forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was
PENN STATE FOOTBALL CHAPLAIN OPENS UP ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT CHARGES AGAINST COACH
In the wake of child sexual assault charges against one of the former defensive coordinators for Penn State University's football team, and the subsequent firing of both head coach Joe Paterno and the university's president, the team's chaplain will have his work cut out for him as he consoles players, coaches and school administrators who are trying to cope with all that has transpired in the last few days.
The Rev. Tim McGill serves as Penn State's campus director for Athletes In Action, an organization which uses sports as a medium to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ, and has been the unofficial chaplain of the Nittany Lions football team for the last 31 years. He says he’s making himself available to speak with school administrators, coaches and athletes who may be struggling with feelings of shock and confusion.... Read this in full at
4 MISTAKES I MADE AS A FATHER
by Thom Rainer
Anyone who knows me understands. Anyone who has heard me speak understands. And most who have read my books understand. They all know how much I love my three sons and how proud I am of each of them.
Indeed, I often go overboard with the stories and sometimes sappy sentiment I express about Sam, Art, and Jess.
On more than one occasion, I have received accolades about my parenting. People have told me that I've done such a great job as a dad. I confess that I often swell with pride at the compliments.
I am now a grandfather of three boys and a girl. And in this second half of life, I sometimes review those days when my boys were at home. I miss them greatly. And I do have regrets.
You see, I have made many mistakes as a father. I have failed more times than I am comfortable admitting. Allow me, with a great deal of discomfort, to share some of the mistakes I have made as a father.... Read this in full at
WHAT’S GOD’S WILL FOR MY LIFE?
by Clare De Graaf
I was sitting at Starbucks a month ago, on a fine fall day with a young man about to graduate from college in the spring. He and I had met a number of times before when he was going through a crisis’ of faith over the death of a friend, but today he had a completely different dilemma.
“I want to know what God’s will is for my life. Is there any way I can know that with certainty?”
“Yes, there is I said.” But, what I was about to tell him, wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
American Christians are obsessed with trying to determine the future. Not just about when Jesus will return, but specifically what we really want to know is whether or not God has a script for my life and is it possible for me to get a peek at it ahead of time so I can make better decisions that align with his will? What job does God want me to take, college to attend, house to live in – big things like that. What Christian wouldn’t want to know the will of God? .... Read this in full at
NEW GRANTS PROGRAM: NEW DIRECTIONS IN THE STUDY OF PRAYER
The Social Science Research Council announces the launch of a major new project and grants program, New Directions in the Study of Prayer. The project invites proposals from scholars in all disciplines for studies that will enhance knowledge of the social, cultural, psychological, and cognitive dimensions of prayer and of its origins, variations, and correlations in human life, as well as from journalists interested in pursuing projects on these themes. Through the award of twenty to twenty-five research grants, ranging from $50,000 to $200,000 each, and a small number of journalism grants, of up to $50,000 each, the project will generate innovative research on practices of prayer and foster the development of an interdisciplinary network of scholars and journalists engaged in the study of prayer.
Letters of intent are due by December 1, 2011. Guidelines for LOIs are outlined in separate and detailed RFPs for researchers and journalists. For more detail on the project and links to the RFPs, visit: http://www.ssrc.org/prayer/.... Read this in full at
AS IF WE WERE ALREADY THERE...
“Whatever [we say we believe] about eternity, at the [everyday] level we live as if this is all there is. We live with a destination mentality instead of a preparation mentality. This present world with all of its joys and sorrows is not our final address. When we treat it as if it is, we try to get from this world what we can only experience in the next. We try to pack into our present life all the pleasure, happiness, and excitement we can. We do this because what comes with the thought that this life is all there is, is an inescapable fear that somehow life will pass us by. Here is what a destination mentality fails to understand: our complete, present, personal happiness is not what God is working on in the here and now. Why? Because the plan of his grace is to deliver us out of this world to one that is much, much better. Whether we live with eternity in view or not, there is one thing we all need to understand: God always responds to us with eternity in view.
