Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bethel Fantasy Football Team

The last few years I've been part of a Fantasy Football League made up of various Bethel Seminary professors and alumni.  Our draft was tonight and since my 2 year average was pretty strong it meant I got slotted to draft #11 in a 12-team league.  We're a 1 QB 2RB 2 WR 1 TE 1 D/ST 1 K 1 Flex league, having only added the flex this season.  Flex = either RB or WR

I drafted:
Aaron Rogers - QB
Rashard Mendenhall - RB
Javid Best - RB
Austin Collie - WR (flex)
Miles Austin - WR
Jeremy Maclin - WR
Jason Witten - TE
Packers - D/ST
Alex Henery - K

Brandon Jacobs - RB
Donovan McNabb - QB
Robert Meachem - WR
Michael Bush - RB
Lions - D/ST
Davone Bess - WR
Tashard Choice - RB

I debated with my final pick on whether to take Choice or another TE.  None of the TE's looked that appealing, so I went with an extra RB & will have to scramble on Jason Witten's bye-week.

Interestingly - all but 2 of my starters are NFC players, and all but 2 of my bench are NFC players.  I'm pretty heavily weighted in the NFC North and East with Rogers, Best, Packer's D, McNabb & Lion's D from the North and from the East I have Austin, Maclin, Witten, Henery, Jacobs, and Choice.

I can envision a week where all my starters outside of my K & TE are injured, but if they all stay healthy I think that is a pretty strong team.

Overview of the Bible in 2 weeks

This from Dane Ortland:

The Sweep of the Bible in Two Weeks

If a freshman in college or stay-at-home mom or aspiring deacon or friend from work or anyone else asked me how they might get a rough grasp of the macro-storyline of the Bible in a few weeks, I'd send them not to any secondary resource but to the Bible itself for a reading plan that might look something like this.

Week 1
Sunday - Genesis 1-3
Monday - Genesis 12-17
Tuesday - Exodus 1-3, 12
Wednesday - Exodus 14, 19-20
Thursday - Joshua 23-24; Judges 1-2
Friday - 1 Samuel 8, 16; 2 Samuel 7, 11; Psalm 105
Saturday - Isaiah 7, 9, 11, 35, 52-53, 65
Week 2
Sunday - Jeremiah 30-33; Ezekiel 36-37, Zechariah 9; Malachi 3-4
Monday - Matt. 1:1; Mark 1:1-15; John 1:1-18; 5:39-46; Luke 24
Tuesday - Mark 14:1-16:8
Wednesday - Acts 1-2; 13:13-49
Thursday - Rom. 1:1-6; 16-17; 3:9-31; 5:12-21; 8:18-23; 1 Cor. 15:1-23
Friday - Heb. 1:1-4; 10:19-12:2
Saturday - Revelation 1; 20-22

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Could Christians End Extreme Poverty?

Several Christ-centered organizations are partnering to eradicate extreme poverty by 2035. The project, called “58”, is led by Scott Todd, a senior adviser at Compassion International, one of the organizations sponsoring the project. Some of the other groups involved are: HOPE International; Christian Reformed World Relief Committee; Living Water International; and Food for the Hungry. The group designed a website to highlight hundreds of organizations that are working to fight poverty.

The project is rooted in the biblical passage of Isaiah 58 where the prophet Isaiah tells the Jews that their fasts are meaningless because they are rooted in greed and desire for personal gain. If they really want the world around them to improve, the prophet tells them, they need to fast for the right reasons — to help those around them and to cleanse themselves of wickedness. [Philanthropy.com]

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fewer Doctors Performing Abortions

According to the September issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, a new study finds that only 14 percent of doctors are currently willing to do abortions compared to 22 percent in 2008. The research, which was based on a mail survey of 1,800 OBGYNs, also revealed that:
  • Female physicians were more likely to provide abortions than were male (18.6% compared with 10.6%).
  • Jewish doctors were the most likely to say they perform abortions (40.2 percent) and Evangelical Protestant doctors were the least likely (1.2 percent).
  • Among OBGYNs, 97 percent encountered patients seeking abortions.
See LifeNews.com to read the full article.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Marriage trends in blue-collar America

There is a growing marginalization of marriage in blue-collar America while it’s doing better among the more educated classes. This has important consequences for the greater cementing of class divides.

And it affects church life. Princeton sociologist of religion Robert Wuthnow, explains in his book After the Baby Boomers that the connection between marital status and church attendance is remarkably parallel. People who marry are more likely to attend church. If they don’t marry, they are not likely to attend. So this social shift is significant in many ways.

