Saturday, October 29, 2005

Mixing God and Football

Sunday's New York Times reveals that "college football is increasingly becoming a more visible home for the Gospel." The Times article focuses mainly on the beliefs and practices of two prominent college coaches: . . . Bobby Bowden of Florida State and Mark Richt of Georgia. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State refers to the actions of these two successful coaches as "a lawsuit waiting to happen."
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Finding Middle Ground at Halloween

The celebration of Halloween can put many Christians in an awkward position. Do we embrace the holiday, unsettling aspects and all, or do we totally ignore it, pulling ourselves out of the world for one day a year? Or is there an appropriate middle ground a Christian can comfortably ascribe to?

In today's Greensboro News & Record, the Rev. Stephen Crotts, who is the teaching pastor at Adams Farm Community Church in Jamestown, North Carolina, shares his personal study of the origins of the holiday and how he believes today's Christians can . . . approach Halloween. (The version found in today's print edition of the N&R is just a mere excerpt of Crotts' complete essay, which can be found in its entirety online here.)

Here's a sampling from Crotts' essay:

[A] way to celebrate is to remember that Christ is real and He is far more powerful than Satan and death put together! In John 14, Jesus said, "I'm going to die, I will conquer death, build Heaven with space for you, and then I'm going to come and get you!" So death, evil, and sorrow - they are very real. But not to fear! Christ is also real. And He can fix it all if you work with Him. When I come to October 31, I need to celebrate! The heat of summer is passed, the harvest is in, and the trees are in their autumn glory. I want to shout!

And when I think of evil, death, and darkness I flee to Jesus and find light, life, love and goodness! Christ has conquered Satan, risen victorious over death! And I shout Hallelujah!

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

From Vampires to Jesus

Author Anne Rice, known for her dark series of vampire novels (Interview With the Vampire and her most recent, Blood Canticle), has decided to head in a different direction with her writing. Her next book is titled . . . Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. In the latest issue of Newsweek, Rice says, "I promised that from now on I would write only for the Lord." The book, which is scheduled for release next week, is described as "a novel about the 7-year-old Jesus, narrated by Christ himself."
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Who's Hallowed at Halloween?

Members of a church in Bloomington, Indiana, have been distributing fliers in their community warning people of the dark side of Halloween. One woman, whose yard is decorated with witches, skeletons, skulls and grave markers, took offense to the flier titled "In Praise of the Devil?" and . . . called the police: "I started reading it, and I was very, very upset by it. I found it very accusatory and very threatening." The church's pastor said that they didn't mean to upset anyone and only wanted to tell people that this holiday isn't all innocent fun. So how should Christians respond to their neighbors' fascination with Halloween?
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Coach's Prayers With Players Out of Bounds

For 22 years, high school football coach Marcus Borden has led his team in prayer prior to games. Three weeks ago, East Brunswick, New Jersey, school officials told him to stop because his actions violated the separation of church and state. In protest, Borden resigned, only to return to the sidelines last week to challenge what he believes is . . . an infringement of his First Amendment rights. He hopes his attorney "will be able to show that what we do is nothing more than Americana, what's done everywhere in the United States. It's part of football tradition." The American Football Coaches Association reports that more than half of the country's high school football coaches pray with their teams.
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The Ultimate Church Auction

Among the multitude of items currently up for bid on eBay is a one-of-a-kind offering: the North Meridian United Methodist Church in Redkey, Indiana. Pastor Randy Davis says, "It's my understanding that a church has never been sold on eBay." Church members were left with an empty building when they recently merged with another United Methodist congregation in town. So what are they going to do with the money the winning bid brings in . . . build a bigger church? No, all proceeds will be donated to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Hurry, the bidding, which was up to $40,600 this morning, ends tonight at 10:30 Eastern Time.

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Grappling for God

Christian Wrestling Entertainment made its debut two weeks ago with an event in Tulsa, Oklahoma. CWE's Web site states, "Our events feature absolutely no profanity, over the top violence, scantly clad women or alcohol. . . . CWE believes in lifting up the name of Jesus in a positive environment without compromising the quality of our wrestling events." But is there a . . . demand for Christian-oriented sporting events? According to one report, CWE's Uniting Champions event in Tulsa drew only 400 people to a 6,000-seat venue.
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Jonah in Reverse

A church in Alabama has been using "Fear Factor" tactics, such as swallowing live goldfish, to teach teens what the Bible has to say about fear. The youth minister justified the approach by saying, "The method of the ministry that we use to bring people is going to change, but the message is going to stay consistent." So what's the next ministry to be inspired by reality TV? How about . . . "American Idolatry," where church members compete to sell their worldly possessions to the lowest bidder?

UPDATE: The church recently decided to discontinue the practice of swallowing live goldfish as part of its "Fear Factor" ministry.

