Psalm 91

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, July 29, 2019 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

God protects us in many ways that we don’t even know about. How many times have you almost been in a car accident, or very nearly avoided an awful situation? We probably don’t even know about many of the times God has protected us, but He does.

Today’s psalm, Psalm 91, talks about God’s protection in our lives. The psalm starts out with an invitation for God to protect anyone who wants His protection: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (verses 1-2). The words “shelter” and “shadow” point to imagery of a bird gathering her babies safely under her wings, whereas “refuge” and “fortress” have a more military stronghold idea to them. God provides us with both types of protection when we trust in Him.

What forms of protection does God provide us with? Verses 3-8 elaborate on them. He will save us from the “fowler’s snare” and from “deadly pestilence” (verse 3), meaning whatever adversity or tribulation evil men of this world can throw at us. We see more bird imagery in verse 4, with God covering us with His feathers and under His wings. God will protect His people both day and night (verses 5-6), and His protection is even greater than when the odds are 10,000 to 1. When we see God’s protection with our own eyes (verse 8), the Godly will be encouraged and the wicked be punished.

In verses 9-10, we again see an invitation to be protected by God. If we truly desire that God be our refuge and dwell in Him, then we will experience His protection. But that also implies that if we seek our protection elsewhere and not in God, then He will not protect us. Who would you rather have protecting you - the God of the universe who created all things and is more powerful than anything, or something else?

If we do accept God’s invitation for His protection, we see another way that He accomplishes that protection in verses 11-13: He will send His angels to protect us. God may allow terrible things to happen in our lives, but we know that nothing is outside of His control. Sometimes we may get lifted out of the danger, but other times we will have to walk through it, trusting in God and His power and protection over us.

To close the psalm, we hear promises from God in verses 14-16: “‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.’”

These promises are just as true for us today as they were for the people that the psalmist was writing to. When we love God, He will rescue and protect us. He will answer us when we call on Him. He will be with us, deliver us, and save us.

Where have you seen God’s protection in your life? Where has God been protecting you that maybe you didn’t even recognize it? Are you truly desiring that God be your help and your protection through life, trusting in Him for everything? Think about these things as you go about your week, and I encourage you to read Psalm 91 a few times during your week too.

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No Pain, No Gain

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, July 28, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

When I was in high school, I had to wear braces on my teeth for close to two years. I was told that was late compared to many people, but it was especially problematic for me because I played football during my sophomore and junior years. I had to wear a special mouthpiece to deal with my braces, and if I ever got knocked around a little harder than usual, the braces could easily cut into the inside of my cheeks and cause bleeding. On top of this, I remember how painful it was when the braces were first put on and how painful it was later when they were first taken off. There was an adjustment period during which I had to endure the pain. As my United States Marine Corps brother likes to say, “Pain is weakness leaving the body."

Part of what has made my brother and I have a high tolerance for pain has been the attitude and perspective instilled in us at a very young age by our father. Anytime I would whine and complain about the pain associated with having braces, my dad would say something like, “Just remember, Logan, it’s temporary pain for lasting gain." I knew what he meant. The lasting gain of a nice smile would make the temporary pain of an uncomfortable mouth seem worth it. But when all I could SEE and experience was the pain, that statement was irritatingly unhelpful!

I’m sure you all can relate as you think back to a painful time in your life from your past, or possibly even some pain you’re dealing with now. Someone close to you is telling you it will be okay or that it will all be worth it in the end, and you just want them to leave you alone and let you sulk. Truthfully, your friend is right. We’re all susceptible to developing a complaining spirit when we’re in pain, but Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:11 that a sign of physical and spiritual maturity is putting childish thinking and childish ways behind us. As mature adults, especially those who follow Jesus as Lord, it is imperative that we always keep an eye on eternity.

James encourages his readers who are experiencing suffering, which could’ve been as a result of poverty, persecution, or oppression, to focus on the eternal reward that awaits them. This is a huge matter of faith and trust in the God who knows and sees everything when all we can see is what’s right in front of us. In James 5:7-9, taken with the previous verses in that chapter, it appears that James is writing to the poor brothers and sisters who have been swindled and oppressed by the rich and the greedy. He urges them to be patient during the affliction they are facing “until the Lord’s coming” and uses the example of a farmer who waits for his crops to further illustrate the point. A farmer cannot control the entire process and he cannot know with certainty when his land will finally yield the valuable crop it’s supposed to be yielding. All he can do is work hard, take care of the things that are within his control, and then wait. He waits patiently for the rains in autumn and spring because he knows they will mean that the harvest is near. The farmer knows it’s not a matter of IF the rains come, but a matter of WHEN. In the same way, the believer and follower of Jesus knows it’s not a matter of IF He will return, it’s a matter of WHEN.

Because of the knowledge of Christ’s impending return, mature believers have good reason to “be patient and stand firm” (James 5:8). Being patient in the midst of pain simply means to endure it without complaining. When I’m impatient with my loved ones or in the middle of traffic, I generally have that complaining spirit and it’s like I’m dumbfounded that the rest of the world is not operating on my schedule and according to what is in my best interest. In those moments, I’m convinced that I could have patience if everyone else did what they are supposed to do and everyone treated me fairly. In other words, I could be patient and stand firm in my faith as long as I never experienced anything to test my patience or shake my faith!

Anyone who follows Jesus and tries to live as a disciple of Him can be certain of difficulties from now until the time of the Lord’s coming. It’s not possible for one to take an honest look at Scripture and see it any differently. Jesus Himself told His followers, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It wasn’t a prediction; it was a promise! Later, after the Apostle Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city of Lystra and left for dead, he and Barnabas concluded, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). They rightly understood that if their ultimate inheritance and gain was to be with Jesus in the kingdom, then they had to be willing to suffer on this earth to get there.

Unfortunately, many people today, even Christians, are looking for the easiest possible path to receive the greatest possible gain. I’ve spoken to potential leaders and pastors over the years who are only willing to go through formal training and education if it’s relatively easy. My friends, this is the opposite of how God does things! There were even some individuals when I was in seminary who were caught plagiarizing, which is a form of cheating. Anyone who has been in full-time ministry knows that it can be very difficult, and that taking the easy path to get there will only set you up for failure and disappointment once you have the title or position.

At a recent small group Bible study, my friends and I discovered a striking difference between the Israelites in the half-tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (together the “people of Joseph”). The story is found in Joshua 17:12-18. The people complain to Joshua that he didn’t give them enough land for all their people as he is doling out the allotments of the Promised Land to each tribe. They claim to be a “numerous people," but Joshua challenges them to go and drive out the Canaanites and take the land for themselves, IF they are as great as they think they are. Even though they are far more numerous than the native peoples AND God has promised to give them the land, they respond by telling Joshua that the Canaanites there have chariots fitted with iron. In other words, they want Joshua to give them more land, but they are not willing to do the hard work and endure the little bit of suffering required to earn it. In contrast, Caleb is an 85-year-old man who, in Joshua 14:10-12, is willing to go to battle to take possession of the land he and his family are being given and to go through whatever pain is necessary, even battling the Anakites who were literal GIANTS, in order to receive the gain he wanted. He had this boldness because he knew the Lord would help him (v. 12). Because of his willingness to depend on the strength of the Lord to accomplish whatever God set him apart to do, he is described in Joshua 14:14 as following the Lord “wholeheartedly."

