A Christian Nation Once Again

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 30, 2015 0 comments

by Logan Ames

There is a country that was founded on Christian principles by forefathers who were constantly guided by their faith in the Lord and his divine providence. This nation has become morally and spiritually bankrupt over the years and generations as they went away from their foundation little by little. God desires to bless this nation and to cause a giant revival started by his faithful followers that continue living as a bright light even in the midst of the spiritual darkness around them. Someday, this nation will understand that Jesus Christ is Lord, salvation will return, and believers will be too numerous to count. And no, I’m NOT talking about the United States of America. I am talking about the nation of Israel.

I’ve heard too many well-meaning believers talk about our great country as if we have replaced Israel or as if God has promised us the same restoration that he has Israel. Some have come right out and said that “America is the new Israel.” They may have gotten this narrative from older generations in their family or church, but I can assure you that it is absent of truth. I love the United States of America as much as anyone, but it would be arrogant to put our beloved nation on par with Israel regarding their standing with God.

In this week’s passage, Paul reminds us that just because the nation of Israel is currently in a state of disobedience it doesn’t mean God’s plan for them has changed. He writes that Israel is “loved on account of the patriarchs” (Romans 11:28). This refers to the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others in the Old Testament on account of their faithfulness. Every time they obeyed, God promised to bless them and their descendants. The next verse states that “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (11:29). This means we should not think that God has given up on Israel and that America or any other nation has somehow taken its place.

Paul concedes that this is a mystery, but he also states that he does not want his audience to be ignorant of it because it is truth based on God’s words through Isaiah and Jeremiah (Romans 11:25-27). The truth is that “all Israel will be saved” and this will specifically happen once the gospel has been preached to all Gentiles and given them an opportunity to receive salvation (v. 26). But what does it mean that “all” Israel will be saved? Does that mean that every single person of Jewish descent everywhere will be saved regardless of their reaction to Jesus? Or is Paul talking about a “spiritual” Israel that is comprised of those who were “grafted in” based on their faith? I can tell you that the answer to both questions is NO.

We must not assume that Paul is talking about a “spiritual” Israel that would include us and all who believe, because just a verse earlier he is stating that “Israel has experienced a hardening in part” (v. 25). This would not be the case if he were talking about only those who had come to believe. We are not believers while we are still hardened to the gospel. So, if Paul is not talking about his native country in a spiritual sense, then the only alternative is that he is talking about it in a physical or national sense. But the notion that everyone in the physical nation of Israel would be saved also has some problems. Jesus himself, when speaking to a group of Jews who were looking for a way to kill him, stated that they are “doing the works of their own father” (John 8:41), then later stated they “belong to their father, the devil” (v. 44). If Jesus refers to some of the Jews as belonging to the devil, then it’s safe to say that not every single person of Jewish descent will be saved. God allows for free will, and sadly some Jews will reject Jesus as their Messiah even up to their final breath.

The truth about Paul’s statement that “all Israel will be saved” can be found by looking at this quote from biblical scholar F.F. Bruce: “Even as the apostasy of Israel did not extend to every last Jew, so the salvation of Israel will not extend to every last Jew; Paul is speaking of the ‘mass’ of Jews when he says ‘all Israel’. All Israel is a recurring expression in Jewish literature, where it need not mean 'every Jew without a single exception,' but 'Israel as a whole.'” In other words, Israel will once again become a nation that believes in and follows Jesus as the Messiah. Yes, there will still be the ones who choose to reject him despite the revival taking place all around them, but the leaders and the country as a whole will be repentant followers of Jesus Christ.

You may feel like this has nothing to do with you and it may feel very distant. But I want you to ask yourself whether you spend any time praying for and supporting Israel as God’s chosen people who are to proclaim his truth to all nations. Yes, you are an “ingrafted branch” of Israel if you have come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. But that doesn’t change God’s plan for the physical Israel. And we SHOULD care, because God told Abraham from the very beginning, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” (Genesis 12:3). I don’t know about you, but I’d certainly like to receive God’s blessing rather than his curse. Continue to pray for and bless Israel, and pay attention to which potentially elected officials are willing to stand with Israel should they take office. It’s much more important than we may think.

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Paul’s Awesome Doxology

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 29, 2015 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’
‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?’
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.” ~Romans 11:33-36

When I was in seminary, I remember one of our professors saying that theology is like the vegetables of seminary education. It is a necessary evil that does you a lot of good at the end of the day. I agree with the analogy that it is like our vegetables, that it is the most vital part of our spiritual growth, but I also disagree on the note that theology is not enjoyable. I know that many people think that theology is just a bunch of intellectuals talking in circles in hopes that they sound smart, but if you read Romans 1-11, congratulations, you just studied theology! This doxology, or short formal prayer that praises God, is how the apostle Paul chose to end this section, and it is a reflection upon the mind boggling theological truths that came before it. Clearly, Paul finds the theology that we must pass through in order to grow closer to God to be a joy and blessing above all other things.

There is an old Third Day song called Nothing Compares. The chorus simply states, “Nothing compares to the greatness of knowing you, Lord.” To me, this is theology. Theology, although it sounds like a big word, simply means “the study of God.” The study of God is a form of worship. Many people would disagree with me, but the primary reason that the church gathers is to worship God. All of the theology behind worship means nothing if there are no actions behind our words, but the reverse is true as well. All of the good deeds we do our worthless if they are not backed with a strong foundation of good theology and heart-felt worship.

Romans 11:33-36 acknowledges one of the greatest truths about theology: no matter how much reflection and Bible study we might engage in, we will never grasp the fullness of God’s greatness. He is just too awesome for our finite minds to comprehend. This is why I believe that in all of the tough theological issues we have discussed through Romans, we should not get frustrated or angry with one another when we encounter minor differences. The greatest theological minds in history have gotten important parts of theology wrong. Other great theologians had the majority of their facts correct, but they were horrible people. We should enjoy discussing and debating theology with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Having said that, there are points of theology that needed to be contended for more strongly than others, but the bottom line is that the church needs to learn to be more humble in discussing doctrines that do not concern the person of God.

I hope that our discussion of the first 11 chapters of Romans has been a joy and a challenge to everyone. It is difficult to strike a balance that honors the Bible and the Bible alone because we all have our biases. To conclude this post, I find it only reasonable to restate the Scripture from at the top:

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’
‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?’
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

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Romans 11:25-36

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 28, 2015 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:
‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’
‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?’
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:25-36)

Paul is continuing, and wrapping up, his discussion on salvation for the Jews and for the Gentiles here. Earlier in chapter 11, we saw that part of Israel believed in salvation through Jesus, but the rest of Israel’s hearts were hardened. But we saw last week that this is only a temporary condition. Israel rejected the gospel message, so it was taken to the Gentiles. At some point in the future, more of Israel will be saved. For more on this, stay tuned for Logan’s post on Wednesday as he explores this.

In verse 28, Paul starts wrapping up this big section. Israel is God’s enemy because they failed to respond to His calling and His gift of grace. But, some of Israel had already responded, and more will be saved before Christ returns again.

We see in verses 30-31 that both the Jews and the Gentiles were disobedient to God at one time, but that they have both received God’s grace and mercy in spite of their disobedience. Verse 32 further emphasizes that all people will be treated as equals in God’s eyes, whether in their disobedience or by being shown God’s mercy. We, too, are often disobedient to God, but when we put our faith in Him, He will show us mercy.

In verses 33-36, Paul transitions to what’s called a doxology, which is basically just praising God. First, Paul mentions the riches, wisdom, and knowledge of God. The questions of the next two verses echo those characteristics: “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” (knowledge); “Or who has been his counselor?” (wisdom); Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” (riches).

