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“’Tis But a Scratch”

“For I consider the sufferings of this present time as unworthy of comparison to the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

There is a scene in the classic comedy “Monte Python and the Holy Grail” where the Black Knight must prevent anyone from crossing a certain bridge by engaging them in battle. Unfortunately, this is the very bridge that King Arthur must cross to continue in his quest for the Holy Grail. The sword fight begins, and it’s soon clear that the Knight is outmatched as he loses an arm to a mighty blow from the king. The Knight, however, is unfazed, and continues the fight. The king expresses amazement to the Knight, telling him he’s lost, he’s missing an arm. The Knight responds to the king with the now timeless words, “’Tis but a scratch.”

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First Warning from Hebrews: Pay Much Closer Attention

“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3a)

The warning is to “pay attention…lest we drift away from it”. In the first chapter of Hebrews the author details the superiority of Jesus over angels and prophets. In fact, he says Jesus is God’s word spoken to us in these final days. Pay attention to Jesus and salvation because He is the “radiance of His [God’s] glory, the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all thing by the word of His power”. In other words, Jesus Christ is God with skin on.

If we do not pay attention to Jesus, then we will drift away from Him. “Drift” means to “slip away” or “pass by almost unnoticed”. Drifting away from Jesus can be almost imperceptible, at least in the beginning. This might entail a subtle shift in our thinking, perhaps illustrated by denial of conscience because we think we can afford the consequences of the action we are considering, or that circumstances justify our action.

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Warnings from Hebrews

The book of Hebrews has a series of warnings to those professing Christ, but drawn to the safety of the past. The epistle is an enigma at times, but also a key to a treasure trove of understanding the Old Testament .

It is also a book of worship as it emphasizes the superiority of Jesus and is the only place in Scripture where Jesus is called our High Priest. I would suggest that besides the Epistle to the Romans, the Epistle to the Hebrews has some of the most theologically concentrated, complex, and challenging concepts in the Bible. Hebrews also contains several passages that engender some of the most intense debate among Christians.

It is generally well accepted that the book was written, perhaps as a sermon, to some number of professing Christians in a church in or near the city of Rome, a portion of whom were suffering persecution for their Christian faith. These recipients were likely Jews very familiar with the Old Testament , and were either tempted to turn or had turned back to the relative safety of Judaism in order to escape persecution meted out to those claiming to be followers of Christ, or were drifting from their faith. Perhaps the key theme of the book is the exhortation to hold fast to their faith, to persevere, to endure.

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Sin Against One’s Own Body

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

1 Corinthians 6:18–20 (ESV)

God gave mankind sex for procreation, intimacy, and commitment. Procreation is part of God’s special means to create a bride for His Son who is worthy of His Son. The Father determined that in order to create a bride for His Son, children must be born. Mankind must increase in number. Because many are called but few are chosen, there must be many births in order to create the perfect number of saints to constitute the bride for Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that when God created man “God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it….”

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SPIRITUAL WARFARE

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every though captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

Paul’s admonition to the follower of Christ in the conclusion of these verses is to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” It doesn’t take a man much effort to conclude that he can only entertain one individual thought at any given time. He may quickly rotate between a few different thoughts at a rapid pace, but only one thought can be on the “screen” of a man’s mind at any given time.

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Don’t Look Back

Jesus tells us “…..No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

This passage is commonly understood as referring to one who begins a work only to regret the decision, wishing to retreat from the work at hand. He who does not count the cost and desires to take his hand off the plough (i.e. the work of God), forfeits his assurance that he belongs to the King.

While this is a reasonable exegesis of the passage and holds true in its application, there is another understanding, rooted in the agricultural environment in which the writers of the gospel lived that also contains an additional weighty application.

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How Should the Believer Relate to Smart Phones and Social Media? (Part 3)

The attached is the concluding article of the 3 part series of the believer’s relationship to social media and smart phones. If you missed parts 1 and 2, click on the authors section within this website and click on Scott Bangert. It will take you to Part 1 and Part 2. At the end of this Part 3 are some questions for your thinking as you consider the ramifications of Scott’s challenge.

