What Good Is Religion?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, February 28, 2015 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Let’s be honest, religion is not just a spiritual thing. Religion can be any habit or regular ritual that we accidentally or intentionally commit ourselves to. Perhaps one of your religious habits is to get your morning coffee, or folding your socks a certain way, or certain eating or body care habits. There are so many places in our lives where we are religious, and probably don’t even consciously think about it. So, is it good to be religious?

By and large most of our habits are helpful. They keep us focused, give us a sense of rhythm to our day, help us manage our time or our health, etc. Likewise there are many religious habits regarding our faith that can be helpful as well. Whether it is attending a weekly worship service, a Bible study, prayer, fasting, communion/the Lord’s Supper, etc. These too can give us a sense of focus or rhythm in tuning in to God’s presence, and discipline in staying pure and in line with God’s teachings. But we run into danger with our “religion” when we use religious actions to make ourselves feel right with God, even as we do things that break God’s heart.

Read Romans 2:17-29. You will find that Paul was explaining to the Jews in Rome, as well as the Gentiles (non-Jewish people), that there is a limit to what our religion can do for us. The Jews had come to the point where they believed their physical religious actions and their repetitive religious habits were an antidote or a counterbalance for any bad things they might do. Kind of like how some people think a diet soda makes up for a whole bunch of sugary or fatty foods. Only the Jews were not being humorous or flippant; they really believed that their religion made up for their sin or their rebellion.

Paul ultimately boils this whole section down to one simple thing – the Spirit of the law is more important that keeping the letter of religious requirements. In other words, having a heart and a life defined by actively seeking to do what is right in God’s eyes in every circumstance is more important than “going through the motions” of doing religious rituals. Or put more plainly, you can call yourself a Christian, go to church every Sunday, give money, manage your health, serve food to the poor and homeless, and any other good religious deed – you can do all of that and still be destined for separation from God for eternity, a.k.a. hell.

Paul says in verses 28-29, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision just what is done outwardly in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart and by the Spirit, not by the letter (of the law), and his praise is not from men, but from God.” In other words, God looks past the outward actions and sees what is going on in our heart. God sees if we are truly trusting Him and following Him and seeking approval from Him. If we are not, then we are not walking with God, and we are not followers of Christ. We may look like we are part of the Christian religion, but if our heart is not following God through Jesus Christ, then we are just wearing a mask.

So, it’s time for a heart check. Take a look at your daily life. How much time is spent truly stopping and listening for God’s direction, God’s love and care for you, and God’s perspective on your decisions that day? How many of your religious actions are just “going through the motions”?

I challenge you to take everything that you find that is just an empty habit and intentionally break it. Intentionally change direction and break out of the routine. But don’t just break the routine and give up. Break the routine and in the time you would normally be doing that action (getting coffee, exercising, morning devotions, Bible study, playing video games, going to weekly church services, etc.) put yourself in a position to intentionally listen to God.

Maybe that means attending a worship service at a different time, or a different location. Maybe that means actually praying in a way that you ask God questions and then listen in silence for a while (working on that whole “quiet your thoughts” thing). Maybe it means just giving up a daily habit or fasting a daily meal for a few days in order to spend that time praying, listening, or reading God’s Word.

As you review each day and see your empty habits, you will know which one you need to break in order to start softening your heart and tuning in to God. I pray you have the courage and the strength to do so. I promise, if your religion changes from an outward show to an inward passionate calling to follow God, He will change your life, you will see your purpose and direction more clearly, and you will gain contentment in any circumstances.

Spiritual Warfare Basics: Five Principles: The Moral of the People

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, February 27, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“Therefore measure in terms of five things: use these assessments to make comparisons, and thus find out what the conditions are. The five things are the way, the weather, the terrain, the leadership, and discipline.” ~Sun-Tzu, Chapter 1.

The most important of the five key principles that Sun-Tzu talks about to open up The Art of War is “The Way” or “The Moral of the People.” This addresses the willingness, and the desire of the people to follow their leaders. A general has no army if his soldiers do not follow him. This post was saved for last in this sub-series because this is what is required of us as Christians. Now, one thing I want to make clear: God is unlike any other general we can observe in history. God does not require our devotion to get done what he wants done. He will get it done no matter what we say or do. But he desires us to take part in his plan. And when we serve him with full devotion, leaving absolutely nothing behind and giving him everything we have to offer, we get to see God display his power and glory. So buckle up. This is where the fun begins.

To illustrate this concept, I want to look at two historical events: the Vietnam War and the showdown between David and Goliath. In the Vietnam War, there was 80% support of the American people for the early part of the conflict. But when the Vietnamese launched the “Tet Offensive” in 1968, things changed. This massive 100+ simultaneous attack strategy revealed to us that the US was not winning, despite winning every military engagement. When the videos of the aftermath and the US retaliation to the offensive came to the mainland, the morale and support for the war plummeted. In the years that followed, more and more people hated the war and worse, hated the troops. The North Vietnamese did not win a single military engagement with US troops, but they won where it mattered the most: in the hearts of the people at home. Without the support of the people at home, our soldiers in Vietnam could no longer do anything.

Then we have the situation between David and Goliath. Saul had been king for a number of years and had waged war on the Philistines and the Amalekites. But because of his disobedience, God rejected him as the king. But the wars were still going. The Philistines had long overpowered Israel and one thing was prevalent throughout Saul’s rule: the armies did not trust him as a leader. He was head and shoulders above everyone else, tall, strong, the best the physical side of things had to offer. But he could not maintain the will of the people. Go ahead and read the set up of the scene in 1 Samuel 17.

Goliath was the champion of the Philistines. His mere presence commanded the will of his army. And in 1 Samuel 17:11, we see that everyone was terrified. Saul, the appointed king and champion of Israel, would not fight nor did he do anything to match the challenge. David, however, entered the scene and with one look at Goliath, he sees that with God’s help he could take him down. Entire sermon series can be made about the rest of this encounter, but suffice it to say, David struck down Goliath. From that point on, he commanded the will of the people. David’s dedication and his command and care for his people proved its worth.

Even when David was an outcast, his character and his presence retained a loyalty and a service that could not be outmatched. All you have to do is look at the deeds of his Mighty Men. In one account, three of his best men overheard David longing for water from the well of Bethlehem, his hometown and now under Philistine occupation. David was hiding from Saul at the Cave of Abdullum at the time. His men traveled 12 miles of rocky, mountainous terrain to Bethlehem, fought through the garrison of Philistines, drew the water, and then retreated back 12 miles of rocky, mountainous terrain. Just for a drink of water.

Imagine if we had that kind of loyalty and devotion to our King, Jesus Christ. Imagine if we showed not just the instant obedience to our King, but developed such a close relationship that we can overhear the inner desires of our King, where we will seek to serve our King in such a way that he does not even have to give us orders. David’s three mighty men there did not even get the orders to go get water. They just overheard him wanting it and they went out and got it.

It is one thing to be a servant and only doing what we ought. What if we stepped it up and sought to find out what God wants to do and do it before he asks us to do it? As we are being conformed into the image of Christ, our will and our desires will become his will and his desires. Could we know the heart of God? We know his thoughts are above our thoughts and his ways are above our ways, but what if we had that relationship with God in the same way David’s Mighty Men had with him? It doesn’t mean it won’t be without challenge or be happy times all the time. When David’s men got the water, they were living in a cave, outcasts because of Saul. His Mighty Men themselves were outcasts, merely because of their association to David. Yet their courage and their deeds were incredible. One held a field by himself and slew a garrison. Another killed 800 Philistines. Another fought until his hand grew tired and cleaved to his sword, to where he could not let it go. To do such deeds, it requires the dedication, loyalty, and perseverance to step way beyond yourself and serve your King to the best you know how.

But what happens if we don’t show this type of loyalty? What happens when we don’t serve our King and follow him? God will still get done what he wants done. But if we won’t obey him, he will find someone else who will. God will still get it done, but we will be left out. God deserves our devotion and loyalty simply because he is God and we are not. And history does not paint a good picture for those who won’t listen to him. In a similar way that Jehu was sent to kill Joram and Jezebel, the son and wife of Ahab, and claim the throne for the Lord, Jesus will come and overthrow the Ruler of the Air once and for all. And as with Jehu, two watchmen asked what Jehu was there to do and they chose to side with the conquering king. Let us also side with the conquering King. Let us serve him will full loyalty and devotion.

