February 28, 2005

Change - resources of change

I am not quite sure how to begin this post, except to say that I wanted to begin recommending some books that I have found to be quite useful in my own life. And since I am working on compiling some posts on the topic of change, I thought now would be a good time to recommend some books on that same topic.

I have also become a believer in saturating your mind with the right stuff. We waste so much of our time with television and movies, that we don't have time to fill it up with good practical teaching on the Word of God. I think that we should treasure the "pastors" of our day, even if they aren't at our church.

So, here is my first recommendation:

Godliness Through Discipline
by Jay E. Adams


Summary: With only 25 pages, this is a very short book. It is easy to read, but it is packed with some very practical and useful information. Here is the opening paragraph of the book, that will give you an idea of its purpose:

Do you remember the last time that you left a church service all fired up to change? You were determined to be different. "This time," you said, "I mean it; I am going to become the person that God wants me to be!" By Tuesday the fire had burned out. The last time that you read a booklet like this you may have decided: "From now on..." but here you are today, pretty much the same as always. You mean well, but nothing significant seems to happen; you have been trying, but not really making it. There has been some change, some growth, some blessing, but not the kind that you so earnestly would like to see.


The author then goes on to teach Biblical change, by breaking down several key passages on that subject. In this booklet he discusses how to change, and the Biblical perspective of things like habit. (which turns out to be a wonderful gift, if understood.)

My Thoughts: I absolutely loved this booklet.

I once used this as a teaching guide in a Bible class that I taught. I ended up spending over a month just going through these few pages. It seemed that the students that I was teaching at the time, already knew areas of their life that needed to change, but were having difficulty bringing that change into their day-to-day life. It is so short, sweet and to the point, that it could be used in many different circles.

If you are interested in change, this is an excellent book to start off with.

Christian LIving in the Home - Book Review

Christian Living in the Home
by Jay E. Adams


I finally finished the book, Christian Living in the Home, by Jay E. Adams. So here is my review...

Summary: This book covers a full scope of topics relating to the Christian Home. Some of the topics covered are the Christ-centered home, hope, leadership, marriage, parenting, divorce, problem solving, etc.

Here is a quote from the book that I think summarizes its purpose:

"A truly Christian home is a place where sinners live; but it is also a place where the members of that home admit the fact and understand the problem, know what to do about it, and as a result, grow by grace."


1) Christians admit their sins.
2) Christians know what to do about their sins.
3) Christians progress out of their sins.
----True Christians are set apart by these three things. And it is these three things that should set apart the Truly Christian home.

My Thoughts: I would say that this book is a must read. There are some very foundational teachings included in this book. Any new Christian could pick it up and find great hope and encouragement from it. In fact, one of the very first chapters in the book is entitled, There is Hope.

I really enjoyed the first few chapters of this book. They were vey encouraging and easy to read. The second half of the book tended to slow its pace somewhat. But I think that I was mostly affected by prior teaching. In my first track of Biblical Counseling training, many of these same topics were covered.

If you are a Christian, and you live in a home, this book will be a useful tool to living in that home.

February 26, 2005

skinned

Still, I know that God lives
the One who gives me back my life
and eventually he'll take his stand on earth.
And I'll see him--
--even though I get skinned alive!
see God myself, with my very own eyes.
Oh, how I long for that day!

Job 19:25-27

February 25, 2005

Mazaltov!

In a Jewish Wedding Ceremony, right after the KETUBAH (or the signing of the marriage contract), there is the reading of the seven blessings.

Here are those seven blessings that I would like to pronounce at this time.


1. Baruch Ata HaShem Elokainu Melech HaOlam, SheHakol Barah Lichvodo
You are blessed, Lord our G-d, the sovereign of the world, who created everything for his glory.

2. Baruch Ata HaShem Elokainu Melech HaOlam, Yotzer Ha'Adam
You are blessed, Lord our G-d, the sovereign of the world, the creator of man.

3. Baruch Ata HaShem Elokainu Melech HaOlam, Asher Yatzar Et Ha'Adam Betzalmo, b'Tzelem Dmut Tavnito, VeHitkon Lo Mimenu Binyan Adei Ad. Baruch Ata HaShem Yotzer Ha'Adam
You are blessed, Lord our G-d, the sovereign of the world, who created man in His image, in the pattern of His own likeness, and provided for the perpetuation of his kind. You are blessed, Lord, the creator of man.

