Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The War on Women

One of the biggest stories in the news lately has been the trial and conviction of the Shafia family for "Honour killings." Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their son Hamed Mohammad Shafia killed Mohammed's other wife, (Mohammed was a polygamist) Rona and three daughters, Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, just 19, 17 and 13 years old, ostensibly because they "shamed" the family. They are pictured below.

This case has rightly enraged people worldwide and drawn attention to the plight of women living in repressive cultures all over the world. In places like Afghanistan, former home of the Shafias, fundamentalist Muslims have used the Koran as an excuse to treat women as property. Because of this view, women who disobey are viewed to be disrespectful and, therefore, bring shame to the family. In the minds of Mohammed Shafia, the only way to restore the honour to the family name is to kill the offending women.

Thankfully, the Canadian court made a clear and emphatic statement that this hate, masquerading in religious garb, will not be tolerated here. All three accused were convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for twenty five years. The very clear and direct message from the judge and jury was that the lives of women are valued in Canada. This judgement should make us all proud.

That being said, I can't help but find the irony here. Just two weeks ago I wrote an article about the emerging trend for women to come to Canada in order to find out the sex of their baby so that they can abort their female children. The National Post did a feature on this on January 16th. Just last week I linked to the just produced film called "It's A Girl!" detailing the gendercide that's taking place around the world as baby girls, born and unborn, are killed automatically -simply for being girls.

Doesn't anyone else find it at least a little bit hypocritical that we, as a society, are turning a blind eye to the killing of baby girls in the womb on our own soil while vilifying the Shafias? They're obviously guilty of a heinous crime - it seems that popular opinion is unanimous on that. But I'm also outraged that the Government of China, with its one child policy, is complicit in the deaths of millions of live born baby girls. I'm outraged that, in India, it's a cultural norm to murder a baby girl so the parents won't have to come up with money for a dowry later. I'm also outraged that we're doing the same thing in Canada - just a few weeks earlier, because the child will make our lives more difficult.

Here's my question, where are the feminist groups? Why are their voices silent on this? These are baby girls who need protection, but it seems that women's rights groups are so afraid of losing ground on the abortion issue that they remain silent in the face of injustice. I know this is not a popular issue, but it is not going away. The fact that Canada has no abortion law will continue to be a stain on our country's reputation. I hear no cogent defense of this pro-abortion position, only the shrill cry to stop talking about it, and the claim that no-one wants to re-open the debate. Cowardice on our part can only lead to disaster for those who can't defend themselves.

The Shafias deserve the punishment they will receive; their crime was horrific. These four women reached out for help to school officials, police and even a women's shelter. For some reason (some claim because they were Muslim) these cries for help went unheeded. The inaction eventually led to their deaths. The voices of millions of girls worldwide are crying out for justice. Get past your bias and speak up.

Related Articles:
Words of Death: "It's A Girl!"
Canada Now an Abortion Destination
The Wonder of Life
Tim Tebow Mania
Losing Our Way
Canada's Shame

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tim Tebow and John 3:16 - What's Up With That?

I was doing some internet surfing and came across CNN's BELIEF BLOG. This is where their "religion experts" give their take on issues from Mitt Romney's Mormonism to a Texas Pastor's challenge to his married members to engage in sex for seven straight days to help their marriages (that's getting some play right now!) The reporting here certainly seems to be much more balanced than most main-stream media outlets.

The video I've embedded here is on the subject of John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.") The popular interest in this verse has been revived by Tim Tebow, who, in his college years, used to put Scripture references on his eye black to send a message during games. That practice has since been banned.

What I find interesting is that this even needs to be explained. It certainly is revealing about how far our culture has moved from the days, not so long ago, when everyone was Biblically literate. From a Pastor's perspective, it really makes me stop and think about how to communicate to this culture in a relevant way. When I began my ministry, I could usually assume that almost everyone who would listen to my sermons believed in God, knew the Bible, and had a favorable opinion towards the church. Today, in many places, the reverse is true. It certainly does lay a much heavier responsibility on those of us entrusted with the task of communicating the Gospel (Good News) message. Enjoy the video.

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Billy Graham and Woody Allen
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

All Time Greatest Super Bowl Ads - Vote!

All right everybody, next Sunday is Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. Many are looking forward to the game, but many are also looking forward to the commercials. Every year companies spend millions to make the commercial that will capture the minds of the mega-audience, not to mention the cost of $3.5 million for a 30-second ad.

There have been some great commercials dubuted during the Super Bowl. I've picked out 14 nominees for best all-time and I want you to help me decide. Write-ins are allowed. Leave your vote in the comment section below. The top five vote-getters will be announced next Saturday. Here are my selections - in no particular order.

(Careerbuilder "Parking Lot" - 2011)

(Snickers "Betty White" - 2010)

(Doritos "House Rules" - 2010)

(Bridgestone "Karma" - 2011)

("Clydesdale Team" - 2008)

("Castaway" - Fed-Ex, 2003)

(Pepsi - 1995)

(Old Spice - 2010)

(Budweiser frogs - 1995)

(Where's The Beef? - 1984)

(The Force - 2011)

(9/11 Tribute)

(Mean Joe Green - 1980)

(1984 Apple Macintosh Ad)

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

In The Know – How Are Teens Affected by the College Application Season?