Paul affirms that God is God and we are not, and that He should be praised for who He is. He treats all people equally, whether they disobey or they are shown mercy, and we should all be thankful for God’s character in that.

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Check Your Roots

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, September 26, 2015 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

It takes almost 100 years for an olive tree to produce a regular harvest of good olives. You might see it produce fruit in its first 5-10 years, but your children or grandchildren would be the ones to benefit from the tree. Olive trees are resilient, and the health benefits from their fruit amazing. Grafting was often done to try and accelerate production, or to pair a strong root with high producing varieties of branches.

Grafting can be done several ways, and it is still done today in order to increase health, production, etc. "Cleft grafting" is a type of graft where most, if not all, of the natural branches of an olive tree are cut off about 3 ft above the ground. The trunk is split. Branches of another olive tree, usually younger, are bonded into that split. The old root will supply more substantial support to the branches, and the young branches can produce a harvest greater than they would have by their immature natural root.

I believe this is the type of grafting Paul is mentioning in Romans 11:11-24. Take a moment and read that passage. Then I am going to give you some related thoughts and Bible quotes to explore to help connect the dots on Paul's point.

Did you follow his picture about the olive tree? He is giving an illustration of God's relationship to believers (Jew or Gentile). God is the root, specifically His promise to Abraham (Genesis 12-15), which was and is accomplished through Jesus Christ. (For more on the promise, see this video.)

Jesus himself said, "My father is the gardener… I am the vine you are the branches… apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:1-5). What if John the Baptist was referring to cleft grafting when he said, "produce fruit in keeping with repentance… do not say we have Abraham as our father (root)… the ax is laid at the root of the tree" (Matthew 3:7-10)? John was warning Israel that they had started living and believing in a direction different than what God intended. Jesus was reminding everyone who and where life comes from.

Going back to the Romans passage, notice what Paul says to the new believers from outside of Israel, the Gentiles. He reminds them that they do not support the root; the root supports them. He also reminds them that they too can be cut off if they stop believing, and any Jew who believes can be grafted back in.

These are humbling and encouraging statements. Last week I shared that God graciously holds out hope for anyone to believe; yet He is firm in His dealing with rebellion. God may even intensify rebellion for the sake of others. Here we see Paul saying that is exactly what God did with Israel. In this one picture of how olive trees are cultivated and grafted, Paul provides strong encouragement that no one is beyond hope of coming to faith in Jesus Christ and being added into God's promise. He also provides a strong warning that anyone who becomes arrogant in their position as part of God's promise, who begins to live and grow apart from the will of God, can and will be cut off.

Not everyone will be saved, and not everyone is doomed to be lost. There is ALWAYS hope. And there is ALWAYS consequence for rebellion.

The question for you and me is, are we humbly walking in relationship with God, grateful and eager to do His will? Interceding for those who do not yet know God? Warning those who arrogantly presume they are "in" with God? And constantly drawing our life, strength, perspective, and purpose from the root?

Be encouraged, and be warned. Stay humble and fix your eyes on Jesus. Stay unified with other followers of Jesus. Stay hopeful, and keep your prayers and hands extended toward anyone who is apart from God.

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Attributes of God: Father

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 25, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

One attribute of God that is often not thought of as an attribute is that God is a father. Yes, there is the Father, one of the persons of the Trinity, but I’m not addressing him in particular. What I will be addressing here is the role of a father as we find in God. First, how is this relationship established? We are not biological children. God is not a man. We started out as enemies of God because of our sin. And yet God sought to reconcile us to himself through the cross. But God did not settle for just delivering us from the penalty of sin. He dealt with the problem of sin and he did not stop there; he chose to make us his sons and daughters via the process of adoption.

Adoption, which Paul speaks of, is not quite the same as we understand it today. It is better. He spoke of the Roman adoption system. In Rome, a father had the right to disown a biological son. He could remove the son from his will and literally abandon him. But if a Roman father adopted a son, that bond was unbreakable. A father could not renounce an adopted son, remove him from his will, deny inheritance, etc. And one of the reasons why is because an adopted son is chosen. The father did not have to take that child in. He chose to.

This is what happens between us and God. God chooses to adopt us, despite the fact that we were in rebellion against him. Now we can get into the whole free will/predestination debate here but I’m not going to. The point here is that God has no obligation to adopt us. He’s not required to do that; he does it because he wants to. But he won’t force himself upon us. And once the process is complete, once we are born again, he will not renounce us and undo what he did.

So what does this mean for us? There is a photo of JFK with his young son at the Resolute Desk at the Oval Office. JFK Jr. had a very special privilege while his father was in office. He could go in and out of the Oval Office whenever he wanted. He could interrupt a meeting to be with his daddy. He could do what none of us could do. Why? Because he was the son of the President. And this is the same type of privilege we have with God. We have direct access to the throne of heaven. When we call, God will drop whatever he is doing to be with us and give us his undivided attention. Now that is not fully accurate because God does this with everyone who is his child all at the same time all while not losing his attention on what else is going on, but do you get the picture?

We get to call God Almighty our “daddy.” But there is more to the picture. Let’s say we are in the White House and as we are doing our thing, we break something very valuable. There is a major difference between how the situation will be dealt with and that difference depends on our relationship with the President. If we are an outsider, a mere guest, we would expect to be prosecuted, fined, or even arrested and put before a judge (depending on the case). If we, however, are a child of the President, while we would still be punished, it would be dealt with in house. The same is true with our relationship with God. We still sin, we still break God’s commands. But God deals with us in house. He doesn’t just throw us out into the streets and let us get manhandled by the system. He will discipline us and he will take us behind the shed for a good whooping from time to time, but he doesn’t disown us. If we run off, that’s our business. But seriously consider this: if we are not being disciplined by God, can we honestly say we are his children? None of us are perfect, so we all need that foolishness driven out of us. Are we going through that process? If not, then maybe we really are illegitimate children, living in the home but not legally. Let us examine ourselves and see if we are indeed in the family.

There is more that comes with being in God’s family. Most of us should know that if we live in any home, we are expected to follow the rules and directions of those who own the home. If you are the owner, you get to set the rules. But any child is expected to follow and listen to the instructions of the parents in the home. Any renter is expected to follow and listen to the instructions of the landlord. The same is true when we are adopted into God’s family. God expects us to follow and obey his expectations for how we should live. Now God is not a cruel dictator. Many will claim that is the case because he doesn’t want us just doing what we want. The child who will only do what he wants is in rebellion and in defiance of the authority placed over him. That is the sinful nature in a nutshell: the drive to rule one’s own life. But God’s rules and expectations are not cruel. They are not burdensome. All he expects of us is to lean upon him and depend upon him. He does not expect perfection, though he will work and discipline us towards that goal.

The transition of an adopted child from one home or lifestyle into another is never easy. There is always baggage from the previous home that the parents have to deal with. It’s a challenge for the kid as well. It takes time and incredible patience for an adopted child, especially one that is not a newborn, to adjust to the new home. It’s the same with us. We are so used to living in our sinful lifestyle, in accordance to the way of the world, that when we are born again and adopted into God’s family, we do not instantly live according to God’s principles. It take time and patience to learn it. And that is a process that will continue until the day we die and God takes us to our new home he is building for us. As the famous line goes: “Be patient with me, God’s not finished with me yet.”

Do you know if you are in God’s family? If not, please contact any of the Worldview Warriors blog writers. We would love to talk to you and introduce you to God so you can join the family. God is the King of Kings and the highest authority in the universe and beyond, and he delights in his children. I can say personally, it is beyond awesome to a child of God.