Is your faith wholehearted like Caleb, or half-hearted like the people of Joseph? That question can be answered by considering how much you are willing to endure any pain that is associated with receiving the gain that is coming your way when Jesus returns. James knows that when we are not willing to go through a little bit of pain and we are about to give up, that is when we lose patience and even begin to grumble with one another. We expect someone else to fix it for us. James says we cannot do this because we are opening ourselves up to God’s righteous and holy judgment (James 5:9). Instead of blaming others for our suffering, let’s all commit to encouraging one another to endure it as part of the process of receiving the eternal gain that awaits us. May God bless you as you patiently persevere!

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Miracles: Mastery over Quantity

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, July 26, 2019 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

God has mastery over quantity. He knows how to take the tiny bit we have and make it run and last for precisely as long as it needs to. These miracles are different than the miracles of controlling weather where God is simply able to direct the natural causes. These miracles are among those that seem to defy nature.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that in a closed system, matter cannot be created or destroyed. In a closed system, what you start with must match what you end with, even if it changes form. However, in an open system you are able to add energy and matter into a given system. When God demonstrates mastery over quantity, He controls the amount of stuff in that given system.

How has God shown mastery over quantity? The one miracle reported in all four Gospels aside from the Resurrection is the feeding of the 5000. Jesus took a boy’s lunch, consisting of five loaves of bread and two fish, and fed 5000 men, not including women and children, an estimated total of about 20,000 altogether. The skeptic will say that is a violation of the laws of physics, however God intervening is a case of an open system, not a closed system. We don’t know exactly what God did to multiply the food. Some have suggested he used the multi-verse to bring in food from multiple universes to combine them together. That’s far-fetched. What we know is that Jesus had little to work with, knew what He was going to do anyway, and multiplied food. The disciples didn’t grasp the significance of this miracle, but the people noticed. That’s why they followed Him and the great discourse of John 6 took place, leading to many people departing from Him. Jesus did this miracle again when a crowd of 4000 gathered around Him. He showed mastery over quantity.

This miracle is not just found here, but two notable cases in the Old Testament too: one by Elijah and one by his successor Elisha. In the first case, Elijah fled to Sidon from the drought in Israel while Ahab was surely hunting him down because no rain would come until Elijah’s word. He came to a widow who was getting ready to bake a final cake for her and her son before they starved to death. Elijah asked for the cake and promised that her flour and oil would never run out until rain returned. And what he said came to pass.

Elisha came across another widow whose sons were being targeted for slavery by a man to whom she owed a debt due to her deceased husband. He told her to gather as many pots and pans as she could and the jar of oil she had would not run out until all the jars were full. Her miracle was limited to the number of jars she collected because as soon as the last jar was full, the oil stopped. She was able to pay off the debt and live for a number of years beyond that with the sales.

I love these types of miracles in part because I have been personal witness to a number of them. The most stand-out example in which I recognized the miracle as it was happening took place in March 2010. I was with another mission team at a tiny children’s home on the far back side of the desert of Juarez, Mexico. We brought a Sloppy Joe meal for them, and planned for the team, the staff, the kids to need to feed about 40 people. So, we brought 40 plates, 40 buns, and 40 apples, along with fruit salad and corn. What we didn’t know was that the colonia (neighborhood) would show up here for lunch time. We had over 75 people to feed, not including the team. We chose to feed them all and we’d use our snack box as needed for the team. As we served, the food kept coming. We served seconds and had leftovers. As I helped with behind the scenes stuff, I know full well that no one left to buy more food (Juarez didn’t even have what we had in terms of brands and such anyway) nor was any brought in. It was a miracle.

We had seen these types of miracles numerous times. Every time we did a feeding in Juarez, we were careful to plan wisely, but we often had more people show up than expected. Yet in every case, no one left hungry. Sometimes we had more food than needed. In other cases, the last bite went to the very last person. In some cases, it was serving ham; in others, it was serving apples or hotdogs. But God never let us run out of food while feeding the people. That said, we were never presumptuous about Him delivering on multiplying food. We knew the day we did that would be the day God didn’t do it.

I was too young to remember or take notice directly, by my mom described one such mission group where we brought an eye doctor and did a city-wide announced eye-check at a children’s home ran by another doctor. We brought all sorts of donated eyeglasses that day. What was unique about this one was that the last person got the last pair of glasses with matching prescriptions. That’s more unique than mere food. What’s more is that the home’s director hadn’t gotten his done, but the eye doctor checked him anyway. But the director’s eyes matched perfectly with the eye doctor’s, so he took off his glasses and gave them to the director. God came through.

God will multiply our resources as we need them. This goes for food, eyeglasses, gasoline, or anything. In 2005, my parents helped with Hurricane Katrina relief and my dad was driving a bus with storm refugees trying to evacuate from Hurricane Rita. They were out of gas with nothing open, yet that tank went for miles on empty beyond what it ever should have. We’ve had appliances and cars and other things last far longer than they should have, enabling us to save the money we would have needed to use on those for better purposes.

I cannot remotely begin to describe how many times God provided financially when the math doesn’t work. My mom worked as the bookkeeper for the mission organization we were with, and as a math person she knew there was far more money going out than coming in, yet the bills were always paid. We called it “God Math.” He took care of us. Nearly every mission organization in the world who has depended upon God for their resources could testify to this.

But let me give a warning. God can multiply resources, but He can also cut them short. God can bless our wallets or he can curse them. Ever come across someone who is always short of money? That may not be merely because they constantly spend, but it could be because they are under a curse. It may be due to sin, due to pursuing money, or whatever. But a curse without a cause cannot alight. If you think you are under a curse in your resources and that God has had to cut them off, go to Him to find out why. It may be to test you and to prove your faithfulness. But if there is a problem, He will point it out. If the devil is stealing your resources, God will make sure you are repaid. But if your shortcoming is your own doing, ask God to reveal it to you and repent of it.

Let me throw in a word of caution too. In absolutely no way am I encouraging that we go after God’s blessings so we can be wealthy. I am firmly against Prosperity Gospel preaching of pursuing wealth. I am teaching that God knows how to take care of us and provides, even if in ways we can’t really grasp. He will multiply as He sees fit, but He will also cut short if necessary. God has mastery over quantity no matter what the substance is.

Next week, we’ll look at how God has mastery over physical health.

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 Genesis Myth, Part 1

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, July 25, 2019 9 comments

by Steve Risner

“That's your interpretation,” is a very common response when I explain what Genesis tells us about the creation event and that the text was written as a historical narrative. This has always been a strange response, in my opinion. We're not talking about some hard to decipher or highly encrypted information. We're not looking at some natural phenomenon we know little about. We're talking about a very specific communication from God Himself about how and when He created the heavens, earth, seas, and all that is in them. It's pretty obvious, when other books of the Bible make references to Genesis that they're viewing it as real history that actually took place. God seems to think the creation event itself was fairly important. He points back to it throughout the entire Bible including the New Testament. Every single New Testament writer makes mention of creation and/or the Flood somehow. Jesus mentions creation and even people closely associated with it as though He thought the events and people were real history.

So, what's the deal? Is it really that crazy to think that the text means exactly what it says? Those same folks that tell me, “That's your interpretation,” rarely if ever offer up what their interpretation is. They may say the text is misinterpreted through our “modern Western” eyes or that it's allegory or mythology or folklore, but this fails to answer the question. I don't get a straight answer on what the “proper” interpretation is; I'm just told mine is wrong. Since we know the three most important things to consider when reading a section of the Bible are context, context, context, what does the context tell us about how it should be read?

Genesis contains the history of the creation of the world and life as well as the first 2000 years or so of earth’s history. It is continuous, without a break from the first to the last chapter in form. Found in its pages are some of the most riveting stories of human struggle as well as narratives of God's wrath and His love. The foundations for the Christian and Jewish faiths are found in these pages, and it seems rather impossible for those faiths to have any merit at all if the stories told in Genesis are not actual history. I realize that for an atheist, this is perfectly fine. But this writing is not for the atheist, per se. It's for the believer who may feel that taking God at His Word in light of “scientific” evidence is a foolish thing.

