Archive for the 'Religion' Category

Five Lessons

English: Illustration from Lessons in Geography.

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There are five lessons that I must pass on to my family. Primarily, it is my hope to mold my life until I can be a good example of these five principles for my wife and children. As I approach a personal mastery of each lesson I will be better equipped to help those who look up to me in their efforts.

Each lesson contains specific benefits to our spiritual, mental and physical health.

The Power of Words

Words have a powerful impact in every part of our personal lives and the lives of those around us. They can change attitudes, control actions and influence others. The benefits of verbal self-mastery are unquestionable.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Speak only the truth. Ask the questions you want the answers to. Choose your words carefully before you open your mouth. Do not blurt things out. Negative speech of all kinds should be avoided. An entire lesson can be taught with a simple, well-planned and well-placed question.

By controlling our tongues we become masters of our minds, bodies and spirits. We can be a great support for those around us and we can be powerful teachers. Our speech should be uplifting, enlightening and wise.

The Importance of Honest, Hard Work

Working hard, doing work the right way and learning to do it with a good attitude are essential in life. Work is an eternal principle.

It has been shown that doing work the hard way is excellent exercise for our brains. Learning to be efficient is different from taking shortcuts. You should work as hard as required. Be honest about your work. Proper planning and care can ensure success with any task, regardless of how hard or big it may seem at first.

If you do not understand the goal your work could be in vain. Ensure that you communicate clearly and ask questions until you fully understand your task before you begin working.

Any change, large or small, that you make around you should make the world a better place. If it does not make the world a better place, fix your change so it never happened. If you can’t fix it, try to make it better and get help if you need it.

Putting Away Childish Things

It is important to enjoy each stage of life to the best of your ability. Childhood is a great time to have fun and focus on the few responsibilities you may have.

Maturity doesn’t happen by accident. As we pass from one stage of life into another we must seek out ways that we can grow. By reviewing past stages of life and identifying behaviors and possessions that are childish we can work to put those things behind us.

True friendships mature with us and get better with age. Other relationships can stunt our growth and work against our efforts to become more mature. Do not work to prolong a relationship with someone who is a hazard to your physical, spiritual or mental health.

The Benefits of Simplicity

Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

We must learn to distinguish between needs and wants, and we must balance our lives. It is necessary to have some entertainment and comfort in life, but these things must be enjoyed in moderation. Too many physical belongings, regardless of their purpose, can distract from what is truly important.

Get your priorities straight and shed any physical possessions you may have that do not truly enhance your life. My father taught me to ask three questions before buying anything: “Do I need it? Do I need it now? Can I live without it?” Asking these questions prior to acquiring anything can help us avoid amassing clutter in our lives.

Cleanliness, order and simplicity give clarity, peace and focus that cannot be experienced amidst clutter and chaos. Our brains cannot generate order in a messy environment and the spirit of God cannot abide a disregard for cleanliness.

The Blessings of the Gospel

Never cease seeking out truth. Many differing ideas exist surrounding our existence and our brains are hardwired to seek meaning behind life.

It could all be for nothing in the end, but when the end of our life does come, which would be worse? Living trying to obey God only to die and cease to exist, or living as though there is no God only to die and come face to face with Him?

If for this reason alone, never stop trying to live the Gospel and seeking spiritual health. You will find that there are numerous benefits to living a life centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Should you one day choose to follow another faith, I will still love you. However, I encourage you to trust in my faith for a while and see if you can gain a personal conviction of its truth as I have. My personal testimony of my spiritual beliefs is something I treasure above all else in life.

 

Edited on January 16th, 2012 to include a line about changes we make in the world. Also included some minor paragraph edits.

You Need to Read This and Watch the Video

"Arabic Language" in the Arabic Al-B...

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I’m basically just reposting this from a note that I wrote on Facebook.

A good friend of mine recently shared a video that is labeled as scary, alarming, etc. I had seen the video advertised long ago with the same description, but figured it was an edited video with the important context removed.

Boy was I probably right. Unfortunately, we may never know because I’ve been unable to actually track down the full video, but I want you to read my comments on the video, then click on the link at the end and watch the video with my notes in mind. Even if you’ve seen the video before, read my notes and watch it again. Please. Here are my comments:

Ooooh, I could go on and on about this, so I’ll try to keep it brief.

The short version: It angers me when people see stuff like this, heavily edited and out of context, and believe exactly what the editor wanted them to believe.

In the end of the video you can see [the speaker] against that big banner with lots of script. The big red words read, “Arabs before and after the Gaza war.” I believe this is a conference about the western world’s misconceptions and prejudices about Arabs, and the “resistance” that he mentions is the resistance against westerners assuming that all Arabs are terrorists. When he says (with plenty of sarcasm mind you) that they should pray to Allah that a redneck succeeds in blowing up the Lake Michigan nuclear plant, I think he went on (in the part that was edited out) to explain how that would wake up the Americans and make them realize that their biggest source of terrorist threats are already inside their country.

*** ADDITIONAL NOTE ***

[Perhaps one of the worst cases of this edited video attempting to scare us with out-of-context phrases appears when the speaker says that his audience should fight the resistance using “any means necessary.” He says, “any means necessary” with such sarcasm that I am led to believe that he is making a reference to something he said earlier, and his audience knows that he is not seriously talking about using ANY means.]

Go back and watch the video with this new context and imagine what he might have gone on to explain after each cut in the video. There is nothing in there that is clear evidence that this guy is an extremist. His speech is very articulate, educated and proper. He is not speaking any local dialect, but is speaking Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) – a technical language that is only used in media. Any time he spoke of anything that would be bad, he was clearly being light and ironic about it – not serious, angry and passionate like a terrorist would be.