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Joyful Trembling

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 23, 2015 0 comments

by Logan Ames

I’m aware that the title of this post is an oxymoron. How can you be joyful and afraid at the same time? Actually, it might be a little more common than you think. Almost any great professional athlete will tell you that they work hard and play their game because of their love for it and the joy it brings them. At the same time, the ones who play in team sports will talk about the great fear of letting down their teammates or entire cities, fear so great that it caused many of them to vomit before each game. The great Joe Montana once faced the task of driving his team the length of the field in the final minutes of the Super Bowl in order to win it. If he made one big mistake, his team’s chance at a title and entire season would be lost. According to his teammates who were in the huddle with him, just before the drive started Montana huddled with his offense and said, “Hey, is that John Candy over there in the front row?” Obviously, his teammates fed off of his cool, calm, and collected presence in a moment when they were all trembling, and they went the length of the field and scored the winning touchdown. Joe Montana didn’t cower to the fear because he knew the joy of the opportunity.

You may have experienced joy in the midst of trembling when you rode your first roller coaster, proposed to your future spouse, made friends at a new school, or took on some other adventure such as skydiving or bungee jumping. Or maybe you have been somebody that has played it safe all your life and can’t ever seem to take that next big step. If that’s you, comfort becomes your biggest priority every time you are faced with new opportunities to achieve what you want, but you end up feeling like your life has no meaning, purpose, or adventure. God wants to get you out of that comfort zone, but you must be willing to trust him enough to take the risk.

When it comes to salvation and what it means for our lives, so many believers become comfortable or lazy, and that leads them to a level of Christian arrogance that was never modeled by our Savior. In our passage for this week, Paul tells the Gentile believers in Rome, “Do not be arrogant, but tremble” (Romans 11:20b). This is reminiscent of similar words in his letter to the Philippian believers, where he tells them to “continue to work out (their) salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). In other words, we should remember that God saved us because he loved us and because of his incomparable mercy. He didn’t save us because we earned it or so that we could just take it easy and rest in the blessed assurance.

At the same time, working out our salvation with fear and trembling doesn’t mean that we must go and earn something that we can’t. If you look at the larger context of this week’s passage in Romans 11:11-24, you can see that Paul’s whole point is to make sure the believers remember the BLESSING it is to receive the message of salvation through the gospel and to never take it for granted. He reminds these believers that it was because of Israel’s transgression that the message of salvation reached the Gentiles in the first place (v. 11). Evidently, some of these believers were thinking they were superior to the Jews and had even “replaced” them as “branches” on God’s tree. But Paul is using the example of Israel’s unbelief and God’s subsequent breaking them off to show the Gentile believers to whom he is writing that they should not think they can keep living in sin and still receive this blessing. His warning is clear in verse 21: “For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.”

Because most of us did not grow up in Israel or observing their laws given through Moses, we must remember that WE are Gentiles. This passage could be written directly to us. I’ve been to many churches in Ohio and Pennsylvania and several in other states as well. There have been few places where there weren’t at least some people who seemed to think they were doing God a favor by being there and serving. Have you taken that attitude? Do you view your salvation as a blessing, or is it something that God owed you? You may laugh at that question, but I hope you will think more about what is shown through your life and not what you simply think.

Paul told the Gentile believers to consider, “You do not support the root, but the root supports you” (v. 18). In other words, God and his people are not dependent on you. If you choose to walk away, God’s will is still going to be done. Instead, you are dependent on God and his people. This should affect the way you approach other believers, and you should do so with humility and prayer that, if they have fallen away for a time, God brings them back by his grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit. You should not think of yourself better than someone else who is living out their unbelief. God desires that they would come back to him, and he will welcome them back. He may be stern with them when they’ve fallen (verse 22), but it’s an example for you to consider so that you realize his kindness to you and “continue in his kindness” (also verse 22). To me, this is the essence of joyful trembling. We recognize that God could be stern with us and cut us off from his kindness because of our actions, so that gives us a healthy sense of fear. At the same time, we realize that he has shown us kindness far beyond what we deserve, and that brings great joy. We must view ourselves and others in light of that kindness. Knowing his kindness gives us an opportunity to pursue godly living even though we may tremble at our failures. Examine your life and see if you have a healthy balance of joy and fear when it comes to God. If you don’t, I encourage you to dig into his Word to see all the reasons why you should know both.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.


Understanding the Message

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 22, 2015 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”  Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” ~Romans 11:17-21

Romans is considered by many people to be one of the most important books of the Bible. Thus far, my theme throughout this book has been predestination because it is commonly perceived that Romans advocates for a model of predestination that neglects free choice. Romans 9 is the most cited chapter in regards to this idea, and many evangelicals will conclude that it definitely proves that God chooses salvation for us and that we have no say in that decision. What I wonder is what such people think about Romans 11.

A specific doctrine that always goes along with the type of predestination that undermines free choice is commonly called “once saved, always saved.” What this doctrine says is that once you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior you can never lose your salvation. Romans 11:11-24, at the surface, seems to advocate against this doctrine.

It uses the imagery of an olive shoot that has many branches. People who abide in Christ are the branches while Christ himself is the root for all of the branches. The Gentiles are described as unnatural to the original plant, so when they are connected to the root, they did not belong there to begin with. The Jews are the natural branches and some of them have been rejected. Paul warns the Gentiles that if they too are not careful, they can be rejected as well. This is a drastic change in theology from two chapters ago. Is the Bible contradicting itself?

This is a good opportunity to talk about how to read the Bible. Not too long ago I was researching the topics of free will and predestination in relation to the theologies most associated with each concept, Arminianism (most associated with free will) and Calvinism (most associated with predestination). John Wesley, one of the founders of the Wesleyan and United Methodist churches, was a well-known Arminian. When preaching on Romans 9, he stated, “Whatever it means, it cannot mean that.” An Arminian theologian quoted this inside of one of his blogs and immediately found himself being accused of denying Scripture. Is accepting Wesley’s statement denying the clear meaning of Scripture?

First, I would like to refer you to our earlier blog posts on this topic in relation to Romans chapter 9; you can search for them on the right side of this page.

Second, I am of the opinion that Wesley was not denying Scripture at all, but he understood that within its context it might mean something different from what it appeared to be saying. When we choose to take Scripture literally, we need to be cautious to take it literally within its proper context. As a result, I do not believe that Romans 11 contradicts Romans 9 in regards to its theological implications.

Whether you choose to believe a strict model of predestination or believe more so that our salvation is dependent on our free choices, Romans 11:11-24 is not a contradiction so long as we base our theology on the overall message of Romans. Just this weekend a pastor that believes in “once saved, always saved” shared how he cautioned a former member of the congregation from pursuing a life of sin at the threat that he would be putting himself on a pathway to hell. His congregant tried to assure the pastor that he was covered by grace, but he did not buy this man’s concept of cheap grace.

Does Romans 11 teach that it is possible to lose one’s salvation? I have my own thoughts about that, but I do not think I am ready to reveal what they are on this subject. For now I will leave it at this: it is of utmost importance that we abide in Christ. If you do not abide in Christ, you will not be saved on the day of judgment. I know that I am the one who wrote the blog post on the Get Out of Jail Free Card, but hopefully I will have an opportunity to go more in depth with how abiding in Christ relates to predestination, eternal security, and free will. In relation to Romans, I think it all makes a lot more sense after you make it to chapter 12. Hang in there!

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Romans 11:11-24

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 21, 2015 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!
I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.’ Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!” (Romans 11:11-24)

Previously in Romans 11:7, we saw that Israel divided itself into two groups, the elect and those whose hearts are hardened. In the passage we’re looking at this week, Paul shares that this is not the permanent situation. More of the Jews will become believers in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, even though many are rejecting Him now.

