Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Read/hear more from Voddie at his website. I'd recommend listening to his "The Centrality of the Home" and "Multigenerational Promise" podcasts, as well as checking out his book, Family Driven Faith.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Easily one of the most important stories of 2008 has been all the evidence suggesting that this may be looked back on as the year when there was a turning point in the great worldwide panic over man-made global warming. Just when politicians in Europe and America have been adopting the most costly and damaging measures politicians have ever proposed, to combat this supposed menace, the tide has turned in three significant respects.Read the full story.
First, all over the world, temperatures have been dropping in a way wholly unpredicted by all those computer models which have been used as the main drivers of the scare. Last winter, as temperatures plummeted, many parts of the world had snowfalls on a scale not seen for decades. This winter, with the whole of Canada and half the US under snow, looks likely to be even worse. After several years flatlining, global temperatures have dropped sharply enough to cancel out much of their net rise in the 20th century.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Research indicates that the average American Christian owns nine Bibles and is actively in the market for more. That statistic troubles us here at CRI, since we receive more than 400 letters a month from pastors and Christian workers in developing countries whose churches own no Bibles or Christian books.
Every day, more than 122,000 people become Christians, and most of those people are in Africa, Asia, and South America. They’re attending churches where even the pastors have no Bibles. In our country, the church isn’t growing so much. But the pile of Bibles on every Christian’s bookshelf sure is.
This discrepancy is why we have launched Operation Bare Your Bookshelf, a project to make it easy for American Christians to send a Bible (and a Christian book or two) overseas.
If you're like me, you have old Bibles sitting around that don't get used. What a tremendous opportunity to serve the worldwide church. CRI provides all the shipping materials to send Bibles to "a specific pastor, Christian worker, church member, or seeker overseas." They even send the recipient's name so you can pray for them specifically. Click here to find out more.
“There really is no place for Christ in many people’s Christianity. Their faith is not actually in Christ; it is in Christianity and their ability to live it out. This kind of ‘Christianity’ is really about shadow glories of human knowledge and performance. It does not require the death to self that must always happen if love for Christ is going to reign in our hearts.”
- Paul David Tripp, A Quest for More (Greensboro, NC; New Growth Press, 2007), 106.
(HT: Of First Importance)
They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down
in Grapevine, Texas.
It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it
was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the
Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.
Did you hear that? The other team's fans?
They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go
Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.
It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans
sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by
Read the full story.
Here is a very cool adoption story. The Minneapolis Star Tribune story begins with this:Every year, Dorothy Bode asks for two things for Christmas: a new Bible and a new baby. The previous year's Bible inevitably has been destroyed by one of the babies. "There's something about those crinkly pages that attract little hands," she said.Read the rest.
So the Bibles keep coming, and so do the babies. This year's arrival is Jeremiah.
This is the seventh Christmas that Dorothy and her husband, Robert, have adopted an infant. Their two-story home in northeast Minneapolis teems with 10 kids from infancy to 12 years old, a blend of birth and adopted children, white faces, black faces and unknown races. The new babies come to them battling autism, fetal alcohol syndrome or their birth mother's drug addiction.
To them this is not sacrifice, it's a mission. It's their way of following Jesus' teaching to love your neighbor. "Every person is equally valuable and important," Dorothy said. "[We are] doing all of this in Jesus' name -- with no strings attached for those we serve."
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The days before Christmas can be a tiring season of preparation, planning, shopping, and wrapping. But I think as we prepare for the Christmas celebrations, dinners, travel, and gift giving, it’s equally important that we pause and prepare our souls for Christmas.
During this time of year, it may be easy to forget that the bigger purpose behind Bethlehem was Calvary. But the purpose of the manger was realized in the horrors of the cross. The purpose of his birth was his death.
Or to put it more personally: Christmas is necessary because I am a sinner. The incarnation reminds us of our desperate condition before a holy God.
Several years ago WORLD Magazine published a column by William H. Smith with the provocative title, “Christmas is disturbing: Any real understanding of the Christmas messages will disturb anyone” (Dec. 26, 1992).
In part, Smith wrote:
Many people who otherwise ignore God and the church have some religious feeling, or feel they ought to, at this time of the year. So they make their way to a church service or Christmas program. And when they go, they come away feeling vaguely warmed or at least better for having gone, but not disturbed.
Why aren’t people disturbed by Christmas? One reason is our tendency to sanitize the birth narratives. We romanticize the story of Mary and Joseph rather than deal with the painful dilemma they faced when the Lord chose Mary to be the virgin who would conceive her child by the power of the Holy Spirit. We beautify the birth scene, not coming to terms with the stench of the stable, the poverty of the parents, the hostility of Herod. Don’t miss my point. There is something truly comforting and warming about the Christmas story, but it comes from understanding the reality, not from denying it.
