Ruler of the Stronghold

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 30, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

This week with Worldview Warriors, we are talking about strongholds. Most of the time when we think of a stronghold, one of two images comes to mind: a castle or fortress, and a satanic/sinful grip over your life. But not all strongholds are evil. A stronghold could also be good. The difference is who rules that stronghold. Who is the ruler over the strongholds in your life? You? Satan? Or God?

The book of Nehemiah is about the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the stronghold, the symbol of God’s Kingdom and his people. Because of their sin, the walls were broken down and the city was in disarray. People still lived there, but the enemies of Israel had easy and free access to the city. Then God raised up Nehemiah to restore the walls and Jerusalem became a place to be reckoned with again. However, Jerusalem was not always in Israel’s hands.

In 2 Samuel 5, Jerusalem was in the hands of the Jebusites. It was a very difficult place to conquer, yet David challenged any of his mighty men that whoever would lead the charge against Jerusalem would be commander of his army. Joab took the job, the city was taken, and Jerusalem became the capital of the Kingdom.

Same city, owned by two different rulers. When the enemies of Israel had control of Jerusalem, the city was a stalwart against the people of God or in complete shambles. When God’s people had control over the city, it was a symbol of the strength of God, and while the enemy sent army after army after army to destroy Jerusalem, they never could prevail until God removed his hand of protection.

This can be a picture of the stronghold of our lives. Most preachers and books you will read on the topic will talk about the “throne” of your life. The Bible study group I teach on Monday evenings is going through Eric Ludy’s book Wrestling Prayer, and two of the chapters in the book are about Saul, who represents self, on the throne versus David, a picture of Jesus, on the throne. It’s the same concept here. Who is the ruler of the stronghold that is your life? Is your life a place for the enemy to set up camp and stage his assaults on the people of God? Or is it a place for God to dwell and move his Kingdom into action? Another analogy I can use is an aircraft carrier. Our lives are like a mobile, walking spiritual aircraft carrier. We carry military power wherever we go. The question is, who is the commander?

Before we became Christians, we were of the world. We only knew the natural, and self was on the throne. Few of us would ever have considered ourselves “evil” back then, except we sought to rule our own lives when Jesus is the rightful king. Because we wanted to do our own things, the walls over our lives were broken down and Satan had full access to harass us. We often succumbed to his demands without us even knowing it and he would use us to attack God and his Kingdom.

However, after we were born again, we renounced the rule of self on the throne of our lives and submitted to Jesus Christ. That is actually what is required to be born again. Self must be removed and Christ installed as King over our lives. That is repentance. When Jesus is on the throne over our lives, he can use our lives as a walking arsenal with our prayers and spiritual weapons to wreak havoc on the Kingdom of Darkness. If you look at the promises throughout the Bible and at the lives of the saints of God, no matter where they went and no matter what they did, no one could touch the saints of God nor take them until their hour of trial had come. When Paul went to Rome, was shipwrecked, and was bitten by a viper, none of it phased him because his hour of facing Nero had not yet come. Likewise, if we learn to yield to Christ’s rule, obey him at the outset, and trust him in all circumstances, we will be a stronghold the enemy will have a hard time taking.

However, many times the enemy does get into our lives. How does he do it? First, he constantly searches for a breach or a hole in our walls. That way he does not have to get formal permission to enter our premises through the front gate. That breach or hole in the wall is an area in our lives that has not yet been surrendered to Christ, and it is usually a sin that we struggle with. Satan will slip in but he will keep a low profile. He won’t stay in the open because then we will notice him.

After a while, he will build a small tent in a corner of our lives and appear harmless. He won’t threaten us and he will often go along with what we are doing, as long as that is not part of God’s purification and sanctification process. But during this time, we tend to get used to him being there, not recognizing him as the enemy of our souls. As time progresses, he will build a more permanent home and slip in a few of his buddies, again biding their time to strike. We must be watchful for Trojan Horses at this point. Remember, all Satan needs is an access point and he doesn’t need to send many of his demons in to get the doors open.

If we do not take notice then, soon Satan will build his own castle, within the “stronghold” of our lives. At this point, he will start to harass us, all the while convincing us that if we can keep him contained in that ‘castle’ he will be fine in our lives and will only be an occasional annoyance. But then the real plot is executed and he will throw a coup to claim the throne of our lives for his own. He will open our front gates and invite his army to invade. Many pastors have preached this progression: If you sow a sin, you will reap a habit. If you sow a habit, you will reap a stronghold. If you sow a stronghold, you will reap a demon. And the end result is death.

How do we handle this? First, we need to be on constant guard duty, watching for any breaches in our lives and watching for hidden enemy occupation. We cannot do this alone. That is why having prayer partners is so valuable. We need the constant searching eye of God’s Spirit in our lives. This is hard because he is ruthless about what can stay and what needs to go, but he knows why it should stay or go.

Who is in charge of the stronghold of your life? Have you allowed the enemy to build within your territory? Are you in a state of constant cleansing and continual surrendering of your life to the lordship of Jesus Christ? As 2016 comes to a close, let us start 2017 anew. What is done is done. The question is, what can you do right now? And right now we can follow the Perfect Master with a renewed focus and dedication, in a constant state and spirit of surrender to Jesus Christ.

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Hyperactive Enlightenment

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, December 29, 2016 25 comments

by Steve Risner

Atheist statement #4 in this series (go here for the previous post): “The Enlightenment was a time when people started to question the translated tales and discovered how the natural world actually worked.”

Oh, boy. This is a loaded statement full of inaccuracies and poorly choses word usage. Let's make sure we all understand that the “Dark Ages” were nothing of the sort so the “Enlightenment” didn't wake up humanity from the slumber of intellect that the Church put over it (which is what people like this atheist want to believe). The fact is, Christianity birthed science and the scientific method, and it was because of Christianity that it was birthed. The Dark Ages were anything but dark. It was a great time of innovation and advancement. It's true the Catholic Church and other religious institutions of the day were tyrannical in their dealings with the people, but this didn't stop the people from making great discoveries. The printing press, heavy plough, eye glasses, the quarantine, the spinning wheel, the mechanical clock and so many more things came out of the “Dark Ages.” Buttons, wind mills, water mills, chimneys, the steel crossbow, and the canon and therefore gunpowder were all feats of engineering and innovation during the time commonly called the Middle Ages or Dark Ages.

This period was initially called the Dark Ages to discredit Christianity, of course. Then the term Enlightenment was coined to note a departure from the stunted intellectual growth of this time to the time when intelligent human beings woke up and decided to throw off the shackles of religion. Except most of the great advancements of the time and science itself were founded by Christians because of their faith. Atheists frequently like to claim credit for the establishment of science and higher reasoning, but that's a farce. I wrote on this topic a few years ago with “Creation Scientist is not an Oxymoron.” Many if not most of the greatest minds we've ever known were Christians and, of the 10 highest IQ's in the world right now, at least 6 are Christians and at least 2 more are at least theists (meaning they believe in God). It seems that atheists don't have the market cornered on smarts. In fact, it seems like maybe there are some intelligent atheists that are an exception to the rule rather than the norm. I don't know about that, but it seems like we can surmise that from the facts.

So what's the deal with the Enlightenment? A large feature of the Enlightenment was rationalism—a belief that puts reason over experience in regards to how we can know something. This was actually a good thing, to a point. It freed people to think for themselves. It allowed for reason and logic to win over the iron fist of authorities. As a result, many philosophers of the day (and this is true for a great number of people today) had a faith in Christianity that decayed into deism. Deism is the belief that God exists, but after creating the universe and setting it in motion, He has stepped back and is no longer involved. This is in direct contradiction to the Bible, which tells of the story of God interacting with man, longing to reconcile man back to God. Deism is a cold religion that has only one truth: the obviousness of the created universe and creation of life.

There are a great number of people today who cannot lie to themselves and force themselves to say that there is no evidence for a Creator. The evidence is astounding and it's all around us, clearly visible. Many people wrongly profess to be “Christians,” when in reality they are deists. They know, as Scripture tells us, that God must exist. There's no logical way to account for life and the universe in general without Him. But they don't serve the Almighty. They've not accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and have no relationship with the Creator. They view Him from far off, believing He has no desire to be involved. This is far from the truth we find in Scripture. God is a God of love and relationship. The Bible is a story of man rebelling against God and waving a fist at Him, while He is constantly saying, “I love you. I love you. I love you. Come back to Me.” He demonstrated that love for us perfectly in Jesus Christ. I would encourage you, if you believe more like the deist than the Christian, to consider that God is all powerful and all knowing. He's terrifyingly glorious and majestic. He hates sin and is, therefore, unapproachable in our fallen state. But He also loves His creation and loves you with a love so unbelievably huge that He became a man to die for your imperfections. He left the indescribable glory of heaven to live a sinless life on the earth and die in your place for your sins. He paid your debt. What a wonderful expression of love! He wants you to know Him and His grace, and He's crazy enough about you that He did all that! He has a calling on your life and longs for you to approach Him humbly.

