Weekly roundup

lasso.jpgFollowing Mommy’s Steps: Hamas’ Tool to Recruit Children Bombers –

“A “music video” broadcast on a Palestinian Hamas TV station on Wednesday features a young Palestinian girl singing to her mother who is preparing to carry out a suicide bomb attack. The caption of the video reads, “Duha, daughter of suicide bomber Reem Riyashi, sings to her mother.” In 2004, Riyashi killed four Israelis after blowing herself up on a border crossing between Israel and Gaza.  Initially the little girl is frightened (“Mommy, what are you carrying in your arms instead of me.”) but after seeing her mom on TV, the daughter has a change of heart: “Instead of me you carried a bomb in your hands. Only now, I know what was more precious than us. May your steps be blessed, and may you be flawless for Jerusalem. Send greetings to our messenger Muhammad.”” 

Do you get the impression that they really, really don’t like us?  Seriously, this shows the depth and breadth of their twisted worldview.  This isn’t just some fringe lunatic.  Think about how many people had to be involved to write, act, direct, film, distribute, approve, etc. this project and to show it on TV.

Seeing as how it was Hell week on this blog, Why is it legitimate to make apocalyptic warnings about global warming and not to make them about eternity and Hell?  If someone doesn’t believe in concept of Hell, that is one thing.  But if someone does, wouldn’t the loving thing be to warn people about it?

The Edge on how his view of Jesus  has changed throughout his life.

Satire of the week: A Momentary Lapse of Reason: In Praise of Isolationism.  Very funny and very accurate.

Video of the Casting Crowns song Does Anybody See Her?

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Matthew 7

gavel.jpgGreetings! 

Judging Others

Verses 1-2 are often misused by Christians and non-Christians alike.  They use this as an excuse for any and all behavior and to deflect criticism. If they would keep reading they would see that Jesus meant not to judge hypocritically. There are plenty of verses teaching that we need to make sound judgments, such as John 7:24 (“Stop judging on mere appearances and make a right judgment.”)

In an additional irony, they use this verse to judge those who make judgments. If anyone ever throws that verse at you out of context, then just reply by asking, “If it is wrong to judge, why are you judging me right now?”

But we should not judge hypocritically.  Many times I find myself thinking critical thoughts only to realize that I am just as guilty as the one I am accusing. 

 1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

 3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

This is an important thing to remember with evangelism.  If people are hostile to the Gospel, we should just move on and not force the issue.  We may be doing more harm than good.  Save your energy for those willing to hear the Good News or engage in reasoned discussions.

 6“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

Ask, Seek, Knock

 7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

 9“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Narrow and Wide Gates

 13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

A Tree and Its Fruit

The Bible contains many warnings of false teachers.  Satan works to deceive us in many ways, and one of the most effective ways is to use clean-looking “church people.”  But we need to listen closely to see if they are preaching the true Word of God. 

 15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

 21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

The Wise and Foolish Builders

Note that the foolish builder isn’t someone who didn’t hear Jesus’ words.  He is the one who hear the words but didn’t put them into practice.  Many people go to church but don’t take heed of the message (I know – I used to be one of them!).  

 24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

 28When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

What passages stood out to you, and why? 

Exploring Christianity – Part 4 – Hell

cross1.jpg

(Cross posted at the 4Simpsons blog) 

See below to see the latest installment of my friend Nicholas’ interview with me about Christianity or click here for the whole thing.  

Nicholas wrote: What happens to those who, through no fault of their own, never experience the Gospel of Christ?  Have entire populations been hell-bound from birth having never had a chance to experience the Bible?

That is a difficult and important question that many Christians wrestle with, including me.   I can explain my theological views but still wonder on occasion just how it caches out in real life.  I’ll lay out what I see as the Biblical, orthodox case while conceding that some Christians take a different view.  I’ll be wordy, as usual, and come at it from a clinical standpoint then from a couple other angles. 

