Dr. Strange and American Spirituality

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 3 comments

by David Odegard

I viewed Dr. Strange last week and it is my new favorite Marvel movie. (Do they have all the money in Hollywood yet?) This movie does illustrate very well the “mythos” of contemporary culture. Let me explain what I mean by mythos. Mythos is the stories that convey our values to one another. It is a way to exaggerate the human condition or human problems and the solutions. Superman, for example, illustrates a value that we all hold to be universally true: justice. Superman is all about justice for all. No one has real supernatural powers like flight or laser vision, but we do believe in the justice that Superman represents. The myth of Superman conveys who we are or how we want to be. One can see how important Superman was to the WWII generation who were fighting against Hitler to save the world.

Dr. Strange is a myth that conveys our values, too. The movie provides an excellent commentary on America’s transition from modernity to post-modernity, atheism to an unguided spirituality.

Dr. Strange is a highly skilled surgeon, the top of his field. He is a genius, witty, rich, and possesses a pair of incredibly skillful hands, but is quite low in compassion, humanity, and wisdom. He is the personification of modern man. This part of the myth is a commentary on what is good and bad about our modern life. Why is it that we possess such technology that we can communicate with anyone on earth in real time, we are only hours away from any spot on earth, but we still have so much tragedy and suffering? For all of our abilities, we still are not very compassionate.

Dr. Strange learns this for himself after he has an accident that ruins his hands (this is as close to a spoiler as I get, but it happens within the first 15 minutes, so we’re cool). He spends all of his money to no avail. He calls on other surgeons to help, but everyone says there is no way that he can be made well and no one is willing to risk their own reputation to help him—just like Dr. Strange has acted. Finally, out of desperation he turns to a mystic source of healing.

He confronts a mystic healer and says, “I don’t believe in Chakras and all that crap.” Dr. Strange only believes in the material universe—just like a good atheist. But he is confronted by the reality of a spiritual universe.

At this point, Dr. Strange throws away his atheism and begins to believe in a supernatural world. The spirituality presented in the movie is a mixture of Hindu, Christian, Satanism, and pagan spirituality that lends to a very occult flavor (but that’s Disney). This captures the current mood in America as well. As a nation, we have a weariness with atheistic naturalism and a desire for a dramatic supernaturalism; whether it is Christian makes no difference to a lot of the people on the street.

Humans are spiritual beings, and we have an inner longing for spirituality that cannot be explained in completely rational ways. That is why we have always liked stories of dragons and wizards. It reaches into a place in us that longs for something more than the mundane world. This is natural to us.

Modern man tries to ignore the spiritual nature of human beings. But even if we assert that there is no supernatural world, our spirituality will still come out sideways. That is what happens to Dr. Strange.

Dr. Strange is a very post-modern movie. What I mean by post-modern is that it has thrown away the idea that there is only one ultimate truth. It embraces the idea that there are many competing truths that are equally valid if it makes sense to someone. That is why in Dr. Strange’s spirituality, there are elements from all the major world religions except Islam. In a post-modern view of the world, it doesn’t matter if you pick and choose from the different spiritual ideas as long as it helps you tell your story. That really is what mythos is all about, but Christians have always realized that in addition to the smaller stories that help to make sense out of our own lives, there is one overarching story that is based on ultimate reality.

Once we discard the notion that only the material world exists, we have to sift through all of the available spiritual models of the universe to discern which one best accords with reality, not our personal preferences. They cannot all be equally true. Christianity stands in a spiritual tradition that is at least 6000 years old. I will spend the next few blog posts comparing Christianity to other available spiritual worldviews.

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Judges 11:1-11

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 28, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. 'You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,' they said, 'because you are the son of another woman.' So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him.
Some time later, when the Ammonites were fighting against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 'Come,' they said, 'be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.'
Jephthah said to them, 'Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?'
The elders of Gilead said to him, 'Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be head over all of us who live in Gilead.'
Jephthah answered, 'Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the Lord gives them to me—will I really be your head?'
The elders of Gilead replied, 'The Lord is our witness; we will certainly do as you say.' So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated all his words before the Lord in Mizpah.” (Judges 11:1-11)

Israel is being oppressed by the Ammonites and Philistines, and in last week’s passage we saw that they were finally crying out to God for help, and God would deliver them. But, they needed a commander for their army, so now we come to the story of Jephthah.

First we need to know Jephthah’s background. He was from an upper class family of that time, and he was named after a famous ancestor - the grandson of Manasseh, who was the son Joseph (of the “coat of many colors” fame). But, Jephthah was an illegitimate son, being born from a prostitute, so he ranked at the very bottom of the family hierarchy. Because of his, he ended up having to run away from his family.

While away from his family, Jephthah established his reputation as a skilled fighter. Now that Israel needed a skilled fighter like Jephthah, his brothers saw his value and wanted his help, after running him off years earlier. Naturally, Jephthah is bitter about this history between him and his brothers (verse 7). They expect him to help them, after they were so mean to him? Really??

To try and convince Jephthah to help them out, the elders of Israel promised him a position as ruler of Gilead after the battle (verse 8). In verse 9, Jephthah shows his deep faith in God: if Israel wins the battle, it’s not because of his skill but because of the Lord’s doing. So Jephthah was made the commander of the army.

Jephthah was considered the least of his family, but God clearly has a plan for his life. You may think that God could never use you because of your situation or what you’ve been through in life, but as we’ll see as we continue in this story, God will use Jephthah and God can use you too. God will do mighty things through your life if you’re obedient to Him, even if you have a troubled past or a lowly upbringing. None of that matters to God; you are His child and He would love to invite you into what He is doing in your life and use you for His mighty purposes. Will you let Him?

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God’s Provision

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, November 27, 2016 0 comments

by Ami Samuels

One morning as I was listening to Christian radio, a young woman was sharing her testimony. She was sharing about her family’s loss. Her father, who was a pastor, passed away unexpectedly. Her mother, who had a chosen to stay at home and raise their children, was having a hard time finding a job to provide for her family.

The young woman went on to say that her mother kept telling them that God would provide, but she was struggling because she couldn’t see his provision. Then she said as she looked around she began to see God’s provision. They moved in with relatives and the church gave them money to meet most of their needs.

This story made me think of the scripture verse of John 14:27: “I do not give to you as the world gives.” This family was searching and praying for a job to fulfill their need, but God showed up through his people with funds and a place to live.

Jesus doesn’t give as the world gives. I think we miss where God is providing in our lives because the provision isn’t what we prayed for, or how the world might provide.

I know in my life I have prayed and prayed for an answer to prayer. God has answered that prayer, but not how I had imagined it would turn out. Sometimes the answer was better than I could have imagined it, and other times the answer was no, or not now.

Where is God blessing you in your life? Take a few minutes today and thank Him for his provision and answered prayers.

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Is This What You Wanted?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, November 26, 2016 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

There were many times growing up when I chose to ignore my parents’ wisdom in order to choose what I wanted. I had all kinds of reasons of why it was "ok" or even a "good" choice. It didn’t matter how much I rationalized; it wasn't okay and it wasn't good. I was breaking relationship and making decisions that could affect us all. And deep down, I knew it.

Last week, I challenged all of us to examine what our relationship with God is like. If you didn't read that blog post, you can by clicking here. If our relationship is healthy, then we know who God is and we don't allow other agendas, ideologies, or religions confuse us about His identity. If our relationship with God is poor, then we may be confused. We may be tempted to pick and choose the parts of religions we like, and try to "cover all our bases" in case God is not who we thought He was. Or we may just flat out reject His authority all together in order to trust our own power and humanity.

Consequences will follow either a healthy or unhealthy relationship with God. And Israel learned the hard way, that turning away from God was not worth the consequence. Read Judges 10:10-18.

Notice that after Israel rejects God, He decides to inform them of their consequence. Since they decided to worship other gods, God tells them that He will no longer rescue them and that they should ask the other gods to rescue them. Nothing is more sobering than a sudden reality check. Suddenly, the real risk, the real cost of turning away is right in front of them. Their reaction exposes the root of their broken relationship.

They had turned from God, not because of who He was or wasn't, but rather because of what THEY wanted. They added all these other gods in to try and gain power, influence, to be treated normally in the culture, etc. But when they are faced with trusting these other gods for their lives, what do they do?