“Living in this present world is designed by God to produce three things in me — longing, readiness, and hope . Rather than deepening my drive to have it all now, the disappointments of this present world are intended to make me long for the next. God also knows that we are not ready for the world that is to come. There are ways in which we still are too impressed with our own wisdom, strength, and righteousness. We still struggle to love the Creator more than the creation. We still want to have our own way and write our own rules. So there are important character changes that grace needs to work in us to make us ready for our final destination. And God is using this present moment to produce in us sturdy hope. As by his grace we experience tastes of what is to come, we don't panic in the face of difficulty and disappointment, because we know that God is moving us toward a place where the suffering of this present moment will be no more.
marriage isn't a destination; it is a preparation. Your job isn't
a destination; it is a preparation. Your friendships and family
aren't destinations; they are a preparation. The sight and sound,
touch and taste experiences of this present world aren't a
destination; they are a preparation for a final destination. No,
it isn't wrong to celebrate marital sex or a beautiful bouquet, or
a silky chocolate pie, or a wonderful painting, or a death-defying
roller coaster. It is right to stop and smell the roses along the
way — as long as you don't treat those roses as a final
IN TEBOW DEBATE, A CLASH OF FAITH AND FOOTBALL
Tim Tebow is an NFL quarterback, and Tim Tebow is an outspoken Christian. And while quarterback controversies are almost as common as quarterbacks, who play perhaps the most scrutinized position in American sports, what has erupted around Tebow this season is altogether different.
At the intersection of faith and football, the fervor that surrounds both Tebow’s beliefs and his struggles in his second season for the Denver Broncos has escalated into a full-blown national debate over religion and its place in sports.... Read this in full at
THE ISOLATION GENERATION
"Please, sir, may I have some different?" It's not "more" the average young guy wants today, it's different.
Psychologist Philip Zimbardo (http://www.ted.com/talks/zimchallenge.html) describes drug addiction as "wanting more," but guys today have what he calls arousal addiction, always "wanting something different." This never-ending stream of stimulation is behind the growing failure of males to connect with women socially or to succeed academically. They're dropping out of life.
Zimbardo cites excessive internet use, video gaming, and online porn as causes of this new addiction. By age 21, boys spend 10,000 hours gaming, two-thirds of that time in isolation. The average young man watches 50 porn clips per week.
"Boys' brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way, for change, novelty, excitement, and constant arousal," Zimbardo says. "They're totally out of sync in traditional classes, which are analog, static, and interactively passive. And they're totally out of sync in relationships, which build gradually and subtly." This is creating a generation of young men who do not connect well in traditional teaching situations and who lack social skills especially with women.
IF RWANDANS CAN FORGIVE KILLINGS, WE CAN FORGIVE THE WAITRESS
by Jeremy Cowart
Would you forgive the bully that tripped you in 3rd grade? What about the terrible service from that lazy waitress? Or the guy who cut you off on the interstate?
What about the man who murdered your children? If he asked you for forgiveness, would you grant it? Would you agree to spend time with him – maybe one day call him your friend?
That's what some in Rwanda are doing: Forgiving and reconciling with murderers who killed their children, friends, siblings and parents during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.... Read this in full at
BILLY GRAHAM TURNS 93, SAYS OLD AGE IS NOT FOR SISSIES
Billy Graham celebrated his 93rd birthday Nov. 7. Having impacted lives around the world with the Gospel, the famed evangelist has attracted blessings and well wishes from thousands.
"Rev. Graham, happy birthday, and thanks for all you have done and wjat (sic) BGEA continues to do. You are loved more than you know," wrote Shawn Werre on the evangelist's Facebook page. "I'm 44 and remember first listening to your crusades on TV with my grandparents. You've played a big role in my spiritual development and I thank you. :)"
Graham's birthday comes just after the release of his newest book, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well.... Read this in full at
Also see “A Visit from Dr. Billy Graham”
CHURCH HOME FOR 'HYBRID' KIDS
by Sandra Reimer
More than half of the people who attend Mosaic Intercultural Church in London, Ontario, are under 20 years old. Many of them are the children of refugees and speak English as well as their native tongue. Some know a third or fourth language, depending on what countries their families lived in temporarily before coming to Canada. Not completely Canadian, but not able to fully identify with their home countries, these hybrid kids are a bridge between cultures.
David Cottril, director of community outreach at North Park Community Church in London, began reaching out to these kids and their families in 2004 through the church's Life Resource Centre. At the centre, the church distributes necessities, teaches life skills classes for newcomers and runs programs for children and youth.... Read this in full at
LOVE JUSTIFIES ITSELF
by Skye Jethani
Is social justice an essential part of the gospel? The question has been raging for decades, and in some circles the matter was settled long ago. But a new generation of evangelicals with a strong inclination toward social engagement is reviving the debate. But I'm increasingly convinced that we are framing the debate incorrectly, and missing the point as a result.