The great thing about rational thought is that it is perfectly in line with the Bible. God is a God of order. He has placed laws in the universe that govern how things function. He has stepped in to His creation and done what we would call miracles as recorded in the Bible—things that are outside the natural laws He's put in place. These are exceptions to those natural laws. I believe firmly that He still does them today. That's not to say rationalism is the same thing. Rationalism says that's all there is. You cannot have miracles; you cannot have a God that cares for you; you cannot have faith in something you can't see, etc. This is similar to the difference between science (a Christian invention for discovery and investigation) and scientism (which is part of the humanist worldview that says there is no way to know anything other than through science). Unfortunately, science has been hijacked and has, in some branches, turned into a religion rather than a method for discovery and investigation. Most notably would be those branches of science that make claims about origins and deep time—cosmology, evolution, etc. These things are completely unknowable in the sense of observation and testing, yet they're held up as facts of science.

Reason is one of the many tools we have been given by God to understand His creation and Him. However, like so many other things, reason has been distorted by our sin. The human mind, apart from being reborn by our Father in heaven, is warped and sick.

View reason and enlightenment through a Biblical worldview, remembering that God created everything in the first place. Tune in next week for another idea that came out of the Enlightenment period.

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The Stygian Blackness: Nihilistic Extinction

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, December 28, 2016 1 comments

by David Odegard

Nihilism is the root canal of philosophies - all the pain and depression followed by the certainty of a dental bill. If you live in Europe or one of the Americas, you have been affected already by nihilism. So please hang tight, we’ll get through this together.

Nihilism comes from the Latin word nihil meaning nothing. I am led to believe that nihilism began to be expressly formulated in pre-revolutionary Russia, and it does resemble something that would crawl out of a frozen Siberian nightscape of vodka-fueled depression. At the core of nihilism is this idea that absolute truth cannot exist. This is simply impossible.

Lesslie Newbigin once said, “All knowing involves both faith and doubt.” This is true. Nihilism questions all truth claims; it accepts only doubt. Ultimate truth does not exist, according to nihilism. But this in itself is a truth claim that goes unquestioned by those who accept nihilistic ideas. “There is no absolute truth except the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth.” This is a logical absurdity, but pointing it out does not dispel society’s infatuation with it.

All knowledge begins with faith. I must accept something as true to begin. I can question that truth claim later with new evidence, but I must begin somewhere. If I doubt everything, I can never know anything. But, I can only question the validity of any truth claim on the basis of ideas that I have already accepted as true. For example, if I say, “I believe that all Americans are earthlings.” And someone else says, “I doubt that.” I then say, “Why?” Then that person must say, “Because A, B, and C are true.” If nothing can be true this conversation cannot exist, nor any conversation whatsoever for that matter. We have to accept something as true to even begin. Faith is first, doubt only secondary; it cannot be otherwise.

James Sire writes, “Strictly speaking, nihilism is a denial of any philosophy or worldview—a denial of the possibility of knowledge, a denial that anything is valuable. If it proceeds to the absolute denial of everything, it even denies the reality of existence itself. In other words, nihilism is the negation of everything—knowledge, ethics, beauty, reality.” This has led modern man to elevate doubt over faith.

Friedrich Nietzsche articulated nihilism in its most lasting form for Europe and America. According to Nietzsche, because all truth is ultimately without any real basis, it is wrong to say that something can be right or wrong. (“It is wrong to say something is wrong.” This is a perfect example of the absurdity of nihilism.) Nietzsche would say that since it is impossible to say that something is right or wrong, it only leaves the will, “will to power.” “The future would lie with the ubermensch, the superman, who had the courage to recognize that there are no such things as right and wrong but simply the exercise of his will—this had its spiritual results in the whole Nazi episode in Germany” (Newbigin).

The superman will have to write his own destiny. Nietzsche writes, “As man emerged out of the animal, so out of man the superman emerges.” Emblaze the gas-fires of Auschwitz! Transform them into a foundry of the future from which the ubermensch, the superman, can emerge and claim his place. Why did the “master race” have self-doubt? Where did he get these ideas of right and wrong in the first place that limited his will to power? The Nazis reasoned that it must have been the Jews and the moral law they preach: truth claims of ultimate right and wrong. The superman is held back by the Ten Commandments. The Nazis’ final solution was to wipe the master conscience clean from Semitic meddling and emerge in Aryan supremacy. Earth has not witnessed a bloodier episode than the World War which arose in response to the idea that “as man emerged out of the animal, so out of man the superman emerges.” Nihilism is false from start to finish, and bloody.

Woody Allen once said, “More than any time in our history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness; the other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Woody can only see that we either accept existentialism or nihilism, and he has painted himself into a windowless corner. But, God breaks through all of that stygian blackness! Behold, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). God offers another way: Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, the Light!

The Apostle Paul shrugged away his sufferings in light of the revelation of God given through Jesus Christ. He said, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). For Paul, ultimate truth was only found in knowing God Himself. Jesus Christ is the Truth, the revelation of God for our salvation.

The Apostle Peter did not take a three-year course in philosophy to decide whether to respond in faith to Jesus’s command to “Follow me.” He believed and put one foot in front of the other following the master, Jesus Christ, for the rest of his life. Augustine knew that belief was the beginning of knowledge. His statement, nisi credideritis non intelligetis (“I believe in order to understand”), remains the truest form to apprehend knowledge. The Apostle John is the gospel of belief. In it he preaches that if you will not believe, you will not see.

The Gospel becomes a new starting point for all knowledge. If God, the triune God, has allowed the love and glory which has always existed within Himself to bubble over into creating this expansive glorious universe in which His attributes can be partially appreciated by mankind, if that is true, “then the only way to understand the universe is to respond in love and faith to the one whose universe it is” (Newbigin).

Perhaps you don’t like the flavor of a frozen Siberian nightscape of vodka-fueled nihilism and would prefer the tropical flavor nihilism’s watered-down little sister, Pluralism. But that is for next week. I invite questions, concerns, comments, blessings.

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What is a Stronghold?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, December 26, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

As we look back on our Christmas celebrations and look forward to the new year of 2017, we at Worldview Warriors want to take a look at strongholds. What is a stronghold? Is it a good thing or a bad thing to have in your life? Keep reading to find out.

Google defines stronghold as “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack, a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld.” A military fort is a type of physical stronghold, since it protects the surrounding area. But there are also emotional and spiritual strongholds, as in the second part of the definition: when we have a particular belief that is strongly defended. We’re going to be talking about spiritual strongholds today.

Whether a stronghold is good or bad depends on the context of what it is, and the motivation with which it is upheld.

An example of a good stronghold is standing firm on your faith and God’s Word, to base your life on it and defend it from attack. A bad example of this same stronghold is being a jerk about it and using God’s Word to attack and be mean to those who do not believe in it.

Another example of a good stronghold is taking refuge in the stronghold of God. When the world attacks, we know that God will protect us, according to His plans. A bad example of a stronghold is being gripped by evil, believing it is true when it isn’t, and not able to follow God because of it.

Do you see how a stronghold can be either good or bad, depending on the context and motivation? It’s great to be so firm in your belief of the Truth that you trust in God for everything, but make sure that your belief really is God’s Truth and not a distorted version of it, that would keep you from Him.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This passage is talking about evil strongholds, those things of the world that grip us and cause us to not be able to truly follow Jesus.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are in this world but we are not fully a part of it. We are all in a spiritual battle, but our weapons are not of this world. Our weapons can help us get rid of the evil strongholds of this world. When we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ, we will take on the stronghold of Jesus Christ’s power and get rid of the stronghold of the evils of this world. We are called to change our strongholds from being against Christ to being for and in Christ.

