Looking Into 2019

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, December 31, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

As we close out 2018 tonight, it’s tradition to look back on the past year and look forward to the new one. I’m not one to make new year’s resolutions, since it doesn’t take a new calendar year to make a change in your life and they’re so over-hyped anyway in my opinion. But a new year is a good opportunity to look at where you’ve been and where you’re going.

If you follow this blog, you’ll know that I started 2018 in the middle of a series on what the Bible says on various topics. That series contained an entire year’s worth of posts on a wide variety of topics, and it was truly an interesting series for me to write. It was so interesting, in fact, that it will be published in book form on January 28, 2019, along with books by fellow writers Logan Ames and Charlie Wolcott. All three of our books will be available in paperback first and then Kindle versions, so watch for those in about a month!

After wrapping up that series in October 2018, I started a series on the Ten Commandments. Growing up in the church, I started memorizing these commandments in kindergarten if not before, so they’ve been a part of my life for many years. Back in 2014, I helped a student of mine write a book on them as well, focusing on the Hebrew grammar in them as well as the context of the passage and providing commentary on the commandments. Writing this series was a great way to revisit the commandments again this fall and keep them fresh in my mind, as well as providing me an opportunity to dig into the text and context of them more along with how they can apply to our lives today.

So what’s next for my writing? Many people who know me know that I have a passion for the Biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew. While I know that not everyone is a “language person,” I believe we can all benefit from the richness of the Biblical text in its original languages. I’m planning to write on selected psalms and share some of the insights from the Hebrew text for the entire year of 2019. The psalms make up an amazing book in English with all their depth and emotion, and they’re even better in their original Hebrew.

Along with looking at the grammatical insights from the psalms, I hope to also dig into how these psalms can apply to our lives today. They were written thousands of years ago, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely out of touch with today’s world. As I continue to study the Bible, I keep seeing how humanity really hasn’t changed all that much over the thousands of years we’ve been around. We have always been selfish people drawn away from the things of God by our sinful nature, but always seeking God whether we acknowledge it or not. While many technologies in our world have changed since the original writing of the psalms, they’re very human and still apply to today’s world.

I'm still working on specifically which psalms I’ll write about, so if you have a favorite that you’d like me to write about, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to include it. I know I’ll for sure be writing on some of my favorites - Psalm 1, Psalm 23, Psalm 24, and Psalm 46, just to name a few.

All of us at Worldview Warriors wish you a blessed 2019, and we hope you’ll continue to enjoy all of our writings on this blog!

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.


Remember When

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, December 30, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

This week, we transition into yet another new year. It seems like they are just flying by at this point. Sometimes we have an opportunity to prepare for transitions, and other times they just smack us right in the face like we never saw them coming. The end of one year and the beginning of the next may be a calendar transition, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything changes in your life. Maybe everything is staying the same for 2019. For many, however, you are looking forward to a fresh start after a difficult year.

Like many of you, I’d be lying if I said I love transition. But maybe God allows us to deal with transition because it forces us to depend on him. Think about all the changes you want to make in 2019. Maybe you want to lose some weight, or maybe you want to gain some weight and put on muscle. Maybe you want to save more money and plan for the future, or maybe you want to give more money away. Maybe you want to quit some bad habits like smoking or watching too much TV, or maybe you want to begin some good habits like reading more and drinking more water. Maybe you want to change some sinful behaviors like speeding, road rage, and swearing (usually all 3 happen at the same time for me), or maybe you plan to be kinder and to choose your words more carefully in 2019. No matter what, we are all likely to choose things that we want to do better at, whether we actually make a “resolution” or not.

It’s funny that we call these desired changes “resolutions” rather than just goals. It’s as if somehow saying that we are “resolved” to make these changes makes us more serious and determined to do it. No matter what we call it, statistics have shown that only about 73% of people keep their New Year's resolutions even through the first week! That seems like a high number, but it really means that a quarter of the people who resolve to live differently for the entire year can’t even make it through the first of 52 weeks. The numbers only get worse from there and go all the way down to just under 10% who make it through the entire year with their New Year's resolutions intact!

When we try hard at something or really want it badly but still fail, it’s like a punch to the gut. We’re left wondering why we can’t just do what we want to do. Maybe God wants us to see that we should stop focusing so much on our own strength and resolve to try to get it done. There was probably no one in history more resolved to please Jesus than Peter. Remember, he’s the guy who literally stepped out of a dry boat in the middle of a raging storm and walked on water with Jesus. Yet, Mark 14:37-38 tell us of a time when he couldn’t even stay awake for one hour while Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane even though that’s what Jesus asked of him. Jesus acknowledged that Peter even had a willing spirit, but that his flesh was weak. Peter had a true desire to do what Jesus asked, but he lost the battle even before the crisis happened. He wasn't actively watching and praying. He had depended too much on his own strength and not enough on God's.

The Apostle Paul was another man who we consider to be a spiritual giant of the early church, yet he was constantly reminded of his own weakness. In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, he writes, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’" That was about his “thorn in the flesh." In Romans 7:15-19, he sounds like a mad and confused man who cannot do what he wants to do and only does what he doesn’t want to do. And we can relate to him because we sometimes feel like that when we can’t “fix” whatever is wrong with us. The more we focus on our own will, the more we’ll be tempted to throw in the towel. Paul was able to recognize his own wretchedness and inability to defeat sin on his own, which led him to recognize Jesus as his rescuer (Romans 7:24-25).

None of us like to admit that we are weak or have failed, so that’s why it’s important during times of transition to focus not on what we haven’t done, but on what God HAS done. We often say that we shouldn’t dwell on the past. If “dwelling” on it means to allow it to hold us back from moving forward, then that’s true! But that doesn’t mean we should never think about the past. In fact, I’d argue it’s necessary to be intentional about focusing on the past at times. The reason many say that we shouldn’t focus on the past is because we often associate “the past” with negative moments. If all we remember is the negative, then we’ll be doomed when crisis comes again because we won’t have any expectation that God will prevail.

This is why God often told his people throughout the Old Testament to be intentional about remembering his work. We see this in Exodus 20:8 with the command to remember the Sabbath that God gave. We see it in Exodus 12:25-27 with the importance of the people remembering the Passover. And we see it in Joshua 4, right after God had caused the Jordan River to dam up so the people could pass through it on dry ground and into the Promised Land, when Joshua tells the leaders of the tribes to take up the twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. In that story, God literally caused water to “pile up in a heap” (Joshua 3:16). I mean, just think about that. Have you ever tried to pile up water? Unless you have a bucket or some other container, it’s impossible! Yet, nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). He doesn’t need buckets to pile and contain water. He simply commands it to pile up and it does.

The significance of looking back on the things God has done cannot be overstated. After all of these events, the people of Israel would still face many more difficult trials that would test their faith. In those moments, it’s important to fall back on something. They could look at their present problem and then remind each other, “Hey, remember that time that God PILED UP WATER? I think he can handle this." The more we forget what God has done in the past and all the ways he has shown up on our behalf when we were desperate, the more fearful we will be during future crises and the more likely we will be to complain to God about our circumstances.

As you make the transition into 2019 and as you face whatever difficulties are going to come this year, I urge you to “remember when." Take some time even now to intentionally reflect on all the ways God has blessed you in your life and even in this past year. Maybe you can even jot them down so that you have something to see with your own eyes when the going gets tough. Failure to do this will only set yourself up for fear and complaining in 2019, while doing this will set yourself up to take some giant leaps of faith that God already has planned for you. Trust the Lord and let him make 2019 your best and most faithful year yet.

