Total Transformation’s Tips

treadmill.jpgI just wanted to plug my friend John’s cool site, Total Transformation (and, to a lesser extent, his irreverent Musings, Rants and Monologues site).

He documents his successful and sustained weight loss and fitness journey and encourages others as well, and he does this with a Christian worldview and a good sense of humor. 

He also has the guts to document it all with before and after pictures. 

I like how he offers a variety of tips and is always trying new things.  It isn’t one of those one-trick-pony or “As seen on TV!” plans that act like they found a miracle breakthrough.

He recently challenged people to ensure they were doing multiple joint weight exercises (e.g., squats, dips, etc.) rather than just isolating one muscle at a time.  That encouraged me to work in a “power day” to my routine, where I just do squats, weighted dips, deadlifts and abs.  I have really enjoyed the variety and results. 

Keep up the good work, Dr. Kaiser!

Psalm 32

ps-32.jpgGreetings!  The first two verses are really a massive understatement to me.  We toss around the word blessed rather easily, but consider how it is used here.  If my sins aren’t forgiven and God counts them against me as He could, then I have no hope and am doomed to an eternity in Hell. 

Yet with his forgiveness I not only don’t get the punishment I deserve but I get a life with him now and for eternity. 

Of David.

1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

2 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.

3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.

God is patient, but there will come a time when forgiveness is no longer possible.  250,000 people will die today all around the world.  Very few knew today would be their day.  Today is the day to get right with God.

7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.

9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.

10 Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Today is a great day to rejoice in God’s love and forgiveness.

Favorite dish of liberal theologians & skeptics: Shellfish


shellfish.jpgAs always, this is about careful thinking and proper analysis of the Bible and not about picking on homosexuals.  We are all sinners in need of a Savior.

Many liberal theologians, skeptics and pro-gay lobbyists use the “shellfish” argument to undermine and/or dismiss parts of the Bible they disagree with, often mocking about how they love shrimp and such.  They use the same reasoning with other Old Testament restrictions such as not eating pork or mixing fibers in garments.  This video by Jack Black is a recent example.

Their argument goes like this:

  • Yes, Leviticus 18:22 says Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
  • But Leviticus 11:10 says, And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are an abomination unto you
  • Therefore, the Bible cannot be the word of God and homosexual behavior must be moral because the Bible is an undependable, contradictory book that equates shrimp eating with sexual immorality.  And people who teach that homosexual behavior is a sin are bigoted hypocrites who only follow the parts of the Bible they like.

Here’s a sample of how they present their conclusions.  Search for Leviticus shellfish or see sites like God Hates Shrimp for more examples.

The above exercise proves that anti-gay fundamentalists selectively quote the Bible. They enthusiastically and openly embrace those parts of the Bible which affirm and justify their own personal, pre-existing prejudice against gay people, while declining to become as enthusiastic about verses like the ones listed above.

After all, how many times have you heard a fundamentalist say that eating shellfish was an abomination? But they sure don’t hesitate to say it about gay people, do they? What does that tell you?

Actually, I find those questions to be ironic, because I think the facts will show which side is most likely to pre-judge, selectively quote the Bible and take it too literally.  I hope they take this analysis seriously and reconsider whether their premises and conclusions were sound.

On the one hand, their argument is effective because it is catchy and very few people know how to respond to it.  Many people can’t even articulate the simple Gospel.  When was the last time anyone read Leviticus?

On the other hand, their argument is ineffective because the facts do not support it.  Also, it deliberately and unnecessarily undermines confidence in the word of God.  I expect that from skeptics and non-believers, but I am always disappointed that those claiming to be Christians use it to attack the word of God.

The argument appeals to those who take passages literally when it suits them.  Both passages say abomination (or detestable, depending on what translation you read), don’t they?  And if eating shellfish is obviously a morally neutral act, then homosexual behavior must be as well, right?

However, if you follow the basic principle of reading things in context and you attempt to understand the original languages better on difficult or controversial passages, then you’ll realize that the shellfish argument is not supported by the facts.