Within Genesis, we find a clear, detailed history of a family which gives rise to the Messiah. This family line traces from Adam through Seth to Noah. Noah had 3 sons—one of which was Shem. From Shem comes Eber and through him we have Abraham. Abraham is the father of the faith. From Abraham come the Hebrews (named after Eber), who are descendants of Jacob, Abraham's grandson. They moved to Egypt due to a famine in the land and that's where the history in Genesis ends. It picks up about 400 years later in Exodus. But the whole story is filled with indicators that the text was intended to be read and taken as an actual history. What are those indicators?

By using the phrase “This is the family history of...” we can tell with a fair amount of certainty that the book, whether compiled over centuries or not, was intended to give a narrative of a family history—that of the Hebrews, tracing their lineage back all the way to Adam and Eve. You can see this phrase or something similar in Genesis 5:1 where it specifically states it's going to tell us about the descendants of Adam. How would this actually look if it were to give us real history? My opinion is that it would look exactly like it does because it's intended to be taken as history. That's why other Biblical writers seemed to take it as such. The genealogical-historical framework of Genesis, from start to finish, tells us it is to be taken as historical. How else could you take it and be consistent?

“But you're reading it through your modern Western eyes,” is usually something I hear. What does that mean? The text is timeless and, dare I suggest, God is capable of expressing Himself rather well. The writing is an ancient historical narrative. If an ancient near Eastern man were to write a history of the world from the first utterance of God as He created everything, what would that text look like? What would the structure of that narrative be? What details would be included if we were to understand the events actually happened? The details in many of the accounts in Genesis are extremely specific. For instance, we are told exactly what day the rain that caused the Flood started and exactly what day it ended. We are told specifically where the Ark landed and how long from this landing it was before birds were sent out to investigate. We are then told exactly how long it was before they disembarked from the vessel. Does this seem like mythology? Allegory? Or history that actually happened?

The writer of Genesis isn't embellishing old traditional stories from his culture's past. He's telling us about events he believed happened and, for that matter, Jesus seemed to think they happened as well. There are some theistic evolutionists and old earth creationists who will actually claim that Jesus was wrong in this! If you doubt the Word of God (the Bible), you may begin to doubt the Word of God (Jesus). But the author (most likely Moses) is giving us a history in story form. There are other genres of writing that can do this. This means that poetry, of which there are very minor elements in Genesis, is certainly a possible genre for transmitting history. See the Psalms for examples of this. Writing a history poetically doesn't take away at all from the fact that the events, places, and people are real. But, again, there are very minor elements of poetry in this text and they are generally expressed by a person in the narrative, i.e. Adam, God, or someone else speaking. I believe it is pretty clear that the writer of Genesis (or the compiler if you like) intended to convey a literal history to the people of his day. Historical narrative is a straightforward way to transmit historical information.

Genesis 1-50 are continuous in their form and writing style. Someone recently told me, when asked about where Genesis begins to be actual history, that it's after chapter 11 because it's less bizarre. That's right: the reason we can't take Genesis 1-11 as historical is because it's weird. I thought that this was one of the most pitiful explanations for one's beliefs—that it's too weird to think God made the earth in 6 days and that He destroyed most of life on earth because of sin. These are bizarre, I guess, and so much so that we will rewrite the clear message of the book so it makes us feel better about it.

There is literally no disconnect or break between Genesis 1-11 and 12-50. Genesis 12-50 tells us about the origins of Israel. No scholars (or laypersons to my knowledge) reject that this is the intent of Genesis 12-50. Genesis 1-11 tells us about the origins of earth and life, sin and death, and God's hatred for sin as well as the widespread effects of sin on creation. Why would we reject that if the rest of the text is acceptable as history? How else can we make sense of Genesis unless it's telling us the truth? How can it be the truth if the events, people, and places (which are directly connected to Jesus Christ) were made up? It tells us about specific people doing specific things in specific places within a specific timeline. How else would a historical narrative be passed on? People commonly will cherry pick from the Bible the things they want to believe. If it goes against their desire to sin or their beliefs about the “real world,” they'll cast truth out the window, even if it's undeniably clear in the Bible.

There is a great deal more to say on this subject as I have hardly begun to scratch the surface. The case for the historicity of Genesis is overwhelming and has been the overwhelmingly accepted belief in the passages for thousands of years. I'll continue next time. Until then, God bless you and thank you for taking the time to read. I hope this equips you to share the truth and love others.

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Psalm 84

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, July 22, 2019 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young — a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you” (Psalm 84:1-4)

Is there anything in life that you yearn for like this psalmist yearns for God’s presence? Even the things that I’ve wanted most in this life don’t compare to God’s presence, and it’s what we should long for with all our being - to be in the presence of our Creator God.

In Old Testament times, it was believed that God’s dwelling place was the temple, or the tabernacle prior to when the temple was built. The Israelites believed they needed to go to that physical place to truly be in God’s presence and to worship Him. We know that God is omnipresent, but God can make His presence known in certain places, such as the temple.

Have you ever felt closer to God when worshiping Him with His Church, rather than throughout the rest of your week? That’s often because of where our attention is focused. God has not gotten more distant as we go to work, cook dinner, clean the house, or perform the other responsibilities in our daily lives, but we’re simply less aware of His presence because we’re focused on other things.

Here in the beginning of this psalm, the psalmist’s total attention is focused on the Lord Almighty, his King and his God. That’s what his soul is truly yearning for. Even while he does not feel as though he is in God’s presence, his soul longs to be with God in that place.

Verse 3 mentions the sparrow and the swallow finding their homes near God’s altar. These were very common birds, so that seems out of place to connect them to the Almighty God and His dwelling place. But, this shows the psalmist how blessed we as humans are to also be in God’s presence! If even these lowly, common birds get to be near God, how much more blessed are we who get to serve God and be blessed by Him too!

The psalm continues in verses 5-7 to ask God’s blessing on those who travel to and from the temple to experience this presence of God. It continues in verses 8-9 to ask for God to hear his prayer and to bless His anointed one, pointing to the ruler of Israel at the time.

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (verses 10-11).

Here, the psalm again returns to how amazing it is to be in God’s presence. Even a lowly position, such as a doorkeeper, in God’s house is way better than dwelling in the tents of the wicked, which symbolizes receiving public recognition and material wealth. Spending time in God’s presence is a thousand times better than anything else!

The psalmist knows that God blesses His people who honor Him. God restores and protects His people. Simply by being in God’s presence, the people have the opportunity to experience God’s favor and honor in their lives by walking in His ways.

This psalm closes with “Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you” (verse 12). The psalmist began the psalm by conveying his strong desire for being in God’s presence, and he ends it by encouraging everyone to seek God and trust in Him to be blessed by Him.

How great is it that we don’t need to go to a particular place to be in God’s presence! We can worship Him and spend time with Him anywhere we are. While it can help us get rid of distractions to have a designated place to focus on God, that’s not a requirement.

This psalm makes me ponder what it will be like when we’re able to be in heaven, worshiping God every moment of every day. Especially when I’m struggling through the stresses of life, I can’t think of anything more wonderful than just being able to focus on God and experience His lovely presence all the time!

Wherever you’re at right now as you’re reading this blog post, I encourage you to stop and take some time to get rid of distractions and focus on the amazing presence of God. Express to Him your desire to be in His lovely dwelling place, where it’s a thousand times better than anywhere else!

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.


