Tuesday, January 25, 2011

March for Life

Yesterday was the March for Life in Washington DC.  I was able to go last year but could not attend this year.  It is a fantastic event that every Christian should go to at least once.  I found this video from the March last year very interesting and sad as it clearly shows the distorted view on the popular media and abortion

Monday, January 24, 2011

Can't Judge a book by its Cover?

I guess i was a little too hard on David Platt's new book "Radical" (see post below) I guess you cannot always judge a book by its cover!  It was a pretty good read, even though it was one of the most self-indulging books i have read in a long time. A lot of illustrations started with, "When i was in the Sudan..." (or Asia, or Indonesia, or on the moon).  But his overall critique of the American Dream and Christian Faith was right on.  His "Radical" One Year Challenge was pretty good: 1. Pray for the World, 2. Read the Bible, 3. Sacrifice my money for a specific purpose, 4. Spend time in another context, and 5. commit my life to a multiplying community.  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The "Voyage of the Dawn Treadser" a disaster?

This article in the Washington Post is interesting.  It claims that the latest CS Lewis book to become a move, the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, was a box office disaster. The writer pins it on the softening of the overt Christian message in the books being left out.  And the constant apologizing and backpedaling of the actors and producers of the film.

Some Quotes:

"That is, until several lead personalities connected to the film couldn't stop apologizing at every turn for the overtly Christian nature of Lewis' narratives. First, it was Liam Neeson, the voice of Aslan, who told the London Daily Mail that his character symbolizes Buddha, Mohammed and other spiritual leaders throughout the ages, as well as Christ.  Then it was producer Mark Johnson telling the Hollywood Reporter that "resurrection exists in so many different religions in one form or another, so it's hardly exclusively Christian.....We don't want to favor one group over another - whether these books are Christian, I don't know."

it is absolutely ludicrous for Neeson to say Aslan symbolizes Buddha or Mohamed or any other spiritual leader and anyone with even a basic understanding of these stories knows these books are based on Christianity.  For the producer to say he doesn't know these books are Christian is just crazy.

Check out the whole article here:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Maybe I'm a bit cynical, but....

Its a snow day in NJ today so I'm doing some reading, I just finished a great book on military history, "The Father of us all."  read a chapter in the dense, but excellent book "Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation"  (I can only take it a chapter at a time!), and wanted something lighter to read for tonight and picked up "Radical" by David Platt. I haven't started it yet, and maybe I'm a bit cynical, but a few things struck me right away:

1. "New York Times Bestseller" printed across the top.  This is unusual for a Christan book.  I can think of only one other Christian book that flaunted this and it was "Reason for God" by Keller which made perfect sense because it was a book to secular people and he is a pastor in NYC. So i guess the publisher wants the reader to be like "Wow! this must be an important book!"

2. The title "Radical" is WAY overused in Christian circles, its like "Extreme" was a few years ago.  Just the other night someone in my Bible Study grabbed one of the church Bibles on the self and put it back because it was titled "The Extreme Bible"  I guess Platt wants us to have a radical faith that goes to the extreme!

3. The author description really gave me reason to pause.  It reads "David Platt is the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills, a four thousand member congregation in Birmingham Alabama.  Widely regarded as an exceptional expositor, David has traveled and taught around the world.  He holds two undergraduate and three advanced degrees, including a doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Seminary."  I have NEVER read anything like this before! I have a ton of books and i looked at them and can't find one that is anything like this.  (& just who regards him as an exceptional expositor?) (How many degrees does Piper have?) (Is John MacArthur widely considered an exceptional expositor?) (Never mind his 3 dgrees were an MDiv, Thm, & Dmin all at the same seminary) (how many people go to Driscoll's church?)

4. I googled Platt after i read his description and found his Church web site. The page on Platt opens, "Dr. David Platt, 32, is deeply devoted to Christ and His Word..." & "A life-long learner, David has earned two undergraduate and three advanced degrees." & "David holds a deep and abiding passion for global disciple-making.." (how thick can they lay it on?) On the home page for the church its first non-negotiable is 'humility' (I'm not kidding!) Its weird that a church would take that as its first purpose, even weirder considering all the superlatives the pastor uses to describe himself

Am i making to miuch of this?
maybe i'm just jealous?
Maybe I'm too cynical but....
New York Times best selling author, exceptional expositor, deeply devoted, 5 degree achieving, mega pastor.... wants me to get radical!
We will see

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Generous Justice

Tim Keller's latest book is another gem.  Well worth reading. Here is the chapter headings and a few quotes that stuck out.  Also a link to a great interview he did on the book:

Chapter One - What is Doing Justice?
Chapter Two - Justice and the Old Testament
Chapter Three - What Did Jesus Say About Justice?
Chapter Four - Justice and Your Neighbor
Chapter Five - Why Should We Do Justice?
Chapter Six - How Should We Do Justice?
Chapter Seven - Doing Justice in the Public Square
Chapter Eight - Peace, Beauty, and Justice

"The three causes of poverty, according to the Bible, are oppression, calamity and personal moral failure. Having surveyed the Bible on these texts numerous times, I have concluded that the emphasis is usually on the larger structural factors (p38)."

