Who Are the Palestinians?

“Palestinian” is the term that identifies non-Jewish people, both Christian and Muslim, who have lived in the Holy Land for generations. During the last 150 years, many of these people found themselves displaced by Jewish settlers returning to their ancestral homeland. As Israeli immigrants returned in steadily increasing numbers, Palestinians responded in various ways. Some made peace with their new Jewish neighbors. Others passively tolerated Palestinian losses. Still others have resorted to violence and force of arms.

It is important to see that even though Palestinians are often thought of simply as “the enemies of Israel” the real Palestinian populace has a complex make-up and history.

When Israel moved into the land under Joshua, it was called the “land of milk and honey.” Because Canaan was such a hospitable and fertile land, it has been inhabited from the earliest times. Archaeology has determined that Jericho is one of the world’s oldest inhabited sites.

When Israel conquered Canaan, many inhabitants were driven out, but large numbers remained. Many Israelites intermarried with Canaanites and people of nearby nations ( Judges 14:1-3; Ruth 1:1-4 ). Consequently, the land was never inhabited by Israelites alone. Further, when the leading classes of Israel and Judea were driven into Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian exile because of unbelief and non-compliance with the Mosaic Covenant, many common people remained in the land. They multiplied and were joined by colonists from other nations. When Israelite leadership returned and regained political control, they did not expel the great numbers of non-Jews or less observant Jews who lived in the land. At the time of Christ, Jews were actually a minority in large areas of the land.

Again, after the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersal of the Jews by the Romans in A.D. 70, many common people remained in the land. They had Israelite ancestry to some degree but hadn’t been part of the rebellion against Rome. (It was under Roman rule that the Holy Land, as a whole, was first called Palestine, a name related to the Phoenician peoples who had long populated the coastal areas.) As Christianity spread through the Roman Empire, many of the descendants of these common people of the Holy Land became either nominal or genuine Christians. Then, in the seventh century, Arabic-speaking Muslim armies conquered Palestine, Egypt, and all of the nominally Christian lands of northern Africa, along with Spain.

Although Muslim armies forced Christians and Jews to submit to Islamic law and imposed taxes and other restrictions that made them “second class citizens,” they spared their lives and permitted them to stay. This included the residents of Palestine. Further, unlike many historical conquerors, the Arabs didn’t send settlers to colonize the lands they conquered, but set up military garrisons in cities established to maintain Muslim rule. Except for a brief period when the Crusaders established a beachhead in the Muslim world, Muslim rule continued in Palestine under successive regimes until the end of World War I, when it came under the control of Great Britain.

During all of this time — from the time of Roman rule into the twentieth century — life continued largely unchanged. The people worked the land, tended their herds, carried on trade, and practiced the simple professions that supported village life. Although the Muslim conquest introduced Arabic as the language of everyday life and offered significant advantages to those who were willing to convert to Islam, Christians and Jews were tolerated as “people of the book” and many Jews and Christians remained in the land, carrying on their own traditions and generally living in peace with their Muslim neighbors.

Today the vast majority of “native Palestinians” are Muslims, but a significant percentage of them are adherents to other religions, including Christianity.

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Who Selected the Documents That Are Included in the Bible?

The 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament are the only writings Christians consider fully inspired. The books that are in our present Old Testament were universally accepted at the time of Christ and endorsed by Him. In fact, there are nearly 300 quotations from the Old Testament books in the New Testament.

A number of books that are considered valuable but not inspired are found in the Roman Catholic and Anglican Bibles. These books are called the Apocrypha (which means “hidden,” “secret,” or “profound”). The Apocrypha was accepted by the council of Carthage, but was not accepted by many important church leaders, including Melito of Sardis, Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, and Jerome. 1

Although the New Testament Canon was officially confirmed in its present and final form by the third council of Carthage in 397, the 27 documents it contains were accepted as authoritative from the very beginning.

The New Testament is solidly rooted in history. It revolves around the death, burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not even the rationalist critics of the 19th century could find reason to question Pauline authorship of 1 Corinthians, and it has been acknowledged as the earliest written testimony of Christ’s resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul declared:

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been rasied, your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hope in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied (vv. 16-19).