The fact that the Jews have rejected Jesus as the Messiah has opened up the door for the Gentiles to hear the salvation message and to believe in it (verses 11-12). When the apostles’ preaching in the Jewish synagogues got rejected, they went elsewhere and began teaching more to the Gentiles. But, this has caused a problem, making the Gentiles to be prideful. They’re rubbing it in the Jews’ faces that they’re the chosen people now. Here, Paul is warning against that pridefulness, reminding the Gentiles in verses 13-14 that they are only saved at all because of God’s grace, not by anything that they have accomplished.

This relationship between the Jews, the Gentiles, and being followers of Christ is a tricky one, so Paul gives a metaphor of a tree to help make it clearer. Go read it in verses 17-24.

In this metaphor, the Jews who believe in Jesus are the natural branches of the tree. They were God’s original chosen people, and the promised Messiah came through their nationality. The Gentiles who believe in Christ are the branches that are grafted onto the tree. God will treat all branches of the tree equally, since they are all branches, whether natural or grafted in. The Jews’ branches aren’t necessarily safe on the tree simply because of their nationality; they are cut off if they don’t accept Christ as Messiah. Similarly, the Gentiles risk being cut off if they remain arrogant and live sinfully. Both the Jews and the Gentiles can be grafted onto the tree when they put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Messiah and Savior.

Where is your branch of the tree? Were you on it at one point, but then got cut off because you rejected God’s salvation for your life? Have you never been grafted onto the tree yet, because you’re unwilling to recognize your need for a Savior? Or are you firmly grafted in place, trusting in Jesus with your entire life? I encourage you to take some time today to figure out where your branch is, and where you’d like it to be. The choice is yours.

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Spoon Fed

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, September 20, 2015 0 comments

by Ami Samuels

In Hebrews 5:13-14 it says, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

When I first became a Christian (twenty plus years ago) my husband and I had a wonderful pastor. He was a Godly man who taught wonderful messages every Sunday morning. We also had the privilege to attend Sunday school class with him. He was not only our pastor but our friend. He married us, was there for the birth of our children, and was a mentor to my husband. God had placed the perfect person in our lives at that time to nurture and teach us the Bible and how to grow in our faith walk.

We learned the true meaning of Hebrews 5:13-14 when our pastor announced that God was calling him to move on to another position. At first we were heartbroken that our pastor and friend would be leaving, but we had to respect and support his decision. A few months after he left, I remember having a conversation with a close friend and sharing with her that, “We need to take what he has been teaching us and apply it in our own lives. We were spoon fed for a while and now it is time to feed ourselves.”

What we watched unfold after he departed was that some of the congregation took his teaching and applied it by developing their own personal relationship with the Lord. These people pursued a daily relationship with God through Bible study and prayer. But we also saw several marriages dissolve, people fall away from the church, and friendships become severed.

This is why I speak so passionately about building our own personal relationship with the Lord. Life changes, people pass away, we may relocate, pastors move on. We need to maintain our personal walk with the Lord no matter what happens in life.

It is certainly important to be taught by others, but our personal relationship is our own and we need to be able to feed ourselves. We won’t get into heaven on our pastor’s faith, or our mother or father’s relationship with the Lord; we are to learn from others and develop our own daily walk with God.

Picture a young toddler in his high chair pounding on his tray, crying out, “Feed me, feed me, feed me, serve me, meet my needs, entertain me!” As we see the progression of a human being go from infant to toddler, from toddler to school age, on and on into adult hood, in each stage there is growth and maturity. This process keeps progressing until the person can take care of themselves.

Don’t get stuck in the spiritual high chair of Christianity, where we are continually depending on others to feed our spirit. As Christians we need to be continually growing and maturing in our faith. It is important to open our Bibles and spend time in prayer, growing our faith and building our relationship with the Lord on a daily basis and learning to spiritually feed ourselves.

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Are We Beyond Hope?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, September 19, 2015 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Have you ever had a discussion with someone who refused to see facts? Have you ever tried to help someone out of a jam, who absolutely saw no connection between their decisions and where they ended up? Have you tried to reason with that person who just insists that 2+2 equals something other than 4?

Ok, some of you who said 'yes' may be parents of teenagers - and yes this may still apply to your situation too.

Read Romans 11:1-10, and pay particular attention to how Paul discusses grace. He uses an example from Israel's history in order to help us understand God's perspective on their current situation. Has God rejected the Jews as a people? No. Has he rejected the rest of us as a people? No. God's grace causes Him to extend the opportunity for us to see the truth of our situation and to enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

His grace also allows us to reject the opportunity. We cannot earn His love and restoration; it is GIVEN by His grace. We can, however, reject it. And when we do, what happens?

A number of years ago, I counseled a young man who liked to argue and fight. He would get angry with someone over the slightest offense, and 90% of the time the offense was created by his imagination more than reality. When I would sit down with him and try to draw out the poison, it would a take an exhausting amount of effort and graciousness to sift through the bitter twists and turns of his perceptions - to get to the root of where it began. Usually, the beginning of the offense was as simple as a comment taken wrong, or a look from across the room that was perceived as condescending. Eventually, even my counsel was rejected in favor of the delusions, and I was added to the list of people he chose not to trust.

From perceived offense, to anger and defensiveness, to complete rejection of relationship, is a quick progression when someone refuses to consider facts in context and rejects the sincerity of someone's friendship. Once mistrust settles in, regardless of how it started, it becomes like hardened stone inside of us. We continually layer on more reasons and justifications for why we are right to be offended and against that person or situation. This, to me, is the process of our hearts hardening. It can happen in relationships, in politics, in religious worldviews, in social media, basically anywhere and with anything or anyone. It is what I believe is being described by Paul in verses 7-10: the hardening, the blindness, the trap.

If you read the context of the quote in verses 7-8, you will see what I mean. Paul quotes from Isaiah 29:10 and shares the end result of what happened to those who rejected God. The previous verses in that chapter tell us how they got to that result. God graciously offered and held out hope for them to draw near to Him, trust Him, and live according to His ways. And they consistently gave lip service to what was good, while doing whatever they wanted. They persisted in rejecting God no matter how He graciously warned them or counseled them. And then the passage says, "He gave them a spirit of stupor," blindness and deafness to what was really true. Paul calls this "God hardening them," or hardening their hearts.

It would be easy to say, "It's not my fault" if God randomly hardened some people's hearts against Truth and only let certain others be receptive to it. But it seems clear that God does not randomly harden a heart. He will allow us to become resolved in our rebellion and face the full consequences. God's grace offers Truth, freedom, and life to those willing to receive it. (It is offered even to the rebellious.)

As I discussed last week, God holds out hope for those who might yet accept Him, and He persistently extends grace. He also allows rebellion to bring consequences. And He may even intensify rebellion, in those who resist all hope of believing, in order to help others believe.

Take some time and reflect on these questions:
Am I living by what is true, or am I convincing myself of what I think is true?
Where is my heart hardened against God or something I disagree with in the Bible?
Is anyone beyond hope for God's grace?
Are there people or groups I have no hope for?

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Attributes of God: Faithful

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 18, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Have you ever made a promise and failed to keep it? Or has someone made a promise to you and failed to follow through? It is not a pleasant thing. Some of us may think it is not a big deal because everyone has done it as one point or another. But keeping your word, keeping your promises, is a much bigger deal than we think.

Our word is representative of who we are, it reveals our character. When we keep our word, people can trust us. When we don’t, not many will. If our word is not trustworthy enough, we often appeal to an authority that is respected and honored by both parties. Such a vow not only puts your character on the line, but also the image of that higher authority. So when that authority, if it recognizes the vow, sees it is not fulfilled, that authority will deal with the issue.