Part 3 of 3: The Mind and Heart Conquered

Comparison

2 Corinthians 4:17

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

According to the Declaration of Independence, one of the most basic rights of human beings is “the pursuit of happiness.” It is therefore not surprising that the desire to be happy is highly valued in the United States. What is surprising, however, is that psychologists believe that the more likely a person is to value being happy, the less likely he is to attain it. When the desire to be happy becomes extreme and inflexible, it leads to disordered emotional regulation and depression. I believe that I ought to be happy all the time, but I find that reality does not meet my expectations. As I compare my desired emotional state to reality, the gap between the two produces emotional strain. Hence, an extreme pursuit of happiness has the tendency to produce the opposite effect.

Much attention has been focused on the link between smartphone use and depression, particularly among adolescents. This is probably multifactorial, and factors like sleep deprivation and addiction likely play a role. Cyber bullying and the glorification of self-mutilation on social media (teenage girls who post pictures of self-cutting behavior receive a lot of likes) are also probable factors.

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How Should the Believer Relate to Smart Phones and Social Media? (Part 2)

Part 2 of 3: The Mind and Heart Influenced

Delayed Gratification

James 5:7-8

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.”

James commends an unnatural habit to us: waiting for what we want. This is an example of what psychologists call delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is the ability to resist an impulse for immediate reward to receive a more favorable reward later. This is very difficult for most of us. This is the reason why my kids have a hard time waiting until Christmas morning to open their presents (ok, I have a hard time waiting too). Given a choice, we would rather have a reward now rather than later. Psychologists call this delay discounting. The farther away a reward is, the less value it has to us. Hence, the saying, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” It is better to take what you can get now than to risk trying for more in the uncertain future.

Psychologists almost universally agree that delayed gratification is a key characteristic of successful people. As the English proverb says, “good things come to those who wait.” Psychologists also believe that while there are some innate differences in our tendencies toward delayed gratification, our ability to practice delayed gratification can be heavily shaped by our environment. It is a skill that can and should be learned. What is concerning is that smart phones and social media seem to stunt that development by reducing impulse control and increasing delay discounting.

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How Should the Believer Relate to Smart Phones and Social Media? (Part 1)

Part 1 of 3: The Mind and Heart Ensnared

Solomon says, “There is nothing new under the sun.” While I believe he is correct, I have to admit to some wavering doubts when I think about how much life has changed since the first iPhone was released in 2007.

I have friends who frequently talk about throwing their phone in a lake, and while I can understand their perspective, I can’t say that I can personally relate. I love my phone. I would part from it only for an upgrade. I definitely did not associate phones with anxiety and fear. That completely changed when my children started asking for phones of their own.

When I was a kid, one of the biggest dangers I was warned about was guns, and my parents made me take a gun safety class before being allowed to handle one. Today, our kids face a different danger: we have to decide when to give our kids smart phones or allow them on social media. This certainly seems like a much less consequential decision, but despite their innocent appearance, I think smart phones are actually more dangerous than guns. Like guns, they have the power to take life (consider teen suicide and distracted driving if you think I am exaggerating), but unlike guns, smart phones have the added danger of luring a person’s soul to hell. As disciples of Christ, we do well to give careful thought to how to avoid these dangers, both for our kids and for ourselves.

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Truth In the Inward Parts

I was recently the recipient of an incredibly painful truth about myself. Specifically, God showed me with stark clarity how much I crave the approval of men rather than Him. The way He revealed it to me left no room for argument; I was guilty as charged. It was then, however, that I felt the desperation that comes with increased knowledge of ourselves.

How was I to do anything about this? It’s not as if I could simply will myself to be better – self reformation is always doomed to failure. This sort of sin in particular is difficult to overcome as it is a hidden sin of the heart rather than one of action.

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