Thursday, September 29, 2005

Relevant Scripture on Suffering

Hugh Hewitt has posted his next set of layman's questions for his panel of theological scholars at OneTrueGodBlog (see earlier post). This week he asks: . . .

  • What portions of Scripture are most relevant to the people who have lost family, friends, and financial security to Katrina and now Rita, and why?

  • What portions of Scripture are most relevant to those who have been watching, but for whom the suffering is far removed, and why?

  • To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    I Do, I Do and I Do, Too

    European blogger Paul Belien of The Brussels Journal reports some interesting domestic partnership news out of the Netherlands, a country where same-sex marriage is legal: . . .

    Last Friday the first civil union of three partners was registered. Victor de Bruijn (46) from Roosendaal "married" both Bianca (31) and Mirjam (35) in a ceremony before a notary who duly registered their civil union.

    "I love both Bianca and Mirjam, so I am marrying them both," Victor said. He had previously been married to Bianca. Two and a half years ago they met Mirjam Geven through an internet chatbox. Eight weeks later Mirjam deserted her husband and came to live with Victor and Bianca. After Mirjam's divorce the threesome decided to marry.

    Victor: "A marriage between three persons is not possible in the Netherlands, but a civil union is. We went to the notary in our marriage costume and exchanged rings. We consider this to be just an ordinary marriage."

    Maybe the scenario Joel Gillespie posted on Joelblog last week isn't so far-fetched after all.

    Hat tip to Susan Olasky at World Magazine blog.
    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005

    Christian Carnival #89

    This week's Christian Carnival, the 89th edition, has been posted over at In the Spirit of Grace. Click on . . . the link and read from an interesting collection of posts on the "mind," "body" and "spirit" submitted from the Christian blogosphere.
    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2005

    Is It Too Late for Spiritual Renewal?

    By Alexander Samuels

    "Spiritual renewal" is a phrase I often use in the place of the word "revival." Revival is something that men make happen with evangelistic campaigns and such. At least, that is how it has come to be defined in our postmodern era. When spiritual renewal takes place in the church, it is a work of the grace and mercy of God through the Holy Spirit. Men and women are filled afresh with the Holy Spirit. Prayer and other disciplines of faith take on more consistency and power. People feel the urge to speak of spiritual things and are deeply concerned that every aspect of their lives be in right relationship to God.

    There seems to be very little concern about . . . spiritual renewal in our churches today. The secular philosophies of this world dominate the thought life of our culture. The Christianity that once was is now a pale ghost of the powerful Reformation doctrines that turned the world upside down. We may note that Christianity's teaching of responsibility for your neighbor's welfare is still a powerful driving force by the response of thousands of Christians to the victims of the recent hurricanes. Christian doctrines and convictions, however, seem to have mostly become watered-down casualties of religious correctness. More and more individuals who have adopted Christianity as their pet religion personally do so to feel good about themselves and not because they've known the call of grace or desire to hear God "speak."

    How many are there saying with David, "Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long" (Psalm 25:4-5)? What has happened to our passion for the Word of God? "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). The truth of God's Word and our worship of His Name no longer stirs up the fire in our hearts. We have become empty shells serving gods of our own making.

    "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I [Jesus] have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail . . ." (Luke 22:31-32). Here we see spiritual renewal in these words of Jesus to Simon. It is a matter of the grace and mercy of God. It is the shepherd that restores the lost sheep.

    The church has fallen thus far and suddenly you realize you are without hope. Then your voice cries out, "Do not cast me from Your Presence . . ." (Psalm 51:11). God's blessing of spiritual renewal washes over the church. His mercy and grace restore the joy of salvation. Our spirits are renewed (Psalm 51:12). We are filled with the Holy Spirit of God.

    Is there the least part of yearning for spiritual renewal in your soul? Do you wish to see the fountain of the Holy Spirit flow? It is not too late. Pray for your church and my church and the church invisible. "Therefore he [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Hebrews 7:25). Christ is consistently interceding for the church. It can do no harm to add our prayers to His. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

    Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.

    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Monday, September 26, 2005

    Would You Believe . . . ?

    It's sad to hear the news that actor Don Adams, the star of the 1960s TV series "Get Smart," died last night at the age of 82. I don't know how many times I've used the lines . . .

    "Would you believe . . . ?"

    "Missed it by that much."

    "The old ______ in the ______ trick."

    . . . or called for the use of the "cone of silence" for a private meeting.

    Sigh. They just don't make TV shows like they used to.

    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    African Anglicans May Lead Anglicans Worldwide

    By Alexander Samuels

    The see of Canterbury may lose the majority of its 80 million members throughout the world. The Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) and the Anglican Church of Canada also may lose many of their churches. At issue is the continuing movement of the Anglican Church away from the authority of the Scriptures, with the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back" being the tolerance of gay sex by the current church leadership.

    Archbishop Peter Akinola of the Anglican Church of Nigeria and chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), which represents 37 million Anglicans, may become the leader if a "new" Anglican Communion emerges. An article by Edward E. Plowman in the October 1 edition of World Magazine reports: . . .

    At this month's triennial General Synod of the Nigerian church, [Akinola] led the delegates to approve startling changes to the church's constitution. Stricken were all references to the church's communion with the see of Canterbury. Instead, communion will be with all Anglican churches, dioceses, and provinces that hold and maintain traditional Anglican faith and discipline. The revisions spell out biblical boundaries that define Anglicanism.

    Another change allows the church to create "convocations and chaplaincies" for like-minded faithful outside of Nigeria. This flies in the face of ECUSA demands that foreign bishops not trespass on ECUSA soil. The Africans already have taken some U.S. churches under their wing. [Emphasis added.]

    Despite the booming growth, the Nigerian and other CAPA churches are mostly dirt poor. Anticipating a complete shutoff of funds from ECUSA and other affluent Western churches, Archbishop Akinola called for a meeting of CAPA's top bishops in Dar es Salaam "to empower each province to be self-reliant." The African churches may be poor, "but God has given us all we need to live on," the archbishop said.

    At a September ceremony in New York, Archbishop Akinola was one of four Anglican prelates feted by the conservative Kairos Journal for "exemplary fidelity to the authority of Scripture and exceptional pastoral courage in their efforts to restore the prophetic voice of the church." The others: Henry Orombi of the 8-million-member Anglican province of Uganda, Datuk Young Ping Chung of South East Asia, and Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone of South America. All four have actively sided for several years with conservatives under pressure and censure in ECUSA.

    They and their provinces also have declared broken or impaired communion with ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada. And they uniformly contend that it is the liberal-led Western churches that are "walking apart from the Communion" and leading the schism.

    This writer can only praise Archbishop Akinola for his efforts to maintain the true faith in the Anglican Church. The current liberal religious leadership of the see of Canterbury has failed on at least two counts of maintaining the marks of a true church of Christ. They have failed to preach the Word of God faithfully concerning the consequences of sin and they have failed to discipline open or known sin within the church. Archbishop Akinola is now being faithful by following the obligation to separate from false or apostate communions.

    Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Saturday, September 24, 2005

    Trained by the Scriptures

    By Alexander Samuels

    One of my favorite Scriptures is 2 Timothy 3:16-17: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." Learning righteousness has been very difficult for me, especially when it comes to putting it into practice. I am comforted that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to me so that I may stand justified before my Father in heaven. I am also comforted by the fact that when I became a Christian . . . the Holy Spirit came to dwell within me to help me learn to be righteous in this world. I might wish sometimes it was all the Holy Spirit's work, but God has ordained that I must work along with the Holy Spirit in this process of becoming more righteous, or sanctified.

    This is why I share 2 Timothy 3:16-17 with you. One of the primary teachings of these verses is that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for . . . training in righteousness." It is evident that the Word of God is to play an important role in our training in righteousness. I would like to briefly share with you four strategies for using the Scriptures to help you grow in this area of your life.

