Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina's Aftermath: Prayer and Support

Please continue to pray for all those affected by Hurricane Katrina. These people are going to need our prayers for many weeks to come as they try to put their lives back together. And if you are looking for a way to help out, Samaritan's Purse is accepting donations for its relief efforts.

Here's a report that was posted Monday on the Samaritan's Purse Web site: . . .

Samaritan's Purse is dispatching its Disaster Relief Units and mobilizing hundreds of volunteer workers to help repair as many homes as possible. Two tractor-trailers loaded with emergency supplies and equipment are ready to roll into devastated communities as soon as the storm passes and it is safe to work.

The self-supporting Disaster Relief Units specialize in serving the poor and elderly in locations that may be overlooked by the media or other relief agencies.

Samaritan's Purse will organize and equip teams of volunteers to work on hundreds of houses. Crews with chain saws and heavy equipment will remove fallen trees from houses and streets. Other teams will cover damaged roofs with weatherproof plastic. Generators can provide emergency electricity for the sick or elderly. Flooded houses can be pumped dry and cleaned of debris.

The Disaster Relief Units work in partnership with local churches to ensure that spiritual needs are met, too. Teams pray with residents and present them with a Bible when the work is completed.

To donate, click here.
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Trust

By Alexander Samuels

There are times when it seems as if life is too troublesome to bother with. Does that shock you? Quite frankly, there are some days in my life that are very painful. Sure, we all have our off days, but there are moments when I feel I have crossed into the catastrophe zone. There are moments when I reach out to grab something solid and all I grasp is empty air. They are moments without hope. And I am a Christian.

When all the pieces of perfectly pictured plans fall apart, the Christian doesn't just wonder what God is doing. There is a much deeper question, although it is consciously suppressed, that manages to rise above our faith. That question is . . . "Can I trust God?"

Now there are stories and circumstances in which people have suffered a great deal more than I have suffered. You have heard the testimonies of people who have endured much and give God the glory for meeting their needs during their time of hardship. They have made it through to the other side - at least for now. How will they respond when the serpent raises its ugly head again? Very honestly, I think we all ask, "Can I trust God?"

It is, perhaps, easier to try to obey God than it is to wait on His answers or His deliverance. We do not know the duration or frequency of the pain we must suffer. The circumstances seem so irrational and so undeserved, and we are Christians. Can we trust God?

In Psalm 9:10, David writes, "Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." This does not mean "knowing about God." It acknowledges a personal relationship that develops through seeking God during hard times. In this relationship we discover that God is both sovereign and good. We discover that God's providential care is for His own glory and the good of His people.

Learning to trust God when times are tough is really accepting that just as God will allow nothing to diminish His glory, He will not allow the good that He is working out for His people to be subverted. ". . . He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. . . . 'For in Him we live and move and have our being . . .'" (Acts 17:25, 28). "Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen: He either permits it to happen, or He brings it about Himself" (Augustine). Our problem is that because God does not always act with the timing or in the manner that we expect, we think He cannot always be trusted with the details of our lives.

Suffering is a given. God has not promised us lives that do not include suffering from time to time. The believer, however, should react differently in his suffering than do unbelievers. We should be confident that our suffering is under the control of an omnipotent and loving God. Our pain has meaning and purpose in the eternal plan of God. Whatever comes into the Christian's life will be used for God's glory and our good.

In 1988, Nav Press published Trusting God, by Jerry Bridges, which is probably No. 2 on my list of favorites. I encourage all who, like me, from time to time have doubts and feel hope has fled to consider reading this book. In the words given to Jeremiah, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11). He has a plan for all of us. No one can stop or change God's plan. Because of this we can have hope and courage. We can trust God.

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.


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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dealing With Issues and Evil

Both David Limbaugh ("Iraq: Let's Quit Confusing the Issues") and Dennis Prager ("Just One Question for Opponents of the War") have excellent columns out today concerning those who oppose the war in Iraq.

In his column, Limbaugh writes: . . .

The antiwar Left has finally succeeded in turning public opinion against the war in Iraq with their endless assaults and distortions. The war's supporters, in our defensiveness, have unintentionally taken on a greater burden of proof than, by rights, we should bear.

The truth is that we were morally and strategically justified in attacking Iraq, based on the information we had available at the time of the attack. Conversely, the wisdom and propriety of our decision to remain until our mission is complete -- which we must -- and the president's conduct of the war, depend on facts now in existence. But by all means, let's keep the issues separate.

That is, even if we conclude we were wrong to have attacked Iraq -- which we certainly were not -- our decision is done and can't be retracted, even by withdrawing. Our decision to remain or withdraw must be based on what is going on today and the likely consequences of remaining or withdrawing.

The problem is that the antiwar Left has conflated these issues. They have been so obsessed with establishing (through monomaniacal repetition) their fraudulent case that President Bush lied to get us into this war, they have literally paralyzed themselves from contributing anything constructive to any issues concerning the ongoing war effort.

And in his column, Prager proposes:

All those who support the American war in Iraq should make a deal with anyone opposed to the war. Offer to answer any 20 questions the opponents wish to ask if they will answer just one:

Do you believe we are fighting evil people in Iraq?

That is how supporters of the war regard the Baathists and the Islamic suicide terrorists, the people we are fighting in Iraq.

Because if you cannot answer it, or avoid answering it, or answer "no," we know enough about your moral compass to know that further dialogue is unnecessary. In fact, dialogue is impossible. Our understanding of good and evil is so different from yours, there is simply nothing to discuss. Someone who was asked a hundred years ago "Do you believe that whites who lynch blacks are evil?" and refused to answer in the affirmative was not someone one could dialogue with.

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R.C. and Hank

R.C. Sproul will be Hank Hanegraaff's guest today and tomorrow on the "Bible Answer Man." (The radio program airs in the Greensboro area at 6:05 p.m. weekdays on WTRU 830 AM, and can be heard online here.) Dr. Sproul, the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries and the host of his own radio show, "Renewing Your Mind," will be . . . discussing with Hank his book Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics.
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Monday, August 29, 2005

Brokaw on Evangelical Christians

Mike Herman from Christianity Today forwarded to me this afternoon the following press release from NBC News: . . .

NBC NEWS TO AIR DOCUMENTARY ON THE RELIGIOUS
REVOLUTION SWEEPING THE COUNTRY

"Tom Brokaw Reports: In God They Trust" Airs on Friday, Sept. 9 at 8PM/ET


(New York, N.Y.) - August 29, 2005 - In a country where mixing politics and religion isn't new, religious conservatives are front and center in what they see as an ongoing war over the culture of America. Evangelical Christians have become a powerful force in American culture, politics and the economy; their strong faith is the underpinning of their way of life and they're determined to spread the word. In the upcoming "Tom Brokaw Reports: In God They Trust," to be broadcast on Friday, Sept. 9 (8 PM/ET), Brokaw explores why so many Americans are turning to this expression of faith, and asks whether or not some Evangelicals are going too far - imposing their spiritual beliefs not only for personal reasons but also for political reasons.

For the hour-long documentary, Brokaw travels to New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Col., to talk with some of the new Evangelical leaders, the American families who are determined to re-shape the social contours of this country, and cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, which is located just down the street from the church. Brokaw interviews at length, Ted Haggard, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, representing 45,000 churches, and New Life's pastor. Haggard, who speaks regularly with the White House, tells Brokaw that America is entering a new period of religious intensity that will alter both souls and society, and that although we live in a pluralistic society, "...all of us have a responsibility to advance God's will through government."

It will be interesting to see how Brokaw and NBC handles this topic.
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Childhood Vaccines and Neurological Disorders

By Alexander Samuels

In the June issue of Rolling Stone, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made some very serious charges against some government agencies and drug manufacturers. If the accusations are true, children and parents in our country have been done a terrible injustice. The following is an excerpt from Kennedy's article "Deadly Immunity": . . .

In June 2000, a group of top government scientists and health officials gathered for a meeting at the isolated Simpsonwood conference center in Norcross, Georgia. Convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the meeting was held at this Methodist retreat center, nestled in wooded farmland next to the Chattahoochee River, to ensure complete secrecy. The agency had issued no public announcement of the session -- only private invitations to fifty-two attendees. There were high-level officials from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, the top vaccine specialist from the World Health Organization in Geneva and representatives of every major vaccine manufacturer, including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Wyeth and Aventis Pasteur. All of the scientific data under discussion, CDC officials repeatedly reminded the participants, was strictly "embargoed." There would be no making photocopies of documents, no taking papers with them when they left.