Theologian John Stott wrestled mightily with the question of gospel proclamation versus demonstration, and the role of social justice in the mission of the church. In his book Christian Mission in the Modern World (IVP, 1975), he outlines three ways of understanding the relationship between evangelism and social action:
1. Social action as a means to evangelism.
2. Social action as a manifestation of evangelism
3. Social action is a partner of evangelism. .... Read this in full at
WHY MEN HATE GOING TO CHURCH: AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID MURROW
David Murrow is a television writer and producer who attended a variety of churches over the years, and discovered that “no matter the name on the outside, there are always more women on the inside.” That prompted him to launch a study which resulted in his book Why Men Hate Going to Church (Thomas Nelson). Preaching magazine editor Michael Duduit visited with Murrow by phone from his home in Alaska.
Preaching: What sparked your interest in men and their connection — or lack of connection — to the church?
Murrow: About five years ago I just came to a real crisis point in my faith. I realized that the church structures were keeping me from having the adventure that Christ intended for me. I became a church elder thinking that I could change things, then I realized that being a leader in the church was actually changing me. The very things that I had to do in the church were keeping me from doing the things — the wild — from being wild at heart. So that’s what kind of launched me on this journey of exploration.
I began to wonder what is a man and I began to notice how feminized everything in our churches had become — how women were into it and men weren’t. Any first-year marketing student can walk into a local church and in ten minutes tell you who the target audience is — and it ain’t men.... Read this in full at
Study links religious services to optimism
Regular attendance at religious services is associated with a more optimistic outlook and a lesser inclination to be depressed, compared to those who do not attend services at all, a study has concluded.
The research findings supports previous research that religious participation can promote psychological and physical health -- and reduce mortality risks -- possibly by calming people in stressful times, creating meaningful social interactions, and helping curtail bad habits. .... Read this in full at
ATHEIST-TURNED-CHRISTIAN ASKS: IS IT REALLY ALL ABOUT NOTHING?
"When I began to think about the logical conclusion of atheism," Richard Suplita, a psychology lecturer at the University of Georgia, reflected, "I asked myself, 'Is it really all about nothing?' and realized that I could not accept that conclusion."
The question led to Suplita abandoning his atheistic worldview and embracing the Christian faith.
Suplita was born in Fairmont, W.Va. Known as "the Friendly City," Fairmont is the seat of Marion County, just about 20 miles south of the Pennsylvania state line.
He grew up in the Church of Christ, where his father was a deacon. The Suplitas were in church three times each week. During those early years Rich Suplita made a commitment to Christ.
The UGA lecturer admitted, "I made a commitment on the basis of my understanding of Christ at that time. I thought it was like a contract with God and I had to maintain my part of the contract. It was rather legalistic and it was my responsibility to maintain my salvation and if I failed to do so, then God could end the contract whenever He chose. I knew nothing about a covenant relationship with Christ." .... Read this in full at
VERSE TO PONDER
love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I
worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to
feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by
the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, [and] to
devote the will to the purpose of God.”
ARAB CHRISTIANS, MINORITIES, RESHAPING US ENCLAVES
Jordanian immigrants take Communion at an Arabic-language Mass in Albuquerque. Lebanese-Americans help raise nearly $2 million for major improvements to a West Virginia church. Iraqi refugees who practice an ancient religion that views John the Baptist as their teacher hold baptisms in a Massachusetts pond popular for rowing regattas.
As war, the economy and persecution by Muslim extremists push Arab Christians and religious minorities out of the Middle East, the refugees and immigrants are quietly settling in small pockets across the U.S. They are reviving old, dormant churches, bringing together families torn apart by war and praying collectively in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. Religious experts say their growing presence in the U.S. is all about survival as Christians and religious minorities continue to get pushed out of the Holy Land.... Read this in full at
US COMMISSION: PAKISTANI SCHOOLS TEACHING RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a study showing that textbooks in Pakistani schools foster prejudice and intolerance of religious minorities and that most teachers view non-Muslims as "enemies of Islam."
The study reviewed more than 100 textbooks from grades 1-10 in Pakistan's four provinces, and researchers visited more than 50 schools and interviewed nearly 500 students. Researchers found systematic negative portrayals of religious minorities, specifically Hindus and Christians (which make up 1% and 2%, respectively, of the population), as "inferior or second-class citizens," as well as instances of historic revisionism designed to denigrate non-Muslims and foster the sense that Pakistan's Islamic identity was under threat.