Jeannie Burlowski ConsultingThis is a guest post by Jeannie Burlowski, a U.S. based speaker, consultant, and writer on the subject of brilliance in college and college, graduate, and medical school admissions. She is the primary instructor for “Brilliant in College” Seminars and Conferences – used by pastors, high schools, and colleges to equip both parents and students for academic success and decisive spiritual power during the college years (online at http://www.bebrilliantincollege.com/).
She is also the author of the book 6 Things You Absolutely Must Do to be Brilliant in College (due out in 2012).

Have you ever tried to stand up in a canoe?

You’re about to launch out into an exciting adventure, and you’re eager to go, but first you have to walk the length of the canoe to get to your seat.

You feel unstable, insecure, and out of balance, like anything you might do could capsize you.

Take that feeling and stretch it out over about four years, and you have some sense of what teens feel from the time they’re 16 until they’re about 20.

It’s called “launch anxiety.”

Experts on teen development call it launch anxiety, and it’s something parents experience too. Imagine a teen and her parents, all standing up in the same canoe, all trying to get balance and footing in this strange new season of life.

Now you have some sense of why life in a home with teens can seem chaotic and out of control.

What do parents and teens grab for, as they try to gain stability?

It times of change, uncertainty, and instability, human beings naturally – instinctively -- grab for something steady and stable to hold onto.

In best case scenarios both parents and teens, separately, intensify and further develop their focus on a steady, unchanging God through a real and relevant relationship with Jesus Christ.

In the words of author Leanne Payne, they “stand up straight into God.” Parents in this posture view their teens as having purpose, a “calling” on their lives – whether ministerial or not. They see their teens as possessing specific gifts from God that will enable and bring excellence to their life’s work. For families in this posture, college (or other post-secondary training or education) makes sense in that it develops the gifts God has specifically given this teen. It’s a means to an end, not an idol to be bowed to.

This is the best-case scenario. In many families, though, reality looks quite different.

Grabbing for what cannot provide stability

Sometimes, even committed Christian parents and teens are tempted to leave off “standing up straight into God” in the crush of the pre-college years.

The tug is insidious and ever present - to bend down, to bow toward the earth and all it provides, to try in vain to “get life” and security and stability from things such as enormous numbers of extracurricular activities, prestigious college admissions, or plans for medicine or aerospace engineering.

“Surely these things are the key to a good life, right?” parents ask each other hesitantly. “There’s nothing wrong with a focus on education… is there?”

When there’s excessive focus, that is a problem.

When the pursuit of the next step in education becomes an idol to be bowed to and worshipped, teens report feeling suffocated and exhausted, and pressured almost beyond their ability to bear it. It’s in situations like these that teens sometimes begin to turn to unhealthy behaviors, in an effort to cope - in an effort to escape.

One teen girl put it this way: “Some people say that figuring out the college stuff is like building a bicycle while riding it, but IT’S NOT. It’s like building a 747 jumbo jet while flying it! You better believe it’s scary.”

I’m a parent. Are there practical things can I do to counteract this?

  • Frankly look at whether you might be bent toward the earth, “getting life” from your own education, career, or earning potential. If you are, begin to “stand up straight into God” where your own career and earning potential are concerned.
  • At the dinner table or while riding in the car, let your teen know about problems or obstacles you are facing at work. Let him or her know that you are actively praying about these things and listening for God’s response, because God helps people to find ingenious solutions to problems at work.
  • Consistently see your work as part of a much bigger picture, and let your teen hear you praying for God’s presence and blessing in that bigger picture.
  • Hard as it is in our culture, keep your own work within boundaries, with time carefully set aside for play, rest, worship, and connecting with others. Each time you make this choice, you are communicating to your teen that work is not to be worshipped.
  • Seek out and learn a new skill that will help you to be better at your work. Communicate to your teen that you’re excited about the opportunity -- because you’re not just working for a paycheck; your daily secular work is an act of worship to God, and you want to do it as well and as beautifully as possible.
  • In age appropriate family meetings, pray together and thank God for your income. Tell God together of your desire to manage your income wisely. Make giving decisions as a family, and then lay the offering check in the middle of the table and pray this prayer: “God, we’re giving this because our family wants to be a part of what you are doing on this earth.” Who could resist the invitation to be a part of something as beautiful as that?
Related Articles:
Life As A Teenager
Don't Push Me!
Thoughts on Fatherhood

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Power of the Mind

I've been reading a great book lately by John Ortberg called "The Me I Want To Be." John is a pastor in California and formerly a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, where I first heard of him. He's a great communicator and does a great job of making complicated issues understandable for the rest of us.

In his chapter called "Think Great Thoughts" he talks about learning how to monitor our thought patterns. For years now I've been speaking about the Biblical mandate to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind," so this was particularly enlightening to me. It's amazing how much our thought patterns control us, and also how we can deliberately reshape those patterns to make positive change. Here's a great illustration John uses:

Excerpts from a Dog's Diary
8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Excerpts from a Cat's Diary:
Day 983 of my captivity. My captors continue
to taunt me with bizarre,
little dangling objects.
The only thing that keeps me
going is my dream of escape.

Two animals, identical circumstances; totally different experiences. The point is that the focus of our thoughts has a great deal to do with our outcomes. On what do you focus?

I speak to people often whose focus is on their problems and how life has done them wrong. Their mindset filters out any of the good things that may be happening around them and, instead, picks up on, and magnifies, any real or perceived slight. Over their lifetime they have unwittingly helped to create a reality for themselves that is far worse than it needs to be.