With this, we conclude the mini-series on the five key principles Sun-Tzu uses to open The Art of War. We have addressed what this spiritual war is about. We have addressed the importance of knowing ourselves and knowing our enemies. We have addressed some of the equipment and tools that both sides of this war have at our/their disposal. And we just finished with understand the five key principles we must understand to be successful in battle. Now, we will explore some of the tactics the enemy uses against us so we can recognize what they are, how they come, and what to do about it.

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Uniformitarianism is a Catastrophe

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, February 26, 2015 110 comments

by Steve Risner

Last week we took a brief look at the long held notion of “Flood geology” and when the idea of a literal Genesis creation account and global Flood began. If you missed that, you can read it here and I encourage you to do so before continuing on with this post. Today we’re going to take a look at who it was that began turning the thinking of biologists and geologists on the age of the earth. We’ll also expose the people most commonly thought to have caused these myths to spill into the Church.

For a very long time, many in the Western world believed the geologic column and the fossils found in it were a result of the Flood of Noah’s day. This is demonstrable since at least the early 200’s AD. However, belief in a global catastrophe that changed the planet forever was believed in since the time it occurred. A literal reading of Genesis 1-11 in the Old Testament would give us too many references to list in a blog post. Catastrophism, the belief that the current geologic features of the earth are primarily the result of catastrophes, was a long held view—for centuries, in fact. It was the belief held by many geologists up through the 17th and 18th centuries, including the arguable founder of modern geology, Nicolas Steno. This began to change over a period of time and in 1830, a man by the name of Charles Lyell wrote Principles of Geology which outlined the idea of uniformitarianism. This is the belief that “the present is the key to the past,” which just means geologic features we see today came about through current rates of geologic change. It did not allow for catastrophes at all. I realize this seems like a foolish idea since we know catastrophes can help explain a lot of things in our world, but when searching for a way to discredit the Bible, man will allow himself to look foolish (claiming to be wise).

Charles Lyell lived from 1797 to 1875. He was not a geologist by education but a lawyer. Strange, isn’t it, that a man without formal education in a field could radically change it so much and for so long. We see that with Charles Darwin, a friend of Lyell’s, as well. He was a theologian by education but is thought, mistakenly by many, to be the father of modern biology. Carl Linnaeus, a creationist, is the father of modern biology. Lyell was very anti-Biblical. In fact, he insisted that no global catastrophic floods have ever occurred and pushed for uniformitarian philosophy to interpret the earth. How on earth could he know for sure no global floods had ever occurred? That sounds like faith, to me. His ideas were rejected by most professional geologists of the day but he found a small following of amateur geologists to support him.

Uniformitarian thinking and Lyell’s work have been rejected since the 1970’s. But that hasn’t stopped it from being taught. It’s clear from the study of geology of catastrophes have happened that have shaped our landscape to its current form. The eruption of Mt. Saint Helens further supported this by rapidly changing the southern landscape of the state of Washington in a very short time—during a catastrophe. Much of geology shows evidence of rapid catastrophic erosion or sedimentation, drastically reducing the time involved in the formation of many geological deposits. It’s erroneously taught by some that the idea of a global Flood is new—advocated only by anti-science fundamentalist Christians since the mid-1800’s. Not only is that nonsense, it’s easily demonstrated to be false with a very short review of the pillars of Church history. We saw last week that Tertullian, a 3rd century Christian writer, believed that fossilized marine animals in mountain sides were the result of the Flood. Other church fathers believed that the Flood submerged the entire earth. Justin Martyr, a Christian apologist born around 100 AD, and Theophilus of Antioch, another Christian apologist of that time, argued against the common pagan ideas of a local flood. They claimed that the water rose above every high hill by at least 15 cubits. St. Augustine said that the Flood rose 15 cubits above the highest mountains. Thomas Aquinas of the 13th century said that “the waters of the deluge” rose “15 cubits higher than the mountain summits.” During the Reformation, Calvin said, “The flood was forty days, etc. Moses copiously insists upon this fact, in order to show that the whole world was immersed in the water.” Nearly all of early Christian history is filled with such notions. Certainly this is not a new idea. In its first 16 centuries, the church held to a belief in a young earth, that it was created quickly in six 24-hour days, and was later submerged under a worldwide Flood.

It was not until the Enlightenment that professing Christians began to reinterpret Genesis to fit with alleged “scientific” proofs of an old earth. It was in 1804 that Thomas Chalmers, a Presbyterian pastor, began to preach that Christians should accept the millions of years creation idea that was slowly creeping into the world of science. But are these beliefs founded in science? Of course not. We cannot determine such things from science. Biblical creationists are said to be anti-science and incapable of doing real science—that they allow their prior beliefs to influence how they interpret the evidence (duh). This is exactly what all believers in an old earth—creationist or atheist—do. Let’s see what some of them have said.

James Hutton, an icon in modern geology, said in Theory of the Earth from the late 1700’s, “The past history of our globe must be explained by what can be seen to be happening now… No powers are to be employed that are not natural to the globe, no action to be admitted except those of which we know the principle.” That sounds like he’s saying he will only accept certain types of evidence before it’s presented to him. Derek Ager, a geologist and atheist, admitted in The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record, “We have allowed ourselves to be brain-washed into avoiding any interpretation of the past that involves extreme and what might be termed ‘catastrophic’ processes.”

The thought that “science” proves the age of geologic formations and fossils demonstrates immediately that there is a complete failure to understand what the limitations of science are. We see that some scientists insist on excluding evidence prior to its presentation based on an arbitrary criterion they have forced on us all. This isn’t science. It’s a dogmatic insistence on a preconceived idea. We can't tell how old the earth or the universe is by examining it, because we don't understand how it got here in the first place. This is what removes the origins debate from the commonly used argument comparing it to forensics. We know a lot of things in terms of physical and chemical laws—the way things move or react—as well as having a database of knowledge (not inferences but actual facts) to apply present findings to a recent past event. That’s how crimes are solved. But we have no facts about the beginning of the universe revealed in science. There are none. This point cannot be stressed enough. Anytime you hear about something we “know” about the Big Bang or Darwinism and single common ancestry, a red flag should go up. You should know from that point on the speaker is not telling you about science but about philosophy. They may be trying to pass it off as science, but this is just not the way it is. And God has given us His testimony on the creation of the universe, earth, and life on earth. All evidence should be weighed in light of this. Read Genesis 1-11 and see if you can fit the Big Bang, evolution from a single common ancestor (some sort of simple bacteria or something like that), and billions of years into it. If that’s too much at one time, read 2 chapters at a time. I’m sure you’ll find rational and consistent arguments that the insertion of these beliefs is not possible. Man’s knowledge on origins is ever changing. God’s Word is ever constant and has said the same thing about creation and the Flood since it was written. As the Word says in Romans 3:4, “Let God be found true though every human being is a liar, as it is written, That You may shown to be upright in what You say, and prevail when You are judged [by sinful men].”

Walking the Walk

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, February 25, 2015 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Nobody likes a hypocrite. Those who say one thing and do the complete opposite lose respect for not only themselves but also for whatever causes they had been publicly championing. I can think of two examples, one from the secular world and one from the church, that illustrate my point. During my senior year of high school, I had an English teacher who was outspoken about almost everything. One day, a student must have mentioned the singer Madonna in a side conversation that my teacher overheard, because he just about lost his mind. The next thing I knew, he was going on about how if he ever met her again he would be disgusted to even look at her. He then shared how he had the chance to meet her one time and thought she was very nice. His opinion changed, however, when she gave birth to a child and declared that she wouldn’t be allowing her daughter to watch much TV or pay attention to other media because she didn’t want her to be exposed to all the garbage that is out there. This enraged my teacher because, as he put it, Madonna was one of the people single-handedly responsible for a large chunk of the depravity within the entertainment industry at that time!

As blatant as Madonna’s hypocrisy was, I’m not sure that many people were looking to her for parenting advice in the first place. Hypocrisy in the church carries potentially much greater consequences. If you paid any attention to the news between 2006 and 2010, you may be familiar with the name Ted Haggard. As you can read at that link, he was the pastor at a large church in Colorado and often spoke against activities that are specifically prohibited in Scripture. One of these was homosexuality, and Rev. Haggard publicly supported an amendment to the state constitution that would have banned same-sex marriages. However, a man who knew his secrets was enraged by the hypocrisy, so he outed the reverend for his actions of buying drugs and sexual favors from the man over the previous few years. Rev. Haggard denied it initially, but evidence was eventually presented that showed at least some guilt and he later admitted to most of the allegations. Rev. Haggard’s actions shamed himself, his specific congregation, and the name of Jesus Christ.