Once I became a Christian I kept thinking about how I had rejected the Gospel for so many years even with all the advantages I had – growing up with Christian parents, going to church, having a Christian wife and living in a country with religious freedom.  (I didn’t commit my life to Christ until my late 20’s).  Why did I get so many chances when others may not hear the Gospel at all?  Then it hit me one day: That’s why it is called grace.  I didn’t deserve anything from God, regardless of when and how I came to believe.  No one else deserves it either, though in our human reasoning we may rationalize that we do.  We deserve judgment.  God is merciful in not judging us immediately.  Grace is unmerited favor.

It is important to point out something basic to ground the discussion: A righteous, ethical judge has no moral obligation to pardon a guilty and justly convicted person.  God is a perfect and righteous judge.  He is the epitome of love and mercy, but He is also perfectly Holy and He loves justice.  We are all sinners in thoughts, words, actions and lack of good actions.  Just 10 sins per day for 50 years would add up to 182,500 sins.  Now what righteous judge could overlook that? 

So how does the Bible address this?  Chapters 1-3 of the book of Romans (as well as the rest of the book) lay out much of the reasoning.  In Romans 1 we see some of the most important “big picture” passages in the Bible, showing how God reveals himself to us in his creation:

Romans 1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

So in that passage and others the Bible teaches that God has made his existence plain to us and that we are “without excuse.”  If anyone thinks they’ll stand before God and deny that He revealed himself to them in creation they are mistaken.  So every person in every culture for all time has had the light of creation.  Still, countless people reject the existence of God or make up their own gods. 

Continue reading Exploring Christianity – Part 4 – Hell

Exercise

treadmill.jpg“I tried lifting weights once.  But they were heavy, so I put them down.” – Kent Appleman (an old friend of the ours from Tulsa – not sure where he is, but if he finds this site please leave a comment!)

I’ve lifted weights for 30 years but I always loved that quote.

I make it a point not to be an exercise nanny, but I thought I would pass along a few tips.   

At the risk of sounding like a dated Nike shill, my philosophy is Just do it.  My advice to people who haven’t been exercising is just to do something . . . anything!  Walk around the block.  The next day, go around twice.  Work up to walking 15-20 min. three times a week for starters.  It is virtually impossible to injure yourself and you can then phase into something more strenuous if you like.  Or ride a recumbent exercise bike (much more comfortable than upright bikes and easier to read while you’re pedaling). 

You do not need to do extreme exercise.  I think that is a barrier for many people.  They think that if they don’t do something strenuous for 90 minutes, 7 days a week then they shouldn’t do anything.  But you don’t have to run a marathon.  Hey, I don’t even like to drive 26 miles. 

Get an mp3 player and listen to something as you go (Uh, walk against traffic, please!).  It makes the time go quickly.  Download some sermon Podcasts.  Pray.  Talk with a friend. Anything!

If you change nothing else in your lifestyle and diet, walking 50 hours per year (an hour a week) will have a real impact on your energy level, weight and health.  You’ll find that once you start it gets easier.  Remember that it takes about a month to make or break a habit.

What is my exercise routine?  I work out 4-5 times a week and do a mix of weightlifting and riding the recumbent bike.  I used to jog but it was aggravating a nerve problem in my neck.   Every now and then I’ll throw some swimming in but that definitely isn’t my forte’.  I used to play volleyball and tennis but got tired of them.  Maybe I’ll pick them up again someday.

I work out roughly 50 minutes at a time.  Much more than that and I get bored and start dreading the workouts.  I prefer working out at lunch – it is a great stress release and a good break in the day.  I try to do a workout that is challenging but sustainable.  God willing, I would like to keep this up for another 35-40 years. 

Matthew 6

prayer2.jpgGreetings!  This is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. 

In Matthew 5:16 Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  Yet in verse 1 of this chapter he says not to do your acts of righteousness before men.  What is the difference?  It is partly in the motive. 

In chapter 5 the motive was to have people see that your deeds were done because of your Father in Heaven.  But below, Jesus teaches that the motive should not be “to be seen by” men.  It can be a tough line to navigate.  It is easy to let pride creep into our good deeds and our giving.  Are we doing it for God’s glory or ours? 