This is now scientifically verified. As Ortberg writes, "Even twenty years ago, researchers thought the adult brain was genetically determined and structurally unchangeable. But they have since found that even into adulthood the brain is amazingly changeable - it has neuroplasticity. Which synapses remain and which ones whither away depends on your mental habits. Those that carry no traffic go out of business like bus routes with no customers. Those that get heavily trafficked get stronger and thicker. The mind shapes the brain. Neurons that wire together fire together. In other words, when you practice hope, love or joy, your mind is actually, literally, rewiring your brain!"

It stands to reason then, that Scripture would speak to this. Colossians 3:2 tells us, "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." One of my life verses, Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Ultimately, how we choose to think is up to us, which is why we can point to people of similar backgrounds who chose radically different paths. Your past, your circumstances, your family background doesn't need to define your future. What I have found helpful is to use God's Word as a filter through which I can interpret events. For example, Jeremiah 29:11 - "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Or Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

So, here's a question, where are your thought patterns taking you? Again, Ortberg writes, "As a general rule, our emotions flow out of our thoughts. Discouraged people tend to think discouraging thoughts. Worried people tend to think anxious thoughts." Conversely, positive people tend to think positive thoughts. Why not begin today to take charge in this area? Think better thoughts to start moving in a better direction.

Related Articles:
Developing Great Habits
“Put God First” - The Principle of Priority
"Take Out the Trash" - The Principle of Transformation
"Write It Down" - The Principle of Clarity
"Turn It Off!" - The Principle of Restoration
"Do It Now" - The Principle of Inertia

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Words of Death: "It's A Girl!"

In the early years of the church, Christians would gather babies who were unwanted and left to die by their mothers beside open sewers, and raise them as their own. They cared for those no-one else would touch. They took seriously what the writer of Proverbs said in Proverbs 24:11 - "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter." We need that kind of compassion again on a broad scale.

The following is the official trailer for a Documentary Film called "It's A Girl" detailing the horrendous "gendercide" taking place, primarily in Asia. Most of you will be shocked by what you will hear, and all of us should be horrified.

Many years ago we were ridiculed for suggesting that not only was abortion wrong, but that it was also a slippery slope that would result in the dehumanizing of entire groups of people for selfish purposes. It's happened. I share this to inform and to try to change some minds. We must value human life. We must speak for those who can't speak for themselves.

The degree of violence that is happening in our world today towards girls actually dwarfs the holocaust! Hitler and the Nazis justified their actions by claiming that their victims were sub-human. The same argument is being used today about babies in the womb. Unbelievably, in many countries, baby girls are killed the moment that they are born, often by their own mothers. While this practice dates back centuries and is deeply rooted in some cultures, we are supposedly living in an advanced age. Yet there is still a culture of death which must be reversed.

Please watch this video, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Then share it. There are 42 million abortions worldwide per year. Add to that the number of born live baby girls murdered and, somehow, it gets even worse. When you have opportunity to make a difference with your voice or with your ballot, for the children's sake, do it.

"How can you say there are too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers." - Mother Teresa

Related Articles:
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The Wonder of Life
Tim Tebow Mania
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Canada's Shame

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A New Look At Justice

The following is a great article I just read about a different approach to criminal justice. This subject has long been debated and I know there are entrenched opinions on both extremes of the political spectrum. However, as Christians we need to look for Biblical principles in regards to justice, including restorative justice.

This article details some of the changes made in the State of Hawaii, which could provide some helpful lessons in other places, including Canada. All of North America is experiencing overcrowding in our prisons and a backlog in our courts. There's got to be a better way. Hopefully this article will get you thinking. By the way, Prison Fellowship now has a uniquely Canadian branch. Check out their web-site here. I've added links throughout the article for those of you who would like to look further.

Friends of HOPE
Win-Win Justice

- by Jim Liske
Prison Fellowship CEO

Just about everyone who has spent time around the American criminal justice system will tell you that it is broken. Political scientist James Q. Wilson, whom no one would ever call “soft on crime,” described the heart of the problem this way: “This country imprisons too many people on drug charges with little observable effect.”

Yet, despite the obvious problems, the status quo persists in most places. Fortunately, one place is doing things differently.

That place is Hawaii. For years, Judge Steve Alm watched as the system failed time and again. Drug offenders on probation would consistently flunk drug tests, and after 13 or 14 violations would be sent to prison for a long time. Judge Alm, a former federal prosecutor, wondered, “Why do we let them continue to break the rules? Why not impose consequences immediately — on the first violation — but not sentence them for years, but just days, to get their attention and let them know we’re serious about them staying clean?”

He hit upon the problem with the old way of handling violations: the lag between violations and other consequence was so long that most offenders believed they could act with impunity.

Out of Judge Alm’s frustration grew Project HOPE, which stands for “Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement.” One of HOPE’s guiding principles is that what matters with drug and other non-violent offenders is the certainty, not the severity, of punishment. That’s why under the HOPE program, the sanctions are certain, swift, and fair.

Offenders are required to call a hotline to learn whether they are going to be tested that day. Failing the drug test leads to immediate arrest. They sit in jail until a hearing, usually within 48 hours. This is all it takes for most of them to “get with the program.”

The results are striking: HOPE participants are “55 percent less likely to be arrested for a new crime, 72 percent less likely to test positive for drugs and 61 percent less likely to skip appointments with their probation officer.”