The stark reality of what they know to be true, that God alone is God and there are no other gods beside Him, was put in front of them with a sobering choice. If they really thought these other gods had any real power or control over life, they would have shrugged off God's statement and said goodbye to Him. But they immediately begged God for forgiveness and cleared out all the false gods in their midst.

As a father, I am saddened when my kids choose not to listen to or trust my guidance. When I see them face consequences they didn't have to, it hurts me too. When they know what is good and choose something less, it is hard to watch. I am grateful when they realize the truth of their situation and run back to me for help. From what I can tell, God feels the same way. I am so glad that we do not have to rely on empty philosophies and broken ideologies that have no power. He will let us trust our illusions and desires if we insist, but He knows that when we come to our senses we will wake up to His grace and mercy. I pray we all come to see Him clearly while we still have time to lay down all the lesser thoughts and things.

I invite you again to examine your relationship with God, and to consider what beliefs or ideologies you are trusting. Then consider this: do any of them have the power to rescue you from danger, or guide your life with eternal Truth? Don't dismiss that question too quickly. You may have experiences where you didn't get what you want, or God didn't do what you wanted, but that doesn't mean He isn't there. It doesn't mean He isn't powerful, and it doesn't mean He isn't right, just, and true.

We have the same choice as Israel. We can trust the gods we fashioned out of our desires, or we can trust God Almighty regardless of how He may or may not meet our expectations. Somewhere deep down, if we are honest, there is a part of us that knows God is real and that we should trust Him. Will you do the work to get past confusion and distraction to have a healthy relationship with Him?

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Praying in Anonymity

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, November 25, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

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

One of the things God has been teaching me in this whole study on prayer is that every man and woman who is going to be used of God needs to go through a period of anonymity: a time away from the spotlight, away from attention, or even away from listening to other people. There are numerous sermons I have been listening to that have stood out in the last few months that deal with this issue. Allow me to share a sampling.

Five Smooth Stones by Eric Ludy looks at the development and growth of leadership, using David’s example in his preparation for his battle with Goliath. Even David, after being anointed by Samuel as king of Israel, had to go back to the sheep.

Pray and Be Alone with God by Paul Washer addresses the need of solitary prayer time. Is our very sustenance on the Word of God, or is it on everything else of the flesh?

The Man Under the Stage also by Eric Ludy is about the men who gave the power behind the preaching of William Booth and Charles Finney, men who prayed behind the scenes.

I have known since my childhood that God has had some kind of big plan for my life, that God would use me to bring about significant things for his Kingdom’s purposes. Exactly what that is, I do not yet know. God has not told me the details yet. When I started this series in July, I thought God was just working on me regarding my prayer life. It is has been a very long process and in a way I feel like I have fallen back even further than when I started. It is not a finished process.

One thing God could be doing with me here is taking me through a season of anonymity in preparation before I go somewhere much bigger. Let us look at some major Bible leaders who God took out of the spotlight for a season. Moses was taken to the backside of the desert for 40 years. Joseph was held in slavery and then in prison for 13 years. Jacob had to hide from Esau for at least 14 years. David had to return to the sheep after his anointing before facing Goliath, and then had to hide in caves from Saul for about 13 years (ish). Jesus remained hidden for 30 years, and John the Baptist was hidden for 30 years. Paul, after his conversion, went to Arabia for 3 years and only spent 15 days talking with Peter before going on his first mission trip. A key thing to note is that they did not consult flesh and blood, man’s wisdom, during this time, but rather sought the Lord. These people were isolated, hidden away, and kept away from the spotlight.

It is not easy for me to be away from other people because of my job and prior ministry commitments, but I know what David felt like when asked to return to the sheep. Last year when I taught physics, I thought my promotion to be a full-time teacher was coming. But God told me, “I need you to stay as a substitute.” As I have written in this series, this word from God made the difference, but it was not easy waiting to hear it. God needed me kept aside.

Very few of us like the stage of anonymity. It is often dark and dirty. It is not popular. You do not get the praises of men. You do not receive attention. No one recognizes you. You are often alone and any attention you get is usually negative, sometimes even from fellow Christians who are jealous of you moving forward in your faith and they are not.

The Kingdom perks to anonymity, however, are invaluable. During the season of training, while you will not be known to men, you are also not known to Satan. If God pulls you out of the picture for a season, Satan will not think about you too often. Refer back to my post about praying in a fog. If you learn how to live without the spotlight, you can live without the spotlight affecting you. But there is more. The person who prays in anonymity is usually the source of power behind the person on the stage. Charles Spurgeon is quoted by E.M Bounds as saying:
"A certain preacher whose sermons converted many souls received a revelation from God that it was not his sermons or works by all means but the prayers of an illiterate lay brother who sat on the pulpit steps pleading for the success of the sermon. It may be in the all-revealing day so with us. We may believe after laboring long and wearily that all honor belongs to another builder whose prayers were gold, silver, and precious stones, while our sermonizings being apart from prayer are but hay and stubble." ~Rev. C.H. Spurgeon, quoted in The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds pg 92

In The Man Under the Stage, Eric Ludy describes Brother Nash, the man who would come to a town two to three weeks in advance of a Charles Finney meeting to pray it through. During the meetings, Nash would pray and pray and pray. Ludy sought for the identity of the man under the stage for William Booth and could not find him. These men were the ones that ushered in God’s power to the sermons. They also became the targets of the enemy, which is why anonymity plays such an important role.

I have had a sampling of this notion. Right after I heard Ludy’s “The Man Under the Stage” the first time three years ago, my church was preparing to do a summer-long Wednesday evening service series. I brought this sermon up and suggested we all pray this series in, and we did. I gave the concluding message that summer about the Israelite War Cry and used the sport of fencing to illustrate tactics about spiritual warfare. I felt the anointing going into that message, and everyone else knew that God’s hand was upon me that night. Not every message I have given since has had the Holy Spirit’s power like that, and that is a pity. I had it because we prayed behind the scenes to make that summer series work.

God is preparing me for a ministry above the stage. I do not know what that is supposed to look like in its full form. I believe I am being pointed towards speaking and writing, but God needs to direct my steps. But before I reach there, I may need to go under the stage to train and prepare if I am not already there. Because once the spotlight is on me, so is a target. I need God’s construction and his training in this time now so when I get onto the stage, I can perform without faltering and not finding my sustenance in the attention. And I need men and women under the stage praying for me when that happens.

Any preacher, any speaker who stands for the Truth, needs men and women under the stage to pray for them. I need to be praying for my pastor and those who speak the truth myself. One thing to note about Brother Nash was that he always had a prayer partner when he prayed for Finney’s revival meetings. Not only did he have a quiet time, he had a prayer partner. I have three more posts to go in this prayer series. The next two will deal with the need for a prayer partner and a need for a quiet time. Then my final post on this series will deal with how we conclude our prayers: ”In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

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A Short Introduction to Atheism

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, November 23, 2016 0 comments

by David Odegard

Julian Baggini wrote Atheism: A Very Short Introduction in the hope of compelling others to accept the ideas that atheists hold dear. He describes the universe as a completely closed system. That means that only matter exists. Only the perceived universe is real. There is no spiritual realm; there can be no God. This assertion is unscientific because it cannot be proven.

Even though the statement cannot be proven, Julian Baggini pretends to prove it anyway. He confidently barks that all strong evidence supports atheism and only weak evidence tells against it. How does he know, you may ask? He admits that this claim may be hard to prove, but congratulates himself on proving it, at least to himself anyway.

He first asserts that human beings are only biological and do not have immortal souls. He gives the following evidence. He says that experience and brain activity are correlated (related to one another). That experience is dependent on brain activity, as he says, “When their brains cease functioning they certainly stop displaying all the signs of conscious life.” He then goes on to define the human person as one who has the capacity for consciousness and rational thought. If that function is dependent on the brain, then it cannot continue after the brain ceases to function.

He is basically saying that the dead cannot experience anything without their brain functioning because there is no other dimension to humanity. He says that we are only brain because we are only brain. We know that because we can only measure brain activity. The spirit cannot exist because we cannot see it. He claims that this mountain of evidence is insurmountable. When you ask the dead if there is anything beyond the grave, they say nothing; therefore, it must be nothing.