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Brokaw on Evangelical Christians - Update II

NBC News has announced that "Tom Brokaw Reports: In God They Trust," which was preempted back in early September because of breaking news coverage on Hurricane Katrina, will air tomorrow at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

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

Hat tip to Mike Herman of Christianity Today.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Christian Carnival #91

Unfortunately, I missed out on last week's Christian Carnival - a clever take-off on "Gilligan's Island" by Attention Span titled "A Three Hour Tour." This week, the 91st edition is being hosted by Matt Jones at Random Acts of Verbiage. Click on . . . the link and read from "a completely random assortment" of posts from the best of the Christian blogosphere, including Alexander Samuels' "To Be Self-Controlled."
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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

To Be Self-Controlled

By Alexander Samuels

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings" (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Self-control is like a wall of defense against the temptations of evil. As I think about "self-control," I often think about how many times my own efforts at it have been . . . pitifully unsuccessful. My attempts to go on a diet, for instance, usually go like this: I see food and I eat it. If I want to save money, I see something I want on sale, then I buy it and tell myself I'm saving money. Of course, I have this problem with lying to myself, too.

The point is, however, that the lack of self-control leads us to destruction. It may be that the first step is a faux pas you hardly notice, but it opens the door to a desire, and then to overpowering emotions you did not suspect were in you. When we practice self-control, we govern our desires. We avoid all excesses. It is not dullness and boredom that we seek, for the self-controlled life yields health, joy and success. Above all, it is almost impossible to be a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ without exercising the spiritual fruit of self-control.

Some translators of the Bible say that the word for "self-control" points to "soundness of mind" or "sound judgment." This might lead us to think in terms of the person not possessing self-control as being "out of his mind." Is it the lack of self-control that leads us to psychiatric counseling? Perhaps lack of self-control is Satan playing chaos with our minds.

Self-control is sober and sensible and surely a work of grace by the Holy Spirit but not by the Holy Spirit alone. There is surely the part that the character of a man must play. The Christian must be willing to draw from the inner strength that has been imparted to him by the mercy of God. The Christian must be determined to exercise sound judgment in his life. Self-control is strengthened by Holy Spirit courage and weakened by Satanic fear. Why does the lion roar? He roars to make his victim fearful, knowing that fear inhibits sound judgment.

Self-control takes courage. This is the kind of courage that too many in our society lack. We are a culture where the individual is out of control. Chaos has become "normal" for many, too many. Sound judgment alone, however, is not enough to return self-control to our sick society. The inner strength of knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord is the essential thing. True self-control is the desire to please God in every decision we make. "Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control" (Proverbs 25:28).

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

The Blogging Pastor

During the faith blogging session at this past weekend's ConvergeSouth conference, we talked quite a bit about whether pastors should be blogging and what they should be blogging about. I mentioned to those in attendance that my friend Joel Gillespie of Covenant Fellowship here in Greensboro is a pastor who blogs. At his Joelblog, his posts offer up a mixture of ministry, music and mulching. In a post today ("Why Blog - Ten Reasons."), Joel talks about why he joined the blogosphere: . . .

[B]logging helps me be a better pastor. It is so easy as a pastor to become insulated from the community that is not part of the church. One forgets how other people think. One forgets what other people are passionate about. Blogging helps keep me on my toes. I'd like to meet more of you bloggers - over lunch, at the meet ups, at the park, on hikes - and not have the relationship be just "electronic." Real people lurk behind those crazy and funny pseudonyms and I really am most interested in real people and not just ideas, but even so, the exchange of ideas makes me a better person, pastor, and preacher, and for that I'm grateful.

Be sure to read Joel's entire post for all 10 reasons why he blogs.
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Reflections on ConvergeSouth

Greensboro's ConvergeSouth conference this past weekend had such a profound effect on me, I decided to take a day off from work today just to blog. (Well, that and a few other things I had fallen behind on around the house.) First I'd like to thank Ed Cone, Sue Polinsky and the rest of the organizers for inviting me to participate in the program. I had a great time and met a lot of interesting people, some of whom I had previously known only online.

Here are a few ramblings from my experience this weekend: . . .

. . . During lunch and breaks, I heard a lot of "session envy" going on. Since the sessions were scheduled three at a time, you, of course, couldn't be in all three places at once and hear everything that was going on. The sessions I missed that I would've especially liked to have been in on were "Ethics: What Are the Rules?" "Blogging From the Outside" and "Podcasting." Come to think of it, I would've enjoyed being at most all of them. . . .

. . . One of the most enjoyable events, despite the rain, was the Neighborhood Barbecue Friday night hosted by David Hoggard, David Wharton and Mathew Gross. Great conversation and great food. I'm still enjoying the leftovers. . . .