His Judgment Cometh

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, July 21, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Anyone who is even a marginal fan of The Shawshank Redemption should know what comes immediately after the phrase in the above title: “AND THAT RIGHT SOON." That sentence just about sums up the plot of what is, in my opinion, one of the top five movies of all time. Andy Dufresne is the intelligent banker who is erroneously convicted for the murder of his wife and her lover and sentenced to life behind bars at Shawshank Prison. Warden Norton is the man who runs Shawshank with abuse, corruption, and dishonesty all while pretending to care about the inmates and quoting favorite passages of Scripture as if he follows it. When he learns of Andy’s financial prowess, he realizes he can take advantage of it and use Andy to “cook the books” to the warden’s direct benefit. Warden Norton gets rich while the innocent Dufresne gets nothing more than a few minor privileges for his forced participation in the crimes.

Every night when Dufresne is done with the paperwork, he has to put it in a safe that is behind a picture on a wall. The picture has a design along with the word, “His judgment cometh, and that right soon." Warden Norton sees it as a reminder to Dufresne and others not to cross him or challenge him, because he has the authority within Shawshank to pronounce judgment on his prisoners. Dufresne, however, knows that he has something very special planned for Norton that he is preparing for 19 years. He bides his time and endures many unfair hardships, trusting that the true, righteous judgment will pounce on the unjust soon enough. When the time comes and he escapes from Shawshank with proof of all of the warden’s crimes, the warden and his minions can no longer hide from the judgment that is coming soon.

The fictional story portrayed in this great movie is pretty close to what James had in mind when he warned the rich about the judgment that awaited them in his letter to the early church. The biggest difference is that Andy Dufresne accomplished his own revenge and justice on the warden this side of heaven, while James urges the oppressed and mistreated to trust in the God who says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19). James understood that in his day, there were many wealthy individuals who had neither earned their riches nor received them from God, but they had swindled and manipulated their way to affluence. In James 5:1-6, he wanted to make sure they understood, as they continued to revel in their dishonest gain, that God was not pleased with them and would not overlook their oppressive actions unless they repented.

It’s not that being rich is a bad thing automatically. Jesus definitely had some followers who were pretty well-off, including Zaccheus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Barnabas. However, if you go back and read each of those men’s stories in the Gospels and in Acts, you see that their wealth did not stand in the way of their obedience to Christ. Zaccheus was a tax collector who no doubt ripped people off, but when Jesus came to his house, he repented and agreed to pay back anyone for what he had cheated them, plus interest, and he also gave half of his remaining possessions to the poor (Luke 19:1-10). Joseph of Arimathea, who may have been among the Jewish authorities, owned a new tomb cut out of rock and used it to bury Jesus’ body for just a couple of days because that’s all was needed (Matthew 27:57-60). Barnabas owned a huge piece of land, but he sold it and gave the money to the Lord’s work in the early church (Acts 4:36-37). In the Old Testament, Job was one of the wealthiest men of all time, but he loved God more than his riches and didn’t hesitate to worship Him even when everything was lost.

Rest assured that you can still follow Jesus and obey him even if you are wealthy. The question is, how much do your riches mean to you? Who did you have to step over or step on to get them? If God is calling you to abandon it all for a life of service to Him, are you willing? James specifically addressed some individuals who only focused on what they could gain in this life and not on treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). He urges them to weep and wail because the riches they have treasured are going to disappear very soon and they’ll have nothing left (James 5:1-2). Their condition before God will actually be even worse than that. What could be worse than losing everything to moth, rust, and corrosion? James tells them: “Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days” (James 5:3). The point here is that on the day of judgment, it will be revealed that they did not concern themselves with the things of God but instead lived their lives arrogantly independent in the way James just condemned at the end of chapter 4 (see last week’s post).

Anyone who focuses solely on earthly treasures, whether by intention or a lack of care for God and others, should heed the warning in this section of James’ letter. By nature, we all seek comfort and try to avoid suffering, and we know that riches do alleviate some suffering for a little while. But if we really understand the judgment and eternal suffering that could be coming our way, it’s a no-brainer where our efforts should be focused during the short time we have here. English commentator John Trapp said, “Better weep here, where there are wiping handkerchiefs in the hand of Christ, than to have your eyes whipped out in hell. Better howl with men than yell with devils."

While James directs his warning toward the rich in this section, his words are also a comfort to the poor, especially those who have been cheated by the wealthy. In those days, the poor were willing to work wherever they could find it. Those who were wealthy enough to own land would hire workers to tend it. When the work was done and it came time to pay up, the laborers had no recourse if the landowners would choose not to pay. The rich would occasionally take advantage of the lack of accountability and either pay the worker less than the agreed upon wages or just not pay them at all. James has this travesty in mind when he writes, “The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty” (James 5:4). In other words, the rich might think they are getting away with their oppression, just like Warden Norton thought he was getting away with his crimes. But as Numbers 32:23 assures us, “You can be sure that your sin will find you out." The “Lord Almighty” could be more accurately translated “Lord of hosts." He is the God of angel armies and He’s got a whole fleet - though He needs no one else - that is ready to take the fight to anyone who oppresses another.

I think we can all be honest and admit that we don’t want to find ourselves in a fight against God and all His angels. That’s not going to end well for any of us. For this reason, it would seem to be in our best interest to make absolutely certain we are not cheating anyone else in order to succeed in the world’s eyes, and also that we are doing everything we can to assist those who are in need. If we stand before God and all we have to show for our time on this earth is a bunch of “stuff” that is corroded and destroyed, then the judgment we assumed we’d never face is coming our way. Since we never know how “soon” it’s coming, let’s make an effort to store up treasures in heaven, starting today!

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Miracles: Mastery over Weather

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, July 19, 2019 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Over the past two weeks, I have written about how God has mastery over time and distance. There is so much more to what God controls. Today, I am going to talk about the weather. God has mastery over the weather. The first explicit statement about weather patterns in Scripture is found in Genesis 8:22 (though one could make an argument about Genesis 2:5 and a statement of no rain). In describing the world post-Flood, God promised the seasons would continue until all would come to pass. The earth has gone through numerous cyclical seasons of warming and cooling since then, however the seasons in general still continue precisely as God promised.

Many skeptics have asked me whether God direct and controls the rain or whether the water cycle sends rain. The real answer to that question is “yes.” Both are true. God did set up the water cycle to give the land rain on its own cycles, but he also controls the situations that enable to the water cycle to operate. He can send the rain with the water cycle, or He can withhold it. In either case, the water cycle is under the direct control and management of God.

There are numerous examples of God intervening with weather in Scripture. Perhaps the most famous case of God demonstrating His mastery over weather is when Jesus calmed the storm. When the storm took place, Jesus was sleeping in a boat with His disciples. The storm didn’t bother Him, while His disciples, four of them expert fishermen and masters of the sea, were scared for their lives. When they woke Him up, Jesus just shook His head asking, “Why are you doubting?” He simply spoke to the storm and said, “Be quiet!” Immediately, the storm stopped. This was not a case of a storm ending normally. The disciples knew how storms ended because they endured their share of them. This was different. This was a powerful storm ending suddenly upon command.

This wasn’t the only time Jesus controlled the weather. Right after He fed the 5000, Jesus followed His disciples across the lake by walking on the water. It was stormy that night too. Peter followed Jesus and walked on the water too, but the storm caught his attention and he began to sink. Jesus caught him, and the moment they arrived back on the boat the storm stopped.

God controlling the weather happened in the Old Testament too. When Jonah ran from God in attempt to escape from going to Nineveh, he got on a ship for Tarshish. So, God sent a storm to stop him. Jonah thought he could escape again but being tossed into the sea, but God prepared a great fish to swallow him and deliver him at Nineveh.