The federal officials and industry representatives had assembled to discuss a disturbing new study that raised alarming questions about the safety of a host of common childhood vaccines administered to infants and young children. According to a CDC epidemiologist named Tom Verstraeten, who had analyzed the agency's massive database containing the medical records of 100,000 children, a mercury-based preservative in the vaccines -- thimerosal -- appeared to be responsible for a dramatic increase in autism and a host of other neurological disorders among children. "I was actually stunned by what I saw," Verstraeten told those assembled at Simpsonwood, citing the staggering number of earlier studies that indicate a link between thimerosal and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity and autism. Since 1991, when the CDC and the FDA had recommended that three additional vaccines laced with the preservative be given to extremely young infants -- in one case, within hours of birth -- the estimated number of cases of autism had increased fifteen fold, from one in every 2,500 children to one in 166 children.

Even for scientists and doctors accustomed to confronting issues of life and death, the findings were frightening. "You can play with this all you want," Dr. Bill Weil, a consultant for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the group. The results "are statistically significant." Dr. Richard Johnston, an immunologist and pediatrician from the University of Colorado whose grandson had been born early on the morning of the meeting's first day, was even more alarmed. "My gut feeling?" he said. "Forgive this personal comment -- I do not want my grandson to get a thimerosal-containing vaccine until we know better what is going on."

But instead of taking immediate steps to alert the public and rid the vaccine supply of thimerosal, the officials and executives at Simpsonwood spent most of the next two days discussing how to cover up the damaging data. According to transcripts obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, many at the meeting were concerned about how the damaging revelations about thimerosal would affect the vaccine industry's bottom line. "We are in a bad position from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits," said Dr. Robert Brent, a pediatrician at the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Delaware. "This will be a resource to our very busy plaintiff attorneys in this country." Dr. Bob Chen, head of vaccine safety for the CDC, expressed relief that "given the sensitivity of the information, we have been able to keep it out of the hands of, let's say, less responsible hands." Dr. John Clements, vaccines advisor at the World Health Organization, declared that "perhaps this study should not have been done at all." He added that "the research results have to be handled," warning that the study "will be taken by others and will be used in other ways beyond the control of this group."

In fact, the government has proved to be far more adept at handling the damage than at protecting children's health. The CDC paid the Institute of Medicine to conduct a new study to whitewash the risks of thimerosal, ordering researchers to "rule out" the chemical's link to autism. It withheld Verstraeten's findings, even though they had been slated for immediate publication, and told other scientists that his original data had been "lost" and could not be replicated. And to thwart the Freedom of Information Act, it handed its giant database of vaccine records over to a private company, declaring it off-limits to researchers. By the time Verstraeten finally published his study in 2003, he had gone to work for GlaxoSmithKline and reworked his data to bury the link between thimerosal and autism.

Vaccine manufacturers had already begun to phase thimerosal out of injections given to American infants -- but they continued to sell off their mercury-based supplies of vaccines until last year. The CDC and FDA gave them a hand, buying up the tainted vaccines for export to developing countries and allowing drug companies to continue using the preservative in some American vaccines -- including several pediatric flu shots as well as tetanus boosters routinely given to eleven-year-olds.

I encourage you to read the entire article for yourself. What do you think? Is this just another conspiracy theory, or is the danger and negligence for profit real? If you have more information or links to Web sites about this subject, I really would like to hear from you.

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Seasoning the Silver Screen

Gene Edward Veith's cover story in the latest World Magazine ("Salting Hollywood") asks the question: "Can a Christian serve God in the secular film industry?" Veith seeks to find an answer to this question by talking to Hollywood professionals who are Christians and who see their talent as a gift from God and their work as a Christian vocation.

In fact, all of us Christians working in the secular world would do well to take a cue from director Scott Derrickson, a contributor to the upcoming book Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture (Baker Books, edited by Spencer Lewerenz and Barbara Nicolosi): . . .

In Behind the Screen, Mr. Derrickson - maker of the upcoming The Exorcism of Emily - describes his various efforts over the years to answer the question, "What is the duty of a Christian in Hollywood?" Finally, he said, "I realized that my primary duty as a Christian in Hollywood is the same as the primary duty of the Christian at Microsoft or UPS or the police department. My primary duty as a Christian in Hollywood is to do my job well."

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Agents of Grace: Mission Greensboro

Local blogger Steve Sandercock of Gr8ful Coach's Corner blogs about today's Agents of Grace: Mission Greensboro.

Steve writes: . . .

Once again, it proved to be a very rewarding experience - to be a part of a large group (2,300!) coming together to serve the community. My wife and I painted at a school, our son joined with some friends to visit seniors in a nursing home, people swung hammers at Habitat sites -- lots of different ways to serve.

It was the second year that my wife and daughter and I participated. We picked up trash and cleaned windows at a local high school. Here's to having even more local churches and their members participating in 2006.

Like Steve in his post, I'd like to thank the hard-working Agents of Grace Board of Directors, especially my friend Ronnie Shelton, who also does a lot to serve our church. I'd also like to give credit to my buddies Timm Phillips, who helped sign up members at our church, and Tim Miller, who was our site leader today.
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Finally . . . an NBA Role Model?

Just a few short months ago, Marvin Williams was a freshman basketball player at the University of North Carolina, helping the Tar Heels win the national championship. Today, the NBA's No. 2 overall draft pick is a multimillion-dollar member of the Atlanta Hawks.

The latest issue of World Magazine has an excellent article by Mark Bergin on Williams and how he is handling his newfound fame.

Bergin writes: . . .

Mr. Williams' "yes sir, no sir" respect in addressing reporters confirmed an uncommon discipline neatly folded within his personality. More than mere country manners, this public display was intentional. "Somebody's always going to be looking at you, so you can always affect somebody's life whether it's just being nice to somebody or helping somebody out," he told WORLD.

Since dominating local courts in the small naval town of Bremerton, Wash., Mr. Williams has understood his power to influence. While helping the University of North Carolina Tar Heels claim a national championship this past March, he joined several teammates in offering regular pre-game prayers. Millions of dollars later, nothing seems to have changed. "God blesses us all everyday," Mr. Williams said. "Without Him, none of this would be possible, so you've definitely got to give Him the glory."

Maintaining such humility in the coming years may prove more difficult. With a soft outside shooting touch and explosive moves around the rim, Mr. Williams figures to join the NBA elite - thus entering a culture dominated by vanity and self-promotion.

But those who know Mr. Williams well are unconcerned. "God has gotten him to where he is today, and he knows where his strength comes from," said his mother, Andrea Gittens. . . .

Unlike many of his fellow first-round selections, Mr. Williams has not yet purchased a new car or overly accessorized with expensive jewelry. "He's always going to be the same person," said longtime friend and Bremerton High teammate Phil Houston. "He's not going to change."

This is encouraging news, for Christians, parents of basketball crazy kids and for a professional sports league that has a long way to go in cleaning up its bad-boy image.
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Pagan Pride

By Alexander Samuels

Florida's Pasco County has much to look forward to next month. The pagans are coming. That is, the Pasco County pagans are coming out of the closet. According to an article in The Tampa Tribune on August 19, "After years of being labeled as devil worshippers who sacrifice animals under a full moon, the modern-day followers of ancient beliefs want to be a part of the community."

In his article, "Pagans Plan Pride Day to Ease Misgivings," Tribune writer Christian M. Wade writes that this will be the first Pagan Pride Day in Pasco County and will enable organizers to counter misconceptions about pagan religions.

The article goes on to report: . . .

Modern-day paganism is a collection of beliefs rather than a single religion. It's polytheistic - there are many gods - and it includes ancient religions whose underlying theme is of faith based on nature and respect for one another.

Followers embrace such movements as Wicca, New Age Mysticism, American Indian practices, tarot readings and even Buddhism, a mainstream religion in Asian societies.

It wasn't too long ago that pagans preferred to keep their beliefs secret, fearful of public assumptions that they are devil worshippers or "black" witches.

Mainstream religious leaders long have criticized paganism's liberal views on sex, divorce, drugs, homosexuality, adultery and abortion.

These days, more pagans are "coming out of the closet," modeling their emergence after the gay pride movement.

The celebrated Pagan Pride Day in Indianapolis, first held in 1998, attracts hundreds of revelers every year.

Last year, there were at least 70 pagan pride events in 36 states, including Florida.

We will leave the Pasco County pagans now and turn to other sources of information about modern day paganism. At PaganPath.com for instance, I found the following intriguing invitation:

Welcome to PaganPath.com and thank you for coming! We hope you enjoy your time here and return frequently for daily updates and additions. Though certainly not a poetic masterpiece, our site blessing was written from the heart by Volute.

