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March 31, 2009

Daily roundup

Creation Cries Out: March BreakPoint WorldView Magazine

Creation Cries Out I love the words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. He writes of "God’s Grandeur," saying, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,/It will flame out like shining from shook foil …”.  Sometimes that charge is electric, as in the roar of a waterfall or the magnificence of a canyon in the fading light of the sun. Other times God’s grandeur is experienced in a way more like the whisper in Elijah’s ear.

In this month’s BreakPoint WorldView magazine, T.M. Moore examines how the Celtic Christians experienced God’s grandeur in nature. Crag and forest, fawn and fern, all spoke of wonders and ways to praise the Creator. How can Irish spirituality inform our own? The answer, T.M. writes, is that Celtic Christians show us “the creation is a vast book of revelation – the very speech of the Father (Ps. 19:1-1) ….”

But the Christian can find reflections of God and his moral order in more than just the fields and the flowers, but also in the works of men and women who bear his image. Gina Dalfonzo shows us, for example, religious elements in a very unexpected place—in the films of Alfred Hitchcock. From the shadow of the cross in the film Notorious to the curve toward justice in films like Rope, Gina explores what we can learn about how Hitchcock’s Catholic upbringing informed the worldview of his art.

Reverend Robert Lynn moves our thoughts to examine our own role in creation and preservation. He begins with the premise that Christians today are known more by what we oppose than by what we support. He urges us to consider what God calls us to be for in the world and how we can be a part of more than simply critiquing culture or copying culture. In the words of Andy Crouch, Rev. Lynn calls us to be a part of creating culture.

If you haven't signed up to receive BreakPoint WorldView magazine, I hope you will today. And as you explore the articles in this month's edition, I hope that it will open your eyes to how creation and created work speak of God, and how we too can participate in the task of creating culture.

’As We Forgive’ makes the rounds

Catherine_web_t599 Catherine's book, As We Forgive, has been getting some great press. A sample:

Chuck and Mark have also covered the book, and Mary DeMuth continues her Q&A series with Catherine here. And Catherine will be doing an interview for Key Life Radio and be featured in By Faith in the near future.
(Image © Catherine Larson)

Wilson vs. Loury

Recently we ran Glenn Loury's "A Nation of Jailers" in the Daily Roundup. James Q. Wilson of the American Enterprise Institute has now written a rebuttal. An excerpt:

Glenn Loury rightly directs our attention to the troubling fact that we have put into prison a large fraction of our citizens, especially African American men. No one can be happy with this state of affairs. It is difficult to create and sustain a decent society when many of its members are former convicts.

Worrisome as this may be, Loury says little about why this happened other than to say we are a nation of "racist jailers" who operate a "greed-driven economy" and have created a "so-called underclass" that reflects the "moral deviance" of all of us. He looks askance at those who speak about the "purported net benefits to 'society' of greater incarceration."

I am one of those, and I do not feel inclined to apologize. Loury does not refer to the scholarly work of those social scientists who have worked hard to understand why we imprison so many people and with what results. Let me summarize what Daniel Nagin, David Farrington, Patrick Langan, Steven Levitt, and William Spelman have shown. Other things being equal, a higher risk of punishment reduces crime rates.

Read more. Which writer do you think has a better grasp of the problem and the solutions?

Fostering Conversations that Matter

Socrates While I resist any kind of assumption that elites are more important to reach than those in the gutters, I still herald the efforts of Eric Metaxas and the others involved in bringing Socrates in the City to New York. Not familiar with Socrates in the City? Click here, or read Marvin Olasky's great article in World Magazine, available here.

Here's a brief description from the website:

The Greek philosopher Socrates famously said that "the unexamined life is not worth living." Taking this as a starting point, Eric Metaxas thought it would be valuable to create a forum that might encourage busy and successful professionals in thinking about the bigger questions in life. Thus Socrates In The City:  Conversations on the Examined Life was born.