In Romans 2:17-29, the Apostle Paul addresses the Jews who are “boasting in God” and “relying on the law” (v. 17). In other words, they claimed to be superior to the immoral Gentiles because of their supposed observance of the law. But Paul has a strong message for them in the form of rhetorical questions. How can they teach others when they don’t abide by their own teachings? They preach against stealing, adultery, and idolatry, yet Paul seems to be drawing their attention to their own sins in those areas. To sum it all up, Paul says that they are actually “dishonoring” God by breaking the law and quotes a translation of Isaiah 52:5 where God says that his people are “blaspheming” his name “among the Gentiles” (Romans 2:23-24). Do we realize that the same thing is true for Christians today? If all we do is talk about our faith, it’s pretty much useless. Unless we also walk the walk, the unbelieving world who watches will see us as hypocrites and will see a misrepresentation of the God we claim to serve.

Paul continues in the passage to talk about circumcision, since that was the sign of the covenant that separated the Jews from everyone else. The problem was that the Jews focused only on the physical, outward sign and not what it represents. Paul says this is not truly indicative of those who follow God. “A person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God” (Romans 2:29). Did you catch that last part? The mark of a Christ-follower is not receiving praise from others for his high level of morality compared to other humans, but receiving praise from God for what’s in his heart.

Humility, repentance, and integrity are just a few of the important HEART characteristics that are expressed in true followers of Christ throughout the New Testament and just as much in believers today. Hypocrisy and boasting are opposites of those characteristics. We have to remember that, while being Christians may carry certain advantages, we have great responsibility as well. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:20 that “we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” God makes his appeal through what he reveals to the world. He has revealed himself through creation, then through Christ, and now through us as the Holy Spirit lives in us. Walking the walk is not an option when it comes to the Christian life. It’s a necessity.

The good news for Ted Haggard and for every other believer that has ever walked this earth is that there is One who will not give up on hypocrites because sadly, that’s all he has to choose from. We are all hypocrites when we claim to be followers of Christ and share his teachings, then disobey them in our very lives. So rather than boast about what we are, let’s boast about who HE is. With humility, repentance, and integrity, let’s confess our shortcomings to him and to others so that we can point them directly to him no matter what they’ve done. Christ promises restoration for us and for anyone else who will humbly come to him. It’s time for us to lead the way in word AND in deed.

Two Wrongs

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, February 24, 2015 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’” ~ Romans 2:24

Last summer, I was still working for my dad, Dr. John Seng O.D., and I was conducting some tests on a patient for him. As I was prepping the machinery, I was talking to the young lady who we were examining. As we spoke, I asked her if she went to church.

“I used to go every Sunday until I was about ten years old. Then my father committed suicide. We had the funeral at our church and the pastor came up to my family and said to us, ‘Your father went straight to hell. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.’ Since then I have never set foot inside of a church.”

My reaction was outrage. I don’t know her father. Maybe he was a good guy, maybe he was a bad guy. I don’t know. But what should a pastor never tell a ten-year-old girl regardless of the circumstances? That her father who just passed away went straight to hell. Needless to say, the church turned her off from that point on.

But was this pastor’s tactic to tell this family that their father was in hell representative of what every pastor, let alone every Christian, believes? No. So why was Christianity as a whole blamed for the judgment dealt out from one pastor? It’s a good question, but nothing new for Christianity.

Despite the fact that the judgment brought upon Christianity as a whole is unwarranted in most cases, it does tell us that the people of the world are looking to us for their moral and spiritual guidance. Therefore, we need to take our words and actions seriously. True, we are not perfect and it would be unfair to judge us for our imperfection, but when we do things that we clearly preach against, we give the devil a foothold in the battle for people’s souls.

On the other hand, let’s be honest with ourselves in acknowledging that the world already has enough false claims against the church as it is. I always hear people calling Christians hypocrites. Granted that is true, but so is everyone else. It’s just that Christians acknowledge their hypocrisy and sin whereas the world, who has no standards by which to judge itself, does not. If you recall Governor Sarah Palin’s run with Senator John McCain for the White House, she was accused of all sorts of things that she was either totally innocent of, or was permitted to do according to law anyway.

Because Saturday Night Live was prepared for her when she hit the national stage, everybody forgot her words and attributed the words of Tina Fey (the comedian who portrayed Palin) to her. Why? Because it was assumed that Palin was a boneheaded Christian woman who everyone supposedly knew said stupid things all of the time. Was it true? Well, no. But the ridicule stuck in a large part because the mainstream media could envision a right-wing loony-tune Christian saying some of the things that Fey said while portraying Palin in her skits. What is our solution?

The solution is simple. Do what is right regardless of what people think about you. People are already watching our real actions. If they see us stumble in real life, we lose our testimony with them (at least for a period of time). If we do what is right, but are accused of doing what is evil, God knows the truth and will reward us for our faithfulness. Let me close with a brief poem of both warning and encouragement:

“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
...Forgive them anyway!
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
...Be kind anyway!
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
...Succeed anyway!
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
...Be honest and frank anyway!
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
...Build anyway!
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
...Be happy anyway!
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
...Do good anyway!
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
...Give the world the best you've got anyway!
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.”
~Mother Teresa, The Final Analysis

Romans 2:17-29

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, February 23, 2015 0 comments
by Katie Erickson

“Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’
 “Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. “A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.” (Romans 2:17-29)

In the previous verses we looked at last week, Paul wrote about how no one can live up to God’s standard of perfection. Total perfection and sinlessness is required of every person, but nobody can live up to that. In this week’s verses above, Paul continues on in a similar theme of looking critically at how we live our lives.

Paul addresses two main topics in this section: the law and circumcision. Both of these topics were of key importance to the Jews because of their religious significance. The law was given to the people of Israel by God through Moses in Exodus 20, and circumcision was given to the people of Israel by God through Abraham in Genesis 17. Both were still very significant to the Jews living in Paul’s day, so Paul wanted to address them and how they relate to the “new religion” of following Jesus Christ.

Paul’s main point with discussing the law is to ask the people if they are truly following it. Are they just talking the talk, or are they truly walking the walk? Do they really live out what they’re preaching, or are they living as hypocrites? This is a tough question. If you take an honest look at your life, do you truly do everything that you proclaim?

Verse 23 sums up Paul’s point in going over all of this: “You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?” The main purpose of all of our lives as human beings is to give God glory. He created us, so we should honor and glorify Him. If we boast in the law, or claim that we keep it perfectly even when we don’t, then we’re dishonoring God. Whether it’s not teaching ourselves what we’re teaching others, stealing when we tell others not to, or whatever, we’re dishonoring God by breaking His law. By failing to live out the law that they professed to love, they make God look bad. We today do the same thing when we break God’s law - we dishonor Him.

The next topic that Paul goes into is circumcision. The Jews felt like they were extra special because the law was given to them, and because the rite of circumcision was given to them too. Circumcision was an outward way they could show that they were set apart from other peoples on the earth. But here, Paul continues to break down their self-confidence in these inherited things. Being righteous because of their genealogy just doesn’t matter anymore.

Just as no person can fully keep the law, no person is considered righteous simply because he is circumcised. God’s standard is still complete perfection and obedience to every last little bit of the law, all the time, whether a person is Jew or not.

Paul’s main point for us today is the same as it was for the people in Rome - outward signs are not enough. We need to have the right attitude of our hearts when following Christ. This should not be a new concept to the Jews, as it is brought up in Deuteronomy 10:16 and Jeremiah 4:4. The writers of these Old Testament books used the idea of the outward sign to show that it must be inward as well.

In this section of Romans, Paul addresses outward actions, particularly of the Jews. Yes, they still need to strive to live righteous lives, but no one can live up to God’s standard of perfection. No one, whether Jew or Gentile, can be saved simply by outwards acts. Our hearts must be fully devoted to God.

How do you measure up on this? Do you try to walk the walk and not just talk the talk? Are you focusing on outward signs and neglecting the attitude of your heart? Both are essential to truly living your life as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Above the Waves

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, February 22, 2015 0 comments

by Ami Samuels

In a text conversation this past week a friend of mine said this: “I’m going to try and stop looking at my problems.” This text reminded me of a line from the song “Oceans” by Hillsong (click here for the video). It says “I will call upon your name and keep my eyes above the waves.”

My text in response to her was, “Focus above the waves of this world. That is where steadiness, or sure footing, comes from - focusing on Jesus.” I then went on to share about Peter walking on water.