In a clear example of “win-win;” for every dollar Hawaii spends on HOPE, it saves three dollars. And communities are safer. This is the kind of smart approach that Justice Fellowship has been advocating for years. It begins with a biblical, clear-eyed view of human nature. It holds offenders accountable without adding to prison overcrowding. HOPE’s success has caused other jurisdictions to be willing to embrace this alternative to incarceration.

That’s why Virginia legislators were willing to work with Justice Fellowship to establish similar pilot programs in that state. In fact, one of these programs is located near Prison Fellowship’s national office in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Programs like HOPE hold offenders accountable and save money. They are also the right thing to do. The Hope program allows non-dangerous offenders to maintain their ties with their communities and learn how to obey the law even when they are not being constrained. That’s why the HOPE program is so aptly named.

For more information on biblically based solutions for our nation’s (U.S.) criminal justice system, visit JusticeFellowship.org

Related Articles:
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Manhattan Declaration

I reread this the other day and wanted to give all of you an opportunity to read it as well. This document was drafted by a committee of Christian leaders including: Robert George - Professor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University; Timothy George - Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University and Chuck Colson - Founder, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, VA).

I recognize that it is an American document, but the issues and sentiments being dealt with are common among all Western democracies. I welcome your feedback on this as there are several talking points. Should you like to go to the actual site for more in-depth research, click here.


Drafted October 20, 2009 & Released November 20, 2009

Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God's word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.

While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire's sanctioning of infanticide. We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.

After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture. It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce's leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible. And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement. The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes – from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.

We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities. We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness that pro- abortion ideology prevails today in our government. Many in the present administration want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development, and want to provide abortions at taxpayer expense. Majorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views. The Supreme Court, whose infamous 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade stripped the unborn of legal protection, continues to treat elective abortion as a fundamental constitutional right, though it has upheld as constitutionally permissible some limited restrictions on abortion. The President says that he wants to reduce the "need" for abortion—a commendable goal. But he has also pledged to make abortion more easily and widely available by eliminating laws prohibiting government funding, requiring waiting periods for women seeking abortions, and parental notification for abortions performed on minors. The elimination of these important and effective pro-life laws cannot reasonably be expected to do other than significantly increase the number of elective abortions by which the lives of countless children are snuffed out prior to birth. Our commitment to the sanctity of life is not a matter of partisan loyalty, for we recognize that in the thirty-six years since Roe v. Wade, elected officials and appointees of both major political parties have been complicit in giving legal sanction to what Pope John Paul II described as "the culture of death." We call on all officials in our country, elected and appointed, to protect and serve every member of our society, including the most marginalized, voiceless, and vulnerable among us.

A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable. As predicted by many prescient persons, the cheapening of life that began with abortion has now metastasized. For example, human embryo-destructive research and its public funding are promoted in the name of science and in the cause of developing treatments and cures for diseases and injuries. The President and many in Congress favor the expansion of embryo-research to include the taxpayer funding of so-called "therapeutic cloning." This would result in the industrial mass production of human embryos to be killed for the purpose of producing genetically customized stem cell lines and tissues. At the other end of life, an increasingly powerful movement to promote assisted suicide and "voluntary" euthanasia threatens the lives of vulnerable elderly and disabled persons. Eugenic notions such as the doctrine of lebensunwertes Leben ("life unworthy of life") were first advanced in the 1920s by intellectuals in the elite salons of America and Europe. Long buried in ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, they have returned from the grave. The only difference is that now the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of "liberty," "autonomy," and "choice."

We will be united and untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion. We will work, as we have always worked, to bring assistance, comfort, and care to pregnant women in need and to those who have been victimized by abortion, even as we stand resolutely against the corrupt and degrading notion that it can somehow be in the best interests of women to submit to the deliberate killing of their unborn children. Our message is, and ever shall be, that the just, humane, and truly Christian answer to problem pregnancies is for all of us to love and care for mother and child alike.

A truly prophetic Christian witness will insistently call on those who have been entrusted with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination. The Bible enjoins us to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to speak for those who cannot themselves speak. And so we defend and speak for the unborn, the disabled, and the dependent. What the Bible and the light of reason make clear, we must make clear. We must be willing to defend, even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions, the lives of our brothers and sisters at every stage of development and in every condition.

Our concern is not confined to our own nation. Around the globe, we are witnessing cases of genocide and "ethnic cleansing," the failure to assist those who are suffering as innocent victims of war, the neglect and abuse of children, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the sexual trafficking of girls and young women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to take steps necessary to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS. We see these travesties as flowing from the same loss of the sense of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life that drives the abortion industry and the movements for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and human cloning for biomedical research. And so ours is, as it must be, a truly consistent ethic of love and life for all humans in all circumstances.

The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24

This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:32-33

In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of God's creation. In the transmission of life and the nurturing of children, men and women joined as spouses are given the great honor of being partners with God Himself. Marriage then, is the first institution of human society—indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation. In the Christian tradition we refer to marriage as "holy matrimony" to signal the fact that it is an institution ordained by God, and blessed by Christ in his participation at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. In the Bible, God Himself blesses and holds marriage in the highest esteem.

Vast human experience confirms that marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all persons in a society. Where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone benefits—the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they live. Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly manifest themselves. Unfortunately, we have witnessed over the course of the past several decades a serious erosion of the marriage culture in our own country. Perhaps the most telling—and alarming—indicator is the out-of-wedlock birth rate. Less than fifty years ago, it was under 5 percent. Today it is over 40 percent. Our society—and particularly its poorest and most vulnerable sectors, where the out- of-wedlock birth rate is much higher even than the national average—is paying a huge price in delinquency, drug abuse, crime, incarceration, hopelessness, and despair. Other indicators are widespread non-marital sexual cohabitation and a devastatingly high rate of divorce.

