
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Gobsmacked

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, September 20, 2014 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

I recently heard the term “gob-smacked” and just thought that was a funny expression. It is British slang meaning: “utterly amazed, astonished, etc.” It combines the Scottish word for mouth “gob” with the verb “to smack,” in order to create a picture of astonishment. Instead of saying, “well shut my mouth,” like a southern U.S. expression, it simply paints the picture of someone smacking or covering his mouth in amazement or shock. It’s fun to say, go ahead try it… ”Gobsmacked.” See? Now try it with a British accent… just kidding.

Anyway, gobsmacked is what I think of when I read Nehemiah 8:9-12. Take a moment and read those couple verses if you are unfamiliar with the passage. Israel is returning to Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah, to rebuild their place of worship and their city. In the process, they discover the scrolls from the temple that contain God’s Word. They publically assemble to read them, and then are gobsmacked at what they hear. As they encounter God’s Word, they are shaken to the core and start to weep. We do not know specifically what they heard, but their attitude of excitement became weeping as the truth of God’s Word sunk in. Perhaps they were reading the consequences God warned them would come if they turned away from Him. Perhaps they realized how far from God they had chosen to be, and they felt the weight of their own choices that lead to the destruction of their city and their deportation into Babylon. All we know is they were weeping, sobbing, and wailing. Nehemiah has to encourage them to focus on worshipping God, rather than grieving for their losses or the past.

So what happened there? Why were they so distraught? It struck me that I have seen similar gobsmacked reactions with people who hear about Jesus for the first time. I have also seen it when people are reminded of what God’s Word actually says, instead of what they have decided to believe. The reactions I have seen are not always weeping or wailing – it is often anger, frustration, denial, physical attack, bargaining, reasoning, etc. I am convinced there was something here in this passage that God’s Word exposed and all of Israel instantly knew they had brought their current situation on themselves in their rebellion against God. And I am convinced of the same when I see people react strongly to God’s Word in the world today.

Truth has a way of piercing through all of our carefully constructed justifications for why we do what we do. And when God’s truth exposes all of our willfulness or self-oriented living, we instantly see ALL the places of our sin. Our minds are so adept at connecting things that when the truth of God’s Word hits our ears, we instantly take stock of a number of things: what we believe, where we have departed from what God said, how we feel about it, how we think God feels about it, whether we want to change it, whether we think we can change it, whether we are being judged for not changing it, how we can rationalize that our way is good (for us), examples of others who have lived the way we are, etc. So much passes through our minds in a split second, that we literally are gobsmacked with a comparison between our life and God’s plans.

Look what Nehemiah does in verse 10. He says to Israel, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Joy is overwhelming delight. It is fueled by grateful awareness and humble appreciation. For Israel at this moment, staring in the face of the results of their rebellion, instead of hearing God’s Word as a rallying cry to move forward with Him, they were grieving. Instead of being grateful for God’s direction and truth being spoken, they are weeping. The attention moved from hearing God speak and celebrating His presence, to “woe is me/us.” Nehemiah reminds them that the JOY (delighting in and with God) is their strength.

God’s Word and guidance produces strength and courage in us when we hear it as a message of hope and a calling forward. God’s Word can produce sorrow, fear, and weakness in us, if we only hear it as judgment. God’s Word is meant to get us where we are going - with Him. When we hear his guidance we should experience JOY that God has not forgotten us and is still calling us forward. That JOY in God’s guidance and presence is a strength that cannot be matched by any circumstances we face – because nothing can stand in the way of what God has planned. That confidence and delight in God’s calling forward literally puts strength into our bodies for the job we have to do.

So the question comes to you. When you hear God’s Word and you are gobsmacked by it – do you receive it as an encouraging call forward in grace? Are you strengthened by the overwhelming delight that God has in who he has made you to be? Or do you grieve the gap between where you are and where God is calling you to be? Do you indignantly pout about what you think you will be missing?

The choice is yours. The strength to move forward relies on trusting HIS love and being filled with delight for what He has planned. The JOY of the Lord is your STRENGTH.
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Happiness or Joy

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 19, 2014 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
~Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence

The American dream is very often summarized in this statement. It is a very unique approach that has never been seen in any other society in history. The American government system is unique. It doesn’t exist anywhere else. We have a freedom that no one else really understands. But with that freedom comes a great and heavy responsibility. Too many of us, myself included, have taken these “rights” for granted. We don’t know or understand what it means to live without these rights, let alone what it costs for us to have them.

The American Patriots understood what it would take to hold to these rights. And while we have heard the stance they took from our history books, little demonstrated the resolve they had than more than in the War of 1812 when Fort McHenry was under siege. This is when a famous man by the name of Francis Scott Key witnessed a scene that we sing about, but we really do not grasp what it meant when he witnessed what he saw. Take a few minutes to watch this video about what he saw and what was the basis of the U.S. national anthem.

These men who held Fort McHenry understood what the U.S. flag represented. They understood that to hold to what that flag meant was to face the full British Armada. They knew that if they fought, they might not live to see the next day. We don’t have that mentality today. Not like we used to have. We’ve gotten lazy and want “entitlements.” We don’t know what it takes to preserve the freedom that was earned for us. And as a result, we have a different understanding of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” than what Thomas Jefferson had.

This week with Worldview Warriors, we’ve been addressing the difference between happiness and joy. You may ask what American history has to do with happiness or joy – good question. But let me ask you this, those who watched the video above about the siege of Fort McHenry: those men who willingly gave their lives to hold that flag up, were they happy? Most would say yes. They died fighting for what they believed so firmly that nothing could sway them. But I would suggest that they weren’t. Here is why. Happiness is an emotion. It comes and goes like the waves or the seasons. I don’t think these men were very happy that their families and their home (which was mostly a civilian fort, not a military fort) were being attacked. You aren’t happy when that happens. But those who died did so with a smile as they looked upon the flag and towards heaven. This is not happiness, but joy. Joy goes much deeper than a mere emotion that depends on circumstances. You can have joy despite the whole world falling apart around you.

