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May 12, 2009

Hef’s last boundary

Shia_labeouf Years ago in a religious studies class, a professor of mine--no prude, he--told us a startling remark by Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner to keep us on our toes.  My professor referenced an early interview Hefner gave after he launched Playboy, in which the pajama-clad Casanova said airily, "Incest is the last boundary we need to cross."

So much for harmless soft porn, eh?

Well, as Hefner has been busy crowning the 50th Playboy Playmate, his famous publication is legitimizing at least conversation on such taboo subjects. Shia LeBeouf, a rising young actor, said in a recent interview that he found his mother so sexually attractive that if she wasn't his mother, he'd want to be with her that way.

While breaking through the last remaining cultural and ethical barricades makes some young Hollywood members feel liberated, there's a reason such barricades are up, of course. For one thing, they separate us from the animals. But, like Phil Donahue and others, Hef no doubt sees us as merely human animals, with no soul to protect and value in ourselves or others.

(Image © AP)

May 11, 2009

More Thoughts on Guns

Glock_30_45cal We wandered a bit off-topic in the thread about what we expect in the president's Supreme Court nominee: I mentioned that I figure his nominee will be someone who will oppose the private ownership of guns, which led Andy to wonder why Christians want to own guns in the first place, as if there were some biblical reason why we shouldn't. I thought that was a reasonable issue to address, and decided to continue the discussion here.

I can't speak for every gun-owning Christian; I can only speak for my family, especially my husband and myself. First, guns are part of two sports we both enjoy -- hunting and shooting. When it comes to hunting, we only kill animals we're going to eat, such as deer, wild pig, elk, antelope, rabbits, and quail. While we certainly don't need to hunt to eat, we see nothing wrong -- certainly nothing unbiblical -- in doing so. The fact that we both grew up in the country, and regularly ate what we and our fathers killed, makes this activity normal for us. (I can understand why it might seem strange to a city dweller who thinks that all meat comes in styrofoam packages.) 

We also like to go target shooting. I must admit that I'm only a fair shot on the range, but my husband is fantastic -- whether with a shotgun shooting skeet (he's poetry-in-motion) or with a pistol or high-powered rifle shooting targets. In fact, he once captained the Air Force's High Powered Rifle Team and competed at the national level. Both our children (now adults) like to go target shooting, something we started them doing at a young age. FYI, my husband and I never allowed our kids to have toy guns; we never wanted them to think of guns as something to play around with. For the same reason, I am adamantly opposed to videos games which teach children to shoot. Guns are not toys and should never be treated as such.

Second, we own guns for protection from "varmints" -- both animal and human. Jesus told His followers to sell their extra cloak and buy a sword because He knew that the world was a dangerous place and that they might need to defend themselves -- whether from dangerous animals or humans. I have never had to kill a lion, as David did, but I have certainly had occasion to shoot poisonous snakes when I was out camping, hiking, or hunting. And, should a criminal break into my home or threaten someone I love, I have no problem using a gun in our defense. Yes, it would be nice if the police could be around 24/7 to  handle the bad guys for us, but that's not ever going to happen. Some of the responsibility for protecting myself and those I care about remains in my hands.

Continue reading "More Thoughts on Guns" »

May 08, 2009

A. N. Wilson’s Return

Following up on Kim's post, Dr. Benjamin Wiker has a wonderful article on Wilson's recent re-conversion to Christianity. He quotes Wilson's description of the cultural conditions that first led him away from Christianity, conditions we recognize all around us: 

Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe..., I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti. 

To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.

This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.

It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.

I celebrate Wilson's return to Christ, but I wonder how many of us -- even those who have never turned away from our Savior -- are affected by that same negative culture. How much do I allow this subtle and not-so-subtle prejudice against Christianity to lead me to be less trusting in God, less bold in my witness, and less likely to see the need to think Christianly about all of life? To what degree am I more concerned with what the world thinks of Christians (and me) than I am of what Christ thinks of me? Food for thought...

From Atheism to Christianity

I've just seen the conversion story of die-hard atheist A. N. Wilson. What strikes me is that it was the everyday beauty of life which caught Wilson's heart. 

Let us all shout from the rooftop with our brother--Christ has risen!