What are the strongholds in your life? What are those things that are of this world that are hindering your relationship with Jesus? Are you treating God’s Word and your faith in Christ as a stronghold, so that it can demolish the evil ones from your life? Consider this as we head into this new year; I pray that 2017 will be the year that we can all break free from the evil strongholds in our lives and fully grasp the wonderful, redeeming love of Jesus Christ!

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Love – The Greatest Gift

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, December 25, 2016 0 comments

by Ami Samuels

As Christmas is now here, we have bustled around searching for the perfect gifts for our families and friends. We spent countless hours shopping and wrapping gifts. Thinking about this process led me to a scripture in Matthew, and the fact that the greatest gift we can give is love!

In Matthew 22:36 Jesus is asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied (verses 37-39), “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

To be honest when first reading this scripture, it wasn’t very convicting for me. I have struggled with loving myself, and if how much I loved myself was the measuring stick for my love for others, well, that wasn’t a huge requirement.

But recently, God made this clearer to me about how we are supposed to love others. I was reading in John 15. Like many of you, I have studied this particular passage several times. That is one of the amazing things about studying God’s Word: he reveals new things to us all of the time.

In John 15:1-2 it says, “I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes.” In verses 4-5 it says, “Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Unless we are in an ongoing relationship with Jesus it says we can do nothing. Apart from him we can do nothing!

Picking up in verse 9: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” Reading this I began to question, how do I remain in God’s love? But as I read on in verse 10 I found the answer: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

Verse 12 goes on to say, “My command is this: Love others as I have loved you.” This was an AHA moment – we are supposed to Love others as Jesus loves us! Jesus loves us UNCONDITIONALLY! He doesn’t wait to love us WHEN we are smarter, thinner, when we get a promotion, or a degree. He loves us right where we are! He loves us unconditionally, not when but now!

So as we celebrate this holiday season and Jesus’ birth today, my encouragement is for us to LOVE OTHERS AS JESUS LOVES US! Remember, the greatest gift of all is LOVE.

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Peace on Earth... Even When It Hurts?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, December 24, 2016 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

It was eleven years ago that I performed my first back-to-back funerals just before Thanksgiving. I experienced two very different types of grief, and all of the holiday season was just different for me.

My grandmother died shortly after a close friend of mine. For the loss of my grandmother, there were tears and memories, certainly grieving the absence of her with us and what she uniquely brought to the family. Her death had been slow in coming, and everyone had the chance to celebrate the many years of her life and to say goodbye, and in many ways we were prepared for her to be at rest.

My friend however, was in his 40's. He was surprised with a cancer diagnosis, and within 6 months he was gone. It was too soon. A few of us who played in the band with him struggled in the weeks after his death. We each struggled with words said, words unsaid, things done and undone. In our grief, we were embarrassed and felt guilty for even the simplest of things we may have said that could have hurt his feelings. We were unsure of how to resolve all the things we should have said. And there was a season where we had almost a "mythic" view of him, as if he were some hero or innocent in a story and we were the ones who made his life more difficult than it needed to be. Perhaps it was because he died so graciously faithful. Perhaps it was just because he died.

A few years later when our first family dog died, I was digging the hole to bury our departed canine friend and suddenly a wave of familiar emotions flooded over me. Things said, unsaid, done, and undone - the "mythic and heroic pet for an unworthy family." It was then that I realized that this is a normal part of grieving. Whenever we grieve, we are drawn to the depths of loss and pain, and that includes all the things we may or may not have done well in our relationship with the departed loved one. I also realized in BOTH those seasons that it was essential to go into the depths of grief, with Truth firmly in hand.

My friend and our family dog both knew that we loved them. Neither one of them died wondering if we were their friends. They were not holding on to unresolved memories; we were. And we, if they had not died, would likely be treating them the same way we always had. The only thing that changed was that they were no longer here. Our hearts and minds were desperately taking inventory of all the things we shared with them, good and bad, that would no longer be shared with anyone else in the same way. Once the inventory was complete and we had faced our loss (and guilt) with Truth, then we could move toward the joy of remembrance. A joy that comes from Truth, through peace, and is the consolation of our souls.

Read Luke 2:21-40. Read through this moment in the events around Jesus' birth. Take time to imagine Simeon and Anna, as if you had met them and knew their stories.

Why is it that Simeon held so firmly to the promise that he would see God's 'consolation' of Israel before he died? What was the nation of Israel mourning at this time? Why did they need peace and how would this Jesus person make a difference?

Why did Anna not remarry after the death of her husband? It was only 7 years before he died, and she could have been as young as 21. Why would she devote her life to God and remain a widow for 77 years? Was she just stuck in her grief? Or was there something about her devotion to God - worshipping Him, fasting, and praying - that brought her through grief and to renewed purpose and hope?

Anna and Simeon both trusted God deeply, and He made them a part of validating the hope and peace that Jesus would bring. God satisfied their entire lives with His presence and the peace He was bringing through Jesus Christ.

If you are grieving this Christmas, unsure of why you feel so alone, or just bummed with all the hype of presents without the presence of joy and peace, then I would like to invite you to consider Simeon and Anna. I would like you to consider following their example. Go to God with your grief, with your emptiness, with your cynicism. Focus on who God is and the Truth of who Jesus Christ was and IS! Give God permission to lead you through your grief and to bring you to soul-satisfying joy and hope. He can, and He will.

Whether your journey through grief to joy and hope is 77 years or 77 seconds, I pray that the fullness of Jesus Christ's light and life would shine on you, renew you, and bring the brightness of His presence to your eyes this Christmas season. May you celebrate this day as His day, and may your life become a perpetual celebration of Him, every day.

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The Lineage of Jesus

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 23, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Christmas is just two days away, the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Many posts, sermons, and memes are being made about the real reason we celebrate this season. Many will argue against Christmas trees, Santa Claus, or December 25 as the birthdate of Jesus, all of which are irrelevant to what I want to share. In two of the Gospels, Matthew and Luke, we see the line from which Jesus came. Why are they there? Genealogies and the long lines of ‘begats’ can often be boring. Most Bible readers tend to skim over them, but they actually bear some of the most important truths in all of world history. Let us dig in.

One of the key things about these genealogies is that they are legal-historical documents, not just for heritage but also for historical validation. The Jews were known for their impeccable detail regarding family lines and history. There are several reasons why. To serve as a priest, and especially a high priest, a man had to prove he came from the line of Aaron. To be high priest, he had to prove both father and mother came from Aaron’s line. The genealogies establish the events in a historical setting. They actually happened. They are not myth or legend. They are history. There were several tribes in Africa that accepted the Gospel instantly because they saw the accuracy of the genealogies. Now let us dig into the two genealogies of Jesus.

Matthew’s genealogy starts with Abraham and follows from Abraham to David to the Exile to Jesus. Matthew’s gospel was written to a primarily Jewish audience and Abraham is the Father of Judaism. God made several promises to Abraham, that through his seed would come the Savior, and not just the seed of Abraham, but also the child of promise, Isaac. Abraham had numerous children. First was Ishmael, then came Isaac, then came several children with Keturah. Muslims claim the promises of God because their progenitor, Ishmael, came from the line of Abraham. They did get a blessing and became a nation, however the promise of the Savior came through Isaac. In order for Jesus to be the Messiah, he had to prove that he came from the line of both Abraham AND Isaac.

Then later, God gave David a promise that his line would forever be on the throne. There was a time period where there was no king, so people say that God broke his promise. After the exile, the kingship of Israel was never re-established, until Jesus entered the picture. Joseph, being in the direct line from the kings, had legal right to claim the kingship over Judah. If Rome (who ruled over Palestine at the time) had allowed the Jews to have their own king and become their own nation, Joseph could make a claim for the throne. That is part of why Jesus was seen as the savior who would overthrow Rome and become the next political king. Jesus was in the political blood line to claim the physical throne. Yet he did not claim it, but rather he claimed the real throne he was to receive: as King of all kings, and Lord of all lords. Jesus did not claim a throne that was not rightfully his. He had legal right to claim it because of his descent from the line of Joseph as a legally-adopted son.

An interesting detail in Matthew’s genealogy is the inclusion of women. In ancient times, women were never listed in the genealogies, yet Matthew cites five women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. With the exception of Mary, the other four were foreign women. Not only that, all four of these women had issues to deal with. Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law and since Judah’s sons kept sinning, it ended up where Tamar slept with Judah. Her son continued the line to Jesus. Rahab was of Jericho, doomed to destruction. But she feared Israel’s God more than her own gods and was rescued. Ruth was a Moabite who lost her husband, the son of Naomi. She stayed with Naomi and ended up with Boaz. Bathsheba committed adultery with David, who then murdered her husband. Then there is Mary whose name means “rebellion.” All five of these women had no right to be placed in such a line, yet Matthew chose to put them into Jesus’ line. But something they all had in common was faith. They believed God and his people, and the Mosaic Law made provision for a foreigner to become a “Jew” by faith in a very similar way that foreigners could come to the US and become a naturalized citizen.