Every month or so Socrates In The City sponsors an event in which people can begin a dialogue on "Life, God, and other small topics" by hearing a notable thinker and writer such as Os Guinness or Peter Kreeft.  Topics have included "Making Sense Out of Suffering," "The Concept of Evil after 9-11," and "Can a Scientist Pray?"  No question is too big -- in fact, the bigger the better.  These events are meant to be both thought-provoking and entertaining, because nowhere is it written that finding answers to life's biggest questions shouldn't be exciting and even, perhaps, fun.

I really think that this is a model more metropolitan areas could be imitating. While the nationally recognized speakers certainly help, these kind of events can still be planned on a smaller scale. I think these are the necessary ingredients:

Continue reading "Fostering Conversations that Matter" »

Former death row inmates guarding prisons

Guard dog OK, it's not quite what you might think. The Associated Press is reporting on a prison in Boise, Idaho, that has managed to cut escapes down to zero by employing some tough dudes to patrol their perimeter--dogs that were destined for a lethal injection because of their inability to get along with humans. With the dogs on duty, the prison's perimeter guards are quickly alerted when something is happening out of their line of sight, and power outages no longer pose a problem for security.

This seems to me like a great example of stewardship. Not only is the prison actually saving money and doing its job better, but these animals get a second chance at life. Undoubtedly some of these dogs wound up the way they are because humans abused or neglected them. Not every mean dog can meet the Dog Whisperer and turn into a lovable pet. For those who can't and who don't have any other options left, being given an important job that suits their temperament seems like a little bit of redemption--for the dogs and for us, the human society that failed them in our role as stewards.

(Image © Paul Hosefros for the AP)

The Point Radio: Making the Most of Unemployment

It's the worst of times. Maybe it's the best of times too....

Click play above to listen.

Sue Nowicki, “Pastors Strive to Help Congregations, Community,” Modesto Bee, 29 March 2009.

March 30, 2009

Daily roundup

Walter Hoye update

Pastor hoye The pastor in jail for peacefully protesting abortion is serving God as he serves his 30-day sentence. Last week, Walter Hoye's wife, Lori, reported, "Walter had already been in Bible study with some of the men in his unit. On Sunday just prior to my visit Walter had led one man to Christ. God is truly blessing Walter's presence in Santa Rita, and many men are seeking his counsel about their lives and situations."

Jill Stanek has contact information for Rev. Hoye at her blog, for those who would like to send him a letter of encouragement.

Compromising national security on a whim

It was by an act of good will that I supported, in a previous posting, Secretary Clinton's statement about the U.S.'s hand in the drug trade. I don't mean to let anyone down, but she only briefly held on to truth before she got lost in national security guesswork. 

Clinton made a statement that was completely unsubstantiated and, I believe, false. With regard to the trafficking of guns and other weapons to the major Mexican drug cartels, she said, "Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police, of soldiers and civilians." 

It could be true that some guns are finding their way from the U.S. down into Mexico. The quantity would be so insignificant it's not worth investing much money or time into. I also don't doubt that Mexican drug cartels are using American-made guns, at least to some degree. Given that Russia, the United States, and China are the largest gun dealers in the world, there are American-made guns all over the world. That doesn't mean they were trafficked there. For years the Mexican government has obtained guns from the U.S., and given the corruption in the Mexican government it's a logical step to say that most of these American-made guns are being acquired from within Mexico.

Another way Mexican drug cartels are likely getting so many weapons is the stockpiles that exist in many Central and South American countries. The Soviets saw Central and South America as a rich breeding ground for communism and funneled arms through Cuba to sustain the movement. I wonder what happened to those weapons? 

Continue reading "Compromising national security on a whim" »

Immunized against Idiocy

Check out this delightful refutation from the Clapham Institute of a new, and ridiculous, claim being made in a recent IBM ad -- that "math is the only language all human beings share."

Twitter and TMI

The Agony and the Ecstasy Continuing the Twitter conversation -- this is priceless:

Imagine the informational misery previous generations were spared because Twitter wasn't around yet.