Most of us also have not come to terms with the baby in the manger. We sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” But do we truly recognize that the baby lying in the manger is appointed by God to be the King, to be either the Savior or Judge of all people? He is a most threatening person.
Malachi foresaw his coming and said, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” As long as we can keep him in the manger, and feel the sentimental feelings we have for babies, Jesus doesn’t disturb us. But once we understand that his coming means for every one of us either salvation or condemnation, he disturbs us deeply.
What should be just as disturbing is the awful work Christ had to do to accomplish the salvation of his people. Yet his very name, Jesus, testifies to us of that work.
That baby was born so that “he who had no sin” would become “sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The baby’s destiny from the moment of his conception was hell—hell in the place of sinners. When I look into the manger, I come away shaken as I realize again that he was born to pay the unbearable penalty for my sins.
That’s the message of Christmas: God reconciled the world to himself through Christ, man’s sin has alienated him from God, and man’s reconciliation with God is possible only through faith in Christ…Christmas is disturbing.
Don’t get me wrong—Christmas should be a wonderful celebration. Properly understood, the message of Christmas confronts before it comforts, it disturbs before it delights.
The purpose of Christ’s birth was to live a sinless life, suffer as our substitute on the cross, satisfy the wrath of God, defeat death, and secure our forgiveness and salvation.
Christmas is about God the Father (the offended party) taking the initiative to send his only begotten son to offer his life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, so that we might be forgiven for our many sins.
As Smith so fitly concludes his column:Only those who have been profoundly disturbed to the point of deep repentance are able to receive the tidings of comfort, peace, and joy that Christmas proclaims.Amen and Merry Christmas!
Monday, December 22, 2008
One of the most difficult things about parenting is knowing where to draw
the line when it comes to buying things for my kids.
On one hand, it
gives me great pleasure to provide good things for them. But yet, I don’t want
to spoil them, and I don’t want them to grow up with any kind of entitlement
While I know there are undoubtedly times when I cross the line, I think
too many parents make “crossing the line” more the rule than the
In short, children need to learn what “no” means. Parents need to teach
them. It won’t kill you. Otherwise, we’ll raise a generation of kids who will
grow up to be insufferable, spoiled adults, and we have too many of those
Read the whole thing.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Are American evangelicals abandoning the exclusivity of the Gospel? A new report out from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life suggests that many evangelical Christians are, at the very least, badly confused about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today reports:Most American religious believers, including most Christians, say eternal life is not exclusively for those who accept Christ as their savior, a new survey finds.
Of the 65% of people who held this open view of heaven's gates, 80% named at least one non-Christian group - Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists or people with no religion at all- who may also be saved, according to a new survey released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
This most recent report, released today, clarifies a report issued earlier this year. That earlier report became the cause of some controversy because some researchers questioned the accuracy of the responses, since some of those surveyed may have confused other Christian denominations for other religions.
In releasing this updated report, the Pew Forum isolated the question and made it far more specific. Those who affirmed other ways of salvation were then asked to specify what they meant. As USA Today reports, the vast majority of those who affirmed other ways of salvation went on to specify "Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists or people with no religion at all" as valid options.
The report indicates that 52% of those belonging to churches and denominations that teach that Jesus is the only way of salvation reject that teaching.
Mohler was interviewed for the USA Today story:
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, calls the findings "a theological crisis for American evangelicals. They represent at best a misunderstanding of the Gospel and at worst a repudiation of the Gospel."
Overall, the new findings are "an indictment of evangelicalism and evangelical preaching," said Mohler. "The clear Biblical teaching is that Jesus Christ proclaimed himself to be the only way to salvation."
Mohler sees behind the statistics the impact of pluralism and secularism in U.S. society and the challenge of facing family and friends with "an uncomfortable truth."
"We are in an age when we want to tell everyone they are doing just fine. It's extremely uncomfortable to turn to someone and say, 'You will go to hell unless you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus,' " Mohler says.
The report observes that "most children in the developed world are spending their earliest years in some form of care outside the home.” According to the organization, “80 per cent of children aged three to six are in some form of early childhood education and care outside the home,” and “about one in four under the age of three are also cared for outside the home — with the proportion rising to one in two in some countries.”
The report concludes that, "To the extent that this change is unplanned and unmonitored, it could also be described as a high-stakes gamble with today's children and tomorrow's world."
The most comprehensive study done in the US was released last year and found that the more time children spent in center-based care before kindergarten, the more likely their teachers were to report such problem behaviors as "gets in many fights," "disobedient at school," and "argues a lot." (See "Largest US Child Study Finds Early Child Care Linked to Aggression and Disobedience": http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/mar/07032607.html).