Leonard Leo, chairman of USCIRF, said: "Teaching discrimination increases the likelihood that violent religious extremism in Pakistan will continue to grow, weakening religious freedom, national and regional stability and global security."
BIBLE VERSES FROM THE COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE IN LIGHT OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) was Nov. 13.
Christian martyrdom is an ongoing worldwide crime. In too many countries, Christians face violence, imprisonment, and death for declaring allegiance to Jesus Christ. According to Open Doors USA, the top 10 most oppressive countries for Christians are North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Iraq, Uzbekistan, and Laos.
To give biblical perspective leading up to IDOP, the following verses are taken from the Common English Bible (http://CommonEnglishBible.com):
“So we cried out for help to the LORD, our ancestor’s God. The LORD heard our call. God saw our misery, our trouble, and our oppression.” Deuteronomy 26:7 (CEB)
“The LORD is a safe place for the oppressed— a safe place in difficult times.” Psalm 9:9 (CEB).... Read this in full at
COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE 'THANK YOU-COME AGAIN-I PROMISE' BLOG TOUR TO BEGIN
An international network of bloggers will soon contribute to a three-month blog tour for the new Common English Bible translation. The "Common English Bible Thank You-Come Again-I Promise" tour extends from November through January, honoring National Bible Week, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and New Year's celebration. The complete tour schedule, and information about joining the tour, is available at CommonEnglishBible.com/CEB/blogtour.... Read this in full at
THE STRUGGLES OF SPIRITUAL GIANTS YIELD UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS
by Chris R. Armstrong
Christian faith is built on presence. Whether in the pillar of fire, the still small voice, or the incarnate Son, God has been Emmanuel, "with us." He has promised never to leave or forsake us. In thousands of hymns, we have sung of an experienced intimacy with God in Christ. We have prayed, wept, and rested in his presence.
For a committed Christian, then, nothing is more devastating than divine absence, spiritual loneliness, the experience of our prayers hitting a ceiling of brass.
Yet when the sixteenth-century mystic John of the Cross identified a similar phenomenon—this spiritual desolation called the "dark night of the soul"—he insisted that it is an important spiritual discipline. The dark night, said John, is a tortuous but fruitful path to union with God. For the great Carmelite, the dark night was just one part of an elaborate theology that penetrated beyond the realm of our senses and reason to come before God as The Awesome Unknown.
Today few subscribe to John's view. Instead, we have taken his phrase "dark night of the soul" to describe a subjective experience of the loss of a sense of God's loving presence. Without understanding its place in St. John's larger theology, we are not always sure what to do with it. It seems a decidedly unpleasant episode, often associated with doubt. We're mainly interested in one question: when will it pass?.... Read this in full at
AT A BIG CHURCH, A SMALL GROUP HEALTH SOLUTION
About a year ago, Rev. Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California, was conducting a baptism when he noticed something. As with everything at this megachurch, with some 30,000 members, baptisms are large events — this time, 858 people were being baptized. “Along about 500 I thought — this is my honest truth, it wasn’t a very spiritual thought — we’re all fat,” Warren told his congregation later. “I know pastors aren’t supposed to be thinking that when they’re baptizing, but that was what I thought: we’re all fat. But I’m fat, and I’m a terrible model of this.”
The following week at Sunday services he tossed off a challenge. “O.K. guys, I’ve only gained like 3 pounds a year,” Warren said. “But I’ve been your pastor for 30 years. So I’ve got a lot of weight to lose. Does anybody want to join me?”
The girth of Saddleback’s members is not remarkable; it is a reflection of an increasingly obese America. But Saddleback had an asset — one that nearly every church shares.... Read this in full at
MEGACHURCHES: WHEN WILL THE BUBBLE BURST?
by Skye Jethani
Megachurches are predominantly white, suburban, conservative congregations led by baby-boomer pastors. This is what an infographic about floating around the web lately has revealed. It's based on research compiled by Forbes, The Christian Post, and Leadership Network.
For the most part the stats look very positive for mega and gigachurches (yes, that is a term now being used). These massive congregations, unlike many other churches, are still growing. They're expanding staff, seeing increasing budgets and have an optimistic outlook.
But buried in the positive stats about megachurches may be signs of challenges ahead. Could a bubble be forming? And when it finally bursts will the mega-model be abandoned or severely reengineered? Are we seeing the maturation of the megachurch movement into a sustainable and long-term model for the American church? Or, like Wile E. Coyote, is the ground going to suddenly disappear under its feet? Let's look more closely at the numbers.... Read this in full at
BIL KEANE DEAD: 'FAMILY CIRCUS' CREATOR DIES AT 89
Bil Keane, creator of the beloved "Family Circus" cartoon, which was held up as an example of how strong values and good humor could reinforce each other, died Nov. 8 at 89. Keane, a Catholic, drew on his Christian upbringing when he used religious quips in his panels.