There is another group of people that understood the hardships and the courage that the U.S. patriots had: the first century church. While the U.S. patriots fought for political freedom from a religious perspective, the early church fought for spiritual freedom despite a political oppression. The U.S. patriots were predominately Christian and they understood the principles of the U.S. constitution were meaningless and of no effect unless it was carried out by a Christian population and by Christian leaders. They fought for religious and political freedom. The church fought for spiritual freedom. Not their own because they already had it, but for the many they witnessed to. And that came with a price because those who were lost in their sin are being held prisoners by their sin and by the forces of darkness.

When the early church faced persecution, it was no pleasant thing. There is no happiness to be found in enduring a flogging, being stoned, being publically humiliated, being crucified, being sawed in two, being give a bath of boiling oil, being beheaded, being fed to the lions, being forced to fight in the gladiator arenas, or being driven from their homes, and the list goes on. Take another moment to read Acts 16:16-40.

When Paul and Silas had been flogged in Philippi and then thrown into prison, I really doubt they were happy right then and there. They were thrown in around four in the afternoon. It wasn’t until around midnight that they started praising the Lord and when the famed earthquake took place. That suggests it may have taken them eight hours to get over their emotions of what happened and focus on what they need to focus on. Paul and Silas did not experience happiness in that cell, but they did experience joy. This is why Paul tells us to count it all as joy when we face trials and persecution. He understands it. He saw the bigger picture. He saw the end goal. And he did not depend on what he felt at the moment to determine what he would or would not do.

The same resolve Paul had, to give his all for the mission before him, is the same type of resolve the American Patriots had. And as Christians, it should be the same resolve that we should have. Rejoice in the Lord always! No matter what the circumstances. In success. In failure. On the mountain top. In the valley. In sickness. In health. In peace. In war. Do not make a choice depending on your emotions. If you do, the vast majority of the time, it will be the wrong choice. But you can choose to have joy despite your circumstances. And you will find that when your attitude and your perspective on your circumstances change, the circumstances themselves will appear to change. The pursuit of happiness is an American dream, but it means much more than an emotional high. It means pushing through the difficult times to seek after the goal. And when you have that goal in your focus in any area of your life, in all cases, have joy as you get closer to that goal. As Nehemiah said: “The joy of the Lord is our strength.
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Baby on the Brain

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, September 18, 2014 2 comments

by Steve Risner

A human being's beginning is a marvelous thing. Your mother, since she was in the womb herself, had a large stockpile of eggs in her ovaries that contain half of her genetic information. The egg is a fairly large cell, even though it only has half the information most other cells of the body have. Your father came along and contributed the other half of the genetic information that makes you “you” via a sperm cell. A sperm cell is similar to an egg in that in has half the genetic material that is necessary for a human being to be “built,” but it's very different in appearance. It's much smaller than the egg and has a long tail that allows it to propel itself to its destination. These two gametes come together and make a human life—a fertilized egg—at conception. What happens next is enough to boggle the mind. That single cell (created by two half cells) will become, according to some research papers, as many as 4 quadrillion cells (or as little as 100 trillion depending on the source) in about 280 days! That's unimaginable!

My wife is currently pregnant, although hopefully by the time this blog is posted she will have delivered our 5th child. She often uses the excuse of “I'm eating for two,” or “The baby wants ice cream.” It's true that she's got another person inside her, which is just weird for me, a man, to think about. But the other person is, for much of the time, smaller than a baseball. However, when I consider the amount of growth that baby goes through from the moment of conception to the moment of birth, I begin to understand that all that energy she wants to consume is necessary.

During the first 12 hours after conception, the fertilized egg remains a single cell. After approximately 30 hours, it divides from one cell into two, and 15 hours later, the two cells divide into four. Eventually, it will be a morula—which literally means mulberry. Ever see a mulberry? It looks like a blackberry only it's on a tree. The human being that's growing at this stage looks just like a mulberry. This is within days of being conceived.

Everything about your genetics is determined the moment that specific egg cell is fertilized by that specific sperm cell. Your gender, hair color, eye color, and so many other things are set at that moment. And it's an amazingly busy bit of human. From the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children:

“The embryo is not simply a set of instructions for making a new human being, like a blueprint for building a house. A blueprint is inert and cannot carry out instructions, but the embryo is active and begins work at once. A house needs builders, carpenters, electricians and plumbers to complete it; but the embryo has the ability to grow spontaneously, moving on to other phases of development and constructing the skeleton, flesh, nerve connections and a waste disposal system of the human body. After a house is built, a blueprint remains separate; but the embryo–already an essential human by virtue of the genes–is blueprint, builder and ‘house’ together.”

It's amazing how this little single cell knows exactly what to do. It turns from two half cells to one whole, to two, to four, etc until we have a roughly 7-lb person consisting of countless cells that are categorized into approximately 200 different types! All this from a single cell! How does it know to differentiate like that? How does it know when to do any of this along the way? In 280 days, a human being will begin as a single cell and become 200 different types of cells arranged in four major categories of tissue organized into over 60 different organs working together in 12 distinct systems. How could one assume this is the result of a series of mistakes that just happened to generate an amazing machine that we call the human body?

Within 25 days, we see this single cell has become a head and trunk with early arms and legs. Its brain and spinal cord are not only developing but have been protected to insure proper development with disturbance. The brain has had measurable brain waves within 40 days of conception! The heart has not only begun to form but has begun to beat! Nearly every organ of the body is present although much must be done before the baby is able to survive outside the womb. Sir William Liley described the baby after a month this way:

“By 30 days, just two weeks past mother's first missed period, the baby–one quarter of an inch long–has a brain of unmistakable human proportions, eyes, ears, mouth, kidneys, liver, an umbilical cord and a heart pumping blood he has made himself.”

After a month, the baby will be approximately 5 mm in length. In just 4 more weeks, this human being will be about 8 times that size–40 mm in length.

Within 6 weeks, we'll see fingers on the hands and toes on the feet. The eyes began to develop within the first month, and after 6 weeks they'll have lenses and eyelids. As sensory nerves begin to grow in the nervous system, the baby begins to move and has been seen to respond to touch as early as 5 weeks.

After 8 weeks the body is nearly a completed project! Maturation is necessary, but all the parts are there and many are functioning. At this point, the baby is now referred to in the literature as a fetus, which means “offspring.” No one can argue at this point that this child is a human being. I, personally, don't feel you could argue we're not talking about a human being from the very second the sperm cell fertilizes the egg, but that's another blog. But the fact is that some studies suggest a human baby will begin to be self-aware or sentient as early as 6 weeks! That's astounding and heart breaking at the same time.