Blogger roundup

Here's a collection of full-length articles recently published by your Point bloggers:

May 07, 2009

Teen sex: The roots of our confusion

Palin and Prejean At On Faith, the Washington Post/Newsweek religion blog, David Waters asks some pertinent questions about teen sex:

Unwed, single, teenage mom Bristol Palin was being lauded on talk shows Wednesday -- National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy -- for encouraging other teenagers to abstain from sex. Meanwhile, Carrie Prejean (Miss California) was defending her title -- and her advocacy of "traditional marriage" -- because of sensual and revealing photographs taken of her when she was a teenage model.

I'm confused. Are we in favor of teenage sexuality or not? Are we OK using teenagers to model lingerie until they become public figures? Are we not OK with unwed teenage moms until they admit their mistakes on national TV?

These questions have prompted me to ask a question of my own, one that I've been thinking about for some time:

To what extent are we Christians to blame for the problem by hesitating to come straight out and call premarital sex a sin, even as we keep pushing to try to reduce its rates? That is, have we as a group been guilty of softpedaling the subject, of treating it as a social ill instead of a matter of disobedience, guilt, and repentance, because we're afraid of marginalizing ourselves and thus becoming ineffective?


(Image courtesy of the Washington Post)

May 06, 2009

Mankind’s Creativity

Sand290905 In the midst of all the bad news about money, flu, and other doomsday prognostications, I thought you might appreciate a change of pace. Here's a Colson commentary -- nearly twenty years old, but now more relevant than ever -- about a few grains of sand. 

(Image © iStockphoto)

May 05, 2009

C.S. Lewis on God’s Love

Here are a few encouraging words from C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity to inspire you this week: "Though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him."

The Blog Tour Continues

This week I'm talking with Dan Cruver at Together for Adoption about As We Forgive. Here's a little from their website on what they are all about:

Together for Adoption (T4A) sponsors adoption conferences that focus primarily on vertical adoption (i.e., God adopting us in Christ), with a secondary focus on its implications for orphan care and horizontal adoption (i.e., couples adopting children). In fulfillment of our objectives, we desire to see conference attendees walk away from a T4A event:

  • understanding why it is that vertical adoption is the highest blessing of the gospel
  • rejoicing afresh in the gospel
  • moved to act on James 1:27 both locally and globally

I'm giving special emphasis in this interview to the stories in the book that center on the lives of Rwanda's orphans.

Also, yesterday, the book got a mention at Touchstone's Mere Comments. Thanks to Jordan Ballor of the Acton Institute for the shout out!

May 04, 2009

Daily roundup

May 01, 2009

Our Rude Savior

Jesus-money-changers4 Not long after finishing my post on Jonathan Edwards and the Presbyterians, in which I chided Christian leaders who mislead their flocks, I picked up my May issue of Touchstone magazine and read this piece by S. M. Hutchens (for the editors). While it's titled "The War on Error: The Business of Confronting Heresy," it might just as easily have been titled: "What to say to people who claim you're rude (and unChristian) to criticize their views."

What we ought to remember, Hutchens writes, is how desperately rude Jesus Himself was when he confronted heresy. Ditto the church fathers. "It is hard to go far in their writings without finding them bluntly identifying their opponents as heretics, perverts, madmen, liars, and tools of the devil," Hutchens writes. But these days, "polite Christian society will have none of that: It is the sort of thing one expects only of the unwashed fundamentalist. ...What sort of person, after all, would call apparently well-intentioned and perfectly respectable people, often very important, very religious people, snakes or hypocrites, or compare them to dirty tableware?"

Well, obviously, the kind of people who write for The Point!

Continue reading "Our Rude Savior" »

April 30, 2009

Daily roundup

Jonathan Edwards Is Spinning in His Grave over THIS Spin

Gay activists are attempting to put a positive spin on the defeat of their effort to get the Presbyterian Church USA (in which I was married many years ago) to rescind a church rule requiring members of clergy to agree to "fidelity in marriage  . . . or chastity in singleness." Presbyterians shot down the measure for the the third time in a dozen years, according to Beliefnet, although in lesser numbers than previously.

Tricia Dykers Koenig, a spokesperson for the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which supports allowing practicing homosexuals to serve as clergy (despite emphatic Biblical teachings to the contrary), says, "The big story here is that . . . our understanding of what it means to be created in the image of God is broadening." 