. . . Because I was so busy trying to finally meet many of my fellow local bloggers this weekend, I didn't get much of a chance to talk to the "celebrity" session leaders brought in from across the country. However, I did have an opportunity to talk to a friendly but sleep-deprived Chris Nolan on several occasions, and I was glad to hear that she's open to conservative voices on her Spot On site. I especially enjoyed meeting Michael D.C. Bowen (a.k.a. "Cobb") and discussing spiritual issues with him. I hope our paths will cross again one day. I learned a lot from his session titled "Creative Branding on Blogs," which taught me, among many other things, that in the blogosphere ecosystem, he's a "Large Mammal," while I'm merely a "Slithering Reptile." And I will remember to trackback to your post on Greensboro, Michael, to help increase my hits! . . .

. . . I felt so blessed by those who chose to attend my session on faith blogging Saturday morning. If you were one of the ones there, thank you for your participation. Your contributions were important for many reasons, including keeping me from talking too much! In addition to the people I knew were going to be there (including my supportive brother, Don, and my friend and fellow local blogger Joe Guarino), there were several Christian women in attendance with strong beliefs and apparently a desire to communicate those convictions to the world via blogs. I hope you will all be inspired to start blogs of your own and help spread the Word of God throughout the blogosphere. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance. You can e-mail me at . . .

. . . One comment made after my faith blogging session was that it was so nice to have white and black Christians come together at a conference such as ConvergeSouth, but it would be even more wonderful if we could find ways to worship more together. . . .

. . . Speaking of faith blogging, Ed Cone has said several times that he wanted to include such a session here in Greensboro because of the one he attended earlier this year in Nashville led by conservative Christian blogger La Shawn Barber. Once I accepted the assignment to do the faith blogging session at ConvergeSouth, I e-mailed La Shawn and she was extremely helpful in my preparation, so I'd like to thank her for that. . . .

. . . The organizers need to be congratulated for holding the conference at A&T State University. I had not been on that campus in years, and was impressed with the facilities, the students, faculty and staff. I am encouraged by what I saw of the journalism program there and hope it continues to grow and flourish. . . .

. . . Despite the conference organizers' attempts at "diversity," most of the attendees, presenters and organizers fell to the left of center politically. This didn't surprise me; based on my experience with the local blogosphere, I fully expected that to be true. However, I'd like to see at future Converge conferences more conservative voices in attendance and leading sessions. Hey, maybe you could have young, conservative Sam Wharton lead a session on blogging for teens next year. Although he could probably also teach a lot of us adults a thing or two. . . .

. . . Speaking of conservative bloggers and blogging, I found it interesting that during the "Where Is the Business Model Going?" presentation on Friday (led by Chris Nolan, Phil Meyer, Sybril Bennett and Martin Heimann), a slide popped up on the screen listing the top money-making bloggers in the blogosphere. The list was dominated by conservative bloggers (i.e., Michelle Malkin), so someone in the audience asked "Why?" No one on the panel offered a good answer, other than big-moneyed Republicans were bankrolling them. However, in my opinion, Chris Nolan had answered it earlier when she said, quoting someone else, "Where there's people, there's money." Could it be that these sites make more money than others because more people read them? It couldn't be that, could it? Just as Rush Limbaugh's success has nothing to do with his ratings being so high. . . .

. . . While sitting in on Jimmy "Wikipedia" Wales' Saturday session on "Collaboration" followed by blogging pioneer Dave Winer's one on "Tools and the Future," I haven't felt so geeky since the late 1980s, when I was working for COMPUTE! Publications, a group of home computing magazines (COMPUTE!, COMPUTE!'s Gazette for the Commodore 64 and 128, among others). I have been out of that culture for more than 15 years, and it was nice to step back into it again. . . .

. . . One more thing about ConvergeSouth: Let's do it again.

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Who Shall Be Sovereign?

By Alexander Samuels

Last month, the Rev. Mark R. Rushdoony, who is president of The Chalcedon Foundation, wrote an article posted on the foundation's Web site titled "The Alternative to a Sovereign God." Who shall be sovereign, God or Man? According to Mark Rushdoony: . . .

The idea of God predestinating from eternity (Eph. 1:4-5) is offensive to many. The alternative to a decreeing God, however, is a spectator God, one who is Himself subject to the actions of men in time and history. Man wants to believe he is in control. Even Christians often want a God who only reacts to man, like an umpire or judge. To whatever extent we deny predestination to God, we thereby transfer it to man.

When men believe they control history, they are determined to do so, and great evils result because they must then control men and nations. Men must acquire and exercise power for such control. Fascism, communism, and socialism are recent examples of the results of men trying to determine the course of history.