"When I first ran [religious references] back in the '60s, I got letters from the Bible Belt, saying I was being sacrilegious. Now they thank me," he said a decade ago.... Read this in full at
SENATE PANEL OKS REPEAL OF DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Nov. 10 to repeal a federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but the legislation lacks vote for passage in either House.
The vote was 10-8, with all committee Democrats favoring appeal and all Republicans opposed. The only immediate effect is political: Democrats can show part of their liberal base of backers that they strongly support equality in federal benefits for gay couples.... Read this in full at
CHRISTIAN LEADERS TALK ABOUT MARRIAGE AND SEX
Last week, Rick Warren sent this message to the nearly 500,000 people who follow him on Twitter: “Husbands & wives should satisfy each other’s sexual needs. 1 Cor. 7:3
Evangelical Christians want to talk about sex. And not in the same old punitive way. They want to talk about hot sex — as long as it’s between a man and a woman who are husband and wife. That Warren, perhaps the nation’s most prominent evangelical pastor, would take up the cause only shows how much it matters to the people who listen to him.
Warren has a huggy-bear personal style that sometimes drifts toward over-sharing, and in another tweet he recently wrote: “Sex with 1 wife for Life ISNT like playing 1 record over&over but learning 1 instrument well for yrs of beautiful music!” .... Read this in full at
RENOWNED ST. OLAF CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL CELEBRATES 100TH YEAR LIVE IN MOVIE THEATERS
One of America's longest running musical celebrations of the holiday season, the St. Olaf Christmas Festival will present Rejoice, Give Thanks, and Sing -- 100th St. Olaf Christmas Festival Live, a one-day only, in-theater concert event on Sunday, December 4, at 3:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. CT / 1:30 p.m. MT / 12:30 p.m. PT. Broadcast live from Skoglund Center Auditorium on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., audiences will experience the celebrated two-hour program of hymns, carols, choral works and orchestral selections performed by more than 500 student musicians who make up five choirs, including the venerable St. Olaf Choir and the St. Olaf Orchestra. Before the live performance, the event will begin with a special half-hour retrospective focusing on the 100-year history of the Christmas Festival at the distinguished college featuring faculty and students reminiscing about the impact of the annual festival.
Presented by NCM Fathom and BY Experience, tickets for Rejoice, Give Thanks, and Sing -- 100th St. Olaf Christmas Festival Live are available at participating theater box offices and online at www.FathomEvents.com. For a complete list of theater locations and prices, visit the NCM Fathom website (theaters and participants are subject to change).... Read this in full at
HISTORIC CHALICE SEALS RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN 'GEORGIA' BAPTISTS
A friendship between the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia and Baptists in the Caucasus Republic of Georgia that began with the coincidence of being “Georgians” grew deeper with return of a long-lost communion chalice that carries deep historical and theological significance for descendants of Baptists who suffered persecution at the hands of Soviet communism.
In 1946, Louie Newton, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta, visited Russia on a five-week tour at the invitation of Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin to meet with leaders of the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Russia and investigate the status of its 2 million Baptists.
After his final sermon at First Baptist Church in Moscow, Newton was presented with a 19th-century gold-plated Florentine chalice that had been used in observance of the Lord’s Supper by an overflow congregation. Treasured by Newton, one religious newspaper labeled it “a holy grail of peace.” .... Read this in full at
best way to prepare for the coming of Christ is never to forget
the presence of Christ.”
VERSE TO PONDER
I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love,
LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your
consolation brought me joy.”
THIS WEEK'S HYMN: FATHER, WHATE’ER OF EARTHLY BLISS
Words: Anne Steele, 1760
Music: Hans G. Nägeli; arranged by Lowell Mason, 1836
Father, whate’er of earthly bliss
Thy sovereign will denies,
Accepted at Thy throne, let this
My humble prayer, arise:
Give me a calm and thankful heart,
From every murmur free;
The blessing of Thy grace impart,
And make me live to Thee.
Let the sweet hope that Thou art mine
My life and death attend,
Thy presence through my journey shine,
And crown my journey’s end.
>from NetHymnal at
Rainbow Lorikeet (photo)
36 Jaw-Dropping Nature Photos