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 Greatest of These

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 28, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

I have a confession to make. As I have written this series, I have taken notice of how poor of a job I have done in unpacking this bottomless chapter on what love is. Paul was able to describe love with 15 descriptors, many of which are just one-word terms and yet as I wrote this series, I hardly scratched the surface. There are not enough books that can unpackage what this short chapter entails. I wrote this series mostly for me because I knew I needed to hear this message.

This post marks the completion of five years of writing for Worldview Warriors. The only regret I have had during these five years is in my inability to get out what has been festering in me for years fast enough. I cannot thank Jason DeZurik enough for giving me the opportunity to write for this ministry and to giving me the freedom to write on what God has led me to write. That freedom is what has made this series possible. As I finish this series and my 5th year, I am excited to see what God has in store for my 6th year and beyond.

Paul opened up 1 Corinthians 13 with three verses explaining that all the spiritual gifts he described in chapter 12 are void and useless without love. So many in the Corinthian church were struggling to properly apply the gifts they had been given so Paul gave some order and structure to what they were and what they were to be used for. Then instead of showing them how to pursue all these different gifts, he said he would show them an even better way, and that better way is “love.” You could preach like no other preachers, sing like no other singer, speak with perfect diction and eloquence, perform, do miracles, show hospitality, even die as a martyr, but if you have no love, you completely miss the point and ultimately are nothing and accomplish nothing.

Paul then gives 15 descriptors of love. Love is patient and kind. Love is not rude nor self-seeking, nor easily angered. Love does not envy, nor boast, nor keep record of wrongs, nor delights in evil. Love instead rejoices in truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preservers, and never, ever fails. Notice I put those in a different order, because as I wrote this series, I noted four ways love is described: love is, love is not, love does, and love does not.

Each of these are to be taken holistically. They all work together. While you can study one part at a time, you actually cannot separate any of these descriptors from love and still have love. I gave only brief hints of how these descriptors overlap and if one were to write a book on this chapter, there could be a chapter on each descriptor just in how they overlap with the other 14, let alone in the description of each one. If I learned anything in writing this series, it is just how deep this chapter Paul wrote is.

But when Paul finishes his descriptors, he then ties it all back to chapter 12. He describes how so many of the gifts we see are not always manifested nor explained clearly. Instead he says we see through a glass darkly. In all the spiritual matters we discuss, we do not have a clear lens to see or explain it all. Some may say that contradicts my constant stance that the Bible is clear and straightforward; that’s not actually what this is talking about. Paul is not talking about the clarity of Scripture being clouded, though he does talk about mysteries being revealed in other passages. In this verse, he is talking about the manifestation of the spiritual gifts and the clarity about what God is doing in our midst. We simply cannot see the whole picture. That is all he is saying.

So Paul suggests we lay aside childish things which feed our flesh, and that we grow up to mature Christianity where we can little by little better understand the spiritual things. We are to grow in our faith and not stay as infants. That is one of the things that has disturbed me for a while, but I’ve not been able to place until I started breaking free of it myself: mediocrity in the church. Paul grieved in his first letter to Corinth that he had to keep giving them milk when he should have been giving them meat. So many people just want to be saved from hell and never actually grow in their spiritual walk. It makes me question their motive for calling themselves “Christians.” And I speak to myself too, because I had to do an honest evaluation of myself to see if my proclamation of faith was indeed a legitimate born again conversion where I became a new Christian or if I was just riding a faith my parents lived out. We must grow as Christians.

Yet despite any lack of clarity or growth periods we must go through, three things remain absolutely clear: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. How? The answer is actually found a few verses earlier. Love always trusts and love always hopes. If you seek love, you will get faith and hope. But you can have faith and hope without love. It is very difficult to have Biblical love and not have faith and hope at least as fruits of that love.

The better way to handle all these issues is love. Love knows when to push for truth and sound doctrine and knows when the battle is not worth fighting at that point. Love knows to go and speak to the nations independently of our talents as speakers. Paul did not go to Europe as an orator. He did not speak well, but he spoke with power and authority. He spoke with love, purposing to do everything he could to not create an offense to those he was around. He refused to take a salary from the Corinthians because he did not want them to think that they or he owed each other anything. That is why Paul made tents, so he could provide for himself.

Love goes out of the way to see the other person’s needs are met, no matter the cost to self. As I wrap up this series on the Love Chapter and 2018, let us start 2019 with the love that Paul describes. It is not a love this world knows or understands but it is a love many will receive. I understand this millennial generation desires genuineness and authenticity. Biblical love is genuine and authentic. Let us ask Jesus to fill us with his Spirit so that his love cannot help but flow out of us. If that happens, no matter what is thrown at us, anyone who attempts to squeeze us will only get the love of Jesus pouring out over them.

The greatest of these is love. Jason DeZurik often says, “If we get the love part wrong, what’s the point?” But what if we got the love part right? How much would our world and our circles change because of it? Have a great New Year and I’ll see you again in 2019 for a sixth year with Worldview Warriors and more from the heart of God that he wishes to share through me.

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.


Christmas Facts

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, December 25, 2018 1 comments

by Steve Risner

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Last Thursday, I released a blog post about the origins of some of our more popular or well known Christmas holiday traditions. You can read that here. Today, I wanted to look at some of the historical facts that some skeptics take issue with – things like the census that Luke reported and who was governor at the time of Christ's birth. Also, what was the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem? Why are there differences in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke? Some of these alleged issues have been covered literally for hundreds of years while others have found a more contemporary response. Either way, we can trust the Gospel story as it's written in the 4 books dedicated to the life of Christ we find in the Bible and, specifically for today's writing, the 2 Gospels that give us details of the birth of Jesus.

Read Luke 2 here.

For Bible believers, it's accepted that the Bible is very likely accurate in all it records (with a few exceptions that can be traced back to copying errors and are of no consequence at all). Luke is considered by many to be a top rate historian who was very concerned with accurately recording things in an orderly fashion so the reader may know the account is true. He didn't take things lightly and he interviewed those who were there (or he himself was there) for his historical account of the life of Jesus and the early church. It's unlikely Luke would include something of minute detail if it was not correct since he was primarily concerned with accuracy and orderliness. Let's look at some alleged issues.

The census that had Joseph take his pregnant soon-to-be-wife to Bethlehem is an area history has an issue with. It's one of the toughest to answer satisfactorily, but I'm okay with unanswered questions. There are certainly some things from God's Word that we're not 100% clear on, but none of these things are of major importance from a theological stand point. They are the details. We, as believers, must be united on the essentials but allow freedom in those things that are more preferential than essential. If we stand united on the important stuff, we'll make a great deal of headway for the Kingdom. But this issue does have some options as for an answer. The issue here is that Quirinius wasn't governor of the area when Jesus was born nor did he have a census taken during the time generally accepted as the time Christ was born—about 4 BC. His census was done around 6 AD. He also claims that Herod the Great was ruling at the time. Herod died probably early in 1 BC. Many suggest it was 4 BC, but more recently that has been questioned for various reasons. It seems to make more sense it was 1 BC. So this means we cannot assume the census spoken of was done in 6 AD and this was the census Luke wrote about for the time of Christ's birth. Early church father Tertullian indicates that Saturninus was in charge during Christ's birth, as Roman records seem to indicate as well.