In Matthew 14:22-33 we find the disciples in a boat a considerable distance from shore and the wind and waves were pounding the boat. Jesus, who had stayed behind to spend time in prayer, went out to join them. It was about 3:00am when Jesus walks out to the boat on the water. The disciples were terrified and thought he was a ghost. After all, it is dark, the wind is blowing, the waves are crashing against the boat, and then they see a figure walking on water coming toward them.

Jesus immediately says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t’ be afraid,” in verse 27.

Peter replies “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “Why did you doubt?” Peter must have recognized Jesus’ voice because he was willing to get out of the boat. He was walking on water UNTIL he took his eyes off of Jesus. As soon as he started to look at the wind, he became afraid and began to sink.

How often in life do we do that? We start out confidently and then we look around at our circumstances. We begin to think about our human limitations and our insecurities, and plunk! Down we go. When we take our eyes off of Jesus, we lose the power to walk where Jesus walks.

When we take a step out of our comfort zone (out of the boat), our focus (like Peter’s) needs to be solely on Jesus. Your situation may get stormy, but don’t focus on your situation; remain focused on Jesus.

It is easy to take that step when the circumstances are perfect. Let’s consider what the perfect situation might have been for Peter. What if it were a sunny afternoon and the disciples were sunning in the boat relaxing and Jesus walks up. Peter would have been able to see that it was Jesus and recognize him right away. He wouldn’t have been afraid. I would think they would have still been shocked that Jesus was walking on water. But for Peter, walking on calm water on a sunny day would be far less frightening then walking on water in the middle of the night with the wind and waves crashing all around him, in the dark. Nevertheless, Jesus wants us to take the difficult step and trust him even when things aren’t perfect, when we are scared, and in the midst of our storm.

I believe that Jesus is looking for people who not only trust him in the storm, but who are willing to step out in faith while the storm is raging. This requires us to stay completely focused on Jesus.

In his book “If You Want to Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat,” John Ortberg writes, “I believe there is something – Someone – inside us who tells us there is more to life than sitting in the boat. You were made of something more than merely avoiding failure. There is something inside you that wants to walk on the water – to leave the comfort of routine existence and abandon yourself to the high adventure of following God.”

This week I would like to encourage you to keep your eyes above the wind and the waves, look beyond your circumstances and stay focused on Jesus.

When Lions Find Their Courage

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, February 21, 2015 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Let’s recap – up until this part of Romans, Paul has been talking about what it looks like when we act the OPPOSITE of our design and practice living in a way other than God intended for us to live. That is BOTH a community set of designs/standards, and specific individual designs complete with gifts, talents, personality, passion, etc. When we live opposite to our God given identity, it is called sin. In rejecting that identity, we are first and foremost rejecting God and choosing to live a life apart from His purposes and design. As we persist and practice that rebellion, we store up and gather wrath or penalty for ourselves – some of which may come by our own consequences, and some when we stand before God on judgment day. I have also used a campy analogy all the way through this section, about a lion in a duck costume (this is the last blog with it, I promise).

Most of this week’s section of Romans is again about there being no difference in how this life will turn out for the Jews versus the Gentiles. Ultimately, we will all stand before God and our own consciences will accuse or condemn us in comparison to God’s Truth and teachings. No matter who we are, or how much history we had with religion, God, or spirituality, we will reveal exactly where we walked with God, and where we rebelled. (Certainly, will all need to depend on God’s grace through Jesus Christ.)

There is one key verse in this section I want to call out. Notice Romans 2:13: “For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.” Other translations take that word “doers” and put in “those who obey.” Either way the initial point seems clear.

Let’s get under the surface there though. The Greek word is ‘poietes’ – which means “doer” or “performer.” In the context of this verse, we assume it means one who performs the law or teachings of God, which is correct. But there is a deeper piece here. The root of the word ‘poietes’ is ‘poema’ which means “poetry” or “song.” We see Paul use ‘poema’ in Ephesians 2:10 to say, “we are God’s ‘workmanship’ (his ‘poetry’ or ‘song’) created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

So when we put this all together, Paul is saying that when we are living right before God, we are avoiding storing up wrath, and we escape the masquerade when we have the courage to stop pretending and live according to the design God has given us. We are fully alive and free when we are PERFORMING the POETRY or SONG that was written by God and given our name.

This is different than “following your heart” or “doing what you love.” Those are expressions in our culture that mostly mean to follow our passions and desires – which can lead us into that duck costume. Our SONG that God has written will be in sync with His teachings and will draw us closer to Him. That is why if we are faithful to live it out, we will be called righteous (or living rightly before God).

Have you stopped to ask how God sees you? How He has designed you? Do you have the courage to set aside the masquerade, and walk in the fullness of His design for you?

I encourage you and challenge you to set aside the worldly song and the costume party music you have been playing, and start asking God to reveal the Song, the Poetry, the Sculpture, the Painting, the unique architectural design, that He created you to be. If you are willing to go there, He will empower, strengthen, and lead you in it. And I guarantee it is a much more fulfilling and satisfying journey than the masquerade.

Spiritual Warfare Basics: Five Principles: Military Doctrine

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, February 20, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“Therefore measure in terms of five things: use these assessments to make comparisons, and thus find out what the conditions are. The five things are the way, the weather, the terrain, the leadership, and discipline.” ~Sun-Tzu, Chapter 1.

The fourth key principle that Sun-Tzu talks about is military doctrine or discipline, depending on the translation you are using. This principle deals with how soldiers and officers should behave and how instruction and discipline are enforced. When one thinks of the Army, very often the first thing that comes to mind is discipline. And the goal of basic training is to get soldiers to obey orders without question or hesitation. A general cannot have soldiers questioning orders, because if he allows it, a lack of confidence in the general will spread throughout the camp. And most of the time, the general knows quite a bit more about what is going on than the soldier does. No matter what, if a general gives an order, that order needs to be followed.

But not every general is a good one. That is another aspect to this principle: how officers and soldiers should behave. My post last week on leadership illustrates what a good leader should or should not do. But as soldiers, we need to submit to our leaders no matter how good or bad they are because they are leaders whom God installed in their place. As I said last week, we need to respect the position of authority, no matter who sits in it.

God is concerned not just in matters of obedience but the manner of obedience. He cares about how we obey him, not just that we do obey him. Jonah is a fine example of this. God told Jonah to preach to Nineveh so they might repent. Jonah did not want to do it so he ran away. After the large fish incident, Jonah did obey, but we see after the fact that he was not happy. I easily see Jonah preaching a “turn or burn message,” because we see Jonah waiting for the destruction to happen. But God told him that he did not want to wipe out people and that he had the right to give mercy for those who repented. God was not pleased with the manner of how Jonah obeyed, but he still showed his grace and his mercy.

One thing God totally despises, however, is partial obedience. He sees it the same as outright disobedience. Look at 1 Samuel 13 and 15. God told Saul to wait for Samuel before going to battle against the Philistines. But Saul grew impatient and offered the sacrifice. God then told Saul to destroy the Amalekites, but instead Saul mostly destroyed them, saving the best stuff and the king as trophies. Because Saul disobeyed God’s orders twice, God rejected him as king and for the rest of his tenure on the throne, Saul lived in terror of David, whom God chose to replace him.

How are we obeying God? I heard one man say this: “Self-control is the instant obedience to the initial prompting of the Holy Spirit.” Is that not what the Army wants for its soldiers—instant obedience to the initial orders of the commanding officer? The military demands order and structure. As Christians, we are enlisted in God’s army. I know most of you did not ask to sign up for that, but that is part of the territory of being a Christian. Yet, so often we hear God’s orders, we don’t like them, and we often flat out refuse to obey them. And then we wonder why God doesn’t come through when we need him to. This is not rocket science.

Sun-Tzu says, “If the orders of the General are not clear, it is the fault of the General that the troops are routed. If the orders of the General are clear, and I have made them clear, then it is the fault of the subordinates that the troops are routed.”

Many people try to think that God’s orders are not very clear. But in the reality, they usually are. We usually know exactly what God is telling us to do or not to do. Do not try to feign ignorance. With Worldview Warriors last month, we talked about how we are without excuse because God’s character and nature are clearly revealed through the Creation. This week, I want to point out Romans 2:13. In a military context, you are a soldier to the army you swear fealty to. But which army you really serve is told much better by whose orders you follow. Romans 2:13 tells us that it is not enough to hear the Word to be justified. We actually need to be doers of Word. What does this mean?

It is not enough to say, “I believe.” While Romans 10:9-10 says “believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord,” we need to understand that “to believe” is a very different word than we really understand today. Here “believe” is actually the verb form of “faith.” And faith requires action. This is not a causal belief where I will claim it and think of it on occasion. This is a conviction that you hold to be so true that you will act upon it as though it is true. That is all God is asking for us: obey.