No, Ms. Koening--it's being corrupted. Our understanding of what it means to be created in God's image should reflect God's own teaching, which is spelled out in His own book--not in position papers published by activist groups. This book teaches that all humans are created in God's image. But it also teaches that we live in a fallen world, where people suffer from all sorts of maladies and evil desires--including, tragically, the desire for intrinsically disordered sexual experiences. Biblical writers variously describe same-sex behavior (not desire) as "detestable" (Lev. 18:22), "wicked" (1 Cor. 6:9-10) and "vile" (Romans 1:26). Scripture is equally clear on the qualities church leaders should demonstrate (1 Timothy 3:1-13): Their behavior should be "above reproach," which would seem to eliminate those who engage in behavior biblical writers describe as "vile."

We have more nonsense from Daniel Burke, the author of the Beliefnet piece, who writes: "Like most mainline Protestant churches, the 2.3-million member PCUSA has struggled for decades to balance biblical injunctions against homosexuality and society's evolving standards of gay rights."

Continue reading "Jonathan Edwards Is Spinning in His Grave over THIS Spin" »

Understanding Why We Suffer

We all experience periods of suffering in life. If you or someone you love is currently suffering and in need of encouragement, I suggest you check out two lessons by Dr. Ken Boa, available at his website. I know you will be strengthened by what Ken has to say about suffering from a biblical perspective. 

Sustaining revival

Jwesley John Wesley, one of the great revivalists and founder of the Methodist movement, on the danger of revival:

I fear, wherever riches have increased . . . the essence of religion, the mind that was in Christ, has decreased in the same proportion.  Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long.  For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality; and these cannot but produce riches.  But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.  How then is it possible that Methodism, that is, the religion of the heart, though it flourishes now as a green bay tree, should continue in this state?  For the Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently they increase in goods.  Hence, they proportionably increase in pride, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life.  So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away.  Is there no way to prevent this? this continual declension of pure religion?  We ought not to forbid people to be diligent and frugal; we must exhort all Christians, to gain all they can, and to save all they can:  this is, in effect, to grow rich!  What way then, I ask again, can we take that our money may not sink us to the nethermost hell?  There is one way, and there is no other under heaven.  If those who gain all they can, and save all they can, will likewise give all they can, then the more they gain, the more they will grow in grace, and the more treasure they will lay up in heaven.

(Image courtesy of Project Canterbury)

April 29, 2009

Biblical Smacktalk

Joakim Noah You know, you really can find everything in the Bible, including some good examples of smacktalk. I think I'm going to use this the next time I want to intimidate someone in a good game of Settlers of Catan. (Lori, this needs to be your quiet time as you work on your smacktalk skills; you know I'm talking to you. Don't bring me anymore of the Pride and Prejudice trash talk next time you come to my house; "no compliments to your mother" is not the same thing as saying "your momma's so old she still owes Moses a dollar.")

But seriously, or at least somewhat seriously, I was just thinking today that I need a little more swag. The thought popped up rather suprisingly as I was reading about one of the Gators I liked watching most, and how his college antics are playing out now that he's playing for the Bulls in the NBA. Apparently, while I love to love Joakim Noah, other people love to hate him. Noah doesn't let it bother him; he thrives on the jeers. In fact, Greenburg tells us that the seersucker-wearing, 6-foot-11 center with the hair that just won't quit is pretty comfortable in his skin. And that's where the swagger comes in. It's game-play.

It's sort of shocking really to find that boasting has a place in the Bible. I don't expect it there. But when I do a search I discover that while most kinds of boasting are bad, there are a few kinds that get a holy high five. Here's the low-down on the swag that's legit:

1) When behemoth Philistines insist on dissing your God, it's okay to holler back. Come prepared with a slingshot, though.

2)  When you know your Dad really can beat up their dad, but that He chooses to show justice, kindness, and righteousness instead.

3) When your homeskillet gets it right, it's okay to boast on the day of the Lord.

Now, I need to get back to my hoop shot. As one king said (at least in my translation), it's one thing to boast when you're putting on the jersey, it's another thing when you're taking it off.

(Image © Kathy Willens for the AP)

Europe Syndrome

What's happening? Call it the Europe syndrome. Last April I had occasion to speak in Zurich, where I made some of these same points. After the speech, a few of the twenty-something members of the audience approached and said plainly that the phrase "a life well-lived" did not have meaning for them. They were having a great time with their current sex partner and new BMW and the vacation home in Majorca, and saw no voids in their lives that needed filling.