God did not stop controlling the weather when the Bible was completed either. Numerous reports of snow or fog or storms fill the history books which stopped advancing armies or enabled other armies to get out. One classic case was the battle of England against the Spanish Armada. England, having far weaker and few vessels, had longer range weapons. However, the day of the battle, a massive storm prevented the Spanish from getting close enough to hit their targets. It is widely reported that the Spanish general said, “We came to fight the English, not the winds and waves of God.” This battle paved the course of European history, which would eventually lead to the founding of America.

I have personally witnessed God change the weather for his purposes. A notable case came on Easter Weekend in 2001. I was with a mission team in Juarez, Mexico, and we had a VBS club, Bible study, events, and food at a local church and the surrounding neighborhood. We decided to give them a rare treat: ham, mashed potatoes with gravy, and other goodies for Easter Weekend.

The day of the event, a storm hit. It was one of the strongest wind storms in El Paso/Juarez history with regular gusts up to 88 mph. Those who know the area know what that means in the desert: DIRT! Those who live in the north understand blizzards so bad you can barely see a few feet in front of you. This is not a “white out,” this is a “brown out.” Virtually no one showed up for the event or the food, which meant we had a lot of leftovers that we could not bring back across the border into the U.S. So, we asked who needed food and we received word of an orphanage on the other side of the city. It turns out it was one we knew about but never could seem to find it. Now we knew where to go. When we arrived, they were down to their last bucket of carrots, praying for food. This fed them for at least another week, and we maintained a relationship with this orphanage for the next 10+ years.

But my best example of God having master over weather was in February 2011. It was my final semester at college before graduation and I spearheaded bringing Steve Lillis, a profession pool player who uses trick shots to preach the Gospel, to come to a couple shows in El Paso. We had one show scheduled for the UT El Paso Union Building and another at a pool hall. That week, El Paso was hit with the worst winter storm in history. Three straight days of sub-freezing temps plus snow and ice. Northern folk would laugh at that, but keep in mind that El Paso is not built for those temps. The entire city had to shut down. Literally. The pumps for the power stations froze, cutting power to the city, and that cut off the heaters to pipes in which 90% of the city’s stored water was lost due to pipes breaking. The city endured rolling blackouts for four days and had to boil water because of leaks in the pipes.

Well, we lost our venue at UTEP. But God opened the door for the show to move to the dorms and when one of the dorms lost a pipe and the city shut down, we had a captive audience, they couldn’t go anywhere. It was a powerful show, but not as powerful as that night. When we went to the pool hall, not a single person we invited showed up. But it was happy hour and Steve Lillis was a former pool shark who really knew the culture. He did his show, battled through hecklers, and when it was all done, one of the hecklers came up to him and asked “Why did you do that?” The answer was Jesus Christ. God took the plans we make, allowed a storm to hit to change them, and used it for His glory. Steve wrote an autobiography about his journey from pool shark to professional to the “Pastor of Pool” and this story is part of it.

Now a skeptic may come and say, “But what about those tsunami victims, or those killed by a tornado?” I cannot answer for why God does what He does unless He reveals it afterwards. I do know that God lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust. I know that as we fast approach the End Times, there will be earthquakes, storms and wars as the earth groans under the sin that man subjects to it. I know that God will allow a storm to take out the righteous and the wicked at the same time. But I also know He will direct and guide weather to work out little details in our lives. When such storms happen, our response is not to shake our fists at God in defiance as many will do going through the Seal, Trumpet, and Bowl judgments. Our response should be to repent, lest we too perish. Take notice that while storm deaths have increased, much of that is due to people building and living where storms hit. God can’t be put to blame for that.

God has mastery over the weather. While He can and does let the water cycle run its course, it is ultimately in His hands to use as He pleases. He may send a storm due to sin. He may let it run its course. He may send a storm to redirect people. But He has full control. The seasons will continue to run as they have been, and he cycles of the seasons will continue until the end comes.

Next week, we will look at how God has mastery over quantity.

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Psalm 83

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, July 15, 2019 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45).

Today’s psalm, Psalm 83, was written centuries before Jesus spoke the words above. In it, the psalmist is praying for his enemies, but not in the way that Jesus commanded. This is technically a psalm of lament, but the writer is pretty angry toward his enemies and is praying for revenge on them.

The psalm starts out in verse 1 with the writer urging God to listen and take action rather than being silent about the situation. In English we see simply “God” twice, but in Hebrew those are two different words - Elohim and El. While both do mean “God,” Elohim is the more majestic or kingly name for God, whereas El refers more specifically to God’s power and might. The psalmist is recognizing God’s authority and power over all the earth and asking Him to use those in this situation.

So what is the situation at hand? Verses 2-4 tell us that there are enemies conspiring against God’s people Israel. The enemies “growl,” “rear their heads,” “conspire,” and “plot against” Israel. The enemies want to make a name for themselves and to erase the name of Israel. In those days, a nation’s name was the same as their reputation. Having a nation’s name destroyed would be effectively like destroying that nation.

In verse 5, the psalmist turns the tables and bit and says that the nations are not only against God’s people, but they’re plotting against God Himself! He wants God to get personally involved and take care of the enemies.

When you get to a list of names, whether people or nations, in the Bible, do you have a tendency to just gloss over it? That’s so easy for us to do when we’re not familiar with those people or places. But the list of nations who are Israel’s enemies given here in verses 6-8 is interesting and significant when you look at who they are.

The Edomites were basically the archenemies of Israel. Israel was founded by Jacob who had a twin brother named Esau. The Edomites were Esau’s descendants. There was some serious rivalry between Jacob and Esau, which continued through the generations. The Ishmaelites were the illegitimate descendants of Abraham (Jacob’s grandfather). When Abraham and his wife Sarah were not able to have a child, they took matters into their own hands instead of waiting on God. Abraham had a son with Hagar, Sarah’s servant, who was named Ishmael. That didn’t turn out very well, so Hagar and Ishmael ran away (Genesis 16), and Ishmael’s descendants became enemies of Israel.

The Moabites and Ammonites were descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot. We see many instances in the Old Testament of fighting between these nations and Israel: Judges 3:12-30 and Judges 11:6-33 just to name a couple. Not much is known today about the Hagrites or the people of Byblos. The Hagrites were a nomadic tribe living east of the Jordan River. The city of Byblos was located near Tyre south of the Dead Sea, and both were important economic centers of the day. You can read more about the Amalekites here, and the Philistines here. The last enemy listed, the Assyrians, were the dominating power in that area at that time.

Clearly, Israel had a lot of enemies! With so many threats against their small nation, they really did need to trust in God that He would take care of their enemies for them. In the next section of the psalm, verses 9-12, the psalmist relates how God has protected them in the past. The psalmist relates specific events and actions that God had taken.

The concluding section of the psalm, verses 13-18, shares what the psalmist wants God to do to Israel's enemies, at first saying to put them to shame and destroy them. Again, reputation was everything in that era, so shaming enemies would effectively mean to destroy them. But, the psalmist also asks God to use that shame to turn His enemies back to Him: “Cover their faces with shame, Lord, so that they will seek your name” (verse 16). This thought is repeated in verse 18: “Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord — that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”

While at first glance this psalm appears to be about revenge and anger toward Israel’s enemies, it takes a turn at the end and instead the psalmist is praying for His enemies to turn to the one true God.

So what does this mean for us? While we don’t generally have other nations actively physically attacking us, we all have enemies in our lives. Maybe it’s that coworker you just can’t stand, or maybe you’re being bullied by someone else. Whatever that looks like in your life, you probably would love it for God to just strike that person down, right?