    The first is "Hearing the Word of God." None of us ever reach such spiritual heights that we do not need to be taught the Scriptures by others. Whether we are listening to the pastor's sermon in church, the teacher in a Sunday school class or the leader of a Bible study group, all gifted teachers are blessed with the ability to open the Scriptures to us in such a way as to inspire us to live our lives more pleasing to God.

    The second strategy is "Reading the Bible." By reading the Bible for ourselves we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us from each page. If you have read the whole Bible, you are in a small minority of people. Yet, isn't it amazing that almost all Americans are willing to give you an opinion on the Bible? To truly understand the Bible, I believe we must from time to time read the entire Bible from cover to cover. Doing so will certainly add to your training in Christian righteousness.

    The third strategy is "Studying the Bible." You can read the Bible in a leisurely way, but study requires serious work and perseverance. Every Christian should be a student of the Bible. Another of my favorite Bible verses is Deuteronomy 6:4-9: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." The implication of these verses is that it is pleasing to God when his children take His Word seriously and study it diligently.

    The final strategy I want to offer is "Meditation on God's Word." In a way, meditation means "talking to yourself." I remember that D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones often said, "We must preach to ourselves." When you take a verse or verses of Scripture and think about them and what they mean over and over, you are meditating on Scripture. Ask yourself how this verse applies to you. Think about the context in which you find the verse. This is meditating on Scripture.

    "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." If you are a Christian, you will have that Holy Spirit-given desire to be trained in righteousness. You will desire more and more to live your life pleasing to Christ. We cannot achieve this, however, without the Word of God interacting in our lives.

    Many people find the Bible difficult to study and understand. Because of this I would like to recommend a little book to you that I think will help you become a better student of the Bible. The book is Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul. It is only 125 pages long and full of the information you need to study the Bible correctly. Here is what J.I. Packer says about Knowing Scripture, "If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folks from digging into the Bible. . . . I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorns, hedges and mantraps. . . . But I should be very far from pleased to see this book by R.C. Sproul."

    Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.


    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Friday, September 23, 2005

    Offering Hope After Hurricanes

    It's been more than three weeks since Hurricane Katrina first made landfall, and stories continue to come to light about how people are generously reaching out to help one another.

    Here's a report posted by AgapePress yesterday: . . .

    On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where many residents lost homes and personal property due to a massive storm surge during Hurricane Katrina, the faith-based relief efforts are continuing to provide for thousands of devastated storm victims. One Mississippi couple say they see Christ's commands being lived out through the volunteers who are helping the hurricane survivors in their area.

    Lorenzo Brown and Mona Polk live in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and decided to ride out Hurricane Katrina along with their infant son, Drew. But as the hurricane made landfall and their apartment began to flood, the couple quickly realized they had made the wrong decision. . . .

    In Katrina's aftermath, Brown, Polk and their son have joined thousands of south Mississippi residents who are now receiving free meals, medical care, and supplies at First Baptist Church of Pascagoula, where volunteers with Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief teams are distributing aid and otherwise ministering to survivors.

    Brown feels the assistance of the church volunteers has literally saved his and his family's lives. "We don't have any money, a car, we can't get around to do anything -- everything is closed," he says. The relief being distributed at the church is "a good help," he adds, "because a couple of days we went hungry. Now we've got food, and we're blessed to be living."

    The people in Mississippi and Louisiana will continue to need our help for the indefinite future, and with Hurricane Rita bearing down on Texas, it is likely that the number of people needing assistance will increase and our resources will be spread even thinner. Pray that we will continue to find a way to reach out to our neighbors to the south and help them cope with these disasters.
    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Student Expelled Because of Parents' Relationship

    A private Christian school in Ontario, California, expelled a student yesterday because it was discovered that her parents are lesbians.

    The Los Angeles Times reports today: . . . .

    Freshman Shay Clark, 14, was told to leave Ontario Christian High School after administrators learned of her parents' relationship this week.

    "Your family does not meet the policies of admission," Supt. Leonard Stob wrote to Tina Clark, Shay's biological mother. The policy, he added, states that at least one parent cannot engage in practices "immoral or inconsistent with a positive Christian life style [sic] such as cohabitating without marriage or in a homosexual relationship."

    The letter included two checks refunding $3,415, Shay's tuition for half the school year and an art fee. . . .

    Clark and her partner, Mitzi Gray, have been together for 22 years, and have three daughters; the others are ages 9 and 19. Clark and Gray said school officials learned of their relationship after Shay and another cheerleader were reprimanded for talking to the crowd during a football game Sept. 16.

    After Clark was told that her daughter could no longer attend the school, the mother was ordered to remove Shay from cheerleading practice, collect her daughter's belongings and leave the property. Shay and her parents say they will not appeal the school's ruling.

    Do you believe that the school did the right thing based on its beliefs and policies? Or do you think the school should've taken a different approach in resolving the matter?

    Hat tip to Matt Drudge at Drudge Report.
    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Faith Prevails Among African Anglicans

    By Alexander Samuels

    Again, from what was once known as the "Dark Continent" of missionaries such as minister and doctor David Livingstone, comes light in the form of a bold stand for the integrity of the Christian faith that many in our own country have failed to uphold.

    An Associated Press article posted yesterday by AgapePress reports: . . .

    Nigeria's Anglican church has purged its constitution of any reference to the mother church in England, deepening a rift over homosexuality. A statement on the Nigerian church's website says "all former references to 'communion with the see of Canterbury"' have been deleted. Instead, Nigerian Anglicans affirm their ties with churches that maintain the historic "faith, doctrine, sacrament and discipline." Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, leader of more than a fifth of the world's Anglicans, has emerged as a leader of Anglican conservatives who oppose any church acceptance of homosexuality. The Nigerian and Ugandan churches broke ties with the U.S. Episcopal Church over its 2003 consecration of a homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson. A dispute over same-sex marriages in England has deepened divisions.

    The African Anglicans have set an example of courage and faith that brings shame to the Protestant churches of the United States who have denied their historic faith, doctrine, sacrament and discipline. When will the leaders and pastors in American Protestant churches join their African brothers in speaking out against sin and upholding the Kingdom of Christ?

    Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    Christian Carnival #88

    Carolina Christian Conservative makes its debut this week on the Christian Carnival, a collection of posts from the Christian blogosphere. The 88th edition is being hosted by Neil Uchitel at Digitus, Finger & Co. Be sure to . . . click here and check it out.
    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Hugh Hewitt's New Blog

    Hugh Hewitt, a blogger, radio talk-show host, law professor and author (Blog, If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat and In, But Not Of), has started a new blog experiment called OneTrueGodBlog.

    On Monday, he posted this announcement on his regular blog: . . .

    At OneTrueGodBlog, I have enlisted the help of five scholars from a diverse set of theological backgrounds to participate in a conversation about a variety of topics related to God and the modern world. I'll try and be the voice of the curious layman asking curious layman questions. . . .

    I am also looking for a liberal Christian theologian who is already an accomplished blogger to join the team. But warn them to review the credentials of their potential colleagues in the online scrum. The use of lousy argument from a pulpit is rarely challenged. In this group, it isn't likely to survive contact with the crowd.

    His panel currently consists of Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; John Mark Reynolds, the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute and associate professor of philosophy at Biola University; Mark D. Roberts, senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine, California; Amy Welborn, author of A Catholic Woman's Book of Days and De-coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of The Da Vinci Code; and David Allen White, a professor of world literature at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, who has given literature seminars at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minnesota.

    Here is Hewitt's first topic and questions:

    Subject one: The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a movie about demon possession. Millions of Americans --the majority of them young adults-- have seen this movie.

    Questions: Do you believe in demons? Why? What should be the attitude of a mature Christian believer on the subject?

    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Character in Parenting

    Yesterday, two columnists at Townhall.com, Mike Adams and Rebecca Hagelin, touched on the issue of parenting, especially how a parent's character can influence his or her children.