Michelangelo: "Sistine Chapel ceiling larger than it looks; back is killing me."

Christopher Columbus: "No sign of land yet."

Robert Peary: "Man, it's cold up here."

(Image  © 20th Century Fox)

Last Aboke Girl Returns Home

Mbelz23 The last of the 30 Aboke girls abducted by Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony's thugs 13 years ago, stepped into freedom last month. World's Mindy Belz connects Catherine Ajok's new found liberation to Easter:

Where is this victory o'er the grave when 13-year-old girls are defiled in the death camps of the world today? Let us skip to the happy ending, the winner's circle, the finished work, the empty tomb. There we are tempted to forget the chaos, injustice, abuse, sorrow, and stench of death weighing on the women headed to Christ's grave, weighing on us still. Like the Aboke girls' our hope is that Christ was born, walked our world, died as a sacrifice, and is alive. To practice that hope we make common cause less with the world's winners and more with its losers, practicing what aid pioneer and physician Paul Farmer calls "the long defeat."

(Image © Ronald Odongo for World)

At least he didn’t show up to speak for himself

SATAN_FACEOFF "Does Satan Exist?: The Nightline Face-Off"

(The Seattle Times has more. Image © ABC.)

The Point Radio: Forget Me Not

A drug that could erase painful memories?...

Click play above to listen.

Drug May Help Erase Scary Memories,” Modern Medicine, 8 February 2009.

March 27, 2009

Daily roundup

Twitter Friday

As you know, we have our own Twitter account here. I'll try to do a Twitter Friday every week. The blog post will feature selected  tweets from BreakPoint followers on various subjects. 

I'm starting with tweets or conversations about  BreakPoint or Chuck Colson. Since BreakPoint joined Twitter three weeks ago, we have gained 154 friends. I appreciate all the new followers and those who daily "retweet" BreakPoint to their friends. Click here to join the twibe!

@WFILfaithtalk: Hear Chuck Colson on "Breakpoint" every weekday at 6:26am on WFIL 560 AM. Listen online: http://www.wfil.com/
@IAMeteorologist: Just began re-reading "The Faith." Every Colson book so far has been a great read!
@isgd: Is Good @BreakPointPFM Good morning BreakPointPFM!: @BreakPointPFM Good morning BreakPointPFM! http://tinyurl.com/cjhxff 
@raymuth: OK, I just about finished Chuck Colson's book, "The Faith" and it is outstanding. I so much appreciate how respectful he is of Catholics.
@chirping_too: Retweet @CTMagazine Chuck Colson "Doctrine Bears Repeating" http://tinyurl.com/cab6pm
@americanmama: Currently reading Chuck colson's God and Governmt .must read for Xtians.
@timetherington: Chuck Colson brings it! (with a link to a daily commentary) 
@stych: Good stuff from Chuck Colson: "Mindful Eating, Mindless Sex: Our Inner Sense of Right and Wrong. " http://bit.ly/1HVsMY
@wjcollier3: wrote about "The Faith" by Chuck Colson at http://wjcollier3.blogspot.com. Have you read it? What did you think?
@lorraineokeefe: On the lookout for common grace this week. As Chuck Colson says, "Look for good. Point to God. Repeat."
@Guy_Peters: Chuck Colson on using the Corrections system to actually correct behavior, via @BreakPointPFM:
@sobman: Life group is tonight. Week 2 of The Faith with Chuck Colson.

Breaking: George Tiller acquitted

Abortionist George Tiller has been found not guilty on nineteen counts of performing illegal late-term abortions. LifeNews has details.

Open book thread: In memoriam

Open book 2 Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of my Grandpa Albert's death. I'm dedicating this week's open book thread to him. 