There are several explanations that have been put forth for this issue. One is that Quirinius was put in charge of the census only during the time Saturninus was over the area. Another is that Quirinius finished the census, which was first imposed by Augustus over the Roman world, going from province to province. The Jews may have been allowed to use their “own town” as the text suggests rather than their Roman town. This has historical support. But it is possible the Quirinius is credited with the census because he, in fact, finished it. Another possible explanation is that Quirinius had some other official position that put him in a leadership role at the time. The text uses words that can indicate governor but also other positions are possible. There is historical documentation that indicates an official around this time held office twice. That could well have been Quirinius.

Still another possible explanation is the text itself. Reading ancient Greek can be tricky. It's possible the text doesn't say it occurred during the reign of Quirinius but prior to the reign of Quirinius or prior to the census of Quirinius. We need to understand how the grammar works here. The census of Augustus was not a one time, empire-wide event but multiple events over a longer time period. Luke indicates this with his use of the present tense in reference to Augustus's census of the world (the Roman world that is). It was ongoing. Then he hones in on the area known as Syria. It's also likely from the text that Luke is referring to one of two censuses that took place near that time. He indicates it was the first census, rather than the more commonly referred to one of 6 AD. Any of these, or some other explanation, could adequately deal with the skeptic's complaint. Some other historical documents may be found to further confirm the accuracy of Luke's narrative.

Let’s look at another question. Joseph should not have had to go to Bethlehem but to his current home town, and Mary should not have been required to accompany him at all since she wouldn't need to register. This is not so. There Egyptian records that indicate Rome frequently allowed local cultural traditions to be used during certain things. There is no reason to suggest it wasn't okay in this instance. In Jewish culture, property (which Joseph may likely have owned in the area of Bethlehem since his family was from the area) was passed down through the father. This would have demanded Joseph go to his own town and register. Why did his pregnant fiance join him? A couple good reasons, I think: 1) she was about to give birth and wanted to be with Joseph at the time, and 2) she and Joseph were aware of the Messianic prophecies indicating where Jesus would be born. They knew the child she carried was the prophesied Messiah, so she needed to get him to Bethlehem. Watching the Lord work out the details that not only allowed for her to be in Bethlehem but even required her to be there was probably a faith builder for the couple.

What was the star the Magi saw? I don't know. Many have suggested a few different things that, to me, don't follow. A common thought is a conjunction of multiple planets that made some sort of super star in the night sky. Another is the idea that a comet may have been in the sky, leading the wise men on their journey. Still another possible explanation is a supernova—an exploding star. None of these work for me. The star rested over a house and led the men on their journey. A conjunction of planets or exploding star in the sky wouldn't lead them. A comet wouldn't lead them. It's likely it was a supernatural event, like the pillar of fire at night and pillar of cloud during the day that led the Hebrews as they left Egypt. The text seems to tell us that only the Magi saw the star and that it led them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem which is north to south. Normal objects in the sky travel from east to west.

The apparent differences in the genealogies of Jesus from Matthew to Luke are very simple to address. Luke was referencing Jesus’s mother's lineage while Matthew was highlighting Joseph's—Jesus’s legal father. However, Mary's lineage through David was not cursed while Joseph's was. Christ could not have been the King if his real father was Joseph due to Jehoiachin. The grammar used in Luke's list indicates he was giving us Mary's line up until Joseph, who was indicated by the text as the son-in-law.

I'm sure there are other issues skeptics have, but that's what they do: they seek out reasons to not believe rather than accepting the obviousness of the accuracy and authority of the Bible to proclaim God's Word to us. This Christmas, praise Him for His amazing acts. He became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ's birth is, in my opinion, the second greatest event in the history of the universe only topped by the Resurrection. Celebrate and worship Him! Rest in the facts of the day—Jesus was born! God sent us the greatest gift of all—that of His Son. God is with us.

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 Christmas Commandments

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, December 24, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

For the last eleven weeks, I’ve been writing on the Ten Commandments as found in Exodus 20:1-17. As we’ve explored these commandments, we’ve seen how they’re not just for the people of Israel back in the Old Testament but for us today as well, though with some contextual differences of course.

But with today being Christmas Eve, what do the Ten Commandments have to do with Christmas? A lot, actually.

The connection between the commandments and Christmas actually goes back all the way to the book of Genesis. Genesis 2:15-17 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” A little while later in Genesis 3, the serpent tempts Eve and she and Adam both fall into sin. Ever since then, all humanity has been sinful and separated from God.

Fast forward a bit to Genesis 15, where God makes the covenant with Abraham. In that covenant, God promised Abraham that He would save him. Traditionally in a covenant such as that, two people would walk through the carcass halves together, meaning that if either one of them broke it, that person would be as good as dead. But in this situation, only God Himself went through the carcass halves as a smoking firepot and a blazing torch. This means that if God breaks the covenant, He should die for it; but if Abraham (or his offspring) breaks the covenant, God will still die for it.

Fast forward a bit more to the book of Exodus. Abraham’s grandson was Jacob, aka Israel, whose offspring from his twelve sons became the people of Israel. When this multitude of people left Egypt years later, they were in the process of becoming a unified nation - God’s chosen people. We read in Exodus 19 that on the first day of the third month after leaving Egypt, the people camped at Mt. Sinai. It was here that God gave their leader, Moses, the law for the people of Israel.

But why did this law matter? And what does that have to do with Jesus? We’re getting there.

If we don’t know what the rules are, we can’t know that we’ve broken them. Way back in Genesis 2, we saw that God clearly told Adam the rule: don’t eat from that one specific tree. Adam (and Eve) broke that rule, and they knew they had broken it because they knew what the rule was. The people of Israel were a sinful people, but they may not have known specifically how they were sinning until God gave them the law, the Ten Commandments. Now, they would know exactly what they were supposed to do (or not do). They also knew that anytime they broke God’s law, that separated them from Him, because God is holy and cannot be around sin.

The problem is, not one single person has been able to fully keep that law. Every last person who has ever lived or will ever live will break God’s law. I have; you have; everyone you know has. That means that we’re all separated from God because of our sin.

That’s where Christmas comes in. Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. We know that Jesus was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit inside Mary (Luke 1:26-38), so He is both fully God and fully human. Jesus had to be fully God in order to live a perfect, sinless life and never break a single one of the Commandments. Jesus had to be fully human in order to be an acceptable sacrifice for all of humanity who has sinned. Jesus couldn’t be fully human without being born of a woman, so that’s exactly what happened.

Jesus’ birth that we celebrate at Christmas time is the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham back in Genesis 15, because He had to be born as a human. Jesus’ death and resurrection truly fulfilled that covenant by dying for the sins of all of humanity - every single time that every person who has ever lived or will ever lived has broken or will break any one of the Ten Commandments. That’s how amazing, powerful, and loving our God is!

What are you celebrating this Christmas? Are you celebrating the happiness you get from being around your friends and family, eating good food, and exchanging gifts? I encourage you this Christmas to celebrate way more than that: celebrate the law that was given to us and the Savior who fulfilled it.

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.