Other studies have found everything from increased frequency of illness to impaired social and emotional development in children attending preschool centers.
“The biggest eye-opener is that the suppression of social and emotional development, stemming from long hours in preschool, is felt most strongly by children from better-off families,” said UC Berkeley sociologist and co-author Bruce Fuller, who performed research on the question in California in 2005.
"I've abandoned free market principles to save the free market system"? I've been expecting this country to become the United Socialist States of America, but I never expected it to come under President Bush's watch.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Does the whole world know about the song "Christmas Shoes?" I assume this tender ditty about a boy trying to buy pretty shoes for his mama in case she dies and meets Jesus, is an international smash hit. Maybe it hasn't spanned the globe yet though so I posted a video clip of it below.
According to the Internet, which is always 100% accurate, this song took four years to write. I have a hard time believing that because it has the air of three songwriters sitting in a "cheesy song laboratory," trying to concoct the most emotionally manipulative song ever. And when I hear it come on the radio I immediately rip my stereo out of the dashboard and throw it in a river. If I'm not near a river, a small "crick" will suffice.
But what if I'm wrong? What if it's actually the greatest song ever written? What if despite all my sarcasm and all the other great blogs that have already joked about this song, it's actually the most important song our generation has ever experienced? What if Christmas Shoes is the greatest song ever written?
Here are five reasons I think that might be true:
1. You can sing it to every other Christmas song.
This year, I've secretly been playing a game of "What would Christmas Shoes sound like if it was another song" in my head. For instance, Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is you?" That one becomes "All I want for Christmas is Shoes." Or, "Carol of the Bells," the Ding Dong song becomes "Here are some shoes, these are some shoes, do you like my shoes, my mama's shoes?" Try it, it works with any song.
2. It's got its own movie.
Name me three other Christmas songs that have been turned into “made for television movies” starring Hollywood's Rob Lowe? You can't, can you. (Sure, Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman are songs and movies, but was Lowe in either of those?) Here's how CBS describes it, “In this heartwarming holiday drama, a workaholic attorney crosses paths with a young boy on Christmas Eve and rediscovers the true meaning of love, life and the holiday season." Wow, that's powerful right there.
3. It's got its own book.
I really hope that when my book comes out in 2010 someone will make a song version. (Preferably to the tune of Prince's "When Doves Cry," "This is what it sounds like when you side hug.") You know you've got a good song when there's a book version as well, even though Publisher's Weekly describes the book as "Two couples find their lives transformed by a Christmas gift in a gooey holiday parable that leaves no stone unturned in its pursuit of tear-jerking moments." I promise my book will not be gooey.
4. A little kid sings at the end of the song.
Who doesn't like that? We Christians love when a chorus of children come in at the end of a song. Especially if it's a sweet little kid that says "mama." As I've said before, if I ever have an audio book made of something I write, I'm going to have a really adorable third grader read the last chapter. Hopefully, Christopher Walken will agree to read the first 20, but to close it out on a strong note, I feel an 8-year old is in order. At least I get that sense from all of the Christian songs that end with a choir of kids.
5. It's played fairly often on Christian radio during the holidays.
It's available. Don't you hate when you hear about something good and you can never find it? You google it and ask your friends and no one knows where to direct you to enjoy this magical thing you're looking for? Don't worry about that happening with the Christmas Shoes song. It's currently played every other song on some Christian radio stations. So it's easy to find. That's a nice thing, right?
OK, I confess, I don't love that song, but I do wish I was signed up for the iTunes affiliate program and not just the Amazon.com one, because right now, I imagine readers are buying the Christmas Shoes song like some sort of delicious hot cake. And with the money I earned I'd probably buy my cat Sir Scratch a Lot, some new feline fancy feet socks in case he meets Jesus tonight. He was hit by a car while saving a wheelbarrow full of orphans and nuns that was stuck in the middle of the street. I think this might be his last Christmas with us and those socks are just his style.
Or click here to hear my 2nd favorite version, done by Sandi Patty. (My favorite is listening to my sister sing it.)
Yesterday I helped a toddler clean up a 44 ounce cup of Coke Zero he’d spilled everywhere (yes, it was mine; and no, there were not 44 ounces left remaining in it when he found it). I answered forty questions about whether Jesus made Lego blocks (so stay tuned for my new sermon series on “The Logos and the Legos”). And I disciplined a tantrum thrower and a sulker.
All of that was about the end times.
When we think of Christian eschatology, we tend to think first of prophecy charts or apocalyptic novels, but nothing is more eschatological than parenting.
A parent disciplining a child, for instance, communicates to the child the discipline and judgment of God in ways deeper and more resonant than any Sunday school lesson (Heb 12:5-11). A parent who will not discipline a child for disobedience, or who is inconsistent in doing so, is teaching that child not to expect consequences for behavior.