Not because he was a great reader -- in general he was content with the newspaper and the TV news -- but because the title character of my favorite short story, "Neighbor Rosicky" by Willa Cather, reminds me so very much of him. There are some significant differences in ethnicity, appearance, family situation, and so forth. But in the essentials -- such as his care for his family; his love of his farm and of nature; his work ethic; his kindness; his desire to be a peacemaker; and even his health problem -- Rosicky brings my grandfather back to me strongly. So strongly that the first time I read the story, the climactic moment made me burst into tears.

That doesn't mean it's one of those stories that set my teeth on edge. Far from it. Even with the sadness that's woven into it, the denouement is a beautiful, satisfying tribute to a life well lived.

You can read the story here. And if you'd like to tell us about a story or book that's touched you deeply in some way, use the comment section below.

Eve of Destruction: Coronal Mass Ejection

Solarfilament One of the things that I want to see before I die is the Aurora Borealis (or its Antarctic equivalent, the Aurora Australis). But if the folks at NASA and the New Scientist are correct, seeing them may be the last thing I do, at least before my and everyone else's world falls apart.

Here's the scenario:

It is midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.

A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation's infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event - a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.

To understand how and why millions of us are going to die, first a primer: however peaceful and happy the Sun looks from 93 miles away, it is, as your science teachers told you, a giant ball of burning gas that ejects billions of tons of electrically charged particles every few hours, a.k.a. the solar wind.

The best-case scenario: every day about 1000 tons of these particles reach Earth, where most of them are deflected by our blessed magnetic field (magnetosphere) and "dragged through the atmosphere towards the poles." There, the particles collide with oxygen and nitrogen to produce the green and red lights of the aurora.

(Note, I said "most," not all. Some of the particles do get through. There's no end of speculation about their effects: everything from dropped cell phone calls to cancer to the genetic mutations that drive evolution has been linked by someone to these particles.)

Continue reading "Eve of Destruction: Coronal Mass Ejection" »

Little D day

LittleDorrit My review of Little Dorrit, which begins Sunday on PBS, is up at NRO. Some of you may also enjoy this Boston Globe piece, which compares the miniseries to Lost!

I'll be blogging about the show at Dickensblog every Sunday night while it runs, so come on over after each installment if you feel like engaging in a little discussion.

(Image © BBC/PBS)

Corroborating ’The Truth about Forgiveness’

Bernard Williams Since Sunday, folks have been telling me about the Washington Post Magazine's piece "The Truth About Forgiveness." I finally had the chance to read it today and was blown away. The story follows Bernard Williams and the murder of his son, nicknamed "Beethoven," by a neighbor, William Norman. 

The writer, Karen Houppart, does a fantastic job recreating not only the crime, but the subsequent meeting in prison between this bereaved father and the neighbor who killed his son. I won't give away the ending but there is definite movement toward forgiveness and reconciliation in this piece.

It struck me while I was reading it that this is the same story I've told in As We Forgive, only in a different context. The chronology is even the same. This murder happened in Baltimore in 1994. The murders I write about happened in Rwanda in 1994. And so the length of time that has gone by for the bereaved is also the same. The methods used to bring healing are very much the same: restorative encounters between offender and victim, marked by remorse and repentance on behalf of the guilty and risk and radical grace on behalf of the offended. The truths that get them there transcend context.

The writer mentions a movement in our society toward embracing forgiveness, not just for those from a religious background, but by scientific research also. Here's a snippet:

While spiritual leaders have long asked folks to accept the benefits of forgiveness on faith, the secular world has lately jumped on the bandwagon -- and proffered scientific evidence to support this view.

Continue reading "Corroborating ’The Truth about Forgiveness’" »

Secretary Clinton and a little refreshing truth

Clinton_Mexico "Give credit where credit is due," as the saying goes. Though I am reluctant to do so, I must say that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has gotten to the heart of the matter.

In a statement quoted in the Washington Post, Clinton said, "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade." This fact is rarely relayed by the media or in popular culture. It is important to catch drug kingpins, who are responsible for funneling copious amounts of drugs into the United States. However, we also need to recognize that drugs affect every segment of society. 