Aloud we speak the names of the ancients; dancing spirals under bright moonlit skies.

We walk our paths with courage and joy; we are healers, scholars, seekers, the wise.

Content with the gold sun and silver moon; no leaders or followers will you find;

for we know true power comes from within; all Pagans each have independent minds.

All paths are one and lead to the center; bright blessings and peace to all who enter.

Discover the extraordinary. PaganPath.com if
[sic] filled with thousands of pages of original and insightful writing: Articles, recipes, gardening tips, games, and spells - plus interactive forums and online courses and classes for you to study at your own pace. Come learn about herbs or the tarot, Wicca and Witchcraft or the Sabbats. Maybe you just want to relax, or share your own experiences and knowledge. There's something for everyone from the curious beginner to the well seasoned sage. New and completely original material is added daily, and nothing is ever copied from books or other web sites.

As Christians, what shall we think of these self-described pagans? Are they just hippie-like individuals on some kind of nature high? One common experience of many pagans, I found in my own readings, was that they felt they had in some way been hurt by the Christian church. This is certainly a group with whom we want to do a better job of sharing the Gospel.

The comments below were written by Vincent McCann of Spotlight Ministries (you should check out his Web site). Vince was involved in witchcraft and occultism prior to his conversion to Christ and has gathered his information by reading various pagan and Wiccan literature, having pagan and Wiccan friends, and having numerous e-mail, message board and chat room dialogues with those in pagan communities. (Note: Vince says he may have to shut down his Christian Web site because the British government will soon label its content as "hate speech" because it discusses a Christian perspective on paganism and witchcraft.) Here are a few excerpts:

Most Wiccans do not believe in a personal entity called Satan or the Devil. Many will say that this being is simply something that the Christian Church has invented in order to control people with fear. However, well before the birth of the Christian Church, the Jews also believed in the existence of Satan.

The truth is, the Devil was not simply invented by the Church, but rather exists as a reality in the world today. One of the most effective deceptions he performs is to try and convince people he does not exist! Jesus called Satan "The father of lies" (John 8:44). It should therefore come as no surprise that he will seek to convince people that he does not exist. . . .

Most of those who are involved in Paganism hold to a belief in a multitude of gods, goddesses and various spirit beings. Pagan writer, Prudence Jones, observes that a pagan religion ". . . is polytheistic, recognizing a plurality of divine beings . . ." (Prudence Jones,
Paganism Today, p. 34).

But can these spirits really be relied upon? Can they be trusted? Prudence Jones observes the following: "When the world is seen as filled with the gods, however, it can be easy to lose one
[']s inner focus of control. Superstition results: the synchronicities of the world are seen as controlling everything, and the human being seems to have no power faced with the enveloping multitude of otherworldly forces whose influence can be read in every portent" (Prudence Jones, Paganism Today, p. 38).

Jones touches on some very good points here. There have been many people who have practiced various aspects of the occult and have had dealings with spirits, but at some point or another, have felt that they no longer have control over the forces which they call upon, but rather, they themselves are being swept along by forces beyond their control. This was certainly my own experience, and has been the experience of countless others, whose experiences I have also heard. The truth is that these spirits are highly intelligent and powerful evil spirit beings who are intent on manipulating and deceiving humanity, and leading people away from the true freedom and salvation which is to be found in Jesus Christ. . . .

M. Scott Peck, M.D., writes about his encounters with people swept up by spiritual evil in his book People of the Lie. The pagan's self-confessed involvement in a pantheistic supernaturalism should not be taken lightly as just harmless fun. There is a spiritual battle for the eternal destiny of souls taking place here. The Christian is warned in Ephesians 6:11-12: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

If we are in Christ, we have nothing to fear from pagans, witches and such. If they are coming out of the closet, now is the time to be a witness of the love of Christ to them. Now is the time to enter the struggle for their eternal souls.

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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Monkey Business in London

I'm sure most of you have heard about the humans currently on display at the London Zoo. In an Associated Press article, Polly Wills, a spokeswoman for the zoo, says, "Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals . . . teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate."

The article goes on to report: . . . "The exhibit, which opened Friday, puts the three male and five female Homo sapiens side by side with their primate relatives -- though separated from them by an electric fence. The eight -- chosen from 30 applicants who entered an online contest -- have diverse interests, from a chemist hoping to raise awareness about apes to a self-described actor/model and fitness enthusiast."

I wonder if the "primate relatives" next door to these guys also applied online for their positions at the zoo? And why the electric fence? If the human is "just another primate," why don't these captive Homo sapiens simply invite their cousins over for tea and bananas?

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Problems With Postmodern Parenting

My friend, fellow blogger and brother in Christ, Tim Therrien of Vermont and Vallo Fides, has an excellent two-part post on reaching out to postmodernists ("Did you feel that? Part 1" and "Did you feel that? Part 2").

I found particularly interesting his discussion in Part 2 on how postmodernist parents can paint themselves into a corner by encouraging their kids to "question authority": . . .

I recently learned of a couple (by no means unique!) who are raising their children to "question authority" and with the attitude that there are no absolutes, just gray areas. My first question was "How often do they have arguments with their kids?" My wife - the source of the story - told me that it is a constant battle! Any time the parents try to establish control or give instruction the kids shoot back with challenges to their parental authority. The natural outgrowth of this is predictable. The parents will never be able to tell the kids that something is wrong because, after all, who are they (the parents) to judge? By what right do they say what is right and what is wrong? Sadly, as I say, this is not a unique situation. There are many around our area that hold similar beliefs. Why? Because this is the outgrowth of a society that has not had the moral fortitude to challenge postmodernism.

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Friday, August 26, 2005

Faith Walk

By Alexander Samuels

Those of us who have faith in Jesus Christ are prone to make the mistake of neglecting our daily appointments with God. We treat our relationship with Him neglectfully. We go about our daily rounds with no sense of the very real dependence we have on Him. We believe we are sufficient for all of today's tasks and those tomorrow as well. After all, we go to church on Sunday and we are . . . recharged for the days and weeks ahead.

Well, how often do your thoughts return to that Sunday recharging in the days that follow? Not very often, I dare say. Even when confronted with life's accusing doubts, we are independent creatures who really believe we are self-sufficient in most of the circumstances we encounter.

It is a great mistake for the Christian to assume that now he is a child of God and does not need his Father's daily blessings. In his book Spiritual Depression, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke of our carelessness in this way:

Without Him we are utterly hopeless. It does not matter how long you have been in the Christian life, you are dependent upon Him for every step. Without Him we can do nothing. We can only conquer our doubts by looking steadily at Him and by not looking at them. The way to answer them is to look at Him. The more you know Him and His glory the more ridiculous they will become. So keep steadily looking at Him. You cannot live on an initial faith - that is what Peter seems to have been trying to do. . . . Do not try to live on your conversion. You will be done before you know where you are. . . . [Y]ou must keep on looking to Him every day. 'We walk by faith' and you live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You need Him as much on your deathbed as you did on the night you were converted; you need Him all the time. . . . One of the most perfect illustrations is the way the Children of Israel had to collect the manna each day but the Sabbath. That is the Lord's method. He does not give us enough for a month. We need a fresh supply every day, so start your day with Him and keep in touch with Him. That was Peter's fatal error (Matthew 14:22-33); he looked away from Him. It is 'the fight of faith', you are walking on turbulent waves and the only way to keep walking is to keep looking at Him.

The walk of faith is a daily walk. To live the Christian life requires our focus to be upon our Savior. Our conversations with Him must be a frequent part of our day. We must keep to the path that conforms us more and more to Jesus Christ.

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.


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Thursday, August 25, 2005

The National Council of Churches' Liberal Ways

John Couretas over at the Acton Institute's PowerBlog has an interesting post today on the National Council of Churches and its fervent support of liberal political causes. Many are quick to criticize evangelical Christian organizations, such as Focus on the Family, for . . . aligning itself with conservative political issues, and often rightly so, but shouldn't the NCC, a group that is supposed to act as a unified voice of Christian denominations of various stripes, be held up to the same scrutiny, if not more? Of course, the NCC is quickly losing influence as more and more orthodox Christian denominations pull out of the organization. (The Antiochian Orthodox Church left last month, and the Orthodox Church in America is now considering a similar move.)

In his post, Couretas links to an article by the Rev. Johannes Jacobse ("United Churches of Castro") that's posted today at FrontPageMagazine.com. In the article, Jacobse takes a detailed look at the NCC's political leanings and its history of offering support to communist regimes. He writes, "The NCC plays a duplicitous game. Its public statements are laced with the language of Christian benevolence but its policies read like a laundry list of hard-Left causes."