~ Charles Murray, The 2009 Irving Kristol Lecture, March 12, 2009

Author and political scientist Charles Murray recently delivered the address at the American Enterprise Institute's annual dinner. His talk was entitled "The Happiness of the People" and is posted on AEI's website.

Murray's lecture is a great worldview read. What he calls the "Europe Syndrome" is a way of thinking ... in other words, a worldview. Though Murray admires Europe in some ways, he unpacks some of the core beliefs of the modern worldview that has shaped Western Europe -- a worldview that is spreading like the swine flu among many of America's elites and current leaders. Murray describes a core belief of this worldview in the following way.

Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

If that's the purpose of life, then work is not a vocation, but something that interferes with the higher good of leisure. If that's the purpose of life, why have a child, when children are so much trouble--and, after all, what good are they, really? If that's the purpose of life, why spend it worrying about neighbors? If that's the purpose of life, what could possibly be the attraction of a religion that says otherwise?

Government's job, therefore, is to minimize unpleasantness so that we can while away the intervening time between our activation and deactivation. European-style social democracies are quite successful toward this end. This line of thinking also explains current European trends such as below-replacement birthrates, increased leisure time, fewer hours spent working, and lots of beautiful but empty cathedrals and churches.

Continue reading "Europe Syndrome" »

April 28, 2009

Daily roundup

April 27, 2009

True thirst

In this week's Washington Post Magazine, columnist V. C. Chickering wrote about discovering her need for church at a tough time in her life:

I've been bad-mouthing organized religion since the late '70s, when my father had a spiritual epiphany on our living room couch and announced that he wasn't going to church anymore. My mom had always been a member of the Drinking-Coffee-Alone-in-My-House Church, so that was the end of that. But then, last March, in a perfect storm of personal calamity, my marriage imploded the same week that my best girlfriend and I broke up. The events weren't directly related, but it was colossally bad timing. I was in dire need of people who would be nice to me for less than $125 an hour. So off I went to church.

After trying out several different churches, she finally found what she was looking for:

I met with the good reverend later that week. She asked me about my current situation, gauging my level of safety (high), competence (adequate) and sanity (mezzo-mezzo). I told her that I didn't think of myself as churchy and detailed my reservations about organized religion. She listened, nodded and occasionally agreed. I told her I wouldn't be taking the Bible literally and would be thinking of Jesus as a very enlightened and wise man. She was okay with that, too.

Coincidentally(?), the pastor at my own church preached this weekend on the woman at the well to whom Jesus offered living water. As he pointed out, when Jesus made the offer, she thought He was simply offering to make her life easier, because she thought that was all she needed. Until He made it clear to her that He was offering much more than that, she didn't realize yet just how thirsty she really was.

I understand the need for comfort, for someone who will be "nice" to you when you need it. I really do. But my prayer for V. C. Chickering is that one day she will know she needs more. I pray she will recognize her true thirst for the true God, and ask Him for the living water.

Steven Curtis Chapman Shout-out

On Thursday night, the Dove Awards honored singer/songwriter and longtime friend of Prison Fellowship Steven Curtis Chapman with the Artist of the Year award. Chapman, who lost his daughter Maria Sue in a devastating accident last May, has been a wonderful example to all of us of what standing firm in the face of tragedy looks like. He's wrestled openly with doubts, but continued to see the opportunities this tragedy brought as occasions to share the hope within--and he has done that faithfully. Chapman performed "Cinderella" at the ceremony. It's a beautiful song he dedicated to Maria. He tells the story behind it here:

In related news, the orphans' ministry of Steven and Mary Beth Chapman recently unveiled a new name and new logo. After stumbling over the long name Shaohannah's Hope and misspelling it too many times to count, I like the simpler Show Hope. It keeps the continuity with the original and is a lot easier to say and remember. And the website looks super snazzy--hats off to all our friends over at Show Hope! If you're not familiar with the work of this wonderful nonprofit, take a few minutes to see all that they do and how you can get involved.

April 24, 2009

Daily Challenge: Walk the Walk

St. Patrick's nephew, Sechnall (St. Secundinus) wrote a poem about his uncle, outlining his many virtues (humility, love for God and people, a devoted prayer life, a life filled with good works). 