Prisons are a hotbed of drug use, but drug addiction and use are not limited to convicted criminals. Traditional American families are battling drugs in otherwise stable homes. Without these recreational users and addicts there wouldn't be a drug trade, and therefore we wouldn't have these border turf wars.

That's why it's shameful that society trivializes Michael Phelps's smoking marijuana at a party. This impulse to use an illegal substance is very kind of behavior that creates the demand these brutal cartels are supplying. 

I applaud Clinton for acknowledging that, whether or not inhaling is involved, illegal drug use contributes to the trafficking that is devastating our southern border. 

Continue reading "Secretary Clinton and a little refreshing truth" »

Overreact much?

Palin debate I had thought I was beyond being flabbergasted any more by the press in this country, and then along comes Chris Matthews. How in heaven's name do you take a cute little anecdote about Sarah Palin praying with her youngest daughter (see paragraph 4 at this link), and turn it into a debate over whether Palin thinks McCain is the Anti-Christ?

(Image © Chip Somodevilla for Getty Images North America)

The Point Radio: Face Time

Face time may be important for more than just networking....

Click play above to listen.

Online Networking Harms Health,” BBC Online, 19 February 2009.

March 26, 2009

Daily roundup

On your mark, get set . . .

Moviecamera Reader Laurie Bluedorn of Christian Filmmakers.org sends along this invitation for the budding Orson Welleses among us:

Christian Filmmakers 36-hour Contest

March 23, 2009: On Friday, April 10, 2009 Christian filmmakers around the world will begin producing a three-minute story on video. 36-hours later they will upload their video to YouTube. Entries will be judged on Story, Cinematography, Sound, Performance and Editing. The winner gets $500.

Nathaniel Bluedorn, administrator of Christian Filmmakers.org explains, "Our goals with this contest are to (1) have fun, (2) showcase the stories Christians are telling today and (3) connect filmmakers. Christian filmmakers.org is a growing network of faith-based filmmakers. We started in 2007 and we have more than 1100 members now. We're doing this contest to help build connections between Christian screenwriters and actors and directors - all types of film professionals - around the world."

The competition will begin at noon on April 10 with the publication of a list of seven "security elements," three of which must be included in every film submission. This will verify that the film was produced within the 36-hour time limit. More details on the competition, including a complete list of the official rules, can be found at http://www.christianfilmmakers.org/contest/news/contest/

Christian Filmmakers.org is the outgrowth of a Google Group which was originally conceived as a means for maintaining contact among alumni of the 2005 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival. Launched on August 22, 2007, Christian Filmmakers.org has rapidly grown to include 1100 members at the time of this writing. The site is focused on facilitating discussion and building relationships between Christian filmmakers without excluding anyone on the basis of gender, race, or denomination.

For more information, go to their website, or e-mail [email protected].

America’s New Religion: Secularism

On March 9, a survey was released showing the decrease in the numbers of Americans calling themselves Christian, and an increase in the number of people declaring that they have no religion to 15% of the America’s population.

Herbert London, author of the well written book America’s Secular Challenge, would not be surprised by this. He believes that secularism is America’s new religion. Unfortunately, this survey doesn’t look at secularism as a religion and may explain the large number of no-religion respondents.

But is secularism a religion? Dictionary.com gives one of "religion's" definitions as “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons.”

London gives 6 items as these specific fundamental set of beliefs:

1. Truth is subjective, relative, or contextual
2. Rationality can solve moral and ontological questions about man’s nature
3. Man’s eternal problems, including the plight of the poor, can be solved through a welfare state based on the redistribution of wealth
4. National loyalty and patriotism are dangerous anachronisms
5. The most important goal one can seek is self-transformation or self-actualization
6. Discrimination is the great bugbear of social intercourse or closing one’s eyes to the difference between right and wrong

The remaining pages of his book look at each of these in more detail.