Men try to control others by less austere, but still utopian, ideas of the future they hope to create. Determining man seeks to monopolize education. John Dewey was clear that the goals of public education should be the socialization of individuals, who would be fit citizens of the society he envisioned. Determining man seeks to control the economy and create a paper money because of the limitations imposed by taxes and debt. Determining man sees the state as the avenue by which he controls others. Such statists can even make democracy a tool of imperialism. The goal of controlling others, even for ostensibly good reasons, is an evil one. It is playing God and presuming the right to predestinate in His place.

Men who seek to control nations, armies, money, and individuals are not afraid to dictate morality. Either God rules and His law-word is authoritative, or man rules and
his law-word is authoritative. Denying God's sovereignty over time and eternity creates a void, and this is man's reason for such a denial. Men rush into the void they have defined. If God is not sovereign, man is. This is the faith of humanism, that man is a god, who in his own right knows or determines good and evil (Gen. 3:5).

Rather than man, it is God who has sovereign authority over His creation and everything in it. God sovereignly ordains everything that comes to pass. God's sovereignty can never be frustrated and nothing ever happens over which He is not in control. Even if God passively "permits" things to happen, He always has the power and right to intervene.

Although we may not always know what God's sovereign will is, we may know His preceptive will, which is revealed to us in His holy laws. "Love your enemies and do not steal" are examples of His preceptive will made known to us in His holy Word. God allows us to break His preceptive will but we never have the right to sin.

God's sovereignty is universal. It is absolute. Even though it is universal and absolute, it is the sovereignty of holiness, love and wisdom. Who of us would claim the sovereignty of these qualities in a man? Would we have the malice of Satan through man control the issues of our very lives? No - for even though the authority of God is limited only by Himself, that authority is controlled by His infinite perfection in holiness, love and wisdom.

Who shall be sovereign, God or man? Blessedly, God has predetermined that decision for us.

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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Snapshots of Evil

By Alexander Samuels

In the June issue of Quadrant Magazine, Australia's conservative literary, historical and political journal, Sophie Masson wrote an article titled "The Idea of Evil." It seems that psychiatry is returning to the use of the word and concept of evil.

Dr. Michael Stone of Columbia University has even devised a "depravity table" that can be used to describe some people as evil. Dr. Stone's research and conclusions have led him to believe that there are people who are neither mad nor disturbed in the psychiatric sense, but are instead evil. Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck also reached similar conclusions.

Masson goes on to write: . . .

What interested me in this discussion was the poverty of the imaginative concepts of evil displayed by so many of these eminent men and women. The most humble folktale story of the Devil is more complex, subtle and ambiguous in its exploration of evil than are all the depravity tables of people who, for all their undoubted eminence and record in helping the mentally ill, seem powerless in front of the reality that sometimes - rarely, fortunately - there arise human beings who have deliberately chosen the path of evil.

Murderers of the kind Dr Stone examined remain among us despite modern talk about what childhood influences might have made them what they are, or how responsible society is in grooming them; indeed, these days, the truly evil know all the right excuses and psychobabble and have managed to bamboozle a great many psychiatrists, until now, anyway. Dr Stone's "depravity table" is merely a "respectable" way of supposedly scientifically measuring what evil is. It doesn't inspire me. The old stories of the Devil, and the many explorations of the concept of a personification of evil, from the Adversary to Satan to Lucifer to Mephistopheles, were attempts at imaginatively grasping and understanding what we all know - that we are indeed all born with the "deficiency" as St Columba calls original sin, and that we must struggle against that part of us which is selfish, narcissistic and wishes others ill.

But it is more than that. The personification of evil may mislead the naive, but its imaginative force is that it embodies a reality, in all its complexity. Evil is real, just as good is; you cannot have one without the other. It doesn't come with horns and a tail, not usually - it can be brutish or charming, thick or intelligent, cruel or violent, banal or extravagant, and it can be clothed in any human hide. But true evil is always conscious, it is never a product of mental illness or brain disease or circumstances - though it is usually quite opportunistic.

Evil is always narcissistic, but it can be negative, or passive - the person is incapable of imagining others' suffering or independent existence, which is usually the definition of a psychopath (literally, "soul-sick" - just clothe an old concept in scientific-sounding words and you're right as rain!) - or a positive, even more dangerous sort, perfectly capable of imagining others' pain and suffering, and going ahead anyway, because it's pleasurable, because they love power, because they consider themselves above all laws, whether man-made or divine. Often, such people can be charming, even charismatic.

Yes, evil is real. Satan, the father of evil, is not to be compared to mythical creatures. Satan is a real fallen angel with sophisticated powers to delude people. Demons are fallen angels who are ruled by Satan. When demons are mentioned in the Scriptures, they are primarily in possession of human beings. Demons are real and powerful, but they can never possess a Christian. Christians may be oppressed, harassed or tempted by demons but never controlled by them, for the simple reason that Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.