A unique and important report has just been released by the Brookings Institute, co-authored by two of the world’s leading marriage scholars: The more socially conservative W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and associate professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, and the socially liberal Andrew J. Cherlin, professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University.
Both scholars are concerned about the marked decline of marriage among those who have graduated from high school, but have no college degree. This encompasses a full 58 percent of the adult U.S. population.1
The Evidence
  • “Although marriage is still held in high regard across social classes in America, in recent years, moderately educated Americans have become less likely to form stable, high-quality marriages, while college-educated Americans (who make up 30 percent of the adult population) have become more likely to do so.”2 (emphasis added)
A distinct marriage divide is developing in the following ways among these two social classes:
  • High school-only grads are markedly more likely than college grads to have three or more sex partners in a lifetime.
  • Although many college graduates cohabit before marriage (markedly fewer, however, than non-college grads) nearly all of them (94 percent) marry before having their first child. This is not true for high school-only grads, with just 56 percent marrying before the birth of their first child.
  • And not only are high school-only grads more likely to have their children in cohabiting homes, but to also to raise them in this environment. This is of significant concern, given the profoundly higher levels of general volatility and instability in cohabiting homes.
  • Divorce rates among college grads have fallen to early-1970 levels in the last few years. Divorce has risen slightly for high-school grads.
  • Reports of college graduates being “very happy” in their marriages have remained stable at 69 percent since the 1970s. It has slipped a bit over this time frame for the moderately educated and dropped nearly 10 percent for those who’ve never graduated from high school.
  • A teen with a college-educated mother is just as likely to be living with both mother and father today as in 1970s (80 percent). This is not true for a teen living with a high school-only educated mother. While 74 percent of such teens lived with both mom and dad in the 1970s, now only 58 percent do.
Given how out-of-wedlock child-bearing, cohabitation and divorce are more likely to prevent adults and their children from advancing socio-economically - while intact marriages boost such advancement - this trend of declining marriage among the working-class should be of great concern to all who care about improving social mobility and living status.

Causes of the Blue-Collar Marriage Decline
While being blue-collar is an economic status, it is not merely economics driving this decline. Professors Wilcox and Cherlin remind us that “there was no dramatic increase in non-marital childbearing or cohabitation during the Great Depression, when millions of Americans experienced unemployment or underemployment.”

They explain that other factors are contributing to this working-class retreat from marriage:
  1. Dramatic changes in social norms surrounding sex and unmarried parenting.
  2. Non-college educated Americans tend to be less involved in religious participation, which is not so true for the college-educated.
  3. Changes in laws and attitudes that favor individual autonomy over social responsibility, as well as parenthood itself over marriage.
Wilcox and Cherlin show how all of these developments have happened more dynamically among the non-college educated than the college educated.
They conclude:
  • “Taken together, these economic and cultural shifts have made Middle Americans less likely to get and stay married. Indeed, one sign that moderately educated Americans’ faith in marriage is waning is that fully 43 percent of (them) … report that ‘marriage has not worked out for most people they know,’ compared to just 17 percent of highly-educated young adults.”4
When any class of citizens turns away from marriage, it is not liberating nor empowering.

1 W. Bradford Wilcox and Andrew J. Cherlin, “The Marginalization of Marriage in Middle America,” Center on Children and Families at Brookings, CCF Brief #46, August 2011, p. 2.
2 W. Bradford Wilcox, “When Marriage Disappears: The New Middle America,” a report from the National Marriage Project , University of Virginia, December 2010, p. ix.
3 Wilcox and Cherlin, 2011, p. 3.
4 Wilcox and Cherlin, 2011, p. 4. 

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

So you wanna be a church planter???

Ed Stetzer is at the top of the list of great minds in church planting (among many other things he's incredibly knowledgeable and well spoken on).  He recently gave a talk detailing what it takes to be a church planter & you can find that video below.
The Exchange June 2011 - Are You a Church Planter? from Ed Stetzer on Vimeo.

Guys I know who have planted churches in the last year or two:
Tony Rambo - The River Church
Dave Tilma - Ezra Church
Michael Behm - Real Life Church
Brad Kindall - Gallery Covenant Church
Ryan Lunceford - Advance Church
David Sorn - Renovation Church
Chris Wachter - Hiawatha Church
Michael Binder - Mill City Church

There's about 5 more, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment who else should be on this list.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pastors Divided on Performing Weddings

A new survey of 1,000 randomly selected American Protestant pastors by LifeWay Research, conducted in October 2010, shows pastors have widely differing standards for when they will and will not perform wedding ceremonies. Views were varied depending on those who classified themselves as mainline or evangelical.
In response to the questions:
“When asked to do so, will you perform a marriage ceremony for a couple whom you know is living together?”
  • 68 percent of mainline pastors and 57 percent of evangelicals say “yes.”
  • 24 percent of mainline pastors and 34 percent of evangelicals say “no.”
“When asked to do so, will you perform a marriage ceremony if the man or woman has been divorced?”
  • 41 percent of mainline pastors and 29 percent of evangelicals say, “Yes, regardless of the reason.”
  • 55 percent of mainline and 65 percent of evangelical pastors answered, “Yes, depending on the reason.”
  • Only two percent of mainline pastors and five percent of evangelical pastors answered, “No.”
A minister’s level of education also reveals differences in a pastor's willingness to perform marriage ceremonies for couples who are living together or divorced.
To view the article, go to LifeWay.com.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

New Bible App

A month ago, the world’s largest Audio Bible ministry, Faith Comes By Hearing, announced that their free app, Bible.is, contained 218 languages. Now, a month later, it stands at an astonishing 542 languages, which are accessible on the app and website — many with text and audio. The app lets you read and listen to God’s Word through your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. The ministry currently offers word-for-word Audio New Testaments in 565 languages, with a goal of having 2,000 such recordings by 2016. Current estimates show this will represent a potential outreach to 97% of the world’s population.