Luke’s genealogy varies from Matthew’s in three ways. Matthew starts from Abraham and goes forward to Jesus. Luke starts with Jesus and goes backwards not to Abraham but all the way to Adam. Luke also has a different line. Contradiction? Actually, no. Matthew goes through Joseph’s line and notes how Jesus came through Solomon, son of David. Luke goes through Mary’s line, so Jesus had the physical blood line, not mere adopted line, of David. In Luke’s genealogy, he lists David’s son, Nathan, as the progenitor of Mary, rather than Solomon. So what we learn here is that both Mary and Joseph came from David.

Connecting Jesus to Adam was critical for Luke because his primary audience was Gentiles, people who did not know about Abraham or their line. All peoples came from the line of Adam and then again from the line of Noah after the Flood. These genealogies establish Adam and Noah as historical figures, which also establishes the events around them as historical. The person who claims Adam and original sin and Noah and the Flood are just myth and legend has not and cannot explain the genealogies’ account of them without dismissing them as well. This is why those who support a young earth model constantly say, “If you remove Adam from the picture, you also remove Jesus from being the Savior.” The old earth supporters have such a disconnect of Scripture as a single, cohesive unit they do not see that without Adam, Jesus means nothing.

There is one last thing I will share with this post. Jewish names are not merely names: they are actually phrases and sentences. Some of you may have seen the meaning of the ten names between Adam and Noah, giving a complete Gospel account. Eric Ludy, in his sermon The Lineage of Majesty, gives a spectacular rendering of the whole line. I want to share that here below. The excerpt in this video shows the part below. Listen to this video to get the full picture and look below at how God orchestrated even Jesus genealogical line to show the Gospel message. Have a great Christmas weekend as we celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

The Genealogy of Jesus

He will be….
The Last (Adam)
“standing redemptively in place of another (Seth)”.
The “people of the earth (Enos)”
Are his “possession (Canaan)”
And for the “praise of God (Mahaleel)”
He has “come down (Jared)”
To “make a way (Enoch)”.
“When he dies there will be an outpouring-His death will be as a weapon (Methuselah)”
“He is brought low that he might prove powerful (Lamech)”.
“He will bring rest and be a resting place (Noah)”.
“His Name will be famous (Shem)”
Among those who have been “cut off from the breast and bound in the enemy stronghold (Aparaxad)”
For he calls them “his possession (Canaan)”.
He will enter this earth as “a tender shoot (Salah)”
As One from the “heavenly region (Eber)”.
He will “divide (Peleg)”
Even “the closest friends (Reu)”.
He will be “a branch (Saruch)”
“burning with resolve (Nahor)”
When “He takes up residence here (Terah)”.
“the father of a multitude, the chief of a mighty host (Abraham)”,
“he laughs (Isaac)”
At the “deceiver and supplanter (Jacob)”
And “overcomes (Israel)”.
“He shall be praised (Judah)”
And “the Breach (Perez)”,
He will “fortify, enclose, and wall in (Hezron)”.
He is “exalted (Amram)”,
The “Royal Seed (Amminadab)”
Who will crush the head of the “hissing enchanter (Nashon)”.

To Jesus along Solomon’s line via Matthew’s Genealogy.
He will be…
“a covering, a garment (Salmon)”
And “in him is strength (Boaz)”.
He will come “serving (Obed)”
To make “wealthy (Jesse)”
His “Beloved (David)”
And bring “peace (Solomon)”
And “enlarge for himself a people (Rehoboam)”.
He will say
“Jehovah is my Father (Abijah).
He will be…
“harmed but healed- hurt, but then made whole (Asa).
It will be said that, He, “God has judged (Jehoshaphat)”
And, He, “God is exalted (Joram)”.
He will prove “the strength of God (Uzziah)
And the “perfection of God (Jotham)”.
He will…
“Possess in his hand (Ahaz)”
“the power of God (Hezekiah)”.
And though he is “forgotten (Manasseh)”
Of his people, He will prove the “Master builder (Amon)”
And “Divinely heal (Josiah)” them.
And, He, “God will set, and make strong (Jechoniah)”
Those who “ask of God (Shealtiel)”;
Those “born in captivity (Zerubabel)”.
He will say…
“My Father is majesty (Abiud)”.
He will be…
“raised up by God (Eliakim)”
To be a “helper (Azor)”
-to be the “righteous one (Sadoc)”.
“God will raise him up (Achim)”
For “God’s praise, majesty and splendor (Eliud)”.
He will be…
“the help of God (Eleazar)”
A “gift (Matthan)”.
And to the heel-grabbing supplanter (Jacob),
He will “exchange out life for death (Joseph)”
And bring “God’s salvation (Jesus)”.

To Jesus along Nathan’s line via Luke’s Genealogy
He will be…
“a covering, a garment (Salmon)”
And “in him is strength (Boaz)”.
He will come “serving (Obed)”
To make “wealthy (Jesse)”
His “Beloved (David)”
And “give (Nathan)”
“the gift of God (Matthias)”.
He declares to those “under the enchantment (Menan)”
That they are “His dearest objects of care (Melea)”
And that “He will raise them up (Eliakim)”.
He will be…
“the giver of grace (Jonan)”,
“the life in exchange for death (Joseph)”.
They will “praise God (Judah)”
Who “hearken unto him (Simon)”
And “join him in covenant (Levi)”.
Those who receive “the gift of God (Matthias)”
The One “whom God has exalted (Jorim)”
Will find the “help and salvation of God (Eleazar)”.
“They will be sustained by God (Jose)”,
“be quickened, made awake, made alive (Er)”.
He will be…
“measured (Elmodan)”
According to the “King’s Divine Oracles (Cosam)”.
He will be “adorned (Addi)”
As “King (Melchi)”.
He will be “a heavenly light (Neri)”
Unto all who “ask of God (Shealtiel)”.
And those “born in captivity (Zerubbabel)”
Will He “heal (Rhesa)”
And “give grace (Joanna)”.
“shall be praised (Judah)”
For “he gives life in exchange for death (Joseph)”
To those who “hearken the good tidings (Shimei).”
He gives “the gift of God (Mattathias)”
Unto the “small (Maath)”.
He is a “bright light (Nagge)”
Unto those “whose eyes are fixed upon God (Esli)”
And he is a “consolation and comfort (Nahum)”
Unto “the burdened (Amos)”.
“The Gift of God (Mattathias)”
Is “life exchanged for death (Joseph)”
It’s the “violent action (Jannai)”
Of “the King (Melchi)”,
In order to “join in covenant (Levi)”.
The “gift of God (Mattathias)”
Raised us to “heavenly heights (Heli)”
And gives “life and liberty in exchange for death (Joseph)”
And “rebellion (Mary)”
And bring us “God’s salvation (Jesus).

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.

Enter Into Joy

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, December 21, 2016 0 comments

by David Odegard

For God so loved the world that He gave us a gift. He wrapped it in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger. By this act He makes peace with the whole world and gives them each an opportunity to respond in faith and be justified.

But an un-opened gift is an unreceived gift.

Each Advent, we Christians celebrate a few recurring themes: hope, peace, joy, and love. These four themes correspond with all the expectations that the Messiah has fulfilled. In my church, we make these themes stand out the entire month before Christmas day, culminating in the grand epic of Christmas Eve candlelight service. id

Hope: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘til He appeared… a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morning…” Immediately after the sin in the garden, God cursed the serpent (Satan) with THE promise that the offspring of the woman “will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

We must have hope in God’s promise, and all of the promises that He made after that first one, that He will rescue His people. When he brought Israel out of Egypt, it was a promise that He will deliver His people from the powerful dominance of this world and its structures, and nothing would stop Him from doing so. This is hope. God has not abandoned us to the evil world we created.

Peace: God made this child to be the atoning sacrifice for the whole world. Through His sinless life and His sacrificial death, Jesus Christ made peace with God available to each one. He is our peace.