We confess with sadness that Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously failed to uphold the institution of marriage and to model for the world the true meaning of marriage. Insofar as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce and remained silent about social practices that undermine the dignity of marriage we repent, and call upon all Christians to do the same.

To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love. We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce. We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make.

The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law. Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents' marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant.

We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct. We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward. We stand with them, even when they falter. We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God's intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God's patience, love and forgiveness. We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it. Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners. For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts. Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to "a more excellent way." As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.

We further acknowledge that there are sincere people who disagree with us, and with the teaching of the Bible and Christian tradition, on questions of sexual morality and the nature of marriage. Some who enter into same-sex and polyamorous relationships no doubt regard their unions as truly marital. They fail to understand, however, that marriage is made possible by the sexual complementarity of man and woman, and that the comprehensive, multi-level sharing of life that marriage is includes bodily unity of the sort that unites husband and wife biologically as a reproductive unit. This is because the body is no mere extrinsic instrument of the human person, but truly part of the personal reality of the human being. Human beings are not merely centers of consciousness or emotion, or minds, or spirits, inhabiting non-personal bodies. The human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit. Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being—the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual— on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation. That is why in the Christian tradition, and historically in Western law, consummated marriages are not dissoluble or annullable on the ground of infertility, even though the nature of the marital relationship is shaped and structured by its intrinsic orientation to the great good of procreation.

We understand that many of our fellow citizens, including some Christians, believe that the historic definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality or civil rights. They wonder what to say in reply to the argument that asserts that no harm would be done to them or to anyone if the law of the community were to confer upon two men or two women who are living together in a sexual partnership the status of being "married." It would not, after all, affect their own marriages, would it? On inspection, however, the argument that laws governing one kind of marriage will not affect another cannot stand. Were it to prove anything, it would prove far too much: the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships. Should these, as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have no effects on other relationships? No. The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential.

No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality—a covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow. First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized. Second, the rights of parents are abused as family life and sex education programs in schools are used to teach children that an enlightened understanding recognizes as "marriages" sexual partnerships that many parents believe are intrinsically non-marital and immoral. Third, the common good of civil society is damaged when the law itself, in its critical pedagogical function, becomes a tool for eroding a sound understanding of marriage on which the flourishing of the marriage culture in any society vitally depends. Sadly, we are today far from having a thriving marriage culture. But if we are to begin the critically important process of reforming our laws and mores to rebuild such a culture, the last thing we can afford to do is to re-define marriage in such a way as to embody in our laws a false proclamation about what marriage is.

And so it is out of love (not "animus") and prudent concern for the common good (not "prejudice"), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture. How could we, as Christians, do otherwise? The Bible teaches us that marriage is a central part of God's creation covenant. Indeed, the union of husband and wife mirrors the bond between Christ and his church. And so just as Christ was willing, out of love, to give Himself up for the church in a complete sacrifice, we are willing, lovingly, to make whatever sacrifices are required of us for the sake of the inestimable treasure that is marriage.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. Matthew 22:21

The struggle for religious liberty across the centuries has been long and arduous, but it is not a novel idea or recent development. The nature of religious liberty is grounded in the character of God Himself, the God who is most fully known in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Determined to follow Jesus faithfully in life and death, the early Christians appealed to the manner in which the Incarnation had taken place: "Did God send Christ, as some suppose, as a tyrant brandishing fear and terror? Not so, but in gentleness and meekness..., for compulsion is no attribute of God" (Epistle to Diognetus 7.3-4). Thus the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the example of Christ Himself and in the very dignity of the human person created in the image of God—a dignity, as our founders proclaimed, inherent in every human, and knowable by all in the exercise of right reason.

Christians confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience. Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience. No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions. What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well.

It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law—such persons claiming these "rights" are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore to compel pro-life institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics), and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions. We see it in the use of anti- discrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business. After the judicial imposition of "same-sex marriage" in Massachusetts, for example, Catholic Charities chose with great reluctance to end its century-long work of helping to place orphaned children in good homes rather than comply with a legal mandate that it place children in same-sex households in violation of Catholic moral teaching. In New Jersey, after the establishment of a quasi-marital "civil unions" scheme, a Methodist institution was stripped of its tax exempt status when it declined, as a matter of religious conscience, to permit a facility it owned and operated to be used for ceremonies blessing homosexual unions. In Canada and some European nations, Christian clergy have been prosecuted for preaching Biblical norms against the practice of homosexuality. New hate-crime laws in America raise the specter of the same practice here.

In recent decades a growing body of case law has paralleled the decline in respect for religious values in the media, the academy and political leadership, resulting in restrictions on the free exercise of religion. We view this as an ominous development, not only because of its threat to the individual liberty guaranteed to every person, regardless of his or her faith, but because the trend also threatens the common welfare and the culture of freedom on which our system of republican government is founded. Restrictions on the freedom of conscience or the ability to hire people of one's own faith or conscientious moral convictions for religious institutions, for example, undermines the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism Tocqueville so prophetically warned of.1 Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.