4. Sos Tasis VeTagel HaAkarah, BeKibbutz Bane'ha Letocha BeSimchaa. Baruch Ata HaShem, Mesame'ach Tzion BeVaneha
Let the barren city be jubilantly happy and joyful at her joyous reunion with her children. You are blessed, Lord, who makes Zion rejoice with her children.

5. Sameach TeSamach Re'im Ahuvim, KeSamechacha Yetzircha BeGan Eden MiKedem. Baruch Ata HaShem, MeSame'ach Chatan VeKalah
Let the loving couple be very happy, just as You made Your creation happy in the garden of Eden, so long ago. You are blessed, Lord, who makes the bridegroom and the bride happy.

6. Baruch Ata HaShem Elokainu Melech HaOlam, Asher Barah Sasson VeSimcha, Chatan VeKalah, Gila Rina, Ditza VeChedva, Ahava VeAchava, VeShalom VeRe'ut. MeHera HaShem Elokeinu Yishama BeArei Yehudah U'Vchutzot Yerushalayim, Kol Sasson V'eKol Simcha, Kol Chatan V'eKol Kalah, Kol Mitzhalot Chatanim MeChupatam, U'Nearim Mimishte Neginatam. Baruch Ata HaShem MeSame'ach Chatan Im Hakalah.
You are blessed, Lord our G-d, the sovereign of the world, who created joy and celebration, bridegroom and bride, rejoicing, jubilation, pleasure and delight, love and brotherhood, peace and friendship. May there soon be heard, Lord our G-d, in the cities of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of celebration, the voice of a bridegroom and the voice of a bride, the happy shouting of bridegrooms from their weddings and of young men from their feasts of song. You are blessed, Lord, who makes the bridegroom and the bride rejoice together.

7. Baruch Ata HaShem Elokainu Melech HaOlam, Boreh Pri HaGafen.
You are blessed, Lord our G-d, the sovereign of the world, creator of the fruit of the vine.

February 23, 2005

food makes me happy

"My name is Matt Harmless, and I am an emotional eater."

*no response*

Then I smile to myself because I know where the rest of my support group is. They are out in the hall stealing the coffee and doughnuts from the other support groups table.

At least they are happy.

Alright, I am just kidding. I don't actually go to an emotional eater support group. (I don't know if that would work anyway. What would you do to celebrate graduating from the class?) But even though I don't actually get together with other emotional eaters, I have to admit that this is exactly what I am.

It is embarrassing to admit, but food just makes me happy.

My wife was the first one to notice it. Of course I argued with her about it for awhile, but then I started to notice the trend myself.

Hard day at work -- Want Food.
Argument with wife -- Want Food.
Kids acting bad -- Want Food.
Car breaks down -- Want Food.
Nothing happens at all -- Want Food.

And it works too! Anything from frozen pizza to a fancy dinner at Carabba's. It all makes me feel a little bit happier.

The problem comes when we go to our favorite Mexican restaurant and I fill up on the chips (which are making me happy, just thinking about them), and the food comes out and I successfully scarf that entire meal. If you don't know this already, Mexican food expands in the stomach.

The saddest part is that I do the same thing everytime.



What is your favorite "make you happy" kind of food?

February 22, 2005

maybe today

I remember a hymn from my childhood that went something like this:

"Maybe today,
My Lord will come for me.
Maybe today,
My savior I shall see."


I don't remember the rest, of that hymn. But when I see things like this in the Israeli News, then I start to think, "Maybe today..."

The Sanhedrin meets for the first time in 1,600 years.

The newly re-formed Sanhedrin discusses the rebuilding of the Temple.

You know, we talk about this stuff all of the time. We mention how we are in the last of the last days. But when you find something like this, it really snaps you back to reality.

And reality is what I am talking about. The end times are going to happen. In fact, there is more of an assurance that the end times are going to happen than there is an assurance that you are going to make it home tonight after work. In Matthew 24:40, Jesus says, "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left."

That day could be today.

Two teachers were teaching their classes, one was taken, the other was left.
Two students were sitting in their desks, one was taken, the other was left.
Two doctors were performing operations, one was taken, the other was left.
Two mothers were preparing supper, one was taken, the other was left.
Two ...
Two ...
Two ...

