Spiritual Lessons From My Fitbit

I received a Fitbit as a gift for Christmas. I knew a little about this data-collecting device you wear on your wrist—that it counts how many steps you take, tracks your heart rate, measures how many calories you expend, etc.—but I had no idea just how popular these “activity tracker” devices are.

In fact, the Fitbit and similar products (such as Jawbone UP and Nike Fuelband) are part of the “Quantified Self” movement, first proposed by Wired magazine editors in 2007 as “a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self-knowledge through self-tracking.”

Nothing new about that. Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Benjamin Franklin tracked 13 personal virtues, and Jonathan Edwards developed a list of 70 spiritually centered “resolutions,” which he vowed to read once a week.  I’m certain Socrates, Franklin, and Edwards would have worn a Fitbit had one been available to them.

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Would God Really Allow Us to Suffer Evil In Order to Develop Our Character?

The “problem of evil” is often cited by skeptics to defend their disbelief: Why would an all-powerful, all-loving God allow His children to experience pain and suffering? In my latest book, God’s Crime Scene, I examine the problem of evil as one of eight pieces of evidence in the universe. Evil is typically considered a form of “exculpating” evidence, eliminating the reasonable inference of God’s existence. An ancient form of the problem is sometimes attributed to Epicurus:
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Where will you go this Year?

In Elton Trueblood's book entitled Lessons in Spiritual Leadership, he notes that Abraham Lincoln's leadership was influenced not only by a growing self-awareness and events of real suffering, but he was also influenced by Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Washington D.C.

In 2015, I found myself in: New York, Italy, East Africa, the Netherlands, Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Washington D.C. and a host of other spots. And my worldview is impacted at various points along the way. Now, if you believe a worldview is simply a stoic framework, then you probably have a bit of trouble with the idea that a sense of place can impact one's own awareness. Yet, I dare say that we are all influenced by and influencers of the places we find ourselves in.

How you influence those places that you pass through and how those same places influence you matter.

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Why Jesus Matters

There’s a great God debate going on right now, about whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. This isn’t a new discussion, but it’s moved to the front burner because both Christianity and Islam are on the front burner. We think it’s great. Anytime God makes the headlines, only good can come of it.

One particular episode in this debate that caught our attention was the case of Wheaton College political science professor Larycia Hawkins, who posted a picture of herself wearing a hijab (a veil worn by some Muslim women) in solidarity with Muslims. Wheaton, a conservative Christian college sometimes called the “Harvard of Christian schools,” was okay with the hijab. But when Hawkins commented on her post that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God,” she was suspended for going against Wheaton’s statement of faith.

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The Religion of Star Wars

The following is an excerpt from an excellent article by Peter Jones, executive director of truthXchange, a ministry that exists to recognize and respond to the rising tide of neopaganism. Click here for the full article.

With the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, those who believe in the one true God have an opportunity to engage the culture with the truth about the timeless spiritual struggle that exists in the world.

I believe there are good reasons for viewing this film. We can certainly respect its artistic and entertainment value. Galactic battle scenes and human drama are entertaining. But also, by seeing this movie, Christians can sharpen their understanding of both contemporary culture and their appreciation of the Christian faith, allowing them to see in antithetical clarity both the Christian message and the message of Star Wars in order to present the gospel in a fresh way for our time.

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Did the “Virgin Conception” First Appear Late in History?

Some critics have argued the "virgin conception" of Jesus is a late mythological addition attributed to Christian believers many centuries after the fact. These skeptics presume, of course, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written far later than the 1st Century, when eyewitnesses would have been available to refute the additional mythology. The history of the early Church reveals, however, that the "virgin conception" was recognized and accepted very early in history. The first opponents of Christianity recognized that Mary gave birth to Jesus without an identified earthly father and claimed that Jesus was, therefore, illegitimate. Celsus (a Greek philosopher and opponent of Christianity) echoed this charge in the 2nd Century in his work entitled, "The True Discourse". It's clear that the issue of Jesus' parentage was an early concern, and the first believers were committed to the idea of the "virgin conception":

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Year in Review: Barna’s Top 10 Findings

In its 30-year history, Barna Group has conducted more than one million interviews over the course of hundreds of studies, and has become a go-to source for insights about faith and culture, leadership and vocation, and generations. Barna Group has carefully and strategically tracked the role of faith in America, developing one of the nation’s most comprehensive databases of spiritual indicators. Barna Group works with thousands of business, nonprofit organizations and churches across the U.S. and around the world,

With the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, a jump in concerns about religious freedom, and an overall secularization of Americans’ views, 2015 was a year of increasing anxiety among people of faith. Barna compiled its top 10 findings and trends from a vast array of research conducted in the past 12 months:

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Are the Birth Narratives in Luke and Matthew Late Additions?

Many critics, in an attempt to discredit the "virgin conception", have argued that the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are simply late additions that were not present in the first versions of the gospels. These claims are typically based on (1) Efforts to find stylistic differences between the birth narratives and the rest of the text, and (2) Efforts to find subject shifts that occur immediately after the birth narratives and the remainder of the text. But these approaches to the Gospels fails to demonstrate the birth narratives are late additions for the following reasons:
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In the Heart of the Sea

Oscar winner Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”) directs the action adventure “In the Heart of the Sea,” based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s best-selling book about the dramatic true journey of the Essex.

In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby- Dick. But that told only half the story. “In the Heart of the Sea” reveals the encounter’s harrowing aftermath, as the ship’s surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive. Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea and his first mate still seeks to bring the great whale down.

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What Do We Mean When We Use the Term, “Virgin Conception”?

I’ve been broadcasting and writing lately about the “virgin conception of Jesus”, and as I’ve been discussing the topic with some of you on social media, I’ve seen some confusion about the term. As a Christian, I accept the fact that Mary miraculously conceived Jesus while remaining a virgin. Two Gospel writers (Matthew and Luke) make this rather incredible claim as part of their description of the birth and genealogy of Jesus:

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