As Christians, we take seriously the Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in authority. We believe in law and in the rule of law. We recognize the duty to comply with laws whether we happen to like them or not, unless the laws are gravely unjust or require those subject to them to do something unjust or otherwise immoral. The biblical purpose of law is to preserve order and serve justice and the common good; yet laws that are unjust—and especially laws that purport to compel citizens to do what is unjust—undermine the common good, rather than serve it.

Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching. Their answer was, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required. There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself. Unjust laws degrade human beings. Inasmuch as they can claim no authority beyond sheer human will, they lack any power to bind in conscience. King's willingness to go to jail, rather than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring.

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Just Do The Right Thing!

There have been so many news stories recently that have hit on the subject of character and integrity that I just had to write about the subject. From Newt Gingrich and his womanizing, to the death of Joe Paterno after leaving a tarnished legacy, the landscape seems barren if you're looking for people to look up to. Besides this there are the people I know or have known closer to home, seemingly oblivious to the affect their bad decisions are having and will have on the people around them. I was reflecting on this recently in my own life. I want to finish well.

An article I read today drew attention to the dalliances of notables like John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Margaret Trudeau and many others. It's a sad reality that leads to so many questions. Is it just inevitable that everyone will fail? Can no-one be trusted? Does it really matter anyway? Who are we to judge? Why bother trying?

There's a parallel to our times in the Old Testament book of Judges. My brother reminded me of it this morning. Judges 21:25 says, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Since there was no-one to take charge, and the people had abandoned God, everyone did what was right in their own eyes. No absolute standard, no social mores to speak of, just everyone doing their own thing. What was the result of that kind of thinking?

A quick read of Judges reveals what you'd expect - anarchy. There are stories of murder, deceit, betrayal, disloyalty, adultery, etc... Sound familiar? When people no longer accept that God's standard applies to them, anything goes. Interestingly, the atheist philosopher Nietsche also predicted this. He believed that the atheist of the twentieth century would realize the consequences of living in a world without God, for without God there are no absolute moral values. Man is free to play God and create his own morality. Because of this, prophesied Nietzsche, the twentieth century would be the bloodiest century in human history. As T.S. Eliot said, "If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God) you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin."

My point is not that there is a direct line of cause and effect from abandoning God to immorality (even if that is true), but that there's been a gradual shift that has had devastating effects. I make no effort here to throw stones at atheists or agnostics and their lack of morality. I take exception, rather, to those who claim the name of Christ and yet have the morality of an alleycat and lack the courage of their own stated convictions.

I am a great believer and recipient of God's amazing grace, but this does not give us license to live debauched lives. The apostle Paul answered this directly in Romans 6:1-2. He asked and then answered his own question: "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!" No, there is a higher standard for us to reach.

I know that none of us are perfect, but we all need to raise the bar. We value qualities like courage, faithfulness and self-sacrifice because deep down we know they are right. Regardless of Joe Paterno's record and his accomplishments and high standing in his community, if he knew someone on his staff was abusing a young boy and did nothing to stop it, he was wrong. Unfortunately, that failure to stand up when he needed to will be a part of his legacy. If Newt Gingrich cannot be trusted to be faithful to his wife and has demonstrated a pattern of infidelity, how can he be trusted with running one of the most powerful nations on earth?

So, what are we to do? Recently I saw a program honouring the heroes of 9/11 - the first-responders. Brave men and women risked, and many lost, their lives unselfishly to save total strangers. I also recently watched the movie "Courageous," a new release challenging men to make and keep commitments. This world is crying out for men and women who will live lives of integrity.

I'm reminded of Billy Graham, one of the few public figures who towers above the landscape of the twentieth century. Billy decided early on that he would go the extra mile to ensure that not only his character, but also his reputation was protected. He and his team put guidelines in place to see that the finances of their organization were above board and beyond suspicion. He was instrumental in founding the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) which provided other similar organizations with the guidelines needed to protect their reputations.

He also took steps to keep himself from even a hint of sexual misconduct, refusing to meet privately with women and having staffers check his hotel rooms to be sure he could not unknowingly be placed in a compromising position. This may seem excessive, but Billy found it reasonable because of what was at stake. There are a great many people who would still love to find a skeleton in his closet. Billy is of the school that believes that if anyone has anything bad to say about you, just be sure they are lying.

Who are your heroes? Who would you seek to emulate? As a believer, my sincere desire is to be like Jesus Christ. I know I won't be perfect, but I think, following Him, I'll have better results than I would following the likes of Charlie Sheen. I want to be faithful to my wife. I have no desire to be a statistic. I want to set a good example for my sons and for my congregation. I don't want to ever have someone say that I took the easy way out. I don't want to see how much I can get away with, but rather what I can accomplish for Christ.

I want to do the right thing. So, each day I will try to start my day with God, inviting Him to lead me, recognizing that I can't do this alone. If I stumble, I'll quickly admit my error and get back up. I will guard my heart against wrong attitudes. I will look for and listen to wise counsel. I will remember that there are people who are watching me who will be affected if I fail. I will keep myself accountable, first of all to God, but also to my family and my church. I want to finish well. God help me.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Some Links Worth Checking Out

Today I decided to look through some of my "Favorites" and pull out a few that I thought were worth sharing. I hope that you like them.

Link #1 is to "The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation." Be sure to scroll through the kindness ideas and try one of them tomorrow. Who knows, you could make someone's day.

Link #2 is a page called "Twisted Sifter," where you can download a photo of the day. There are some great shots here. Well worth a visit.

