What Is Christianity?

Christianity isn’t about what happens to you. It isn’t about what you experience or what you receive. Christianity is about how you respond to what happens to you. It’s about how much you affect the experiences of others. It’s about what you do with what you receive.

Christianity isn’t about the absence of tribulation. Jesus experienced more tribulation than you, and he did it with the deeply symbolic gesture of arms wide open.

Jesus taught us to follow him. What does this mean? It means that we are to walk his path, walk in his ways, walk as he walked, live as he lived.

We do not seek tribulation, but we do not resent it. We do the right thing, in spite of all adversity. We love those who experience hate from others. We forgive even those who don’t understand what we’re doing, or why. We’re generous, not because the recipients are worthy, but because we choose to love them.

We are good, though surrounded by evil.
We love, though surrounded by hate.
We are polite, though surrounded by rudeness.
We are gentle, though surrounded by cruelty.
We forgive, though surrounded by vindictiveness.
We give, though surrounded by takers.
We heal, though surrounded by harmers.

We welcome those who are cast out.
We defend those who are are attacked.
We protect those who are oppressed.

We teach a better way,
We speak a better way,
We show a better way,
We live a better way.

It isn’t easy.
Jesus didn’t call you to a life of comfort.
He called you to follow him.

–Bob Young
[2/9/2018]

Did you like reading this? Then you should buy one of my books. (Thank you!)
Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

The Parents Of John the Baptist Were Old – This Is Why

Sometimes God lets things happen in your life, and you wonder, “Why, God? Why is this happening? Why is it happening like this? Why is it happening now? I mean, I know you say you’ve got a plan, Father – but, really? How on Earth, and how in heaven, is this part of your plan?”

Sometimes, looking back on it years later, we see. We understand, in hindsight, why God kept us from marrying that person. Why we didn’t get the job. Why the sale of that house fell through. And, of course, sometimes, we never know, at least not during this life. Then we wonder, “Will God explain it to me when I get to Heaven? Or will I even care about it then?”

Mysteries. Some are revealed. Some are not. I want to tell you about one such mystery that, I think, today, I actually understand. It has to do with old women getting pregnant…

You’ve probably heard about Abraham’s wife. Her name was Sarah. The story is in Genesis 17:15-17.

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

So, a ninety year old woman got pregnant and had a son, and Abraham named their son Isaac. But (big disappointment here), I don’t know why Abraham and Sarah were so old when Isaac was born.

Now, John the Baptist – that’s a different story. His parents were old, too. And today, I know why. I’m speculating, of course, because the Bible doesn’t actually tell us why. But listen to my explanation, and see what you think.

The story is told by Luke in his gospel.

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
(Luke 1:5-7, ESV)

An angel appeared to Zechariah the priest while he was serving in the temple and told him that Elizabeth would bear a son. It happened just like the angel said it would, and Zechariah the priest named his son John. This John was later called John the Baptist, but his mom and dad didn’t call him that. They just called him John, or Johnny, or “you little squirt!” or something like that. When they were mad at him, like when he pulled the dog’s tail, maybe Elizabeth called him, “John ben Zechariah! Stop teasing Brutus right now!” You know how moms are, using your full name when you’re in trouble. Maybe that’s a new thing, but it seems to me like it probably started a long time ago.

Anyway. John. His parents were really old when he was born. Why?

To avoid heartbreak, that’s why.

Zechariah was a priest who ministered before God, and he was a good one. Zechariah was a man of faith, devoted to God; he was a man who tried earnestly to live a life of righteousness and obedience. He was honored to be a priest of God Most High, and he carried out his responsibilities diligently, with great care and reverence.

But John? Well, John loved God, too. Very much, in fact. But John saw corruption in the priesthood, and instead of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a priest, he went out into the desert, meditated, prayed, and became a noisy and boisterous preacher. John was adamantly opposed to hypocrisy. In his devotion to God, he was offended by the hypocrisy he saw in the priests.

Do you see? When John came back from the desert, he would have been a terrible disappointment to his dad, who was one of the few good priests.