It is ridiculous that Americans judge so harshly from a few words taken out of context. No offense to you of course, but I wish we could see the whole speech in its proper context.

Oh, and I did understand quite a bit of what he said, which is a testament to how clear and educated his speech was because my Arabic has become nearly useless since I haven’t used it in over a year.

In short, there is nothing scary, alarming or bad about this video. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t an American (not REALLY) because of stuff like this. Foreigners see us acting like this and just laugh at how narrow-minded and ignorant we can be. I wish I were associated with a more educated, bridled group of people, but I won’t find a group like that anywhere in the world. 😦

And here’s the link. The video is less than ten minutes long, and doesn’t seem to play in Google Chrome (though it worked fine in Internet Explorer).

Thank you, Gwen, for sharing this. I hope I haven’t offended you, but you can see how this sort of thing frustrates me. Who knows? I could be completely wrong about all of this, but isn’t it better to assume that our brothers and sisters in this world are not out to get us?

No Way to Make Friends

I'm Not Here to Make Friends

I'm Not Here to Make Friends

Sometimes I do or say things that remind me just how differently I see friends and friendship from the rest of the world.

On Facebook today a friend had the following status:

Well, I’m trying to think of New Year’s Resolutions. I want y’all to help me though. Please leave a comment with a trait that I need to work on and a trait that I am good at. The first so that I can get ideas for my resolutions, and the second so that I have something to feel goood about. Thanks.

I decided to be brutally honest and replied with this:

Hum. I’m digging deep here for some honesty. First off, you’re a great guy and a lot of people just adore you which means you’re doing a lot of things right. That’s excellent.

Now… About your resolution. How about making it your resolution to never ask others for their opinion of your strengths/weaknesses? Look inside yourself and find the courage and confidence to be your own critic and leave others out of your personal matters. 😀 If you need a second opinion outside your own, look no further than the Lord. Through prayer and scripture study He can more accurately point out your flaws and strengths better than anyone else I know.

And I mean that with the greatest love and friendship I can convey via the Facebook platform. Have a happy new years!

Am I wrong to be honest when people ask me questions like this? I’m half expecting to find that he has revoked my friendship status on Facebook after this. Of course, I believe the advice is sound, though imperfectly worded.

Thrill of Christmas

As I sneakily descended from our bedroom into the living room to turn on the Christmas tree lights for our kids before they came down, I found a little part of me still felt the excitement of seeing the tree with all of its presents, curious and thrilled to see what Santa might have left. Alas that part of me was let down when I realized that all of the gifts under the tree had been placed there by me late at night.

Those who argue that “making kids believe in Santa” is ethically wrong must have somehow killed their inner child. They are no longer capable of feeling the thrill and excitement that Christmas brings with its magical promise of things bigger and more important than our lame, mundane lives. The magic of Santa and Christmas reminds children that there is something more to believe in far above our own level of understanding: that there is a mysterious yet familiar being who wishes to be called our Heavenly Father, and He sent His Only Begotten Son to redeem us from sin grant us all eternal life.

I hope my children never lose that racing heart feeling when they approach the tree on Christmas morning, just as I felt it this morning.

Nature of God

I have a little religious discussion for you this morning.

Before I begin, I want to make my stance on discussing religion clear:

I have nothing against the majority of religions in the world. Even the ones I don’t believe in or belong to are doing a lot of good in the world, and my religious and personal beliefs do not condemn members of other religions based on the idea that they are not part of my religion. I do believe that there are a small number of religions (mostly new, young ones) that are indeed doing more harm than good, but I avoid discussing these ones because I’m not out to pick fights and most of them won’t last long anyhow – they’ll be gone tomorrow. My goal here is have an intellectual discussion of basic religious doctrine with the aim of enlightenment and stimulation for myself and those who read; not to pick fights, offend or diminish anyone’s views or beliefs. If I make statements that offend or diminish your beliefs, do not mistake this for diminishing you personally. If you feel that your religion has been attacked in my commentary, please feel free to defend your religion, but do not attack me personally (for I have not attacked you personally). Attack what I said and how I said it in your religion’s defense. Such is the nature of freedom of speech.

Now that the small disclaimer is behind me, I shall proceed.

If you have ever read any part of the Bible and started at the beginning, there is no doubt you have read this verse:

26 ¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (King James version of the Bible)

I have also read it in the Reina-Valera Bible in Spanish (which is based on the original Greek and Hebrew texts) and it reads the same there. Notably, it uses the same first-person plural verb conjugation seen in the English version: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (italics added for emphasis).

The only explanation for this verse I have for most monotheistic religions is that their God must be schizophrenic. The way many Christian religions define and describe their God often makes my head spin (and I know it does the same for most of their believers) and even after hearing it I don’t see how it can explain a God who would talk to Himself in this manner while creating the world alone.

Another scripture monotheistic religions have troubles explaining with their understanding of God is found in the first fourteen verses of the first chapter of John in the New Testament. I have heard many a good, well-versed Christian stumble over his or her words trying to explain their religion’s understanding of this verse. I have even tried (in vain) to help them understand their own definition of God, but found that it was much easier to simply explain it the way I know it to be true.

One of the several teachings of my church that I love is our understanding of God. The teachings are simple, plain, easy to understand, and the Spirit of God testifies that they are true. There isn’t a single verse or chapter in any scripture that our understanding of God cannot satisfy, primarily because it just makes sense. Knowing the true nature of God has liberated me in gaining even greater enlightenment in coming closer to Him, as it is difficult to feel close to someone you don’t understand.

I want to hear what you think. If you are interested in hearing the definition of God as it is taught in my religion, be sure you have a valid e-mail address associated with the comment you leave.


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