Joy: After having witnessed our hope in God’s promise being justified through Jesus and having received the peace that God makes with us through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, He “has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” So we “greatly rejoice, and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).

Love: After you boil off all the lust and greed, all of the self-justification and personal empire-building, and all of the guilt and shame, do you know what remains? Love. Sacrificial, giving love. That is exactly how Jesus lived and died and rose from the dead. Consider two groups of people who heard of the birth of the Messiah: The Scribes and the Shepherds.

When the Magi finally arrive on the scene 2 years later, they go to Herod and ask where the King of the Jews is. Herod doesn’t say, “I am King!” Rather, he calls the scribes and asks them. They immediately answer, “In Bethlehem, in Judea.” They quote Micah 5:2, “But you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah… for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

But then the scribes don’t go running off to Bethlehem themselves to see if they can find the Messiah, even though it’s only a short distance. They just go back home—indifferent to whether the Messiah has come.

Although they should have hope that the Scripture is about to be fulfilled, they have long since given up actually expecting the Word to come to pass. These are hearers of the Word only, but they never do anything about it.

This is a quiet sort of death, and I see it too many times where people just give up believing even though they don’t admit it to themselves.

Contrast that to the attitude of the Shepherds in Luke 2:8-20:
“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. ‘This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”

What a difference in attitude; they immediately took off running for the place where Jesus might be found. When they found them they told Mary and Joseph all about what had happened with the angels. They were filled with joy.

The shepherds were available. They were interested. They were filled with joy at being the first to see the Messiah.

How excited will you be the day that you get to see Jesus Christ face to face? May the grace of God be with you.

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.


The Announcement

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, December 19, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

What’s the best announcement you’ve heard? Has an announcement ever gotten you so excited you can barely stand it? Or are they generally just more conveying of information into our already information-saturated lives? With as much news media and Facebook statuses and Twitter updates and other information available to us at our fingertips and coming at us seemingly wherever we look, it takes a lot for one particular item to stand out from the crowd.

This week we’re going to be writing on various aspects of the Christmas story, and today we’re going to look at the biggest, most important announcement of the Bible. Many, many people had waited hundreds of years for this announcement – finally, the coming of the Savior!

Luke 1:26-28 says, “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’”

This announcement to Mary happens in Nazareth, a town in Galilee. This was not a big important place where major stuff often happened. In fact, Nazareth was known for not having much good come out of it. It’s an insignificant town with a population of maybe 2,000 people, in an unimportant province in the Roman Empire. Nothing special there.

The recipient of this announcement is a woman, a virgin, named Mary. She’s pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, who is one of the many descendants of David. We don’t know Mary’s age for sure, but it was typical in that culture for a girl to be betrothed at the age of 12 or 13. This impending marriage would have been arranged by Mary’s father. After the betrothal, Mary would live at home for about a year until the wedding. From a legal standpoint, after betrothal the couple was considered to be legally married. If the betrothed husband were to die during that period before the wedding, the woman would be considered a widow.

During the year of betrothal, the girl was to prepare for marriage, and the guy was to build a home for his soon-to-be family. After the year was up, there was a wedding feast lasting 7 days and they would consummate the marriage. But because they were in that one-year betrothal period at this point in our story, Mary was still a virgin.

So, this angel just appears to this young girl Mary and tells her to rejoice, because God favors her and is with her. How would you react to such a situation? Probably pretty similar to Mary, in verse 29: “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Yeah, pretty sure I’d be greatly troubled too!

The angel goes on to reassure her and tell her why he’s there, in Luke 1:30-33: “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’”

First the angel reassures Mary with a similar greeting to the one we saw a couple verses ago. Then the angel drops the bomb – you’re gonna have a baby!

This is the biggest moment of Mary’s life to this point, by far. Not only is she going to have a baby, but her baby is going to be called the Son of the Most High! Her son Jesus is going to reign over Israel like his forefather David. His kingdom will be forever and will have no end! That’s a lot to take in. If it were me in Mary’s shoes, I’d have a million questions about what the angel just said!

But what is Mary’s response? Let’s look at verse 34: “‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’” It’s a pretty logical question. She knows the birds and the bees, and what has to happen before a girl can have a baby, and she knows that hasn’t happened with her yet!

The angel answers in verse 35: “The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’” Well, that answer is both simple and complex. How can this be? Only by the power of God. It’s only God who can bring this about, not anything that mankind could do. It’s a simple answer, yet so complex that it’s difficult for our human brains to grasp. God can definitely do this, there’s no doubt about that. He created everything, so surely he can make one young girl have a baby in a miraculous way!

We learn some about Jesus’ nature here. The conception of Jesus is an important Christian teaching. If you deny this, you deny the faith. Jesus was fully man and he was also fully God. His conception by the power of the Holy Spirit points to his deity, the fact that he was fully God. And his birth from a woman points to his humanity, the fact that he was also fully human. Only this type of conception in a virgin preserves both deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. He was one person with two natures—a divine nature and a human nature. Because Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was not corrupted by the sin that all of us are. That is why Jesus was able to be the perfect Son of God and be totally human but never sin.

Mary’s response to this announcement is simple: “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her” (verse 38). Her response is one of simple obedience. She doesn’t ask a million questions or try to analyze the situation. She doesn’t get all emotional and think about the possible consequences of this announcement. She doesn’t freak out and say that her life is over. All she said is that she is the Lord’s servant, and may this be fulfilled. Wow – that is some amazing faith right there!

So, what does this have to do with our lives today? Well first and foremost, we have a Savior today because of Mary’s obedience to God in the face of extreme social criticism. Mary made the tough choice to say yes to God, regardless of potential negative consequences that could happen to her.

Mary’s response shows us what it means to be a Christian. It should be the response of every Christian: “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” We can live this out by truly trusting God, regardless of what it looks like could happen to us.

Trust God with your relationships, romantic or otherwise. Let him lead you in purity and righteousness. Trust God with your daily work. Let him grant you success, even though your superiors may not. Trust God with your ministry. Let him give you blessing, as you are faithful in your service to him. Trust God with your troubles. Let him support you with his peace. Finally, trust God with your eternal salvation. Let him give you give you new life as you put your trust in Jesus and be obedient to his plan for your life.

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.


Do You Believe the Fiction?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, December 17, 2016 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

I recently had a special time together with some extended family. It was special because we haven't visited with this part the family for more than 2 decades. We caught up as much as we could and appreciated the time together in the present. And we told stories.

These were shared stories, that have been told in our families in one way or another for my lifetime. My kids asked about specific stories they had heard about my relatives, and with starry eyed reflection those relatives got to tell that story to my kids, from THEIR perspective, for the first time.

Some of the details were the same, some were foggy from the years passing, and everyone helped reconstruct some parts from the pieces they had heard. It was fun. And what was most amazing is, the stories didn't change much, even with the different story teller. Over the years of the story being told, the original perspective of the person who experienced it and those who retold the story of their experience were virtually identical. All the nuances only made the stories richer.

That is the nature of history, and shared history. It is facts and evidences preserved in memory, archeology, experiences, and story. History does not change regardless of memory, and the effects of historical actions remain fixed in the experience of their time. These historical facts are essential to understanding our arrival at this place in time, and they can bring wisdom to bear on our future decisions.

When someone re-writes history by telling the story differently and changing the major elements of the story, it blinds us to that wisdom and can lead us to some very unwise and destructive decisions.

Read Judges 11:18-28. Once Jephthah became the leader of Israel, he starts trying to work with the king of the Ammorites. The King accuses Israel of stealing the land from the Ammorites. Jephthah's reply is to retell the story from a position of historical accuracy, and to show that because of the stubbornness of the former kings of Moab and Ammon, God removed them from the land. Then Jephthah asks a very simple question which I am going to paraphrase. He essentially says, "Our God drove you from the land; wouldn't you have done the same if your gods had given Israel into your hands? Besides in 300 years Israel has lived here and you have never tried to take back the land... why now?"

Jephthah uses an accurate retelling of history to expose the current motives of the king of the Ammorites. The plain and simple truth was they wanted the land. They felt they were in a good position to threaten Israel and had to justify going to war somehow. So, they created the excuse that Israel stole the land from them.

The land of "revisionist history" is a very dangerous place to live. But it is also very tempting place. It is a land where angry people who have to be right like to live. It's a land where hurt people who vow vengeance, or never to be hurt again, like to live. It is a place where unscrupulous politicians, immoral, and amoral people live, where they can make up whatever rules fit their desires. And it is a place where every human being is tempted to live where we choose our version of events over what really happened. This has always been true of humanity, and the effects we feel today are amplified a hundred fold by millions of opinions thoughtlessly expressed on social media.