And that’s why God waited until Zechariah was old before blessing him and Elizabeth with John.

John had all the benefits of the godly upbringing of his good and noble father and mother. And then, his elderly parents died. John went into the desert to grieve, and to decide what to do next. And, in a very real way, John followed in his dad’s footsteps. He proclaimed God’s message of truth and love, and a lot of men and women were transformed by John’s devotion and care for there well-being. He didn’t preach to hurt them; he preached to help them. And his love for his listeners was obvious. It was moving. They repented, and with God’s help, they changed.

But, I don’t think Zechariah would have understood. So, timing was everything.

God has a way of understanding timing. He makes things work out.

–Bob Young
[1/22/2018]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

The Teachings of Jesus – Chapter 3 (excerpt)

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 3 of “The Teachings of Jesus.”

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
(Matthew 4:17)

We notice two things instantly about Matthew’s description of the beginning of Jesus’ preaching:
(1) His message is identical to the message of John the Baptist, and
(2) Matthew’s description is a summary of Jesus’ message, and not the full content.

These two points will form our outline for this chapter.

(1) Jesus’ continues John’s message

Chapters 1 and 2 of Matthew’s gospel are his account of what is called “the birth narrative,” which is the story of Jesus’ birth. There are two birth narratives in the New Testament; the other one is at the beginning of Luke’s gospel. Luke told us about John the Baptist’s birth as well as Jesus’ birth, but Matthew didn’t mention baby John. At the beginning of chapter 3, Matthew starts right off by introducing John as an adult who is already preaching. This was his message:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
(Matthew 3:1-2)

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John said it. Then Jesus said it.

Now, this is interesting, and we need to stop right here and meditate on what this means to us! John is just three months older than Jesus. They’re in the same extended family. Although they lived in different towns, they had spent a lot of time with each other over the last thirty years or so. We have already seen that they each had intimate knowledge of the other one’s character, integrity, and devotion to God. And so we may be sure that it’s no coincidence that when Jesus started preaching publicly, his message precisely echoed John’s.

As a boy, Jesus loved to spend time in the temple (Luke 2:41-52), which is where John’s daddy worked as a priest (Luke 1). With their shared history, shared religious upbringing, shared lives, and shared faith, it should come as no surprise that they shared the same message.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

If we want to understand the teachings of Jesus, we need to start here. This is it. This is his message. It never changed. Everything Jesus said and did for the rest of his life is an ever-expanding explanation of this sentence.  This is his message – the message that changed, is changing, and will change the world.

–Bob Young
January 21, 2018

I’ll be publishing “The Teachings of Jesus” later this year. Meanwhile, if you like it, you might consider buying one of my other books. (Thanks!)

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

The Teachings of Jesus – Chapter 2 (excerpt)

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 2 of “The Teachings of Jesus.”

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

(Matthew 4:1-4)

 

Why walk in the wilderness?

You’re not supposed to deliberately arrange for your own tempting. Let’s dwell on this thought for a moment. Matthew wrote that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. God the Father had a purpose for the trial that Jesus was about to endure, and we’ll explore that purpose shortly. For now, it’s enough to say that Jesus went into the wilderness as an act of obedience. You and I, on the other hand, may walk into the wilderness when the Spirit says, “Don’t go!” When we flirt with dangers that can cause us to sin, we cannot blame God for creating our dilemma. Let me give you an example.

My wife and I had only been married a little more than a year when we received our first credit card offer. We received it because we had recently bought furniture for the house we rented. The furniture store gave us credit, based on my income from employment in the United States Navy. After we had made the first couple of payments on time, that first offer of a credit card came in the mail. We were both excited about it! We had only a very small savings account, and we viewed this as our security blanket. If our car needed repairs, we’d be able to take care of it with the credit card, and not have to figure out how to pay a big repair bill all at once.