These stanzas in particular caught my attention since they challenge me to make certain my walk matches my talk:

Christ's holy precepts he keeps in all things,
His works shine bright among men,
And they follow his holy wondrous example,
And thus magnify God the Father in the heavens.

Greatest indeed will be called in the kingdom of heaven
The man who fulfills with good deeds the holy words he teaches,
Who by his good example is a leader and model to the faithful,
Who in purity of heart has confidence in God. 

April 23, 2009

Daily roundup

April 22, 2009

Bound to Happen: Christians Penalized in Workplace


Frankly, I'm surprised we don't hear more about Christians having their jobs threatened for not going along and getting along with every facet of political correctness. This story from Britain tells the tale.

It goes without saying that we live in a highly pluralistic age and that we must be civil and possessed of a Christ-like demeanor towards all those at work. But what hypocrisy abounds when everyone is taught to honor one group's beliefs while Christian perspectives are viewed with grave suspicion. 

The writer here puts the old saying well: "And yes, it’s quite possible to condemn someone’s actions and behaviors, but love the individual as you love yourself."

The truth is that sincere Christians oftentimes care more than the average person for gay people, whom we know to be made in God's image, even if they, like we, engage in behaviors that do not glorify their Creator. There is no hierarchy of sins in Christianity. Only sin. And while many gay people may honestly not know how it is that they arrived at their orientation, Christianity simply and consistently asserts that it is not something God intended for them.

Sincere Christians should not be homophobic, nor should they feel the need to sacrifice their understanding of God and human sexuality just to fit in. Rather, they should try, when possible, to show any gay co-worker that they see in them a fellow human being and rejoice in all the true gifts God has given them. A person is far more than his or her sexual orientation, important though it is, and on that basis there is much common ground to be found.

If only our workplaces would allow such candid, healing conversations to take place. But instead, we all tiptoe around one another, solving little.

(Image courtesy of LaVrai.com)

April 20, 2009

Day of Truth

Today is the “Day of Truth.” According to ex-gay and Exodus International President Alan Chambers, this day was formed “…to affirm every students' constitutional right to free speech and to provide an opportunity to have an honest conversation about sexuality… to promote biblical truth, honest dialogue, and authentic tolerance where opinions can be expressed, individuals are respected, and opposing viewpoints can harmoniously coexist.”

Don't you think it’s about time we have this kind of conversation with honesty and civility? The day is not about taking freedom away from those who struggle with, or choose to embrace, homosexuality; it's simply to educate students and young people alike to deal with their same-sex attraction responsibly and according to God’s best plan for sexuality without pressure to conform to any lifestyle. Click here to find out how to get involved.

In the end, every day should be a day of truth when discussing homosexuality and other controversial social issues. Seeking truth based on Biblical principles -- as we try to do here at The Point and in other venues like Twitter and BreakPoint WorldView -- is the best way to engage in conversation about them.

April 17, 2009

A prodigal returns

Wilson The very last thing I ever imagined myself saying to A. N. Wilson was "Welcome home, brother." God is good!

(Image © Sutton-Hibbert/Rex USA)

April 16, 2009

Daily roundup

’Jesus is an Elephant’

Colbert Ehrman The traditional view of the divinity of Christ and the crucifixion narrative gets a defense from an unlikely source.

(Image © Comedy Central)

The god who makes you happy

Michael Gerson, writing of a new book on neuroscience's exploration of religion:

"How God Changes Your Brain" has many revelations -- and a few limitations. In a practical, how-to tone, it predicts "an epiphany that can improve the inner quality of your life. For most Americans, that is what spirituality is about." But if this is what spirituality is all about, it isn't about very much. Mature faith sometimes involves self-sacrifice, not self-actualization; anguish, not comfort. If the primary goal of religion is escape or contentment, there are other, even more practical methods to consider. "I didn't go to religion to make me happy," said C.S. Lewis, "I always knew a bottle of port would do that."

April 15, 2009

Our Own Easter Day

With Easter just past, it's a good time to reflect on these hope-filled words that C.S. Lewis wrote for his wife's memorial plaque: 

Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hope that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In Lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day.

(And don't miss the sobering but inspiring reflections at the link I provided above.)