In the Church, we have been tempted to revise history to suit many versions of almost every aspect of culture, life, and society. We have polluted the community of faith with disunity over our versions of how the Bible is to be read, taught, and applied. We have gone so far as to attack other believers over moral, racial, social, political, and other issues. The level of intoxication with our own spin on how to "love God and love others" has corrupted our very ability to both love God and love others. We have permitted our opinions and thoughts to lead us beyond the presence of God and into a dreamland of shattered mirrors that reflect only the parts of the picture we accept.

I have watched recent events polarize the church in ways they never should have been able to. But because we have lost our bearings on history, because we have diverted from the one true account of God's story, and we have stopped listening to the one who can retell it from the most accurate position - Jesus.

What parts of your own history, or the Bible, have you “re-written” to suit your own version of how you want to live? Are you even aware of where you have departed from historical Truth, and have begun living according to a historical fiction? A clue to where you have departed from God's story may be found in where you are fighting against His Word, or fighting against other believers. Consider the story you are telling yourself and why you feel a NEED to tell it that way.

We all need to return to God and to spend significant time in His presence, re-reading His Word without the "borrowed lenses" we have. Will you take the time to be with God, present and still, listening to His Spirit? Will you let Him retell His story to you from His perspective?

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.


In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 16, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here.]

Back in July, I began a study on prayer, to learn what prayer is and with the desire to learn how to put the theory into practice. I knew from the get-go that the practice part would be the hardest, because intellectual study and theory is easy for me to do. However, I really do pray that through this series, you have learned how to pray better as I have been learning if not more so. This post brings this study to a close with Worldview Warriors. I will still learn more about prayer and still practice the concepts I have learned in this series, and I pray you do as well. And what better way to wrap up this series than with how we typically end our prayers, with the closing: “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!”

What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus? What does “Amen” even mean? Many sermons and posts could and should be written on this but I will hit the basics in one post. Typically we add this phrase at the end of our prayers out of rote. We say it because we were taught to end our prayers that way and to most of us, it is nothing more than “I’m done praying.” And I, myself, am just as guilty of this as anyone else. But, starting with me, let us start meaning what these words actually say and live it.

When we pray in the name of Jesus, we are proclaiming the authority of Jesus. We tend make our request and say “in the name of Jesus” as though he is some kind of genie who will grant our wishes. We may not think we are doing that, but in reality we generally do. Throughout the Bible, very few understood how authority worked better than the Roman Centurion. Jesus himself was amazed at the faith of the Centurion because of how he understood authority.

The Centurion knew Jesus had authority, and more importantly he knew that Jesus’ authority came from a higher source of authority. The Centurion had authority over 100 men, and his authority came from the generals of the area, and their authority came from Caesar himself. As long as the Centurion remained loyal and obedient to the orders of Caesar, he bore and carried the authority of Caesar, so if he spoke, it was as though Caesar himself spoke.

If we want to carry the name of Jesus, we need to be obedient to the name of Jesus. Unless we are submitted to the authority of Christ, he will not give us his authority. It is not enough to claim it. We must be given it. One thing I learned in reading the testimony of Rees Howells is that he had to learn and pray to gain positions of intercession. He had to gain the authority over tuberculosis early in his ministry to pray for a woman suffering under it. Then later, when he was in Africa and the plague hit, he had to use that experience and further submission to the will of Christ to proclaim that no one would die on his mission… and no one did. Howells was a man under authority, and because of his obedience under that authority, his prayers carried authority, even to the point that when he prayed over the battles of World War II, God moved.

If we are going to call upon the name of Jesus, we need to be living under his authority. We cannot merely claim it. If we are not going to live under Christ’s authority, by his rule, according to his standards, and live as though he truly is the Lord and Master over our lives, he has absolutely no obligation to hear anything we have to say. I’m serious. Do not bother saying “in the name of Jesus” if you want to live your own way. Jesus is not a genie who gives you whatever you wish; he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and should be treated as such.

The second part of our prayer ending is “Amen.” In a nutshell we know it to mean “let it be so.” But it truly means so much more. Eric Ludy did a spectacular sermon about the word amen called The Cry of the Roman Soldier. The word means more than just “let it be so.” It means “truly,” “surely,” and “without any question of any doubt.” It means “faithful,” “confidently,” and “it will be done.” Too often, we treat it as a period at the end of our prayer as a sign to others that we are done praying. It does mean that, but it means so much more.

The one thing that Ludy really got my attention with was his proclamation that God is AMEN and if you really want to dig into this even more, check out his sermon The Amen Life (or my blog post on it here) where Ludy addresses how to live what amen means: a life of blazing integrity. The word amen leads to integrity, standing for truth, being faithful and true, and being dependable and reliable.

God is amen. What he said will be done. If we learn to pray as God is teaching me how to pray and to even deeper levels than that, we will find that he always answers the prayers he initiates. God’s own name and his reputation is put on the line when he makes a promise. He WILL see it through to the end. When we proclaim “Amen!” we are declaring that truly, surely God will answer this. But do our prayers line up with his will? If not, he has no obligation to fulfill them. He may or may not. He still may give us what we want, but full consequences along with it. We must learn to pray God’s way. When we learn this and practice it, then we will not only see God answering the prayers, he will give us more of his prayers to pray.

As I bring this series on prayer to a close, ask yourself these questions:
How much time am I spending in prayer?
How serious do I take the call to pray?
Do I even desire to pray?
What must I give up to seek after God?
Am I willing to completely surrender all areas of my life so God can continue his purification of me?

Take an honest evaluation of yourself and pray about it. If God points something specific out to you, obey it. Do not fight it. Obey it. It will be tough in some cases, but if God puts it on your heart, you know it is necessary to do it and you also should know you will be miserable until you do it. That is part of what I have been learning the last five months.

I pray this has been a great series for you. Do take these things I have written on since July to heart and consider them. Please do not consider me some prayer guru, because I have found it very difficult to put these “lofty” ideals into practice on a continual basis. But it is not impossible. God did not ask us to live a life that cannot be lived and is impossible to achieve. But he did ask us to live a life that is impossible to live on our own strength. We need the Holy Spirit dwelling within us to pull off the prayer life this series has esteemed. We need a life away from the flesh, away from the world, unfazed by the devil, and wholly dedicated to God and his Kingdom to make this prayer life ideal work. It IS attainable. Go after it. Pursue it. And do not relent until you have it. Go and pray, and pray, and pray. Then see what God does.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Master, and Savior, Amen.

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The Truth of the Word

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, December 15, 2016 0 comments

by Steve Risner

In my last blog post, I discussed some comments made by an atheist concerning when the Gospels were written—when the “oral legends” of Jesus were transcribed. He claimed it was hundreds of years after Jesus walked the earth when, in fact, it seems like it was literally just a couple of decades later at the latest. This is another example of how atheists frequently claim to be the rational superior in the discussion and that they base their arguments in facts. The truth is they seem to rarely employ facts and there is little rationality to their arguments.

This week, we will be discussing briefly the 3rd claim in this atheist's 5-point summary of Christianity. This week he states, “Clerics and kings translated these desert tales in order to manipulate the masses to do their bidding.” This is a statement with no basis at all—fact or otherwise. This is the sort of thing unbelievers will say to discredit the Bible, and therefore Christianity, that has no basis in reality and no credible factual foundation. They want this stuff to be true even though this isn't a shred of evidence for it. It's a want, not a fact.

Last week, we discussed how the Gospels and the Book of Acts were likely written within a couple of decades of the resurrection. We also mentioned how the Apostle Paul challenged his readers to ask those who were still living, who witnessed the events written about, to confirm or deny them. These are powerful arguments for the validity of the writings.

If we couple this with the results of accepting and/or believing these accounts, we have a very powerful argument for the authenticity of the Bible and specifically the Gospels. Christians were hunted down, tortured, and killed for their faith. This is a fact. They claimed they had seen the risen Lord and the He was the Son of God, and they were tortured and killed for saying these things. All that was necessary for them to escape this was to recant. They could renounce their faith in Christ and what they claimed, and they would have been spared. So what forced them to reject this salvation? What made these men and woman endure terrible crimes against their physical person when the freedom they could have enjoyed was a simple statement away? All that was necessary was to say, “Jesus is not the Son of God. He did not rise from the dead. I never saw Him after He was crucified.” They didn't do this. In fact, all the disciples were murdered for their faith, or it was attempted in some form. This is a remarkable testimony to the authenticity of the Gospel. You read more about that here.