Jesus Christ: Love for the World

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, December 23, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

If there is one Christmas song/video that just absolutely wrecks me every single time I hear it, it’s definitely “Christmas Shoes." I’m certain that I’m not the only one for whom that is true. Just in case you haven’t been emotional yet this Christmas season, you can find it here. Why is this such an emotional song for me and for so many of you? The obvious answer is that it’s because of the sad nature of the song, but I think it’s more than that. Generally when we hear it, we are in the middle of a Christmas season that has become unnecessarily stressful. We get consumed by plans, parties, and purchases. For me, this year has been especially hectic because of preaching! It’s the first time I’ve handled preaching duties for the entire Christmas season, including a separate children’s program and two Christmas Eve services, by myself at my church. I’ve found myself getting annoyed by those who distract me when I’m trying to “get things done” for the church. How ludicrous! The man in the video was clearly a busy man, living life on the run and trying to get his last-minute shopping done after work. He was in a bit of a hurry, yet there in front of him was a little boy whom God put there to remind him of what Christmas is all about.

Just as the man in the video was not too busy or hurried to help a stranger, Christmas reminds us that God has never been too busy or distracted to help a hurting world. These past few weeks, I’ve been talking about how Jesus represents the hope, peace, and joy that is available to the world because of him. But I have saved “love” for this last week before Christmas because love is the only one of these things that God actually IS. Moreover, 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us that even though faith, hope, and love remain, “the greatest of these is love." Love is the greatest because it is personified in Christ, the living God. God doesn’t need faith in anything above himself. He also doesn’t have to find a way to be hopeful. He sees everything, including the future, so hope is not necessary for him. But love is something that God can’t help but do. It is in his very nature, according to 1 John 4:16.

The type of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4 is based on one of four ancient Greek words used for “love." While the other three describe romantic love, familial love, and brotherly love, the word in these chapters that describe godly love is agape. Agape love can be defined as “self-giving love that gives without expecting repayment; it doesn’t change; it’s a love that is even given to the unlovable, it loves even when it is rejected; self-sacrificing; only possible with Jesus." This is the type of love that God has shown us. True agape love in action always has to do with giving. Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving." God is love and he has been giving since the beginning of time as we know it. Genesis tells us about the beautiful world that he created; then he gave the world mankind. It says he put the man in the Garden of Eden to tend it and take care of it. So, he created a world that couldn't take care of itself, then gave it a human race to take care of it. But man had needs as well, so he also gave man the world. Man could eat from the various plants and fruits. Then, God realized the man was alone and that wasn’t good, so he made a helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:18). So, that’s when Eve came along. God is a Giver and has been in the business of giving to us since.

God continued to give his people what they needed all the way through the Old Testament, and there was much anticipation regarding the ultimate gift that was coming to them - the promised Messiah. Then, God presented that gift to trump all gifts. Many of us have searched all over God’s green earth looking for the best Christmas gifts for our loved ones and the best possible bargain. But God’s best gift looked a little different than ours. It was under a roof in a stable in a dirty manger, not under a pretty green tree. It was wrapped in a swaddling cloth, not shiny wrapping paper. And most importantly, it wasn't purchased on sale. It cost the Giver everything! John 3:16 tells us that God gave up his “only begotten Son” because of his love for us. We often immediately compare it to our own children and say, “Well, I don’t think I could ever give up my child for someone else." But the gift was even greater than that. The phrase “only begotten” is from the Greek monogenes, which means “only one of its kind." So, the gift of Jesus that was given to all of us was not just an only child. He was the only child of his kind that there ever will be!

The question, then, is what are we going to do with this great gift of love that we’ve received. Are we going to be only takers, or givers as well? The Bible doesn’t leave us with much of a choice. 1 John 4:19-20 tells us, "We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen."

So, how do we live that out? Sometimes we're put in situations where we are not sure if we're supposed to help or not. But when it comes to loving others, it's always better to give (money, time, attention, compassion) unless giving would cause greater harm to the person. That’s the only time we should not give, when the loving thing to do is not give. Otherwise, we don't even have to stop and pray about it because we already know what God's Word says about loving others. So let's err on the side of giving and loving. An author by the name of Mishi McCoy said, "I would rather drown in the depths of love than splash around on the shore of complacency." This is how God wants us to live in view of this great gift he has given us out of his love for us. We have to remember that God was not complacent when it came to our needs. He came to our rescue right when we needed him, and he still does to this day.

We celebrate and remember the greatest gift ever given at Christmas each year. We celebrate his birth because we know what he did in death, freely giving up his life for those whom he calls friends (John 15:13). If you are a believer and follower of Jesus, you are his friend. He demonstrated his love for us in letting true agape love drive him to give up everything for us. And now we are called to do the same when we encounter others with needs that we can meet. According to 1 John 3:17, refusing to meet the needs of others is a clear indication that we don’t even have the love of God in us.

Love is a concept most people, even non-Christians, agree should be a priority. It’s very popular nowadays to “talk” about loving everyone. But C.S. Lewis had a great quote about this and it’s possibly my favorite ever. He says, “It is easier to be enthusiastic about Humanity with a capital ‘H’ than it is to love individual men and women, especially those who are uninteresting, exasperating, depraved, or otherwise unattractive. Loving everybody in general may be an excuse for loving nobody in particular." God doesn’t call you to personally show love in action to all 7 billion people on the planet. You’re not going to meet them all. It’s not even likely that you know every person in your hometown. But you WILL have chances every day to SHOW love rather than just talking about loving people. And the ones God puts in your life are the ones he wants you to love, whether they are in your life for 30 seconds or 30 years. As you celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord this coming week, remember to get out there and take every opportunity to love those God puts in your path. Give freely, just as you have been freely given!

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Love Never Fails

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 21, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“Love never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:8, NKJV)

The past two months has been an incredible revelation for me about what love is and what love does. I opened up with how Paul proclaims that having the greatest talents, the best exposition of Scripture, the ability to perform miracles, the greatest servant, but if there is no love, then it is all worthless. Then I took two descriptors or actions at a time to unpackage this such short description of love that Paul gives, and I have hardly scratched the surface of it. Today, I wrap up Paul’s description of love: love never fails.

A couple years ago, I wrote about “Amen Living,” namely distinguishing the difference between those who lived an “amen” life and those who lived a “fickle” life. Love is not fickle. Love does not waver between opinions and sides. Love does not quit when things get tough or when you no longer see the benefit for you in the effort. Love is amen. Love is faithful and true and loyal. Love does what it says it will do. Love keeps doing what it says it will do until the job is finished. Love does not back away from a commitment, even a bad one, dishonestly.

Love does not have to see the end results or even potential end results to keep on loving. It keeps on loving anyway. Jesus endured the cross in part because he saw the end results. He knew that mankind would be saved through his death. But he also went through that suffering knowing MANY would still die and go to hell in rejecting him. He still loved Judas despite knowing he would betray him.

Love is not dependent upon those who receive that love. It is “unconditional” love. God loved us even while we were still sinners, while we still lived in open, defiant, treacherous, rebellion against God. If it were based on any part from us, it would fail. We could never earn God’s love no matter how much we try. Every other religion puts the salvation of man upon man to earn and deserve, and not a single one is capable of earning it, even to the best of the best. This is part of why Christianity is unique. It is the only religion or faith where salvation is based purely on the love and grace of God regardless of what man does. All we have to do is respond with repentance and faith.

Love never fails. It doesn’t start and quit. That is why we can stand with confidence about our salvation. God doesn’t give us salvation, wait to see if we mess it up or not, and then take it away from us. We are responsible for working out our salvation in fear and trembling, however, if it were possible for us to throw out our salvation and lose it, we would and none of us will get in. God’s love is not that way. Paul told the Roman church that absolutely NOTHING can separate us from the love of God, yet so many think that we have greater power than distance, location, angels, demons, or weapons, or whatever can to separate the born again Christian from God. It makes no sense. That does not give anyone license to sin because Romans 6:1-2 answers that one.