"In Christ we receive grace, unmerited favor. Nevertheless, in the mind of the Old Testament prophets as well as the teaching of Jesus, an encounter with grace inevitably leads to a life of justice (p49)."

"My experience as a pastor has been that those who are middle-class in spirit tend to be indifferent to the poor, but people who come to grasp the gospel of grace and become spiritually poor find their hearts gravitating toward the materially poor.  To the degree that the gospel shapes your self-image, you will identify with those in need.  You will see their tattered clothes and think:  "All my righteousness is a filthy rag, but in Christ we can be clothed in his robes of righteousness."  When you come upon those who are economically poor, you cannot say to them, "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!" because you certainly did not do that spiritually.  Jesus intervened for you.  And you cannot say, "I won't help you because you got yourself into this mess," since God came to earth, moved into your spiritually poor neighborhood, as it were, and helped you even though your spiritual problems were your own fault.  In other words, when Christians who understand the gospel see a poor person, they realize they are looking into a mirror.  Their hearts must go out to him or her without an ounce of superiority or indifference. (102-103)."
“A life poured out in doing justice for the poor is the inevitable sign of any real, true gospel faith” (p. 189)

"I urge my readers to discern the balance I am seeking to strike. If we confuse evangelism and social justice we lose what is the single most unique service that Christians can offer the world. Others, alongside believers, can feed the hungry. But Christians have the gospel of Jesus by which men and women can be born again into the certain hope of eternal life. No one else can make such an invitation. However, many Christians who care intensely about evangelism see the work of doing justice as a distraction for Christians that detracts from the mission of evangelism. That is also a grave error. (141)"

Link to Interview:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Sad State of Abortion in America

Just this week abortion statistics were released from 2009 for NYC - it is startlingly!
From: http://hotair.com/archives/2011/01/07/do-41-of-all-new-york-city-pregnancies-end-in-abortions/

From the article:
"New and eye-opening statistics about the rate of abortions in New York City have been released by the Health Department. It raises questions about the effectiveness of current birth control education. 41% of all New York City pregnancies end in abortion."

"The breakdown by ethnicity is, perhaps, even more startling. Almost 60% of all pregnancy outcomes in NYC for African-American mothers were abortions; among Hispanics, 41.3%. Asians and whites had relatively low percentages of abortion outcomes (22.7% and 20.4%, respectively). ABC points out that the overall number is actually an improvement over 1998, when the citywide rate for abortion outcomes was 46%."

Al Mohler Response:

"Americans generally know that abortions happen, but the reality of abortion is kept out of sight and, for most, largely out of mind. To acknowledge that abortions do occur does not require any actual knowledge of the numbers of abortions performed and the scale of the catastrophe. News reports that emerged in recent days will make that evasion harder to justify.

The New York Times reported January 6, 2011 that the abortion rate in New York City is about 40 percent of all pregnancies. That means that no less than four out of every ten pregnancies in that city are terminated by abortion. That statistic is horrific, leading a group of New York religious leaders to describe the abortion rate as “chilling.”

Of even greater magnitude is the abortion rate among African-Americans in New York City — a rate of almost 60 percent. This means, of course, that far more black babies are aborted than are born. How is it that black church leaders are so silent on this murderous assault on unborn African-American babies?

The Guttmacher Institute recently reported that the national abortion rate is 22 percent. Two out of every ten pregnancies in America end in abortion.

The enormity of the abortion rate in America underlines the fact that abortion is anything but rare. Over 1.2 million abortions were performed in the United States in 2008, the last year with full numbers reported.

This means that abortion is taking place in your neighborhood, and in mine. The abortion rate in New York City staggers the moral imagination, but the abortion rate nationwide is itself “chilling.”

We are a murderous people, and the blood of the innocent cries out for justice."

And a good Resource from RC Sproul

R.C. Sproul Discusses the Issue of Abortion from Ligonier on Vimeo.

Interesting book

Henrietta Lacks was a poor black women who died in 1951 but her cells continued to live on, her cells were the first 'immortal cells' that are still alive today! They are referred to as the "Hela" cells.  If you were to put together all of the cells ever grown from Hela it would be over 50 million tons! equal to one hundred Empire State buildings! The book is very interesting and it mostly about the life of Henrietta Lacks & her decendants' lives.  Very good read

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Jesus is Coming Back May 21, 2011????!!!!