Although a Christian may be protected from possession by the grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit, evil is still a presence and will remain close by. Evil envies your position in Christ. Since he is powerless to afflict you of his own strength, he will use others (humans) whose souls are presently condemned to persecute and torment you. The only remedy, if God permits, is to know Christ through His Word and prevail in prayer. Come soon, Lord Jesus, or make your church victorious!

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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Sex Slave Trade

By Alexander Samuels

An article posted last week on ("Young Women Forced Into Prostitution in the UK - More Evidence That Prostitution Leads to Sex Slavery") reported that police raided a Birmingham, England, brothel, where they found women from 10 different countries that had been forced into prostitution against their will, an electric fence that prevented the women from escaping, as well as firearms and batons.

The article went on to report: . . .

A police spokesman told the BBC, "The women are believed to be of Eastern European origin and were tricked into the sex industry. They had their passports taken. They were locked into the venue during the evening to work and taken away during the day and locked in a house." Six of the women were handed over to immigration officials.

South Belfast Ulster Unionist Party Member Dr. Esmond Birnie said he "was appalled by the recent news of the conditions at the apparent brothel in Birmingham which was the subject of the police raid last week. I say this as someone who has had a longstanding interest in and advocacy role concerning the struggle to reduce the extent of trafficking into the UK sex industry . . . the 21st century equivalent to the old slave trade."

Dr. Birnie condemned any attempt by lawmakers to make prostitution legal as a counter-measure for the trafficking of women, arguing that prostitution is itself the reason why the modern slave trade thrives. "Birmingham City Council must abandon any lingering ideas they may have for radical experiments and accept that prostitution is a culpable, harm-causing crime which creates the consumer demand for sex slavery," he said.

"In the Kinnell study for Birmingham (1993) which is cited in the publication Paying The Price (2004), more than half of the prostituted women entered the vice trade as children," Dr. Birnie explained. "There is no such thing as a good kerb-crawler [someone who solicits the services of a prostitute] - they represent a serious threat to the safety of vulnerable children."

How many times have I heard someone say that prostitution is a victimless crime?

". . . The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, 'The two will become one flesh.' But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:13-17).

All men should take upon themselves the duty to see that sex slavery and prostitution are brought to an end. Are not men and the lust of men for women the prime cause behind this degradation of women?

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Welcome to Faith Blogging at ConvergeSouth

This morning I am leading a session on Faith Blogging at the ConvergeSouth blogging conference here in Greensboro on the campus of A&T State University. . . . I am looking forward to being a part of a spirited and respectful conversation with my fellow bloggers. Look for a recap of the session later today.
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Friday, October 07, 2005

Live From ConvergeSouth

Here I am at the ConvergeSouth blog conference at A&T State University in Greensboro. This morning I'm sitting in on . . . a session hosted by Ed Cone and Sue Polinsky titled "How to Blog for Practicing Journalists and Journalism Educators." I probably shouldn't be in here, since it is a novice, "hot-to" session, but I was curious as to how Ed and Sue would introduce non-blogging journalists to the blogosphere. The interaction so far has been interesting. Ed's best advice was for novices to "read blogs," in addition to "don't drink and blog."
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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Will I Be Acceptable to God?

By Alexander Samuels

Michael Bremmer, in an article posted on the Sola Scriptura! Web site ("How Are We Made Right With God?"), writes that although 74 percent of Americans strongly believe there will be a day of judgment (according to a Barna Group study), most seem to be confused when it comes to understanding how to be right with God before Judgment Day and therefore truly misunderstand the way to heaven.

According to the Bible, we will be judged by God's Law, and only those who obey God's law will be declared right with Him. Jesus says, "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Yet we are all sinners and cannot give a holy God the perfect righteousness He justly demands.

Bremmer goes on to write: . . .

Obviously, understanding the nature of the One who will judge the world, and understanding the basis of this judgment, no one will escape a guilty sentence from God's throne. The Scriptures tell us, "Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them" (Galatians 3:10). Left to ourselves, all of us will be found guilty and condemned: "There is none righteous, not even one," "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:10, 23). The problem is not that we have some faults that maybe God will graciously overlook. We are sinners. Moreover, we are not sinners merely because we sin, but because we are inherently sinful. In other words, not only are we not right with God because we sin, but because sin dwells within us (Romans 7:14). How can we, in this dreadful state, ever hope to be right with God? This brings us to our original question: How do I, a sinner, a transgressor of the law, become right with a holy, righteous, and just God? Given the circumstances, it is seemingly hopeless.