Love never fails. Six thousand years ago, Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with God and with nature and then they chose to rebel against God and try to do things their own way. They deserved to die that day, and as a just, righteous, and holy God, sin had to be met with death. And yet Adam and Eve did not die that day. Did God lie? No. He showed his love and provided the first image of the Gospel. An animal died that day in their place giving us a picture of what Jesus would one day do. At the same time, God promised Eve that through her seed (not through Adam’s seed) the Savior would come.

Four thousand years later, that promise and that first image, among many others which would be offered in between, were fulfilled to exact precision. Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, the very Creator and Upholder of the Universe himself, humbled himself and laid aside everything that made him God and became a human being. He left the sinless perfection of heaven and came to live in a world cursed by sin. The very air he breathed was a poisonous fume to the perfect Son of God. It would be well insufficient to take someone who only lived in royalty and wealth, pristine and proper, and suddenly place him in the slums of a garbage dump, where he lived among trash and waste with no hint of sanitation. That does not cut what Jesus did for us just to live as a man. Yet he did it completely of his own will in obedience to his Father. That is before facing the cross. (Thanks to John Hyde for that image.) What is love? THAT is love. And it is a love that was initially shown 6000 years ago and to this day has never let up nor slowed down.

As you celebrate the Christmas holiday this next week, it is not about the gifts. It is not about the parties. It is not even about family. It is about Christ. It is about one Person whose love for the lost souls of men never failed. We cannot love the way Christ loved us. If we truly learn to lay ourselves down and let him love in and through us, then we will see that love demonstrated in full action.

Jesus set aside everything to live as a man in a sin-cursed world out of his love for us. And in return, what are we offering back? Many churches see large chunks of their congregations who can’t even bother to show up to church on time. Many are fickle on their prayer time and Bible reading (still guilty myself). God loved us by setting aside everything and we struggle to give him five minutes of our time. We have so much to learn and so much of self that needs to die. Love never fails. Despite our shortcomings and despite our fickleness, God is not fickle. His love never fails. It will always be there when we call for it, and it will even be there when we don’t. Jesus gave us everything of himself. Can we not give him everything of us, as little as that is? It’s all he asks. Let us pursue him with all we have.

Next week I will wrap up this series and this year with how love is the greatest thing.

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Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, December 20, 2018 5 comments

by Steve Risner

As we approach the day that Christians (and many non-Christians) celebrate called Christmas, I wanted to clear some things up as to the origins of many of the traditions we hold so dear when we honor the birth of the Savior of mankind. Some have said that Christians should not celebrate this day because it's actually pagan in its origins, as are many of the traditions associated with it. Some have left churches or been estranged from family or friends because of this misunderstanding. I'd like to look at a few of these traditions and where they come from.

I, too, had been told and even accepted the fact that many of the things we do for Christmas had pagan beginnings, but I brushed it off as something Christians took from their pagan cultures and made their own. I was wrong. But in reality, I don't feel that these traditions, even if they did have pagan origins, would be an insult to our Lord. His grace is sufficient and, as Paul tells us, much of these things are meaningless anyway. We are not celebrating pagan things here. We're celebrating Christ Jesus! And keep in mind that God has filled the Old Testament with celebrations that are to honor the Lord and bring glory to His Name. Those listed in Leviticus 22 are Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Now, Colossians 2:16 tells us that we are under no obligation to observe these days or times, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to know what each of them was about. But the point of me bringing this up is to demonstrate the fact that God clearly feels remembering great events is important.

That's why, for me anyway, Christmas (in my estimation the second greatest event in all of history behind the Resurrection) is an obvious time to celebrate what God has done! It's been tarnished for many by the commercialization and other unimportant things that people have added onto it, but it's still one of the greatest events the world has ever known. And I wouldn't think that we would be honoring God by throwing out this celebration simply to not participate in the nonsense that others have applied to it. Just don't participate in the nonsense. It began and continued for centuries as a celebration pointing us to Christ. Let's look at a few traditions and where they come from. There is no question that Christmas has its origins in the Church.

Firstly, I'll just say that Christmas has many traditions that actually predate the pagan equivalent in many instances, so this would make it impossible to have its origins in paganism. The word Christmas comes from Christ and mass. This is not a reference to a Roman Catholic meeting. The word “mass” is from Latin and means to be sent on a mission. So Christ-mass was when God sent Christ to the earth to fulfill His mission, becoming a human and dying and Resurrecting as our Savior.

Christmas was celebrated as early as AD 202 (possibly earlier) and we know this from the writings of Hippolytus of Rome. He stated that Christ was born shortly before January and that He was resurrected shortly before April. Tertullian also confirmed this. This goes along with the Jewish tradition called the integral age that a prophet was conceived on the same day he died. This tradition is not Biblical, but it give us an important look at where the dates for Christmas and the Resurrection come from. This states that Christ died on March 25th (the early Church determined this) and would be the same day He was conceived, exactly 9 months before December 25th. This is why we celebrate on December 25th. There is controversy as to whether this Jewish tradition was real. I can't say as I'm not an ancient Jew. But it makes sense as to the timing/dates of the events in question. Was this the actual date Jesus was born? Most likely not, but that's not actually the point at all. We're celebrating the birth of Christ, whether we know exactly what day that was or not. We celebrate the Resurrection every Sunday! It's okay.

The issue some have erroneously placed on the date we celebrate is that the Romans, too, have a holiday honoring the sun god on December 25th. That seems like a slam dunk, right? Obviously the Christians stole this date so they could make the celebration easier for the Romans to accept. Wrong! This Roman holiday is called Sol Invictus. It was first made a holiday by Aurelian in 274 AD. That's at least 72 years after Christmas was first recorded as a Christian holiday. This not only means that December 25th was not taken from the pagan Sol Invictus holiday but, in fact, the Roman holiday was created at least 70 years after December 25th was chosen as Christ's birthday to hijack the Christian observance of the birth of Jesus.

What about Christmas trees? Those things must be taken from some ancient pagan ritual or symbol, right? Not even close. The Christmas tree is also not a pagan tradition. In fact, it's a very recent tradition (relatively speaking) and has a very solid connection to the Bible. This may have started as early as the 1400's but possibly not until the 1600's. It's unclear. However, Christmas Eve, December 24th, was the day Adam and Eve acquired sainthood according to some Christian groups. Adam and Eve were honored this way as our first parents. Plays, called mystery plays, were performed of Adam and Eve and their creation, sin, and banishment. The play would end with the promise of the coming incarnation of the Savior to redeem mankind from their sins. A prop in this play was an evergreen laden with apples (the only green tree to be found on December 24th in Germany most likely) which was the common representation for Adam. This tradition originally came from the Germans and became popular after Queen Victoria brought it to England. There are records from the 1600's of decorations being placed on the trees. This tradition is not pagan but stems from a tradition connected to creation and the Bible.

Then there's Santa Claus. Santa Claus is a distortion of the name Sinterklaas, the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas, a real person. He was considered a saint of the Greek church and lived during the 3rd and into the 4th centuries AD. He was known as a very generous person, frequently giving gifts, often in secret. This, as well as remembering the gifts of the “Wise Men” or Magi, is why we celebrate Christ's birth by giving gifts. Saint Nicholas also blessed 3 sisters with money in their stockings while they hung them over the fire to dry. This is where we get the tradition of the Christmas stocking. It's true that there are many things that have been added to this character. Saint Nicholas didn't fly around in a sleigh pulled by magical reindeer. He didn't go down people's chimneys to drop off gifts. To my knowledge, and judging from his pictures, he was not a fat man. He never even visited the North Pole, let alone lived there with little people with pointy ears. I don't believe any of these things has a pagan origin, although I could be wrong. But they're clearly embellishments or just plain made up things that were added over time to make Christmas not be about Christ and more about gift giving or receiving.