First-century Christians circulated documents—either written or approved by the apostles—which contained an authoritative explanation of the accounts concerning Jesus’ life and teaching. These documents often quoted from each other and presented the same gospel message from different perspectives and in different styles. Hundreds of other documents were written and circulated, but the church quickly rejected spurious documents and established the authority of those that were genuine.

  1. “Augustine alone of ancient authors, and the councils of Africa which he dominated, present a different picture. Augustine specifically accepted the apocryphal books and gives the total number as forty-four. He is the only ancient author who gives a number different from the twenty-two or twenty-four book reckoning. The list includes Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, 1 Esdras (the book composed of part of 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah), Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus. The Local councils of Carthage and Hippo, dominated by Augustine, included the same books. This listing prob. agreed with the ideas of Pope Damasus who dominated the local council of Rome at 382. It will be remembered that it was Damasus who urged Jerome to translate also the apocryphal books for his Vulgate. Jerome did so with the explicit declaration that they were not canonical.
    “Green (op. cit. 168-174) discusses the witness of Augustine and points out that Augustine seems to vacillate. Green quotes Augustine; ‘What is written in the book of Judith the Jews are truly said not to have received into the canon of Scripture’ (Augustine, City of God xviii, 260). ‘After Malachi, Haggai, Zechariah, and Ezra, they had no prophets until the advent of the Savior’ (id. xvii, last ch.). He was well aware that Maccabees were after the cessation of prophecy. Green concludes that Augustine was using ‘canonical’ in the sense of books which may be read in the churches without putting them all on an equal plane.” Excerpted from an article by R.L. Harris (“Canon of the Old Testament”) in the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Back To Article
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Who Should Come First in My Stepfamily: My Spouse or My Children?

The relationship between parent and child is important, but it’s not as fundamental as the relationship between a husband and a wife (Genesis 2:24). Too often, though, parents feel a pull to put the children first in the family, and in the process, they neglect their spouse.

It’s natural for parents to feel protective of their children. But parents who have gone through a life-shattering divorce feel especially protective. They don’t want their children to hurt anymore, or to fear losing them again. For that reason, putting a new spouse first can feel like they are betraying their children.

Children need to know you love them and that you will always be there for them. Just as important, they need the security of a stable home. A healthy marriage gives children that security, because when a husband and a wife are looking out for each other’s interests, they will also look out for the best interests of the children.

Putting your spouse first never means that you neglect or abuse your children. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you allow a new spouse to neglect or abuse the children. Even something like showing favoritism, which is natural to do, should be talked about and addressed in a blended family. Ignoring unfair treatment is wrong (Romans 12:9). Parents are always responsible to provide loving, secure, healthy, and safe homes for their children to grow (Proverbs 14:26).

It’s important for husbands and wives to consider one another’s feelings and opinions. They need to stick together and head in the same direction as a couple and as parents. They should pursue each other and show deep care and respect for one another. A caring and loving spouse knows that what affects them, affects their spouse and the children. Happy marriages are loving, respectful, and considerate (Ephesians 5:21-33).

A good marriage not only gives children the security of a stable home, but it also gives them a positive example of what God intended a marriage to be. They will learn about love, confession, forgiveness, accountability, responsibility, and honesty. Parents who love one another deeply help their children develop realistic expectations about what it takes to build a strong marriage. Children need that kind of example to give them hope for their own futures.

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Why Are Christians Opposed to Public Nudity?

Sexuality and individuality are sacred gifts. Although nudity is necessary under certain special circumstances, as when a person is examined by a physician1 or taking a shower in a locker room, indiscriminate nudity is degrading.

Humans were created as image-bearers of God. Although we share many characteristics with the animal world, we have been entrusted with a degree of dignity that surpasses our animal kin.

While it’s true that prolonged exposure to nudity tends to make a culture less sensitive to it, no culture could ever be completely desensitized. Indiscriminate nudity is a misguided attempt to recapture an innocence that, since the Fall ( Genesis 3:6-11,23-24 ), is no longer available.