Couretas goes on to write in his blog post: "When he was hired to run the NCC in 1999, Rev. Bob Edgar said he had 'no issue' with the group's history. And what is the NCC doing today to further the goal of Christian unity? It is organizing opposition to the Iraq war, camping out with Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, Texas, opposing private Social Security accounts, stumping for the Kyoto protocol, etc., etc."

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Olasky on Pat Robertson

In his weekly column, World Magazine Editor Marvin Olasky writes about the Pat Robertson controversy: "Folks with big megaphones need to remember what Spiderman learned: 'With great power comes great responsibility.'" Olasky goes on to point out that there is no Biblical warrant for Robertson's "fatwa."

He adds: . . .

The people most affected by [this] week's tempest, of course, are Venezuelans, one of whom wrote on WORLD's blog site worldmagblog.com of Mr. Chavez's demagoguery and election-rigging but noted that "after decades of corruption and ignoring the needs of the poor, our country may deserve a leader like Chavez. The fact is that Venezuela needs revival; corruption . . . is a way of life there. All potential leaders are corrupt, and we could end up with someone worse than Chavez. Pray for my people!" Yes, and pray also for missionaries who now face greater danger.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

L.A. Evangelicals

A study released yesterday by The Barna Group on faith and geography offers several surprises, including this one: . . .

. . . [W]hen determining which metropolitan area has the greatest number of evangelical adults, the outcome will shock many people: Los Angeles. The city that produces the media often criticized or boycotted by evangelicals is also home to nearly one million of those deeply devout Christians. In fact, there are more evangelical adults in the Los Angeles market than there are in the New York, Chicago and Boston metropolitan areas -- combined!

Hat tip to ReligionJournal.com.
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Pat Robertson's Remarks - Update

Today, Pat Robertson at first denied he called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and then later this afternoon finally apologized for what he said Monday on "The 700 Club."

Ted Olson at Christianity Today's Weblog has an excellent round-up of the Robertson controversy, including a compilation of responses from evangelical leaders: . . .

Venezuelan Evangelical Alliance president Sam Olson worries that the real danger is to believers, not to Chavez. "Robertson has placed our lives in jeopardy as he has completely misrepresented us and has given our government every reason to believe we would support such an action," he said.

"Jesus called for nothing like this, and Pat Robertson sounded more like one of the radical imams," Os Guinness said on ABC's
World News Tonight.

"He has brought embarrassment upon us all," Al Mohler, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on his blog. "With so much at stake, Pat Robertson bears responsibility to retract, rethink, repent, and restate his position on this issue. Otherwise, what could have been a temporary lapse of judgment can become an enduring obstacle to the Gospel."

World magazine editor Marvin Olasky told MSNBC: "Well Pat's 75, he's had a live television show for decades, and sometimes he blurts things out. He doesn't represent evangelicals, and I hope that people in Venezuela don't think that he represents the United States. . . ."

Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, told the
Los Angeles Times [free registration required] that Robertson's comments could endanger Protestant missionaries in Venezuela. "If this dictator starts to think of evangelicals as people who are gunning for him, that could be difficult for missionaries there."

Haggard's NAE colleague, Richard Cizik, told
The New York Times Robertson's program "complicates circumstances for foreign missionaries and Christian aid workers overseas who are already perceived, wrongly, especially by leftists and other leaders, as collaborators with U.S. intelligence agencies."

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Salvation By Comparison

By Alexander Samuels

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man cometh unto the Father but my Me" (John 14:6). According to a Newsweek/Beliefnet poll, 68 percent of evangelical Christians no longer believe these words of Jesus to be true. What they really believe is that as long as you are a "good" person you will go to heaven.

In an article today from AgapePress ("Survey: Two-Thirds of Evangelicals Doubt Jesus' Words Regarding Salvation Thru Him Alone"), Fred Jackson writes that most evangelicals have long been taught and have accepted what Jesus said in John 14:6, adding . . . "But now a new Newsweek/Beliefnet poll is showing a shocking number of people who call themselves evangelical and born-again have come to reject those words." In overwhelming percentages, the majority believe that people of all faiths may go to heaven if they live a "good" life.

Usually, evangelicals are considered rock-solid Bible-believing Christians. The primary principle of Christian teaching is that all men are sinners and they must be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Either this is not being taught in our churches or those who attend our churches have been influenced by some aspect of our culture to reject this teaching.

Who is good and how is it being defined? Jesus said, "There is only One who is good" (Matthew 19:17), and that "One" is God. Paul writes, "There is no one righteous, not even one . . ." (Romans 3:10). But Paul gives us the hope of a righteousness that is available to us: "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:22-24). [Emphasis added]

According to God's standards, no one is good. All have sinned and fall short; it's in our nature. God, however, has a plan. He "justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26). The human plan is to justify ourselves by comparison. We want to point to others who have lived lives much worse than ours and say, "We deserve to go to heaven because we lived better lives than they did."

That may be a "politically correct" opinion, but it is not a Christian opinion. The God of Christianity gives us no other options. We are either saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ or we are not saved at all. This is why Jesus gave us the Great Commission: "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you'" (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Bible and the words of Jesus leave us no option. We cannot call ourselves Christians and believe that people are saved by some relative standard of living a "good" life. Jesus did not leave us that option when He said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man cometh unto the Father but my Me" (John 14:6). [Emphasis added]

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The Battle Over Modesty

As the parents of a girl who's only 9 years old, you'd think that my wife and I wouldn't already be facing the problem of finding decent, modest clothing for her to wear. But we are. Fortunately, our little girl goes to a school that requires modest dress by way of standardized uniforms, but she doesn't want to be seen in her "uni" when she's off campus, and that's where the problem arises. Just today, the two of them were trying to find a decent pair of jeans, a pair that didn't ride way down on her hips or fit so tight as to cut off the circulation in her legs. They were . . . not successful. And remember, we're talking clothes for a 9-year-old!

Rebecca Hagelin, who is a vice president of The Heritage Foundation and the author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That's Gone Stark Ravng Mad, covers this very topic in her column today ("Fashioning a response to immodest clothing"). She had written a column a few weeks ago about her futile attempts at finding modest clothing for her 13-year-old daughter. Many of her readers wrote and let her know that she was not alone in this problem.

After sharing some of her readers' comments, Hagelin goes on to write:

Women and girls who decide to dress modestly often have another surprise in store -- men and boys treat them differently. In the book "Dressing with Dignity," former model Colleen Hammond explains why:

"I believe it is because, subconsciously, men can read women's body language. If they see a woman who dresses with dignity and carries herself with grace and femininity, they pick up on that. They take it as a sign to approach her with the respect, reverence and honor a woman ought to have."

Exactly. And if a girl dresses like a streetwalker, they pick up the opposite message. Is that the signal we want our daughters to send?

We should all try to communicate to the little girls in our lives a simple message Hagelin likes to use: "God made you a person of value. You're somebody special who deserves to be respected. So . . . I want you to dress in a way that reflects the treasure you are."
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Favorable Ruling for Conservative Episcopal Church

By Alexander Samuels

In an article posted by AgapePress yesterday ("Court Says Newport Beach ECUSA Dissenters Can Keep Church Property"), Jim Brown reports on a court ruling that forbids the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles from confiscating the property of a church that left the denomination because of the ordination of an openly gay bishop. The article goes on to say: . . .

Orange County Judge David Velasquez recently dismissed a lawsuit brought by the diocese against the dissident St. James Church in Newport Beach, saying that the parish's actions were protected by the First Amendment's freedom of speech provision. The ruling allows St. James to retain legal possession of its church buildings, property, and financial records.

The pastor of St. James, Praveen Bunyan, views the court decision as "vindication from a vindictive lawsuit." On a spiritual level, he says the church's members are simply joyous and are praising God for the "deliverance and the victory that He has rendered." Now that the legal issues have been resolved, he says St. James simply wants to "move on with freedom to worship the Lord, claim His name, and fulfill His mission."

This ruling is important because many denominations in our country own their churches' buildings and other assets. This precedent will hopefully give individual churches the right to withdraw from their denomination and keep church property when the denomination adopts policies that are contrary to orthodox Biblical teaching.

Some may consider the downside of this to be that churches that support unorthodox non-Biblical teaching, such as the ordination of openly homosexual clergy, etc., may be able to withdraw, property and all, from their denominations. Personally, I think this is an acceptable (and fair) solution in order that Bible-believing churches may continue in their orthodoxy without pressure from a denominational bureaucracy that has become overwhelmingly liberal in its theology.

