Friday, July 31, 2009

Christian Teachers Leaving NEA

The Christian Educators Association International, which is a Christian alternative to the National Education Association, says it has seen an increase in enrollment since the NEA recently voted to throw its full support behind homosexual marriage or civil unions, and members voted down a resolution calling for the NEA to take a "no-position" stance on abortion. "Quite frankly, our phone has been ringing off the hook as former NEA members want out and are joining us," said Finn Laursen, Executive Director of CEAI. "And the reason many are considering us as an alternative is, first of all, we operate from a Christian worldview," said Laursen. For more information about CEAI go to []

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Divorce Takes a Toll on Long-Term Health

Results from a new study to be published in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior show that divorce or losing a spouse to death can exact an immediate and long-lasting toll on a person's health, even after remarriage, according to AOL News.

"That period during the time that this event is taking place is extremely stressful," said study researcher Linda Waite, a sociologist and director of the Center on Aging at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. "People ignore their health; they're stressed, which is itself a health risk; they're less likely to go to the doctor; they're less likely to exercise; they're sleeping poorly."

It turns out — once you have tarnished your health — it's hard to snap back, even if you tie the knot again. "Remarriage helps. It puts you back on a healthy trajectory," Waite told LiveScience. "But, it puts you back on a healthy trajectory from a lower point, because you didn't take care of yourself for a year."

Waite and Mary Elizabeth Hughes of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland analyzed data collected from nearly 9,000 adults ages 51-61 who took part in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study.

Results of the study showed that those who had been divorced or widowed suffered from 20 percent more chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer, compared with individuals who were currently married. Additionally, individuals who remarried reported an average of 12 percent more chronic conditions and 19 percent more physical limitations compared with the continuously married.

While "some health situations, like depression, seem to respond both quickly and strongly to changes in current conditions," Waite said, "conditions such as diabetes and heart disease develop slowly over a substantial period and show the impact of past experiences, which is why health is undermined by divorce or widowhood, even when a person remarries."

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Does God give us more than we can handle (or allow us to experience)?

I say yes.

If God limited our challenges to what we would/could handle, then we wouldn’t need to rely upon Him. I have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and only through HIM can I do all things. Without HIM the challenge would exceed me, I am not enough by myself. I am frail, I fail, I am broken, but through Christ I am restored, and through Christ I am liberated from the too much of life, because I can indeed rely upon God’s good grace to see me through.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bishop N.T. Wright weighs in on the divide within the Episcopalians on same-sex clergy

I disagree with Tom Wright on a number of things, but I found his thinking here clear and insightful. This article comes from the Times Online.


In the slow-moving train crash of international Anglicanism, a decision taken in California has finally brought a large coach off the rails altogether. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States has voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationships. This marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of TEC knew exactly what they were doing. They were telling the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other “instruments of communion” that they were ignoring their plea for a moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops. They were rejecting the two things the Archbishop of Canterbury has named as the pathway to the future — the Windsor Report (2004) and the proposed Covenant (whose aim is to provide a modus operandi for the Anglican Communion). They were formalising the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the Primates’ unanimous statement that this would “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level”. In Windsor’s language, they have chosen to “walk apart”.

Granted, the TEC resolution indicates a strong willingness to remain within the Anglican Communion. But saying “we want to stay in, but we insist on rewriting the rules” is cynical double-think. We should not be fooled.

Of course, matters didn’t begin with the consecration of Gene Robinson. The floodgates opened several years before, particularly in 1996 when a church court acquitted a bishop who had ordained active homosexuals. Many in TEC have long embraced a theology in which chastity, as universally understood by the wider Christian tradition, has been optional.

That wider tradition always was counter-cultural as well as counter-intuitive. Our supposedly selfish genes crave a variety of sexual possibilities. But Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse. This is not (as is frequently suggested) an arbitrary rule, dualistic in overtone and killjoy in intention. It is a deep structural reflection of the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people (who carry forward his purposes for that creation).

Paganism ancient and modern has always found this ethic, and this belief, ridiculous and incredible. But the biblical witness is scarcely confined, as the shrill leader in yesterday’s Times suggests, to a few verses in St Paul. Jesus’s own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behaviour outside heterosexual monogamy. This isn’t a matter of “private response to Scripture” but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition.

The appeal to justice as a way of cutting the ethical knot in favour of including active homosexuals in Christian ministry simply begs the question. Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant “the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire”.

Such a novel usage would also raise the further question of identity. It is a very recent innovation to consider sexual preferences as a marker of “identity” parallel to, say, being male or female, English or African, rich or poor. Within the “gay community” much postmodern reflection has turned away from “identity” as a modernist fiction. We simply “construct” ourselves from day to day.