There are times where we don’t obey. There is a word for that: sin. Every military has a standard of discipline for soldiers that fail to follow orders. The same is true in our Christian walk. God, however, is a good Father. And he will discipline us, not because he is a vengeful, wrathful judge, because he loves us too much to let us stay in our sin. But if God does not discipline us, then we are illegitimate children and we are not actually saved. When we sin, how God treats us will depend on our relationship with him. Are we under him as adopted children, or are we out from under him and subject to the Law? When we look at God, do we look at him as Father, or as Judge? God wants what is best for us, and the best for us is the removal of self, the removal of our sinful self. And one of the reasons God allows us to be in the battle is to both expose us to our shortcomings, but also to work them out of us. Another reason for putting us into the battle is for God to show his glory through us. Obey him, even if it comes at a cost. There is no cost here on this earth that we are not going to lose at some point anyway. So do not fear losing things like your reputation, your social friends, your money, your job… or even your life. You will lose it all anyway by the time you die. But what you gain for obeying Christ is above and beyond anything we can imagine.

Follow Christ, obey him, and there will be a reward in heaven. Next week, we wrap up this mini-series on the five key principles of warfare: The Way, or the Moral of the People.

Origins of Flood Geology

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, February 19, 2015 59 comments

by Steve Risner

I contend the first young earth creationist, apart from the Creator Himself, was Adam. Some suggest young earth creationism (Biblical creationism) is a new construct only held by radical anti-science Christians who don’t understand the Bible, history, or science. This is a laughable notion as we will see in a moment. But let me just say here that a belief in an extremely old earth and/or universe was not brought about by Christian thought or by God-fearing philosophy. It was first thought of by pagan societies and later dressed in scientific garb by atheists (or, more accurately I suppose, non-Christians) who refused to allow for the supernatural. I’ll have more to say on that next week. Does it seem wise to take the counsel of those who have little to no regard for the things of God and incorporate their philosophies into our worldview?

Let’s start with Jewish history on this topic since some claim the idea of a younger earth is a new one.

The Jewish calendar states it is now the year 5775—that is it is 5775 years since Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. If you ask Ohr Somayach, the Jews have been using this form of dating for thousands of years. The credit for the final development of the calendar is given to Hillel II who lived in the 4th century AD, but many contend the calendar for the Jews was a development over a very long time period. The Jews count the year similarly to the way Ussher dated the creation—by using the lineages in Genesis. This is not a new thing. The Hebrews considered the calendar very important, organizing their holy days by it. To do so without strict adherence to the days given by God in the Torah would be a serious violation. But when did the Church adopt such an idea—the idea that Genesis was a literal history and that the earth was fashioned about 6000 years ago in 6 literal 24 hour days?

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus was a very early Christian writer. He wrote on a variety of topics in the very early 3rd century AD after his conversion. It’s true he had issues with some Church teachings, but the point of addressing him is that as early as the 3rd century, less than 200 years after the establishment of the Church, Christians believed that the days of the creation account were literal and that the earth was formed 4000 years before them. Flood geology, the belief in the so-called geologic column, is claimed by some to be a recent development. However, Tertullian said that the global Flood explained why marine conches and tritons’ horns were found high in the mountains. This particular man is regarded as the father of Western theology. A little later we have John Chrysostom, a legendarily eloquent speaker and apologist who wrote in the late 4th century, who was also a literalist when it came to the creation week. At nearly the same time, we have the well-known Christian philosopher Saint Augustine. Some claim Augustine of Hippo believed in an allegorical creation story and, therefore, that he believed the earth to be much older than the Bible tells us through genealogy. This is a mistake. Although Augustine did believe the creation story was symbolic, he actually believed the opposite of the creation week when compared to old earth creationists, gap theorists, or theistic evolutionists. His contention was that the creation of the universe was instantaneous and that the 6 days of creation were allegorical to describe the single instantaneous act of creation for us. These 3 philosophers in Christian thought, which are only a sample of those we can pull from, show us that it was only just over 100 years after the Apostle John’s death that Christian writers were fully convinced of the natural interpretation of Genesis. The Apostle Peter also seemed to believe in a literal Genesis and the global Flood when he wrote of it in 2 Peter 3:3-7. This was likely written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD, thus placing Christian writings on the literal interpretation of Genesis within 30 or 40 years of the Church’s birth. Couple that with the obvious beliefs of the Old Testament prophets and writers and the case for a natural reading of the creation history is pretty clear. So is “flood geology” a new construct? Let’s look…

Ellen White, the founder of the Seventh Day Adventist movement, is erroneously claimed to have given flood geology its start. That denomination was founded in 1863. Keep that date in mind and, using your exceptional cognitive powers and your skills with arithmetic and sequential numbers, you should be able to see how this is not possible.

We’ve already seen that Christian writers from the 3rd century AD wrote that marine fossils were the result of the Flood. That sort of is a slam-dunk against the idea of a mid-1800’s birth to flood geology. But who is given credit for the founding of modern geology as a science? Nicolas Steno is the man most frequently given this honor. He wrote in 1669 in Forerunner that he believed the earth was roughly 6000 years old and that the geologic column and its fossils were the result of Noah’s flood. That is correct! The founder of modern geology was a young earth creationist and believed in Noah’s flood complete with “flood geology.” Over the next several decades other geologists wrote similar things, including German geologist Johann Lehmann and English geologist John Woodward. Both of these famed geologists were dead and gone by the mid-18th century and a full century before the founding of the Seventh Day Adventist church. It’s plain to see that Biblical creation and the so called “flood geology” are nothing new. In fact, they’re thousands of years old. So why do atheists and some Christians believe that geology is evidence for billions of years of earth history?

Next week I will cover Charles Lyell. He is not the first to believe in an old earth but is given credit for the final push in common thought that ushered in the age of uniformitarian doctrine. Uniformitarianism is the belief that “the present is the key to the past” which basically means the rates of current geologic processes are the only means by which past geologic formations were created. This idea has been rejected since the 1970’s but is still taught and held on to by many who refuse to admit the creationists have been right all along. We will also look in more detail at the belief in a global flood and other people in history who contributed to the shaping of the current belief in an old earth and in evolution over long time periods.

In conclusion, Church history is fairly clear. The fathers of our faith from the earliest Christian writings believed in a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11. That is to say, the Apostles, Tertullian, Augustine, and Chrysostom can easily be cited as “flood geology” believers and in a literal six 24 hour day creation event about 6000 years ago. We can also reference Ephraim the Syrian, Basil of Caesarea or Ambrose of Milan, Augustine’s mentor, in the early belief in the global Flood and recent 6 day creation. All of these men are pillars in Church history and wrote on these topics in the 4th century—hardly the mid-1800’s. It is very clearly an error to say that young earth creation (Biblically based creation) and identifying fossils in the geologic column to the Flood is new or a remotely recent idea. This notion should not be pushed by any honest seeker of truth as the historical record doesn’t agree even a little. As the Word says in Romans 3:4, “Let God be found true though every human being is a liar, as it is written, that You may shown to be upright in what You say, and prevail when You are judged [by sinful men].”

Your Secret Life Revealed

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, February 18, 2015 0 comments

by Logan Ames

One of my favorite movies of 2014 was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” It’s the story of a lonely and timid man who often finds himself daydreaming about situations where he is either the hero or something amazing happens to him. The trances are so realistic that he is visibly shocked each time he is awoken back into his life. This creates awkward moments because part of what is happening secretly in his mind ends up getting revealed to others through his words and actions during the first few seconds that he is snapping back to reality. Eventually, he gets tired of living in a fantasy world and uses his humiliation and discontentment as motivation to take some risks and go after the life from his dreams.

How would you feel if those around you knew the things about which you fantasized? I understand that the word “fantasized” is often used in conjunction with lust and sexual desire, and that’s why I chose it. Think about just that area of your life. If all of your lustful thoughts were plastered on a billboard for all to see, how would the view that others have of you change from what it is right now? It might be a chilling thought for some of you. Then, move on to the other secret thoughts that you have. Think about the lies or rumors you’ve spread about others, the times maybe you wanted to hurt someone, or the ways you’ve contemplated using people. For me, just the things that I think and often even mutter to myself when someone cuts me off in traffic would be enough to shame me.