But did you know God makes vows as well? Throughout all of Scripture, we see numerous promises that God makes. But God has no higher authority to appeal to because he is the highest authority. If he wasn’t, he would not be God. So when God makes a promise, he must appeal to himself. And with that appeal, everything that describes God is put on the line. All the attributes I have described so far are put to the test when God makes his vows. And for God to not lie, for him to not change, for him to remain the standard of truth, he must fulfill those promises. And he does.

That can be both reassuring and terrifying. Many of us love to quote the promises of peace and protection and deliverance, and it is not a bad thing to have those on our minds. That being said, let us not forget that God makes other promises as well. He promises prosperity and peace when we obey him statutes, but he promises curses and problems when we don’t. So often, when we get into trouble we pray for God to get us out of it, but it does not take a thorough reading of the Old Testament history to see that many times the trouble we get into is our own fault and God is going to let it run its course. Many of the prophets say this as well. And God delivers.

When he lets us fall into trouble, it is not to be a mean judge. It is meant to get us to realize what we did to put us in that position and to stop doing that. Let us not be deceived. God is not mocked. A man will reap what he sows. Many of God’s promises will take place whether we directly follow him or not. There are many non-believing CEO’s that read Proverbs and apply the principles in a completely secular manner, and they succeed because they follow what God has ordained. The rain falls on the just and the unjust and God is not a respecter of persons. He doesn’t treat different peoples or different groups specially because they have some kind of title or privilege. That being said, he does not reject anyone just because of their background or because of some “earned merit.” He honors obedience and curses disobedience. And he does not change.

What are some of the promises God gives us? For us as Christians, he made a few specific promises to those that preach his Kingdom. Jesus said we would encounter trouble and persecution; he never said it would be easy. But he also promised the strength, the grace, and the words to say when we need to say them. He promised he would never leave us or forsake us. And in 22 years of missions experience not including what I am doing now, I can testify that he did not break his word.

But what about those who leaned on him and depended on him to do something significant like save a loved one from cancer? This was the case for the atheist professor in the movie God’s Not Dead. He used to be a Christian (so he claimed) but God did not save his mother when he was a child and he hated God ever since. Was God unfaithful and failed to come to the rescue of those who called on him?

Read back on my post on God’s sovereignty. I cannot answer such a question because I don’t have all the answers. I don’t see the overall big picture. But I do know this: God was there ready to comfort those who suffered the loss. Was God responsible for said person’s death? Again, there are factors that none of us know and only God knows. But consider this: was there a promise that God would spare the person? Or was that just an expectation built on an emotional response? I’ll be honest, none of us want our loved ones to die. Nothing wrong with that. But if reality does not meet our emotional desires, does that mean God is at fault? No it doesn’t.

But what about when God does give us a specific promise? The apostle Paul knew he was to go to Rome. And nothing was going to stop him, including beatings, shipwreck, or even a snakebite. I’m not sure he envisioned he would get there in chains, but he was going to get there. Jesus was so confident of his calling that during a storm he slept. While the disciples were panicking, Jesus had no fear. He walked straight through crowds trying to kill him. Until the time for his crucifixion arrived, he could not be touched. Some of the great missionaries had this type of audacity where they knew their mission and absolutely nothing was going to get in their way to get that done. Some avoided shipwreck, other escaped torture and rape, others endured poison. Two of my friends were in Thailand on a mission trip and some gunmen came to their hotel to shoot them. They hit the wrong room (the clerks revealed later that my friends were the target).

God does not change. He does not lie. He holds true to his word and he will see it through. Let us walk in the center of his will. When we do that, we will see him come through. But remember, even if we don’t follow him, God is still faithful and he will deliver the judgment he promised for sin. He will delay that judgment as long as he can, but we have no promises on how long that will be. Trust God. He is trustworthy. There is none more reliable and more dependable than he. And the one promise that is more valuable than any other he has made is his promise that those who have been born again will join him in paradise. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have, and because God is faithful and because he does not change, I have the assurance that I will be in heaven after my time here on earth is up, not because of anything I have done, but because of what Christ has done. You can have that assurance as well. Will you trust God?

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The Lord is My Strength

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, September 17, 2015 0 comments

by Steve Risner

Ever think about how muscles work? Ever wonder what makes them contract? It’s a very complex and very interesting action that I hope to share with you today. It’s really pretty amazing stuff we take for granted. Even a rudimentary understanding of the inner workings of our bodies exposes the naivety of belief in Darwinian evolution, in my opinion.

There are three types of muscle tissue in the human body: skeletal, smooth, and cardiac. Skeletal muscles are all the muscles you have that help you move. You voluntarily control these for the most part. You have 640 of them, on average, in your body (meaning 320 pairs since we are essentially symmetrical side to side). These muscles vary greatly in their size, length and strength but they all have the same ability: they can get shorter. Ever consider that’s all your muscles are good for? They just can make themselves shorter. How they do this is pretty fantastic. Let me explain.

Skeletal muscles, the muscles that move your arms and legs for example, are made of long cylindrical tubes that stretch from one end of the muscle to the other. These tubes are filled with proteins called actin and myosin. Actin and myosin have a very interesting relationship. What happens between them during muscular contraction is the magic that makes muscles get shorter. Let’s follow this process from start to finish once so you can see just how complex and intricate this process is.

You begin a muscular contraction in your mind. You think, “I’d like to move my arm to pick up that pen.” So your brain determines in nanoseconds what muscles would be necessary for this action and recruits them to do the work. Your brain then sends a nerve impulse down the spinal cord to a spinal nerve which travels out of the spine to the muscles you need to do this task. That impulse is an electrical signal generated by the brain that travels, in some cases, up to six or more feet to reach the muscle on the other end of it at speeds near 120 m/s (270 mph)! Fast enough? Once the impulse reaches the end of the nerve, we need a way for that nerve to interact with the muscle fiber it “talks” to. There is actually no direct connection between the nerves and the muscle. There is a tiny space called a synapse here that chemicals travel across. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are released by the nerve cell and attach to specific places on the muscle fibers where they cause a very special reaction to take place. This neurotransmitter causes ATP, which I’ve discussed in earlier writings, to attach to a myosin filament. I’ll leave at least half the details out so the overwhelm of information isn’t too excessive.

This is where the exciting stuff happens. This is where actin and myosin interact. Let me share an analogy with you to set the stage. Say you’re in a rowboat on a lake. You would like to travel across that lake using the oars. What would you do? You set your oars in the water and pull hard. When you reach the end of the stroke, you pull the oars out of the water, push them back up front, and reset them in the water where you create another stroke. You would do this over and over again until you reached the other side of the lake. This is very similar to how the actin and myosin in your muscles works. Myosin is the oar. Myosin consists of a series of heads that, at least in artistic renditions, resemble a golf club. But the heads of these clubs ratchet back and forth. As they attach to the actin, they all pull in one direction, creating a shortening of the muscle fiber. They then release the actin, reposition themselves, and contract again. This is just like our rowboat analogy. ATP is used over and over again to create what is known as a ratcheting affect, shortening the muscle fiber and creating a muscle contraction. Clear as mud, right? This video is done well and vividly demonstrates this. Keep in mind that simulation is VERY slow compared to reality.

This is what happens each time you contract your muscles. But how do your muscles grow or gain strength? Believe it or not, as you begin to exercise, initially, the majority of your improved strength comes from your nervous system. It has less to do with the muscle fibers getting stronger and more to do with what is called recruitment. This is how many muscle fibers in a muscle a nerve stimulates at one time and how well. Over time, with loading the muscle fibers, they will increase in size. This is done by adding more fibers or adding to the size of existing fibers. It’s pretty fascinating to think of how well built a living thing is. The design inference is incredible.