I can still remeber Harold Camping Septemebr 1995 return of Jesus
now his date is May 21
article from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40885541/ns/us_news-life/

RALEIGH, N.C.— If there had been time, Marie Exley would have liked to start a family. Instead, the 32-year-old Army veteran has less than six months left, which she'll spend spreading a stark warning: Judgment Day is almost here.

Exley is part of a movement of Christians loosely organized by radio broadcasts and websites, independent of churches and convinced by their reading of the Bible that the end of the world will begin on May 21, 2011. To get the word out, they're using billboards and bus stop benches, traveling caravans of RVs and volunteers passing out pamphlets on street corners. Cities from Bridgeport, Conn., to Little Rock, Ark., now have billboards with the ominous message, and mission groups are traveling in countries from Latin America to Africa to spread the news outside the U.S."A lot of people might think, 'The end's coming, let's go party,'" said Exley, a veteran of two deployments in Iraq. "But we're commanded by God to warn people. I wish I could just be like everybody else, but it's so much better to know that when the end comes, you'll be safe."

In August, Exley left her home in Colorado Springs, Colo., to work with Oakland, Calif.-based Family Radio Worldwide, the independent Christian ministry whose leader, Harold Camping, has calculated the May 21 date based on his reading of the Bible.

She is organizing traveling columns of RVs carrying the message from city to city, a logistics challenge that her military experience has helped solve. The vehicles are scheduled to be in five North Carolina cities between now and the second week of January, but Exley will shortly be gone: overseas, where she hopes to eventually make it back to Iraq.

"I don't really have plans to come back," she said. "Time is short."

'Definitely against the grain'

Not everyone who's heard Camping's message is taking such a dramatic step. They're remaining in their day-to-day lives, but helping publicize the prophecy in other ways. Allison Warden, of Raleigh, has been helping organize a campaign using billboards, postcards and other media in cities across the U.S. through a website, We Can Know.

The 29-year-old payroll clerk laughs when asked about reactions to the message, which is plastered all over her car.

"It's definitely against the grain, I know that," she said. "We're hoping people won't take our word for it, or Harold Camping's word for it. We're hoping that people will search the scriptures for themselves."

Camping, 89, believes the Bible essentially functions as a cosmic calendar explaining exactly when various prophecies will be fulfilled.

The retired civil engineer said all his calculations come from close readings of the Bible, but that external events like the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 are signs confirming the date.

"Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment," he said.

The doctrine known as the Rapture teaches that believers will be taken up to heaven, while everyone else will remain on earth for a period of torment, concluding with the end of time. Camping believes that will happen in October.

"If May 21 passes and I'm still here, that means I wasn't saved. Does that mean God's word is inaccurate or untrue? Not at all," Warden said.

Great Disappointment

The belief that Christ will return to earth and bring an end to history has been a basic element of Christian belief since the first century. The Book of Revelation, which comes last in the New Testament, describes this conclusion in vivid language that has inspired Christians for centuries. But few churches are willing to set a date for the end of the world, heeding Jesus' words in the gospels of Mark and Matthew that no one can know the day or hour it will happen. Predictions like Camping's, though, aren't new. One of the most famous in history was by the Baptist leader William Miller, who predicted the end for Oct. 22, 1844, which came to be known as the Great Disappointment among his followers, some of who subsequently founded the Seventh Day Adventist church.

"In the U.S., there is still a significant population, mostly Protestant, who look at the Bible as kind of a puzzle, and the puzzle is God's word and it's predicting when the end times will come," said Catherine Wessinger, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who studies millennialism, the belief in pending apocalypse.

"A lot of times these prophecies gain traction when difficulties are happening in society," she said. "Right now, there's a lot of insecurity, and this is a promise that says it's not all random, it's part of God's plan."

Past predictions that failed to come true don't have any bearing on the current calculation, believers maintain.

"It would be like telling the Wright Brothers that every other attempt to fly has failed, so you shouldn't even try," said Chris McCann, who works with eBible Fellowship, one of the groups spreading the message.

For believers like McCann, theirs is actually a message of hope and compassion: God's compassion for people, and the hope that there's still time to be saved.

That, ultimately, is what spurs on Exley, who said her beliefs have alienated her from most

of her friends and family. Her hope is that not everyone who hears her message will mock it, and that even people who dismiss her now might still come to believe.

"If you still want to say we're crazy, go ahead," she said. "But it doesn't hurt to look into it."