Link #3 is to the "National Geographic" web-site. They have some great photos and videos, maps etc...

Finally, Link #4 is one that is particularly useful for all of you out there who share stories that end up being revealed as frauds. (You know who you are.) You can save yourself a little bit of embarassment by checking "Snopes.com" for those urban legends.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death - Update

Those of you following this story will recall that Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani has been condemned to death for apostasy because he converted from Islam to Christianity. When news of this travesty created protests from other nations, Iranian officials claimed that he was to be executed for sex crimes. This was obviously fabricated since none of this was mentioned in the court proceedings. Revealingly, he was recently given another chance to walk away - by denying his Christian faith.

Pastor Yousef recently refused to state that the Muslim prophet Muhammad was a messenger sent by God, despite the fact that it would have secured his release. On December 30, local authorities said they would release the pastor if he agreed to make the statement, but he rejected the offer and remains in prison awaiting a final decision on his case. The request violates article 23 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that no one should be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.

The pastor at the Church of Iran was arrested in Rasht in 2009, and in September 2010, he was tried and found guilty of apostasy and sentenced to death. He was made three similar offers in 2011 where recanting his faith would have saved his life, but he refused each time. His case was eventually referred to Iran's Supreme Leader. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the case may have been passed on to the head of the Iranian judiciary, delaying execution for up to a year to allow time to convince the pastor to renounce his faith. (Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

This Pastor is one of many Christians around the world who are facing imrisonment, torture or even death for their faith. Another such case is that of Asia Bibi of Pakistan, a Christian wife and mother sentenced to die for allegedly committing blasphemy against Islam. She says she has forgiven those who are persecuting her. She recently told a Pakistani journalist, who asked her a list of questions prepared by an American journalist, that she spends her time praying and fasting for her family and other persecuted Christians.

Asia is confined to a cell and is allowed to go outside 30 minutes each day. She sees her two daughters and husband one hour each week. Asia told her interviewer that one of the prison workers recently tried to strangle her, and she must prepare her own food since it is feared she will be poisoned if workers in the prison prepare it. Life for All is supporting her family and has hired a lawyer to try and overturn the conviction. She says she is hopeful that she will be released, but there is a bounty of about $8,000 offered by the Islamic clerics to anyone who will kill her. Asia says she is content that her future is in God's hands and she will accept His will. (Source: VOM-USA, Atlas Shrugs)

When I read of these, and so many others like them, I am reminded of what the writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 11:38 - "...the world was not worthy of them." It is a challenge for we Christians living in relative ease to stand with our brothers and sisters in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria and a host of other countries where claiming the name of Christ can get you killed.

There are at least three things all of us can do at a minimum. 1. Be informed. Subscribe to news feeds like VOM, because, Lord knows, you certainly won't hear the whole story from the mainline media. 2. Pray. We are Christians. The Bible tells us to pray for those who are suffering, and also for those doing the persecuting. Remember that at one time the Apostle Paul, perhaps the greatest of all Christian missionaries, was a persecuter of the church. Pray that the church would advance in spite of the persecution and that those facing challenges would have courage and know God's peace. 3. Spread the word. Use whatever means and networks you have at your disposal to let others know what is happening. Don't let these brave men and women stand alone.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Truth" - by Ravi Zacharias

Ravi has been one of my favorite authors and speakers for over 25 years. This video is a good example of why that is true. I hope you take a few minutes to watch it.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Canada Now an Abortion Destination

For anyone still thinking that it's okay to kill children in the womb, here's a question, where should you draw the line? In the article I've linked to below they explain that foreign nationals are using Canada as the place to come to if you want to abort your baby for being a girl.

The combination of our advanced technology and our lack of an abortion law has created the perfect storm. Throughout Asia it's long been known that many practice feticide on baby girls in the womb because they prefer boys. Congratulations Canada! We make that possible.

This development creates a real conundrum for the pro-choice movement, many of whom are feminist. Is it okay for a woman to choose to abort her child simply because that child is a girl? If not, why not? The bottom line in all of this is that it demonstrates that we've hit the bottom of the slippery slope we've been warned about for many years.

We seriously need to reconsider this national disgrace. When children can be aborted in one wing of a hospital and even younger children can be operated on "in utero" in another wing of that same hospital, based solely on whether or not the mother wants the child, we have a major problem. That is schizophrenic thinking. If it's a baby, it's a baby.

By the way, we've never settled this debate, as the media keeps declaring, we've short-circuited it. The majority of Canadians, in survey after survey, want limits placed on abortion. As Mother Teresa said, "Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.” When people are coming to Canada for sex-selection tests, only to have an abortion if it's a girl, we have to take a good long look in the mirror and WAKE UP!

Read the full article here.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

"I Have A Dream"

There are very few people who have had as profound an affect on their culture as Martin Luther King, Jr. I became a student of King's life as I began my ministry some 30 years ago. While he was a flawed human being, he was also a powerful leader. His courage and his dynamic speaking ability shaped the future of a nation. He was able to inspire people, to influence those in power and to turn the tide of public opinion. His commitment to non-violence earned him the respect of friend and foe alike.