    In his column, Adams wrote about a ski trip he helped chaperone for a church youth group last winter: . . .

    One of the other chaperones was a former hippie from the 1960s. He's not really a hippie anymore, although he's still a liberal. Now he's raising four kids. . . .

    [B]efore the trip was over, the [youngest] kid started bragging about how his family had twenty pairs of ski goggles, although they hadn't paid for a single one. "When someone leaves them at a table in the ski lodge, we just take them, don't we daddy?" My fellow chaperone quickly replied, "No, son! Shut up and stop being so annoying!" It was the only form of discipline to come from former-hippie-turned-daddy all weekend.

    You'll have to read the entire column to get Mike's full and humorous take on the ill-effects liberalism can have on parenting.

    Meanwhile, Hagelin's column, which discussed Betsy Hart's new book, It Takes a Parent, talked about the need for parents to persevere in their efforts to teach good character:

    Most parents have solid instincts about what's right and wrong, and they have a pretty good sense of how to raise their children to understand one from the other. These parents make mistakes -- we all do -- but they learn from them. The trick is in sticking with it, day after day, for years.

    But as Betsy points out in her wise and readable book, stick with it we must. Why? Because we love our children -- even when they're unlovable. And because, as she puts it in a theme that recurs throughout the book, "We need to be on a rescue mission for our children's hearts." The reason is simple: What we do is a reflection of our character. If we persevere in planting good virtues in our children, we won't have to worry so much about how they will behave under pressure. (Of course, we'll never stop worrying altogether -- we are parents, after all.) . . .

    Why go to this trouble? Because, Betsy says, "Children are not born with wisdom. Wisdom is gained only through experience or through the experience of watching or learning from others and being able to apply that experience to ourselves. These things require maturity, and they require parents, and other adults, who are willing to properly interpret such experiences for children."

    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    Who Will Speak for Marriage?

    By Alexander Samuels

    The California State Legislature recently passed a measure that would have essentially legalized same-sex "marriage" in America's most populated state, and would've become law if Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had not pledged to veto the bill. In an article posted yesterday by AgapePress, James Lambert interviewed radio talk show host Paul McGuire of KBRT in Southern California about the role pastors are not playing in dealing with such legislation in California: . . .

    "I recently interviewed Dr. James Dobson [of Focus on the Family] and Dr. James Kennedy [of Coral Ridge Ministries] on my program," McGuire stated this week. "They both agreed that one of the major reasons that homosexual marriage bills like AB 849 are being passed in California is that the pastors of California are not involved in these issues and are not alerting their people."

    The talk-show host continued, offering his opinion that "the number-one reason California keeps seeing gay marriage bills and other anti-family bills passing is that the pastors of California refuse to talk from the pulpit about the serious issues facing California families."

    It is obvious, McGuire says, that those pastors' flocks would like the preachers to take on the tough issues. "The problem is not so much the individual Christians," he says. "The problem is the pastors."

    So why are some pastors not willing to speak out about the important issues facing marriage? I don't see this as just a California problem. I believe the question is relevant to our nation. Marriage was instituted and ordained by God at Creation. We cannot ignore God's law concerning the establishment of this institution.

    In many cases, I think that pastors even avoid teaching the simplest principles of the Bible on marriage because of the "whining factor." One pastor I know was told by single members of his church, "It make us feel 'less than' when you teach on being married." The divorced members of the church would line up to tell him, "You make us feel so guilty when you teach about God's laws concerning marriage." Others would say, "Don't say anything about homosexuality because a member of the congregation's son is gay. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. We don't want to lose members."

    So for the sake of hurt feelings and whiners who really don't want to have the discipline of God's Word in their lives, pastors cave in and give up. Of course, there are also those situations where a pastor is told to give in or get out by the elders or deacons. Finally, we cannot forget that some "so-called" pastors believe that the moral teachings of the Scriptures are outdated anyway.

    R.C. Sproul, in his book Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, writes:

    Marriage is to be an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman wherein the two become "one flesh," being united physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. It is intended to last for life. The union is secured by a sacred vow and covenant and consummated by physical union. Scripture lists only two situations under which the agreement may be dissolved - infidelity and abandonment.

    Infidelity is forbidden in the marriage relationship. The institution of marriage was created by God so that men and women could mutually complete one another and take part in His creative work of procreation. The physical union necessary for procreation also has a spiritual significance. It points toward and illustrates the spiritual union of husband and wife. Paul uses this union to symbolize the relationship between Christ and His church even as the Old Testament described the covenant relationship between God and Israel by the figure of marriage.

    So, where do your church and your pastor stand in this battle? It is not just a political battle, but rather a spiritual battle with forces of light and darkness making war here on Earth and in the heavens. The apologists for an irrelevant and meaningless Gospel have already made deadly inroads into the church. The destruction of the family, as God ordained it at Creation, is the devil's ultimate goal.

    Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    One Nation Under God

    In response to U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton's ruling earlier this week that the "one nation under God" reference in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the right of school children to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God," Dr. Paul Kengor, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College and the author of God and Ronald Reagan and God and George W. Bush, writes in an online column: . . .

    There is one more line of wisdom from Reagan that bears directly on the issue of "under God" in the pledge. Reagan believed that it was important for young people to hear and internalize phrases like "one nation under God." The reason why gets to the crux of this debate:

    Acknowledging that we are a nation under God means that we possess unalienable rights derived not from some benevolent government but from an Almighty Creator. If such rights came from a ruling council, that same council could easily take them away. On the other hand, if those rights derive from God, then no government has the right to remove them. That is what has made America different from every totalitarian tyranny from Moscow to Berlin to Havana. One can draw a straight line from Founders like Thomas Jefferson directly to recent presidents like Ronald Reagan.

    Interestingly, earlier in his column Kengor points out:

    In her book It Takes A Village, Hillary Rodham Clinton insisted that "nothing in the First Amendment converts our public schools into religion-free zones, or requires all religious expression to be left behind at the schoolhouse door." Those words are actually her husband's, as are these, which she also quoted approvingly: "[R]eligion is too important in our history and our heritage for us to keep it out of our schools."

    Senator Clinton's statement must surely infuriate many liberals.
    The New York Times must be bewildered by such an unsophisticated, red-stated statement.

    Hat tip to Townhall.com.
    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    New Christianity Minor at UNC-CH - Update

    A week and a half ago I posted that my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has started offering students a minor in the study of Christianity and culture. In an article yesterday, AgapePress reports: . . .

    [O]ne UNC alum, Terry Moffitt of the Family Policy Network, views the Christian-themed course of study as a public relations move by the university, and has concerns about how the program would be implemented. He says, "I think my only question is, in studying the historical foundations of Christianity, are the professors at UNC truly going to give it an objective treatment, or is there an underlying political motive there?"

    According to Moffitt, UNC offers courses in Judaic and Islamic studies and has an entire comparative religions department that essentially ignores Christianity. He maintains his belief that the new Christianity minor is a "P-R" strategy designed by the school in an effort to heal its strained relationship with Christian groups on campus, particularly after the lawsuit [three years ago] involving opposition to the freshmen's required Koran-based reading assignment.

    However, [sociology professor Christian] Smith is enthusiastic about UNC's adoption of the new Christianity and Culture minor, and he points out that the program is unique, because no similar ones are offered at other state universities. "It's not devotional or evangelistic on the one hand," the professor says, "and on the other hand, it's not out to destroy students' faith. It's purpose is an academic, intellectual liberal arts mission to help people that want to learn more about Christianity -- how it has influenced the world around it over thousands of years and how it's been influenced by the world it's been in -- to learn more about that."

    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    An Atheist's Perspective of Christian Charity

    From across the pond, atheist Roy Hattersley speculates as to why Christians, especially those associated with the Salvation Army, are so willing to come to the aid of others in a disaster such as the one caused by Hurricane Katrina. He writes in The Guardian of London: . . .