We're coming up on an election. Without telling you who to vote for or not to vote for, please consider this: first and foremost a politician must take a moral stance. There is no question, in my opinion, that terminating an innocent human being's life is immoral. I believe a politician who does not understand this fundamental issue is not capable of leadership and should not receive your vote. It makes no difference if they have plans that will prosper you or this great nation. If they are willing to kill unborn children, they cannot lead us, period. Vote with your conscience, not your wallet.

God knew us before we were in the womb. He knitted us together and, from before time began, He had awesome plans for each one of us.

Editor's Note: Steve's wife gave birth to their 5th child on Tuesday, a baby girl.
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Happiness is Great, But Joy is Out of This World

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 17, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

I want to take some time to tell you about my younger brother, First Lieutenant Jordan Ames of the United States Marine Corps. When I think about those who go through trying times, Jordan and a number of other military men and women that I’ve had the privilege to meet often come to mind. As you read this, Jordan is leading a group of men as they serve our country abroad. Jordan has a wife, along with six children who are all adopted. He will be deployed for the next several months and will most likely miss important events in the lives of his children, his wife’s birthday, their anniversary, Thanksgiving, and Christmas during the time that he is gone. He’d be the first to tell you that things are easier, at least regarding keeping in touch with family, for military personnel today than when many of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers served. Technology in the form of cell phones, email, and social media have allowed soldiers to communicate almost daily with loved ones no matter where they are in the world. However, nothing can truly lessen the blow of being so far away from family for so long.

All military personnel have to find a way to cope with missing their loved ones and still perform their duties, sometimes in the midst of danger and other times in safety. They must remain focused on the task and attentive to the needs of their comrades. There are no doubt some who struggle to find joy in the midst of these circumstances, but I know that Jordan and his family are not in that group. So, what is it that allows them to have joy? First of all, I didn’t say that they are always happy. They may struggle through the circumstances and may not always be happy about them. But their JOY comes from something greater than themselves. They trust God for the safety of the other while they are away. They pray for each other continually. Most of all, they know that God is ALWAYS in control no matter what.

A couple of years ago, I asked Jordan to write me an email about the hardships of being involved in a war overseas so that I could share it with a group of men to whom I was ministering who were trying to overcome addictions and poor choices in their lives. In that email, Jordan said, “I find security in knowing that it is not about whether I live or die but whether the life I live is for him (Jesus). A life lived for him is a life of hardships that are not our own”. He went on to say that he hopes that if he is ever seriously wounded or mangled while serving, he will be able to see God’s greater purpose in his life. He concluded his email by telling the guys, “Rejoice in your sufferings because God has a plan bigger than us!”

Jordan and his wife, Sarah, are able to focus on what they can control and trust God for what they cannot. Any happiness they have is mostly wrapped up in things of this world that will fade away eventually. But their joy is in knowing Christ and knowing that he loves them, whatever that might mean for their lives. This is joy that lasts. It’s joy that chooses to focus on what cannot be contained in this world. Jordan also stated in that email that there is no better time to leave this earth than the time that God calls us home to heaven, even if that means a young life is cut short. This is not merely lip service or a Christian cliché. Knowing that everything we think, feel, and see here is temporary, whether it’s good or bad, allows us to find joy and hope in a Creator who is bigger than all of it yet chooses to enter into relationship with us.

If you think about it, that is what we sing in the popular Christmas song “Joy to the World.” There is no true joy apart from Christ. So, when he stepped out of heaven and entered our planet in the form of a baby in a manger, it was heaven on earth. Joy had literally come TO the world in a way that it had not up until that moment. Jesus was going to conquer the sin and death of this world, and everything that got in the way of true joy, when he went to the cross and then rose from the dead. Suffering would continue to happen after that time and until he comes again, but knowing that he was victorious gives us motivation to persevere as we await our joyous victory.

For evidence of this joy, all you have to do is look at Acts 5:40-42 to see how the apostles responded to the one of the first instances of physical persecution in the early church. They had just been thrown in jail for teaching in the name of Jesus, then were freed from the jail by an angel of the Lord so they could keep sharing the gospel message, then were brought back before the authorities again. The authorities had to be convinced by a very smart Pharisee not to kill the apostles, so instead they had them flogged before they released them. Just so you are aware, flogging wasn’t some “slap on the wrist”. It was actually more of a blast to the bare skin, all over one’s body, with a whip that had sharp pieces of bone or metal sticking out of it to inflict maximum damage, over and over and over again. This is what the apostles suffered for teaching in the name of Jesus and being unwilling to disobey God in favor of man’s orders. I’m fairly certain that it didn’t make them very happy. Yet, they had complete joy. “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (v. 41). Their emotion was not based on their temporary, albeit very painful, suffering. It was based on what is not of this world. It was based on the knowledge that Jesus is real and that he, sitting at the right hand of God, considered them worthy of suffering for his sake.

We all face suffering in this world and will continue to do so as long as we live. That will never change. Some suffering will happen as a result of poor choices, while other suffering may happen as a result of following Jesus. Whatever the case may be, you can know that your suffering is not even close to the end. When you experience happy times and circumstances, you can rejoice in knowing that a God who loves you is the One who provided that temporary happiness, while still knowing that it will fade in this world. Whether it’s temporary happiness or temporary suffering, I urge you to focus on what is out of this world. I’ll leave you with the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Corinth, because no one could say it better than this: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
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Being the Grown-Ups

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 16, 2014 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” – Proverbs 2:8-9

Not long ago I heard someone I really respect bring up the topic of our youth. He agrees that our youth are “the future” but that perhaps we have put too much stock in their opinions. Quite frankly, I agree.

Someone might rebuke me and tell me to know my audience. I truly hope that I have some youth that are going to read this post. But it is not the youth I wish to set straight; it is the adults. There is nothing wrong with encouraging your children. Pastor Alistair Begg, however, contests that our encouragements should have certain boundaries. Building up our children is one thing; puffing them up is quite another. Yes, you might be the proud parent of an honor student but is that something that is worthy of a bumper sticker? Although such a decal might seem harmless and even beneficial, we know that knowledge is what “puffeth up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). The problem is that we become so concerned about their self-esteem that we eventually place them upon a shrine and worship them. We nurture them into arrogance while we forget our role as parents.