He cannot allow that anything other than this material universe exists. If you claim that there is more than just this material universe, he will say no there isn’t, because there isn’t. Let me put it this way. Baggini believes the universe to be a closed system, which means nothing can enter from another dimension, especially a spiritual one. We will say that is like a refrigerator and we are trying to disprove the existence of butter because we cannot see it.

Baggini says that if one opens the fridge, scans intently, and cannot see any butter, that is enough reason to say that butter cannot exist anywhere. He argues that we looked through the entire fridge and didn’t see butter. If the fridge represents the universe, I don’t know how Baggini can imagine that he can look through the entire universe, since we can’t even leave our own solar system yet. Such is the arrogance of atheism.

Baggini makes the case for a large cross-section of experience being the basis by which good evidence is proven. He illustrates this by saying if a man says his dog spontaneously combusts, his evidence is not good because the overall human experience is that dogs do not spontaneously combust. So why doesn’t he apply that same rubric to his own assertion that there is no butter in the fridge?

If most of the people who open the fridge insist that they are overwhelmed by the smell of butter, even though they cannot see it or point to direct evidence, wouldn’t that be a clue that maybe there is more to the story than just seeing a stick of butter? Just because I can’t say, “Hey there is a stick of unsalted-Meadow-Gold-best-if-used-by-this-date butter,” I can point out the overwhelming sense of most people that it is in there. Wouldn’t the same basis for not believing in a dog blowing up on its own be for believing in the presence of the unseen butter?

What Baggini needs is a sense of smell. He is being arrogant by believing that God cannot exist, because He cannot sense God in his own less-than-exhaustive scanning of the universe. He thinks that if he lacks the capacity to perceive God, it must mean that no one can perceive God. In our butter analogy, he is being obtuse by insisting that the nine others who sense the unmistakable smell of butter are wrong because he himself smells nothing.

The vast majority tell Baggini that they smell butter. Some attempt to prove that the butter exists because of the chemical evidence for butter is found in the cake, the fried eggs, the pie, and the soufflĂ©, but because Baggini lacks the capacity to perceive butter, he disbelieves in it all. He says that anyone who believes in butter is stupid when they say that butter exists. There is no escaping a circular argument like that. Baggini reinterprets the chemical evidence to mean something else, because obviously to him it can’t be butter since butter doesn’t exist. It must be something that randomly occurred in the fridge.

Baggini then denies that the sense of smell exists, causing people who know what smelling is to walk away exasperated calling Baggini a fool saying, “How can I prove it to you if you refuse to see?” And for Baggini, it really is a refusal to interpret evidence in any way other than in a way he has already chosen to believe it.

The Gospel of John gives plenty of eye-witness evidence to the one who will believe, but for those who stubbornly disbelieve, there is no remedy. John does not point to the material world as a closed system; John was a theist and his God was Jesus Christ. In fact, from John 1 to the close of Revelation, John is showing God to be real, constantly opening the fridge door if you will. God reveals himself to us by way of a preponderance of evidence to be reasonable and faith-worthy.

Baggini’s random occurrence is a particularly sour and pungent fart, but happily for him he is the only one in the car who can’t smell it!

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Judges 10:10-18

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 21, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, ‘We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.’ The Lord replied, ‘When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and (you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!’
But the Israelites said to the Lord, ‘We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.’ Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer. When the Ammonites were called to arms and camped in Gilead, the Israelites assembled and camped at Mizpah. The leaders of the people of Gilead said to each other, ‘Whoever will take the lead in attacking the Ammonites will be head over all who live in Gilead.’” (Judges 10:10-18)

Last week, we saw how the people of Israel were again disobeying God and worshiping false gods. Because of that, God allowed them to be oppressed by the Ammonites and Philistines. The Israelites are still stuck in their recurring pattern of sin, slavery, supplication, salvation, and silence.

Now in this week’s passage, we finally see the people crying out to God for deliverance (the supplication part of the pattern). We see them crying out in both verse 10 and again in verse 15. Israel had repeated this pattern so often that they definitely did not deserve God’s salvation. He had saved them so many times, and they kept turning back to their old ways of serving false gods.

At this point, we know that God had delivered them from at least 7 oppressors. Through Moses, God released them from oppression and slavery to the Egyptians. They were delivered from the Amorite kings Sihon and Og in Joshua 2:10. The judge Ehud killed Eglon, the king of the Ammonites / Moab, in Judges 3:12-30. The judge Shamgar defeated the Philistines previously in Judges 3:31. Deborah and Barak delivered Israel from the Canaanites and Sisera in Judges 4. The Amalekites helped out the Moabites in Judges 3:13. Finally, through Gideon, God delivered them from the Midianites, also known as the Maonites (Judges 6).

You know how when someone keeps doing the same annoying or hurtful thing to you, you tend to get frustrated and angry with them? God got to that point with the Israelites too. This pattern had gone on so many times. God gets a little snarky with them in verses 13-14: “But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!” If they obviously think these other gods are so great that they’re worshiping them instead of God, why not cry out to them for salvation, right?

But Israel continues to plead with God. They tried to show God that they really meant it this time by throwing out their idols (verse 16). And, being the loving God that He is, God finally relented and begins working to save them yet again.

The stage is now set for a battle against the Ammonites, but Israel didn’t have a commander for their army. They improvise and see who would prove themselves to be fit for the job. Come back next week to see how that plays out.

The Israelites were taking advantage of God’s grace by continually doing what they knew was wrong and expecting God’s forgiveness. This attitude is not just in the book of Judges, however. Paul spoke against this in his letter to the Romans: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2). We should not knowingly sin, just because we also know that God will give us grace and forgive us.

What sins are you committing in your life that you know are wrong but you do them anyway? While God will forgive you of them when you are truly sorry for them, don’t be like Israel and continue to commit them anyway. Ask the Holy Spirit for help to turn away from those sins for good.

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.


Will We Ever Learn?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, November 19, 2016 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

I really hate those moments when I find myself giving into a bad habit, or drifting away from good habits, especially when it comes to my health. It is hard work to maintain our physical health and discipline ourselves to regularly eat healthy and exercise. But the cost of not doing it can be downright deadly.

Spiritually, we have the same challenge. Our faith in God is a relationship. He is not a mystical vending machine, or an impersonal magical force that we manipulate by our devotion. God is a person - 3 persons to be exact, completely in unity and undividable - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And our relationship to God takes the same discipline as any other relationship in order to be healthy.

What do I mean by that? Any relationship relies on communication, trust, and faithfulness, just to name a few essentials. When we break any of those, the relationship suffers. There are many reasons why we may break relationship. The cost is always very high and the benefit is usually very low, or ultimately negative.

Read Judges 10:6-9. This passage starts by announcing that after a season of good relationship with God, Israel “once again did evil, in the Lord's sight.” Sadly, this phrase reoccurs in the Bible many times. And, if we are honest, it reoccurs in our own lives too.

Why did Israel do it? They were either impatient or enticed to believe that other gods from other cultures and religions would meet their needs. Instead of staying faithful to God, they chose to join in the worship practices of other cultures. They committed adultery, unfaithfulness, and betrayal.

Maybe they were tired of waiting on God to provide and found religious practices that felt like they had some control over their future. Maybe they thought worshipping more gods was “covering all their bases.” Regardless of the reason, they broke relationship with God almighty, and gave themselves to lesser gods and lesser ambitions.

In light of our current situation as a nation, and reflecting on the many things we feel are important in our culture, I want to invite you to consider how you might be breaking relationship with God. Maybe it is a social agenda you have, seeking justice for others but not seeking it God's way? Maybe it is a moral issue, but not engaging the culture the way God has asked you to? Maybe it is just you own success and well-being, and you've started taking it for yourself however you can, instead of seeking God's best for you? Maybe you are just covering all your bases and worshipping everything, because you aren't quite sure what to believe? Whatever your place of relational difficulty with God is, I invite you to identify it, and then ask Him to show you what He desires in relationship with you.