    The Salvation Army has been given a special status as provider-in-chief of American disaster relief. But its work is being augmented by all sorts of other groups. Almost all of them have a religious origin and character.

    Notable by their absence are teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers' clubs and atheists' associations - the sort of people who not only scoff at religion's intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force for evil. . . .

    Civilised people do not believe that drug addiction and male prostitution offend against divine ordinance. But those who do are the men and women most willing to change the fetid bandages, replace the sodden sleeping bags and - probably most difficult of all - argue, without a trace of impatience, that the time has come for some serious medical treatment. Good works, John Wesley insisted, are no guarantee of a place in heaven. But they are most likely to be performed by people who believe that heaven exists.

    The correlation is so clear that it is impossible to doubt that faith and charity go hand in hand. The close relationship may have something to do with the belief that we are all God's children, or it may be the result of a primitive conviction that, although helping others is no guarantee of salvation, it is prudent to be recorded in a book of gold, like James Leigh Hunt's Abu Ben Adam, as "one who loves his fellow men". Whatever the reason, believers answer the call. . . .

    It ought to be possible to live a Christian life without being a Christian or, better still, to take Christianity à  la carte. The Bible is so full of contradictions that we can accept or reject its moral advice according to taste. Yet men and women who, like me, cannot accept the mysteries and the miracles do not go out with the Salvation Army at night.

    The only possible conclusion is that faith comes with a packet of moral imperatives that, while they do not condition the attitude of all believers, influence enough of them to make them morally superior to atheists like me. The truth may make us free. But it has not made us as admirable as the average captain in the Salvation Army.

    Hat tip to the Christianity Today Weblog.
    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    Public Prayer Observance in Greensboro Friday

    Linda Stone, the North Carolina state coordinator for the National Day of Prayer, has sent out the following announcement concerning a local observance of the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina this Friday: . . .

    President Bush has called for a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance on Friday, September 16, 2005, for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and for our nation.

    Please pray and fast as the Lord would lead during the day and come to the following meeting in the evening to join in corporate prayer.

    There will be a Public Prayer Observance for the local community of Greensboro and Guilford County September 16th starting at 6PM in the Prayer Room of Gate City Vineyard Christian Fellowship - 908 Westover Terrace in Greensboro, NC (across the street from Grimsley High School).

    At 7PM we will move into the sanctuary for a Concert of Prayer with local worship leaders leading in worship and intercessors leading in prayer.

    We want to invite each of you, your congregations and others in the community to come and pray together in unity for the precious people of the gulf coast who have suffered much and for our nation and our leaders.

    Prayer is our greatest weapon and the greatest gift we can give in this time of need - please come and bring others with you.

    Children are welcomed as long as they are accompanied by adults and will be in the meeting for worship and prayer!!

    Thank you and I look forward to seeing you and praying together on Friday Evening.

    God Bless You and May America Bless God,

    Linda Stone
    NC State Coordinator
    National Day of Prayer
    God is our refuge and our strength - an ever present help in time of trouble - PS 46:1

    Here's is a link to President Bush's proclamation.
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    A Pastor's Calling

    By Alexander Samuels

    Why do pastors choose to leave their current churches in order to minister at a different church in another community? Is this a completely human decision? Is the idea of following God's calling just a Christian myth?

    On Monday, The Christian Post posted an interesting article titled . . . "God's Calling Not Top Reason for Church Movement, Says Study" (hat tip to Robert L. Cobb at News! For Christians), which was based on a study by Ellison Research featured in the October issue of Facts & Trends, a magazine for pastors and other ministry leaders published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Ellison Research found in its study that the No. 1 reason Protestant pastors moved to a different church wasn't because of God's calling; it was simply because they wanted to live or minister in a different community. This probably comes as a shock to many pastoral search committee members. It somehow removes the mystery. Perhaps it changes the way committees search for a new pastor.

    Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, told The Christian Post, "People who work in real estate, manufacturing, marketing research and other careers change jobs in order to move to a city they prefer, get a promotion, start a new company, find better working conditions and make more money, among other reasons. This study shows ministers take new jobs mostly for these same reasons."

    The second most popular reason for a pastor moving to a new church wasn't answering God's call, either; it was because of a promotion. Let's face the facts. People love to be recognized, and pastors are people, too. What was it that Jesus said about this? "Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'" (Matthew 20:25-28). Does the potential pastor who wants a promotion want it in order to be a better servant?

    Only 12 percent of those interviewed for the survey believed they had received God's call to their current church. A "call," in this case, speaks of a strong, compelling desire. Paul speaks of such desire in 1 Corinthians 9:16 when he says, "... for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!"

    C.H. Spurgeon, in addressing his students in the Pastor's College, warned, "If any student in this room could be content to be a newspaper editor, or a grocer, or a farmer, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a senator, or a king, in the name of heaven and earth let him go his way. . . . If on the other hand, you can say that for all the wealth of both the Indies you could not and dare not espouse any other calling so as to be put aside from preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, then, depend upon it, if other things be equally satisfactory, you have the signs of this apostleship."

    Paul and Spurgeon certainly seem to advocate God's calling as being an important factor in choosing a pastor. Now, granted, God can use the circumstances in a pastor's life to nudge him in the direction where He wants a pastor to be, and it is possible that a pastor may only feel that nudging from God as just a feeling that it is time to move on.

    But what about the poor search committee? They don't want someone who just wants to move or is seeking a promotion. They are looking for the anointed shepherd of God who is called to be their church's pastor. The lesson here, I think, is that churches must realize that they can't interview and select a pastor as they would a CEO. If a church wants a true shepherd, called of God, then the search committee, the Elders and the church must pray for godly discernment in making this selection. They must pray that God will be merciful and send a faithful preacher of the Word - not someone who has simply selected the ministry as his profession.

    Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.

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    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    George Will on Post-Katrina Liberalism

    In his column today, George Will weighs in on "Post-Katrina Liberalism," especially on issues concerning race and poverty: . . .

    America's always fast-flowing river of race-obsessing has overflowed its banks, and last Sunday on "This Week" Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois' freshman Democrat, applied to the expression of old banalities a fluency that would be beguiling were it without content. Unfortunately, it included the requisite lament about the president's inadequate "empathy" and an amazing criticism of the government's "historic indifference" and its "passive indifference" that "is as bad as active malice." The senator, 44, is just 30 months older than the "war on poverty" that President Johnson declared in January 1964. Since then the indifference that is as bad as active malice has been expressed in more than $6.6 trillion of antipoverty spending, strictly defined.

    The senator is called a "new kind of Democrat," which often means one with new ways of ignoring evidence discordant with old liberal orthodoxies about using cash -- much of it spent through liberalism's "caring professions" -- to cope with cultural collapse. He might, however, care to note three not-at-all recondite rules for avoiding poverty: graduate from high school, don't have a baby until you are married, don't marry while you are a teenager. Among people who obey those rules, poverty is minimal. . . .

    Liberalism's post-Katrina fearlessness in discovering the obvious -- if an inner city is inundated, the victims will be disproportionately minorities -- stopped short of indelicately noting how many of the victims were women with children but not husbands. Released during the post-Katrina debacle, scant attention was paid to the National Center for Health Statistics' pertinent report that in 2003, 34.6 percent of all American births were to unmarried women. The percentage among African-American women was 68.2.

    Given that most African-Americans are middle class and almost half live outside central cities, and that 76 percent of all births to Louisiana African-Americans were to unmarried women, it is a safe surmise that more than 80 percent of African-American births in inner-city New Orleans -- as in some other inner cities -- were to women without husbands. That translates into a large and constantly renewed cohort of lightly parented adolescent males, and that translates into chaos, in neighborhoods and schools, come rain or come shine.

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    Churches Turning to Technology

    The Barna Group, in a study released today, has discovered that more and more churches are now embracing technology.

    The survey of Protestant churches found that: . . .