Now, the good news. The same God and judge of the world, who is holy, righteous, and just, who must condemn the guilty, is also a God of love (John 3:16), mercy (Ephesians 2:4), and grace (Ephesians 1:5-7); and HE has revealed a way in which He can in love, mercy, and grace freely forgive the sinner, yet remain holy, righteous and just. God's way is by giving to the undeserving sinner His own righteousness--the righteousness of God.

The Scriptures tell us, "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction" (Romans 3:21-22). "And that I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (Philippians 3:9). "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). This righteousness from God, given to all who believe, is the basis for our being right with God. It is called in theological terminology "Justification." We are declared just by God because of the righteousness of Christ, freely given to all who trust in Him alone. This is the heart of the Gospel. Christ has kept the law for us (Romans 8:3-4), and in our place bore the punishment of our sins (1 Peter 2:24). We are made right with God not by our own works, but by the righteousness of another, the very righteousness of God Himself! Jesus Christ is, for all who trust in Him alone, "The Lord Our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:5).

Do you think that attending church is going to make you right with God? Do you think that being baptized will make you right with God? Perhaps you tithe a full 10 percent before taxes; is that going to make you right with God? Maybe you are a deacon or an elder; will that make you right with God?

The answer to all the questions above, my friend, is "No!" You see, in the Gospel there is a righteousness that comes from God through Jesus Christ. It is a righteousness that can only be received through faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. If you truly believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that He died for your sins, then your sins have been transferred to Him and His righteousness has been imputed to you. This has been accomplished by God in order that on the day of judgment, you no longer bear the filth of your sins, but will have been made pure in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Governments and Prostitution

By Alexander Samuels

An article posted on last week ("Australian and Danish Governments Providing Prostitutes for the Disabled") reports that in Tasmania, prostitutes are now called "sex trade workers" since publicly funded social workers now arrange for the disabled to make visits to brothels. Disability Services State Manager Michael Plaister told the Tasmanian newspaper The Mercury, "What we've got is a longstanding policy based around the principles of human rights that people with disabilities have the same rights as anyone else in the community and are entitled to be assisted to exercise those rights."

The article goes on to report: . . .

Disability Services' guidelines include a section developed in 2001, titled "Access to a Sex Worker." It states, "Sex workers should be seen as one of a number of options to consider when supporting people with disabilities to make decisions about their sexual needs." The report in The Mercury says that though the men usually pay for the services themselves, guidelines exist for social service funds to be made available should they be strapped for cash.

A spokesman for Advocacy Tasmania, a non-profit organization that provides legal services to elderly and disabled people, said that people with disabilities had a right to express their sexuality and to have a sex life.

The "right" to fornication has its own internal logic and social workers in Denmark as well as Australia have followed it industriously to its conclusion in the care of disabled clients.

In Denmark, the government has arranged a more regimented system in which the social services pays for "sex workers" to service disabled men twice a month. The Danish guidelines state, "It could be of great importance that the carer speaks to the prostitute together with the person in their care, to help them express their wishes."

The contradiction between governments fighting the exploitation and trafficking of women and paying for those women to service men under public care has not escaped everyone. Danish Social-Democrat spokesman Kristen Brosboel said: "We spend a large proportion of our taxes rescuing women from prostitution. But at the same time we officially encourage carers to help contact with prostitutes."

As in Australia, however, official arguments in Denmark against the practice will clash with the obvious problem that prostitution is not illegal in either country. As is common in many "enlightened" western nations, only living off the profits of prostitution is illegal, not the practice itself.

The problem rests upon a contradictory notion that there is such a thing as a "right" to sexual relations outside marriage. This idea, that will appear bizarre to many, is now common in governments and civil service circles around the world and is harmfully affecting a wide range of legislation.

In Canada this past week, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler used the "right" to fornication as an argument to keep the age of sexual consent at 14 instead of raising it to 16. Canada has one of the lowest sexual consent ages in the world. Canada is also growing in its acceptance of prostitution.

God intended the bodies of both the male and female to be held in purity and holiness. This means that because we are made in the image of God, we are to hold our bodies in high esteem and not use our bodies in sinful ways. The woman's body is more beautiful than the male's. She is not to use her body to entice men and draw lust out of them for the purpose of gaining money (prostitution). For the government to not only approve of prostitution, but to encourage it and pay for it with tax dollars, is not only a sin against God but it is a crime directed toward women that the government should be protecting. By governments paying for women to be used in politically approved sex acts, women are basically being enticed into the life of sex slaves who will be hindered by government policy from ever making normal lives for themselves.

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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Monday, October 03, 2005

Faith Blogging

We've all heard the old adage, "You're not supposed to discuss religion or politics in polite company." So why do so many people blog about these topics? Are social norms and etiquette different in the blogosphere than they are at your average genteel dinner party? Or have times just changed, and anything and everything is fair game for discussion and debate?