Many parents have it backwards. They think that because their children are at school every day and that they are learning about advanced concepts at younger and younger ages, we must subject ourselves to their wisdom. Instead of feeding our wisdom into their developing brains, we let them fill our heads with what their teachers tell them. We accept their words as gospel because we know that they are learning the most up-to-date information. Wisdom and knowledge are two totally different things. Politics, environmentalism, and morality are complex issues that require more than a teacher’s self-righteous rant to understand fully.

Please do not misunderstand, parents can learn a lot from their children. Children are plugged into the trends of the day. They do and say things that enlighten us concerning innocent wisdom and the depths of sin. At the end of the day, a parent has to realize that wisdom is derived from experience and children do not have enough experience to understand the nature of the world until they have gone through life.

Although there are several passages that encourage young people not to fear oppression due to their youth (Jeremiah 1:7, 1 Timothy 4:12), there are many more passages that command parents to raise their children to fear the LORD and for children to respect their parents (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 6:7, Ephesians 6:1-3). Although children can teach their parents valuable life lessons, a parent’s responsibility to their children is to be their teacher (Malachi 2:15).
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What is the Difference Between Joy and Happiness?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 15, 2014 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

There’s a popular song out now called “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Chances are you’ve at least heard of it, but if not you can go check out the official music video here or read the lyrics here. In the video, all sorts of people from all different walks of life show off their dance moves to the song, and generally show they’re happy with their dancing.

I’m sure we’ve all had those time in life when we do feel truly happy for a while. Maybe it’s a gorgeous spring day when the sun in shining and all seems right in your world. Maybe you just got engaged and are thrilled to be starting a new chapter in life. Maybe you were able to spend an amazing day with family or friends. We all have those times where do feel like everything is great and we are so happy we could dance, and we feel like nothing can bring us down!

But then, something happens. Maybe it’s getting in a fender bender, or being yelled at by your boss, or having a fight with your significant other. Something always happens to bring us down from the clouds of our happiness, doesn’t it?

Happiness is a very temporary thing. We enjoy it when we have it, and we continue to seek for it when it goes away. People try to find happiness in all sorts of things, from eating foods they enjoy to even “retail therapy” and buying things they like.

Joy, on the other hand, is not temporary. Joy is not a fleeting emotion like happiness is. Joy is knowing that God is in control and that in the end He will win the epic battle we call life. Joy is knowing that even when you’re not happy, God’s got your back and will always provide for you in the manner He sees fit.

Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about God answering our prayers? Sometimes the answer we get isn’t the answer we want, or in the timing we want. Joy is being ok with that and trusting and following God anyway.

In James 1:2-4, James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Do you consider it joy when you’re going through a tough time?

Going through a trial is one of those times that you’re definitely not happy, but you can still have joy if you have a relationship with Jesus. When our faith is in Christ, we have joy during difficult times because we know God is using those times to strengthen us. We persevere through them with His help, and eventually we will become mature and complete. Becoming mature and complete in Christ can’t happen unless we go through trials, therefore going through those times should give us joy because they help us become more like Christ. No matter what we go through, we can have the joy of the Lord because He is always with us and strengthening us.

Happiness is a temporary emotion that is fleeting; it comes and goes based on our circumstances. Joy is everlasting, knowing that we are being taken care of by our Heavenly Father who loves us. Joy does not depend on our circumstances in this life, but on our faith in God.

Which rules your life - happiness, or joy?
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The Paths Unwalked (Part II)

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, September 13, 2014 2 comments

by Nathan Buck

(Go check out last week’s post for the beginning of this story.)

“God, please show me what I should do.” As I sat there listening for direction, it was like someone had come in and sat down next to me and asked, “Is that really what you want to do?” Open ended, no assumptions, just the question. As I started to say, “Yes,” my heart felt a strange freedom and desire to say, “No.” It was almost like I had been taken up on a hillside, shown my options, and suddenly this sport that had been my identity for more than 15 years felt short of where I was called to be. Two years later I would have another local opportunity with skating. My family was in support, I was legitimately excited to explore it, and I as I drove to the ice rink that day I asked God for direction. As I sat at a traffic light just up the street from the rink, I remember having a sense of total peace and even freedom that the answer was “no.”

A few years later as I was in college, God very clearly called me to be a church planter. It was a total 180° change from the Criminal Justice/Prosecuting Attorney career I was moving toward, which is a story on its own. I had to move from central Pennsylvania to Ohio to do my master’s degree work. As I was packing, I came across my PBA (Professional Bowler’s Association) papers. I had my application ready to send in and I had met all requirements to qualify, I just had to send them in. Sitting in my living room, in my early 20’s, I reflected on the 15+ years of intense achievement and success. I realized that what God was calling me to would not have room for me to be on the Pro Tour. In that moment, again, a peace and freedom to step into the next adventure filled my heart and soul. I thanked God for the journey and the lessons, and then tore up my application and placed it in the trash.

So, with all that history, and all those doors open, have there been times I have wondered – what if? Yes. Not in regret, but in curiosity. And each time, I am reminded that I am on the road I should be on. God even gave me chances to help coach a kids’ soccer team, be the director of a learn-to-skate program, and while on sabbatical has given me a season to renew bowling at a high level in my area, with my parents (who are both high caliber bowlers). My family never pressured me into continuing, or raising one sport over another – it was always my choice. And God was just as respectful and open about His invitation.

I greatly enjoyed every day on the ice, the soccer field, and in the bowling alley. I felt alive as I engaged in each sport, and like I was the fullest “me.” What is even more amazing is that when I accepted God’s invitation to walk with him, I felt even freer and even more fully “me.” It was like I was stepping into a design, a journey, a destiny that I had never known was there waiting but suddenly made perfect sense. I no longer see them as “paths untaken.” I see them as part of the journey that got me here.

As I continue, God has unpacked even more adventures, even more sports and hobbies, and even more opportunities. The difference is, I am no longer pursuing an earthly goal or reward. God may provide “rewards” along the way. The attention and pay-off of a gold-medal, a trophy, or recognition mean very little compared to God’s presence, strength, love, and peace. It’s still in me to achieve at a high level, and my intensity has not dwindled – I just have a deeper passion and focus for making a difference that could change someone’s eternity.