The passage that we are discussing this week ends with a reminder that should get our attention. “This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares” (Romans 2:16). To see what the “this” is in that verse, go back and read the section beginning with verse 5. Before I dig into those verses, I want to remind you that Paul wasn’t the first person to declare that even our secrets would be judged. Check out the words of Jesus himself in Luke 12:2-3: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” The similarity between these passages isn’t just about the content of them. If you look at the context of each passage, you see the audiences are virtually the same. Jesus spoke to his disciples with thousands of others, including the “religiously moral” Pharisees, listening closely. Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Rome, knowing full well that some of the Jews who thought they were better than others would be reading it. In each case, the message is that we must not focus on comparing ourselves favorably to others, but instead must realize that God will judge even our secrets that no one else knows, and that alone levels the playing field among all human beings.

The whole section of Romans 2:5-16 shows that even though we all have an opportunity to receive salvation and experience the work of God’s grace in our lives, a time of judgment and wrath is still coming. This time of wrath is not caused by God, but by our stubborn and unrepentant attitude and actions. In fact, the New King James Version of verse 5 says that we are “treasuring up” wrath for ourselves. What an interesting way to put it! I bet that when you think about the things you treasure in this life, God’s wrath doesn’t make the list. That’s what makes Paul’s point hit home. Both the Jews of that time and many present-day Christians in America have made the mistake of assuming God’s grace. His wrath isn’t even on our radar. We’ve gotten comfortable in our blessed assurance of heaven, forgetting that the gift of salvation comes with a certain responsibility for those who believe. Paul lays out that responsibility and its good benefits in verses 7 and 10, as well as the failure to do it and its consequences in verses 8-9. Just as the gospel message and salvation were offered “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile,” so too are the benefits of seeking the truth in Christ and the consequences of rejecting it.

As we’ve pointed out at other times so far on our journey through Romans, the Jews had a hard time accepting that salvation came to even the Gentiles, whom they judged as less than themselves. So Paul finishes this section by explaining that neither group has an excuse and all are condemned by their actions - the Jews because they act against the law and the Gentiles because they act against their consciences, which are the moral compasses given to all human beings by God. Either way, we are doomed if we are trying to save ourselves by our actions alone.

Have you fallen into the trap of thinking you are good enough to be approved by God? Have you accepted the type of mediocre Christianity that so many in churches practice these days because you know your eternity is secured? Think about your life and what you are storing or “treasuring” up. Are your actions and attitude adding to the burden of wrath that God is already carrying until the day he lets it loose? The good news is that perfection is not demanded because Christ already died for you. But a repentant and humble heart coupled with a desire for truth, honor, glory, and peace are marks of the Christian life. Remember that how you compare on the outside to others won’t matter, because God knows your secret life and one day it will be revealed “from the roofs” as well. That day could be tomorrow or it could be a thousand years from now. Will you be ready for it? If not, now’s the time to change whatever is needed to get prepared.

Romans 2:5-16

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, February 16, 2015 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” (Romans 2:5-16)

Last week, I wrote about judgment and why it’s important to not judge others for their sins, especially when you are committing those sins yourself. This week’s passage re-emphasizes why we should not judge others.

If we are stubborn and unrepentant (that is, we aren’t sorry for the wrongs we’ve committed), we’re storing up God’s wrath. I’m not a big fan of anyone’s wrath, but can you imagine the magnitude of the wrath of the Creator of the universe? That’s bad on a level that I definitely don’t want to even try and picture!

But, fortunately here we at least see a brief glimpse of the positive side: if we seek to do good, we will be given eternal life. Note that this does not mean we’re saved by what we do; Paul is writing to Christ followers here and emphasizing moral character, not salvation.

Then, however, Paul goes back to writing about the negative consequences. He points out that God does not show favoritism; ALL will be judged equally.

This point is important because of Paul’s audience, which is mixed of Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews). Back in the Old Testament, God gave the Jews His law. It wasn’t meant for the Gentiles then, only the Jews. But, Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), and because of that the law now applies to all people, both Jews and Gentiles. The playing field has been leveled; all people will now be judged equally.

As Paul says in verse 15, “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness.” Every human being has a conscience, and the law is written on it; we all have a basic sense of right and wrong. Whether we choose to follow that sense of right and wrong is a different topic altogether. Simply knowing the law doesn’t really get us anywhere; we must obey it!

In the midst of this passage is a literary structure called a chiasm (pronounced KEY-as-m) that helps make this point more succinctly. Think of a chiasm like a hill or steps; you go up one side, reach the top, then down the other. The steps on each side parallel each other.

This literary device helps emphasize the points that Paul is making, since there is repetition of them within the structure, forwards and backwards so to speak. And it makes for a neat looking diagram.

Paul sums up his thoughts here with verse 12: “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.” A person “apart from the law” is one who doesn’t know God’s laws, presumably because they have not been taught. Those of us who do know God’s laws are considered to be “under the law.” If you never knew God’s laws, you’ll still die, and you’ll be judged by the law or moral standard that you knew. If you do know God’s law, you’ll be judged by God’s standards. Regardless of which applies to you, total perfection is required of all of us.

How are you doing at living up to the standard of God’s law? I’m guessing not very well; that’s the boat I’m in. But fortunately for us, the law is not the end of the story. God has given us the law, but God also extends to us His grace - forgiveness we don’t deserve, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

All Ways Escaped

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, February 15, 2015 0 comments

by Michael Homula

John F. Chase was saved at Gettysburg. More than once.

Born in Chelsea, Maine, John Chase enlisted as a private in Company B of the 3rd Maine Infantry in early June of 1861. One of the first men to enlist, he was a young, energetic and strapping Maine farm boy of almost 200 pounds. Transferred to the 5th Maine Artillery in November 1861, Chase’s first claim to fame occurred at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863.

With the rest of his battery either dead or wounded, Chase (along with another soldier) continued to fire his cannon under a sustained barrage by the forces of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and then, under a withering fire, wheeled the artillery piece off the field to keep it from the enemy. He also returned to rescue a mortally wounded officer. Shortly after the battle the rescued officer died, but he had written a recommendation for John Chase to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroism.

The 5th Maine Artillery would reform in May and June of 1863, and Chase and his comrades in arms found themselves in Gettysburg those fateful days of July 1863. After the carnage he witnessed at Chancellorsville, Chase must have wrestled and wondered why he alone had survived unhurt from that bloody day. He surely grieved over the loss of so many friends. Like many who would survive bloody battles, Chase probably even felt guilty over why he had survived when some many of his friends had not. In the early morning hours of July 2, 1863, witnesses saw John Chase bow to his knees and cry out to God in repentance, asking for peace and beseeching God to save him through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

Later that same day, Chase and the 5th Maine Battery found themselves defending Cemetery Hill. He and the other brave men worked the guns at a place called Steven’s Knoll, very close to the spot where he had prayed just hours earlier. While they poured a murderous fire into the flank of Avery’s Brigade of North Carolinians, a Confederate artillery shell exploded near Chase. The blast took off his right arm, destroyed his left eye, and sent forty-eight pieces of shrapnel into his body.

Unconscious and presumed dead, Chase was carried to the rear and left for dead where he remained for nearly two days. His body was eventually loaded onto a wagon along with many others to be buried. The wagon driver heard him moan, pulled him out from among the dead bodies, gave him a drink of water, and left him on the roadside to die. Discovered by a surgeon, Chase was brought to a hospital where doctors observed his terrible wounds and a fatal infection. It was declared that he wouldn’t live and he was once again laid in a field to die alone.

Reverend Sloan, a United States Christian Commission delegate, discovered Chase and began to nurse him. He was too fragile to be moved, so Sloan built a small shelter over him, baptized him in that spot and tended to him for three months. By that time the strapping 200 pound farm boy from Maine was a mere 87 pounds. He recovered enough to be transported to a more permanent hospital, where he eventually returned to health and was discharged from the Union Army on November 25, 1863.

Having lost his right arm with which he wrote, he would later write left handed about his experience at Gettysburg:

“I lost my right arm near the shoulder, and left eye, and have forty other scars upon my brest and shouldr caused by peaces of fragments of a Spharical case shot, at the battle of Gettersburg, july the seccond 1863. I have been in the rebbels hand a number of times, and like a true yankee all ways escaped before carryed of too the prison pens.” You can view a photo of his letter at this link.

Like most enlisted men of his day from rural America, John Chase was not well educated and this is obvious in his writing. In his words he says perhaps even more than he knows. He escaped from much more than being taken prisoner by the Rebels. Using the term “...all ways escaped….” instead of the grammatically correct “always escaped”, he reveals (most likely unintentionally) a much deeper and eternal escape. When he committed his life to Christ on Steven’s Knoll, Chase escaped being taken prisoner to his sin. He escaped eternal death and eternal separation from God. Yes, Chase in ALL WAYS escaped.