Continue reading "America’s New Religion: Secularism" »

’With a Wit as Nimble as his Tongue’

As one of my colleagues here noted, "Would that someone would speak up in our own Congress like this!"

John Calvin, rock star

John-calvin Which theologian is setting the world on fire right now? According to TIME, it's the one celebrating his 500th birthday this year.

Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin's 16th century reply to medieval Catholicism's buy-your-way-out-of-purgatory excesses is Evangelicalism's latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination's logical consequence, predestination: the belief that before time's dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision.

Reggie Kidd analyzes this piece at Common Grounds Online (bringing in a quote from our own Catherine Larson). Meanwhile, Tim Challies reports on a recent "John Calvin Mini-Conference," going into greater depth about Calvinist theology.

(Image courtesy of Theology Forum)

The Point Radio: Poor Among Us

The face of America's suburbs is changing....

Click play above to listen.

David Villano, “The Slumming of Suburbia,” Miller-McCune, 14 February 2009.

The Chickens Come Home to Roost

Drugs For all those Americans who don't see their illegal drug use as harming anyone but themselves ...

March 25, 2009

Does He Think We’re That Stupid?

I caught part of Barack Obama's press conference last night--the part about how it's only fair to reduce the charitable gift tax deduction for well-heeled Americans. The reporter, bless his heart, followed up by asking if all those charities that are going ballistic over this proposal are wrong in thinking they'll be badly damaged by Obama's plans. Not at all, the messiah responded.

Maybe the people who run America's homeless shelters and AIDS clinics read a report by the Tax Policy Center, which found that Obama's proposal would reduce charitable giving by nine billion dollars a year.

Obama later told a reporter from Ebony magazine that his heart "breaks" over the thought of any American child being homeless. Well, if you feel that badly about it, Mr. President, it might be a good idea to listen to the people who RUN America's homeless shelters--shelters that survive only because "the rich" support them. Nine billion dollars will provide food and shelter for a lot of homeless kids.  But no--the government knows best how to spend that money....

What frustrates me most about listening to Obama speak is his assumption that we are too stupid to realize he's conning us (see above)--or flat out lying to us. Embryonic stem cell research will lead to cures for diabetes and Parkinsons? Please. This research has yet to yield a single cure, or even hope, for any disease. Obama knows this, of course. Anybody who pays attention to the debate knows this. But Obama lies about it anyway.

Picturing the Credit Crisis

Somebody made this for people like me.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Whatever Happened to Spiritual Discipline?

Praying-hands It's a perennial problem: some people think they can buy their way into heaven. Here's the latest scheme: paying for a computer program that promises to "give you the satisfaction of knowing that your prayers will always be said," even if you don't actually pray. 

For those who are tempted to purchase this spiritually deadly product, there are a number of books which can direct you on how to develop healthy spiritual discipline.

To get you started, here are two recommendations:

* The Art of Praying: The Principles and Methods of Christian Prayer by Romano Guardini

Guardini says that a person who is seriously seeking God cannot rely upon spontaneous prayer because "steadfastness would vanish." He continues, "[P]rayer is not merely an expression of the inner life which will prevail on its own, but is also a service to be performed in faith and obedience."  

Unless praying becomes a discipline, we can experience a range of negative emotions--everything from "boredom" to "hostility." Unless we develop intentional prayer, Guardini warns, all other activities besides prayer "appear...more attractive and more important."

As for forgetting to pray, as the website advertisement blithely puts it, Guardini also warns against "specious justifications." Say it like it is--you just don't feel like praying. After all, one wouldn't want to add lying to oneself or God to the list. 

Continue reading "Whatever Happened to Spiritual Discipline?" »

Eve of Destruction: Pushing Daisies

This is undoubtedly the most famous political ad that hardly anyone ever saw. "Daisy" only aired once during the 1964 presidential campaign.

While it had next-to-no effect on the outcome of that election, it did capture the fears of several generations of Americans in an age when MAD was more than a magazine. If there had been an "Eve of Destruction" shtick 45 years ago, the prospect of thermonuclear war would have rated a "9" on the "Destruction" scale and at least a "6" on the "Eve" scale.