We must insist, too, on the distinction between inclination and desire on the one hand and activity on the other — a distinction regularly obscured by references to “homosexual clergy” and so on. We all have all kinds of deep-rooted inclinations and desires. The question is, what shall we do with them? One of the great Prayer Book collects asks God that we may “love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise”. That is always tough, for all of us. Much easier to ask God to command what we already love, and promise what we already desire. But much less like the challenge of the Gospel.

The question then presses: who, in the US, is now in communion with the great majority of the Anglican world? It would be too hasty to answer, the newly formed “province” of the “Anglican Church in North America”. One can sympathise with some of the motivations of these breakaway Episcopalians. But we should not forget the Episcopalian bishops, who, doggedly loyal to their own Church, and to the expressed mind of the wider Communion, voted against the current resolution. Nor should we forget the many parishes and worshippers who take the same stance. There are many American Episcopalians, inside and outside the present TEC, who are eager to sign the proposed Covenant. That aspiration must be honoured.

Contrary to some who have recently adopted the phrase, there is already a “fellowship of confessing Anglicans”. It is called the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is now distancing itself from that fellowship. Ways must be found for all in America who want to be loyal to it, and to scripture, tradition and Jesus, to have that loyalty recognised and affirmed at the highest level.

Tom Wright is Bishop of Durham

(HT: Bob Hyatt)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Important Questions to ask when facing tough decisions or risky decisions

Jim Collins writes three important questions to ask when "making risky bets and decisions in the face of ambiguous or conflicting data."   Here they are:
  1. What's the upside, if events turn out well?
  2. What's the downside, if events go very badly?
  3. Can you live with the downside?  Truly?

From Jim Collins book - How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In

(HT: Scott Hodge)

Episcopal Church Affirms Gay Clergy

Leaders at the Episcopal Church's tri-annual convention voted overwhemingly on Monday to pass a resolution that opens "any ordained ministry" to homosexuals. Biblically orthodox Anglicans, many of whom are part of the newly formed Anglican Church of North America, decried the move as heretical. For decades, there has been a movement to bring the Episcopal Church back to its Christian roots. However, since the Diocese of New Hampshire elected openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson in 2003, it appears the denomination has been determined to move further away from a traditional and clearly biblical position on Christian marriage — which has led to an exodus from the Episcopal Church and the formation of other bodies, such as the Anglican Church of North America, consisting of over 100,000 members in 7,000 churches. On Wednesday, the Episcopal bishops also authorized the church to start drafting an official prayer for same-sex couples, another step toward acceptance of gay relationships. [, The Associated Press]

Monday, July 20, 2009

Judge Rules in Favor of College Student

A California judge has ruled in favor of a college student who was openly insulted by a professor during a speech on the value of traditional marriage. U.S. District Judge George H. King ruled that the college strike from its Web site a sexual harassment policy that censors speech deemed "offensive" to homosexual people — calling their campus policy "unconstitutionally overbroad."

Jonathan Lopez, a student at Los Angeles City College, was participating in a class assignment to give a speech on "any topic." While he was delivering the speech on his Christian faith, Lopez addressed the issues of God and morality; referred to the dictionary definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman and also read a passage from the Bible discussing marriage. Professor John Matteson interrupted him, called him a "fascist b----rd" for mentioning a moral conviction against homosexual marriage and later told him to "ask God what your grade is." The professor also warned on his evaluation of Lopez's speech: "Proselytizing is inappropriate in public school," and later threatened to have Lopez expelled.

Lopez sued the Los Angeles City College District — the largest community college system in the U.S. — represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund. "Professor Matteson clearly violated Mr. Lopez's free speech rights by engaging in viewpoint discrimination and retaliation because he disagreed with the student's religious beliefs," said ADF Senior Counsel David French. "Moreoever, the district has a speech code that has created a culture of censorship on campus. America's public universities and colleges are supposed to be a 'marketplace of ideas,' not a hotbed of intolerance." []

Friday, July 17, 2009

Methodist Bishops Agree to Pay Cut

for the record, I am way, WAY under these "averages"..... :-)

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Fifty bishops serving with the United Methodist Church have agreed to a four percent pay cut. The salary reduction, which will begin Jan. 1, 2010, will return their pay to the 2008 level and will represent an average cut of $4,700 annually. "None of us bishops are going to starve, ... but it is a good reminder that many people, many pastors, and many congregations are going through tough times," said Bishop Michael Coyner, one of four bishops on the finance council.

According to an article from The Associated Press, the average salary of United Methodist bishops is currently $125,658, and the average salary of a United Methodist senior pastor is $120,000.