Take time to read the Bible and understand what a relationship with Him looks like. Ask God to show you why other gods and religions are not worth your time. And consider that there may be a huge down side to having a “hot-n-cold” relationship with God. We will take a look at what Israel learned next week.

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Prayer of Intercession

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, November 18, 2016 1 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

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

Intercession is a specific type of prayer that many of us only have a basic understanding of what it is. Allow me to define and describe it. Intercession is not merely “praying for someone else,” it is so much more. Imagine we have a city protected with walls. If the walls are up, all the enemy forces are kept outside. However, if there are gaps or holes, also known as breaches, in the walls, then the enemy has direct access to the city without needing to go through the front gate. Intercession is when we stand in the gap of the wall and fight the enemy, SO THAT the walls can be rebuilt.

Intercession is also described this way. We have a friend or ally engaged in battle with his enemy and he is going down. Intercession is when we jump in, stand between our friend and his enemy, and fight that battle for him. However, the point of this is so that person can get back up, if necessary retreat to the medical camp to heal, and then rejoin the battle. Intercession is when we are willing to take on the war for another. Richard Wurmbrand gave a clear picture of intercession in Tortured for Christ. He said when in the prisons of Communist Rumania, the Christians who had already taken beatings of their own would willingly take another beating because the person due to receive it would not be able to endure it.

I do not remember who it was, but in growing up on the mission field, I heard of a story of a man who sought to reach one of the tribes in the jungles of the Amazon. (I am going by memory so some of the details might be butchered.) After returning to the city to get medicine, he encountered a man who helped him return to the path back into the jungle. During the night, the missionary had a peaceful night, however when he woke up, he saw that man, terrified. The man said he and his friends came to his camp and planned to rob and kill him, however when they got there they saw 26 giant warriors surrounding him. So they did not dare enter in. The missionary did not know what to think of that, but then when he returned to his home church on furlough, he told this story. When he finished, someone stood up and said that very night God woke him up and said to pray for the missionary and it was urgent. Then someone else stood up and said the same thing. Several others also stood. The missionary was not interested in who prayed for him, but the number: 26 people. This missionary had 26 people interceding on his behalf and it saved his life.

Have you ever had God suddenly wake you up with a sudden burden for someone you love and care for? The other week, twice I was woken up right around midnight two nights apart by a strange sound. The first time, I thought someone might be trying to break into the house. The second time, I asked the Lord if he needed me to get up and pray. I want to be sensitive to God’s call for me to get up in the middle of the night to pray. But if you are not willing to do that, God may not wake you up to pray, because he can’t depend upon you to pray to protect his people.

One thing that I must make clear: intercession is not meant for you to fight the battles instead of someone else. That is, if someone asks you for prayer and to help them out, sure you can help out, but you are not to just fight their battles for them. As A.W Tozer said, “You cannot delegate prayer.” Do not ask someone else to do your praying for you, so you can sit back and do nothing. And do not fight for someone else who seeks to do this. A woman called my pastor doing this. She wanted prayer for her son. He caught on to what she is doing and he said he would pray with her on one condition: that she not call a single other pastor. Why? Because she had the greatest authority in her son’s life so SHE needed to be the one praying. She was trying to delegate her prayer needs to someone “more holy” than she was. This is not intercession, let alone prayer. Intercession is fighting the battle and being willing to take on the fight for another.

Rees Howells defined intercession as having three components: identification, agony, and authority. Let’s break that down. Identification is when you know first-hand what the person’s situation is like. A couple who has lost a child understands that pain greater than any other. I can counsel and help a couple who have lost a child to some extent, but I cannot do it like another couple who has been through it. Rees Howells had to learn this through praying for a woman who had tuberculosis. He had to be willing to die in her place with TB to “gain the position of intercession.” I could counsel a woman dealing with a friend who sounded like she had a demon because I had been through such battle. I could identify with that situation. A friend of mine, Nathan Williams, uses this tag line for his website: “Sometimes calling someone out of the darkness means going in after them.” That perfectly illustrates the idea of identification. Sometimes saving someone lost in sin or darkness means we have to go face that sin or darkness ourselves and fight it for them as though we were the one struggling against it. If have gained victory in that area before, we can gain it again on behalf of someone else. Agony means we feel the same pain that person feels. We understand their wounds by experience. Go back to my post three weeks ago on “Praying in Anguish” to get into this in more detail.

Then the third is authority. When we have “gained the position of Intercession,” then we can pray and declare with authority in any similar situation. When Rees Howells learned this concept, God made him pray and pray for greater positions of intercession to have higher and higher authority. That is why he was able to pray in intercession through the events of World War II, because he spent his life in learning how to pray and gain the position of intercession. This is also why when he spent several years in Africa and the plague hit, he was able to hold a position of authority so not a single person would die who came to his mission. Everyone else around him was dying left and right, but because of his experience with the TB woman, he could take the step of faith to make that declaration at the Lord’s guidance.

Rees Howells was no special man; he was simply one who yielded himself to Christ. Any of us could pray as he prayed, if we surrendered more of ourselves to Christ. As of now, I do not sense a calling to pray and intercede at the level Howells was called, but I know every Christian is called to pray and to intercede at some level. We cannot expand the Kingdom of Heaven unless we do.

God is looking for intercessors. He’s looking for people who will stand in the gap and defend his people and his territory. But will we answer the call? Will I answer the call? In order to gain that position, we must also go through a stage of life that Rees Howells and every other man of God that I know of had to do: a time of anonymity. Paul went to Arabia for three years after his conversion before he began his missionary work. I still do not know of an exception to this concept: before a man is to be used of God on the stage, he must first go under the stage to pray. Stay tuned next week to learn more.

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The Vengeful Philosopher and the Loving Romans

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, November 17, 2016 1 comments

by Steve Risner

After a long break (the longest I believe I've ever taken) from posting, I am able to get back to it! Life has been exceptionally busy but, praise God, there's light at the end of the tunnel! Where were we? Oh, yes. I was responding to some statements made by an atheist I went to high school with. He made some very irrational statements concerning atheism, Christianity, and our nation. The last few blog posts I wrote were centered on our Christian heritage. You can find those here, here, and here. This week we'll take a closer look at what this atheist claims Christianity is. It's pretty interesting.

He's written a 5 part “oversimplified” (in his words) take on Christianity for me. His first point is this: “Some philosopher 2000 years ago softened the image of the vengeful Old Testament God and became a legend when he was martyred by the Romans.”

This one is rather large in its implications. Jesus was far more than a philosopher. He never claimed to be a philosopher. However, He did claim to be the Son of God and He claimed to be the only way to spend eternity in heaven. In fact, I contend this is why He was killed. Todd Friel of Wretched Radio says, “Philosophy seeks truth but Jesus proclaimed He Himself is the truth. Jesus did not ponder what might be right, He proclaimed what was absolutely true.” He continues, “Philosophy is the pursuit of rational wisdom, religion is the pursuit of supernatural wisdom. Christianity, while rational, is a belief system. Philosophy has no authority. One philosopher’s claims are as valid as the next. Not so in Christianity. The Bible claims that the inspired Word of God is the sole standard of truth. Philosophy changes with the times, Christianity does not. Philosophy typically rejects the supernatural, Christianity embraces it. Philosophy is man-made, Christianity is God-inspired. Philosophy does not offer forgiveness of sins and everlasting life, Christianity does.”

It's a fairly open and shut case that Jesus Christ was not a philosopher. That's the first part of his comment that is a misunderstanding. Jesus Christ claimed to be the Son of God and proved it. There is no way to explain the birth of Christianity outside of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Well, no rational and honest way. I wrote about that last year in “The Birth of the Way.” I see his claim that Jesus Christ was “some philosopher 2000 years ago” as a very feeble attempt to minimize His importance and impact on the planet. Quite frankly, no person has impacted the world more than Jesus Christ, period. He's not just “some philosopher.” The case of the authentic resurrection is amazing. There's really no way for this atheist to deal with that other than to ignore the obvious.