How else am I going to live?

Art.marlee.matlin.cnn Actress Marlee Matlin appeared on Larry King Live Monday night and talked with Joy Behar (who was sitting in for King) about her new book and a long-ago abusive relationship with actor William Hurt, her co-star in Children of a Lesser God.

Behar: You're very nice to him in the book. You have an acknowledgment in the book for William Hurt.

Matlin: Look, he is a very good actor. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the work we had together. I was a fan of his before I met him.

Behar: But if he hasn't apologized and you still feel that he was very wrong in the way he behaved, why do you acknowledge ... ?

Matlin: If he apologized, I would forgive him, but I won't forget.

Behar: You won't forget, no. But you've forgiven him in this book, it seems to me.

Matlin: How else am I going to live? How else am I going to live? You have to try to find the heart to forgive.

That last line by Matlin reminded me of Catherine's book As We Forgive. Many of the survivors of Rwanda's genocide discovered that same truth. Catherine began writing her book on Rwanda as I was finishing up my book on children of divorce. That theme of forgiveness ran through both our manuscripts, and we had several discussions about why we forgive and how we forgive and what God requires and doesn't require of us in this whole process. There were no easy answers. 

One thing stands out to me. Whether it's an actress forgiving an abusive boyfriend, a genocide survivor forgiving the man who killed her family, or a young adult forgiving a parent for abandoning the family, seen from the outside forgiveness is one of those things that does not make sense, especially when the perpetrator has not asked forgiveness. And yet, for the person living with the deadness that accompanies pain, forgiving is often the only way back to real life.

(Image © CNN)

April 14, 2009

’As We Forgive’: Glimpsing the face of Jesus

Speaking of As We Forgive, Mary DeMuth has the sixth and last part of her interview with Catherine up at the My Family Secrets blog.

Resurrection Hope in the Valley of Dry Bones

Ezekiel Speaks to the Dry Bone

The hand of the Lord was upon me and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley, it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

I said, "O, Sovereign Lord, you alone know." (Ezekiel 37:1-3)

I had an email yesterday morning from one of the Rwandans I interviewed in my book, As We Forgive. As you may or may not know, this is an especially hard time in Rwanda, as this April marks the 15th anniversary of the genocide. My friend was particularly asking for prayer amidst this season of remembrance, and shared with me that they've just unearthed some more bones and will be able to finally bury his fiancée's father.

In Rwanda, so many bodies were dumped into mass graves. When I read a passage like Ezekiel 37, I can't help but think of these piles of bones bleached by the African sun in open graves. Here's the thing that gets me: The hope of the resurrection amidst a picture like this. 

Continue reading "Resurrection Hope in the Valley of Dry Bones" »

April 13, 2009

Daily roundup

Relics of faith

Shroud If you're not sure the Resurrection all those Christians celebrated this past weekend really took place, then how about a little proof--the genuine burial cloth that wrapped the body of Christ and still bears His image. Or perhaps not.

The Shroud of Turin is perhaps the most famous "relic" purporting to have a direct link to the events surrounding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And its fame has as much to do with the questions of its authenticity.

The Wall Street Journal has an article online about the shroud--its history, its relevance, and the upcoming public exhibition. The author, Peter Manseau, writes of the controversy:

But maybe so much focus on explanation misses the point. Belief -- any belief, whether in God, the Resurrection, even the Force -- requires a partial abandonment of the rational. This does not mean that faith is irrational, only that it involves a recognition that there are some things that can be explained only through acknowledgment that proof is not always the highest good.

Or, as the writer of Hebrews put it, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

(Image © AP)

Thought for the day

A Russian priest, Father Anthony, told me, "To say to anyone 'I love you' is tantamount to saying 'You shall live forever.'"

I am slowly beginning to learn something about immortality.

Our children are hungry for words like Father Anthony's. They have a passionate need for the dimension of transcendence, mysticism, way-outness. We're not offering it to them legitimately. The tendency of the churches to be relevant and more-secular-than-thou does not answer our need for the transcendent. As George Tyrrell wrote about a hundred years ago, "If [man's] craving for the mysterious, the wonderful, the supernatural, be not fed on true religion, it will feed itself on the garbage of any superstition that is offered to it."

Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet, pp. 110-11

April 12, 2009

Music for Holy Week (3)

The perfect music video to watch on Easter Sunday! Christ is risen ... He is risen indeed!

Herbert’s ’Easter Wings’

The English poet George Herbert (1593-1633) penned this beautiful "shaped" poem he titled "Easter Wings":  

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
      Though foolishly he lost the same,
            Decaying more and more,
               Till he became
                  Most poor:
                  With thee
               O let me rise
            As larks, harmoniously,
        And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did begin
      And still with sicknesses and shame.
            Thou didst so punish sin,
               That I became
                  Most thin.
                  With thee
               Let me combine,
            And feel thy victory:
      For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me. 

April 10, 2009

Unlimited grace

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." --Luke 23:34

This statement from Jesus ought to have a dramatic impact on the way we live. Perhaps it loses impact because we assume that Jesus is in a league of His own in the forgiveness game; there's no way we could match His grace. Or perhaps we see this as an example of how God forgives without realizing the implications it has for us. Meanwhile, we forgive those who are sorry for their sins -- which does not describe these crucifiers at all; and we forgive those who haven't hurt us too badly -- which also does not describe these crucifiers. Somehow we've confined our mercy to definitions that Jesus never embraced. We've limited grace.

Think of the drama of Jesus' statement. These aggressors were committing the ultimate crime: an unjust execution of their holy Creator. There has never been a more evil act. And yet, Jesus forgave. Without their asking. Without their even being remotely sorry.

Chris Tiegreen, "Amazing Grace," April 10, The One Year Worship the King Devotional

The Centrality of the Cross

Crucifixion “I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Asked the lord above for mercy, ‘Save me if you please.’“
Eric Clapton, “Crossroads”

“Crossroads,” the blues classic by Eric Clapton, is a song about a man seeking escape from his desperate existence. Will he find it in a ride to Rosedale, a drinking binge, a flight from one destination to the next, or in God’s grace? At the song’s end, we are left to wonder. Nevertheless, Clapton’s lyrics, laced with his riveting guitar riffs, grab our attention.

A crossroads is a place where divergent paths meet, forcing us to make choices that can be at once exciting and scary. It can be a place of crisis, where the pain of the past butts up against our hopes for the future; or a place of opportunity, where the road ahead promises brighter prospects in the vast frontier beyond.

In either case, a crossroads is a call to change: from where we’ve been to where we’re going; from what we’re leaving behind to what we’re striving for; from who we are to who we’re becoming.

As free-willed creatures, we are continually leaving one crossroads and entering another. Will we pick up the ball or the doll? Will we eat our food or play with it? Will we wear blue socks or black socks? Will we finish high school or work as a mechanic? Will we propose to Susan or play the field? And on it goes.

Like a string of beads forming a necklace, crossroads connect the past, present, and future of human experience in an unbroken thread of possibility. But the central crossroads, the one through which every life must pass, lies on a hill in Golgotha. Continue reading here.

April 09, 2009

Daily roundup

Posting will be light tomorrow because of Good Friday. Have a blessed Easter weekend!

Films for Holy Week

PassionJoanOfArc There are a lot of movies out there that have become Easter traditions -- The Greatest Story Ever Told, King of Kings, even The Ten Commandments -- but here, Thomas Hibbs suggests a couple of lesser known classics that make good Easter viewing as well.

Pairing the two films is especially fitting this week, since they capture the dramatically contrasting moments of Holy Week, the experience of tragic desolation and apparent divine abandonment of Good Friday and the joy of resurrection and reconciliation — an anticipation of the heavenly banquet.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

’Sexting’ and Teens

Teen texting “Sexting," sending nude photos of oneself or others by cell phone, continues to be a growing trend among teenagers. If caught, a minor can be charged with child pornography violations and land on the sex offenders list, as in the case of this young man from Florida. Prosecutors probably intend to send a strong message to teenagers about the dangers of “sexting.” But is giving kids a lifelong criminal record and possible jail time as a sex offender an overreaction, or justice served?

In any case, this is a strong reminder that parents must be engaged on this topic and must create a game plan to ensure that teens' use of online and digital communication remains safe and positive. Even more importantly, they must teach teens to value themselves as holy and created in the image of God. 

For help teaching your kids Christian worldview, click here

(Image courtesy of Mom Central)

April 08, 2009

Daily roundup

Principles mean more than favorability to the Pope? Heaven forbid!