The National Association of Church Business Administration, which has tracked pastoral salaries for over 30 years, reports that the average Protestant senior pastor in their survey receives $108,000 in compensation, and the average salary for a senior pastor of a church with 1,500 members or more is $141,000. They also report that 46 percent of the churches they surveyed this year have cut or frozen salaries.

The Christian Faith of Homosexuals

The gay and lesbian population, which constitutes about three percent of adults, has received a lot of national attention in the past several years, primarily due to the efforts of gay activists who have promoted same-sex marriage, homosexual adoptions, domestic partner benefits and numerous other issues. A new survey by the Barna Group explores the spiritual lives of gay and lesbian individuals, providing some surprising results.

Out of 20 faith-oriented attributes examined by the Barna study, there were just a few in which there were no significant differences between heterosexual and homosexual populations. The areas of similarity included the facts that (1) a small minority of people in both groups believe that Satan is real; (2) equivalent percentages of these groups feel they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others who believe differently; (3) similar numbers of people from each group contend that good people can earn their way into heaven through their goodness; and (4) rates of participation in house churches is about the same for both groups.

Barna's study also found a majority of spiritual measures that were statistically significant in their differences between "straights" and "gays":

  • Straight adults (72%) were more likely than gay adults (60%) to describe their faith as "very important" in their lives.
  • More heterosexuals (85%) self-identify themselves as Christian than homosexuals (70%).
  • About six out of ten heterosexuals say they are absolutely committed to the Christian faith, compared to about four out of ten homosexuals.
  • Seventy-five percent of non-gays have made "a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in your life today," versus 58 percent of gay adults.
  • Forty-seven percent of straight adults qualified as born-again Christians (according to Barna's criteria) compared to just 27 percent of gays.
  • Heterosexuals were twice as likely as homosexuals to strongly believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.
  • Seventy-one percent of heterosexuals have an orthodox, biblical perception of God compared to just 43 percent of homosexuals. However, an equal percentage of each group have a pantheistic view about deity — i.e., that "God" refers to any of a variety of perspectives, such as personally achieving a state of higher consciousness or maximized potential, or that multiple gods exist, or that everyone is god.
  • Heterosexuals are twice as likely as homosexuals to attend a church service, read the Bible and pray to God during a typical week (31% vs. 15%).
  • Heterosexuals consider faith and family to be among their highest life priorities. Homosexuals assign a lower priority to family (30% saying family is their top priority compared to 48% of other adults) and placed a higher emphasis upon the importance of their lifestyle (32% placed this on top, versus 16% of other adults).

Many other interesting findings can be found in the new Barna report.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Crimes Against U.S. Churches

In it's first year of tracking crimes against churches, the Church Security Network report on "Crimes Against Christian Organizations in the United States" found 17 violent crimes were reported by churches in 2009. Six of them resulted in homicides. In total, 472 incidents of violence, theft and other criminal acts were tracked in the report. Burglary was the most frequently reported incident by churches (64%). Thirteen percent of the crimes were arson and seven percent were general theft. Crimes and vandalism account for more then $6.3 million in church property loss in the past six months. Internal theft totaled more then $2.3 million. []

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fittest City in America

Washington, D.C., tops the American College of Sports Medicine's new list of America's fittest cities. The list is based on personal factors including: percentage of smokers, obesity, regular physical activity, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day and conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. It's also based on local resources: parks, farmers' markets, number of primary health care providers and crime rates. The next four cities in order are: Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Boston and San Francisco. []

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Faith of America's Hispanics

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

A new survey released from The Barna Group indicates that Hispanics are assimilating the faith of the Caucasian population faster than anyone would have predicted, essentially mirroring the faith of the nation's white population. A few years ago the Hispanic population passed the African-American population as the largest ethnic group in the U.S.

An overview of the faith practices and beliefs of Hispanics and the total adult population shows that there are few significant differences between the two groups. The Barna study found that these segments have nearly identical profiles on the following, among others:

* Belief that their faith is very important in their life
* Perceived accuracy of the principles taught in the Bible
* A personal sense of responsibility to share their faith with others
* Perception about the existence of Satan
* Perception about the holiness of Jesus Christ
* Understanding of the nature of God

When Barna separated out the born again Hispanics and compared them to the nation's born again population at-large, relatively few differences were identified between the two groups. The differences that were statistically significant included the fact that Hispanic born again Christians were more likely to believe that — even though their salvation was based on confessing their sins and accepting Christ as their savior — it was also possible for a person to earn their way into Heaven through good behavior. Hispanic born agains were also more likely than all born again Americans to contend that they have been greatly transformed by their faith (85% versus 78%); less likely than all born again adults in the U.S. to claim to be absolutely committed to Christianity (63% versus 74%), and were twice as likely as all born again adults to be aligned with the Catholic Church (35% versus 17%).