It’s important to remember, I think, that our real source of strength is Jesus Christ. When we realize and accept our weakness, He is able to perform powerful things using us. In our own strength, we can accomplish little and nothing of eternal value. I would still recommend working out spiritually. Study His Word. Spend time with Him in prayer (which is as much a listening time as a speaking time). Find a church body to be committed to and get involved. The church has a lot of muscle, though we’ve chosen for decades to hide it. Let’s wake up and flex a little.

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What's Your Story?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 16, 2015 0 comments

by Logan Ames

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Those words, like the Book of Romans, were written by the Apostle Paul. Just a few verses earlier, Paul wrote to Timothy that he “was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (v. 13) before he received grace, love, and faith in Jesus (v. 14). Evidently, Paul spent some time thinking about why God would take someone like him and not only bring him to faith, but also give him such a big responsibility of taking the gospel message he received to “the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). You can see in Acts 8 and 9 how bent Paul was on destroying the church and opposing the name of Jesus before he was converted on the road to Damascus. He was literally on a mission to a foreign city to persecute more Christians when Jesus revealed himself to Paul and then declared to Ananias how Paul would be used for the kingdom. Paul hated the name of Jesus and was zealous in his attempts to persecute those who followed him, but God saved him anyway and gave him a new purpose.

There was more to Paul’s story than just being an incredibly angry, violent, and just all around bad man. He was born a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-27). We are not told how this happened for sure, but it is likely that his parents or grandparents were granted citizenship as a reward for some service they provided or loyalty they had toward Rome. Ethnically speaking, however, Paul was a Jew, and he was raised with a very strict adherence to the law (Philippians 3:5-6). Having connections to both the Jews and the Romans gave Paul unique opportunities to share the gospel message in ways that not everybody could. He knew the pitfalls of works-centered righteousness and arrogant religion. He understood the hearts of the Jewish leaders and Pharisees because he had been in their shoes. When they were set on killing him, he was able to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11) as a Roman citizen. While he remained in prison, this gave him the opportunity to testify about Jesus before guards, a commander, two governors, and King Herod Agrippa - and that was all before he even made it to Rome!

I share all of this with you about Paul because of what he explains in this week’s passage, Romans 11:1-10. He understands that based on what he had just shared at the end of chapter 10, some might wonder if God had completely rejected and abandoned the people of Israel across the board. Paul says that if that were true, he would have also been rejected. He reminds his audience of his Jewish heritage and explains that he is part of the remnant that God has reserved by grace. If it’s by grace, then it can’t be by works (verse 6), which means the Jews who are still trying to earn righteousness through obedience to the law are not part of that remnant. As I shared above, Paul went from persecuting Christians alongside those individuals to joining the ranks of the persecuted. When you experience that level of a transformation, you are bound to have some people that are very angry with you. They won’t understand how you could change to the point you are going 180 degrees the other way. When you go back and try to share with them the truth, which exposes the lies you used to believe and which still hold them captive, you’ll likely be viewed as a traitor and possibly even a hypocrite.

The consequences that Paul experienced as a result of his repentance and subsequent obedience to Jesus did not deter him from using his “story” to share the gospel message with those who so desperately needed to hear it. In fact, it was a simple calculation. In view of eternity, the consequences for both Paul and those to whom he was sent if he cowered in fear and did not share the gospel would far outweigh the suffering he endured for the name of Christ. Paul would eventually die as a man hated by many, yet content in knowing that he had “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). His focus was on the hope, peace, and freedom found only in a relationship with Jesus, but his “story” allowed him unique opportunities to share it by his words and his deeds.

What is your “story”? What are the things that have happened in your life that give you opportunities to share the gospel that are unique to YOU? God does not celebrate our sins and we never should either. But the greatness of God is that he uses even our past mistakes and the depths from which he redeemed us as parts of our story. I have a very good friend whom God saved from his drug and alcohol addiction and who still gets to interact with some of the very people with whom he used to engage in those behaviors. I may be able to teach them the gospel message and even use some things from my own life that apply, but I haven’t walked in their shoes like my friend has. He risks their persecution to share with them what God has done in his life and the hope and freedom from addiction that he has thanks to Jesus.

Here comes some more truth: YOU still have a story even if you weren’t a drug addict, violent abuser, drunk, adulterer, or career criminal. No matter who you are, you’re a sinner. But you are more than that. You’re from a family that has some conflict and dysfunction. You experienced tragedies. You hurt others who were innocent and were hurt when you were innocent. You have skills and abilities that are unique. You might even have multiple ethnic groups to whom you are connected. I have another friend who leaves tomorrow with his wife to go back to India. My friend grew up in a Hindu family, came to America in search of a business administration degree, then found Jesus instead (he, of course, would say that Jesus found him and that’s true but my sentence sounds better the other way). As he has grown in his faith, asked God for a purpose, and married a woman who is committed to the Lord, he is using his “story” to go back and share Jesus in his home country. He is aware of the dangers, but he is much more concerned about the eternal danger that so many Hindus may be unaware that they are facing.

My two friends who are clearly using their stories to share the gospel message are inspiring to me. They motivate me to consider the uniqueness of where I have been, what I have done, and what took place in my family and home growing up. How can I use my story to serve the Lord and share the gospel? What was God planning for my life all those years ago that is just now becoming obvious? Ask yourself those same questions and commit the answers to the Lord.

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Lord of the Light and the Ringer of Truth

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 15, 2015 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” ~Romans 11:5-6

Have you ever seen The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers? I am not as hardcore as those who have read the books but I think that it is an incredible movie that does an excellent job of portraying the turning point in the battle for Middle Earth. The humans, from Rohan, hunker down at Helm’s Deep to defend themselves against a massive army of Uruk-hai, a race of orcs that is far superior than your average orc. Not only do the humans face the threat of the Uruk-hai, but the White Wizard Saruman has convinced the country people that their land has been unjustly taken from them by other humans. This remnant of humans has very few warriors among them and the odds of the final battle of this film are staggering. But our heroes have stumbled across something that has given them hope.

Their friend Gandalf, once a grey wizard, had become a white wizard. He was once thought to be dead but had briefly returned to them and assured them that he would be there when they needed him. Before the battle started, they were surprised that a small army of elves had decided to join their cause, greatly affecting the tide of the battle. The sheer numbers of the orcs was too great, however, and all seemed lost. In faith, the heroes rode out to the battlefield in one final charge and they remembered what Gandalf had told them. He appeared with the rising sun and an army of the finest warriors followed him. They conquered the Uruk-hai and saved the day.

There are times when the world seems like a dark place. Recently, we have been given the impression that many Christians have traded genuine faith for political correctness. In times like these, we refer to Scriptures that remind us of the end times, the judgments that are to come, and the return of Christ. These are very good things, but I think this tendency comes more from our desire to see justice than an innate sense that the end is near. In other words, despite our dark times, I am optimistic.

The times are only as dark as our light is dim. If the times appear dark it is because the light is not shining. I appeal to the old song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!” The assurance we have through the Bible is that the darkness cannot overcome the light. Paul, in Romans, assures us that there is always going to be a remnant and uses the story of Elijah to reassure us of that. Why did he use this story?

After defeating the prophets of Baal, Elijah’s life was threatened by the queen and it seemed as though no one had his back. If there were other believers in Israel, why were they not standing up, pleading the cause of Elijah, and standing for the Word of God? He probably felt like the people of Rohan right before the legion of elves came to their aid. Before that, it had seemed like everyone had abandoned them and that they were on their own. Likewise, God reminded Elijah that he was reserving 7,000 people for himself out of the people of Israel who would not bow to false idols. 7,000 may not have been a lot of people, but it was a lot more than one against the world.