But recall the words of Jesus that I quoted at the start of this post: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We as followers of Christ are commanded to do exactly that - pray for our enemies. We should pray that they, too, would turn toward God and come to faith in Him. If we’re seeking God and our enemies are seeking God too, they’ll no longer be our enemies, but our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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Sinfully Independent

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, July 14, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

One of our most beloved words in the English language is “deserve." No, I haven’t taken a poll of any sort, but I am making that judgment based solely on the sheer volume of people I’ve come across in my life who complain about not getting what they feel they have a right to have. When I worked at Hershey’s Chocolate World as a teenager, I occasionally had the job of handing out FREE miniature candy bars to people after their completion of the FREE tour ride. It always amazed me when, every so often, a person would walk up and ask if we had a specific kind he or she likes and if the answer was “no," that person would walk away complaining. Sometimes, I just wanted to ask, “What’s wrong with you people? It’s FREE!” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve witnessed more and more adults applying the “I deserve it” attitude to jobs, promotions within their agencies or companies, and benefits or rewards for their hard work.

At the heart of this attitude is an arrogance that assumes we deserve anything that we have in the first place. It’s the opposite of the humility that James encourages throughout his letter to the early church. He writes in James 4:13-17 that we should never live our lives without knowledge of the reality that our entire existence depends on God. We’ve just recently celebrated our nation’s Independence Day here in the U.S. It’s the time of year that we display our pride as a country that defeated its oppressors and has maintained its freedom and independence from any other nation ever since. God has blessed us with these freedoms. However, notice that we have no day on our calendar when we celebrate or remember our dependence on God. Maybe I’ll start writing to Congress and the president and suggest it. For Christians, we can certainly say that our National Day of Prayer, which is annually the first Thursday in May, fits that bill. But it’s probably not something the nation as a whole or even our leadership will ever agree to enact. Why? Because, as human beings, we all generally resist any insinuation that we are not in control!

James has some cold, hard truth for those who still think they deserve everything they have, and I’m sure his words were quite challenging to his intended audience of boastful Jews in the early church. He doesn’t mince words. Instead, he declares, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). In the big picture, we are only here a fraction of the time and that is why he says we ought not be walking around saying all the things we are going to be doing tomorrow or next year in another city apart from God’s will because we don’t even know if we’ll be given tomorrow (James 4:13-14). James is not against making plans; he is against making plans outside of the will of God, with absolutely no consideration for what the Creator of the universe might want you to do with the life He has given you.

Francis Chan, in a video Bible study shown on Right Now Media, relates James’ statement about the vanishing mist to the steam that comes off of a tea kettle that is only there for a few seconds or minutes until it is gone. True humility is learning to see ourselves this way compared to a God on whom we depend for each day and every breath we take. If you aren’t certain that our very breath comes from God, I encourage you to read the Creation accounts at the beginning of the Bible. Genesis 2:7 tells us that “the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." Without the breath that God gives us directly from Himself, we are nothing but lifeless clumps of skin and body parts.

James believes that this realization should make us consider the Lord’s will in everything we do. He writes that we should say “if it is the Lord’s will” before or after each plan that we say we will carry out (James 4:15). Now, I’ve never read this verse to mean that we must actually say those words before every mundane task we plan out. I don’t think I need to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, I’m going to make bacon and eggs in twenty minutes." What James is describing here is an attitude that accepts that not even the next twenty minutes are guaranteed. Charles Spurgeon said, “There are two great certainties about things that shall come to pass - one is that God knows, and the other is that we do not know." The ones to whom James wrote were talking about their future plans with no regard for what the Lord wanted. They not only considered their future something they knew about, but they also primarily saw their future as an opportunity to travel more and make more money (v. 13). It was all about themselves and what they desired.

There are actually two issues addressed by James in this section, one being the sovereignty of God and the other being our submission to Him. Many believers accept that God is sovereign over everything yet still live as if He is not. We might chalk it up to enjoying our “independence," but the best life is to admit dependence on God and seek to please Him in whatever we do and wherever we go. Once we’ve accepted the fact that He is sovereign, the only logical response is to ask, “What does He want from me?” Since some of the early believers did not demonstrate such an attitude, James wanted them to know that their attitude of independence was actually sinful. He referred to it as arrogance and said that the type of boasting that ignores the need for God is evil (James 4:16). Most of us probably don’t realize it’s that big of a deal to talk about our life goals and plans without first considering the Lord. We don’t recognize it because it is so common. Nevertheless, it is something that God clearly opposes, according to James 4:6 and many other passages in Scripture. If you live your life apart from God’s will, you cannot expect Him to bless it.

James concludes this section of his letter with another statement we don’t typically think about. He says in James 4:17, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them." Most believers are familiar with all the sins of COMMISSION, meaning the person chose to do something that is wrong in God’s eyes. Here, James says there are also sins of OMISSION. Since sin just means to “miss the mark," we can miss the mark God has planned for us because we are choosing not to do what we know we’re supposed to do. This is a lack of submission to God and His will. James 1:27 tells us we must look after orphans and widows in their trouble. Jesus tells us all the things we must do to be considered his followers in Matthew 25:31-46, and our salvation depends on it! These and many other Scriptures regarding good things we must do are not even debatable. Yet, so many believers arrogantly ignore them in favor of wanting to “do their own thing."

Friends, if you have been ignoring God’s will for your life, it’s time to recognize His sovereignty and live in submission to Him. He will equip you for anything He calls you to do, if He hasn’t already equipped you. Get rid of all the other goals in your life that are independent from God and choose, like Paul in Acts 20:24, to simply aim to complete the task God has given you. That’s all that really matters beyond this life anyway.

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Miracles: Mastery over Distance

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, July 12, 2019 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

One of the attributes of the true God is that He is omnipresent. He is everywhere, in all places, and all times, all at once. One of the reasons God does not take physical form is because of His nature of being everywhere all at once. He is capable of revealing himself in a physical form as He did in many instances throughout the Old Testament (in such instances like Genesis 18, Joshua 5:13-15, or Daniel 3:24-26, we see Jesus in his pre-incarnate form: the Angel of the Lord). This yields a very interesting aspect of God: He has mastery over distance.

The clearest example of this is in the account of the faith of the Centurion. A Roman Centurion, whom the Jews respected, sought Jesus for help. He had heard of Jesus and knew that what He did came with power and authority he did not know. He recognized Jesus had the power to heal his servant, but he also understood that Jesus could not do what He did in His own strength and power. He recognized that Jesus was submitted to an even higher authority. That is why he told Jesus that He didn’t need to come in person but just speak the word and it would be done. This is perhaps the only time Jesus appears to have been surprised. He was astonished. Here was this Roman Centurion who as far as we know didn’t know God from a duck demonstrated more and better faith than Jesus had encountered from all Israel. Jesus commended that faith and granted the petition right then and there. The Centurion found out when he got home that his servant was healed at the very hour Jesus gave the word.

A similar instance is found in John 4 when an official came to Jesus, about a day and a half away from his sick son. Jesus promised that his son would live, and the official returned home with nothing but a promise. When he got home, again about a day and a half away, he found out that his son was healed that very moment Jesus spoke.

God has mastery over distance. He does not have to be physically present for the miracle to be given. All God has to do is give the word and it will be done. Exactly how will it be done? We can’t necessarily know that. God could send an angel to do the job or due to His omnipresence, He could do it Himself right then and there.

God has mastery over distance, not just physical distance, but spiritual distance too. There’s nowhere to hide from Him. Even when it seems He is light years away, He is actually right there with you. He never lets you go through a trial completely alone. He may stay silent through the trial, but He is there. When we are in rebellion against Him, He is right there with us, either prodding us to get our act together or letting us run wild until we realize how foolish we are. When we are walking with God, He is there leading us, guiding us, protecting us, and showing His glory to us.