All Saints' Church in Long Beach and St. David's Church in North Hollywood are also challenging lawsuits from the diocese in Los Angeles, as well. Hopefully, the result for them will be as favorable as the ruling for St. James Church.

Please do not assume that I am anti-denomination by taking this stance. I believe these are times, however, that such measures are needed to maintain the integrity of churches that are attempting to be faithful to God's Word.
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Pat Robertson's Remarks

I'm sure most of you have heard about Pat Robertson's comments on "The 700 Club" yesterday calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. It was a very irresponsible thing for him to say. Unfortunately, many believe . . . he speaks for all evangelical Christians. He does not. At least not this one.
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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Guarino at the Movies

Joe Guarino reviews The Great Raid: . . .

I recommend the film highly. The event it portrays is described as the greatest rescue mission in American military history. Moreover, the depictions in the film serve as a reminder of the atrocities to which our men had been exposed; and this is particularly timely in view of the recent observance of the 60th anniversary of our victory against Japan, and the events leading up to it.

My dad served in the Pacific Theater during WWII, including a stint in the Philippines, and I hope to go see this movie with him.
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Modern Man and the Holy Life

By Alexander Samuels

The word "holy" is not very commonly used in our modern vocabulary. I have heard it as part of an expression of profanity more than in normal conversation. When was the last time you talked to anybody about living a holy life? Ask your pastor how many people he has counseled lately who wanted to know how to . . . live a more holy life. You can guess his answer.

In most churches we attend, we will probably hear the word "holy" used in reference to God, the Holy Spirit or the Bible, but how many sermons have been preached in the last year in your church about holy living? Many Christians do not quite grasp in our modern times this word that is used more than 600 times in the Bible. What does "holy" mean? How does it apply to us?

In order for a person to be holy, he or she must be morally blameless, one who is separated from sin and consecrated to God. A person who endeavors to live a holy life does so because his or her life is consecrated for God's use. In other words, in order to live a holy life you must live according to the teachings of the Bible - in contrast to the sinful ways of the world. An important concept to remember, as a Christian, is that God wants us to live in obedience to His Word. He has called every Christian to live a holy life.

Most of us today, if we think about holiness at all, believe in the myth of "cultural holiness." That is, we compare ourselves to our neighbors and say, "Look at how he lives. I am surely a better person than he is." This is a relative standard of holiness in which we feel it is pleasing to God if we just live a better life than our neighbors. But this is not Biblical holiness. Biblical holiness is nothing less than complete conformity to the character of God.

The character of God's holiness is an incredibly high goal, but He holds us to it. Even though it is absolutely true that God accepts us based on His grace and the sacrifice and merit of Jesus Christ, His standard for our character is this: "But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy'" (1 Peter 1: 15-16). At salvation the Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives to make us holy in our day-to-day lives. If we do not begin to experience the desire to live holy lives to please God, we should question whether our faith is just wishful thinking. True faith in Christ will always manifest itself in our lives by the good fruit of our character and actions.

Scottish theologian John Brown writes, "Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervours, or uncommanded austerities; it consists in thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wills." This doesn't happen automatically. With the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we must strive for it each day of our lives. Why? Because "without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). Modern man and woman must look to the Bible as the absolute truth for teaching us to live a life pleasing to God. We must ask God daily to search our hearts for sin. Otherwise, we will refuse to see. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way" (Psalm 139:23-24).

This article and much of my life has been inspired (other than by the most important book of all, the Bible) by a book written by Jerry Bridges over 27 years ago. The Pursuit of Holiness (Nav Press) came along at a time when I was really having trouble understanding how to live the Christian life. It also helped me to understand what must be taking place in the spiritual work of the church and in the lives of the congregation for the church to be an authentic Christian church. I urge you to get a copy of this book and read it. I pray that God will use it to inspire you in your calling. I pray for all of us to be reminded daily to live our lives in conformity to the standard of God's holy character.


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Friday, August 19, 2005

Who's Tolerant of Whom?

Last night, the Philadelphia Phillies held its third annual "Gay Community Night" at the ballpark. Each year, Michael Marcavage of Repent America has attended the event to protest. His protest last night amounted to holding a sign that said, "Homosexuality Is a Sin, Christ Can Save You" at the top of a section in right field.

Phil Sheridan of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes in his column today (free registration required): . . .

At one point, other fans stood in front of the banner, obscuring it. Eventually, officers from the Philadelphia Police Civil Affairs division flanked Marcavage and his unidentified companion.

"This is totally offensive to me," said James Duggan, a fan from Merchantville who stood several rows in front of the sign and engaged Marcavage in debate. "These people are false Christians. I was told the Phillies' lawyers arranged this with Repent America's lawyers, and I find that totally offensive, too."

Mike Stiles, the Phillies' vice-president of operations and administration, said the team's attorneys had met with attorneys for Repent America after the group protested the first gay-pride event at Veterans Stadium in 2003.

"It's pretty clear under the Constitution," Stiles said, "that if you're going to have a gay community night, people have the right to express another opinion. We understand it's distressing for some people to have to look at that sign. We believe the leaders of the gay community who arrange this night like any other group know what they're going to have to put up with."

. . . Marcavage and the second man rolled up their sign at the end of the sixth inning, prompting cheers from the fans around Section 303. As the police officers and Phillies officials escorted them out of the grandstand and to an employees' elevator, fans booed and chanted obscenities.

Duggan left the section a few minutes later and headed over to buy a beer.

"I moved here from New York," Duggan said, "and I've traveled a lot. I've found Philadelphia to be the most tolerant place I've ever been. I think that says something. I'm a gay man, I confronted this guy, and I'm not the one who got booed. He is."

So is Marcavage within his First Amendment rights to hold up such a sign in this environment? And if Philadelphia is such a "tolerant" place, as Duggan says it is, are he and the fans who booed and shouted obscenities at Marcavage showing tolerance toward him and what he believes?
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Building Social Ministries Instead of Sanctuaries

Two weeks ago, I posted a link to a column by Marvin Olasky on how a church chose to help a community in Africa rather than build a bigger place to worship. In his column this week, Olasky shares the story of a church in Leesburg, Florida, that also decided not to build a larger sanctuary: . . .

Located about an hour's drive northwest of Orlando on a main street that also boasts a McDonald's, Subway and Ace Hardware, the First Baptist Church of Leesburg (pop. 15,596) sports a standard denominational look: columned portico, steeple and lots of people -- an average attendance of 2,200 during the winter and 1,400 during the summer.

By the early 1990s, some church members wanted to build a larger sanctuary so the church would not need two (now three) worship services on Sunday morning. Senior pastor Charles Roesel, though, insisted that the church should spend the money on building a Ministry Village with homes for abused children, battered women and men who wanted to turn their lives around, along with a free medical clinic and other facilities to help the needy.

Since Roesel had been preaching about such "ministry evangelism" for a decade, church members embraced his vision and donated $2 million to construct seven buildings smack by the steepled church. (Some churches want their ministries of compassion to be geographically separate from and financially unequal to their worship functions, but First Baptist supports Christ's teaching that loving our neighbor belongs in the same sentence as loving God.)

So has this emphasis on social ministries inhibited the church's ability to evangelize and grow? Olasky reports:

Before the new focus, the church added about 30 members a year through baptism, with new members typically the children or relatives of those already in the church. Now (to use one measurement of growth), the church regularly baptizes 200 to 300 persons each year.

Overall, the church and ministries budget has increased from $180,000 annually in 1979 to $5.5 million now. Sixty percent of the budget goes for the ministries in their seven buildings and for a Christian school.

Should churches follow First Baptist in Leesburg's example of embracing social ministries, or should they stick to worship and let other agencies handle them?
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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Faith-Blogging at ConvergeSouth

As Ed Cone noted earlier today on his blog, I will be leading a session on "faith-blogging" at the ConvergeSouth conference here in Greensboro, a.k.a. "Blogsboro" (October 7 and 8). I'm really looking forward to being a part of this gathering of New Media minds and honored that Ed would consider me to . . . lead a session on how people use blogs to discuss their beliefs.

Between now and then I would welcome suggestions from any of you other "faith-bloggers" out there (and commenters, as well) as to what questions you think might spark discussion from those in attendance. In other words, what are some things I can throw out there that would get everyone other than me talking? You can either post your suggestions as comments here, or send them to me in an e-mail at CCCBlog@aol.com. Thank you, and I hope to see many of you at ConvergeSouth.

