II Corinthians 10:5

"Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

September 28, 2008

"For This Is Man's All."

Last weekend, my family and I had the opportunity of attending a much-anticipated church retreat at Storybook Lodge. Besides it being one of the most physically demanding (tackle football, Ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, softball, kayaking...you get the picture) and sleep-depriving times of the year, it was also a very thought provoking time, as we strove to grow deeper in Christ. Here is just one thing I took away from this year’s retreat.

“'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear”
In my previous article, I touched upon the subject of fear, but would like to expound on it now.
When singing Amazing Grace up at Storybook, the second verse stuck out to me when it says “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;” Now at first it seems like this verse is a little bit contradictory- it is good (by grace) that we fear, but also good (by grace) that we are relieved from fear?! But praise God, because He cleared up this confusion for me.

The Bible clearly tells us to fear God. 1 Peter 2:17 says to “fear God.” Proverbs 3:7 urges us to fear the Lord in order that we may depart from evil. Psalms 111:10 states that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 says “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.”
Also, Matthew 10:28 tells us “And do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

Obviously then, God is to be the only One worthy of our fear. In a way, fear is like faith; it is only as good as the object it is placed in. Just as faith in works for salvation is wrong, so is fear in something other than the Lord.

I believe fear to be something like “respectful dread; awe; reverence.”
Because God clearly tells us to fear Him, whom we fear is very important. Why? Consider the following excerpt by Bill Jack in the book No Retreats No Reserves No Regrets:

“Entire civilizations have built their cultures around fear. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the crocodile. Why? They feared it. The crocodile would crawl up out of the Nile and eat their cattle and their children – not necessarily in that order. So, in order to control or to appease the crocodile, they made it into a god. Fear drove their culture. By the time of the demise of the Egyptian civilization, because they rejected the one true God, their religion recognized over 3,000 different gods. On the headrests they used as pillows, the Egyptians had carved inscriptions to protect them from nightmares. These people lay down at night in fear of offending one of a myriad of gods. They were enslaved to fear, and fear drove their culture to extinction.

The Mayans, too, had many gods. They made a god out of the jaguar. Why? They feared it. The jaguar would crawl out of the jungle and eat their cattle and children – not necessarily in that order. So, in order to control or to appease the jaguar, they worshipped it. Their fears drove them to conquer and to enslave neighboring peoples. Because they believed the sun-god would not rise every day unless appeased by human sacrifice, each morning four priests would drag a captive victim to the top of a pyramid, stretch him out on an altar while a fifth priest would cut out and hold up to the sun the victim’s still-beating heart. It is reported that on one high, holy day, 20,000 victims were sacrificed. These people rose in fear every morning of offending one of a myriad of gods they feared. They, too, were enslaved to fear, and fear drove their culture to extinction.

Now we moderns make fun of the Egyptians and the Mayans, but we are not that far removed from them. If we fear not having enough money, we make material things our gods. If we fear not having enough friends, we make people into our gods. In other words, what one fears is what one worships. What is it that scares you spitless? Losing your hair? Losing your youth? Losing your job? Whatever it is that you fear the most is what you will worship.”

Because we worship whom we fear, it becomes obvious why God wants our undivided fear. In order to keep God at the center of our lives, and to be in this world, but not of it, it is clear that fearing God is a very important part of being able to do this.

So, going back to the song, it is by God’s amazing grace that He saved us and has taught and continues to teach us to fear Him. Likewise, it is by His grace that He delivered us from the former fears (the things that we used to worship), and delivered us unto Himself.

Daniel Wanschura

September 11, 2008

Why Does a Loving God…?

September 11, 2001. At 8:48 a.m., American Flight 11 crashes into the North tower of the World Trade Center, in the heart of New York City. Some think it is just an accident. At 9:06 a.m. another plane crashes into the South tower and President Bush calls the crashes, “An apparent terrorist attack on our country”. At 9:43 a.m., American Flight 77 with 64 people on board crashes into the Pentagon. 9:55 a.m. – thousands of people watch in shock as the South tower collapses. At 10:10 a.m., United Flight 93, with 45 people on board crashes into a rural Pennsylvania field. Some people on board Flight 93 fought the hijackers, probably saving the White House or Capitol from being hit. At 10:29 a.m. the North tower collapses.

It would be the worst attack ever on American soil. More civilians lost their lives on September 11, 2001, then on any other day in American history.

Seven years have now passed since that day, but Christians and non-Christians alike still ask the question, “Why does a loving God allow evil and suffering in the world?”

First of all, I believe evil and suffering are a result of man’s fallen nature. When God created mankind, he created us to be perfect beings, living eternally, in harmony with Him and fellow man. But with the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, sin entered the world, and with sin came evil and suffering.

Secondly, I believe that God uses the evil and suffering in our world to draw us to Himself. Look at the story of Job. Everything Job had except for his life, and a few “friends” were taken away from him. God allowed Satan to stretch out his hand against Job and bring much evil and suffering into his life. Through all of his sufferings Job experienced God in a way that would never have been possible without the trials God allowed. In Job 42:5, Job says that before his trials he had heard of God with the hearing of his ear, but after all the evil he endured, his eyes saw God. It is in the midst of horrible circumstances that we really “see” God.