Chase is believed to be the most wounded soldier to survive the Civil War and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1888 for his “extraordinary heroism” at Chancellorsville. Notably, he would also became a preacher, traveling the country and showing his "48 wounds...one for each star of the Union".

Chase was a hero. There is little doubt of this fact. However, his saving faith in Christ, his escape from sin, and what he did to share the truth of salvation makes him a hero for Christians. He was "saved" at Gettysburg more than once. Enduring his wounds and the loss of friends on the battlefields of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, he never quit. He never quite on his friends. He never quit on his country. And, having been saved by Jesus, he never quite on God. The "peace that passes all understanding" allowed him to become a hero for God by spending his life telling others about "being saved" at Gettysburg.

NOTE: The pictures above show a wounded John Chase along with him and other veterans of the 5th Maine at the dedication of their monument on Steven's Knoll. Chase is on the left of the group.

All Lions Do It

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, February 14, 2015 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

We are all human – right? We all have failings, we all get dissatisfied, we all put on the duck costume now and then and play around with what our life would be like if we weren’t us. We also do it in regard to what we believe, and how we live. Come on, admit it. We all know our life falls short of what we say we believe. We even consider ways to excuse our shortcomings, explaining why ultimately we are ok, and “its all good.”

Interesting how that changes when we look at someone else’s shortcomings, when we look at someone else’s rebellion?

So, here in Romans 2:1-10, Paul is building to his next thing for us to consider. And he gets there by helping us take a minute to reflect on the fact that none of us are perfect. It’s important for us to humbly reflect on that truth, or we will miss some key relationship lessons that get broken when we excuse our rebellion and condemn others.

When we are in rebellion, we will give approval to other people’s rebellion to serve our own validation in rebellion. But when someone else’s rebellion threatens to expose our masquerade, or our struggle against the masquerade, we will put all our effort into exposing their shame to keep eyes off of us. Whether in rebellion or not, we like to preserve our image. Paul just strips that away, by reminding us that all lions put on the duck costume at some point or another. (If you don’t know what this is referring to, please read this post.)

Here is the back story. The Jews are God’s chosen people, and God chose to reveal His promise of rescuing humanity from our rebellion against Him, through them. He established their culture, their festivals, and their life rhythms all to tell a story. And over time, that story became clearer and clearer as the pieces he set in motion through the Jews began to connect with more and more pieces of what He was doing through history. Until finally, God sent Jesus (His son, God in human existence) to live, teach, and die on the cross as the sacrifice for all separation and rebellion against God. Jesus’ sacrifice was for all time, past, present, and future, and it offers us restored relationship with God. Because of Jesus, we are able to live fully in relationship with God, and fully live out His design for our lives.

When Paul is writing here in Romans 2, he is not only reminding all of us to have compassion for one another and not judge each other harshly, but he is also reminding the Jews that they don’t get a free pass just because they are Jews. When he says, “first for the Jew, and then for the gentile,” the Greek word for “first” can also be translated as “most importantly.” That makes sense in this context given how God set things up. “Most importantly” for the Jew to demonstrate what a life with God looks like, because they have the history and the teaching, and should be able to set the example for the newbie gentiles.

Whenever we think we have arrived at a place where we are better than someone else, just because our life doesn’t look as messy as theirs, we should take serious caution. From God’s perspective, the pressure is on at that point for us to set the example, and perhaps even help them with a compassionate hand. Every follower of Christ, to some extent, knows what it is like to shed the masquerade and start to live with integrity. It is hard, and those early days of trying to understand how to do that require a lot of support. Why wouldn’t we have compassion on those who are just waking back up to reality? And why not compassion even for those who are still living in the illusion and denial and rebellion?

Ultimately to condemn others, and to point out their rebellion as worse than your own, is to again reject God. Notice God does not condemn; he “hands them over.” God lets us experience the consequences of rebellion, perhaps to wake us up and to help us turn back, shake off the duck costume and reclaim our identity. Along with that, Paul reveals something about God’s wrath and penalties as it applies to all of us.

Notice in verse 5 Paul says, “You are storing up wrath/penalty for yourselves, on the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Who is causing wrath to be applied to people? Who is storing it up? Isn’t that curious; it’s not God pouring it out, or zapping us, but rather us gathering it up for ourselves in our rebellion.

Will there be a day of judgment? Yes. This is a season of grace, and we are expected – if we are followers of Jesus – to be examples of that grace to others. It doesn’t mean we validate or condone their behavior; we don’t accept the duck costume, that’s not grace. To validate and accept the duck is to endorse the wrath that rebellious activity is gathering. If we condemn the person pretending to be a duck, we store up wrath for ourselves. (That is why we are reminded elsewhere to “speak the truth in love.”)

Let’s take a moment for a heart check before next week:
- How are you doing with that compassion and grace thing for others?
- How does it change your perspective to know God doesn’t assign wrath or penalty to us, but we gather it for ourselves with our choices?
- How might this change your relationships with others?

Spiritual Warfare Basics: Five Principles: Leadership

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, February 13, 2015 6 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“Therefore measure in terms of five things: use these assessments to make comparisons, and thus find out what the conditions are. The five things are the way, the weather, the terrain, the leadership, and discipline.” ~Sun-Tzu, Chapter 1.

This week, I will address the principle of leadership from a military perspective. Leadership involves a few things, including chain of command, authority, and the responsibility imputed onto leaders. There is one person in Scripture that understood leadership, chain of command, and authority better than any other, besides Jesus himself: the Roman Centurion of Matthew 8:5-13. Please take a quick moment and read this passage. What I want to emphasize on is verses 8 and 9.

The Centurion understood the concept of leadership and authority. He recognized Jesus’ position as one of authority, very much like his own. A Roman Centurion was the commander of roughly 100 soldiers. And when he spoke, it was as though the Emperor of Rome himself spoke. But for the Centurion to be able to wield such authority, he had to be submitted to the authority of Rome. He knew this and he recognized the same type of authority in Jesus. This is why he could ask Jesus to just “speak the word and my servant will be healed.” Jesus completely marveled at this and said, “In all of Israel, never have I seen such faith.” Jesus, the Creator of all things, the Lord of the universe, was floored that this Centurion, this Gentile, this non-believer in God got it.

Jesus was the perfect example of how to wield authority, and he did so by submitting to authority. He did absolutely nothing on his own strength. He only did what he saw his Father doing and he only said what he heard his Father saying. He only did what his Authority said he could do. And because of this, he was granted all the authority that came with that submission. And this authority is given to us. Jesus sent out the 12 and later the 72. He gave them authority to do the same things he was doing: driving out demons, healing the sick, and proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. But how could they do it? By submitting to the authority of Christ.

Leadership is a critical position. There are two types of people in this world: leaders and followers. A person either tends to lead others or tends to flock to one who is a leader. We have good leaders and bad leaders. And we have good followers and bad followers. Where it really gets interesting is that good leaders tend to draw good followers and bad leaders tend to draw bad followers. Being in a position of leadership comes with a big responsibility. If you are in a position of authority, you are responsible for how everyone under you turns out. This applies to business managers, CEOs, officers, presidents, teachers, pastors, political officials, etc. A pastor is responsible how his congregation turns out.

A teacher is responsible for his/her students turn out. A speaker is responsible for speaking the truth, not merely stuff his audience wants to hear. Jesus had a firm warning for those that lead his children astray. I’m not interested in finding out what is worse than having a millstone tied around my neck. So when I speak, when I write, and I say something that is not right, I want to know about it. But I will also discern where such comments are coming from. All that being said, as followers and listeners, we cannot blame our shortcomings on our leaders. We are still responsible for how we take what our leaders say, both good and bad. We are responsible for following that which is good and rejecting that which is bad.

Leaders also have a standard in how they should behave. There are two types of leaders (primarily). The first is those that dictate and push down all those who might come near his/her position. Most of us have dealt with these types of people. Managers who boss their employees around, but don’t engage in the work. They often say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” These are the type of leaders we often have to deal with but are not the kind of leaders we want to be. Yet, often, because that is what we experience so much, when we get that leadership position, that is what we tend to do.

The second type of leader is the true leader, one who leads by example and one who leads by humility. Jesus was a leader who did it the right way and he did it as an example for us to follow. Jesus just didn’t tell us what to do or how. He did it. He demonstrated how to do it. Then he had the disciples try it, while he watched. And they tried and failed so many times. I easily see Jesus face-palming numerous times, thinking, “You guys still don’t get it?” But he was patient and gracious. He saw the end goal. He led by humility, by serving, and by lifting people up. Jesus didn’t merely tell people what to do. He came up from under them, enabled and empowered them to do what they needed to do, and then he did it with them.