... one was taken, the other was left. [Which one will you be?]




I discovered this information through In that number, who wrote this post. There are several more links that have been compiled there, that are worth checking out.

February 19, 2005

Ben Harmless?

Alright! Whoever said that 6th graders need to start learning how to use computers is crazy. Do we really want to give them all that knowledge? Will they use their computer powers for good... or for evil?!?

I just found the website of one of my 6th graders, and this is the picture that I found...


Actually, I have come to enjoy my new genetic enhancements... (Thanks alot Jared!)

February 17, 2005

The Bug

My very first car was a 1974 VW Beetle. I loved it. I can still remember the first time that I took it out on the road by myself. I became a permanent Bug fan.

Its color could only be described as fluorescent green. It nearly glowed at night, but it was very easy to spot in a full parking lot.

I have numerous stories that I could tell about that Bug. Stories to do with the softball-sized hole in the floor, the snow that would blow in through the vent, and the battery under the back seat that burned a hole in a friends shorts.

Once I tried to take it up to it's top speed. Believe it or not, I made it up to almost 100 mph. (Kids don't speed... it is very stupid and irresponsible.) But by the time I sold it, at the end of its life, it would barely go 25 mph.

Ever since I sold it, I have had the hope that I would one day be able to own another bug.

About 7 years that opportunity arose. I purchased a 1969 VW Beetle, that was in fairly decent shape, but still needed some work. I kept hoping that the money would come along that would allow me to fix it up, but that money never came.

Once I became a Christian School Teacher, I started to give up on the Bug dream. If you hadn't noticed, we Christian School Teachers aren't rolling in the dough...

Well the hope had all died out and turned into guilt that this bug was still sitting in my parents garage, taking up valuable space (sorry dad) and offering a habitat to mice (sorry mom).

But this last Christmas that hope sprang to life again. My dad took it to a bug mechanic and told him to make it drivable. I know that it was probably because he was sick of looking at it in his garage, but nevertheless, I am very excited.

It is running very good, but it still needs some body work. It needs a new hood and a new fender. AND a new paint job. I'm thinking something green... What do you think?

If I can find a picture of my original Bug, I will scan it and post it so you can see its amazing color.

Does a "bug fund" sound good too? I wonder if I could set up online donations...

Being Right (part 2)

I have titled this "series" of posts Being Right, because I know that there are many people out there that are concerned with... well, being right. Most people know that they want to be right with God. And even if they are not right with God right now, they know that they eventually want to be.

In the first post, I introduced this discussion by talking about the high correlation between Loving God and Loving Others. You can read that first post here: Being Right (part 1). When I wrote that first post, my intent was to establish some foundational thoughts about being right.

The brief version of God's plan for you is to Love God and to Love Others. Or one might say: to Love God by Loving Others. If you have not read that first post, I would like to encourage you to, this post will make more sense if you read the other one first.

Now that you have read that previous post (I hope), I will dig in a little bit deeper by taking a look at the flip-side of the coin. If Loving God is so closely tied to Loving Others, then to not be Loving to Others, would be to not be Loving to God. In logic, this is called a contrapositive and is a truthfully equivalent statement.

In the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which I mentioned in the previous post, Jesus states the same thing. He says to the goats, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Jesus has equated their neglect of others as a neglect of Himself. (read the whole passage here.)

In the Sermon on the Mount, we can find another reference to this idea. Another passage that talks about this same topic is Matthew 5:23-24.

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."


Did you catch that? It is almost as if God is saying, "Don't come to my altar... Don't bring me your gifts... Go to that brother of yours and get things right FIRST! Then you can come to me."

You cannot be right with God until you are right with others. The problems need to be fixed. Restorations need to be made. And time doesn't solve this problem either. Though that might seem like a nice fix to the wrongs that we have done to others, it just doesn't work that way in the real world. Douglas Wilson puts it this way,

"Sin disrupts relationships. Sin never 'blows over.' If the mere passage of time could deal with the problem of sin, the Son of God died for no reason."


Fellowship is a beautiful thing. When it is disrupted it gets ugly. We cannot separate those ties with God away from those ties with others.

Do you want to Be Right with God?

... then start by getting right with those people around you.

February 16, 2005

Change - not by osmosis




Change is hard. And more importantly, change is hard work.