Not only did God reassure Elijah of the remnant of 7,000, he also provided him with a good friend who became his disciple, Elisha. Quickly, Elijah saw the turning of the tide. It became clear that as they gathered together that even just the two of them were able to outshine the darkness. When Elijah was taken to heaven, Elisha carried on Elijah’s ministry and did many more remarkable things during his own ministry.

We have all had our moments of darkness. For my family, it often takes the form of wondering how on earth we are going to pay our bills. But God provides. When I look out into the world and see the cloud of darkness looming over the church, I think to myself that nothing can change what the devil has accomplished and that maybe it is just better to hunker away and ignore the church. But that would be hiding our light under a bushel when we need to let it shine!

If you have not seen The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, I highly recommend that you give it a viewing. Sure, that requires setting aside 3 hours of your busy day, but it is well worth it. My favorite scene in the whole movie is when Gandalf appears on the hill with the Riders of Rohan. The Uruk-hai gather at the bottom of the hill, spears pointing up to impale the horses and the riders as they sprint down the hill. As the riders begin their epic charge, the sun peaks over the hill just enough to blind the Uruk-hai and the riders leap over the spears, Gandalf leading on his white horse, and route the enemy. They were vastly outnumbered, but this scene reminds us that the darkness is helpless when confronted with the light.

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Romans 11:1-10

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 14, 2015 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me’? And what was God’s answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:
‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.’
And David says:
‘May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.’” (Romans 11:1-10)

As is common in Paul’s writing style, here he continues with a series of rhetorical questions and answers. In the previous passage, he explained how the Jews have no excuse to not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, yet many of them are having a hard time accepting righteousness by faith instead of living by the law like they had all their lives. Here, Paul even goes back to the beginning of chapter 9 where he explains to the Jews that they’re not automatically saved simply by having Abraham as their ancestor.

Is a person excluded from salvation simply because they’re a Jew? Definitely not! Paul shares in verse 1 how he is most definitely a Jew, even sharing his heritage. He is a believer in Jesus Christ, so other Jews can be as well. God has not rejected Israel; it is Israel who has rejected God by not recognizing His plan for salvation through Jesus Christ. God foreknew His people (verse 2), meaning that He chose them ahead of time (see Romans 8:29 for more on this).

Also in verse 2, Paul references a “passage about Elijah” that his readers would have been familiar with. The passage he’s referring to is from 1 Kings 19:1-18. King Ahab had attacked and killed God’s prophets, and Ahab’s wife Jezebel threatens the prophet Elijah with death as well. Elijah runs away to the desert afraid, but God comforts him by telling Elijah that God is still working out His plan for Israel. Elijah was living in a time where many people did not believe in God. Paul references this story because he feels like he’s going through a similar circumstance, since so many of the Jews did not yet believe. Paul finds hope through Elijah’s story, that God is still working out His master plan for all of His people, both Jews and Gentiles.

In verse 5, Paul goes on to explain how those who are saved are chosen by grace. Israel can’t claim salvation anymore simply because they’re God’s chosen people and they follow God’s laws (verse 6). They sought after the law of righteousness but they could not obtain it, because no mere human being is perfect (see Romans 9:30-31).

The Jews are essentially dividing themselves into two groups: those who are in the elect and are saved by grace, and those whose hearts are hardened (verse 7). We, too, are divided into these two groups by our own choosing. We all have the opportunity to experience salvation by grace, but it is our choice whether or not we recognize Jesus as our savior and accept that grace, or not. Which do you choose?

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Follow the Leader

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, September 12, 2015 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Ok, its already all over the news. I am going to jump in, because we are seeing this week's Bible passage play out in real time.

Read Romans 10:16-21, then follow the trail Paul gives you by reading the scriptures he quotes in verses 19-21. Be sure to read their context - the verses before and after. (I strongly encourage you to read all the verses of Isaiah 65 not just the two Paul quotes here.)

These verses describe Israel's rebellion and their denial of God, even as God constantly reached out to them. He made sure they heard His promise of rescue and restoration from our sin. He extended grace for them to hear and believe that He sent Jesus as the fulfillment of that promise. And they remained obstinate, even aggressively rejecting and redefining their own teachings and beliefs to avoid admitting what God had done. And yet God held out, and still holds out, hope for those who will hear the Truth and believe.

Israel's rebellion was and is a human problem. Our own rebellion in America is identical. When those who break the law with judicial activism, support contempt orders and jailing of a clerk who is upholding what is still congressional and constitutional law, we really are on the verge of becoming a lawless nation, driven by desire, avarice, and ignorance.

Under what dually passed law should these licenses be issued? Great question, since there was no law passed by Congress whereby restraint or permission is supported. (The supreme court has no power to create law, even by re-interpretation.) And yet social media threads are filled with people arguing and justifying their opinions of what should happen to Kim Davis, and what "the law of the land" is.

Like it or not, Democrat Clerk Kim Davis is actually upholding the law and exposing the illegal judicial activism happening in our time. Ironically, those who seek to destroy her position by declaring her a criminal are actually revealing their own conviction to dismantle the Constitution and the laws that govern our country.

Think about it and look carefully at the facts. Due process of creating a law is being ignored. Amendments of the Constitution are being ignored and criminalized (free speech, religious freedom, etc). Vitriolic rhetoric has replaced reason, common sense, respect, and mutually beneficial discourse. If we are not a nation in rebellion against one another, I don't know what we are.

The saddest part is that we are not just in rebellion with one another. We are not just imploding morally and decaying into vicious opportunistic factions against each other. The path we are on (even for many Christians) is one of rebellion against God in order to define our lives the way we want to.

If you are still reading at this point, thank you. You are truly listening and not caught up in the reactive, vapid, cauldron of opinionating all over one another. So, please consider this from this week' passage. Romans 10 and Isaiah 65 are linked in how Paul is explaining God's perspective on Israel - and on us. As you read both passages together, you may be challenged. Even in the middle of outright rejection and attack, God does three things that followers of Christ need to firmly adjust our perspectives with.

First, God holds out His promise and stays present. He stays engaged in loving and speaking the Truth in love. (faithfulness)

Second, He allows the rebellious to experience the full consequences of their actions. (consistency/justice)

Third, He holds out hope and persistently searches for those few who may wake up and realize the Truth. (mercy/grace/hope)

In the middle of the turmoil of our culture, are you grounded in God's love and grace, so that you can have the same attitude as He does? Hold on. Hang in there. And follow His lead.

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Attributes of God: Immutable

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 11, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

One of the most important attributes and characteristics of God is that he is immutable, that is, he does not change. God does not change. Let me repeat that: God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And it is this fact that he does not change is what allows us to depend on him.

Take a moment to read Hebrews 6:17-19. The context of this passage is talking about the promise made to Abraham, that through him all peoples will be blessed. This passage also references that when a man makes a vow he will appeal to a greater authority. This provides the person receiving the promise that if it is broken, they can appeal to that higher authority to see it is done. But how can God make a vow then if he must appeal to a higher authority? The answer is this: he appeals to himself. When God makes a vow, everything that makes God “God” is put on the line. Pay attention to Hebrews 6:18. It is impossible for God to lie.

Many skeptics complain about the character of God being used to define Truth, because that makes the standard arbitrary to what God says. The problem with this position is that such an idea places the standard of truth upon themselves which is… arbitrary. The difference between God being the standard and man being the standard is that God does not change. God’s character does not change and he does not lie, therefore his standards do not change.

One of the most annoying things when dealing with business or politics is the changing of policies. We learn one system on how to fill out papers and then on what seems to be a whim, they change the whole system without letting anyone know until after the fact. It’s extremely frustrating when the system changes on you. College students hate it when the degree plan changes on them and they have to take a whole new set of classes or a number of the classes they took were for naught. Now there are understandable changes because of a flaw found in the system, but especially when politics is involved, some changes have nothing to do with fixing flaws in a system. More often than not, they create more flaws than fix them. But God does not do that, because he does not change.