Everything was fine for a while. I didn’t go an a spending spree or anything like that. But then, slowly, over time, the trouble started. I made some bad decisions. Let’s say it’s still a few days before payday, and I’m short on cash. The weekend rolls around, and I think, “My wonderful wife deserves a treat. I’ll take her out to dinner tonight and use the credit card to pay for it.” Do you see what happened? Over the course of time, the credit card became a way to take shortcuts to short-term happiness. I didn’t just use it for car repairs; I used it for luxuries. Eventually – and it took years, but eventually – the combination of necessary debt and unnecessary debt became more than I could comfortably pay back. I wasn’t paying the whole balance every month. And I wound up with more than one credit card. I was just making the minimum payments on all of them. I knew that in Romans 13:8 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Owe no one anything,” but I ignored Paul’s wise advice. I walked into the wilderness by disobedience rather than obedience, to be tempted by the devil. It took me a long time to walk back out of that wilderness.

Jesus did things a different way. When he was tempted, he was where God wanted him to be. He was doing what God wanted him to do. There’s a principle here, and it will work for you: temptation is easier to resist if you start from a position of obedience.

The big understatement

“He was hungry.” Well, Matthew can’t surprise us with that statement. After forty days of fasting, I’m sure Jesus was hungry. Satan knew it, too, and he encouraged Jesus to satisfy himself.

“Command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Instant gratification. “You have a way to fix this problem, Jesus. Or, do you? Are you really the Son of God? Do you really have a mission to accomplish? Is there any purpose to your existence? If you really are the Son of God, take care of yourself.”

But, there’s the flaw in Satan’s logic. “If you really are the Son of God.” Because, you see, if Jesus really is the Son of God, then he isn’t in the wilderness for his own pleasure. It’s not about the hunger. It’s not about the pain. It’s about the people he came to redeem. God loved the world so much that he sent his son, and his son loved the Father so much that he was obedient in all things.

Purpose. Mission.

An exhausted mom stays up a little longer and gets all her children to bed. An entrepreneur writes payroll checks for his employees before he writes his own check. My dad, who loved fried chicken legs, went without fried chicken legs for years while we three kids ate them. I didn’t know this until I was an adult.

Love. Sacrifice.

If Jesus really is the Son of God, he’s not here to prove anything to Satan. He’s here to prove something to us.

–Bob Young
January 14, 2018

I’ll be publishing “The Teachings of Jesus” later this year. Meanwhile, if you like it, you might consider buying one of my other books. (Thanks!)

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

The Time Of Fear Is Past

Don’t be afraid.
God is truth.
God is good.
God made you.
God only makes good.
Very, very good.
The truth is this:
God loves you.
Oh, how he loves you!
You are not abandoned.
You are not alone.
Jesus.
Emmanuel.
God with us.
God with you.
Rise.
In this strength God gives you,
Rise.
Don’t be afraid.
All is well.

–Bob Young
[01/05/2018]

Did you like reading this? Then you should buy one of my books. (Thank you!)
Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

Don’t Ask Why

Asking, “Why?” won’t help.
You see, there is no rational explanation for irrational behavior.
They did it, yes. But you’ll never understand why, because you’re rational, and the irrational mind will always be incomprehensible. There is no rational reason; there is no sensible “why.”
So, you won’t understand why, but you do understand what. You know what happened, and it was wrong.
Are you adrift?
Here’s how to get straightened away.
Don’t look for the answer to “Why?”
Look for the answer to “What now?”
Choose a goal.
Make plans.
Take action.
Move forward.
Leave the past.
Walk away.
You are better than what happened to you.
There is more than what you lived through.
It’s over.
It gets better from here.

–Bob Young
[01/04/2018]

Did you like reading this? Then you should buy one of my books. (Thank you!)
Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

A History of Scientific Attitudes Toward Global Warming

“Mountains in Alaska” by Bob Young

The Question:

“Hi Bob. Question for you. Are you able to recommend a book on global warming/climate change that is dumbed down a bit for those of us who will struggle to keep up with the science?”