He goes on to say that Jesus “softened the image of the vengeful Old Testament God.” This is actually a very common, unbalanced view of God based on cherry picking Old Testament and New Testament passages. I've even heard some argue that Allah is like the God of the Old Testament. Rubbish! You see, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one in the same. They are revealed quite similarly, in fact. It's unbalanced or a half-truth to say that the God of the Old Testament is full of wrath or vengeance and the God of the New Testament is about love and grace. Both of these statements are true but can also be reversed. The God of the Old Testament is full of love and grace while the God of the New Testament is vengeful and violent. They are one in the same. Let's take a look.

The Word is full of passages that read similarly in their description of God's love and grace. You can find a few of these in Exodus 34:6-7: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Or Nehemiah 9:17 which says, “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” There are many different passages that indicate the Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love, gracious, merciful, and forgiving. However, He is also found to hate sin and love justice. He is slow to wrath, but when His patience has been exhausted, His power and might are clearly seen. This is in contrast to the most widely known verse of the Bible—John 3:16: “For God so loved the whole world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish be have eternal life.” Hidden within this verse is the irony. In giving His Son, God clearly demonstrated to us all that the God of the Old Testament is indeed the God of the New Testament. The penalty Christ suffered on the cross was brutal, bloody, and violent. It had to be, in order to satisfy the high price of sin. I don't think this atheist would watch the Passion of the Christ and say, “Well, that certainly softens the image of the vengeful God of the Old Testament.” It's horrifying.

But I would go so far as to say that claiming God is “vengeful” is even a little intense. He treats mankind like any loving father would. He gives us space. He calls us to Him. When we go our own way and go against His will, there are consequences. That's not vengeance. That's just the way it is. Negative consequences are a part of life. How much love would God have for us if He didn't discipline? His Word even tells us it's because of His love that He disciplines us (Hebrews 12:5-11).

So it's clear to see that the Old Testament tells equally of a God of love and grace while showing the balanced side of justice and anger. But the New Testament also reveals both sides of our God. He is the God that “so loved the world,” while Romans 1:18 tells us, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” The fact is simple: God is unchanging. This is one of the wonderful promises God gives us in His Word. Read the book of Revelation and tell me God seems different than He does in the Old Testament. You can even read of Jesus making a whip and chasing people out of the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13). These and so many other truths of God that make the case pretty cut and dry. God is unchanging. He is full of love and He's full of wrath. He's full of grace and He's full of vengeance. That's called balance. Atheists and other non-believers frequently cherry pick passages of Scripture to make a point that is generally easy to debunk simply by turning the page and reading a little further.

This atheist’s final comment is that Jesus became a legend because the Romans martyred Him. Again, if you read my blog post called “The Birth of the Way” linked above, I think you'll find it rather silly to believe the account of the resurrection as anything but true. Christ is not a legend. Christ is the risen Savior of all humanity and history supports this idea. Christ was killed because the Jewish leaders of the time threatened violence if He wasn't crucified. Christ was not a political threat nor did He claim any earthly authority that the Romans believed they had. His kingdom is not of this world; He said this to Pilate. It seems strange that a nonthreatening figure who healed people would make the Romans want to destroy Him. But the jealousy and greed of the Jewish political machine inspired the people to yell, “Crucify! Crucify!”

Either way, I don't think it matters if you think the Romans were the sole conspirators in the death of Christ or if you feel the Jews of the day had their hands in it. Jesus was crucified to pay the penalty for your sin and mine and He rose again on the third day. This awesome truth is what this atheist desperately wants to distance himself from. He doesn't realize the truth will set him free.

Next time, we'll look at point number two from this atheist about Christianity—that Jesus's words were not even written down for centuries after His earthly ministry ended. Whoa boy!

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A Universe Charged with the Glory of God

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, November 16, 2016 13 comments

by David Odegard

In some ways Christians are like everyone else: we accept certain things without absolute proof. But although we may not have absolute proof, we do have sufficient evidence to point us to God. Once we arrive at God, we can see everything else. God is light and by Him we can see everything. Without God, nothing can be seen; humanity gropes in the darkness looking for answers that they do not have the capacity to receive.

I was born and raised on the High Plains in Montana. My dad took me hunting for mule deer my entire life. Montana is blanketed each year in snow, ice, and extreme cold. Mule deer hunting is conducted by driving around in the vast treeless plain, squinting into the snow for deer that might be half a mile away.

So often in my early years, my dad would point out into the undistinguished snowy nothingness and say, “There they are, can’t you see them?” but I couldn’t. I would sight down his arm and pointed finger to the exact location that he was pointing to, but all I could see was snow. Then one day, I saw them. I could never un-see them. Thanks to my dad, I have been successfully hunting mule deer for decades.

You may remember your math teacher trying to get you to understand how to do a certain problem. You weren’t getting the concept and then all of a sudden—comes the dawn—you got it! You were never able to un-see it thereafter. Life had changed and so had the synapsis of your brain. You grew.

Life is like that. Our parents and society point out to us what they want us to see. We are taught to view the world in a certain way. Then later we take off the lens that they placed in front of our eyes and we take a good look at reality for ourselves and we realize that life is not so neat and tidy.

Evil exists.

Or perhaps if you were raised to be an atheist, you realize for the first time that the world seems to show evidence of design. Some people struggle against this unveiling of the eye, preferring to just put the glasses back on and play by the rules. Others stare intently into the creation itself and demand from it an orderly answer. This is called science. And you may be surprised to learn that it was invented by Christians (at least the scientific method was invented by Christians). Science is an outgrowth of the Christian worldview.

The Bible invites us to view the world in a particular way, too. We Christians believe that we can look into the created universe and learn many important things about God, and then by extension, ourselves. We can learn, for instance, that He is a mathematical genius. He is exact in His design. Imagine the meaning of the moon orbiting the earth at exactly the right distance from earth to be precisely the relative size as the sun to make a perfect eclipse. Coincidence? Perhaps. But these kinds of phenomena happen repeatedly when studying creation, and they underscore the evidence of a benevolent, precise Creator.

Creation reveals that there is a God; the Bible tells us His name! It is not a big rational leap to believe that if such a God exists that He could create the universe, that He would also be able to communicate to you and me. He could animate the prophetic view of old and reach into His own creation to relieve humans from the bondage of their own decisions. Evil exists, but God has not stayed in heaven sending letters by way of prophets only. He loved human beings so much that He became one. This, too, is God revealing Himself to us. This is God entering into the suffering world that we endangered in order to save it and remake it.

Now think of a popular alternative. Atheism teaches that the universe spontaneously occurred one day. Nothing exploded and something happened as a result. This absurd statement can never be a scientific statement. Atheists really believe that everything came from absolutely nothing.

Stephan Hawking says in his book, The Grand Design, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” But this is utter nonsense. This is not a scientific statement at all. Gravity describes the interplay between combinations of matter and energy. When a genius utters nonsense, it is still nonsense. Certainly gravity can shape the matter that exits already, but it cannot bring that matter into reality—that is absurd.

Atheists believe in that absurdity and try to force it down other people’s minds. The result of atheistic thought is that there is no ultimate meaning in reality, no ultimate morality or justice, no reason to live. There is only despair on one hand or baseless optimism on the other.

The practical benefits of a Christian worldview, like a healthy mind and heart, a purpose in life, a hope for justice at some point in our existence, and a sound basis upon which to conduct scientific experimentation, are vastly preferable. They also happen to be true.

This being my first blog post with Worldview Warriors, please let me say that I look forward to an engaging discussion of these and many more topics to come. Blessings! And may the God of all peace open your heart to receive the gospel.

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Judges 10:6-9

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 14, 2016 1 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. And because the Israelites forsook the Lord and no longer served him, he became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, who that year shattered and crushed them. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead, the land of the Amorites. The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim; Israel was in great distress.” (Judges 10:6-9)

After spending many weeks looking at the stories of Gideon and his son Abimelech in the book of Judges, we’re moving on toward the story of Jephthah. In Judges 10:1-5, we see a couple minor judges named Tola and Jair, but they were not significant enough to have much of their legacy recorded in Scripture.

So in this week’s passage, we’re back to the repeating pattern of the people of Israel in the era of the judges: sin, slavery, supplication, salvation, and silence. In this passage, Israel had against strayed from worshiping the one true God, and they were instead worshiping a whole bunch of other gods. In verse 6 we read, “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. And because the Israelites forsook the Lord and no longer served him.”