Isaiah 43:10-13 has been and will be the cornerstone verses of my journey regardless of the path(s) God leads me on. “You are my witnesses declares the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me there was no God formed, and there will be none after me. I am the Lord, and there is no savior beside me. It is I who have revealed and proclaimed that there should be no strange gods among you; so that you are my witnesses declares the Lord. I am God. Even from eternity, I am He, and there is no one who can deliver out of my hand; I act and who can reverse it?”

Thanks for reading a slice of one aspect of my journey. I would like to ask you: How are you doing with your sense of purpose and direction? Are you really fulfilled by what is getting 90%+ of your focus, energy, and attention? Maybe it is fulfilling to some extent; is it the fullness of who you were meant to be?

I challenge you to take some time and reflect on God’s design and calling. I challenge you to ask Him what His purpose is for your life and then be willing to let Him show you without rejecting it. It may surprise you what changes and what stays the same. It may surprise you, even more, how God will leverage what you have learned so far, for His journey that is ahead of you.
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Mind Over Matter

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 12, 2014 1 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” -Romans 12:2.

We are all familiar with cliché “mind over matter.” That is true in so many different ways. We have heard it, and we say it so frequently, that we really don’t think twice about what it means. We hear it in sports. We hear it in dealing with regular daily activities. We hear it in regards to long term goals. We hear it in business, politics, and even the military.

It comes in a variety of different forms as well. It’s the emphasis of using your head more than your physical strength. We all love the stories of the underdog overcoming the heavy favorite. We see it in movies frequently. They are often seen in sports accounts. And interestingly, apart from the cases of direct divine intervention, the underdogs that won used and relied on their heads more than they physical strength.

In a military campaign, this idea is best expressed in the war between the ancient Chinese nations of Wu and Chu in 500 BC, when the military genius Sun-Tzu lived. In his book, The Art of War, Sun-Tzu says, “To win 100 battles is not the height of skill. To subdue your enemy without fighting is.” And in the war between Wu and Chu, Sun-Tzu led Wu’s army of 33,000 against Chu’s army of 300,000, and won. Despite being outnumbered almost 10-1, Sun-Tzu used his mind to outthink his opponent rather than outfight him.

The mind is such a powerful thing. It gives us the will and focus to get done what we need to get done. What we set in our mind is very frequently what we will end up doing. The sports heroes that we love to cheer for, professional or Olympic or whichever, set their minds to do the task that needs to be done. When I wrote my first novel, I set my mind to write it. I finished my first draft at 250 pages in just six weeks. I was focused and that was all I thought about in my spare time. Then came the editing process. I wanted to see this book out and published and with patience and focused hard work, I got it done.

But the mind can be a naughty thing too. I heard about a study that showed when people look at pornography, it tends to wire their brain in that direction. When people look at porn, it does not satisfy and soon they start looking for more and more. Then they start acting it out and it only goes downhill from there. And it all starts with a look, an image in the mind, and dwelling on it. I believe it is safe to say that very few men (and women) if any have not had struggles in this area, some more severe than others.

This study of how the brain is wired works for positive things too. In my personal life, I have seen when I constantly think about God and who he is, what he did for me, and what is doing with me and in me, that I tend to not struggle with thinking about thoughts I should not have. Last week, I talked about how we as Christians should share our faith. My mind is constantly thinking about how to respond to this argument or that argument I see online. And there are times where I come up with that “brilliant” response that is actually not so good overall.

There is an intense battle going on in our minds. When we are saved, God makes us a new person, a new creation, with a new mindset, a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). But that old self, that sinful, selfish, “old self” still lingers. And the life of a Christian is a process of removing that old self. But it doesn’t want to go down without a fight. Paul constantly references this battle in Romans 7. He even goes as far as saying in 7:20, “when I do sin, it is not I who sins but sin living in me.”

Now, some have taken this verse as an excuse or as a license to sin. After all, we can say, “Oh well, that’s not really me. It was just my sin that took over.” A friend of mine describes this in another way. “On your ship, do you let pirates hijack it and control it for you?” We’ve all done stuff we know is wrong. And we’ve all known stuff we need to do and don’t do it. This is that struggle in our mind.

This what Paul is talking about in Romans 12:2. We need to not conform our minds to the patter of this world. We need to not let our minds run and think as everyone else around us does, or as the government would like us to. We need to have our minds transformed, outright changed, to be what God would like them to be. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 tells us that the weapons we as Christians fight with are not carnal. We do not fight in the same way the world does. But to use the spiritual weapons we fight and to tear down strongholds, we need to take captive every thought and submit them to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This is no easy task. And to be honest, it is a job we cannot do in our own strength. We need Jesus to do it in us and through us.

When we have our minds focused on the right thing, there is nothing we cannot do. When our minds are focused on the wrong thing, there is no telling how dark and depraved we can get. Set your mind on the right things. Philippians 4:8 is a great place to start to start looking.
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You Can Be a Success Story

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 10, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

As I think about how God is currently working in my life currently and how he has been working in my life over the past few years, one thing that stands out for me is my decreasing need to please other people or control what they think of me. I’ll stop short of saying that I don’t care what others think of me, because that wouldn’t be true. Like anyone else, I want people to like me and appreciate what I do. I’m not saying that’s a godly attitude, just being honest. But when I look at how I used to put so much thought into trying to impress other people and wanting them to view me as “successful” in the things I am doing, I realize that God has really helped me break that chain.

In thinking about when this change began to happen in my life, I’m reminded of some very wise words that were said to me by one of my pastors. I was 23 years old and had been involved with ministry in the church for quite awhile. I had begun preaching 5 years earlier and had many opportunities to teach God’s Word. The leader of the high school youth group at my church was leaving the state to go to seminary and the volunteer position was going to be vacant. I knew almost immediately that the Holy Spirit was urging me to step into the role, but my heart and focus needed to be corrected. I remember being at a men’s fellowship gathering at my parents’ house when we were sitting in a group and sharing some things that were on our minds. I shared with the group that I believed God was leading me to become the youth leader, but that I wasn’t sure that I could be “successful” doing so. My pastor, a man for whom I have great respect still today, looked right at me and asked, “If God is calling you to do something, what is your definition of ‘success’?”