Paul understood how God has mastery over distance. Paul concludes Romans 8 with one of the most famous passages in the book: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God has mastery over distance. This is why we can pray for people all over the world. There is value in being physically present for the prayer, but during World War II, Rees Howells gave such a clear picture of how prayer works over distances. He could not fight in the war, however he turned his Bible college into a “war room,” following closely the details of the battles, and he prayed as though he was a soldier. He prayed for Hitler to make military blunders, for weather changes, for anything to give the allies a victory. Throughout the European front, miracles happened. There is no way we should have won many of those battles, including the Normandy invasion. We took the beach because Hitler misplaced his panzer tank divisions, a move he normally would not have made. It was the prayers of Rees Howells and others that brought us that victory.

I don’t remember who it was, but I heard a story of a missionary in the jungles of the Amazon. He had been in the city to get some medicine and came across a homeless guy. After a short interaction, he entered the jungle and camped for the night. The next day, the guy showed up. He told the missionary that he and some friends came to rob and kill him, however surrounding the camp were 26 giant men protecting him. They didn’t know what to do so they fled. The man told him what he saw that next day. Well, while on furlough, the missionary tells his home church this story and a person in the congregation stands up. He told the missionary that very night, he woke up suddenly with a desperate urge to pray for him. Then a woman stood up and said the same thing. When it was said and done, 26 people were standing saying they prayed that very night. God is a miracle worker and He is not stopped by distance.

My brother is another example. He had a significant hearing loss as a child and two of the elders of our church, who were also our family doctors, told my parents of the results of the tests indicating this loss. There was no hope, no solution. Another family overheard this statement, which was not of doubt, but simply what the medical knowledge had at the time, and they spent that afternoon praying and fasting for my brother. The next day, my mom was vacuuming and my brother loved to put his hands on the vacuum because of the vibrations. Instead he put his hands over his ears and ran out of the house screaming because of the intense volume that he could now hear. We didn’t find out they prayed until some time later.

God has mastery over distance. No matter where you are, God is always within reach. All we must do is call out to him. Next week, I’ll look at another area that God has mastery over: the weather.

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Psalm 73

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, July 8, 2019 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Why do bad things happen to God's followers when God is good, and why do the wicked seem to prosper? These are questions that many people have struggled with, including the author of today’s psalm: Psalm 73. I encourage you to go to that link and read it before digging into this post.

The main theme of this psalm is the suffering of God’s children and the goodness of God. Verses 1-3 summarize these themes well: “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” We see the truth that God is good, how the psalmist has sinned, and how the wicked prosper.

Those who follow God know that life can (and usually will) be difficult. Following God does not mean that your life will suddenly be easy and happy; in fact, it’s often just the opposite of that. The psalmist is seeing those who don’t follow God experience the “good life,” and he’s clearly envious of them. After all, who wouldn’t be, right? If you see someone take the easy path, go against God, and seem to be doing really well for themselves, wouldn’t you wonder why you’re struggling so much to do what you know to be right?

We see this prosperity of the wicked in greater detail in verses 4-12. They seem to be so carefree, they’re not worried about life, they’re healthy, and they’re accumulating wealth. Everything seems to be going well for them. They don’t seem to suffer as the righteous do. They don’t regard God and His commandments and they are filled with pride (verse 6). They scoff, they boast, and they threaten (verse 8). They even directly mock God (verse 11).

In the next section, verses 13-17, the psalmist examines his reaction to this prosperity of the wicked. First, the psalmist doubts his own concern for the wicked, since they seem to be doing alright with following God (verse 13). Second, he suffers adversity and doesn’t understand why he’s suffering, so he’s confused about that (verse 14). Third, he is concerned for God’s people, and that’s part of why he strives to continue in righteousness and doesn’t just turn wicked himself (verse 15). Fourth, he realizes that he really can’t understand all this on his own without God’s help (verses 16-17).

It takes God’s presence to overpower the confusion that reigns in the psalmist’s heart as to why the wicked who ignore God prosper and he is so afflicted while trying to follow God. He remembers God’s truth that there will be justice in the end! While the wicked may prosper in this world, it’s only the Godly (those who have received God’s grace) who will prosper for all eternity by living in God’s presence rather than in the fires of hell. This is affirmed in verses 18-20, where he recounts how God will ultimately destroy the wicked.

In verses 21-22, the psalmist realizes he was a jerk to God when he was so bitter about the wicked prospering, before he got his perspective corrected. While this shift in perspective is important, it is also important to confess how we have sinned when we realize what we did wrong. We have to work through those negative feelings and be forgiven to be right with God again.

After this, the psalmist’s negativity transforms into joy with God’s presence in verses 23-26. He realizes that even though his situation on this earth may not be ideal, “earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (verse 25b-26). When God fixes our perspective, nothing else matters besides Him.

The psalm concludes with verses 27-28 fulfilling verses 1-3 that started this psalm. Where he had envy, he now has hope. He has experienced God’s goodness for himself in the form of future justice for the wicked while He has the love and joy of God’s presence. “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (verse 28).

None of us are exempt from having bad things happen to us due to sin in this world. I heard it once said that, “No one is exempt from getting a butt whooping from the devil!” The more you surrender to God, the more the devil comes after you. Sometimes problems we experience are because God is bragging on us; just look at Job's life. Being a child of God does not exempt us from the difficulties of the world.

What are you struggling with in this world? Do you envy the lives that others have and wonder why your life doesn’t look like that? Make time to sit in God’s presence and experience who He is. Ask God to shift your perspective to His character instead of on the material things of this world that will pass away.

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.


Amateur Judges

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, July 7, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Because of my former position as an investigator for child abuse and neglect cases at the county level in Ohio, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know several judges pretty well. The judges I came to know worked hard for many years and demonstrated good judgment at lower levels of the court system in order to rise to the positions they held when I knew them. They went through all of the necessary steps to be counted worthy of pronouncing judgment on others within their jurisdiction. Regarding matters of law, these judges are far from amateurs.

With all of that being said about those tremendous judges, they are all part of a system which takes into account that they sometimes fail or execute poor judgment. There is an appeals process that can reverse or uphold any decision they make. So, though they may be far from amateurs, they are also far from perfect. I even remember several cases where the deciding judge in the courtroom where I was sitting openly admitted to the defense attorney that his decision may give the attorney grounds for an appeal. Those who have to judge others for a living know that it is absolutely impossible to get it right every time, so they carefully gather the evidence and make the best decision they can.

We live in a society today where many people do the exact opposite. They have no formal training or experience, have not taken any steps necessary to earn the right to pronounce judgment on others, gather little or no factual evidence, and still routinely make judgments regarding others, believing they have a perfect track record. Just who are these individuals I speak of? There is a good chance we’ve all been in that “judge’s seat” at some point in time. But, with the age of social media, 24-hour news coverage, and presumptive reporting by news outlets, the rise of such “amateur” judges has taken us by storm.

In the past eight months, I’ve witnessed examples of people rushing to judgment on social media in two cases that made local news headlines but had to do with people who I know personally. My wife and I have close friends who tragically lost their child to a dog attack. When the story was released, and before anything else was known, people immediately jumped on social media and declared that the dog must have been known to be vicious and the parents must not have been paying attention. The vitriol spewed by some people on social media toward individuals they didn’t even know really opened my eyes to how easy it is for any of us to judge. Then, just recently, a pastor I’ve known for over 15 years was arrested and charged with a despicable crime. The evidence that led to his arrest was plastered on every news network, and the social media “heroes” came out in full force again. The word “monster” was used to describe this man and others said “there is a special place in hell reserved for him." He deserves to face the consequences of his actions, but obviously no one can judge his eternal state. Furthermore, having known the man for so long, the word “monster” did not cross my mind even after I found out what he did. Instead, I felt more sorry for his family and disappointed that he allowed the sin to continue in his life.