Wreaths are another tradition that was not taken from paganism. In Rome, a wreath was a symbol of victory. To Christians in the Roman world, the wreath symbolized Christ—the Victor over sin and death. Christmas lights have an origin with deep Christian roots as well. Trees were once decorated with candles, symbolizing Christ being the light of the world. These candles became strings of lights in the 20th century and there you have it. It’s another Christmas tradition that is clearly all about Jesus and has nothing to do with pagan traditions. Christmas carols are beautiful songs written with such deep and powerful lyrics. Oh Come All Ye Faithful, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, What Child is This, O Holy Night, and so many others are very meaningful, powerful worship songs that we sing every Christmas season to worship and praise God for the glorious gift of His Son. How can God be unhappy with such a thing?

What's troubling here is that many have been duped to believe that Christmas is a pagan holiday and if you search on Google for answers, you'll find that this is the widely publicized view. But the facts don't line up with this idea at all. In fact, it doesn't seem like there are any pagan influences whatsoever to the celebration of Christmas. I didn't find any, anyway.

In the end, the fact is the Bible does not condemn nor does it condone celebrating Christmas—the birth of Christ. So, like many other things not specifically mentioned in the Bible, the choice is yours. If you have issues with celebrating Christmas, that's fine. However, I hope I've made it clear that Christmas has literally no connection to any pagan traditions. If you are not comfortable with it, don't celebrate, but don't alienate yourself from believers who do want to celebrate one of the greatest events in all of history. It's not important enough to build a wall. Merry Christmas!

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The Problem of Individuality: Crisis of Responsibility

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, December 19, 2018 0 comments

by David Odegard

The motto of the medieval Christian world was, “Some to fight, some to work, some to pray.” What this created was a system of the world that was group oriented. One was born into a place and position and expected to perform one’s duty. A serf had a duty, as did the king. The priest had a duty, as did a noble lord. Each was expected to know his or her responsibility and perform it until the day of death.

Persons were less individuals and more a cog in the system—a replaceable part of the whole. Responsibility was paramount. Duty was the ethical anchor of the entire social order, without an abundance of concern for common individuality. A peasant was expected to live a life of service to his or her lord, expected to fold under all individual personality in service of another. This was all perceived as duty.

Plainly, the development of the concept of individualism was welcome in such a rigidly stratified society. Springing from the Imago Dei was the concept that human beings are created equal, that there is no intrinsic difference in quality between the noble and the serf. They are human beings; they are persons, not cogs in a system of the world. The “Rights of Man” was a notable development, but it did not spring from John Locke originally, but from the flow of Christian thought throughout the medieval period.

The concept of individualism produces rights. Rights cannot be violated by anyone, including those with so-called noble blood. The libertarian maxim enshrined in the principle of absolute non-aggression is an example of universal rights of mankind. Another is the Christian theological conclusion to “do no harm.” For the scope of this blog post, I do not have space to explain the difference between positive and negative rights, thought it is a vital discussion. Learn about it here instead.

Although we do possess inalienable rights simply because we are made in the image of God, God Himself has ordained social structures to which we as individuals remain responsible. Not that others are entitled to my duties and service, but because God is entitled to my duty, service, and love. This is often underemphasized in modern libertarian circles, forgotten in political circles by both left and right, and entirely distorted by social pundits.

The Bible says that we are to “let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another” (Romans 13:8). We did not incur this debt because our fellow man has loved us so well that we now owe him or her something. Quite to the contrary, we owe this debt to God, not only because He made us, but also because we as Christians have been redeemed by God.

Jesus explained this debt in His sermon of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). In this parable, a servant hopelessly indebted with an unpayable sum is generously forgiven—no strings attached. But then he seizes his neighbor and demands payment of the very small amount owed to him. The end of the parable describes this unmerciful servant being turned over to tormentors.

When I focus solely on my rights, I have trouble understanding this parable. After all, the first servant was forgiven the debt, why would that create a duty to forgive the debts of others? He didn’t have the right to be forgiven, yet he was. This would not reduce the legal claim that he had upon his fellow servant to be repaid the small amount that was owed him. He still has the right to the money. In a purely legal world, he should still be able to collect. Jesus contends that I should show my obligation to God by forgiving the petty sums owed to me by my fellow human beings.

Jesus’ point was that being forgiven the unpayable sum created a moral obligation—a debt—to the master who forgave. The implication is clear. Based on the dual reality for the Christian that God has both made me and redeemed my unpayable debt, I owe Him forever. I belong to Him. I incurred obligation to Him that I now must show to my fellow human beings; failure in this area blinds me to my responsibility.

This is why I adamantly deny that an individual owes the poor something directly. The poor have no positive right that I have a duty to supply. Nevertheless, due to my indebtedness to Christ, I have a moral obligation to supply whatever it is He commands. If Jesus wants me to make payments to the poor or to whomever, that is His right and my obligation.

Rights are always balanced by responsibilities and responsibilities by rights. God is the all-important link in this chain. If God is missing, we end up with Marxist claims that we are in debt to all other humans; we become slaves to society because we owe them directly whatever we can produce or that they can demand. History shows this to be exactly what happens in any socialist state. The government becomes the guarantor of the people and the individual becomes a cog in the machine once again.

The other side of the coin is equally damning. If God is not there, I cannot truly be responsible to others or society in any way. Marxists may make claims on me, but they are illegitimate claims and I know it. The result is a headlong plunge into absolute individualism which cannot actually produce a stable society. Anarchy is arguably not a suitable basis for society (the libertarian minimum is not anarchy), but it certainly is not a Christian basis for society. This is true because anarchy is totally focused on individual rights to the complete exclusion of responsibilities. The result is chaos.

Take one look at any college campus today and you will notice that hyper-individualism is on full display in the gender wars. A person who is born a woman and feels like a woman, but who sometimes feels like a man who likes to feel like a woman and wears women’s clothing even though she was already wearing women’s clothing before the feeling arose that made her identify as a man wearing women’s clothes (audibly gasps for air)—this all requires a very complex set of pronouns. DNA has been mapped, but it seems less complex than some of the new genders which are being . . . um, discovered? . . . everyday.

Radical hyper-individuality produces chaos and anarchy, period. Rights must be balanced by responsibilities. All humanity owes a debt to God by the virtue that God made them, and whatever one makes one also owns. God has ordained three spheres of authority in life and we as individuals must make our peace with them: Family, State, and Church. Read more about that here.

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Commandment #10: Coveting, Part 2

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, December 17, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17b)

Last week I wrote about why Exodus 20:17 is split into two commandments, so this week we’re looking at the latter part of the verse, which is the tenth and final commandment in this passage.

Again, we’re talking about coveting here. Coveting basically means a yearning, a longing, a craving, or a desire to have something. Our neighbor is any other person. Wanting anything that belongs to someone else is coveting that thing from our neighbor.

The first part of this verse talked about coveting our neighbor’s house, and this verse goes into more detail about other thing we may covet. However, this list seems a bit dated to our culture; personally, I can’t say I’ve ever coveted a donkey!