200px-BentoXVI-30-10052007 Pope Benedict XVI has sparked international outrage with his statements regarding his rejection of using condoms to fight the AIDS epidemic. From time to time I see this happen, and I never understand why people suddenly act outraged at teachings the Catholic Church has always held.

The Catholic Church rejects the use of condoms because they create a barrier to life within the marriage that is contrary to the natural order. But condoms distract us from the real problem. The Catholic Church doesn’t say an unmarried couple shouldn’t use condoms. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, because the Church teaches abstinence as the only legitimate way of protecting the physical and spiritual life of the persons in question.

Just like the economic crisis, the AIDS epidemic materialized from a moral problem. Whether a lack of control in spending, or a lack of control in sexual behavior, eventually the consequences of our actions surface.

Rebecca Hodes, head of policy, communication and research for the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, doesn’t understand the problem. In a recent statement made to the Huffington Post she demonstrated the very ignorance that brought about this problem and the weight it bears, when she separated our actions from their moral consequences. Her misplaced frustrations were exposed when she said, “[Pope Benedict’s] opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”

The Pope holds so firmly to religious dogma BECAUSE of his love for the lives, both physical and spiritual, of those in Africa.

Continue reading "Principles mean more than favorability to the Pope? Heaven forbid!" »

Remembering death

Smoldering_wick For those of us, like me, who were raised as evangelicals, this is a very celebratory time of year. Last Sunday, many Christians celebrated the Triumphal Entry, the symbolic and prophecy-fulfilling time when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts of his people and a road paved with palm fronds. This coming Sunday, we will stand in church and sing hymns and choruses announcing the risen Christ. Jesus seems to float effortlessly from triumph to triumph.

We evangelicals sometimes miss what our more liturgical brethren experience in the week between these two celebrations. The church that used to be on the campus of my alma mater holds a Tenebrae service each year. This service of "darkness" follows the path of our Lord to the cross. While different churches follow different patterns for this service, most follow the traditional symbolism of gradually darkening the lights in the church as the service progresses until, at the end of the service, the entire sanctuary is plunged into darkness. In our campus church, after a few minutes of darkness, someone would light a solitary candle to symbolize the hope of the resurrection.

What I discovered as an evangelical was that allowing myself to experience the grief and sorrow of Christ's betrayal and death made Easter Sunday exponentially more celebratory. Remembering for a short time that the world was dark, that the Hope of Ages had been crucified and lay dead and buried in a stone tomb made the wonder and joy of that empty tomb a few days later burst out of my heart in a way that Palm Sunday had never done.

Continue reading "Remembering death" »

April 07, 2009

Daily roundup

From Whence Morality?

From days of old, mankind has wrestled with the question of ethics. In ancient Israel, after 50 years of Babylonian captivity had all but erased God’s providence and law from memory, the Jewish community wondered aloud, “How now shall we live?”

The very question presupposes a standard and a purpose. Even the early Greeks, influenced by Plato and Aristotle, believed in a purpose-driven ethic—a universal ideal of “goodness” that could be known and to which all men should strive.

...A while back, I discussed this very issue with a fellow named Bob in an online exchange. Bob is a rising star in the Brights’ movement—a network of free thinkers who embrace a worldview “free of supernatural and mystical elements.” Notable luminaries in the movement include the likes of Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett.

Our dialog began after Bob read an article I wrote expressing cynicism about the moral “wholesomeness”—a term the Brights fondly use to describe their worldview—of philosophical naturalism. Continue reading here.

Music for Holy Week (2)

If you liked their song "In Christ Alone," check out another video by the Gettys, this time performing "The Power of the Cross."

April 06, 2009

Daily roundup

’Why me?’

... is the great existential question of all time. When the “subway of life” dumps its refuse in our lap, we shake our head in wonder. After all, we reason, we haven’t hit the wife, neglected the kids, lied to the boss, or kicked the dog—least wise, not today.

Life’s unfairness is troubling. When the church member slanders us, our job is “surplused,” the diagnosis of cancer comes, or our neighbor is killed in a car accident, we are stupefied by the injustice of it all. Centuries ago, the wisest man in the world was likewise confounded, declaring it meaningless that the righteous get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked get what the righteous deserve. Continue reading here.