Leaders are responsible not just for getting the tasks done. They are responsible for making sure that all those under them have the tools, the equipment, and the authority to do the job that needs to be done. No employee is happy when a manager or a boss tells them to get a job done but does not give them what they require to get the job done, including the materials necessary and the authority to get the materials. And we have a God who will give us everything we need to do what he wants us to do. This is why Jesus tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you. What are ‘all these things’? Look at the context. Jesus was just talking about not worrying about what you will eat, what clothes you will wear, where you will live; the basics we need. It may not be everything we want, but it will be everything we need.

Lastly for this post, with leadership there is a proper chain of command. We need people in authority over our lives, and we need people under us. As Christians, we need to be mentored by someone and we need someone to mentor. Having someone in authority over us keeps us from going astray. If a leader does not have someone in authority over them, beware. If a leader does not have someone he is accountable to, beware. But also a leader cannot do it all (unless he is God). Moses tried doing it all in Exodus 18. He tried to judge all the cases from all the tribes and his father-in-law, Jethro, recognized it was a bad idea. So he had Moses set up 70 leaders to divvy up the work, leaders who were trustworthy. The apostles saw the same issue. This is how they initiated the concept of “deacons” in Acts 6. The apostles delegated management of the church so they could focus on teaching.

God sets up authority and leaders for a reason. It is our duty to honor and respect that authority. There is not one leader, no matter how evil, that God did not allow to be put into place. Even if the leader is as bad as Nero, Herod, Hitler, Napoleon, King John, or dare I say, Obama, we have a responsibility to respect those in leadership. It is not because of who they are or what they do but because we are to respect the position of authority that they hold. I do not agree with Obama on 99% of his policies, but I have to respect him, not because of what he does, but because I need to respect the office of President. The same is true with each of our managers, administrators, church leaders, etc. Respect the position, and God will honor you for it. Next week, I’ll talk about Military Doctrine and wrap up this sub-series with “The Moral of the People.”

The Divorce of Two Philosophies

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, February 12, 2015 0 comments

by Steve Risner

Philosophy is defined as the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline. It can be synonymous with thinking or reasoning. The philosophy of science can be defined as a branch of philosophy concerned with the foundations, methods, and implications of science. The central questions concern what counts as science, the reliability of scientific theories, and the purpose of science. As a side note, naturalism (not the artistic kind) is defined as a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted. My opinion is that naturalism has hijacked science and thrown out the philosophy by which science has been done for hundreds of years. This is not the point of this blog post, but I feel it's important enough to mention. I encourage you to think on that.

So what is my point? Follow me... philosophy is interesting. It's something every single one of us uses but very few have given any thought to building. I believe many of us, because we've not been trained how to think but rather what to think, have never taken the time to describe our personal philosophies concerning life, happiness, God, family, morals, and a large host of other things for ourselves. After completing such a task, it's important to evaluate those philosophies to make sure they're consistent with one another. Essentially, what I'm kind of describing is the worldview by which we determine truth in our world. It is my contention that many of us, myself included, have internally inconsistent philosophies. Weeding them out is a big but important task. Because we've never taken the time to compare them or explore them, we live our lives in an inconsistent fashion. A huge portion of this conflict is between Biblical philosophy and secular/humanistic philosophy. We have allowed humanistic philosophy to infiltrate our homes, schools, churches, government—our lives—and we don't see the urgency of this problem in how it is connected with the loss of our children to humanism, the loss of our Church to liberalism, and the loss of souls because of apathy to the situation as we plunge further and further away from living the life Christ has called us to live. Is this a new problem? Is this something that has cropped up since the Renaissance or the Enlightenment? Has it happened since Darwin's On the Origin of Species was printed? Not at all. We see humanism introduced to the human race in the third chapter of Genesis. And Paul, in his letter to the church in Colosse, warns them (to put it lightly) of the dangers of entertaining man's philosophy over God's. I would like to use this writing as an exploration of that verse of Scripture. First, let's read it. Colossians 2:8-10 says,
“See to it that no one carries you off as spoil or makes you yourselves captive by his so-called philosophy and intellectualism and vain deceit (idle fancies and plain nonsense), following human tradition (men’s ideas of the material rather than the spiritual world), just crude notions following the rudimentary and elemental teachings of the universe and disregarding [the teachings of] Christ (the Messiah). For in Him the whole fullness of the Godhead continues to dwell in bodily form [giving complete expression of the divine nature]. And you are in Him, made full and having come to fullness of life [in Christ you too are filled with the Godhead— Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and reach full spiritual stature]. And He is the Head of all rule and authority [of every angelic principality and power].” (Amplified Bible)

Not necessarily for study purposes but to really bring it down to a great level of understanding, I submit the Message Bible paraphrase of this passage:
“Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.”

That really helps make that passage come to life for me. I don't generally use the Message for such things, but I hope you'll allow this exception. I would like to break down this passage so we see the urgency in it and exactly what Paul (and the Holy Spirit) is trying to convey to us. It's important to break down passages like this often times because the Greek (or Hebrew, depending) can lose the deepest sense of their meaning when translated to English.

The word translated in the New King James as “beware” or “see to it” here truly means “WATCH OUT!” in the strongest sense, like if you're watching a tree fall in someone's yard as they stand in its path without knowing what's happening. Paul is very concerned here. His concern is due to the fact that Greek philosophy was all around these believers—a philosophy that was not based on the Word of God or His teachings. They were constantly saturated in it. Paul tells his readers that this philosophy is “vain deceit” or “plain nonsense.” This literally means it is void of truth because it takes us down a path of man's invention and away from God's plan for us. Consider how Jesus tells us to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees. A little leaven will infest the entire loaf of bread. We see the phrase “rudimentary and elemental teachings of the universe” which is translated “principles” in other translations. This phrase can accurately be described as the teachings of humanism concerning origins that the Greeks believed in at this time. “The material cause of the universe...” is how some commentaries refer to it. This is truly running rampant in our schools, our thoughts, our government, and even in our churches today. Paul tells us this ought not be.

We are bombarded with evolutionary philosophy (in this umbrella term I include the Big Bang, evolutionism, and liberal social issues) on a daily basis. It's on the news in every format. It's in our conversations. Our taxes are being spent on it. Being in church doesn't inoculate us from such philosophies. In fact, the number of churches not proclaiming these philosophies as truth is shrinking all the time. We have abandoned God's Word as our source of Truth and allowed the “truth” of humanism to seep into nearly every aspect of the Biblical worldview, making it unrecognizable as such. Many churches and believers accept the ideas of the Big Bang and evolutionism without even realizing these are not scientific constructs but tenants of the religion of humanism! This cannot be stressed too much. Humanism is a religion. The Big Bang and Darwinism, although wrapped in scientific terms (big words and intellectual double-talk), are not scientific propositions. Neither are they based on Biblical Truth and have no place in the philosophy by which you live your life if you are a believer. In fact, they have eroded the moral fabric of our culture all the while claiming to be above faith based systems of morality.

Part of the problem, I feel, is that parents have given the task of teaching their children to the church Sunday school teacher and to schools--whatever type of school they attend. We, as a whole, are lazy and don't study the Bible as we should. You can't study the Bible too much. It's literally not possible because the Word of God is alive and powerful and expresses itself differently each time you open its pages. We let the preacher tell us what to think on Sunday and then allow the media, the school, the Discovery channel, and our government tell us what to think the rest of the week. “Is this really a big deal? Is the Big Bang or Darwinism really a problem? Can you accept the Genesis story of creation as a fable that teaches us something good but isn't to be taken literally?” These are very common questions—perhaps questions you have right now. My response to these is, “Yes. Yes. No.” It's a big deal because over half of our young people are turning away from their Savior when they are exposed heavily to humanism after high school. It's a big deal because morals are based on the fact that we are created in the image of God. We are not animals that happened to have opposable thumbs. Any wonder that society preys on itself? We've lost our moral compass because we've forsaken the foundation of morality. These humanistic beliefs consume our culture, increase crime and unethical behavior, creates depression which can lead to suicide, causes the murder of untold millions of babies in the womb, etc etc. And the reason we cannot look at Genesis is nothing more than a nice story with a moral is that every New Testament doctrine originates in the first 12 chapters of Genesis. Without Genesis 1-12, nothing else in the Word of God matters. It's that big of a deal.

For more on this topic of worldview, check out this post and this post by my fellow writer Charlie Wolcott.