This list of other gods that the Israelites worshiped is the most extensive list throughout Judges. The Baals Ashtoreths were worshipped by most of the nations mentioned in this passage, who surrounded Israel’s territory. Just to give you some further background, the Moabites’ god was named Chemosh (Numbers 21:29), the Ammonites’ god was named Molek (1 Kings 11:5), and the Philistines’ god was named Dagon (Judges 16:23).

When Israel doesn’t serve the one true God, God gets angry with them for blatantly disobeying His commandments. Exodus 20:3 seems pretty clear: “You shall have no other gods before me.” That seems like a pretty easy one to remember, but we always forget that today too. While I don’t worship a god by name like Dagon or Molek, I have times in my life where I put other people and things before God, thus making them little gods in my life. I would guess you’ve done that too, if you take an honest look at your life.

So when Israel turns away from God (again), He allows them to be enslaved and oppressed by their enemies (verses 7-8). This particular incident happened around the year 1096 BC. Previously, during Gideon’s time, the Israelites were badly oppressed by the Midianites. Now, however, the oppression was even worse. Now it was both the Ammonites and Philistines oppressing them, and they were just as evil as the Midianites if not more so.

The recurring theme in the book of Judges is that you will reap what you sow. Israel was often sowing disobedience to God by worshiping other gods, and therefore they were reaping the consequences of their actions. While God will continue to forgive them when they are finally sorry for their actions, that doesn’t mean He’ll lessen the punishment. In fact, He seems to be increasing the harshness of the punishment as they continue to not learn their lesson.

What are you doing in your life where you may be repeating the same sin over and over again? What do you need to repent from, and finally learn the lesson that God is trying to teach you - before the consequences get even worse?

Stayed tuned next week as we see what happened with the Israelites in their current oppressive situation.

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Be Thankful

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, November 13, 2016 0 comments

by Ami Samuels

As Thanksgiving approaches, I had this thought: why are we so quick to call and complain when we are frustrated or angry with poor service, but when people go out of their way to help or they do something nice, we often forget or neglect to make that phone call or send a note?

My sister and one of her employees went above and beyond to help a customer receive their passports in time for their upcoming trip. The client needed to expedite the process. The proper paperwork was filed, and fees were paid and sent. However, there was an unforeseen issue with the process. Through numerous phone calls and faxing more paperwork, her office was able to ensure that the passports came in before the customer was leaving the country.

They went above and beyond to make sure the passports came in on time. They could have called the client and said I’m sorry but there is no way we can get the passports in time, which was what the office they were dealing with was telling them. Instead they went the extra mile, making the extra phone calls, talking to the right people, and faxing more information.

A few days later my sister received an e-mail from the client, thanking her and her office for everything they had done to help her. She mentioned that without their help their trip would have been ruined. That note of encouragement meant so much to my sister and her employees.

As Americans, we are so blessed. This Thanksgiving, let’s take some time to think about our blessings and be grateful for what we have and show our gratitude to those around us. I would like to encourage us to make those phone calls and send those e-mails and thank you notes when people do a good job and go above and beyond to help us.

I would like to ask you to go a step further and not only tell the person thank you, but go above them and tell their boss, too.

And be thankful.

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Can We Come Together Again?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, November 12, 2016 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Long before the election was over, I heard hopeful people praying and talking about how they hope we as a nation can all live together and recover some sort of unity, especially among followers of Jesus.

The truth is, UNITY is experienced under pressure, forged in sacrifice, and galvanized in pain. What we have seen in our nation and in the Church in the last two years is the true state of our division. The fractures not only appeared under pressure, but they became more pronounced and clear. Everyone has sorted themselves out quite nicely. It is much easier to see who had their own specialized agenda (whether personal, social, cultural, political, racial, economic, financial, humanist, global, religious, or non-religious) ahead of God.

When we one day stand before Him, I can only imagine how many will cringe as He flips through their Facebook post history and the rest of their words spoken, especially considering Matthew 12:36.

We must realize that any motive that comes before our devotion to God will not accomplish what we desire, and it will bring further division and discord. And we must also realize that any appearance of unity when pressure or tension is low is more likely be a mask - hiding the cracks for personal comfort rather than living in true unity.

Read Ephesians 4:1-6. Notice the emphasis on "unity of the Spirit" through the bond of peace? Notice also the emphasis on "one-ness." Paul, the writer of this letter to the Ephesians, is reminding the early church that Jesus is not divided against himself, and He is not confused about what is good or right. Therefore, Jesus' Spirit (the Holy Spirit) is likewise not confused or divided. Unity is already present in Jesus and through His Spirit. So, why are we divided?

We have not kept the bond of peace. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but it is the willing surrender of self-centered thoughts and agendas for a greater one. If we are not unified, it is because we have our own agendas inserted between us and God, and between each other.

I believe God can bring us together. It will take a shift the western 'popular' church is not willing to make. It will be painful, and we will find that there are many who enjoy the moralism of 'cultural' Christianity more than Jesus. The religious 'pick and choose' menu of cultural Christianity is really just humanism with religious clothing on. It is not Jesus, no matter how much "theologizing" people do to try and make Him fit. There has to be an intentional surrender of our religious comforts and selective obedience.

When we are dedicated to Him, His unity is already present by His Spirit, and we live it out through the bond of peace. This is possible for followers of Jesus. It is possible for our nation as well. But it will require a surrender of our masks and our agendas, a dedication to Truth, and a recognition that God is who we trust. Apart from that shift occurring, any signs of peace or unity will be window dressing.

So, what about you? What is coming between you and God, and you and others? Do you want unity and peace? Or more of what we experienced through the elections? Will you work for true peace to gain true unity through Jesus?

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Prayer as a Weapon

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, November 11, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

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

Spiritual warfare is a topic I have written on and spoken about for a number of years. However, my problem has been very similar to what I have realized throughout this series: knowing the theory but not knowing how to actually use it. In my whole prayer series, I feel like God is taking apart my whole understanding of Christianity and rebuilding it from scratch. In dealing with the topic of spiritual warfare and seeing prayer as the primary weapon, this is another example.

As Christians, we no longer fight our battles with swords and spears as David and his Mighty Men did. We are to fight spiritual battles. However, our battles we fight in the spiritual are not limited to having mere spiritual effects. In The Art of War, Sun-Tzu makes a key point: war is a means to an end and it is usually political. Likewise, all our spiritual battles are a means to an end and that end is either for God’s Kingdom or against it.

The spiritual battles we fight are about ownership of territory, not just physical territory but spiritual territory. God is not just interested in having ownership of a home or a church or a city, he also wants ownership of areas of our lives: our thought life, our social life, our finances, our education, our career, and more. Prayer is the weapon we use to fight for God’s Kingdom in each of these areas. Jesus said, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Part of the Lord’s Prayer is calling down what God initiates and seeks to establish it here in our reality. Eric Ludy describes prayer as a grappling hook. We throw it up to heaven and we pull and pull and pull. When we feel tension, that is when the hook is caught and there is resistance in pulling it down. The concept of “Praying Through” is praying until what is asked for it achieved. What does this look like?

Elijah was a man of prayer. He prayed that it would not rain and it did not rain for 3 ½ years. Then it took seven times to pray until the rain came back. He fought his battles on his knees. Jesus fought the greatest spiritual battle ever fought in the Garden of Gethsemane. The prayer was so intense that Jesus sweated blood (which by the way is a sign that your heart is ready to burst). John “Praying Hyde” Hyde is reported to have prayed for weeks on end with such intensity that his heart literally shifted from one side of his rib cage to the other (which led to his death). Some may say that he wasted his life, but in reality, he could not have fulfilled it better.

As I read the testimony of Rees Howells, he spent many years of his life learning about the art of intercession. That topic is important enough to warrant a separate post next week. However, near the end of his life as he ran a Bible college, World War II was in action. He set to pray for the events of the war in prayer, and prayed as though he was one of the soldiers on the field, willing to die for the cause. He would pray over specific battles and the miracle rescue of Dunkirk and “somehow,” against impossible odds, the battles were won. Howells even prayed in some cases for Hitler to get distracted by other fronts including invading Russia or to make unusually foolish military decisions. And he did. Prayer proved to be a powerful weapon. Now, Howells NEVER boasted about how his prayers affected World War II, but God used mighty men like him to turn the outcomes of the war.