It would be wonderful if lust and wrongful sexual attention weren’t a problem, but realistically, in our imperfect world, there is a tendency to look upon others merely as objects for personal sexual gratification or control (Matthew 5:28). Westerners also place an inappropriately high value on physical attractiveness, as well as setting unrealistic standards for it. To idolize a temporary, culturally defined standard for beauty is destructive. It bases individual worth on physical attractiveness rather than character, objectifies people, promotes exploitative relationships, empowers the pornographic industry, and is doubtlessly an important factor in the modern epidemic of bulimia and anorexia. Indiscriminate nudity would place an even higher value on anatomical perfection, further degrading our human values and making self-esteem even harder for the average person to attain.2

The Bible doesn’t dictate the norms for the type of clothing to be worn in every society, but it requires modesty.3 First Peter 3:3-6, for example, exhorts women to seek the beauty that comes from within (“the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”). Peter said that women should place a greater emphasis on spiritual beauty than on mere physical adornment. They shouldn’t dress merely to accentuate their physical beauty, but be concerned as well with the effect their appearance has on others, using beauty as a means of edification.

The Bible also tells us that our bodies are holy, temples of the Holy Spirit:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-21).

It isn’t that the nude human body is “dirty” and needs to be covered. This idea is a perversion of Christian teaching. The body isn’t something of which we should be ashamed. It is a creation of God, and, in spite of human irresponsibility, something that we should celebrate and honor. Nearly everyone in the West, including conservative Christians, agrees that Western art would be impoverished without work of great artists who treat nudity with dignity. Exposed skin isn’t the only issue—otherwise we would be in agreement with the strict Muslim view that modesty requires a woman to cover as much of her body as possible.4 It isn’t that the sight of the nude body is “dirty” but that it is holy—too precious to be shared with strangers. Indiscriminate nudity deprives husbands and wives of the joy of reserving the visual part of physical intimacy for each other alone. In our fallen world, the love between husband and wife is the only place where sexual intercourse still expresses the innocence of Eden. Only in a loving marriage—where genuine intimacy is nurtured by fidelity—is the beauty of each individual partner free to bloom.

Working through our culture, our enemy strives to degrade our perception of sexuality to mere expression of animal instinct and pleasure. Christians need to be on guard against anything that degrades the God-ordained dignity of human sexuality—including indiscriminate nudity.

1. Interestingly, under such circumstances, there are specific required procedures and special legal protections shielding patients from sexual advances by caretakers. These laws not only apply to physicians, but also to counselors who have a privileged access to the secrets and intimate facts of a person’s life. Back To Article

2 . Most people realize that besides wearing clothing to protect ourselves from the elements, we clothe ourselves to enhance our appearance and enable modesty. The testimony of thousands of generations of people in nearly every culture is that the world would be a less attractive place if everyone went around naked. Even the most beautiful people know that clothing enhances their attractiveness. But even more important, appropriate attire serves as a shield against voyeurism at the same time it protects others from an uncomfortable sense of being subtly (or not so subtly) manipulated. Back To Article

3 . The Jews were modest people. Jesus’ disciples probably shed their outer garments when working as fishermen, but they, along with other God-fearing Jews, would have been scandalized by public nakedness that was part and parcel (as in the Hellenistic gymnasium) of a Hellenistic culture whose degeneracy easily surpassed the seediest “tenderloin district” of a modern metropolis. Back To Article

4. Strict Islamic culture requires women to wear long gowns and veils in public. Such cultural requirements place an unfair burden on women, requiring them to be the primary guardians of sexual dignity while depriving them of the opportunity to become fully developed persons and full partners with men. Back To Article

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Why Are There So Many Christian Denominations?

Divisions in the church go back to the first century. In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul lamented that strife and divisions had resulted in some saying, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos” ( 1 Corinthians 3:3 ).

Denominations, which could be called “formalized division,” began a little later in the Apostolic Church, when orthodox1 believers defended the teaching of the apostles against the distortion of the gospel with false teachings based on pagan2 or Jewish3 traditions.

Eventually the true church was firmly established on a foundation of essential doctrinal truth: belief in the deity of Christ and the Trinity, and acceptance of the established Canon of Scripture. This universal agreement of the early church was characterized by the Greek word katholikos, which meant “according to the whole.” The English term was “catholic,” and it meant the true church as accepted by genuine followers of Christ. Outside the catholic church were sects that denied important elements of truth: Gnostics, Ebionites, Montanists, Arians, Pelagians, and others. These were considered “unorthodox” (not accepting the right doctrines).