That conversation with those men forced me to do a couple of things. First, no one could help me understand whether God was really the one urging me. If I said he was or if I said he wasn’t, no one could prove me right or wrong. It was between the Holy Spirit and me. Secondly, “success” is defined differently by the world than it is by the One who created the world. I needed to learn, not only with this ministry role but with all future ministry roles as well, that it’s not about how others view me, how many people show up at events or weekly gatherings, or MY impact on the lives of those to whom I am ministering. It’s about following God in the first place, then continuing to seek his guidance and hand every step of the way. I had to learn to follow God and leave the results up to him.

This idea of success is nothing new for the believer. Think about the life of Jesus. There are many times that others would’ve looked at him and saw him as an utter failure. He started with hundreds of disciples, and lost all but twelve of them. Maybe he should’ve taught what made them feel better rather than the difficult truth. At least, that’s what others likely thought. Then, even his twelve closest friends basically desert him during the most difficult time of his earthly life. Then, he is ridiculed, tortured, and eventually killed. How could he be considered “successful”? Well, God raised that Jesus from the grave. So when everyone thought he lost, he won. Then he appeared to those disciples and others, and God used them to spread the gospel message after he was taken back to heaven. Obedience to the will of the Father was the most important thing, and he took care of the results after that.

But it even goes back a lot further than Jesus. Virtually every one of God’s well-known servants in the Old Testament faced rejection and worse from their own people. Moses worried about whether he would be “successful” and whether Pharaoh or even his own people would listen to him (Exodus 3-4). He would become the hero that would lead his people out of captivity just by obeying God, but even after all the miracles the people would still turn against him when they faced difficult times (Exodus 14 and 16). His own brother and sister mocked him (Numbers 12). Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers. David was laughed at as a choice to be the next king because he didn’t have the physical attributes of the other candidates. Samuel was rejected, Hosea had to marry an unfaithful woman, and Jeremiah was nearly buried alive in a well filled with mud. I could go on, but you get the point. Every single one of these people obeyed God and did not always succeed in the eyes of the world.

Last week, I wrote about Stephen. In Acts 7, he preaches an amazing sermon where he tells the Sanhedrin all about their history and about how they are acting just like their forefathers who persecuted the prophets. It comes off as a little harsh, but was meant to wake these guys up and give them a chance to repent before it was too late. You’d think it would be a huge success and motivate everyone to change their hearts. But instead, they rush at him, drag him away, and stone him to death. What a failure, because he couldn’t change their hearts. At least that’s how some would judge him and how many judge church leaders today. But all you have to do to know how successful Stephen was is look at Acts 7:56. Just before he is murdered, Stephen sees Jesus “standing at the right hand of God”. I can’t think of another place in Scripture where Jesus is standing at the right hand of God. He is almost always depicted as sitting at the right hand of God, but here it is as if he is standing to welcome his successful martyr who was about to finish his race and move on to eternity.

That’s the kind of success I want to have. Fortunately, I’m continuing to grow in this area. The church where I am lead pastor has had some people leave because they didn’t like that I welcomed someone against whom they were holding a grudge. We have an area that we need to obey God that may very well cost us financially, but I know God is calling us to trust him with the results and just focus on being obedient. Maybe you are facing a difficult decision in your life. This is the time of year where some of you have started another school year, possibly at a new place or even away at college. The first few weeks is when a lot of doubts creep into your minds regarding whether you can be successful as a student, or even in life. You may be wondering if you chose the right school, the right major, or the right friends. I urge you to take time to review some of these Bible stories I mentioned above. Your primary responsibility needs to be obeying God. Even if you have failed to do so to this point, you can start making different choices today. If you are confident in your knowledge that God has brought you to where you are, then trust him for the results because it’s impossible to be unsuccessful when he is on your side!
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Half a Cup

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 9, 2014 2 comments

by Bill Seng

My friend and I went out to a local coffee shop and when we found our table and sat down, there sat a cup of water in the center of the table. I said, “Why would somebody leave a glass, half full of water, dead center in the middle of a table?”

My friend looked at me in disgust. “Excuse me!”

I thought that maybe I had unintentionally said something offensive.

He continued, “That glass is half empty!”

I looked at the glass again and it was filled exactly to the halfway mark. Confused at my friend’s tone, I replied, “To you, it may be half empty. But according to my perspective it is half full.”

Once again, he replied in disgust, “Perspective? Man, that glass is half empty, I don’t care what you say. I can prove it with science.”

“Hhhhhhhooowww do you figure?”

My friend spoke with his nose held high, chest puffed out, and a tone reminiscent of a university professor. “Somebody has been drinking that glass of water, thus the water is in the process of being depleted, making it half empty.”

I could not believe I was about to argue about whether the glass was half empty or half full, but now I felt obligated. I looked at the glass and there was no evidence that anyone had been drinking the water. “Really,” I said, “It looks to me like it is just as likely that somebody stopped filling the glass when they had filled it half way. Thus, it very well could be half full.”

My friend became red in the face, “Okay, now you are just ignoring the facts! Are you like, anti-science or something?” “What are you talking about?” I was not sure where this was all coming from.

“Any reasonable person could tell you that somebody was drinking from that glass. It is so clearly half empty.”

I thought his attitude was ridiculous. “Dude, you don’t have any proof anybody was drinking from that glass. We just know that it was sitting in the middle of the table when we got here.”

“Duh! We’re at a coffee shop! I seriously thought you were smarter than this. Why don’t you just accept the fact that the glass is half empty?”

“Because it is not a fact, it is a conclusion, might I add a reasonable one, based on your perspective. It might be half empty, according to your logic, but because it is just as likely, I choose to believe it is half full.”

“Oh, you choose to believe that, huh? Well that’s real scientific. So you would rather believe that it is half full despite the fact that it is impossible? That says a lot about you!”

“Why do you suppose my perspective is impossible? Based on what we know both are equally possible. And perhaps mine is even more likely because nobody has claimed this glass. Nobody has come over to pick it up or tell us that we are sitting in their spot.”

“Are you saying it just magically appeared?”

“No, I am just saying that there we are both making assumptions about certain factors. We don’t know where it came from or why it was intentionally placed in the exact center of the table.”