The short version: There were different Hebrew words translated as abomination.  They were used differently in the individual verses and were used very differently in broader contexts.  The associated sins had radically different consequences and had 100% different treatments in the New Testament.  And the claim that Christians are inconsistent if they say homosexual behavior is a sin if they don’t also avoid shellfish, mixed fibers, etc. would mean that they couldn’t complain about bestiality, child sacrifice, adultery, etc.  

The longer version

1. The words translated abomination in the original Hebrew are different.  In Lev. 11:10, it means detestable thing or idol, an unclean thing, an abomination, detestation.  This word is typically used in the Bible to describe unclean animals.

In Lev. 18:22 the Hebrew term תּוֹעֵבָה (toevah, rendered “detestable act”) refers to the repugnant practices of foreigners.  As noted below, the word is also used used to describe bestiality, child sacrifice and incest.

Therefore, the “same word!” argument self-destructs immediately.

2. Even a plain reading of the passages shows that the homosexual behavior is considered detestable to God, whereas the shellfish are to be detestable to the Israelites because it made them ceremonially unclean.  Those are key differences.  Being detestable to God is different than being detestable to a person.

3. The broader contexts show completely different types of regulations.  Read Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 18 yourself and note the contexts.  I’ll wait here.

The beginning and end of chapter 11 make it clear that this passage is about dietary rules just for the Israelites:

Leviticus 11:1-2 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat:

Leviticus 11:46-47 These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves in the water and every creature that moves about on the ground. You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.

Now consider the beginning and end of chapter 18, where the Israelites are told not to be like the pagan Canaanites.  God expected the Canaanites to follow these moral laws and was about to vomit them out of the land for failing to do so.  Therefore, they obviously weren’t Jewish ceremonial laws.

Leviticus 18:1-3 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.

Leviticus 18:30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.”

4. The punishments for eating shellfish and homosexual behavior were radically different.  There were about 15 things in the Israelite theocracy that could result in capital punishment, and homosexual behavior was one of them (And no, I’m not suggesting that should be the punishment today.  The punishments were for the Israelite theocracy, which is clear when you read the context of those passages.)  But eating shellfish just made one ceremonially unclean for a period of time.

Again, note how the moral laws with their steep punishments are tied to offenses God held the pagans responsible for, yet the unclean animal passages were for the Israelites only and were brief (It could have been for health reasons and/or symbolic reasons.  Animals on the ground were like the serpent and thus symbolized sin and pagan religions often sacrificed pigs).

 Leviticus 20:13 “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Leviticus 20:22-26 Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations.

‘You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those which I have set apart as unclean for you. You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

5. The ceremonial dietary laws were clearly and emphatically overturned in the New Testament, whereas the commands against homosexual behavior (and other sexual sins) were not.   Also see Acts 15:28-29 (It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.)

6. The claim that Christians are inconsistent if they say homosexual behavior is a sin if they don’t also avoid shellfish, mixed fibers, etc. would mean that they couldn’t complain about bestiality, child sacrifice, adultery, etc.  That is transparently false.

And if someone tries to play the “Leviticus is outdated” card, remind them of this verse and ask if it still counts: Leviticus 19:18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Remember, anyone calling themselves a Christian should be seeking to hold the same views as Jesus.  And Jesus fully supported the Old Testament — every last letter and mark.

Here’s another answer from Tektonics, a terrific apologetics website:

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Aren’t there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

The point of this question – aside from the matter of not knowing what ritual purity is all about – is lost; if there is a sincere interest in knowing if there are “degrees” of abomination, just ask this simple question: Are there degrees to which things may be found “abominable”? Are the works of a robber baron not less abominable than those of a murderous dictator? In any event, if shellfish is a matter of ritual purity only, and homosexuality is a matter of higher morals as argued, then indeed, eating shellfish would have been a lesser abomination. (Indeed, the fact that the words used for “abomination” in both passages are different suggests that by itself. The word used for the shellfish is used only a few times in the OT, always of unclean animals, whereas the word used for homosexuality is used for things like bestiality, incest, and child sacrifice!)