If you are reading this, and are thinking in any way that change isn't for you, then don't read any further. If you are reading this and you want to change, then click to read the full post.

I am glad that you decided to read a little more...

There are many people that want to change. They know that they need to change, and that is what they want to do, but they just don't know how to do it. Maybe they have even tried to change before and have failed. Maybe they have even failed many times. And maybe, they have given up.

But don't give up. God's desire for you is to change.

I would like to spend some time talking about the shortcomings that most people face when they truly attempt to change, and discuss what the Bible tells us about how to change. And believe it or not, the Bible does have something to say about life change. II Peter 1:3 says,

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

There is so much in this passage that it is hard to know where to begin. The next post that I do on change will begin with a breakdown of these two verses.

But for today, know that the Bible has what you need to know. It is the user's manual for human existence. But it isn't a "magic book" that you just rub on your head and *poof* you become a changed human being. And it isn't a "radioactive meteorite" either.

This is why Jesus, in talking about becoming a disciple, states, "take up your cross daily, and follow me." Taking up a cross doesn't sound easy, and taking it up daily sounds even more difficult. Change, true lasting change, only comes by hard work and discipline. But don't let this deter you. As Paul states in Phil. 1:6, "... it is God who works in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure."

If you are interested in change, then please come back so that I can share with you what little I have learned. Maybe, by the grace of God, it will be of some help to you.

February 14, 2005

Love from your Valentine

have had the same valentine for nearly 15 years. We have been through the thick and the thin, the good and the bad, the difficult and the easy, the ugly and the pretty. And through all of these times, the highs and the lows, she has remained my valentine.

t is said that St. Valentine defied Claudius, the emperor of Rome. Caludius was forbidding any new marriages to add to the size of the Roman army (married men could not be enlisted). Valentine did not agree with this law forbidding these new marriages and decided to perform marriage ceremonies in secret. When he was found out, he was immediately imprisoned. During his imprisonment, he was befriended by the jailor's daughter, and the two of them began to develop a deep love for each other.

nfortunately Valentine was eventualy martyred for his faith. He was martyred February 14, 270 ad. And on the day that he was martyred he sent a note to the jailor's daughter that said, "Love, from your Valentine." Hence the supposed beginning of the tradition.

is the message. It is just one word, but it is a powerful word. And attached to that message is the idea of ownership. He doesn't just say, "from Valentine" he says, "from your Valentine." I belong to you, and you alone. I am yours.

I don't know how true the legend of St. Valentine is... But I know for me, the message stays the same.

Love from your Matt.

February 13, 2005

three men and a cakey

Today is my youngest's 3rd birthday. But it seems like I have always known him. Both of my boys are such an integral part of my life.

I have been at a Bible Conference for an entire week, and after being gone from my family for such a long time, it was good for my heart to be back with my boys again.

My wife's blog has a quote from sophocles that says, "Sons are the anchors of a mother's life." I would say that for a father, sons are the sails. They keep me moving forward. Their lives remind me how to keep my imagination alive, how to play and how to smile at anything. They teach me again how to enjoy the smallest things, like a little toy train on a birthday cake. They dream of life and that presses me on to enjoy the life.

Most people know that the Bible speaks of children being a blessing. And it is true. My life is blessed because of them. In the Hebrew language, the word for blessing means happiness. And that is what they are to me.

They are a happiness to my soul. Their sails are full, pulling me on to new horizons.

leave your message after the tone

Need to contact me?

Want to ask me a question?

Just feel like saying "HI!"

Well, now you can. I have signed up with a service called eVoice. They give you a voice mail number, that people can call, and the messages show up as e-mail attachments. And it works, I tried it.

Pretty Cool.

My eVoice, voice mail number is 1-320-210-1943, and if you would like to drop me a line, feel free. Maybe I will start up my harmless advice, advice column again...

If you would like to get your own voicemail number, just check out eVoice.com and they will hook you up. It is totally free, so check it out.

The same company does something called eFax too, but I haven't tried it yet.

February 11, 2005

God or god?

Psalm 19 is one of my all time favorite Psalms. I currently have this Psalm posted on the back wall of my classroom. I have also posted this Psalm on this blog two other times. You can find those posts here and here.