7 Billion

I love these kinds of videos...
did you know it would take you 200 years to count to 7 billion out loud?
or that 7 Billion steps would take you around the world 33 times?
but you could fit 7 Billion people in the city of Los Angeles?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas Eve Candle Light service

Like many churches around the world, we do a candle light service for Christmas Eve.  This year as i was leading the hymn "Slient Night" and the candles were being lighted all around the sanctuary i saw my 4 year old Emily raising her lit candle (with the protective plastic cup around the flame) toasting the other kids around her saying 'cheers!'  Tammy (my wife) put an end to that but during the 3rd verse i smelled the unforgettably terrible smell of burning hair and see Emily frantically hitting the side of her head - she had caught her hair on fire

This post from the blog http://stuffchristianslike.net/ hits the nail on the head
(by the way we use the plastic cup candle)

“Give me my fire.”

That is what my 5-year-old said at church the other night when it was time to light our candles at the Christmas Eve Eve service. (We went on Thursday night.)
Now clearly, as a dad, you want her to say, “Please give me my fire,” but I was willing to let it slide because I was so excited about the candles. That’s easily one of my favorite traditions, but in my excitement I realized I’ve never really done that topic justice on Stuff Christians Like.
I’ve written one post about how as parents you spend every day of the year trying to keep fire out of your kids’ hands but on Christmas Eve hand them an open flame. But there’s so much more to this truly awesome experience. So many little details to be unearthed and SCL-ized. Which is why today, in a relatively quiet week on the site, and mere days after the event, I thought I would bring you this:

The 3 Types of Christmas Eve Church Candles.
1. The Plastic Cup Candle
This candle is just want it sounds like, a simple cylinder of white wax stuck inside a hard plastic cup with a thick lollipop like plastic stick poking out of the bottom. The beauty of this candle is that you never get burned by wax, as it all pools in the cup portion of the contraption. This is a high end candle. It’s like the iPad of candles. The cup is practically a chalice and its solid construction allows for some series light saber fights with your younger brothers. If you’re into that kind of thing. Which I am.

2. The Paper Disc Candle
You know when you shop online and sort items from high price to low? That’s what we did today, so this is the silver medal option. In this version, your candle is simply pushed through a circle of paper with a star shape opening in the middle. The paper is often white with green text on it. This is a great option if you want a more authentic feeling experience than the plastic cup candle, which is a bit like a Donald Trump version of the candle. This is the one our church used. The only problem with these is that they wear out after a few years. The opening gets torn and bent to the point that hot wax just flows down the side of the candle directly onto your hand. That happened to us last week. I got some on my hand and almost screamed during a quiet moment. Seconds later, my 7 year old let out a near silent yelp and looked at me with a face of disbelief that said, “Seriously dad, did you just give me a hand fire? Is there not a mongoose you could put in my tiny mitts or maybe a switchblade instead?” I was proud of her for not dropping the flame and still consider this my favorite form of candle. (Hopefully my church will forever go this route.)

3. The Bare Candle
My friend’s church in California didn’t have covers at all. They gave a few to kids in the crowd but for the adults, they essentially said, “Suck it up you wusses. It’s time to sing ‘O Holy Night,’ quit getting distracted by the molten wax that is cascading down the candle onto the soft parts of your hands.” This is probably a cost saving measure. I’m sure those plastic covers cost a lot. Or maybe this is a postmodern/missional/emergent/relevant thing? Is it more postmodern to get your hands burned by wax or not to get your hands burned by wax? I always get those things confused.
Regardless of the type of candle, I hope this tradition continues. There’s something really beautiful about this and I’m a fan of the candle approach. Maybe next year I’ll bring my own. Would that be weird? Would it be awkward if I showed up with my own Cinnabon scented candle? Let’s be honest, as I mentioned on Twitter, the scent of a Cinnabon is 87% more enjoyable than the actual experience of eating one. They sell the scent in candle form at Wal-mart. I’m just putting it out there.

Great Read!

Last week i was on vacation and read three great books: "Unbroken" "The Big Short" and "The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks" All three were outstanding. 

Unbroken was written by Laura Hillenbrand who also wrote the excellent book "Seabiscuit."  Unbroken is about Louis Zamperini was was an Olympic runner, WWII bomber, shot down and spent 47 days in the open sea, and then a Japanese prisoner of war! He came home and went to a tent meeting with Billy Graham and got saved! It is an outstanding read, the best book i have read in a while - i highly recommend it

The Big Short is written by Michael Lewis who wrote "The Blind Side" and it is all about the financial crisis and the very few who saw it coming.  Much of the book is over my head but what you are left with is how messed up and corrupt Wall street can be.  The hubris of the big firms is mind boggling