Matthew 6

Giving to the Needy

 1“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

 2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

There are many important lesson on prayer in the next passage.  Again, motive is important.  Prayer in public or in groups is fine, but not if we are doing it to be “seen by men.”  And our prayers don’t have to be long and eloquent.  Consider how brief the Lord’s prayer is. 

God knows what we need before we ask him, but Jesus tells us to pray anyway.  There may be a lingering mystery as to why we would need to pray if He knows what we need, but we are clearly told to pray anyway.  We can trust that there is an important purpose behind it.

Prayer

 5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

 9“This, then, is how you should pray:
   ” ‘Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name,
 10your kingdom come,
   your will be done
      on earth as it is in heaven.
 11Give us today our daily bread.
 12Forgive us our debts,
      as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 13And lead us not into temptation,
   but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Fasting

 16“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Treasures in Heaven

 19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We are not told exactly what it means to store up “treasure in Heaven,” but we can trust that it isn’t just marketing spin.  If Jesus says it we can trust that we’ll be truly glad that we did so. 

Consider the truth of “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  If you own a lot of stock in one company, think of how often you check that stock price.  If you give to a mission in a particular country, consider how much more often you think of that country. 

 22“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

 24“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Do Not Worry

Jesus talks a lot about worry.  Worry is a sin that we all commit.  Ironically, worry eats up our life instead of adding to it.  There is a difference between planning and worry, though.  Saying, “Don’t worry,” isn’t an excuse to be reckless.

25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

 28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

If we seek his kingdom and righteousness first then everything else will fall into place. 

What passages stood out to you, and why? 

Diet and fitness: Simple ways to be healthier for yourself, your family and the kingdom

vegetables.jpgHealth and fitness isn’t just about appearance.  It is about feeling better, having more energy, being less of a burden to your family, saving money (health problems are very expensive), better a better servant for the kingdom, and more.

Nobody likes diet tips from thin people, so I never give them in person.  Hopefully it will be a safe thing to do via a blog.  I was blessed with a high metabolism, so I don’t assume that it is easy for everyone.  But I eat what I want, when I want, and never gain weight.  That was a real drag when I was young and obsessed with gaining weight, but it isn’t so bad now.

These may seem like obvious tips, but consider that there are so many horrible diet programs out there that promote all sorts of counterproductive behavior.

It is all about habits.  Going on and off diets makes the problem worse.  Obsessing about food also makes it worse.

Just do a lot of small things: Eat often (yea!), eat healthy things first, eat a little less, eat a little healthier and exercise a little more.  No fad diets.  No extreme workouts.  Just make some small changes to your habits.

Eat often.  Seriously, when I eat often I eat pretty healthy foods and don’t crave junk.  But the hungrier I get the more I crave things like McDonald’s.  Don’t let yourself get too hungry.

Eat healthy foods first.  You can enjoy treats, but don’t start with them.

Eat smaller portions.  Humans were not meant to eat giant plate fulls of fatty foods along with multiple high-calorie beverages.

Eat healthy stuff first but work in plenty of treats in small quantities.

Getting regular exercise and sleep help your metabolism.  Exercise burns calories, increases metabolism and reduces your appetite, so even a little bit it helps you in three ways.  Ironically, sleeping too little has been shown to decrease your metabolism.  Exercise can be as simple as going for a walk a few times a week.  People set themselves up for failure when they assume it has to be an intense, daily, 90 minute ritual.  More on that tomorrow.

Eat breakfast – its the 4th most important meal of the day!  Apparently skipping breakfast is bad for your metabolism as well.  I love breakfast foods.  I could eat them three times a day.

If you just eat a little less and exercise a  little more, many positive things will happen.

Is this going to be on the test?

exam.jpgWhen I read the Bible I often get in “student mode” and just read for the facts.  It reminds me of being back in school and only caring what the teacher said if it was going to be on the test.  The good news is that even when I read the Bible with the wrong attitude something usually sinks in. 

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Isaiah 55:10-11 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.