  • 57 percent of churches now have Web sites, up from 33 percent in 2000.
  • 70 percent of mainline denomination churches now have Web sites, which showed the greatest increase over 2000 numbers, up 79 percent.
  • The churches most likely to have a Web site today are those located in the western states (62 percent), are large (84 percent) and have primarily white congregations (62 percent)
  • 62 percent of churches now use a large-screen projection system, up from 39 percent in 2000.
  • In 2000, charismatic churches were twice as likely to use projectors, but mainline denominations have gained ground in 2005.
  • The larger the church the more likely it is to use a projector.
  • 56 percent of churches regularly send out mass e-mailings or, as Barna refers to them, "e-mail blasts."
  • In 2000, only 7 percent of churches offered electronic funds transfer as an option for the congregation to donate money to the church - today, 12 percent make it available.
  • Only 8 percent of churches receive communications via a satellite dish, up from just 7 percent in 2000.
  • 61 percent of churches integrate video content into their worship services, while 62 percent use live drama.
  • The use of technology such as big screens can be attributed to a decline in the use of pew Bibles, with only 80 percent of churches making them available today over 86 percent who did so in 2000.

  • George Barna, who directed the study, sees even more technology trends coming down the road. "During the next half of this decade," he says in the report, "we expect increased broadband access, podcasting and ubiquitous adoption of handheld mobile computing devices by consumers to further alter the way churches conduct ministry."
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    Monday, September 12, 2005

    Christian Camps Reaching Out

    Jenni Parker of AgapePress is reporting today that Christian camps throughout the Southeast - and some as far away as Wisconsin and Minnesota - are making their facilities and food supplies available to Hurricane Katrina evacuees, relief workers, law enforcement personnel and utility workers.

    Parker writes: . . .

    Bob Kobielush, president of Christian Camp and Conference Association (CCCA), says this generous assistance is for many camps "a natural extension of their hospitality and outreach to families all year round." He points out that many facilities are "making significant financial sacrifices, canceling paying guest groups indefinitely to house and feed Katrina's victims." CCCA is connecting those member camps, conference centers and retreat centers that are opening up their properties to evacuees with member organizations in other parts of the nation that wish to contribute funds and supplies. Information about the Christian camps' relief efforts is being regularly updated on the organization's website.

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    Franklin Graham Visits Gulf Coast

    Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham took time to visit areas affected by Hurricane Katrina late last week. An article on the relief organization's Web site reports: . . .

    Graham said that Samaritan's Purse is committed to helping the region rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Volunteer crews equipped by our Disaster Response Units will be in the storm-ravaged area for months to come, making emergency repairs that help families stay in or return to their houses.

    "I expect that Samaritan's Purse will be here for another year, maybe longer," he said. "We want to save as many of these homes that are still standing as we can. If you lose another home to a rainstorm, that's another family that might have to go to a shelter." . . .

    "I want these people to know that God loves them and cares for them," he said. "I want to do everything I can to help them in His Name. In a storm we all need an anchor, and I believe that anchor is Jesus Christ." . . .

    "When you finish a home, you've made a difference for one family," Graham said. "It's touching one life at a time. As we patch roofs and pick up the pieces, you see a little glimmer of hope."

    Graham also prayed with and offered encouragement to crews of volunteers from North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Texas, California, and throughout the United States.

    "We've got a great team of volunteers, wonderful people," he said. "It's a tremendous story of sacrifice. They've given their time and come down here at their expense. We couldn't do it without them."

    As the Samaritan's Purse president pledged to remain in the storm-stricken area for the long haul, he also issued a call for more help.

    "We need volunteers for a long time," he said. "If you can't come now, schedule a time to come in February, March, April. Take some vacation time and come help these people."

    Graham announced Friday that Samaritan's Purse plans to purchase 100 trailers to house evacuees in Shreveport, Louisiana, where more than 20,000 displaced New Orleans residents are staying in temporary shelters. Local churches will assist in the placement of families.

    To make a donation to assist Samaritan's Purse in its relief efforts, click here.
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    National Day of Prayer and Remembrance

    President Bush is calling for a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina this Friday, September 16. His proclamation states: . . .

    To honor the memory of those who lost their lives, to provide comfort and strength to the families of the victims, and to help ease the burden of the survivors, I call upon all Americans to pray to Almighty God and to perform acts of service.

    As we observe a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina, we pledge our support for those who have been injured and for the communities that are struggling to rebuild. We offer thanks to God for the goodness and generosity of so many Americans who have come together to provide relief and bring hope to fellow citizens in need. Our Nation is united in compassion for the victims and in resolve to overcome the tremendous loss that has come to America. We will strive together in this effort, and we will prevail through perseverance and prayer.

    Americans are reaching out to those who suffer by opening their hearts, homes, and communities. Their actions demonstrate the greatest compassion one person may show to another: to love your neighbor as yourself. Across our Nation, so many selfless deeds reflect the promise of the Scripture: "For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in." I encourage all Americans to respond with acts of kindness in the days ahead. By contributing time, money, or needed goods to a relief organization and by praying for the survivors and those in recovery efforts, we can make a tremendous difference in the lives of those in need.

    Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath resulted in a considerable loss of life. We pray that God will bless the souls of the lost, and that He will comfort their families and friends and all lives touched by this disaster. As the American people unite to help those who are hurting, we share a determination to stand by those affected by Hurricane Katrina in the months and years ahead as they rebuild their lives and reclaim their future. We are determined that the Gulf Coast region will rise again. The tasks before us are enormous, and so is the heart of America. We will continue to comfort and care for the survivors. We will once again show the world that the worst adversities bring out the best in the American people.

    To read the entire post with comments and links to this post, click here.

    A Message From Africa

    By Alexander Samuels

    During the 1800s, English missionaries were among the most important in bringing Christianity to the continent of Africa. And it was England under the leadership of William Wilberforce, a dedicated Christian, that led the way in curtailing the slave trade by making it illegal in the 19th century for English ships to transport slaves. Now, according to the Associated Press via AgapePress, the Christians of Africa are sending a message to England and the rest of the world that they will not compromise their Christian faith. The report stated that: . . .

    Africa's two most important Anglican archbishops, representing one-third of the world's Anglicans, are denouncing a new Church of England policy on homosexuals. Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola and Ugandan Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi assailed a July announcement from England's bishops that said homosexual priests who register same-sex partnerships under a new civil law will remain in good standing if they promise to remain celibate. The English bishops also said that lay Anglicans who register civil unions will not be denied the sacraments. At a news conference in New York, Akinola said, "If England adopts a new faith, alien to what has been handed to us together, they will walk apart." Archbishop Orombi said that Akinola "speaks for all of us."

    Archbishop Akinola has spoken well. If the Church of England will no longer follow the Word of God then the Anglican Church of Africa must take a different path in order to truly remain a Christian church.

    In America our denominations are facing the same issues. Will we allow the leadership of our churches to compromise God's Word in order to justify the politically correct immorality of our times? I do not commend division within the church, but when some part of the church no longer follows God's Holy Word, then division becomes a righteous cause. Pray for our denominations and churches, that they will be faithful to the Bible.

    Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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    Saturday, September 10, 2005

    Transforming Lives

    By Alexander Samuels

    Last weekend, the United Methodist Church's Lake Junaluska Retreat Center in North Carolina played host to a pro-homosexuality rally called "Hearts on Fire," an event sponsored by a group within the church known as Reconciling Ministries. Several hundred members and leaders of the UMC who advocate same-sex marriage, gay church membership and ordination of actively gay ministers attended the four-day event over the Labor Day weekend.

    Also at Lake Junaluska last weekend was a group known as . . . Transforming Congregations, which offered a different message, one that reaches out to those wishing to escape the homosexual lifestyle. Karen Booth, Transforming Congregations' executive director, told AgapePress' Jim Brown in an article posted Thursday, "We hosted the prayer breakfast in order to share our testimonies. We took in four people - male and female; two United Methodist, two not United Methodist - who shared their testimonies of how they had been freed from homosexuality and from transgender confusion through their faith in Jesus Christ."