“Now, you just sound crazy. I don’t think you understand or believe in the scientific method. You ignore all of the evidence, just because you want to believe it is half full. And now you are telling me that we don’t know why this glass is here.”

We continued to argue for a good while. Neither one of us was satisfied or convinced by the other person’s arguments. Eventually, we both gave up and left. Unknown to us, a young waitress was watching and listening the whole time. After we left, she dumped out the glass of water, filled another exactly half way, placed it in the center of the table, and waited for her next customers to arrive so that they might give their opinions as to whether the glass was half empty or half full.

(Note: This is NOT based on a true story)
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Personal Story

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 8, 2014 2 comments

by Katie Erickson

Allergies. If you’ve had them, you know how miserable they can be and how much they can rule your life. If you haven’t had them, consider yourself lucky!

I’ve had seasonal and animal dander allergies basically all my life, as far back as I can remember anyway. For the most part, they’ve been controlled pretty well with daily antihistamines, until recently. Back in January, I occasionally started getting what we now know were hives - big, itchy, painful, red spots that would last about 4 days. There was seemingly no rhyme or reason to their occurrence - random time frame, different parts of my body, etc. For a while I’d just deal with them when they appeared and be glad when they were gone. Naturally, we tried to find a link between all the occurrences, but nothing really fit.

Finally, after 6 months of these occasional large hives, I figured it was time to get allergy tested. Ironically, even though I had had allergies most of my life, I had never actually been tested to see exactly what I was allergic to. In early July, we discovered that I had food allergies to foods I often eat - chicken and bananas. I’m also allergic to shellfish, but I don’t eat seafood so that didn’t really matter to me. But chicken was my favorite type of meat, and I ate a banana almost every day for breakfast! I was pretty bummed at first, but gradually I’m getting used to eating other foods in place of those.

I also discovered that I have every environmental allergy they tested me for - trees, grass, cats, dogs, weeds, ragweed, etc - I think there were about 12 of them. I enjoy being outside, but no more going in the grass barefoot for me. Also I live with 5 cats, but that isn’t going to change, I love my kitties too much!

So the instructions from my allergist at the time I got tested were to stop eating the foods I’m allergic to, take a stronger daily antihistamine, and my hives should clear up. Great!

But… they didn’t. The hives got worse. Starting around a week after that appointment, I started getting little hives (instead of the big ones I had previously). Rather than getting them occasionally, they were constant. And I do mean constant - multiple hives all over my arms, legs, hands, and feet for going on 7 weeks at the time I’m writing this. I’ve been in constant itching and pain for weeks.

I finally went to the allergist for my follow up appointment recently, and as I write this I actually have 3 large patches taped to my back to do a patch test for more specific contact or environmental allergies. I get to have this giant sticker on for 3 days - not too much fun really, and it’s been less than 24 hours so far. Plus the constant itching of the hives all over, of course.

So why do I tell you all of this about my crazy allergy journey thus far? I want to share with you my attitude through this whole thing. At first when I found out I could no longer eat foods I enjoy, I was bummed. I was a little bitter about it too. I am a selfish human being, and having something disappointing or frustrating like this happen to me, my initial reaction was to be selfish about it and feel like a victim. But is that the right attitude? Definitely not. When I look at others I know with food allergies that are much worse than mine (and allergies that could actually kill them!), it helped me put mine in perspective.

Dealing with environmental allergies is of course different than food allergies, especially depending what the allergies are. The only way to avoid trees, grass, etc is to live in a bubble, and that’s not exactly practical. I’m hoping this patch test will reveal more specifics that we can deal with accordingly, but we’ll see. I may again be in a place where I have to make lifestyle changes. Change is usually not easy, but it is important for me to remember to have perspective about it and the right attitude.

Allergies do not rule my life; God does! While I may not understand why my body is doing this, I can definitely deal with it and not let it stop me from living my life for God. Everyone goes through hardship in our lives. While I will not even pretend to compare allergies and hives to many of the worse things people go through, it has been a struggle for me to deal with this all year, especially these last couple months. I could have just thrown in the towel and been bitter about the whole thing, and I’ll admit there were times that the constant itching has made me grumpy and more bitter toward others around me (through no fault of theirs). I could just be mad at the world or mad at God for allowing this to happen to me. But for the most part, I haven’t been. Why? Because the joy of the Lord is my strength. Itching and hives have become a way of life for me; I hope one day they’ll be gone, but while they’re here I deal with it and move on with following God. Even this annoying physical ailment has not and cannot take away the joy of Christ Jesus that is in my heart.

I do hope someday to be able to look back on this and see what God is teaching me through this time. For now, I am content with knowing that God is in control, He loves me, and I can still live my life serving Him with His joy in my heart.

“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.” (Psalm 34:1-2)
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The Paths Unwalked (Part I)

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, September 6, 2014 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Have you ever had your life so defined by a sport, hobby, or activity, that you thought you would spend your whole life doing it? I did. Actually I had several sports and hobbies growing up that I thought I would be a professional at. I don’t mean just a casual kids dream of turning pro, I mean seriously turning pro. My trifecta of sports growing up was soccer, bowling, and competitive figure skating.

No joke, I was a hard-core figure skater from age 5 on up. By age 12, I had competed around my state and region, and I was being asked to train with an 8-year-old skater named Kristen. We were expected to progress toward the 1994 or 1998 Winter Olympics, and our training began with intensity. I even had the opportunity to audition and be asked to tour with Disney on Ice – although I declined it, for reasons I will explain later. Bowling was another sport that came easy, carrying a 200+ average as I progressed into my teen years.

The first 15 years of my life after I learned to walk were defined by these incredible sports, and even by the time I was 12 all three were in high gear. As each sport began to crystallize into a “career” path for me, some very interesting things began to happen. If you have ever played team sports or judged sports, you know the political turmoil and pressures that are always present in the sport. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say in skating and soccer, where all doors had always been open for me; there were suddenly roadblocks or outright barriers.

Soccer was an early casualty, as I couldn’t change school districts to play with the kids and coaches I grew up playing with. With skating, I faced the challenge of living apart from my family throughout the year to train in another state. But bowling was continuing to rocket forward.

By the time I was 18, I already was one of the top bowlers in the region, and bowled on a team of other teens who later would compete as professionals. Both soccer and skating were still huge passions of mine, but I let them both go as a new awareness was developing in me.