But we have to remember the context of this passage, that God gave these commandments to Moses and the people of Israel while they were wandering in the desert after leaving Egypt. In their culture, servants and livestock were their most valued possessions. Even a wife was considered property to some extent back then, so it’s definitely a different culture than we have today. Even the explanation of this commandment from Luther’s Small Catechism (written in 1529) seems a bit dated to today’s culture: “We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor’s wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.”

However, the principle still applies: we should not covet anything that belongs to some else, out of our love for God. Today, perhaps this commandment would instruct us to not covet your neighbor’s car, cell phone, or money, and to not desire to do unlawful things to get what’s not yours. As with all of the commandments, we desire to follow this one out of our love for God. God has created all people in His image, and because of that we should desire to not harm any person in any way, including by even desiring what they have.

This is definitely a hard commandment to follow, especially in this commercialized Christmas season. The entire advertising business is built on getting people to want what they don’t have! The intent of this commandment is not to make us all be minimalists, but specifically to not desire to take away what belongs to another person. It’s not that we can’t desire to have anything, but we should not desire that which belongs to another person. That desire can lead to envy, which often leads us to sin against God, perhaps even by breaking another commandment and stealing.

Jesus included coveting in a list of things that defiles a person, as recorded in Mark 7:20-23: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Even Paul touches on coveting when explaining the law in Romans 7:7: “What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’”

We know that we should not desire to have what another person has, and as we approach the Christmas holiday I encourage you to keep that in mind in all aspects of your life.

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Jesus Christ: Joy to the World

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, December 16, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Without exception, there are only two kinds of people in this world: 1) those who support the playing of Christmas music before Thanksgiving (and frankly, anytime throughout the year), or 2) those who are just simply WRONG. If you either don’t like Christmas music at all or can’t find joy in it anytime, then I assume you must have been deprived as a child. I personally love this time of year and everything about it, including the special music. It brings me great joy, especially as I think about what the presence of Jesus means for my life.

Joy is something that can be lacking at times in the Church. Isaac Watts noticed this and realized that it shouldn’t be that way. Watts was an English minister and songwriter who created many hymns that are popular around the world. One of his most well-known songs is one we sing throughout this season, Joy to the World. But as I did some research on this wonderful song on a website for The Gospel Coalition, I learned that Watts was inspired not by joy, but by a lack of joy. The song was considered to be a disturbance to many in church who were so used to worship services consisting of psalms or other sections of Scripture put to music. But Watts considered that practice monotonous and noticed a lack of joy and emotion in the people as they worshiped. He was quoted as saying, "To see the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces of the whole assembly, while the psalm is upon their lips, might even tempt a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of their inward religion." To put it in simpler terms, if those who are merely observing Christian worship with an interested eye see that those who should be excited and joyful are not, what would make them want to take part?

How we worship when we’re in church can say a lot about how we live the Christian walk. After realizing his son’s frustration with the lack of joy from the Christian church, Isaac Watts’ father issued him a challenge to do something about the issue and it led him on a lifelong pursuit of writing lyrics that reminded Christians of their joy in Christ. In the midst of life’s difficulties, are you able to focus on the joy you have in Christ? If you don’t have a relationship with him, then your answer is obviously “no." But for the many who read this who know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, this time of year more than any should remind us of the true source of our joy.

Knowing that Jesus, who is God, didn't require us to live a sinless existence and come to him, but instead chose to leave the perfection of heaven and enter into our messed up world, ought to bring us joy no matter what else is going on around us. Christmas provides us with an opportunity to reflect on that truth and to experience joy even when we're going through difficult times. Let's talk about what can stand in the way of experiencing joy. One thing that often does is our fear and insecurity regarding others’ opinions of us. In the Old Testament, they had this chest box called the ark of the covenant, which had the stone tablets of the law in them. It represented God and his covenant relationship with the Israelites. In 2 Samuel 6:12-22, King David has the ark brought into Jerusalem. When it gets there, he decides to start dancing with all his might and celebrating while the rest of the nation praised God with shouts and music. Later, his wife Michal despises him for it and accuses him of making a fool of himself in front of servant girls and others. David responds, “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor” (v. 22). Sometimes, even someone close to you might try to steal your joy, and it’s up to you to respond to God according to what he’s done and is doing in your life.

Another thing that can stand in the way of our joy is comparing ourselves to others. Luke 15:11-32 is the Parable of the Lost Son, in which Jesus told of a father with two sons. The younger brother demanded his inheritance early, then ran off to a foreign country and squandered his wealth, then came back to his father humble and repentant. The father rejoices at the sight of his son returning home, but the older brother who never left grows angry and begins to complain that his father never celebrated him the way his brother is now being celebrated. Rather than rejoice at the sight of his brother returning, he was robbed of any joy because all he could think about was how he was being slighted in comparison to his brother.

Our difficult circumstances are probably the most common things that stand in the way of our joy. You lose a job you loved, a sudden loss of a loved one, family dysfunction especially at the holidays, someone rear ends you and totals your car while you're just sitting at a stop light – these are the circumstances that threaten to steal our joy. But let me ask you something, does joy happen by choice or by chance? James, the brother of Jesus, tells us it’s by choice. In James 1:2-3, he urges us to consider it pure joy when we face difficulties because we know we are being tested and perseverance is being developed. We don’t have to be joyful ABOUT the trials, but we can be joyful in the midst of them. Rather than complain about all the things going wrong, we can view each difficulty as an opportunity to turn back to the Lord. Charles Spurgeon was quoted as saying, “I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages." We don’t typically turn back to him on our own, so he uses some of our trials to cause us to turn to him. At Christmastime, we celebrate the knowledge that the long-awaited Messiah has come to our rescue right where we are, in the midst of our sinful existence. That reality alone gives us reason to be joyful no matter what else is going on in our lives.

The last thing I’ll mention that can stand in the way of our joy is our distractions. This might be one of the biggest problems during the holidays with all of our shopping, festivities, and family gatherings. Our plans, worries, and material things can keep us from experiencing the true joy of celebrating Christ’s birth. This was probably the case for the Magi in Matthew 2 before they came face-to-face with the Son of God. However, vv. 10-11 tell us they followed the star and were overjoyed when they saw it over the house of the Savior, and that when they finally saw him, they worshiped him and then opened their treasures and gave he and his family gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These people had gone on a long journey to try to find the “king of the Jews” (v. 1), which shows they didn’t even fully understand who they were looking for. They had no idea he was the Savior of the world until they came into his presence. But once they did, nothing else mattered. Their material treasures, traveling plans, and concerns about King Herod suddenly seemed completely irrelevant.

The joy that the Magi experienced was not just a feeling. Their experience with the Messiah led them to ACTION. They treasures they opened were expensive items and they gave them to Jesus and his poor family. Their lives were changed forever and they were no longer going to allow their treasures to distract them from what was most important. The Magi set a good precedent for us. If we want to have true joy in this suffering world, it's as simple as J-O-Y: Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. Worship Jesus first, give to others and look out for them, then consider yourself last. Jesus told us these are the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:37-40. As you ponder the entrance of Jesus into your world over the next few weeks, I encourage you to consciously avoid these pitfalls that keep you from true joy and to practice the working formula that leads you to unspeakable JOY.

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The Gift of Life

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, December 15, 2018 0 comments

by Jason DeZurik

Ministry Note: If you’d like Jason and his wife Jaya to come and speak to your congregation about this incredible story, please contact us at info@worldviewwarriors.org

On December 12, 2017 I awoke sick and feeling really terrible. That evening I had thrown up at least 10 times and was not feeling any better the next morning.