We'll explore these questions, at least as they apply to religion and faith, at the session I will lead on . . . Faith Blogging Saturday morning at ConvergeSouth. During the session I hope we will be able to discuss:

What motivates people to blog about their faith?

How should faith bloggers handle hot-button issues and keep discussions under control and respectful to all involved?

Who are a faith blogger's audience, people who believe like they do, people who don't believe like they do, or a mixture of both?

What is the role of clergy and religious bodies in the blogosphere?

Do faith blogs break down stereotypes of people of a certain faith or do they enhance them?

What are the pros and cons of mixing politics and religion on a blog?

Can faith blogs strengthen the bonds between people of faith?

And that's just a start. If you have suggestions for topics you'd like to see covered, please leave a comment here or e-mail me at I look forward to seeing you Saturday morning.

About Me
For more than 20 years, Greensboro native Mickey McLean has worked in the traditional print media, and for the past 10 years he has been the managing editor of a major general interest magazine. This past spring he took the plunge and started his own personal blog, Carolina Christian Conservative, where he and others post items on faith and politics, with a little sports and popular culture tossed in. In other words, he's created his own electronic magazine, providing an outlet for him to cover topics he's interested in and present them from a Christian worldview.

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Well, If That Don't Beat All!

Forty-five years ago today Aunt Bee arrived in Mayberry, North Carolina, to live with her nephew Andy and his son Opie, and a classic TV series began to live in many of our hearts and minds. I can't say that I remember the airing of that very first episode ("The New Housekeeper") on October 3, 1960 (I was only 8 months old at the time), but I can certainly celebrate what this series has meant to me over the years. . . . Happy birthday to "The Andy Griffith Show." May you all have a "Mayberry moment" today.
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Harriet Miers

Marvin Olasky over at World Magazine's World Views Blog has posted a series of items (here, here, here, here, here, here and here) on Harriet Miers, President Bush's nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. Dr. Olasky has spoken with Nathan Hecht, a Texas Supreme Court justice and a close friend of Miers; an unnamed conservative lawyer from Texas; and Miers' pastor, Ron Key.

Here are a few snippets from Dr. Olasky's posts: . . .

Nathan Hecht: "She's an orginalist -- that's the way she takes the Bible," and that's her approach to the Constitution as well -- "Originalist -- it means what it says."

Unnamed lawyer: "Harriet could have become a conservative in Washington, but unless she did, she doesn't have any particular judicial philosophy . . . I never heard her take a position on anything . . . We'll have another Sandra Day O'Connor."

Ron Key: "She came to a place where she totally committed her life to Jesus. She had gone to church before, but when she came to our church it became more serious to her."

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Solomon Asked for Wisdom - Not Self-Esteem

By Alexander Samuels

Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, wrote in an article titled "The Lowdown on High Self-Esteem," which appeared in the Los Angeles Times on January 25, 2005, about how he participated in the research team that studied self-esteem in 1973. The early results were weaker than he had hoped for, but . . . their positive predictions on the benefits of building self-esteem continued.

After a recent five-year review by the American Psychological Society of all the research done on self-esteem over the last 30 years, Baumeister commented, "After all these years, I'm sorry to say, my recommendation is this: Forget about self-esteem and concentrate more on self-control and self-discipline."

This is an amazing statement to all those educators, who year after year have been indoctrinated into thinking that developing a child's self-esteem is more important than academic mastery. The endless hours of workshops teachers have been forced to attend on self-esteem are probably infuriating to those whose professional experience had caused them to believe this theory was "junk science" to begin with. Yet, this is just one of the Trojan Horses of educational programs that have come along over the years. In spite of past proven failures, the public education system remains ever alert to jump right in, full force, to implement any program that promises huge results whether it has been around long enough to prove its value or not.

Parents bought into the self-esteem hogwash to the degree that they no longer wanted children recognized for their academic efforts because it might diminish the self-esteem of others. If awards were to be given, then everyone should receive a reward whether they deserved it or not. There are to be no winners or losers, in spite of the fact that life just doesn't work that way. I guess no one bothered to explain to the self-esteem researchers that life just isn't always fair and you'd better get used to it if you are going to have any kind of success in this world.

Then there are the self-esteem books, self-esteem pop-psychology and self-esteem counseling for Christians - all of which are making big bucks in the adult market. You want to know the best advice I've heard about all this? "Concentrate more on self-control and self-discipline." What is the point of being incompetent and feeling good about yourself? As Solomon said, "If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success" (Ecclesiastes 10:10).

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.

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Who Wants to Please God?