While those comments led to a different reaction for me than usual since I knew the individuals being accused, truth be told, I probably would’ve had similar thoughts as those “amateur judges” if there had been no personal connection. Like anyone, I read the headlines and a few “facts” reported in the stories and then make up my mind who was right, who was wrong, and who should’ve been paying better attention. But James 4:11-12 makes it clear to us that this is unacceptable. James just finished a section of his letter on the proper humility before God, so now he is discussing what that humility looks like in ACTION towards other human beings. He writes that those who have truly repented and humbled themselves before God ought not to be slandering one another, for that would suggest that one had not truly humbled himself.

James explains that speaking against a brother or sister is the same as judging them, and to judge them puts oneself in the place of God. If you live as if you’re in the place of God, how can you ever say that you’ve humbled yourself before Him? James says, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy" (verse 12). Compared to God, every human being is an amateur judge. Only God knows the heart of the individual being judged. When we make snap judgments based on very limited information, we’re basically willfully choosing to stick to our opinions rather than get to know people. In verse 11, the command to not slander other believers comes from the Greek katalalia, which carries the idea of gossiping about someone around others when the person is not able to be there to defend himself. James says this cannot be in a group of followers of Jesus. We should be defending one another and building one another up instead of speaking evil about each other behind the scenes.

It would do every one of us well to remember that the only One who can see everything, hear everything, and know everything is God Himself! That’s why He is the only acceptable Lawgiver and Judge. The rest of us are judging with limited information and evidence. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:12 that believers should judge one another’s actions. He says this in response to the open sin in the Corinthian church and the fact that the church leaders were allowing it to continue. Paul’s command to judge those inside the church may seem contradictory to James’ words, but we have to remember that Paul’s reason for judging is so that the man’s spirit will be saved on Judgment Day (1 Corinthians 5:5). In addition, Paul is talking about judging immoral actions, while James is writing against judging a person’s heart or character and then gossiping about it.

Since anyone but God who judges a person’s character and heart is doing so as an “amateur” with no true gift of discernment, we ought to be very careful. We also ought to be compassionate and gracious toward others. And lastly, we must remember that God will use the same measure of judgment against us that we use against others (Matthew 7:1-2). If you want to be judged with grace and mercy, it’s time to show it toward others. Begin with those closest to you like your spouse, children, or friends. Then let it flow out to all you encounter.

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.


Miracles: Mastery over Time

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, July 5, 2019 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

The major thing that got my brain stirring on this series of miracles was my church’s series on the eight miracles of the Gospel of John leading up to Easter this year. A comment that was made during the series was that Jesus showed mastery over time and over distance. It got me thinking about everything else that God has mastery over and that is what put this series together. Today, I am going to look at the first of those two: that God has mastery over time. Then next week, I will go into mastery over distance and beyond.

Perhaps the clearest account of how God has mastery over time is found in John 2 when Jesus turned water into wine. This was no ordinary event. Wine takes decades to centuries to ferment and cure for the best tastes. It does not happen instantly under normal circumstances. When the banquet master tasted the wine, not knowing it was water just moments earlier, he declared that it was the best of all the wine in the house. Typically, the host would bring the good wine out early during the long parties, while people are conscious enough to taste it. Then as the party gets drunk, they bring out the cheaper stuff because the partiers don’t really know any better. Yet here, it was declared that this wine was the best of it all. Yet to produce such wine naturally means it must be significantly older than the other wines, when in actuality it was made that very moment. And that’s without addressing how pure water suddenly had the juices to make wine. How is this possible? The only possible answer was divine intervention.

Jesus showed that time does not mean anything to God as it does to us. We are temporal while God is eternal. There are many people who refer to 2 Peter 3:8 and say that because we don’t know or understand God’s time, therefore how can we know whether the days in Genesis 1 are natural days or not. Really? That’s not what that verse is talking about at all. This verse is saying that God will do what He wants to get done when He wants to do it. God does not operate by human time clocks, though He does deliver on his promises in our time frame precisely on time.

Time is not a descriptor for God. He is outside of time. Time is for man to measure the flow of events. God uses time for our benefit. There is no point or purpose for God to act in time otherwise, because time is irrelevant outside of the context of man and his affairs. Due to mercy and compassion for the host family, Jesus made a process that should have taken many years happen in an instant. But this isn’t the only instance where God showed mastery over time.

At the end of his ministry, Jesus was entering Jerusalem from Bethany and found a fig tree with its leaves out. He was hungry but found it had no fruit. He knew enough botany that when a fig tree with leaves out does not bear fruit, then it is a dead tree and will not produce any more. So Jesus cursed it, because it did not give Him the fruit He expected. The next day, it was completely withered, a process that could take years to reach full fruition. The disciples were shocked at how that tree could perish so fast.

Jesus still had a lesson for them in all this, about faith and the importance of bearing fruit, but my point here is that Jesus had mastery over time. The curse of death was already upon the tree. All Jesus did was speed up the inevitable. He proved he has mastery over the time of natural processes.

What about making a tree grow fast instead? While we don’t have a record of Jesus doing that during His early ministry, Jonah got to see a fast-growing tree. Jonah had just preached for three days of Nineveh’s doom and then he sat back, waiting for the judgment to come. But it never came, because Nineveh repented. But to show Jonah God’s desire for mercy and not judgment, God caused a tree to grow over Jonah and give him shade. Jonah was appreciative of the tree, but then God sent a worm to kill it and Jonah complained. In both instances, God raised a tree instantly, and let it die instantly. He has mastery over time and over natural processes.

During the days of creation, we see an interesting phrase: “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth.” The Old Earth crowd interprets these phrases via a natural understanding. They think the plants had to take long period of time to grow and flourish. However, the text says “third day.” The sun didn’t come around until day 4. By the natural argument, those plants would have died unless the sun came around shortly afterwards, let alone deal with the insects needed to pollinate them, which didn’t come around until day 6. So what happened here? The answer is simpler than you may think. While God may have indeed used natural resources, or maybe even some natural processes, He did not use natural time. He showed mastery over time. The plants grew quickly and instantly. It was not gradual. There is no reason to think God took the natural flow of time to produce the plants from the text.

God does other miracles too. Salvation is an instant process. Salvation can be likened to going to a judge and becoming a naturalized citizen. It happens instantly, even though the process of learning to live as an American, or as a Christian, is a long process. I have seen God instantly cure people of smoking or drug addictions, processes that usually take weeks on end. I’ve seen Him take His time on such processes too. A woman at my church just passed away after her third battle with cancer. She wasn’t supposed to get past her first. She won that battle, but God prevented it from moving as it should have under normal circumstances. He still chose to take her home, but she fought with courage and with hope and brought the life of Jesus to all she touched through it all.

God is the master of time. He will speed things up when He needs them done. He will also slow things down to get them staged and ready to go at His timing. Being hired for my job was an example of God slowing the natural processes of getting a teaching job so I would be set up to do what I needed done. I should have had it a lot sooner under normal processes as every educator I spoke with was baffled, but God wasn’t. Then God opened the door, I knew it was His doing, and now I look forward to seeing why He had me wait and put me in the school I am at.

God is the master of time. Trust Him to be on time and to do things exactly when He wants them done. Next week, I’ll look at how God has mastery over distance.

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.