Friends, we do not have the kind of vision of prayer that we need. Eric Ludy in Wrestling Prayer (pages 17-18) says this in regards to how we normally tend to think of prayer: “‘That's not prayer,’ God seemed to say, ‘That's spiritual sounding chitter chatter.’ … Spiritual-sounding chitter chatter tends to be self-centric in its banter, begging for comforts to be protected, deadlines to be met, surgeon's hands to be guided, tests to be passed, and food to be blessed. It's always about us.”

We are not praying as we should, and then we wonder why our prayers seem so powerless. God wants us to pray powerful prayers and to see victory in our lives. To get that, we need to pray God’s way. That is what I have been seeking in this series: to learn what praying God’s way is, to pray God’s prayers and in his style and manner. Ludy, also in Wrestling Prayer, suggests God wants to raise a great generation of heroes, prayer warriors that have not been seen since the days of the Apostles. Numerous pastors here in the southwest are calling for a final revival that will precede the events of the end times.

In all our talk about political banter, we tend to call for political reform, movie reform, books reform, every kind of reform except spiritual reform. We want to see an end to the bars, the gangs, the drugs, the porn, the sexualization of our youth, and so on. Do you want to know what it will take to shut them all down? It’s not any city ordinance or executive order. It is revival, brought and sustained through prayer. How do I know? Look at Acts 19. Paul spent a couple years in Ephesus preaching the Gospel and revival fell, to the point where people stopped doing business with all the merchants that sold idols and sacrificial meat to idols. They got so mad they cause a riot. If you want to do real prayer business, you will encounter an enemy that is going to fight back. He is not going to let you conquer his territory without a fight. If the enemy is not fighting against you, it is most likely because you aren’t a threat to him, because you are not taking your faith as serious as you should. I’m talking to myself on this too.

I’ll close this post with this thought. Are you known in hell? Leonard Ravenhill made this proclamation: “I want to be on Satan’s Most Wanted List.” And he was. So was Paul. Go back to Acts 19. The Seven Sons of Sceva tried to ride on Paul’s coattails. “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I cast you out.” The demon replied: “Jesus we know, and Paul we know, but who are you?” Are you known in hell where the demons tremble when you walk into the scene? If you are known in hell, that means you also know that it is not YOU that they tremble before but the Lord Jesus Christ in you who is able to act in and through you. Satan and his minions dread any man yielded to the will of God.

Are you a prayer warrior, praying God’s prayers God’s way, and obedient to the call? You cannot be such a person without experiencing war. That is why God arms us and equips us with his weapons, with prayer being our primary one. I have experienced battles and I know I have been on Satan’s Most Wanted List because he tried to kill me as a child. He realized God has a calling on my life, but am I living to see that through? Am I the threat to him now that God knew I could be? Am I praying God’s Kingdom into my life? Am I in position to not merely talk about the battles and train others about the battles, but to engage in the battles? I received a lesson in humility by reading the stories of a local youth pastor here in El Paso and I realized I am not the “expert” on spiritual warfare that I have been used to being due to being one of the few to actually engage in it. He showed me how little I actually knew. I am grateful to see other warriors on the field, but we are few. We need you. We need you praying and we need you fighting. If you are not willing to do this, stop complaining about the status of our world.

Next week, I’ll dig even deeper into this as I address Intercession.

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Judges 9:50-57

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 7, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Next Abimelech went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it. Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women—all the people of the city—had fled. They had locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof. Abimelech went to the tower and attacked it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull.
Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, ‘Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’’ So his servant ran him through, and he died. When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they went home. Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the people of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them.” (Judges 9:50-57)

Look back a couple weeks ago at where we last left Abimelech in his story (here). Essentially, Abimelech and his army has just decimated the town of Shechem. Now, they’re headed to the next town of Thebez to capture it as well. We don’t know why Abimelech felt the need to take the town of Thebez as well, except for the fact of him being power hungry.

The town of Thebez was around 10 miles to the northeast of Shechem, but word apparently travels fast. The inhabitants of Thebez had heard what happened at Shechem, so they were as prepared as they could be. They all went up to the roof of their strong tower so they could potentially fight back against Abimelech and his army.

The story takes an unexpected twist when a woman drops an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head. An upper millstone was around 10” long, and it would go back and forth over the lower millstone, which was larger, as the grain was crushed in the process of milling. So at 10” long, this was not a huge stone, and perhaps the woman had it nearby and figured it could be a good weapon.

With factors such as wind and the height from which it was dropped, it would have been nearly impossible for the women to hit Abimelech square on the head except for pure luck - or God’s intervention. This had to be an act of divine retribution, of God’s judgment against Abimelech’s evil deeds.

Being killed by a woman was considered incredibly disgraceful, and power-hungry and image-conscious Abimelech definitely didn’t want that! Since he wasn’t dead yet from the impact of the stone, he had his armor bearer actually finish him off with his sword. But, that ended up being essentially irrelevant. The story of Abimelech being killed by a woman was what lived on, and it was even referenced later in Scripture, in 2 Samuel 11:21.

So now that their leader Abimelech was dead, Israel’s army had no purpose to stay there, so as it says in verse 55, they simply went home. They had no hard feelings against the people of Thebez; they were only there to follow their leader’s desire for power.

So remember way back in Judges 9:1-21 how Abimelech’s half-brother, Jotham, warned Israel how they would be cursed through Abimelech if they let him be their leader? That had finally come true, and it was fulfilled in multiple ways. The city of Shechem was destroyed when Abimelech set it on fire, and that fire was likely fed by thorn bushes in the city. In Jotham’s curse, he spoke of thorn bushes to represent Abimelech. It all came full circle now, with God providing this judgment up Abimelech for all the evil he had done.

There are always consequences for our actions, both good and bad, and sometimes it takes a while before we see them. The people of Israel allowed Abimelech to become their leader, even though they had already seen the evil he was capable of when he killed 68 of his half brothers so that he could be the one in charge. Because of this, the town of Shechem and all its inhabitants were completely destroyed. The town of Thebez fared a bit better, and only the buildings of the town and not its people were destroyed. They allowed a man who had already shown his evil character to become their leader, and they paid for it with the consequences later. Abimelech himself reaped the consequences of what he sowed. By killing many, many people, he was killed himself, and in a very disgraceful way.

What are you doing in your life that could lead to negative consequences later on? Take a look at your actions and attitudes today, and make whatever changes you need to so that you’ll have positive consequences later on.

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Are You Thin Skinned?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, November 5, 2016 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

I remember when I realized I have no control over what people choose to think about me. It was the same season I realized that I didn't have to take it personal if someone disagreed with or disliked me. It was also when I stopped trying to justify myself to others, stopped trying to 'win' arguments, and started listening for more important things.

To be fair, it was a very long season. It's been a process of maturing and letting my own skin 'thicken' so that I could see the world from a less defensive, less self-centered perspective. I have NOT arrived. I recognize how far I have to go when I interact with mature seniors, and how far I've come when I talk with teens and twenty-somethings. For all of us, maturity is a perpetual work in progress. And one essential benefit of maturity is having a thicker skin.

What do I mean by that? Well, maybe another way of saying it is being less REACTIVE and more RESPONSIVE. Someone who is reactive always seems to have a level 10 reaction to a level 1 event. Yes, this can be a stress management issue or an insecurity issue, but reactive people almost always have a maturity issue - from a traumatic wound, a 'blind spot' in our character, or for any number of reasons.

Reactive people are immature and do not last long under personal critique or pressure. They see others as an obstacle to their desires, and most opportunities through potential personal gain. Reactive people are the first ones to use controlling tactics, and they are the last ones to grow personally, especially if that growth is from negative feedback.

Responsive people tend to be mature enough to separate their worth from their experience. These people are not ignited by conflict, but rather curious about its cause. They seek to discern how the situation came to be, and then how to maximize the benefits. These are the people who value feedback, even negative feedback, and know how to use it to grow and become stronger. These are also people who know their maturity is essential to helping others grow and for communities to be healthy.