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Tim in VT Goes Blogging

For those of you who stop by this blog often, you're probably familiar with a frequent visitor known as "Tim in VT." Tim's insightful comments have added a lot to the discussions here at Carolina Christian Conservative, and we have truly appreciated his contributions. Now that he's gotten his feet wet by commenting on various blogs, Tim has decided to . . . start one of his own and shine a bit of light in the darkness from his base in Vermont. So head on over to Tim Therrien's Vallo Fides and welcome him to the blogosphere.

And be sure to check out his excellent first post, "His Emminence...", which discusses the beliefs of those who are following the "pope" of the religion of "Einsteinian Spirituality," Richard Dawkins.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Where Is the Church?

By Alexander Samuels

The church is more than just a building despite the fact that we have seen the trend to construct church buildings resembling giant auditoriums and shopping malls. With all the conveniences and space, it would appear that these giant megachurches provide . . . something for everyone. Megachurches are now, however, building satellite churches that are planted for the use of smaller congregations. The churches are tied together by televised preaching from the home church but are designed to provide that feeling of "homeyness" missing from the massive mall-like structures. There are indications that megachurch attendance is on the decline. The satellite churches have become the latest strategy for keeping the sheep in the fold.

The glimmer and glitz of stage performances; loud bands; 7-11 choruses (songs with seven words repeated 11 times); the latest video screen technology; seeker-friendly greeters; short, non-theological, "feel good about yourself" homilies do not seem to be as appealing to the unchurched as they once were. It also remains questionable as to whether this evangelical strategy did little more than just fill pews while souls starved for a meaningful relationship with Christ.

This outcome is inevitable when pastors and elders become enamored of the successful secular strategies in the business world and try to apply them to church growth. Most of these programs are carried on in the secular world without much regard to God. When they are transferred to the church, the emphasis remains on the program and not on God's glory. These churches, like the builders of the tower of Babel, are often more interested in making a name for themselves than in bringing glory to God.

In light of the changes that are taking place in Protestant church culture, what are the unchurched looking for? What is missing from their lives that they would look to the church as a means for filling the void?

Materialism is well represented by the slogan: "He who dies with the most toys wins!" The inevitable question that follows, however, is "Wins what?" Human beings seek authentic meaning.

If the church is true to its calling, then the Holy Spirit of God will supply all that is needed. The meaning we thirst for is the power of the Holy Spirit conforming us to be more and more like Christ. Polished programs will not take us anywhere near this Christlikeness. Only the Holy Spirit furnishes the power to accomplish this. Are you looking for a church? Look for wind and flame. Only in a place where the Word is preached with authority and the people are found on their knees in prayer will the authentic meaning of life eternal in Christ be found.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Smithsonian Scientists Exhibit Hostility

David Klinghoffer, in an article posted earlier today on National Review Online, reports that Richard von Sternberg, a scientist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, has found himself in the midst of a "hostile work environment" simply because he published in a biology journal an article on Intelligent Design written by another writer.

Klinghoffer writes: . . .

What exactly was his offense? Some background is in order. In a January Wall Street Journal op-ed, I reported the story of how Sternberg, a Smithsonian research associate, suffered as a result of his editing a technical peer-reviewed biology journal, The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.

The journal is housed at the Smithsonian, though it's nominally independent. For his part, formally, Sternberg is employed by the National Institute of Health, though his agreement with his employer stipulates that he may spend 50 percent of his time working at the Smithsonian. So when the August 2004 issue of the
Proceedings appeared, under Sternberg's editorship, Sternberg's managers at the Smithsonian took a keen interest in a particular article — the first paper laying out the evidence for ID to be published in a peer-reviewed technical journal.

The article was "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," by Stephen Meyer, a Cambridge University PhD in the philosophy of biology. He's currently a senior fellow at Seattle's Discovery Institute. In the essay, Meyer reviewed the work of scientists around the world — at places like Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, and the University of Chicago — who have cast doubt on whether Darwinian evolution can explain the sudden infusion of genetic "information" and the resulting explosion of between 19 and 34 new animal phyla (body plans) about 530 million years ago — the Cambrian Explosion. Meyer argued that perhaps an unidentified designing intelligence played a role in the event.

However strong you think the argument is for Intelligent Design — and I'm no scientist — most reasonable people would agree that an ID theoretician should, without fear of retaliation, be allowed to state his case for the consideration of fellow scientists. This was the view held by Sternberg, who isn't himself an advocate of ID. However, according to the [U.S. Office of Special Counsel's] investigation, when the Meyer article was published, Sternberg's managers were outraged and a number of them sought a strategy that would make him pay.

According to a letter from an OSC attorney to Sternberg, which followed a review by the OSC of e-mail transmitted among top Smithsonian scientists, Sternberg's professional competence was attacked, lies were spread about him, a list of trivial offenses were compiled, and there were attempts to deny him access to his work space and other areas vital to his job, all in an effort to run him off following the publication of the article. His supervisor reportedly even called around the museum to check up on Sternberg's religious and political affiliations.

Despite the evidence revealed in the investigation by the OSC, an independent federal agency, the Smithsonian denies that Sternberg has been subjected to any retaliation from his colleagues.

Hat tip to Marvin Olasky at World Magazine Blog.
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Nun Protests Cathedral's Use in Movie

Actor Tom Hanks and his favorite director, Ronny "Opie Cunningham" Howard, are in London filming the screen adaptation of Dan Brown's best seller The Da Vinci Code, which is a sacrilegious tale concerning a Vatican conspiracy to suppress the supposed marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Yesterday, as Hanks and company arrived to shoot scenes at the Lincoln Cathedral, which is serving as a double for Westminster Abbey in the movie, they were greeted by protesters, including a Catholic nun. In an article posted today on the Evening Standard's This Is London Web site, Sister Mary Michael, who was leading a 12-hour prayer vigil to get help get her message across, says . . . "I just don't think it's right that they are filming this story here. I know the bishop and dean argue it is fiction - and it might even be brilliant fiction - but it is against the very essence of what we believe."

The cathedral's dean and other church authorities had given permission to the movie's producers to film at historic Lincoln Cathedral in exchange for a £100,000 donation to the church. (Westminster Abbey had refused access.) In the same article, the Very Reverend Alec Knight, the cathedral's dean, says, "It is a huge opportunity in secular terms. We thought about the film company's offer very carefully, both from the point of view of disruption and also because of the text of the book itself. We are not often given an opportunity to enter such an arena, and this was an opportunity we needed to take in order to preach the Gospel. It would be very good for the cathedral, the city and the county. The Da Vinci Code is a load of old tosh. I have been a school chaplain, and these are the sort of things fifthformers try to trip you up with. But if people come here because of it then we have to look at what they go away with."

Hat tip to Matt Drudge at Drudge Report.

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Harvard to Determine Origins of Life

Have you been concerned about the intense debate over evolution, creation and Intelligent Design? Well, fear not, Harvard University is set to spend millions of dollars to finally set the record straight. A team of researchers are being formed to head up the "Origins of Life in the Universe Initiative" and will receive $1 million a year from the university, which will include the financing of new facilities and faculty.

In an Associated Press article, David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard, says: . . . "My expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention."

Liu sure is starting this project without any preconceived notions or biases, isn't he?

Hat tip to Susan Olasky at World Magazine Blog.

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Cal Thomas on Cindy Sheehan

In his latest column, Cal Thomas makes an interesting case for why President Bush should meet publicly with war protestor Cindy Sheehan.

Thomas writes: . . .

Here's the reason he should meet with her, but not alone. Other relatives of dead and wounded soldiers and some of the soldiers, themselves, should be included. He might also invite a few Iraqis who support the effort to free a people long held in bondage by Saddam Hussein and who face new bondage under the totalitarian dictatorship of Islamofacism if this effort fails.

The president should hold the meeting in a public place. Let the criticism flow, but let Iraqi women tell their stories about rape and torture at the hands of Saddam's now-dead sons. Allow Iraqi men to tell about life under Saddam and how grateful they are that he is gone. Wounded soldiers and families of the dead would speak in support of the war effort. Members of Sheehan's own family could come. They posted a letter on the Drudge Web site in support of the president. . . .

A meeting with her among many would help dilute her political objective and allow other voices to be heard. It would also reinforce the president's position that withdrawal before Iraq is stabilized would do irreparable harm to American interests, Middle East stability and ultimately cost many more American lives as terrorists and fighters claim victory over the United States and feel emboldened to continue their terror campaign to establish one theocratic state after another. . . .

Let Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld preside at the gathering. He is the most articulate member of the administration when it comes to defending the reasons we are in Iraq. Let the president answer respectful, even challenging questions. Americans would appreciate a president who would risk putting himself in rhetorical harm's way when our soldiers are in far greater danger.

