A few years ago, Pat and I sponsored eight newly graduated high school seniors on a mission trip to Costa Rica, Central America. The teens had earned the trip by memorizing Scripture and reading books in Discovery, a national youth ministry program. After arriving in San Jose, we spent four days painting, cleaning, repairing and renovating several mission buildings around the capitol city.
Days five through eight were spent sightseeing, zip lining on a rain forest canopy tour, visiting the Arenal Volcano, and taking a hike to a jungle waterfall. The teens worked hard and had earned some time to see the country. So we prepared for an adventure.
Our guides in Costa Rica were John and Kathy Ward. Both were thrill-seeking, fun-loving, hard-working missionary helpers. John was a mountain climbing, whitewater rafting sort-of-a-guy, who was afraid of nothing.
Knowing John’s brash, risk-taking ways, I was caught off-guard by his somber lecture to our group prior to the mile-long jungle hike to La Fortuna Waterfall. With all the sincerity he could muster, John warned of possible dangers we could encounter on the hike, but uppermost he wanted us to watch out for the dangerous Fer De Lance, poisonous pit viper that was common in that area.
The pit viper, Bothros Asper, better known as the Fer De Lance (Lance Head), is the most dangerous snake in Central and South America. This poisonous snake causes more human deaths than any other American reptile. The average bite from a Fer-de-Lance injects from 105 to 310 milligrams of venom. One single bite from the Fer De Lance contains enough poison to kill 32 people.
So, John had my attention, but I thought he might have been exaggerating just to scare the teens into good behavior. But we had barely started our trek down the jungle trail when one of the guys yelled, “SNAKE!” at the top of his voice. Everybody froze and looked down and around. When we reached the spot, there was a 15 foot circle of teens staring at a 7-foot snake, that was sure enough, a Fer De Lance! As we tried to get everyone away from the snake, who didn’t seem to be bothered by the noisy crowd, I was trying to imagine what I would say to the parents of any of those teens, if that snake bit them. After that close encounter of the poisonous kind, it took twice as long as normal to get to the waterfall and back. Every foot placement on that trail was analyzed before the step was taken.
I am thankful for the warning John gave us that day on the jungle trail in Costa Rica. It may have prevented a loss of life. Warnings are given to save lives and spare damage and pain. They are given for our good, and the wise person will listen to good advice and heed warnings.
Warnings are warranted when threats abound. So, God’s Word warns us about things that can harm, distract or hinder us. We need to heed God’s warnings about:
These days Christians are bombarded by conflicting worldviews. A worldview is a particular philosophy of life, or conception of the world. Christians should have a biblical worldview—That is: God created the world and the people in it. It was not a random cosmic accident. The God who created has also spoken, and the Bible is His Word. All people in this created world are accountable to a perfect Creator, and will one day stand before Him. In Jesus, the Creator has provided a perfect Savior for all of mankind, who must be received by faith.
There are human philosophies that compete with this worldview. God’s Word warns us: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:8-10).
Peter warned, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:17-18).
Instead of being led astray and confused by false philosophy, intensify your love and devotion to Bible truth, and increase your knowledge of God.
Jesus warned: “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). In the United States, we live in a land of plenty, like former generations could only dream of. So, the Lord’s warning about greed applies to us, just as much as to His hearers. Greed causes people to be dissatisfied with what they have—while they strive to possess more and more, exerting their “rights.” Jesus said abundance of possessions does not equal a good life.
Much like the prophet Ezekiel, we who know Christ are to be watchmen who warn others of eternal danger. God appointed Ezekiel to be a watchman, “Whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me” (Ezekiel 3:17).
People need the Lord! Like Paul, “We proclaim Him, warning every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). We who know Christ should say as Paul when he preached to the people of Antioch: “Let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).
When poisonous “fiery serpents” came among the children of Israel, God commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and place it on a pole so that, “everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live” (Numbers 21:8). This unusual event pictured Jesus, lifted up on a cross, so that, “whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (John 3:15). We need to heed the warnings!