With God we can rely on him and depend upon him. We know that he does not make a law and then without purpose make it totally different. Wait! What about the Mosaic Law and the Law of Grace? Did not Jesus do away with many of the laws in the Old Testament? Didn’t God change at that point? Actually, no, he didn’t.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” What many of us do not see is that the Law of Grace was always there. It was not something new. It was always there. It was always part of God’s plan from the very beginning. He did not have Plan A, realized that mankind blew it, and come up with Plan B. No, he had Plan A from the very beginning. This is why Paul says Christ was crucified from the foundations of the earth. Before God even created everything, Jesus dying on the cross was part of the plan from the beginning.

Now before I go further, I want to make it clear that when we say “God does not change,” we are talking about his character, his personality. There are plenty of cases one can make of God changing his mind, but when he does, he does so in accordance to his never-changing character and he does so without lying. When the Israelites rebelled at Mt. Sinai and built the golden calf, God told Moses he would destroy them all and start over with Moses. That was consistent with his character of justice. But when Moses interceded for them, he relented, consistent with his character of mercy. God offered mercy to Sodom and Gomorrah. He spared Nineveh when they repented. It seems contradictory but God plays role of both loving Father and criminal judge. To be loving, he must enforce the law he gave. At the same time, he must also enforce the promises he made. That enforcement of promises is what we call faithfulness, which I will discuss next week.

So what does it mean for us that God is immutable, that he does not change? It means we can take solace in him. It means we can take shelter in him and we know he will sustain us through the storm. It means when God tells us we need to do something, he will come through and see that it will get done. It means we have an anchor that tells us precisely where we are in the ocean of life. It also creates boundaries that defines what we can do and where we should not go.

I have heard it said that if you take a group of kids and put them in a fenced playground, they will take full advantage of the area given. But if you put them in an unmarked area, generally, they will play for a little bit but then tuck themselves closer to the point where they were ‘set loose’ because they don’t know what they are allowed to do or not. Yes, some will wander far out, but it is easily seen that as humans, we need structure. We need rules and boundaries. That is not to limit us, but to give us a sense of identity. Frank Peretti took his time showing how this concept works in his book Piercing the Darkness. In this book, the main character, Sally Roe, spent much of her life living as she wanted and teaching others to live without boundaries, but as she encounters Christians for the first time, she is pointed to Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible. But Psalm 119, of its 178 verses, only two of them do not have some reference to God’s orders, his instructions, his laws, or his precepts. Take time to read this chapter. It is God’s laws that not only tell us who we are and where we are, they also give us the freedom to do far greater and more things than we could without.

God does not change. He is not the author of confusion. He says what he said, and meant what he said. He said it so it could be understood, followed, and lived. He knows how to communicate the same word to all peoples of all times of all languages. We can trust him and count on him to be the same tomorrow as he has been throughout all of history.

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I Have Issues

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, September 10, 2015 0 comments

by Steve Risner

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous one is here, and the next one is here.]

A major problem with theistic evolution, in my opinion, is that they take the humanistic/secularist idea of Darwinian evolution and try to incorporate Almighty God into it. Biblical creationists have, for decades, taken solid scientific information and incorporated it into our origins model. Do you see the difference? Starting with man's idea and trying to find a place for God in it is backwards. We take God's idea and see how man's observations of nature can be incorporated to fit with that. After beginning with the wrong starting point (man's ideas on origins), the theistic evolutionist will take God and distort His very clear Word to allow for the possibility of universal common descent. For me, the starting point should always be God and His Word. We then see what we can make of the world around us—naturally, philosophically, culturally, politically, morally, etc. We should never start with the word of man in his ever fallen state and trust him to show us truth without God as his foundation.

This week, I'm taking a small break from the blog post by Tyler Francke he calls “10 Theological Questions No Young-earth Creationist Can Answer.” The subject for today will be theistic evolution, which is in line with the series connected to that blog post, but I will not be addressing any of his erroneous claims this week. I felt like a brief intermission was appropriate. We can take advantage of this time to make some general statements about theistic evolution and why it doesn't hold water on a variety of levels and for a variety of reasons. The first, and what I think is the most important, I've already stated in my opening paragraph—they start with man's ideas and try to see how they can incorporate God into it rather than taking God's Word and seeing how our observations can fit with it.

I also find that it's a little disturbing that God is reduced to a gap filler in the story of theistic evolution. He's not the Almighty God who is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. According to 1 Corinthians 8:6, “There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” In the theistic evolution account, we have “nature” doing whatever it does until it finds a bump in the road. At this point, God, who has been off in the corner not really doing much, gets involved and moves the process forward. In fact, I'm not sure God has much to do with the story at all apart from creation ex nihilo and putting a spirit within man whenever it was that He decided man had evolved enough to acquire such a privilege. He may have been involved in the primordial soup that spawned life, but that depends on who you talk to. Where else is God needed in this story? God is reduced to an explanation when none is possible according to naturalism. The God of the Bible is unimaginably amazing and huge and powerful and He's desperately in love with His creation and is intimately involved in it. This, to me, seems contrary to what we hear from those who want to meld their belief in evolution from a single common ancestor with the Bible. We also find that God, who is described as love in the Bible, created everything “very good” (and this being in relation to Himself—the only appropriate standard by which He would make such a statement) so it could rely on death, struggle, mutation, disfigurement, and disease as well as a variety of other unlovely things to progress. Death is not the result of sin. It's the mechanism He chose to make His creation better. Seems rather odd to me.

God's Word is called into question in the version painted by theistic evolutionists. I say this because the book of Genesis is written in a teaching/historical form called didactic form. This means the context and writing style indicate the author intended it to be taken literally. There's no way around this if we're honest. So if this is the case that the book is written as though it was historical, giving us names of people and places, giving us biological and astronomical and chronological details that can be traced, but the story is nothing more than a mythical account for us to learn something important about God, this calls God's integrity into question, as well as His ability to communicate. Why does every mention of the creation account in the Bible seem to reflect the author believed it to be a literal historical account? God based our week of 6 days and a Sabbath on a story that wasn't true? He retold the story in Exodus saying, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Since, according to the theistic evolutionist (and the old earth creationists as well), the meaning of the word “day” can mean all sorts of things, I wonder what they think this verse means. What's a day in this text? How do they know? The fact is that there is nothing anywhere in Scripture that would lead us to take the creation account as anything but a factual, historical report. There are such glaring inconsistencies in their theology, and in their logic, that it's unbelievable to me that anyone holds to this sort of idea. Perhaps I’m just not smart enough to get it.

It also seems striking that sin is exceptionally deluded in the theistic evolutionist's worldview. Man is born into a sinful nature. Why? Because of a mythical person that disobeyed God? Come now. That would mean Jesus, the one who made a way for this problem to be corrected, was also mythical and we all believe in nothing real. It also seems strange that the first man (whoever this was) that God breathed into, giving him a spirit, all of sudden had a code of conduct his father didn't have. Before man was somehow created in God's image, he was like the animals—with no ability to sin. But after he was made in God's image, he had the option to sin. Does that make sense? Was this first human being given a spirit at his birth? Was it later on in his life? How do we know? The Bible is no help here.

And, speaking of the Bible, whenever a new scientific theory, idea, finding, or what have you is announced, the Bible will need to be reinterpreted for the theistic evolutionist. What an awful place to anchor your theology. The sifting sand that is the ever-changing but currently popular idea of society is not a sure foundation. The Bible, solid and trustworthy, is where I would encourage you to begin building the foundation for your worldview. The theistic evolutionist makes many claims about this, but their theology shows us differently.

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