The next couple of days are still a blur. On Friday December 15, 2017, I was still sick and my wife was wondering what to do. Should she take me into the doctor, or wait another day to see if I improved? That night was much of the same, and I was not improving. My oldest son asked my wife, “What are we going to do about Dad?” She told him that she was going to wait until the morning to take me into the doctor. He said, “We’re not waiting. We’re taking him in now.” So, they took me to the ER in the small town we live near. Now I don’t remember any of this, but according to my wife the ER was completely empty that night. I was the only one that was needing treatment.

They took me in for testing immediately and as my wife and son were waiting for me to come back, my wife told my son that I probably just needed fluids put into me as I was just dehydrated and probably just had the flu. Well, no sooner had she said this but the ER doctor came in and told them that I had a life threatening stroke and that they needed to be prepared that I might not make it through the night. I was life flighted to Riverside Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. There, my wife was told by the neurosurgeon that I needed lifesaving brain surgery. He usually needed permission to do this, but he needed to save my life, so he wasn’t asking for her permission to do the surgery. The surgery was performed and no one knew what was going to happen following the surgery.

When I awoke, I was very groggy but could move both of my arms and both my legs. Since I had a breathing tube down my throat I could not speak, but I could communicate by writing, even using punctuation. All the doctors and nurses were utterly amazed at my recovery. They wouldn’t say my recovery was a miracle, but they would use terms like “remarkable” and “incredible.”

Before being discharged 10 days later, one nurse did lean over and spoke quietly into my ear, “You do know that you are a miracle, right?” Then I went home. Even for follow up appointments the nurses, doctors, and therapists were amazed at my recovery. At one of my appointments, when the nurse called my name to come into the office, she did a double take on her chart when I got up and started walking toward her. She looked and me and said, “I thought you’d be in a wheelchair.” Then she asked me, “What nursing home are you rehabbing in?” I told her, “Home.” She was shocked verbally and visually!

One year ago today is the day I had my life threatening stroke and brain surgery the next day. Yes, part of my brain is missing. I have a 5-inch scar on the back of my neck and head to prove it. If you ever doubt that we serve an amazing God, please remember this story. God is absolutely still in the healing business today and in the miracle business too. He not only has given us the knowledge and technology to do all these incredible things today, but He is also still in charge of giving life or taking it away.

Since this whole ordeal, I see things in this world differently now. I am much more thankful and grateful for what God has given to me, and I try to complain a whole lot less than I did before. I also want to thank all of you who were there for my family and me during that time with all of your prayers and financial gifts. I am seriously humbled at how much God has given to my family and me. To have good friends, like so many of you reading this right now, is just a blessing.

For months my wife and I prayed and wrestled with God if we should continue down this path of Worldview Warriors, encouraging and equipping the saints for ministry, or if it was time to be done and pass on the baton to someone else. Well, I am pleased to announce that we have been called to stay the course. I have kept hearing God’s leading to us saying that we have been raised for such a time as this. We know God saved my life to continue down this Worldview Warriors path to not only show people the truth in love but to encourage and equip others to do the same. So, with that said I would like to ask you to please pray for us and prayerfully consider giving Worldview Warriors a year-end financial gift here to help us stay the course in doing God’s will.

Thank you for your prayers and consideration.

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Love Always Hopes, Always Perseveres

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 14, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“…always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NIV)
“…hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NKJV)

Love Always Hopes

Love always seeks the best in people and always strives for positive outcomes. In a sense, love is the action of an optimist. While many people are not at the pinnacle of their talents or potential, love strives to see that potential carried out. My testimony is a perfect illustration of how love always hopes.

I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is part of the autism spectrum. I had numerous learning and physical difficulties in growing up, many of which the experts said I would have no hope of overcoming. Physically, I could not perform two activities such as sitting upright and eating at the same time. When I was six, I could walk (sort of) by pressing my knees together and putting my hands on them. Then I’d sort of waddle. My doctors said I would never run and to not expect any improvement. Each motion my body learned up until I was 15 had to be physically demonstrated by someone. Someone had to literally take my foot through the motion of kicking a soccer ball. There were numerous other issues that went along with that but I don’t have space to cover all of it here.

Mentally, I had no comprehension of sports or even reading comprehension skills until I was 12. I had no clue why you ran up and down the soccer field until then. I could tell you exactly what was on which page in a book but I could not tell you what was happening or why. I was exceptionally skilled with numbers, but unless something was numerically keyed, I was lost. My parents would often describe me as a “little Rain Man” referencing the movie with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman about two brothers, one who is very autistic, on a road trip. If the cross walk light would flash “Don’t walk,” I literally took that as “Don’t walk.”

My parents we well aware of my limitations and knew where my ceiling of talent was, but they had no intention of letting that ceiling stay low. So they pushed me and pushed me until I’d burn out. When my doctors and teachers kept trying to lower expectations for me including shrinking my spelling lists (despite the fact I had them memorized the moment I got the list because they were numbered), my parents were not interested in having me take basket weaving in high school because of coddling me so much. Instead they always held hope that I would break through, all the while recognizing where I was currently at.

I am a testimony of both God’s miraculous hand at work and of how love always hopes. Today, I have been in the sport of fencing for over 20 years, and am closing in on one year of coaching experience (most of which was volunteer but is now paid). While I am not the most skilled player in other sports, I can play at least decently. Whereas living on my own 15 years ago, let alone driving, was not even an option, now it is. At some point in the near future, my mom and I plan to co-write a biography detailing these issues about my growing up years, because people who look at me today would never guess I went through all those issues. Only those who knew me well as a child or have worked extensively with Asperger’s people can still see remnants of it. Love always hopes. I am living proof of that.

Love Always Perseveres

This ties in very closely to what I will write next week, so I will not spend a lot of time here on it. Love always perseveres. It always endures. It doesn’t quit and it doesn’t fail. When Jesus said, “I will never leave your nor forsake you,” this is persevering love. Love keeps going no matter how bad things get.

Love endures through the trials and the storms. It keeps going even in the midst of betrayal. One of the hallmarks of the millennial generation is a tendency to betray mentors, teachers, parents, and authorities. The moment something turns the way they don’t like, they reject their teachers. And it makes it very hard for said teachers to keep teaching, knowing that at any moment the students can turn on them. I work in the public school system and some of my students have said if there is a substitute they don’t like, they know how to get that sub fired. Love continues to love even in that danger or even after it happens. The pastor demonstrates persevering love when even after a congregation turns on him and forces him out, or causes a church fight/split, he continues to serve.

This type of love is not easy to carry out and can only be done because there is one who showed us persevering love: Jesus Christ. He was betrayed by one so trusted he was given charge of the money bag. He was abandoned repeatedly by fickle followers who only wanted his miracles but not the commitment required of dying to self and living only for him. His remaining closest friends each abandoned him only within a few hours of declaring they would never leave him. Peter denied even knowing him three times and some speculate Jesus may have been within hearing range of it. He was mocked and falsely charged by those he came to rescue. And yet as he hung on that cross, Jesus’ famous words were “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” It is hard to find a truer statement because if Jesus’ enemies DID know what they were doing, they never would have crucified him. Jesus loved them anyway. That is persevering love.

Next week I will wrap up Paul’s description of love with how it never fails, and in two weeks I will conclude this series and 2018 with how love is the greatest of these.

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.