Thirdly, evil and suffering are in the world today, because God did not program us to be robots. Because God gives us the choice to obey, love, and serve Him, there had to also be an opposite choice to disobey Him, and do evil. Greg Koukl, president of the apologetics ministry Stand to Reason, has this to say about our free will and what it has to do with evil: “When we raise children, we desire them to do good, but we realize that they might turn out bad. So what do we do? Chain them to their beds or lock them in a closet to insure that they stay out of mischief? That would be barbaric. In the same way, God has dignified man by giving him choices. Man’s choice to do good, to live in conformity with God’s desires is only meaningful if there is an alternate choice to do evil. God won’t chain man to the bed or lock him in a closet. That would be cruel.”

So, why do you think God allows evil and suffering in the world?

-Meagan Wanschura

“Suffering, tragedy, and profligate evil now function as warning signals. Like the ache of a limb out of joint, the pain of living in a broken world tells us that something is amiss. If God took away the pain, we’d never deal with the disease. And the disease will kill us, sooner or later.” –Greg Koukl

September 2, 2008

Fiat Justicia et Pereat Mundus – Do the Right Thing, Come What May

A recent caller on the Rush Limbaugh Show posed the following question: Should we vote for an alternative 3rd party candidate instead of John McCain, thereby signaling to the republican party that we won’t accept a very mediocre conservative? Mr. Limbaugh replied that we can’t afford to have Barack Obama win the election in November.

With this response, Mr. Limbaugh implied that we should forgo voting for perhaps a better candidate (at least from the Christian perspective) in the hope that we would be saved from the greater of two evils.

The purpose for this article is to show that as Christians, this reasoning is wrong and ultimately dangerous.

Now there might be those of you who are thinking “But McCain is the only other candidate who has a legitimate shot at beating Obama, and he would be a lot better choice than Obama would be.”
While it is true that McCain is probably the only other candidate who could beat Obama, there are two main reasons why he really would not be a lot better choice than Obama.

First, here’s why John McCain isn’t much better of a choice than Obama from a political point of view.

John McCain supports stem cell research
Catholic News Agency, Jan 23, 2008

Would not support a Roe v. Wade reversal
Washington Post, August 24, 1999

In favor of abortion of babies who are conceived via rape, incest, and to prevent a woman’s death
Washington Post, August 24, 1999

Has repeatedly voted to fund pro-abortion providers with federal tax dollars
Chuck Baldwin, August 2008

Does not support a federal marriage amendment
CNN.com July 2004

Co-authored a bill with Democrat Russ Feingold, which keeps pro-life and pro Second Amendment groups from broadcasting ads that mention a candidate by name 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election (really a violation of free speech)
Chuck Baldwin, August 2008

Co- authored a bill with liberal Senator Ted Kennedy in which they proposed to give amnesty to over 12 million illegal immigrants

Now, I think it is pretty well known that John McCain is a liberal conservative senator, who has strayed farther away from the basic principles that most conservatives like. How did such a middle-of-the-road conservative get nominated to be the republican candidate for president? This very fact shows how much we have strayed from our true values as a party. Instead of trying to justify voting for him, would it not be better to purge the mediocre from our party, and send the country the signal that we are committed to voting for candidates with true God-honoring values.

Secondly, let’s look at the spiritual implications in voting for a mediocre candidate such as John McCain.

We must first realize that above all Christ calls us to faithful stewards of what He has given us. This includes voting for the candidate that best represents our Christian values. Christ does NOT call us to be successful. Sure, sometimes when we act faithfully we will inevitably be successful in our endeavors, but He never calls us to make success our number one priority.
Unfortunately, too many Christians will fall into the trap of forgetting their most important voting responsibility, which is to be the best steward of Christ we can be. Instead these Christians will sacrifice their duty of stewardship, and vote for a less-qualified candidate all because that candidate has a better chance of SUCCESS. In other words, Christians will drop their God-given duty of stewardship, and instead sacrifice it on the alter of winning/being successful in the election.

Why will Christians put success above being the best stewards we can be and voting for the most qualified candidates? We do this because of fear. We fear the worst candidate will get into office and the negative effects he will create on our country. Yes, in essence we fear the worst candidate (in this case Obama) more than we fear Christ.
We need to remember that as Christians, we are apart of a far more important race than a political one. We are called to be faithful stewards of Christ even when worldly success is doubtful. We are always better off when we make success take a back seat to faithfully persevering in what Christ has called us to do.

Pray that God would give you wisdom as who to cast your vote for- I think you will be able to find someone. Also, as we pray for you, our reader, please pray for us. Pray that each and every one of us would faithfully be Christ’s stewards and that we would leave the earthly results to Him.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” –Corrie ten Boom

-Daniel Wanschura