The two terms, catholic and orthodox, eventually came into common language as indicators of true Christian belief. Sadly, however, they also became the names of the first denominations: A separation occurred within the church in 1054 when the Greek-speaking church of the east separated from the Latin-based church in the west over a number of political and cultural differences, along with some relatively minor doctrinal disputes. The church in the east became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the church in the west was called the Roman Catholic Church. These main divisions continue to the present.

Later, reformers among the Roman Catholics felt a need for spiritual renewal and correction within church. They especially protested the addition of non-biblical tradition to the Bible as essential to the faith and practice of Christianity. These protesting reformers eventually brought about a second major separation. From this “Protestant Reformation” came Lutheran, Calvinist, Baptist, and other denominations.

Finally, in the first part of the 20th Century, the Pentecostal Movement came into bloom. This group of Christians were convinced that all the gifts given by the Holy Spirit to the followers of Christ at Pentecost (the dramatic moment when God’s Holy Spirit descended upon the Christians fifty days after Jesus’ ascension) must be evident in the life of believers today. The Greek word for divine gift is kharisma; hence the term “charismatic” is often used to describe this group of denominations. The additional bestowal of some of these gifts after one accepts Christ as one’s personal Savior is often referred to as the “second blessing.” 4

While there are differences between the denominations, most of the basic doctrines agreed upon by the early catholic church are still accepted by all. For example, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, most Protestants, and most charismatic groups believe in the Trinity and in the Deity of Christ—established by the church councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon. All orthodox Christian denominations agree that Jesus Christ, the God-man, died to atone for the sins of the world, and was raised from the grave to break the power of Satan and death.

With the exception of the reference to Christ descending to hell, the principles contained within the Apostles’ Creed, taken primarily from the old Roman Creed, are also universally accepted. This creed is recited in hundreds of thousands of Christian churches around the world every Sunday, regardless of denomination:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

It is important not to become so preoccupied with the minor differences between the denominations that we overlook their broad areas of agreement. While some of the doctrinal differences that exist have produced serious perversions of the Gospel, there are other aspects to the presence of a wide range of viewpoints that are positive. Because of denominational differences, there are a variety of practical approaches to Christian living. While this fragmentation makes it more difficult for the world to see the unity of the Body of Christ, it’s also true that these groupings make it harder for the church as a whole to become mired in ritual and formalism than would be the case if one denomination dominated Christian life. As a source of more information regarding Christian denominations, we recommend A History of the Christian Church by Williston Walker (Scribners). We also recommend the books of outstanding historian, Kenneth Scott Latourette.

  1. Orthodox is a term taken directly from the Greek language. It simply means “correct belief.” Any church is considered to be orthodox in the broadest sense if it accepts the formulations of doctrine that were made by the major councils of the early Church such as those held in Nicaea in 325 and in Chalcedon in 451. These decisions settled such important doctrinal issues as Christ’s Deity and the unity of His personhood while possessing two natures (human and divine). Back To Article
  2. Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible makes this observation regarding early pagan influences in the church:
    About the time the New Testament letters were being written there began to develop a number of sects which later (in the 2nd century) came under the general heading of “Gnosticism.” They varied considerably in detail, but shared the basic belief that “matter” was evil and spirit was good. It followed that God could not have created the world out of matter, nor could his Son have become incarnate in it. So they envisaged a whole range of subordinate beings between God and the world. Humanity shares in the evil of the material world, but they also (or some of them) contain a divine spark which can be set free and thus redeemed. In order to be redeemed they need to have knowledge (Greek gnosis) of their heavenly origin. These views were expressed in fantastic myths and made known to initiates in sects like those of the mystery religions. Back To Article
  3. The pernicious influence of Judaizers is vehemently denounced by Paul in Galatians 5:1-8 and Philippians 3:1-7. Back To Article
  4. The doctrine of the “second work of grace” or “second blessing” is rooted in the Wesleyan/Armenian tradition. It maintains that we can, if faithful, experience a special time of spiritual growth and renewal. Because the Bible teaches that sanctification is a progressive experience, it is certainly possible that some people will have a wonderful season of renewal that could be called a “second blessing.” However, Scripture nowhere indicates that all Christians will experience this. Many Christians experience the steady growth in their lives that can only be attributed to the power of God’s Spirit.
    The Bible teaches a three-fold aspect of sanctification. First, there is a positional aspect in which every believer is sanctified or set apart for God at the moment of salvation ( 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 1:1; Hebrews 3:1 ). Second, there is a progressive aspect of sanctification in which believers are being sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures ( John 17:17; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 5:25,26; 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24 ). And third, there is the consummation at the return of Christ when our sanctification will be complete. We shall be in the likeness of Jesus Christ ( Ephesians 5:27; 1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 ). Back To Article
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Why are there so many English Translations of the Bible?