    The AgapePress article goes on to report:

    Booth says her group was not at Lake Junaluska to protest the "Hearts on Fire" conference, but to share the truth about the sin of homosexuality. She firmly believes the retreat center made a big mistake in hosting Reconciling Ministries.

    "I think it was an unwise decision. I think it is one that backfired on Lake Junaluska," she offers. "And I frankly believe it was intentional on the part of Reconciling Ministries to choose that location to generate as much controversy as possible."

    Booth adds that in her opinion the pro-homosexual event points to "continuing sexual ills" in the United Methodist Church.

    Also present last weekend, but in a protesting role, were members of the Ku Klux Klan from Georgia. This racist organization with a long history of domestic terrorism has no place at a legitimate table of discussion between Christians and homosexuals. Most Christians would prefer for the Klan to stay away from such events so that opportunities for a true Christian witness would not be inhibited.

    And in that Christian-homosexual discussion, one of the most persistent and culturally damaging myths is that God made homosexuals the way they are and that they were born that way. Current research, however, from professional organizations such as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), dispute the pro-homosexual position in this matter. On its Web site, the Traditional Values Coalition offers its "Homosexual Urban Legend Series," which contains articles that challenge such myths.

    Here's an excerpt from an article titled "Born Gay" from the Traditional Values Coalition:

    [H]omosexuals have used this particular urban legend to fight for anti-discrimination laws and for "hate crime" laws that provide special legal protections for homosexuals not accorded to heterosexuals. They have also used this fraudulent claim to push for homosexual recruitment programs in public schools under the guise of providing "safe schools" for "homosexual" teenagers. Homosexuals have also demanded sensitivity training for those who are repelled by homosexual behavior. . . .

    Great cultural and legal changes have taken place in our society because of this Homosexual Urban Legend - but it is slowly but surely being debunked. . . .

    Dr. Robert Spitzer, a NARTH associate, was one of the main forces behind the American Psychiatric Association's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality as a mental illness from the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

    Dr. Spitzer is now convinced that men and women who have a homosexual orientation can change through therapy. . . .

    NARTH summarized his findings on its web site. Dr. Spitzer interviewed some 200 men and women who reported changes from homosexual to heterosexual orientation that lasted five years or longer. According to Spitzer, his findings show that "the mental health professionals should stop moving in the direction of banning therapy that has, as a goal, a change in sexual orientation." . . .

    The authors of this study carefully quote a number of homosexual researchers who have worked for years to locate a "gay gene" or some other genetic basis for homosexuality. They have failed and are now admitting that such evidence may never be found.

    Homosexual researcher Dean Hamer, for example, attempted to link male homosexuality to a bit of DNA located at the tip of the X chromosome. He has written: "Homosexuality is not purely genetic . . . environmental factors play a role. There is not a single master gene that makes people gay. . . . I don't think we will ever be able to predict who will be gay."

    Homosexual researcher Simon LeVay, who studied the hypothalamic differences between the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men, noted: "It's important to stress what I didn't find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn't show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain."

    The Bible describes the beginning of homosexuality in Romans 1:21-27 in the following manner:

    For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

    Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen.

    Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

    I know many Methodists who were very upset over the way in which their conference center was used during the Labor Day weekend. We must keep the unity of the Methodist Church in our prayers and also pray that God would do a mighty work of salvation in the lives of homosexual men and women.

    Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    Preaching Politics

    By Alexander Samuels

    In the wake of Pat Robertson's remarks about assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cal Thomas pointed out in one of his columns last week ("Political Preachers Deliver Misleading Message") that there are too many ministers who are mixing too much politics with the Christian message. Such men believe that true moral change can only take place in our country through the cooperation of our political institutions. The Sunday services in many churches and on television have more to do with the Christian's involvement in the political process and the latest on the political grapevine than with the good news of Jesus Christ.

    Here's an excerpt from Thomas' column: . . .

    While these apostles of political parties and personal agendas have every right to make fools of themselves, they are enabled in their foolishness by millions of people who blindly send them money. These money-senders are looking in the wrong place for their deliverance. While paying lip service to eternity, they seem to prefer immediate political gratification.

    Few would pay attention to political preachers if these ministers did not have access to television and radio. And they would not have TV programs if people did not send them money which, in addition to buying TV time, is used to set most of them up in lifestyles that resemble the "rich young ruler." Jesus told the ruler to "sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven" (Luke 18:22), but many TV preachers seem to expect you to sell what you have and give to them.

    Much of what is proclaimed as God's will on TV and in fundraising appeals is false religion. People who respond with checks are either ignorant or willfully disobedient to what their spiritual commander-in-chief and the early apostles taught and practiced.

    One of the great pronouncements on a Christian's relationship to the world is contained in 1 John 2:15-17: "Do not love the world or anything in the world. . . . For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away."

    Too many Christians think if they shout loud enough and gain political strength the world will be improved. That is a false doctrine. I have never seen anyone "converted" to a Christian's point of view (and those views are not uniform) through political power. I have frequently seen someone's views changed after they have experienced true conversion and then live by different standards and live for goals beyond which political party controls the government.

    It appears that some Christians have a tendency to follow charismatic speakers as their final authority on Biblical teaching. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 says, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." Knowing very little about what the Scriptures actually say, these believers are easily led into error. Because we all are so anxious about the political future of our country, we are easily influenced by the financial pleas of those ministries that promise us that they will take action and that our message will change Washington.

    The truth of the matter is that legislation and laws do not change people. It is after the Gospel changes lives that a converted nation enacts moral laws and righteous legislation. Christianity will change the world but it will take place at the rate of one life at a time. You can't convert millions unless you first convert one.

    Christians have a role to play in politics, but it shouldn't be their primary concern. Jesus already rules heaven and Earth, and He has given us purpose and marching orders: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus]. 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).

    As Christians, it is our responsibility to seek first the Kingdom of God, which is found in our witness to our neighbors and by living our lives with integrity. It is there in the small ways that we share the love of Jesus with those who are suffering. It is there when we make disciples - not Democrats or Republicans. It is there when we learn that it is more important to obey God than win elections.

    Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    Statesville Girl Raises $4,300 for Hurricane Victims

    As 12-year-old Addie McElwee of Statesville, North Carolina, watched the Hurricane Katrina disaster unfold on television last week, she decided that she ought to do something to help. Over this past weekend, Addie and her brothers Nathan, 10, and Briggs, 4, went into action and set up a lemonade stand to raise money to assist hurricane victims. As of yesterday morning, their efforts had netted $4,300.

    In an article posted on its Web site, The Advocate of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, reports: . . .

    "We went through 7 gallons, but it wasn't about the lemonade. You know what I mean?" [their mother, Shelly] McElwee said.

    She said the response from her city of 25,000 residents about 40 miles north of Charlotte, N.C., has been overwhelming.

    "People who couldn't come here are still coming up, asking 'Can we still contribute?'" McElwee said.

    McElwee, a Gonzales native who attended Louisiana State University and lived in New Orleans working as a paralegal, said the stand's proceeds would be sent to Ascension Parish's Operation Good Neighbor program this week.

    Hat tip to Lynn Vincent of World Magazine Blog.
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    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    Atheists Against God

    In an article posted on WorldNetDaily.com, American Atheists President Ellen Johnson says, "[Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and President Bush] should not be violating the Constitution by telling people to pray for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It's unconstitutional for government officials to be promoting religion; and besides, judging from the speed of some relief efforts, officials should be busy working instead of preaching."

    Can the situation in dealing with this disaster get any more ridiculous? Well . . . yes, as the article goes on to report that Johnson's colleague Dave Silverman, the communications director for American Atheists, takes God to task for causing the loss of thousands of lives both in the Asian tsunami last year and with Hurricane Katrina last week.