By Alexander Samuels

In a Barna Group study released this past week titled "New Survey Shows Areas of Spiritual Life People Feel Most Confident About - and Those They Want Help With Most," seven specific dimensions of spirituality were evaluated. I found the results of this survey interesting and thought provoking.

Here's an excerpt from the report: . . .

The Barna survey explored seven dimensions of spiritual development, asking survey respondents to rate themselves on a five-point scale that included being "completely developed" in the specified area of spirituality, "highly developed," saying they were "about average" in their development in that area, or that they are "not too developed," or "not at all developed" in the area in question.

Americans rated themselves most positively in the area of "maintaining healthy relationships." Close to half of all self-identified Christian adults (48%) said they are "completely" or "highly" developed in that aspect, with 46% saying they are "about average" in this dimension, and just 6% claimed to be below average. An above average rating (i.e., either "completely developed" or "highly developed") was more likely among people in the South and Midwest than among people living along the east or west coasts.

The second-most favorable rating was for serving other people. About four out of every ten self-described Christian adults (41%) said they are "completely" or "highly" developed in that aspect of their spiritual life, while half said they are about average in this area, and 8% said they are below average. Hispanics and people who attend a house church were the groups most likely to say they are above average (53% and 57%, respectively) when it comes to serving others.

Next came "consistently living out your faith principles," for which 37% said they do an above average job, 55% claimed to be average, and only 8% admitted to being below average.

Similar scores emerged related to worshiping God and leading their family spiritually. About one-third (36%) said they were above average, half said they were average, and 13% rated themselves below average in terms of worship. Nearly identical statistics were gleaned regarding the spiritual leadership of the family by the individuals who have children under age 18 in their home (35% said they are above average, 51% average, and 14% below the norm).

The most keenly felt spiritual needs were to increase their commitment to the Christian faith (identified by 13%) and to increase their Bible knowledge (12%). No other factors reached double figures.

Among the other needs expressed by respondents were a desire to improve their prayer life (7%), becoming a better servant to others (4%), developing better relationships (4%), understanding the Christian life better (4%), doing a better job of sharing their faith (4%), developing better character (3%), improving at forgiving others (3%), and becoming more spiritually mature overall (3%). . . .

Barna said, "The fact that so few people have thought about how they could intentionally and strategically enhance their spiritual life reminds us that spiritual growth is not a priority to most people. Americans are generally satisfied with being 'average' in their spiritual maturity. That betrays the fact that we do not serve an 'average' God, or one who is honored by people who are lukewarm about their faith."

I am not really surprised to see that "maintaining healthy relationships" was at the top of the priorities committed to by Christians. Christianity is meant to be worked out in our lives in terms of relationships with others. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that "serving others" rated second. The only concern I have is that many people join churches purely for the purpose of establishing relationships. There is that "join the civic club (church) mentality and do good deeds for the community" that is not at all the call to Christ's church. Some churches do seem to be governed by a "club mentality," which is absolutely unchristian.

On the whole, however, healthy relationships and serving others are evidence of a healthy Christian life. The third characteristic is interesting because it is about "consistently living out your faith principles." The reason this is interesting to me is that it is listed as the third-highest area of confidence. It is also interesting because the people desiring "to increase their Bible knowledge" were only 12 percent of the sample. Now this is the only time "Bible knowledge" is mentioned in the article so it had to be one of the areas that people were least confident about in the survey, but there were only 12 percent who wanted to do anything about it.

The question has to be asked, "How do you know that you are 'consistently living out your faith principles' if one of your weakest areas is Bible knowledge?" I believe that the faith principles many of these people feel so good about are of their own making and assumptions. We live in a culture of people who love to assume they know something about the Bible. And most of what they know are assumptions.

I also believe that if the third category were really "living out Christian faith principles," there would be a much larger percentage who wanted "to increase their Bible knowledge." Gaining knowledge of God's Word is one of the most important principles in the entire Bible.

As Barna said in the report, "Spiritual growth is not a priority to most people." Could this be because there is a tremendous difference between "cultural" Christians and real Christians? I believe Barna's and other surveys of this sort are inaccurate because they are handicapped by respondents who say they are Christians but in reality do not meet the Biblical definition of "Christian." Cultural Christians attend church, participate in good works, enjoy the pastor's speaking ability and the choir's songs, but they mostly believe only the things in the Bible (or what someone told them was in the Bible) that make them feel good about themselves and demand very little self-discipline and spiritual growth. Spiritual maturity is truly a concept they do not understand at all.

If one is truly a Christian, the Holy Spirit creates in him or her the desire to know more about Jesus. The Christian never reaches a stage of saying, "This is enough. I do not need to learn anything else about God or how to be a better Christian." A Christian can never hear enough or read enough of the Word of God. All his desires will be guided by the love of pleasing God. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:16-17).

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.
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