My Answer:

Sorry, no, I can’t recommend a book. I tend to read technical articles, rather than books, on subjects like this. But I can tell you a story of the evolution of the science that most non-scientists aren’t aware of…

For many years of my adult life I had a subscription to Scientific American. When I was younger and poorer, I read it at the library. I’ve read articles in just about every issue of Scientific American from the late 70s to the early 2000s. I stopped my subscription about three years ago.

Reading Scientific American for so many years gave me a familiarity with the history of the research on global warming and the resulting climate change. Here’s a summary.

Early on, articles were published in which the temperature charts were displayed. The rapid change in temperature (the famous “hockey stick” graphs) were interesting, and many articles made projections about what future temperatures might look like, and what the resulting effects would be. Scientists also wrote in these articles that more study was needed, and that we didn’t have enough data to know where this was going, and whether or not it was significant. This resulted in more research, and more measurements were made.

As a result of the additional research and more measuring, the content of the articles changed. The scientists began to write that global warming was certainly happening, but we didn’t know if it was happening because of natural earth cycles or because of human activity. But it was becoming clear that if warming continued, we would see significant changes in everything: climate, coastlines, what species of plants and animals lived where, and so forth.

Research continued… Measurements continued…

In time, the research showed that we had indeed speeded up any natural global warming by changing our atmosphere. There are many causes, but the most significant source of atmospheric change (specifically, in carbon dioxide levels) is the use of fossil fuels, which include both petroleum and coal products. The changes are so measurable that we can correlate changes over periods as short as ten years. Global fossil fuel use and changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide coincide. We are no longer speculating about what we think the temperatures were 5,000 years ago – we can measure the actual, scientifically measured changes from the 1920s to the present.

This newer research resulted in another change in the articles in Scientific American. Now, the writers began saying that we have conclusive evidence that the global warming is the result of human activity.

Let me stop right here for a moment and summarize the change that occurred in the views of scientists over about three decades:

1) “The earth is suddenly warming, but we don’t know why or what it means.”

2) “The earth is warming, and we know that, whatever the reason, it’s going to cause unhappy changes.”

3) “The earth is warming, and now we know why. We’re doing it to ourselves.”

The research is not – and cannot be – a conspiracy. The same results are being found by unrelated scientific disciplines. Atmospheric scientists see it. Oceanographers see it. Biologists see it. Meteorologists see it. University researchers see it. Furthermore, the scientific evidence is coming from all around the globe. It doesn’t matter if you ask scientists in France, or Japan, or England, or Russia, or Canada, or the United States, or Australia, or Germany. You’ll get the same answers. Ocean temperatures are rising according to unfiltered data published on the Internet, straight from the thermometers on buoys in the ocean – buoys that are owned by the United States, by Japan, by Australia, by England. All of these varied sources of the raw data yield the same measurements.

Conspiracies don’t work like that. Conspiracies require a small group of individuals, working in secret and in harmony, for a common goal. But there is no common denominator for broad consensus of scientists. No common denominator, that is, except the consistency of the measurable facts. The facts point to human acceleration of global warming, with climate changes resulting.

And the information is public. The information from buoys and weather balloons and weather stations on the rooftops of elementary schools – it’s all public. Anyone can collect the information, analyze it, and publish their own conclusion.

We’re already experiencing the effects.

I just read a food safety article a couple of days ago. The number of reported food poisonings from eating raw oysters has gone up in the last ten years. This is because ocean temperatures are rising, and the oysters today contain more bacteria than oysters did ten years ago. The unhappy consequences of global warming are already here. We’ll see the effects in surprising places.

I don’t have a solution to the problem. But I do have one particular concern, and my concern is what makes me vocal on the subject. My concern is that Christians, as a group, seem particularly opposed to accepting the scientific evidence. It’s as if they fear that acknowledging the scientific reality will somehow discredit their faith. Christians need to be leaders in the search for knowledge. Only then will Christians be able to lead in the moral application of our collective knowledge.

–Bob Young
January 1, 2018

 

For further reading:

Global Warming and Climate Change

Christianity’s Four Hundred Year Mistake

Global Warming And Christian Responsibility

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