On this Martin Luther King Day I wanted to return to his shining moment, his "I Have a Dream" sppech in Washington, D.C. from August 28, 1963. I hope that you'll take the time to watch it and ask yourself, what are you doing to make the world a better place.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tim Tebow Mania

I wanted to write a note about Tim Tebow before his playoff game today against the New England Patriots. He is now the favorite athlete in the world, and probably the most hated one as well. Everyone has an opinion about him and his evangelical Christian beliefs. I thought it might be a good idea, as a Christian myself, to try to interpret some of his actions for some of my non-Christian friends.

Let's start with what first brought a lot of negative attention to Tim - a 30-second pro-life commercial for "Focus on the Family" shown during the Super Bowl. Here it is:

Seems harmless enough, doesn't it? Yet it was the subject of angry op-ed columns and bloggers for weeks, months even. How dare Tim speak out in favour of a mother keeping her child, rather than choosing abortion. The truth is that Tim's mother chose to have him, in spite of advice from doctors to abort. Tim and his mother wanted women to know that choosing life is a great option.

The fact that the pro-life movement is politically incorrect no doubt accounted for much of the negativity, as a lot of the criticism was levelled even before the commercial aired. One obvious thing about Tim Tebow is that he's not afraid to say what he thinks or live out his convictions.

The second, and main thing, I wanted to touch on is "Tebowing," Tim's propensity to take the time to pray before, during and after games. Many secular people take this as Tim's attempt to coerce God into helping him win. Believe it or not, that's not what Tim is doing, or what genuine Christ-followers do. The goal is not for God to intervene on the field to bring the Denver Broncos victory. Tim prays that, regardless of the outcome, he would conduct himself in such a way that he brings honour to his God. Tim wants to win like everyone else does, but, if you listen to his prayers, they are prayers of thanksgiving, and prayers that he and his teammates - and the opposition - would be injury free and that he would perform to the best of his ability.

If Tim was a selfish, egotistical, prima dona the criticism would be warranted. But he's not, and it's not. He's a good guy who is a good teammate and a quarterback who performs well under pressure. He also has shown that he has a great deal of compassion for those who are less fortunate than he is, spending a great deal of time and effort to make a difference in their lives. I thought this commentary by Charles Adler expressed it well, so I've included the video below. I hope you like it and, win or lose, I wish Tebow all the best. He's certainly not the worst role model out there.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

God and Science

Here's an interesting video I came across and thought I'd share. We often hear that faith and science are completely incompatible. The more I read, the more I find that isn't true.

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" - Psalm 8:3-4

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Keith Green - Gone But Not Forgotten

I bought myself a special gift a few weeks ago - it was a live concert on CD. When I was in High School and College a former hippie named Keith Green became a Christian. His unique approach to gospel music, his 'fro and his powerful lyrics made an impact on a generation. That CD took me way back.

Keith was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a schoolteacher father and a mother who used to sing with the Big Bands. His family moved to California, a short drive from Hollywood, and quickly became a part of the music scene. His music heritage went back to his grandfather who started Jaguar Records - the first rock and roll label. From the age of six Keith was playing piano and writing his own music.

Signed to a record deal by age 11, Keith was already disillusioned and feeling like a failure by 14. Like many of that era, he began to search for meaning and truth in all the wrong places. He was into eastern mysticism, drugs and free love. At 21, Keith and his new bride, Melody, found faith in Christ and everything changed in a hurry.

Keith took his music and began to use it to tell everyone about the God that he had discovered. The difference between Keith and other Christian artists was that he didn't bring his message to the church; he continued to sing at Bla-Bla Cafe, a coffeehouse in Los Angeles where every band that wanted to be discovered would play in the early '70's. Keith had played there during his search and now that he found the answer he wanted to share.

The response was less than unanimously enthusiastic. Keith was passionate about what he believed and his newly born again zeal combined with his imperfections made for a volatile combination. But Keith was nothing if not sincere. His life had been changed, and he knew it. He wanted to live what Jesus taught. His house became a place for people who wanted to get off the streets and get off drugs. He would hold Bible studies and try to help people in any way that he could. It was this kind of passion that showed through in his music and drew people to him. The following is an example of a song - a live version of "Make My Life A Prayer to You" from Estes Park in '78.

Keith went against the grain in a lot of different ways. He believed that God had given him the gift of music and that he had an obligation to share that gift with anyone and everyone. This lead him to not charge a set fee for his albums, people could give what they could afford, in many cases nothing. Hundreds of thousands of his albums have been given away. His concerts were also based on a free will offering for the same reason. They often resembled revival meetings, with Keith boldly challenging Christians to stop playing games and start following Christ. His message resonated with many of us who grew up in that era. Here's another example of the type of challenge his music represented:

Keith Green boarded a Cessna 414 in Texas on July 28, 1982, taking his 3 year old son Josiah and 2 year old daughter Bethany, along with other friends for a pleasure flight. The plane crashed and all 12 on board perished. His death sent shockwaves through the Christian music industry. What a tremendous loss. We can only speculate as to why he was taken so young and wonder what he would have accomplished if he had lived to old age. As it stands, I count at least 11 albums, with a number of them released after his death. Here is a link to a site with his complete Discography.

No Compromise, Compact Disc [CD]

His wife, Melody, has carried on the ministry which they both established - Last Days Ministries. My all-time favorite album cover is from his "No Compromise" album. It represented commitment for a me at a time when there were major choices to make in my life. His music helped me to make Christ the center of my life. Thanks Keith! See you on the other side. If you would like to read more about Keith I suggest you go to the bio on his official web-site. There's a great video on that site that I'll also share here.

Here's one final song that reflects Keith's heart, and hopefully mine as well.

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