Twenty-seven years, three months and two weeks after "Daisy" aired, the Soviet Union was dissolved. With that, our worst fears of a flame deluge receded. Receded, not disappeared. The irony is that the end of the Cold War made it more, not less, likely that someone might actually set off a nuke in anger. Without the threat of mutually assured destruction, the thought of a "limited" nuclear exchange -- one that kills hundreds of thousands, even millions of people -- became conceivable again. Hopefully not likely, but conceivable.

Continue reading "Eve of Destruction: Pushing Daisies" »

Serving Our Own

Last Sunday my church in Silver Spring, Maryland, announced a new ministry of support for people who have lost their jobs, seen their work hours reduced, or seen a reduction in demand for their services. 

"Our Lord exhorts us to be encourages to one another, to uplift each other in prayer, & to provide practical support to those in need," noted our church bulletin. "During this time of economic uncertainty and job insecurity, Atonement is commencing a ministry of support as a comfort and encouragement to those experiencing career challenges."

"If you own a company, provide a service, sell a product, tutor, consult, or have a skill that you would like to employ," the bulletin went on, "we are preparing a referral list for internal distribution." The list will then be made available to church members and regular attenders.

This is a wonderful way of serving our own people in need. I hope other churches will pick up on the idea.

’A True Call for Revival’

Dr. Henry Blackaby offers these words about what it means to experience true revival, specifically how it means a "call for repentance" among God's people that he claims few of our spiritual leaders are giving despite the obvious need. He proposes that "revival has always been, and remains to this day, God dealing with the sin of His own -- not the world." [Emphasis mine.]   

It strikes me that we Christians spend a lot of time talking and blogging about the "sins of the world" and a lot less time considering how our own sin is contributing to the mess our nation is currently in -- whether it's economic, moral, spiritual, or political. Have we become so much like the Laodiceans that we cannot see our need for the Lord to correct us? Blackaby offers this observation:

"This lack of recognition of God's people to see their present spiritual condition frightens me. The continued neglect of dealing with the sin of God's people is both obvious and appalling. Have we moved so far from God that we remain content in our sin? Do we not fear the judgment of God? Week after week, wherever I go, I hear no mention of our desperate need of God. There's no spontaneous concern or cry to God. It's simply not on the minds and hearts of God's people -- at least where I am and where I travel." 

He then outlines five steps which Christians need to take in order to bring revival to America (you can read the full article for his list, and for the Scriptures undergirding each step). In Dr. Blackaby's mind, "the immediate need for revival among God's people is 'life and death' for our nation." Do you agree? 

The Point Radio: Taking a Break - Priceless

Take a break....

Click play above to listen.

Mark Earley, “Get Unplugged,” BreakPoint Commentary, 6 March 2009.

March 24, 2009

Daily roundup


Hooked In the past few weeks, both Chuck and Wendy Shalit have reviewed Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children, by Dr. Joe McIlhaney and Dr. Freda McKissic Bush. I have an interview with Dr. Bush in the works, but in the meantime, both of these reviews are well worth a read. 

(Image © Northfield Publishing)

When all else fails...

Spiderman ...dress up like Spider-Man.

(Image © AFP)

Teaching Morality

Should parents convey moral standards when discussing sex with their children? A new pamphlet produced by England's Department for Children, Schools, and Families suggests that such lessons are inappropriate when they conflict with the state's interest in producing an open and accepting society.

“Discussing your values with your teenagers will help them to form their own," the brochure advises. "Remember, though, that trying to convince them of what’s right and wrong may discourage them from being open.”

The pamphlet, Talking to Your Teenager About Sex and Relationships, began distribution in pharmacies throughout England this month, and includes detailed information on various contraception alternatives.

Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute has responded to the document, calling it "outrageous."