So if anyone uses the shellfish argument with you, ask a few questions to see if they have really thought it through.  Everyone I have ever seen use it was either unaware of these responses or deliberately ignoring them. 

And as always, remember this:

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referring to God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions or homosexual parenting.

Also see Problems with Pro-Gay Theology and Responding to Pro-Gay Theology.

Psalm 31

ps-31.jpgGreetings!  David (or possibly Jeremiah) is crying out to God for protection.

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.

2 Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.

3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.

4 Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.

5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth.

Jesus quoted v. 5 on the cross – Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I trust in the Lord.

That reminds me of Jonah 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”

7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.

8 You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.

9 Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.

10 My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.

11 Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends— those who see me on the street flee from me.

12 I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.

13 For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”

15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.

16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.

17 Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and lie silent in the grave.

18 Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

19 How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.

20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city.

22 In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full.

24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

I have never suffered anywhere near what this Psalmist did, yet he trusted in the Lord.  That challenges me to trust in him all the more through minor trials and fears.

Hell is not very popular

I once mentioned in an adult Sunday School class how people often quote Matthew 25:40  (“Whatever you did to the least of these, you did unto me”) but they almost never quote verses 45-46 (“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”)

Sure enough, in the sermon that day that exact thing happened.

I was also in a study with a bunch of allegedly mature believers who spouted one heresy after another.  When they were busy denying the doctrine of Hell, I calmly pointed out that Jesus talked more about Hell than He did about Heaven.  This is an objective truth; it is not a matter of interpretation.

Still, one lady was so steeped in her preconceptions that she immediately blurted out, “No He didn’t!”  Indeed.

I think one reason people don’t talk about Heaven much is that it reminds them that there is also a Hell.  And they don’t like to acknowledge or talk about that.

Ms. Green had some good insights and a broad list of verses about Hell.

Privacy

privacy.jpgClinton, Obama and Edwards would all demand pro-abortion Supreme Court justices (But there is no litmus test, of course).

Their rationale was the typical political weasel-word privacy. Privacy to do what, pray tell?  Have an abortion, of course. 

Does a woman have a right to kill her toddler in the privacy of her own bedroom after consulting privately with her physician and spiritual advisors?  Of course not. 

So, once again, the only question is: What is the unborn?  If it is not a human being then no justification for abortion is required.  If it is a human being then no justification is adequate. 

P.S. It is a human being.

P.S.S. If they really want to keep government out of our private bedrooms, they could start by booting Planned Parenthood out of our schools and de-funding them.

Hat tip: Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason.

Weekly roundup

Maybe the death penalty is the deterrent many of us knew it was.  And even if studies couldn’t prove it out, we all know that if traffic tickets cost a nickel they would be less of a deterrent and if they cost us 1 yr. in jail they would be more of a deterrent.  So we know that greater punishments are deterrents; the question is whether they are proper. 

Great summary of the 1st Amendment

Something I used to wonder about: Why does God permit false prophets?

Five common misconceptions about Christians by Ms. Green – these come up a lot, especially when blogging.  Bookmark this page.

Who really cares?  – a provocative piece highlighted by I, Pandora.  As always, it is only charity if you are giving your own money away.  Voting to take someone else’s $ to send to your favorite cause via taxes is something else altogether.  Given the media stereotypes of cold, heartless conservatives I thought this was worth a look.

In his book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, Professor Arthur C. Brooks reports that conservative families give about 30 percent more money to charity each year than liberal families, even though their income is about six percent less. Conservatives give more regardless of income bracket, even with lesser levels of education.  

The bottom line is, the more religious people are, the more likely they are to give. And religious people do not limit their giving to religious organizations. In fact, religious people are more likely than secular people to give to non-religious charities such as the United Way.

Moreover, charity among religious conservatives is not limited to giving only money; they are much more likely to volunteer their time and participate in other informal acts of charity. For instance, religious conservatives are twice as likely as secular people to donate their blood.