We have a variety of English translations for several reasons. The first is that whenever a document is translated from one language to another, it is impossible to do a word-for-word translation. Different languages seldom have identical word meanings or grammatical structures. Therefore, different translations usually represent different styles of translation. Using some popular English translations as examples: the King James Version uses elegant but often old-fashioned English; the New American Standard Bible strives to be as close as possible to a word-for-word translation while still retaining normal English syntax; the Living Bible uses paraphrasing to communicate the meaning of the text; and the NIV utilizes a thought-for-thought or idea-for-idea method of translation called dynamic equivalence.

A second reason for new translations is that languages are constantly changing. Meanings of individual words and ways of expressing concepts are always in flux. This is why the original King James Version (written in the 1600s) is difficult for many modern readers to understand. In fact, the English language changed so much over the next 150 years, that the King James Version we read today underwent numerous modifications until 1769.

Finally, there are large numbers of ancient manuscripts in the original languages, and they contain some minor differences. Nearly all conservative scholars agree that these differences affect word choices, but not major doctrines.

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Why Believe in God’s Existence, When It Can’t Be Proven Scientifically?

Something that can be demonstrated by the scientific method is a scientific fact. But it doesn’t follow that just because something can’t be demonstrated scientifically it is less “real” or important than “scientific fact.”

For example, the survival of human civilization depends on the distinction that most people make between good and evil. Yet moral values like good and evil can’t be scientifically proven. Does the fact that moral values can’t be proven imply that they are less real—less “factual” in an ultimate sense—than the things that science can prove?

Most people would consider it morally evil for a man/woman to abandon his/her wife/husband and young children to begin a new life with another woman/man. Most people would consider this a serious moral failure, one of the “worst” things a person could do. But is there any compelling “scientific evidence” that could be brought to bear on such behavior to “prove” that it is wrong?

What “scientific evidence” could prove that murder, rape, and robbery are wrong?  What would become of our system of justice if the prosecution had to scientifically prove that it is wrong for one person to kill, rape, or rob another person!

The existence of love, evil, and good are not “falsifiable hypotheses.” Yet most people—including atheists—admit that values like “love,” “goodness,” “friendship,” and “loyalty” are moral/spiritual realities that truly exist. Theists, whether Christian or non-Christian, have long considered the mind-boggling complexity of the material universe as evidence of a Creator. Although the scientific “spirit of the age” of the 20th century once insisted that the material world was nothing more than the product of impersonal, random evolution, today’s scientific consensus is shifting towards the conclusion that the universe was consciously designed (with incredible exactitude) for the development of life.1

Just as it is reasonable to assume that everything in physical reality has a cause, it is reasonable to assume that everything in spiritual reality has a cause. Immaterial spiritual values like love and goodness are even more amazing than the material wonders of the universe.

God’s existence cannot be proven scientifically. But although God’s existence can’t be proven, reasonable people acknowledge that the small number of alternative explanations for the wonders of material and spiritual reality can’t be proven either. Although faith is as much a matter of the heart as the mind, and belief in God is a moral as well as a rational decision, the rational case for the existence of God as the source of all reality is stronger than any other explanation.

  1. Anthony Flew, an eminent British philosopher who has been widely published as one of the world’s most intellectually capable and well-known atheists, has recently become a theist on the basis of scientific evidence for design:
    Darwin himself, in the fourteenth chapter of The Origin of Species, pointed out that his whole argument began with a being which already possessed reproductive powers. This is the creature the evolution of which a truly comprehensive theory of evolution must give some account. Darwin himself was well aware that he had not produced such an account. It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design. (From an interview with Anthony Flew by Gary Habermas, published by the Journal of the Evangelical Philosophic Society.Back To Article
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Why Care About the Earth?