    "It appears that despite all of the outbursts of public religiosity and prayer, 'God' was once again asleep at the wheel," he said. "Only human beings can deal with the calamities of the natural world. God doesn't seem to be much help when it comes to rushing food, water, or antibiotics when people are suffering."

    Here's a question to pose to your old college philosophy professor: Can you criticize God if you don't actually believe in Him?

    Johnson and Silverman's group is also discouraging fellow atheists from donating money to Bible-carrying relief organizations that might happen to pray for hurricane victims as they help them.

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    New Christianity Minor at UNC-CH

    For the first time in its 210-year history, my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is offering students an opportunity to minor in the study of Christianity. Officially dubbed a "Minor in the Study of Christianity & Culture," the program is being offered through UNC's sociology department.

    An article yesterday in The News & Observer of Raleigh reported: . . .

    Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at UNC-CH, said he found no other comparable academic program at other U.S. universities. The minor will be interdisciplinary, meaning that students will be able to take classes relating to Christianity in art history, English, philosophy, sociology and, of course, religious studies.

    Smith said the idea for a minor came out of his four-year study on the spiritual lives of teenagers. One of the starkest conclusions he reached was that teenagers, no matter what their faith, were unable to talk about it cogently or to engage in serious moral reasoning around it.

    "Teens don't know a lot about their religious tradition, and that made quite an impression on me," Smith said. "There are lot of students who come from Christian backgrounds. Here's an opportunity for them to learn about their faith's wider tradition and history."

    Bart Ehrman, who teaches an introduction to the New Testament at UNC-CH, said most undergraduates routinely fail a basic quiz he gives at the beginning of each course with questions such as, "What language was the New Testament written in?" and "How many books are in the New Testament?"

    "Even though students have gone to church all their lives, that doesn't mean they have an intellectual understanding of their faith," Ehrman said.

    According to the UNC Minor in the Study of Christianity & Culture Web site, course options available to students minoring in the program include:

  • Introduction to the History of Christian Traditions
  • Jesus in Myth, Tradition, and History 30-200 A.D.
  • The Reformation
  • Evangelicalism in Contemporary America
  • Liberal Tradition in America
  • Gender and Sexuality in the Western Christian Tradition
  • The Black Church in America
  • Religion and Politics
  • Religion in American Public Life

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    Dependence on One Another

    In his column today, Thomas Sowell writes: . . .

    In a world where people flaunt their "independence," their "right" to disregard moral authority, and sometimes legal authority as well, the tragedy of New Orleans reminds us how utterly dependent each one of us is for our very lives on millions of other people we don't even see.

    Thousands of people in New Orleans will be saved because millions of other people they don't even know are moved by moral obligations to come to their rescue from all corners of this country. The things our clever sophisticates sneer at are ultimately all that stand between any of us and utter devastation.

    Any of us could have been in New Orleans. And what could we have depended on to save us? Situational ethics? Postmodern philosophy? The media? The lawyers? The rhetoric of the intelligentsia?

    No, what we would have to depend on are the very things that are going to save the survivors of hurricane Katrina, the very things that clever people are undermining.

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    Brokaw on Evangelical Christians - Update

    From NBC News: . . .

    Due to breaking news coverage on Hurricane Katrina, the upcoming Tom Brokaw Reports, "In God They Trust," scheduled for this Friday, Sept. 9, will be postponed.

    For more information on this news documentary, see my earlier post.

    Hat tip to Mike Herman of Christianity Today.
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    Monday, September 05, 2005

    Katrina Response Timeline

    Blogger Rick Moran over at Rightwing Nuthouse has put in a lot of work to compile a comprehensive timeline detailing the response of local, state, and federal authorities to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans. His primary source was . . . the online editions of The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. It's well worth reading.

    Hat tip to Susan Olasky at World Magazine Blog.

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    Mercy or Wrath?

    By Alexander Samuels

    Last Friday, AgapePress posted an interesting article titled "New Orleans Residents: God's Mercy Evident in Katrina's Wake," by Jody Brown and Allie Martin. A portion of the article was about the Reverend Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship in New Orleans.

    According to the article: . . .

    Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina -- but in a different way. Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city.

    The pastor explains that for years he has warned people that unless Christians in New Orleans took a strong stand against such things as local abortion clinics, the yearly Mardi Gras celebrations, and the annual event known as "Southern Decadence" -- an annual six-day "gay pride" event scheduled to be hosted by the city this week -- God's judgment would be felt.

    "New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."

    The New Orleans pastor is adamant. Christians, he says, need to confront sin. "It's time for us to stand up against wickedness so that God won't have to deal with that wickedness," he says.

    Believers, he says, are God's "authorized representatives on the face of the Earth" and should say they "don't want unrighteous men in office," for example. In addition, he says Christians should not hesitate to voice their opinions about such things as abortion, prayer, and homosexual marriage. "We don't want a Supreme Court that is going to say it's all right to kill little boys and girls, . . . it's all right to take prayer out of schools, and it's all right to legalize sodomy, opening the door for same-sex marriage and all of that."

    Most of us, whether Christian or not, look at the statements by the Rev. Shanks and shake our heads. How can he say such things in light of the terrible tragedy that has just occurred? Does he really think he knows what God was doing in this situation? Is he a nut? Some (more than would like to admit) will also wonder, "Is he right?"

    In the 13th chapter of Luke, Jesus speaks about two other tragedies: "Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'"

    Jesus is teaching that you should be careful in assuming or proclaiming that others are suffering because their sins are so great. We all deserve punishment in the eyes of a Holy God. We must be consistent in dealing with our own sins first. During such times we should minister the Gospel faithfully and be a witness of God's mercy to those who are suffering.

    Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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    Katrina: A Spiritual Experience

    Thankfully not all of the news coming out of New Orleans is hopeless and negative.

    Reuters reports: . . .

    In the last week, Joseph Brant lost his apartment, walked by scores of dead in the streets, traversed pools of toxic water and endured an arduous journey to escape the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in his hometown New Orleans.

    On Sunday, he was praising the Lord, saying the ordeal was a test that ended up dispelling his lifelong distrust of white people and setting his life on a new course. He said he hitched a ride on Friday in a van driven by a group of white folks.

    "Before this whole thing I had a complex about white people; this thing changed me forever," said Brant, 36, a truck driver who, like many of the refugees receiving public assistance in Houston, Texas, is black.

    "It was a spiritual experience for me, man," he said of the aftermath of a catastrophe al Qaeda-linked Web sites called evidence of the "wrath of God" striking an arrogant America.

    Brant was one of many refugees across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi who gave thought to religion on Sunday, almost a week after the floods changed their lives, perhaps forever.

    But then again, the article goes on to report:

    Churches in many states have taken in evacuees and organized aid for people who in many cases had lost everything. But at least some bristled at the role of religion in helping the afflicted.

    "We're getting reports of how some religion-based 'aid' groups are trying to fly evangelists into the stricken areas and how U.S. Army chaplains are carrying bibles -- not food or water -- to 'comfort' people," Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheist, said in a statement.

    "People need material aid, medical care and economic support -- not prayers and preaching."

    Hat tip to Matt Drudge at Drudge Report
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    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    George Whitefield: Hero of the Christian Faith

    By Alexander Samuels

    George Whitefield is one of my heroes of the Christian faith. After the apostles and before the advent of radio and television, George Whitefield was probably the greatest evangelist who ever lived - and he may be to this day. His tremendous ability to preach was seen as an anointing from the Holy Spirit. In a time when there were no . . . microphones and sound systems, he spoke to and could be heard by thousands.

    George Whitefield was born on December 16, 1714, in Gloucester, England. It is estimated that he ministered in Great Britain some 24 years and in the American colonies about nine years.