The case for creating peace and stability in Iraq is a good one, but it needs to be made repeatedly because of short attention spans, bad memory and the boldness of the left, which thinks it has found the president vulnerable.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Chronicles of Narnia Promotions

According to Christianity Today's Reel News, the promotional wheels are in already in motion for the December 9 release of the much-anticipated film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

Here are some links to sites promoting the movie: . . .

The official Narnia site.

BarnaFilms, which is selling tickets to a special advance screening on December 8 at select theaters across the country.

NarniaWeb.com, which posts news on the movie and is setting up "Lion Parties."

NarniaResources.com, which is offering teaching guides and outreach materials for schools, churches and parents.

Walden Media, which is sponsoring a sweepstakes for educators to win a trip for two to London for the world premiere of the movie.

And two blogs: The Chronicles of Narnia and Narnia Feature Articles.

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NLT Bible for iPods

ReligionJournal.com reports that the New Living Translation Bible is now available for iPods.

The article states: . . .

Laridan's iPocketBible includes the complete text and dramatized audio of the New Living Translation Bible for reading and listening. iPocketBible utilizes the iPod "notes" feature to present the Bible text for reading. A verse and subject index allow the user to start at any book in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. A "listen" option links them directly to the audio so they can listen as they read.

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Mickey Mantle's Greatest Victory - Part II

Ten years ago today, my namesake, Mickey Mantle, died after a struggle with alcoholism and cancer. Earlier this week I wrote about the new HBO documentary Mantle and how it honestly shows the man's failings and eventual redemption, but doesn't mention his acceptance of Christ right before he died. Yesterday, Agape Press posted an article by James L. Lambert titled "Mickey Mantle's 11th-Hour Miracle," which contains some more details about Mantle's final days, his conversion and his friendship with New York Yankee teammate Bobby Richardson.

Lambert writes: . . .

Several years before Mantle admitted himself into the Betty Ford Center, Richardson remembered hearing Mickey mention in a television interview that he had "a void in his heart" after his friend and fellow Yankee slugger Roger Maris died unexpectedly in 1985. Clearly, this made Mantle aware of his own mortality. From Richardson's perspective, he also became more open to the message of Christ. Once Mantle finished his treatment at the Betty Ford Center, he was an outstanding spokesman to people everywhere who were suffering from alcoholism.

By 1995 Mantle's health had taken a turn for the worse when it was discovered that he had traces of cancer in his body. It didn't take long for Mantle to call his friend Bobby Richardson to ask for prayer. Richardson found out later that Mantle had heard a Christian testimonial tape from the great basketball player Pete Maravich. Richardson suspects that this powerful tape was instrumental in guiding Mickey to God.

Richardson vividly remembers visiting Mantle a few weeks before his death. One of the first things Mantle wanted to tell him, he recalls, was that he now trusted in Christ as his Lord and Savior. Mantle assured Richardson that he truly believed he was Christ's by quoting the famous Bible salvation verse, John 3:16.

Ten years have passed since Mantle died on August 13, 1995. Richardson says he is still amazed at all the opportunities he gets to share his own testimony with various baseball organizations across the country. But while the media appears reluctant to shine the light on Mantle's 11th-hour miracle, Richardson takes comfort in knowing that he will see his teammate again someday.

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The Mystery of Purpose

By Alexander Samuels

Do you ever wonder about your purpose in life? I do. And I must not be the only one. Tolstoy, when commenting on science, said "Science is meaningless because it gives no answer to our question, the only question important to us, 'what shall we do and how shall we live?'" The absence of a defining purpose, in spite of the successes we may enjoy, leaves us hollow. Fyodor Dostoevsky once wrote, "For the secret of man's being is not only to live . . . but to live for something definite. Without a firm notion of what he is living for, man will not accept life and will rather destroy himself than remain on earth."

For Christians, this truth translates into . . . "How is it that God sees me and what is it that God really wants me to live for?" For the Christian, knowing God's purpose in his life is not a secondary issue. God's purpose for me is the deepest issue of them all. One of my favorite books helps me to sort all this out when that personal sense of purpose seems to go wandering off. The book is The Call by Os Guinness. I'll let the author himself explain his work to you:

This book is for all who long to find and fulfill the purpose of their lives. It argues that this purpose can be found only when we discover the specific purpose for which we were created and to which we are called. Answering the call of our Creator is "the ultimate why" for living, the highest source of purpose in human existence. Apart from such a calling, all hope of discovering purpose will end in disappointment. To be sure, calling is not what it is commonly thought to be. It has to be dug out from under the rubble of ignorance and confusion. And, uncomfortably, it often flies directly in the face of our human inclinations. But nothing short of God's call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose.

Do you have a reason for being, a focused sense of purpose in your life? Do you want to know the secret of the mystery? Reading this book will inspire you.


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Friday, August 12, 2005

The ELCA's New Trinity

At the biennial meeting of its Churchwide Assembly this week in Orlando, Florida, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is debating such hot-button issues as same-sex unions and gay clergy, both of which are scheduled to be voted on today. In addition, according to a report in The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, the denomination has already approved a new prayer book and hymnal designed to offer more contemporary worship options and deemphasize masculine references to the Trinity. So instead of offering prayers to the traditional "Father, Son and Holy Spirit," ELCA congregations will now look to . . . the "Holy Eternal Majesty, Holy Incarnate Word and Holy Abiding Spirit."

Hat tip to the Christianity Today Weblog.

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Defensive Darwinists

In this week's World Magazine, Publisher Joel Belz writes about the tenor of the Intelligent Design-evolution debate, especially following President Bush's recent remarks: . . .

I'm not suggesting, mind you, that Mr. Bush's generous spirit constitutes final proof about who is right in the renewed debate about origins. I'm just proposing that the fidgety defensiveness of the Darwinists over the last couple of weeks contrasts in an ugly way with the easy openness of the Intelligent Design folks (see "Mad Scientists").

Indeed, the grumpy stubbornness of the evolutionary crowd tells you more than you wanted to know about them. "Look!" cries someone with gleeful delight. "Let me show you this snowflake. Look at its incredible design." "Don't want to," comes the sullen and bad-tempered reply.

All apart from the evidence itself, who would you rather spend your time with?

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Violent Message From Planned Parenthood—Update 2

In an interview with Rob Moll of Christianity Today, Pia de Solenni, director of life and women's issues at the Family Research Council, says: . . . "NARAL is doing ads blasting John Roberts and accusing him of promoting violence in abortion clinics, which he has not. And at the same time you have Planned Parenthood clearly promoting violence against anyone that thinks differently than they do. The irony is just striking."

For the background on this story see my two earlier posts here and here.

Meanwhile, Dawn Eden at The Dawn Patrol blogs on about the situation, asking her readers to contact their local media outlets to encourage them to cover the story behind this outrageous Planned Parenthood video.

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Barna Study on Beliefs

Alex's post from earlier today on the importance of what Christians believe takes on even more significance after you read a new study released by The Barna Group Tuesday.

The Barna Group reports: . . .

The Supreme Court nomination of John Roberts, funding for stem cell research, the war in Iraq and against terrorism, sexual abuse by clergy, the Terri Schiavo case, gay marriage, and many other recent issues have brought people's moral convictions into play. Yet, in spite of the fact that most Americans consider themselves to be Christian, very few adults base their moral decisions on the Bible, and surprisingly few believe that absolute moral truth exists.

Here are some of the study's findings:

  • Only 16 percent of American adults say they make moral decisions based on the Bible.

  • Of evangelicals, 60 percent rely on the Bible for moral principles, while 20 percent of non-evangelical born-again Christians, 6 percent of Christians who are not born again ("notional Christians") and 2 percent of those from non-Christian faiths rely on the Bible as a moral compass.

  • 23 percent of Protestants versus 7 percent of Catholics base their morals on Biblical teaching.

  • In the area of absolute moral truth, 35 percent of adults believe in absolutes, 32 percent say it depends on the situation, and 33 percent say they don't know if moral truth is absolute or relative.

  • 70 percent of evangelicals believe in absolute moral truth, while 42 percent of born-again nonevangelicals, 25 percent of notional Christians, 16 percent of those from non-Christian faiths and 27 percent of atheists or agnostics believe in moral absolutes.

  • The younger a person is, the less likely they are to rely on the Bible for moral guidance or believe in absolute truth.