There are so many applications that can be drawn from this passage. It is filled with great insight, from the creation of the world to the living of day to day life. But I have recently learned something new about this verse, and I thought that I would share it with you.

If you read through this passage, you may notice, upon closer inspection, that "God" is only mentioned once in the first six verses. Those first verses are all about how creation shouts... screams that there is a creator. After those first six verses you will find that His name is mentioned several more times. This is a fairly interesting fact, that might pose a few questions as to why it is like this, but it gets even more interesting once you look at the actual word usage.

That one mention of the word "God" in those first six verses is actually the Hebrew word "el" which simply refers to deity. In fact, in mideastern culture, during this time period, the name of "el" was also used to refer to another "father god" that was over all of the mideastern deities. So creation shouts of the existence of the divine.

"There is a creator! There is a god! Can't you see him? His works are everywhere!"

But it isn't until the 7th verse that you get to see who this god is: It is THE God! His name is YAHWEH! The Lord of Heaven and Earth. The God who is found in the Bible, the word of the one true God. This is the God whom created the heavens and earth. We do not have to wonder about the nature of this creator, because He reveals himself in His word. And in His word we learn that his work is not finished. This Creator God is not done with us yet. He uses His word, with its laws, precepts, testimonies and statutes, to convert you, to change you, to rejoice your heart, and to make you wise.

Is this the God whom you serve? Or are you a little confused about who you are serving?

There are alot of people who believe in a god. Oh yeah, they might say that they believe in the God of the Bible, but do they really? How can you tell?

Acknowledging that there is the divine isn't enough. If you read this psalm, it is evident that this one true God is out to change you. The reality of this God and His gospel will be (not could be or may be) evident in your life. It is an inescapable truth. The Bible says that that "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." And in this passage we can see the results of this Word.

Notice that it does not say that it might convert you, or that it has the power of making wise the simple. There are no options here. It will rejoice the heart! It will convert the soul! It will make wise the simple! It will enlighten the eyes! This creator God has given us the words of life! This is the one true gospel! It is not just a gospel for life after death, it is a gospel for life before death.

In the book of James, God tells us, "If a man believes in god, he does well, but the demons also believe and tremble." There are many that would say with the mouth that they are believers. They may talk of some time in their past that they "accepted Jesus as their Saviour." And they may have done these things, but the Bible never speaks of us accepting Jesus. It does have alot to say of Him accepting us. And when we are accepted in Him, real salvation takes place.

Ask yourself, "do you believe in god or do you believe in God?"

February 9, 2005

The Dad's Group

I would like to take a moment to refer all of you to a new blog called The Dad's Group.

It is a group blog that is composed of Dads! I don't know how it is going to go, but I am a member of this blog, so check it out!

February 4, 2005

two new things

There have been two new things that I have decided to try on the web. I have enjoyed both of them so much that I decided to share both of them with you.

The first one is Gmail. I absolutely love Gmail. I hate to break it to you MSN... But Gmail is much better than Hotmail. (At least that is my opinion.)

Gmail has several features that I really love. The first one is the mail search. Very handy. The next one is the "conversation" feature. When you pull up a message, it pulls up all of the messages that were related to that one. It is hard to explain, but once I got used to it, I don't think that I ever want to go back.

You are also given an 1gig limit. That is huge! The idea is that you don't need to dicard old mail, you just archive it.

My favorite thing is the Gmail notifier. I know that most people don't have to worry about this, but after using hotmail, without a notifier, I have had to continually check to see if I have any new mail. Well, thanks to the people at google, I don't have to worry about that any more.

My new e-mail address is mattharmless@gmail.com and if you want to send me a "hello" that would be great! I also have several gmail invites that I could give out. I am not sure how this affects me, but if you would like to try gmail, just drop me a note, or comment on this post.

A special thanks to Jeff for the first invite.

I have also started using a service called Bloglines. I have been using it for about a week. It collects all of your blogs into one place. I don't know if I can explain it well enough, but the best feature that Bloglines offers is their blog notifier.

The blog notifier stays connected to bloglines as long as you are online. And everytime one of your blogs that you read publishes a new post, it will notify you.

It also saves you time. You don't have to go to every single blog one at a time. You can just go to Bloglines first thing in the morning, and see all of the blogs that have published since you were last on.

Anyway, I thought that I would share these two items with you. Check them out and tell me what you think.