How do we cultivate maturity, and have a thicker skin for the abrasive nature of life? It starts with what we hold as important in our hearts. Read 1 Peter 3:8-22.

Notice in verse 15 that Peter tells us the key to maturity. He says, "Do not fear as they [the world] does, but sanctify Jesus Christ as Lord in your heart, always being ready to give a reason for the hope that you have." That word sanctify, from the Greek, means to 'dedicate' or to 'honor as holy.' Everything else Peter encourages us to do in these verses hangs on this question: is Jesus Lord of our life? And Peter doesn't just leave it as a question of Jesus being in charge. He's not talking about some "Jesus club" where we just pledge allegiance to Jesus in order to maintain our membership. Peter makes it clear that our maturity starts with dedicating ourselves to follow Jesus - making Jesus the most sacred voice we hear in every decision and situation.

Once Jesus replaces our self-protection, our desires, and our fears, we can become mature. We can have a thick skin and be responsive in even the most threatening situations. We gain perspective by recognizing that God is bigger, we gain patience and peace by recognizing He is in control, and we give a healthy response focused on His good instead of our gain.

So how thick is your skin? Do you have a gentle and well-measured answer to offenses, or do you fly off the handle at anything that seems like it’s directed at you? If you find yourself having level 10 reactions to level 1 situations, maybe it’s time to do a heart check and see what you are holding there as sacred and holy. It's probably not Jesus, and He is likely being pushed aside by other concerns that have control over your life.

It’s time to take stock in what you really believe, and to get your heart and life lined up with the only one who can help you become fully mature. One practical situation we can hold up a mirror and reflect on is this upcoming election. This election season has demonstrated the immaturity, ignorance, and self-righteous attitudes we have in America. It has revealed those who follow Jesus, and those who follow other religious, social, cultural, political, etc. agendas first. It has shown the exaggerated reactiveness of those who tearfully cry foul about "hombres" and "emails." It has shown the hypocrisy of those who cry “racism,” “sexism,” and then vote primarily to achieve a racial or sexual milestone in political history. It has shown the frailty of a Christianized social culture that bears nothing of the power and unity of the Spirit of Christ (a form of godliness, but denying His power).

America is immature. It’s not because we are a young nation, but because our republic is being torn apart by REACTIVE people who are demanding their rights and abdicating their responsibilities. You have to be RESPONSIVE to truly be responsible, you must be thick skinned to find opportunity in adversity, and you must be dedicated to Jesus as Lord, from the core of your being, to be fully mature.

I invite you to reflect again on 1 Peter 3:8-22, and I invite you to consider your personal and spiritual maturity. Where and how might God be wanting to strengthen and grow you? (Hint: If you feel like ranting all over my comments section right now, it could be a clue to some areas for thicker skin growth by trusting and listening to Jesus.)

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Pray For Your Leaders

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, November 3, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

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

Election Day is Tuesday. I am quite sure most of you will be glad for it to be over, as will I. With a title of “Pray for your leaders” right before the Election, the first impression you may have could be that this will be a political post about how to pray and support whoever wins, but that’s not what I am going to write about. There is the Romans 13:1-7 passage about how to honor and respect your political leaders, because it is the position God instilled regardless of who is holding it. However, there is a bigger issue that the Christians in America the last few months have largely completely forgotten.

Where is your hope and trust found? Where is your faith located? That is a question we have been asking here with Worldview Warriors this week. A while back, I posted on my Facebook page a political rant, directing it at Christians. For much of the election cycle, my feed has been filled with political comments, most of which I agree with on that topic and some that I don’t. However, if you took all of the comments and put them together, very few gave any real hint of trusting the Lord Jesus Christ in the situation. I sense that many place their hope in their choice of candidate or the Supreme Court or the Cabinet or anything except with Christ. There is nothing wrong with being knowledgeable about the elections or making a wise decision in how you vote, or even exposing problems with politics, however is Trump or Clinton or a third party candidate the answer? I had quite a few likes on that post but the ironic thing is that a number of those who liked it were the very people I was addressing. In this season, I have said very little about the election on my social media, and in anything I have said I sought to point people to the real solution to this madness: Jesus Christ.

During the Christmas Advent season last year, my pastor gave a message about peace and the key theme he preached was that we will not have peace unless Christ is on the throne. Is Christ on the “throne” of America? Absolutely not. Is he still sovereign over the whole situation? Absolutely. But Christ’s authority is not recognized in this nation today. Why should we expect peace when the nation no longer honors and respects his command? What’s more is that America is actually turned to directly defy God, like they are daring God to do something.

But America is not the only nation to have turned on God. Rome was always a secular nation that tolerated the initial Christians but soon began to directly persecute them. Roman Emperor Nero was insane and blamed the burning of Rome on the Christians while he played the fiddle. Many of the Kings of Israel and Judah were also wicked. Few stand out more than Saul in today’s context. In 1 Samuel 8, Israel asked God for a king because they wanted to be like everyone else and did not want God to directly rule over them (sounds very familiar to today, doesn’t it?). So God gave them the king they all wanted: Saul.

Saul was head and shoulders above everyone else. He looked the part, but for most of his reign he did not act the part. But there’s one very interesting thing about Saul. The prophet Samuel loved him and constantly prayed over him until God explicitly told him to stop praying. This did not come until roughly 27 years into Saul’s reign. Samuel constantly prayed for Saul. Paul told us in Romans 13 (see above) to pray for our leaders. Nero was the Emperor, and not a godly man.

In Jeremiah 29, we see a letter to the captives to build homes, marry, plant fields, and bless their captors, because if Babylon prospered, so would the Jews. Not exactly the picture that most think of when citing Jeremiah 29:11. Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel were prime ministers and advisors to great kings - secular, mostly Godless kings. They honored, respected, and prayed for their kings. Even in defiance of an order, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego still respected Nebuchadnezzar. What are we doing?

It gets worse. How many of us pray and support our Godly leaders? Countless pastors reveal they need the prayers of their congregation more than we could ever imagine. If we are to be praying and supporting the godless leaders, how much more should we be supporting the Godly leaders? Where are the Aarons and Hurs who lifted up Moses’ arms when Joshua fought with Amalek? Read this by Jonathan Edwards:

"If some Christians that have been complaining of their ministers had said and acted less before men and had applied themselves with all their might to cry to God for their ministers--had, as it were, risen and stormed heaven with their humble, fervent, and incessant prayers for them--they would have been much more in the way of success." ~Jonathan Edwards, quoted in The Complete Works of E.M Bounds, page 44

We have all heard the stories of pastors who have fallen into error, both doctrinally and morally. I wonder how many of them would have fallen if their congregation had spent more time praying for them. I speak to myself as well. How often do I pray for my pastor, my administrators, and our American leaders? Honestly, I don’t do it as much as I ought.

Some may say that, “Who am I to be able to pray for our nation?” Or, “We need to keep religion out of politics.” There have been many world leaders that have feared the prayers of God’s mighty men. Queen Elizabeth is claimed to have made this proclamation: “I fear the prayers of Edmund Burke more than I fear the full might of the Spanish Armada.” I read of Rees Howells, a true prayer warrior of Wales who prayed specifically for battles throughout World War II in which victory for the allies made no sense, unless men like Howells were praying. Burke and Howells were not super special men. They were just ordinary men who learned the power of prayer, as I have been learning about but not yet fully grasped.

Too many of us have a pathetic image of what prayer can do, and yet as I read more of the testimonies of the great missionaries, their prayers were not merely for victory of tiny things that we generally pray for: help on a test, guidance for a surgeon’s hands, a peaceful day at work, etc; their prayers were nation- and world-impacting prayers. We may have wicked leaders and God may very well use this election to bring America to its due judgement for our nationwide sins. But instead of continuing the political banter I keep seeing, we need to be getting to our knees and praying that God’s will be done, even if it means judgment. Keep in mind: the US does not have a promise of restoration that Israel got in Jeremiah 29. We need to pray that God shows himself mighty in these dark times. We need to pray, pray, pray. If we want to see changes in this nation, we as the Bride of Christ need to change, to be purified. And it will mean we will need to go to battle on our knees.

Next week, I’ll address how prayer is the weapon we wield in the real battles going on in the spiritual realms.

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.