  • Some of the more interesting findings in the study concern whether American adults possess a Biblical worldview. Here's the criteria The Barna Group uses to determine who has such a perspective:

    The organization defines such a life perspective on the basis of several questions about religious beliefs. The definition requires someone to believe that absolute moral truth exists; that the source of moral truth is the Bible; that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches; that eternal spiritual salvation cannot be earned; that Jesus lived a sinless life on earth; that every person has a responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others; that Satan is a living force, not just a symbol of evil; and that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful maker of the universe who still rules that creation today.

    Some of the major findings in this area include:

  • Only 5 percent of American adults have a Biblical worldview.

  • 8 percent of Protestants possess a Biblical worldview, while only less than one-half of 1 percent of Catholics do.

  • College graduates are more than twice as likely as other adults to possess a Biblical worldview.

  • Those who consider themselves "mostly conservative" on political or social issues are 12 times more likely to have a Biblical worldview than people who say they are "mostly liberal" on such matters.

  • Of American adults, 8 percent of Hispanics, 6 percent of whites, 1 percent of African-American and less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Asians possess a Biblical worldview.

  • Researcher George Barna, who's the author of Think Like Jesus, makes the following observations and suggestions in his organization's report:

  • Many believers have been influenced by popular religious books in recent years that have not addressed basic theological views: "Most of the bestsellers have focused on meaning, purpose, security and the end times," Barna says. "While there have been theological views expressed in those books, very few popular books have helped people to think clearly and comprehensively about their core theology. Consequently, most born-again Christians hold a confusing and inherently contradictory set of religious beliefs that go unchecked by the leaders and teachers of their faith community."

  • Christian leaders should stay focused on things that matter, not on "indicators" such as "attendance, congregant satisfaction, dollars raised and built-out square footage."

  • To combat widespread ignorance of Biblical principals, the Sunday-morning sermon needs to have more impact: "We know that within two hours after leaving a church service, the typical individual cannot recall the theme of the sermon they heard," Barna says. "But if they have a discussion about a principle and its application to their life, or if they have a multi-sensory experience with those principles, they retain the information much longer and the probability that they will act on that information rises dramatically."

  • Ministry leaders should focus on Biblical principles believers can grasp as the foundation of their faith, using creative and practical ways to reach them: "Few people in churches have a Biblical worldview because most preachers seem intent on teaching broadly rather than deeply," Barna says. "That's emotionally and intellectually appealing, but until people have a mental framework through which they can process the numerous principles, ideas and stories provided in the Bible, preaching is typically an exercise in information overload. We have to prepare people to know what to do with the information. A Biblical worldview gives them the filter they need to know how to categorize and implement the facts and ideals they receive."

  • To read the full report, click here.

    Hat tip to ReligionJournal.com.
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    Is What You Believe Important?

    By Alexander Samuels

    The normal immediate response to the question in the title above is "Yes, of course, what I believe is important. At least, it is important to me." If it really is important to you, do your actions reflect what you say you believe? That is, are your beliefs consistently reflected in the way you live, speak, etc.? Possibly, you would respond that no one is ever fully consistent in acting on their beliefs, and you would be right. We are human beings, not perfectly programmed computers.

    Is it possible to hold equally to two opposing belief systems? No. Either you believe . . . the one is true and the other is false, or you reduce yourself to saying that neither is absolutely true, or that there is no absolute truth. This only weakens your position further, because you are implying that it is absolutely true that there is no absolute truth. You might then conclude that we must pick and choose; we must compromise. But what possible relevance does this have to the way you live your life?

    My concern is this: Can you be a Christian and a non-Christian at the same time? Of course not; you are either a Christian or you must be a non-Christian. How do we tell the difference? If half of what you believe is Christian and the other half is non-Christian, are you a Christian? No. Christ made it clear that his disciples are called to obey all his teachings.

    So if you commit a sin, does this mean that you are not a Christian? No. You may sin, but if you have a repentant heart and the sin is not established as a consistent pattern in your life, you are a Christian.

    If you disobey God's Word and you continue in a pattern of sin without a repentant heart, can you still be a Christian? No. You cannot have two masters. One master will always take preeminence over the other. Christ will not share the throne of your life with another master. You cannot choose Christ to be master over one part of your life and then choose to follow a secular philosophy in another part of your life. To be a Christian means to serve Christ with all of your life. You cannot be guided by what feels right at the time. All of your life must be under the authority of Christ.

    Does the Bible serve as the authoritative resource for guidance in living your life? I often hear people say that they try to live by the teachings of Jesus, but that the other books of the Bible don't carry the same weight as Christ's teachings. John, however, tells us that Jesus is the Word of God (John 1). The Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus to guide men in early times as they wrote the Bible under His anointing. All of Scripture is the Word and teachings of Jesus Christ. We are not allowed to pick and choose out of the Bible what we wish to believe and still be called Christians.

    You must believe all the teachings of the Bible in order to be a Christian. If the Bible is not your final authority on everything, then you are not a Christian. You may call yourself a Christian, but you are not a Christian.

    Is what you believe important? Yes. It is extremely important. The beliefs you hold determine the way you act and respond to all situations. Let us take politics for instance. In your life, does what you believe about politics influence your ideas on religion? Does what you believe about religion influence your politics? Your answers to these two questions make an enormous difference in your approach to either politics or religion.

    If the dominant influence in your life is how you think politically, then your religious beliefs will be conformed to your system of political thought. If religion is the dominant influence, then your political beliefs will be conformed to your religious faith. If being a Republican and following the party line is your bread and meat, then your Christian faith will subtly begin to conform more and more to Republican political philosophy until obeying the party line is more important than obeying Christ.

    Karl Marx said, "Religion is the opiate of the masses." In my many years I have noticed that politics has an addictive power all its own. Many of us don't even know we've been hooked. One of the first signs, if we are Christians or cultural Christians, is when we begin to compromise the Word of God for the good of our political cause. We decide that the teachings of the Scriptures are not as clear as we once thought they were. We begin to look to radical liberal scholars to interpret the Bible for us—you know, the ones that never believed Jesus existed anyway.

    In addition to political influence on the population, there are, in our society, large numbers of "cultural Christians." You find them in every church. They see the church primarily as a social institution, not a spiritual institution. They take their children to Sunday school because it is considered the right thing to do. They listen to the preacher and promptly forget the message within an hour after church. They do no not attend adult Sunday school because that requires too much commitment. They rarely speak of religion or pray in the home. They have never read the Bible from cover to cover and are usually not interested in reading Christian books.

    Yet they are members of the church; many are even elders and deacons in your church. They claim to be "born again," but all they have had is a brief psychological-emotional experience. They do, however, represent Christianity. It is not orthodox Biblical Christianity, but they call it "Christianity" just the same.

    They call themselves Christians every time they support immoral positions that contradict the clear teachings of the Bible. They call themselves Christians every time they lobby for a piece of legislation that will ultimately limit free speech in our churches. They call themselves Christians when they seek to redefine marriage and the family as it is taught in the Word of God. They call themselves Christians when they tell the pastor to quit teaching about sin and teach more on positive self-esteem. They call themselves Christians when they desert their wives and families. They call themselves Christians because they believe there is still some social merit in it. These so-called "cultural Christians" are not Christians at all, and they are so misled they haven't a clue.

    Cultural Christians look at the plans and procedures for marketing in the world and believe that secular means can be used to grow a church or evangelize unchurched people. Just like in the secular world, cultural Christians believe that they can do quite well without God, even in the church. While claiming to be believers in a supernatural reality, cultural Christians never really acknowledge its existence by their day-to-day actions.

    Is what you believe important? Absolutely, because what you believe determines who you are. You cannot be an atheist if you really believe in God. You can say you are an atheist. You can join the atheist club, but if you believe in God, you are not an atheist.

    If you have not been "born again"; if you have not repented of your sins; if you do not believe that the Bible is the absolute Word of God; if you don't believe Jesus died for your sins; if you don't believe in heaven or hell; if you don't believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; if you don't believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ; if you don't think it is important to pray and study God's Word; if you believe there are many paths to God; if you believe that the Bible can be interpreted in many different ways—then I am sorry to say you are not a Christian.

    You may call yourself a Christian, but you are not a Christian. You may even find a pastor and church who agree with what you believe, but you are not a Christian. You may have been born in America, but that does not make you a Christian. What you believe is important!

    Won't you pray this prayer with me?

    Lord Jesus Christ, you said that you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Help us not to stray from you, for you are the Way; not to distrust you, for you are the Truth; not to rest on any other than you, as you are the life. You have taught us what to believe, what to do, what to hope, and where to take our rest. Give us grace to follow you, the Way, to learn from you, the Truth, and live in you, the Life. (Desiderius Erasmus, 1466–1536)

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