So what of these claims that “clerics and kings translated” the Gospels to manipulate the masses? Total rubbish. My first question would be, “Why would they translate it at all if they wanted to manipulate the masses? Why not just tell them what it said and rule over them that way?” One could claim it said anything they wanted if they knew the peasants couldn't read it. Also, according to, “The quantity of New Testament manuscripts is unparalleled in ancient literature. There are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, about 8,000 Latin manuscripts, and another 1,000 manuscripts in other languages (Syriac, Coptic, etc.). In addition to this extraordinary number, there are tens of thousands of citations of New Testament passages by the early church fathers. In contrast, the typical number of existing manuscript copies for any of the works of the Greek and Latin authors, such as Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, or Tacitus, ranges from one to 20.” There are thousands of copies of the New Testament dating to ages very close to the time of Christ. They are, as the above quote notes, the most accurate and well preserved of all ancient writings hundreds of times over.

Not only do we have a great deal of manuscripts that give us the story, but we have a great deal of credibility for those writings. The processes that the scribes went through to copy the words of the Bible were extraordinary. If any variation was found, the entire copy was destroyed. Letters and lines were counted and numerous checks were made to validate the accuracy of each copy. When we compare those copies to each other, we find a miraculous level of accuracy. We also have the Dead Sea scrolls, which are 1,000 years older the oldest manuscripts we had before their discovery. These very old manuscripts confirm that copies made hundreds of years later were exceptionally accurate. To suggest that the words of the Bible are anything but exactly what was written so long ago—thousands of years ago—is absurd. A person who suggests there are errors or contradictions for some sort of agenda in the translation of the Bible is not to be taken seriously. They are not interested in the truth at all. They only seek to puff up their pride and want to reaffirm their disbelief. They don't care that their disbelief is based on completely fabricated and easily refuted arguments. They only are content to wallow in their ignorance and/or skewed version of reality.

It's interesting to note that the Gospel has set people free all over the world. In fact, I've recently written about the Christian foundation of the United States of America (here, here, and here). All over the world where the Gospel is taken, women are elevated and racial barriers are brought down. Christianity knocks down the walls of sexism and racism because neither of these concepts Biblical. Freedom is the dominating theme of the Gospel. Freedom from sin, death, and tyranny from a variety of other sources. This atheist who's given me this list of complaints about Christianity is so far off of the truth it's disturbing.

Be encouraged that the Word of God is reliable, authentic, accurate, and the absolute truth. This isn't just a statement based on opinion or faith. It's based on all the available evidence on the subject. Research it for yourself. The Truth is obvious.

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The Grey Impenetrable Barrier

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, December 14, 2016 0 comments

by David Odegard

Liam Neeson has been one of my favorite actors since he played Qui-Gon Jinn and was the voice of Aslan in the Narnia movies. But in The Grey, he personifies the philosophy of existentialism. This movie takes all of the raw tenets of atheistic existentialism and illustrates them in a survival narrative. Please allow me to exegete the movie for you, constant reader.

The movie opens in the cold, dark, silence of reality in remote northern Alaska. John Ottway (played by Neeson) is a shooter for an oil drilling company. It is his job to shoot the grey wolves that threaten the oil workers; he shoots one on his last day before his contract is over.

John is writing a suicide letter to his wife. He laments the purposelessness of his life and is bewildered why he has done most of the things he has done. The letter is read as a voice over as John walks through the (again, dark, cold, silent) world. He comes to end of the real world to enter into the oil company’s man-made universe, which is a recreation building. When he opens the door into this synthetic universe, he is flooded with light that is too bright and deliberately artificial. Loud raucous music plays while the oil working men, “ex-cons, fugitives, and drifters,” fight, drink, and act in utter chaos. The music fades as John gets lost in his suicidal thoughts once more, regretting the fact that his wife left him and is never coming back.

He concludes his letter with, “Once more into the fray, into the last good fight I will ever know.” The scene cuts to John outside kneeling with his rifle; he inserts the barrel into his mouth, reaches the bolt to pull it back, click-click, you hear the bullet chamber. As John puts his thumb on the trigger, he hears a wolf howl. He says, “To live and die on this day.” The scene ends.

John does not pull the trigger, but the entire scene illustrates what is the most important revelation in an existential crisis: I am going to die. This is the heart of existentialism in its theistic and atheistic forms. Though John doesn’t commit suicide, he is as good as dead and the rest of the movie illustrates that life is meaningless and in the end you die. Nihilism, existentialism’s pessimistic cousin, would demand John to pull the trigger. He doesn’t, because he wants to believe in something that can add meaning to his life.

Existentialism is all about meaning. It starts with a universe that is dark, cold, and silent where we all die, but then we can add layers of meaning which are artificial but provide us with some measure of comfort against the harsh reality of death (the existential crisis). This idea is illustrated in the over-bright and rowdy recreational bar. All the scenes in nature in The Grey have four things in common: darkness, cold, quiet, and an imminent threat of death. That is reality in an existential framework; whatever we add to it only numbs the senses into an unnatural assurance of purpose.

John Ottway doesn’t kill himself. He decides to go home even though he won’t find his wife there. Stanley Kubric said, “The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning.” Meaning in existentialism is a handy optimism; it is an artificial veneer of hope smeared over the complete meaninglessness of life. Soren Kierkegaard called it a leap of faith. After seeing the world as brutal, dark, cold, and pointless, whatever causes you to delay your suicide is the definition of hope. I want to raise my kids, or I want to do something to end the suffering of those around me, or I want to erect a marble statue by which all generations will remember me, etc.

In John’s world, the airplane taking him home represents the baseless optimism of existentialism. But the plane crashes and forces him and the other survivors to cope with reality; namely, the severe cold and death. Death is symbolized throughout the remainder of the movie as the pack of grey wolves that relentlessly stalks the survivors.

Eight survivors each represent a different philosophy of life. There is an atheist named Diaz and a Christian named Talget, for example. John Ottway says he is also an atheist. He would like to believe in God but cannot make himself believe.

Each survivor is picked off one by one. The ultimate message is that no one is immune from death’s tyranny. No matter what philosophy you ascribe to, you will not be saved. The atheist dies, the Christian dies, the science-guy dies. In the end, John Ottway realizes that he is at the den of the grey wolves. The whole time they had been heading toward death, not away from it in spite of their best efforts. John takes his meager weapons and takes a stand. He looks to the sky and yells defiantly at God, “If you’re there, I am asking you for help. I’M CALLIN’ ON YOU, NOW!” A few seconds tick by as the sky looks peacefully empty. There is no help from God and Ottway admits that he is abandoned by God. His words are hauntingly similar to the nihilist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sarte: “I am abandoned in the world... in the sense that I find myself suddenly alone and without help.” John again utters his suicide poem, “Once more into the fray, into the last good fight I will ever know,” illustrating that all of his fight to survive was just an extended form of suicide; death is the inevitable. He dies in the end with no help from anyone, and the cold, dark hush fills the world again.

BUT, the Christian’s view of the world is entirely different. Rather than being abandoned, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2). In John Ottway’s universe, his plea for help was met only with a silent, grey sky. But in the real world, God is there! He hears our cries. This is the essential difference of a Christian worldview. It does not seek to layer meaning over meaninglessness, but to recognize God’s original plan.

Christianity doesn’t begin with silent darkness; it begins by recognizing that God has existed in the bliss of His own triune nature as Father, Son, and Spirit for eternity past. This perfect fellowship and accord is the very definition of paradise. God decided to expand this harmony and fellowship by creating spiritual beings in His image. This is the ultimate purpose of mankind: to live forever enjoying the fellowship and harmony of God. Humans have never been aimless and purposeless until they reject God. Then they drift around looking for something to fill the void that cannot be filled. Depression, despondency, and dependency all originate from a rejection of God’s purpose. Existentialism is an ineffectual cure for the absence of God; it is the true opioid of the masses. That being said, nihilism is even worse - read about that next week!