“Preserving children’s innocence is a worthy goal," Calvert says.  "We would like to see more of that kind of language rather than this amoral approach where parents are encouraged to present their children with a smorgasbord of sexual activities and leave them to make up their own minds.”

Continue reading "Teaching Morality" »

The Roosevelts are back in the White House

Eleanor Speaking of gardens -- first Barack was FDR, now Michelle is Eleanor.

As a man sows

Garden With the economy forcing people to, well, economize, Americans are rolling up their sleeves and rediscovering vegetable gardens. According to the AP, we're supposed to call them "recession gardens," although the 1940s name of "victory gardens" sounds a whole lot cheerier. 

Those gardens, modeled after a White House patch planted by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1943, were intended to inspire self-sufficiency, and at their peak supplied 40 percent of the nation's fresh produce, said Roger Doiron, founding director of Kitchen Gardeners International.

Wow--can you imagine if 40 percent of our fresh produce came from our backyards? What would that look like? Maybe we could stop popping so many vitamin pills and get the healthy glow that comes from fresh vegetables and sunshine. Maybe the Global Food Crisis would disappear as American farmers were able to meet international need. Maybe people in our own communities wouldn't go hungry if we were each able to plant one extra row for a local food bank. Maybe we would one day hear Jesus say, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat." Sounds like victory to me.

(Image © AP)

Quote for the day

One of our longtime and highly esteemed Pointificators once asked to be reminded when it was time once again to check Dorothy L. Sayers's great play cycle The Man Born to Be King out of the library. He had the Christmas season in mind, but my own preferred time for a rereading of this classic is right before Easter. So everyone consider this quote (one of my favorites) your reminder!

"The Master's the only good man I ever met who knew how miserable it felt to be bad. It was as if he got right inside you, and felt all the horrible things you were doing to yourself. . . . But I don't suppose Judas ever let him in. He was too proud. I think it was harder for him than for people like Matthew and me and that poor robber on the cross. We know we're so awful anyhow that it's no good pretending we're not, even to ourselves."

Spoken by Mary Magdalen, Play 12, "The King Comes to His Own," in The Man Born to Be King

The Point Radio: Missionary Murder

What does a 1956 missionary murder have to do with you?...

Click play above to listen.

Embracing Enemies,” BreakPoint Commentary, 17 January 2006.

March 23, 2009

Daily roundup

’As We Forgive’ Q&A, parts 3 and 4

Mary DeMuth has two new installments of the interview with Catherine on her blog, here and here.

Eve of Destruction: Terminator Time

Sarah-connor "In the early 21st century, all of mankind united and marveled at our magnificence as we gave birth to AI [artificial intelligence], a singular construction that spawned an entire race of machines."

What Morpheus was describing to Neo sounds like what Ray Kurzweil calls The Singularity: "an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today — the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity."

At the heart of this "new civilization" will be just machines that make big decisions, programmed of course by fellows with compassion and vision. Only by leveraging their abilities, embracing both the biological and the synthetic, can we become eternally free and eternally young.

As you might expect, "The Singularity" has more than a few detractors.The most obvious concern is that machines that are "smart" enough and powerful enough to usher in Kurzweil's utopia might one day decide that they will no longer take directions from their flesh-and-blood creators, or that humans are superfluous consumers of resources.

This Matrix scenario concerned Kurzweil enough that he took the time to comment on the movies. Aside from stating the obvious -- the second and third movies weren't nearly as good as the first -- he was mostly content to offer a technological critique of the movie ("There are problems and inconsistencies with the conception of virtual reality in the Matrix") and throw around adjectives like "dystopian," "Luddite" and "totalitarian." 

Adjectives aren't assurances: Kurzweil never does tell us why we shouldn't fear our prospective machine overlords. Mind you, I don't. Not because I am put at ease by things like the Three Laws of Robotics (the kinds of machines Kurzweil envisions are probably smart enough to circumvent these kinds of limitations) but because I'm willing to bet that no machine will pass the Turing test in the foreseeable future.

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