When Barna compared the faith of Hispanics today to their faith profile of 15 years ago, the assessment showed that Hispanics have been rapidly moving toward adopting the mainstream beliefs and practices of all Americans. The study discovered 11 faith dimensions on which there has been substantial change. A few of those areas of change include alignment with the Catholic Church (down by 25 percentage points); being a born again Christian (up by 17 percentage points); having made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today (up by 15 percentage points), and church attendance (up 10 percentage points in an average week).

For the complete report, visit

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Quiet but busy

Sorry it has been so quiet here on my blog. It's been a combination of preparation for our pending firstborn child (due July 19th!) and the fact that I have been working hard to get a house remodeled prior to that arrival (a rental we own). Things will return to normal soon hopefully, whatever "normal" is with a newborn. We are excited to meet and discover the person God has formed in my wife! We can't wait to see early personality traits etc. So I'll keep trying to come up for air from time to time, but be patient with me, I will return to a more normal posting pattern eventually!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Top Commentaries on Every Book of the Bible

(HT: Tim Challies)
This was posted on the Ligonier web site:

Over the course of several months, Keith Mathison put together a list of his top 5 commentaries for each book of the Bible. With his recommendations of commentaries for Malachi and Revelation, he has now completed both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Here is a round-up of the complete series.

1 & 2 Samuel
1 & 2 Kings
1 & 2 Chronicles
Ezra & Nehemiah
Song of Songs

The Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel of Mark
The Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of John
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
Colossians & Philemon
1 & 2 Thessalonians
The Pastoral Epistles
1 Peter
2 Peter & Jude
The Epistles of John


For more recommendations, see our Recommended Reading List.

Logos Bible Software giveaway!

Logos Bible Software is celebrating the launch of their new online Bible by giving away 72 ultra-premium print Bibles at a rate of 12 per month for six months. The Bible giveaway is being held at and you can get up to five different entries each month! After you enter, be sure to check out Logos and see how it can revolutionize your Bible study.

Confronting others Biblically - Paul Tripp

(HT: Justin Taylor)

On his blog Thabiti Anyabwile recently posted an acronym from Paul Tripp's book, War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles. It's a model of how to think about confronting others biblically:


Examine your heart. Confrontation always begins with you. Because we all struggle with indwelling sin, we must begin with ourselves. We must be sure that we have dealt with our anger, impatience, self-righteousness, and bitterness. When we start with our own confession, we are in a much better place to lead another to confess.

Note your calling. Remember that confrontation is not based on your opinion of the person. You are there as an ambassador and your job is to faithfully represent the message of the King. In other words, your goal is to help people see and accept God's view of them.

Check your attitude. When you speak, are your words spoken in kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, forbearance, compassion, and love? Failure to do this will hinder God-honoring, change-producing confrontation. We need to examine both our message and our attitude as we speak.

Own your own faults. It is vital to enter moments of confrontation with a humble recognition of who we really are. As we admit our own need for the Lord's forgiveness, we are able to be patient and forgiving with the one to whom God has called us to minister.

Use words wisely. Effective communication demands preparation, particularly of our words. We need to ask God to help us use words that carry his message, not get in the way of it.

Reflect on Scripture. The content of confrontation is always the Bible. It guides what we say and how we say it. We should enter moments of confrontation with a specific understanding of what Scripture says about the issues at hand. This means more than citing proof texts; it means understanding how the themes, principles, perspectives, and commands of Scripture shape the way we think about the issues before us.

Always be prepared to listen. The best, most effective confrontation is interactive. We need to give the person an opportunity to talk, since we cannot look into his heart or read his mind. We need to welcome his questions and look for signs that he is seeing the things he needs to see. We need to listen for true confession and the commitment to specific acts of repentance. As we listen, we will learn where we are in the confrontation process.

Grant time for a response. We must give the Holy Spirit time to work. There is nothing in Scripture that promises that if we do our confrontation work well, the person will confess and repent in one sitting. Rather, the Bible teaches us that change is usually a process. We need to model the same patience God has granted us. This patience does not compromise God's work of change, but flows out of a commitment to it.

Encourage the person with the gospel. It is the awesome grace of God, his boundless love, and his ever-present help that give us a reason to turn from our sin. Scripture says that it is the kindness of God that leads people to repentance (Rom. 2:4). The truths of the gospel--both its challenge and its comfort--must color our confrontation.