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Judges 11:18-28

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, December 12, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Next they traveled through the wilderness, skirted the lands of Edom and Moab, passed along the eastern side of the country of Moab, and camped on the other side of the Arnon. They did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was its border.
Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, and said to him, ‘Let us pass through your country to our own place.’ Sihon, however, did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. He mustered all his troops and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.
Then the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and his whole army into Israel’s hands, and they defeated them. Israel took over all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country, capturing all of it from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.
Now since the Lord, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over? Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the Lord our God has given us, we will possess. Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever quarrel with Israel or fight with them?
For three hundred years Israel occupied Heshbon, Aroer, the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon. Why didn’t you retake them during that time? I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the Lord, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.
The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him.” (Judges 11:18-28)

We’re continuing the story of Jephthah this week. You can read the context of his story here and here. At this point in the narrative, Jephthah is explaining to the Ammonites why Israel is occupying this particular area of land, after the Ammonites threatened to take it away from them.

When Israel had first come to this land, it was occupied by the Amorites. Israel fought against them, and Israel clearly won control of this land. There should be no conflict with the Ammonites or the Moabites, since Israel had clearly won possession of this land.

Back in those days, when there was a war, it was considered to be between the gods of the two lands. It was clear that God had given Israel this land by winning the battle for them. Therefore, the Ammonites should have no right to take it away. In verse 24, Jephthah refers to the god Chemosh. Chemosh was actually the god of Moab, but the nations of Moab and Ammon were very closely linked.

Finally Jephthah gives one more argument for Israel’s right to occupy the land: length of time. Israel had been in that land for over 300 years! That’s a pretty long time, and that should show that they have a valid claim to it.

Jephthah closes his discussion by saying that God is the one who will decide who gets this land in verse 27: “I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the Lord, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.” Jephthah shows his faith in God here, that whatever God decides, that’s the way things should be.

So, Jephthah spends all this time clearly stating his argument to the king of Ammon, and he sets up a pretty good case for why Israel should stay in the land and Ammon should just drop the issue. But then in verse 28, “The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him.”

Jephthah truly tried to work things out before going to battle with Ammon. But even when we try our best to have a civil discussion to avoid a worse argument, there are times that the other party just won’t listen. When these times happen, that’s when we need to do as Jephthah did, and let God be the judge. Listen to what God is telling you to do in that situation, and trust Him that He is in control and will judge the situation and work out the outcome fairly - at least fair according to God’s plan.

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The Christmas Basket

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, December 11, 2016 0 comments

by Ami Samuels

I would like to share an excerpt from my book The Christmas Basket.

At this juncture in the story we find that the main character, Maralee Jones, is out on a wintery evening, delivering a Christmas basket to the Wagner family.

The making and delivering of the Christmas Baskets has been a long-standing tradition in the Jones family, but this year everyone is too busy to participate. Maralee finds herself all alone, not wanting to let the tradition die.

As we pick up in the story, she has had a mishap that snowy night.

“As Maralee runs her finger over the ribbon on the basket that she had hurriedly tied into a bow, she thinks about the person she used to be.
She was patient and kind to strangers.
She was a woman who would give money to the bell ringers, and not question where the money would go;
someone who saw needs in others and tried to meet them if she could.
Where did that woman go?
As she sits in the car looking at the basket she didn’t want to get,
didn’t want to assemble,
and didn’t want to deliver,
she begins to remember what she calls her first Christmas, the Christmas after her baptism.
That Christmas, she was so full of the Holy Spirit and so grateful for Jesus’ birth and what he had done for her on the cross that her heart was so full of joy, peace, and love that no present under the tree could compare!”

She got it! Maralee understood the true meaning of Christmas for the first time in her life. It isn’t about presents at all, but the love they represent. She felt whole, complete, and content. She didn’t need material things to fill that empty space anymore because it was filled with Jesus’ love.

Can you relate to Maralee? Have you ever caught yourself rushing through the holiday season lacking peace and contentment?

This year, spend time with Jesus, and slow down enough to enjoy Christmas with your family and friends. Take a few moments each day to appreciate the lights, the music and scents of the season.

Merry Christmas!

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Get Alone With God

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 9, 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.]

“Tell me how much time you spend alone with God, and I’ll tell you how spiritual you are.” ~Leonard Ravenhill

That quote is a doozy. One of the posts I opened up this series with was how prayer is not a process but rather a relationship with God. In that post I said that when you pray, how you pray, what position you pray in, and the like does not matter as long as you pray. That is still true, however, God is making me learn the importance of having that personal, quiet time with God.

For most of my Christian life, I did not have a set time when I put everything away and spent time in prayer. My prayer time was more as I went along in my day or when I would pace with little to do while waiting for things to take place. I was fond of this quote, though I do not know whom it is attributed: “I am not concerned about spending 30 minutes a day in prayer. I am concerned about going 30 minutes without prayer.” I loved that quote, but I still did not apply it correctly. I was more using that to pray throughout the day in short prayer quips, not having a true lifestyle of prayer, and as an excuse to not have a regular, personal time alone with God.

As I have studied about prayer since July, one thing that preachers keep referencing is the quiet, alone, prayer life of the saints of the Bible, particularly Jesus. Paul Washer makes several keys points in his sermon “Pray and Be Alone with God.” The first thing Washer addresses is that the disciples asked Jesus how to pray. They did not ask how to preach, how to drive out demons, how to perform miracles. They asked how to pray. So according to Washer, something stood out to the disciples about Jesus’ prayer life.

The other thing Washer states that stands out for the scope of this post is that Jesus’ escape was to get with God and pray. Jesus did not turn to his friends, he did not turn to books, he did not turn to video games, he turned to his Father when he needed a moment to get away and escape. Many of us will go read a book, or play a game, or take a vacation, but how many of us pray as our means of letting go of our daily stresses and recharging? Do not hear what I am not saying. I still read, I still play games (though the drive and interest in playing them is greatly waning). No condemnation here. But my question must remain: do we seek God to be our sustenance, our source of energy and strength? Or do we seek it in other sources?

How should we do our prayer time? Here are some tips you can use to consider, however do NOT, and I mean do NOT, keep these as some ritualistic or legalistic rules, however discipline is always a good thing to practice. So if you are having a difficult time getting prayer time going, use these tips to help you get something established.

Pick a specific time for prayer and keep it. Some do first thing in the morning before the day begins. Some do evening before going to bed. Some do noon. Part of it may depend on your work schedule or your family schedule. Simply pick a time and schedule your day around that. The key is to make your prayer time your priority.

Plan a time frame to pray. I read the stories of John Hyde, Rees Howells, and John Wesley who would pray for numerous hours a day. One thing about these men is that they learned how to pray through, how to keep praying until the battle was won, and often they did not learn that secret until they had endured praying through the whole night. Now, many of us are not in a state where we can do that. I have yet to make that goal. However, start training. Start with five minutes. Start with ten minutes. Go to 30 minutes or one hour. But keep the same time and same time frame, then add to that time frame as your bond with the Lord grows.

This is an unusual concept not often mentioned, but sometimes your very posture can affect how you pray. Many will say be on your knees. Many of the main prayer warriors and missionaries are known to have ground ruts into the floor boards at their beds because of how many hours and how vigorously they prayed. Do not put yourself in a position where you are most likely to fall asleep or likely to be distracted by other things. Rather put yourself in a position that helps you focus. The location of your prayer time is also an important factor. Jesus often went to a high mountain, away from people and away from crowds. If you can reserve a room or a closet to make your “prayer room,” do so. Make a place where you can shut out the world, shut out the internet, shut out the music, shut out everyone else, just you and God. If you do not have a place where you can do that, make sure you turn everything off. Turn off the computer, turn off the TV, close the door to your bedroom, and look only at your Bible and pray.

There are also times where you need to get away completely. Get away from anything familiar. Many pastors will take a trip into the mountains and rent a cabin or get a hotel room to get away from the home, away from where anything can distract them so they can concentrate on prayer. I have done this a couple times this year. I have done a hike and picked a spot where I could sit and pray, and another time I went into the prayer chapel at my church. The thing when doing this is to not take extra books or anything that will distract you from the Bible or from prayer.

Everyone needs a time of prayer with God, a time to read the Bible and to communicate with God. You cannot survive in this world spiritually without a constant connection to the source of life and wisdom. Another comment I have been seeing about prayer is that when you spend your time and do your work in private prayer, then your public prayer and public work becomes almost automatic. If you spend the time and effort in your private prayer, you will see the results in your public life.

Next week, I wrap up this series with an examination of how we end most of our prayers: “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” What does it mean to ask in Jesus’ name? What does Amen actually mean? Next week will be the end of this series.

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