Around age 13, again when everything was relatively still in high gear for me, I awakened to a hunger to know who God was. I saw an excited TV preacher and couldn’t make sense of why he was so excited. I was Roman Catholic and I had learned about God, but He was never exciting. And this TV guy was just telling the story of Jesus – which I had heard before. His excitement about Jesus overcoming death and the grave was infectious – it pulled at me. Long after the TV show, I sat in my room trying to figure out what was so exciting. I read the Bible passage the preacher was talking about and it gripped me. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t even understand it all, but it grabbed my attention and my soul. I had to know why he was excited.

I dragged my family back to church. Catholic church first, then Methodist, then Pentecostal, and the list went on. My family didn’t connect with any of them, and I couldn’t drive, so the pursuit ended there, until I was 17. See, I started asking God for direction in my life, even as a 13-year-old. I believed God could hear me and that He would answer. I can’t describe it very well, other than I could sense God changing my passions, and my focus.

When soccer hit the political barrier, there was a significant shift of focus inside me. As much as I loved the sport and poured so much of my life into it, the passion was just gone. Then skating faced huge decisions – choices and challenges I thought would be a grand adventure to explore. I remember praying about moving, living elsewhere, and training for the Olympics. Every fiber of my being was excited to realize that what I had trained for was coming within my reach.

Check back next week for the rest of Nathan’s story!
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Defending the Faith

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 5, 2014 2 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

For those who have been following my posts, it does not take much for you to understand that I get into a number of debates, especially when it comes to the Creation/Evolution topics. In 1 Peter 3:15, we are called to be ready to give an answer and to know what we believe. We need to know what we believe and to be in a position where can we give an answer for why we believe it. Sadly, a lot of people who call themselves Christians don’t know God from a duck or know what is in their Bible. So when someone comes up with a challenge to their position, they are easily led astray.

The US Treasury has a number of agents who can identity a fake bill in a heartbeat. How do they do that? They could study all the ways that a fake could be made and such information is handy. The problem with this approach is that there will always be something new that comes up and then they will have to learn that new tactic. There is a better way to do so. The agents study the real thing. Anything that does not align with what is real is easily identified as fake. And this is the process we need to use when we defend our faith. We need to know the real thing because then we can easily identify any fakes.

But there is another part of 1 Peter 3:15. We need to do this in meekness and fear. As our leader of Worldview Warriors likes to say: “If we get the love part wrong, what’s the point?” I’m one of the guys that tends to be blunt. I call it as it is. I call it as I see it. One of the “issues” I’ve had my whole life is that I do not like false information being spread around. Even if it’s unintentional I have a habit of correcting someone even on minor things. And that is something I am working on. There are times I just need to keep my mouth shut and I’m learning that. It’s taking a while but I’m learning it.

This issue of making sure something is accurate has advantages but there are disadvantages. I can help avoid a disaster by correcting the issue on the spot, but when I do so, I must respect the chain of authority in the issue. If the decision comes through someone with a higher authority, even if it is going to blow up on them, I have to learn how to bite my tongue and respect the position of authority, even if it is blatantly wrong.

And where this issue has displayed itself the most is on my online discussions. The Bible is the truth and I will hold that even to the point of death. If ISIS were to invade my home or school (as a teacher) and they were threaten to kill me or behead me in front of my students if I did not curse the name of Jesus and convert to Islam, would I be able to have such confidence to hold my position? I believe I do, but it is something I am not interested in willingly putting to the test.

With those convictions, no atheist, no political statesman, no challenger to my position is going to convince me to change my mind. It’s going to take someone who shows a better and proper understanding of Scripture to point out my errors, because I strive to be as a Berean, where I check out what people say with Scripture. And while I will not be convinced to put my beliefs aside, those that tend to challenge me likely won’t readily put their beliefs aside either. And that usually leads to an impasse.

The Creation/Evolution debate is not a science vs. the Bible debate but a philosophical/worldview debate. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be ready to give an answer. It does not tell us convince the other person. I’ve learned that anyone who can be reasoned into Christianity can also be reasoned out of Christianity. Salvation and Christianity are not mere intellectual decisions, but a life-changing transformation that only God can do.

And here is where I tend to see my greatest weaknesses in defending my faith: my desire to be right when it is simply better to walk away, even if it appears like you are “giving up.” One of the tactics I know Satan loves to use is to find someone who had no remote interest of listening to what we have to say and get him/her to occupy our time with them trying to defend our position when all it really is, is a distraction to keep us from working with those who do have ears to hear.

And this is the great internal struggle: the battle between listening to our flesh, our heart’s desire to be right, and listening to God to obey him. God wants us to be a good witness, where our faith is lived out in word and deed. We are to speak truth, but do so in love. When we call someone out for being wrong (there is a time and place to do that), we need to understand the proper authority channels and we need to do so with an offer of redemption. If they are wrong about something, what can they do to make it better?

When we are defending our faith, we need to follow the advice of Proverbs 26:4-5. We need to be very careful not to answer a fool (the Bible defines a fool as someone who willingly rejects the truth, or as someone who is blockheaded) in the same manner he speaks. We need to not chase him around, using his logic and his reasoning or we will end up being just like him. And many of us easily take the bait, myself included. We do, however, need to address the fool by exposing his folly otherwise he will be wise in his own eyes. Knowing when to draw the line is always a challenge.

Jesus had another warning on this. In Matthew 7:6 Jesus tells us not to toss our pearls before swine. Pigs have no regard for anything of value and everything they handle or are around is messy. When people who have closed ears and have no interest in actually having an honest discussion with you, move on and don’t waste time on them. It is hard because we want them to see the truth and it is also hard because we want the audience who is watching to see that our side is true, despite the opposition. But we need to learn when to draw the line. A tactic I know Satan uses is to use someone who will waste our time to get us to focus on them, when we need to be focusing somewhere else. Distractions not only can be decoys where the enemy will get us to focus on one area and he will exploit another. They can also be used to keep us from actually attempting our intended target. This is why we need to be alert at all times and recognize what is being done. Chinese military general Sun Tzu says, “Know your enemy and know yourself and in 100 battles you will never be in peril.” We need to know who we are and what we believe, but we also need to know our opposition and what their tactics are. If we know that, we will not lose in the important areas of these discussions.
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