In short, a parent who will not discipline is denying the doctrine of hell.
At the same time, a parent who disciplines in anger or with harshness teaches a judgment of God that is capricious and unjust. An abusive parent, worst of all, ingrains in a child’s mind a picture of God as a ruthless devil who cannot be trusted to judge justly.
Parental discipleship and discipline ought always to have repentance and restoration in view, picturing a God who is both just and the justifier (Rom 3:26). Discipline should be swift and fair with quick reconciliation between parent and child. Long periods of “time out” do not communicate the discipline of God; they communicate the isolation and exile of hell.
Parents who spend time with their children, especially at meals, demonstrate something of the harmony they want their children to long for beyond this life. It’s a longing to eat at another Father’s table in the kingdom of Christ.
Moreover, we should teach children to respect and acknowledge authority, attributes necessary for citizens of a democracy for a short time, yes, but more necessary for subjects of a kingdom forever. Teaching children to refer to adults as “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Jones” or “Pastor Doe” and to say “sir” and “ma’am” (or the culturally equivalent signifiers of authority) is about more than politeness. It is training children to recognize proper hierarchy and authority when the veil is lifted and we see face to face.
Those of you who are parents probably grow weary and discouraged sometimes. I know I do. It seems as though you’re not “getting through” sometimes, that your children aren’t responding the way you thought they would. Keep hugging. Keep kissing. Keep chastising. Keep teaching. This is a long-term project. You’ve got a long-term project in front of you. And there’s a lot at stake.
After all, parenting isn’t about behavior modification. It’s about Christian eschatology.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Johnny Carr, National Director of Church Partnerships for Bethany Christian Services, explores the intentionality and service of adoption. Johnny adopted his first son, James, a deaf child from China, in 2005.
I guess the first thing is to define missional. "Missional" is one of those junk drawer buzzwords that has become common in our Christian vocabulary with several definitions floating around. Wikipedia says that "missional" is a missionary-term that describes a missionary lifestyle, and I guess that is as good a definition as any. To live "missionally" is to express the Gospel holistically in the way you live - every day and in every thing. It is a way of life, not a program. It means living like Jesus lived. If you know much about Jesus you know that includes helping to meet the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of others. Living missionally means making a conscious decision to live each day with others in mind, rather than yourself.
In other words, YES - adoption is missional.
Recently, I was speaking with a lady who had asked her church for financial help for their adoption. The church leader responded that the church did not help with "optional" things like adoption. The pastorâ€™s perspective seemingly saw adoption more like consumption than ministry. He saw adoption as a want - much like I want an iPhone. He was not viewing adoption from the perspective of the child.
When I meet with Pastors to discuss adoption ministries, I will often ask them, "Who does adoption help?" The typical response is "infertile couples." That is when I lovingly explain that adoption primarily helps children. Whether the child is an orphan from war, genocide or disease in Africa; whether the child is an orphan due to abuse and neglect and the state has severed the rights of his/her birth parents, or whether it is a new born baby that was born due to an unplanned pregnancy - adoption is (or, at least, should be) always about the health and best interest of the child. Unfortunately, many Christians are focusing on adults (us) rather than the child (them).
When adoption is seen through a child's eyes, it is easy to see the missional nature of adoption. In fact, this may be the ultimate missional decision because adoption is a lifetime commitment. Many people today are adopting children with special needs. Some of these children will never grow up to be independent. The people who are adopting these little ones know that they are making a decision today that will affect the rest of their lives. Instead of raising a couple of healthy kids, sending them off to college, and then sailing off in their motor home into retirement, they will be serving the least of these until one of them "retires" into eternity. That is truly missional.
Someone once said missional living was "religion without all the junk added," I thought that was interesting in light of James 1:27, "Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (NIV)
There are many different perspectives on the best ways to care for orphans, but with 143,000,000 orphans in the world today, something must be done by followers of Jesus Christ. Only 1-2% of these children will be adopted. We need many strategies that will best fit the cultures, values, and environments of the places where these orphans live, and adoption is a one great strategy.
Adoption is not the one-stop cure all for the orphan crisis, but it is a strategic and effective mode to care for the orphans of the world. It's also a commitment of sacrifice, a holistic manifestation of the Gospel, a missional posture and a service to Christ.
Bethany is an international team of nearly 900 people actively involved in ministering to the needs of children, young people, and families. With over 75 offices nationwide and international ministries in 13 other countries, Bethany touches the lives of more than 30,000 people each year. Bethany is supported through fees and gifts received from individuals, churches, corporations, and foundations. Bethany is known by many as an adoption agency, but our family-focused ministries also reach people struggling with unplanned pregnancies, infertility, and a multitude of other human hurts.