One of the thrilling promises given to us by Paul is that “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21, NIV). This passage, in tandem with Acts 3:18-21, speaks of the future when Jesus Christ will return and with His followers establish His messianic kingdom, which, according to evangelical theologians, will be on this present earth.

Our “heavenly citizenship” tells us who our true Sovereign is and to whom we owe allegiance. And His kingdom is actually going to come to earth. That’s what we pray for in “the Lord’s Prayer,’ and what the apostle John tells us about in the Revelation (Rev. 21:6). That understanding should keep us from carelessness regarding God’s good creation. Poet T. S. Eliot, a friend of C. S. Lewis, gave believers a good point to ponder in his poem “Choruses From the Rock”: “‘Our citizenship is in Heaven;’ yes, but that is the model and type for [our] citizenship upon earth.” (p.100; T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems 1909-1935; Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich; 1936)

The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ provided not only for the salvation of mankind, but also for the restoration (Rom. 8:21) and reconciliation of the whole creation (Colossians 1:20). Our nonhuman co-worshipers—the stars, the land, the animals, the plants—will share our return to pre-Fall conditions which, as suggested by John Wesley, may even exceed the glories of the original creation (John Wesley Sermon #60 “The General Deliverance,” Section III, 1872).

What remarkable things might be accomplished if we lived on the fallen earth today in light of the way we expect to live on the restored earth tomorrow? We believe that through the process of sanctification we can become more like Christ. Are we to assume that sanctification improves relationships only between man and God and between man and man, and not between man and the natural world? The influential Bible scholar and Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer challenged us in this area: “God’s calling to the Christian now, and to the Christian community, in the area of nature – just as it is in the area of personal Christian living in true spirituality – is that we should exhibit a substantial healing here and now between man and nature and nature itself, as far as Christians can bring it to pass” (Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology, Tyndale House, 1970 p.69).

We ought to always remember this: to abuse the earth is to profane the handiwork of God.

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Why did God Give our Pets Such Short Life Spans?

Although land tortoises can live over 150 years and parrots sometimes live as long as people, most pets have short life spans Perhaps the Lord gave our pets short life spans to keep us from getting more attached to them than to our fellow human beings. Since the love of some intelligent pets for their human masters is remarkably unconditional, they often establish a deep emotional connection with us. In fact, we sometimes find it easier to love them unconditionally than each other.

The emotional impact of the death of a family’s pet is like the loss of any family member, though on a lesser scale. It offers opportunities for learning important lessons in preparation for future losses that will be worse. The grief at a pet’s death can bring an awareness of our need for deeper relationships with the people in our lives.


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Why Did Jesus Condemn the Self-Righteousness of the Pharisees?

Jesus condemned the Pharisees’ self-righteous hypocrisy because it blinded them from seeing their need for repentance and a Savior.

Many Pharisees prided themselves in their strict avoidance of obvious, outward sin. But they refused to look inside themselves and acknowledge the presence of inner sin that didn’t fall within the boundaries of their man-made rules. Jesus knew that in spite of their obsession with outward perfection, they willfully resisted consciousness of their inner corruption and need for grace:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:25-28 NKJV).

Jesus didn’t associate with “known sinners” like tax collectors because He minimized their sin ( Luke 19:1-10 ). He freely associated with them because He knew that they were more open to repentance.

Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:10-13 NKJV).

“Known sinners” weren’t full of self-righteous pride, deliberately concealing their hidden sins behind a legalistic façade of “righteousness.” Jesus was keenly ironic when He said, “I didn’t come to call the righteous to repentance.” He knew that the Pharisees weren’t righteous, but their pretense of righteousness kept them from accepting the only remedy for their condition — repentance and faith in Him. The obvious sins of “public sinners” made them more likely to repent and look to Jesus for the answers they needed.

We are all sinners, both inwardly and outwardly. Although we may not be notorious “public sinners,” we all share a fallen nature and are often controlled by the “flesh” — the “sin principle” — within us (Romans 8). Jesus’ stern warnings to the hypocritical Pharisees make it clear that sin we ignore and deny is no less serious in its effects than the sin of the public sinner.

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