    While attending Pembroke College at Oxford Whitefield met John and Charles Wesley. He was converted in 1735 and eventually ordained as a priest in the Church of England. He soon began to preach with what can only be called "the power of the Holy Spirit" to huge crowds throughout England. Many believed he had the voice of an angel, while others commented it was like the roar of a lion. Either way, great crowds came to hear him - crowds so large that there were no churches large enough to hold them.

    The Wesley brothers had invited Whitefield to come to America, where their ministry in Georgia was failing. But when Whitefield finally arrived, the Wesley brothers had already returned home to England. Nevertheless, Whitefield loved Georgia and began a successful ministry there. He helped to open schools and start an orphanage to which he ministered by providing finances for the rest of his life.

    When Whitefield returned to England, he found that many churches were now closed to him because of his association with the Wesleys and with the Methodist societies. Where he did preach, however, so many came to hear him that there were no buildings large enough to accommodate them. Outside the city of Bristol, Whitefield preached for the first time in the open air on February 17, 1739. In a short time he was preaching to crowds of 10,000.

    In London he preached on an open piece of land known as Moorfields. At times, crowds of up to 80,000 people would come to hear Whitefield preach for over an hour. He was only 25 years old but his words were so blessed that people would listen as their eyes filled with tears. Large numbers of listeners would fall to the ground and lie there under the conviction of their sins by the Holy Spirit. Whitefield never encouraged this type of exhibition in the crowds that came to hear him, but he left it to God to work conversion in each individual as He saw fit. Whitefield never had an altar call but existing testimonies imply that thousands were converted under his preaching.

    Upon returning to America, he spoke to crowds of up to 35,000 in Philadelphia and 20,000 in New York and Boston. He preached four times for Jonathan Edwards in Northampton, Massachusetts, and the first "Great Awakening" in America was underway. Returning to England in 1741, Whitefield learned that John Wesley had discarded Reformed doctrine as the foundation of his faith. Because of this, George Whitefield broke away from the Wesleyan Methodists and was thereafter considered the unofficial leader of Calvinistic Methodism.

    Whitefield continued preaching, traveling back and forth between the British Isles and the American colonies. In Cambuslang, Scotland, near Glasgow, he preached to his largest crowd ever, an estimated 100,000 people. In one year he rode over 800 miles on horseback, preaching two to five services a day when possible. His health, however, was deteriorating because of the great physical demands he put upon himself.

    In 1769, he made his seventh crossing of the Atlantic to America. On September 29, 1770, he reached the town of Exeter on his way to Boston. A large crowd had gathered there and begged him to preach. He delivered a two-hour sermon titled "Examine Yourselves, Whether Ye Be in the Faith," and then went to the home of the Reverend Jonathan Parsons for dinner and to spend the night. As Whitefield mounted the landing on the stairs with the intention of going to bed, a large number of people entered the house and requested that he preach to them before retiring. This he did until the candle in his hand burned out.

    At approximately 7 a.m. on Sunday, September 30, 1770, George Whitefield entered the presence of God to which he had directed so many souls in his lifetime. His life story is a wonderful and encouraging example of what God can accomplish through the faithfulness of one man. I have only shared with you brief excerpts of his biography; for some excellent full-length examples, consider George Whitefield: God's Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century, by Arnold A. Dallimore; George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, by John Pollock; The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelism, by Harry S. Stout; and George Whitefield: Supreme Among Preachers, by J.P. Gledstone. I hope you will consider reading further about this great saint of God.

    Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.

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    Practical Agnostics

    My church, Christ Community Church in Greensboro, is in the process of seeking a new pastor of teaching. We are confident that God will soon lead us to the man He has been preparing for us. Meanwhile, we have been truly blessed with a series of guest preachers in our pulpit. Last week, one of our teaching elders, Jim Osborne, preached on why we as Christians tend to . . . live our lives with so little faith that we're in effect "practical agnostics." His message really hit home for me. I encourage you to click on this link to hear Jim preach on this topic.
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    John Piper on God, Katrina and Daniel Schorr

    John Piper of Desiring God ministries writes: . . .

    God sent Jesus Christ into the world to save sinners. He did not suffer massive shame and pain because Americans are pretty good people. The magnitude of Christ's suffering is owing to how deeply we deserve Katrina - all of us.

    Our guilt in the face of Katrina is not that we can't see the intelligence in God's design, but that we can't see arrogance in our own heart. God will always be guilty of high crimes for those who think they've never committed any.

    To read the entire article, click here.
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    They Said That

    Blogger Chrenkoff, who has been compiling a long list of quotations that exploit the Hurricane Katrina disaster, writes, "Katrina might be a spent force, but it still continues to loosen lips and bring forth torrents of strangeness even - or particularly - in jurisdictions untouched by the hurricane itself. Not quite category 5 on the stupidity scale, but it certainly makes them say darnest things."

    Here are his compilations of the commentary: . . . part one and part two. You have to read 'em to believe 'em.
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    Friday, September 02, 2005

    Temporary Housing for Katrina Victims

    Dignan's 75 Year Plan blog is helping to organize temporary housing through churches in the states surrounding the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

    Dignan writes: . . .

    I'm sure that many people are wondering what they can do to help those in need in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama that have been made homeless from the hurricane. There will obviously be much financial aid that goes to these areas but there are some more immediate needs.

    The first thing that has come to my mind is shelter for those people with no place to go. There are going to be many people that do not have family nearby to stay with that cannot stay in hotels indefinitely. This is a perfect opportunity for the body of Christ to come together to provide hope for those in need. Rob Wilkerson has made a similar call at Adrian Warnock's blog.

    I would like to call upon churches in the surrounding states to considering opening up their facilities or coordinating housing through parishoners. We will be coordinating through my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). A disaster relief page has been set up on their website for updates and we will be working with Ron and Judy Haynes.

    I would encourage other denominations to do something similar. I will post housing opportunities from all churches, not just PCA churches.

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    Samaritan's Purse in Mobile

    Here's an update from Samaritan's Purse on its efforts to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina: . . .

    Samaritan's Purse Disaster Relief teams have begun operations in the vicinity of Mobile, Alabama, an area battered by high winds, torrential rains, and an estimated 12-foot storm surge that shoved the Mobile River over its banks. Our teams will work westward into devastated areas of Mississippi and Louisiana as conditions permit.

    The physical needs are overwhelming throughout the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the most destructive storms in U.S. history. Hundreds of people are feared dead across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, with hundreds of thousands of houses damaged or destroyed, roads and bridges washed away, and many communities left without electricity or drinkable water. . . .

    Please pray for the hundreds of thousands of hurricane victims along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Remember the people still trapped by flooding, for those who are desperate to learn if their loved ones or homes are safe, and for officials dealing with unprecedented problems. Ask God to guide Samaritan's Purse into the communities where He wants us involved.

    Here are some ways your gift can help victims of Hurricane Katrina:
  • $9 can provide a case of drinking water
  • $15 can purchase a Bible for a hurting family
  • $25 can furnish a sheet of roofing plywood
  • $90 can provide enough heavy-duty plastic to weatherproof a roof

  • To make a donation to assist Samaritan's Purse in its relief efforts, click here.
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    Just Luck or the Lord's Will?

    Robert Steinback of The Miami Herald wrote in his column yesterday: . . .

    Why did Hurricane Katrina miss my mother's house?

    Embedded in this question are two distinct inquiries: What are the meteorological conditions that steered the worst of this storm just east of my mother's home near Baton Rouge? And, Why did those poor souls farther down the Delta and east along the Gulf Coast take such a hit, but not she?

    If it's possible to will a hurricane to turn by staring for hours at satellite image loops on a computer screen, then I, in Miami, helped protect her. But I know the real reason she and her home were spared: Luck. Chance. Happenstance. That storm didn't care where it was going. And no intelligent pilot decided that somebody in Biloxi needed to die, or some family in New Orleans needed their home flooded to the rafters, and my mother didn't.

    As a Christian, how would you respond to him?

    Hat tip to Marvin Olasky at World Magazine Blog.
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