“The Scripture is crisp and clear for easy reading with simple audio controls,” said Troy Carl, Faith Comes By Hearing’s national director. “There’s also a 40-day listening program that guides you through the entire New Testament in just 28 minutes a day.”

The app also allows users to share a verse on Facebook, and bookmark, highlight and add notes — just as they might in the margins of their hard-copy Bibles. [Bible.is, CitizenLink.com]

Friday, August 12, 2011

Twenty-Year Study of Religious Trends

The Barna Group released over the past two weeks, a six-part study dealing with the state of the church in the United States. The report, which is based on 20 years of research, covers topics such as generational trends, gender differences, racial/ethnic differences and regional differences in expressions of faith.
Some of the more interesting findings in the study include:
  • The percentage of Baby Busters (born from 1965 through 1983) who are unchurched, rose to 39 percent (an increase of eight percentage points) since 1991.
  • The percentage of Busters who describe themselves as Christians increased by nine points to 80 percent.
  • A majority of women (56 percent) do not attend church services during a typical week, and 64 percent of men do not attend.
  • The Midwest is the region with the greatest degree of religious change since 1991, including a drop in church attendance from 55 percent to 40 percent.
  • Most Americans (about four out of five), consider themselves to be Christians, but only 47 percent of this group attend church services during a typical week.
To read all six parts of the State of the Church Series, 2011, go to Barna.org.

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
Initially, I think I missed some of the big picture from this book the first time through.  I had the chance to see David Platt speak a few months after reading it, which caused me to go back & give it a second look.  What I found there really resonated with me deeply the second time through.  So my first read would've given it a weak 4 of 5 star, it is now a solid 5 of 5 stars.

In short, Platt is calling us back to a biblical Christianity - living out our faith as it is instructed in the Bible, rather than based on our traditions and/or feelings.  A bit different than how Francis Chan has been doing this, but with a very similar spirit and common end goal I think.  Platt's is probably a bit more narrowly focused than Chan's vision in my opinion.  Both are needed.

Upon my first reading, I honestly chaffed a bit at what appeared to be Platt pushing some guilt on "America" for being prosperous.  My second time through, and after hearing him speak, it is clear that I was mistaken.  Platt's passion for the spread of the Gospel is challenging, inspirational, and infectious.  To live as Platt (and the Bible) calls us is indeed to be Radical.  That might mean some sacrifice on our part - but to God be the glory if we may be blessed with that opportunity.

Platt challenges the reader in Radical to step up in a big way in living out your faith.  He calls us to step forward boldly in partnering with the work of God to spread His Good News throughout the world.

God continues to open my eyes and heart to the needs of the world around me, and Radical is another challenging blessing to help me move forward.  I appreciate the holy discontent this book fosters in me.  I further appreciate how he resists creating a cookie cutter process of applying this to our own lives.  He stirs up the discontent creating the need, but then lets you find how to best meet that need in your own life/ministry.  Some might want it spelled out step by step for them, but I think it would've been a mistake for him to do so.

The final thing I want to mention that is worth noting is at the very least in reading this book, David Platt's passion for this subject is unmistakable.  His heart comes through on every page, and for me that makes it ever more so readable.  Passion is a highly underrated thing in writing a book, and in Radical he's managed to put it into words so that it might ignite something in everyone who reads it.  Well done!

I was given a free review copy of this book from Water Brook Multnomah Publishing Group, but am not paid to do the review in any way.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A view of fatherhood today

A new analysis from Pew using data from the stellar National Survey of Family Growth brings a small bit of good news on the fatherhood front, but also some very bad news.

The bad news: More children are living without the tremendous advantage of having daily access to their fathers in the home.

The good news: Of those who do have a father in their home, their dads are 2.5 times more likely to be closely involved in their children’s care than live-in fathers were in the 1960s.

But this is little consolation against the very dark cloud of fatherlessness — 21 percent of white fathers, 44 percent of black fathers, and 35 percent of Hispanic fathers live apart from their children. Twenty-seven percent of absent fathers say they have not seen their children even once in the past year.

And fatherlessness marks a distinct class divide, as 40 percent of fathers who never completed high school live apart from their children, while only 7 percent of fathers who graduated from college do.

While it is well known how important a father’s involvement is to healthy child development, a very interesting and lesser known finding comes from a 26-year longitudinal study which says that the strongest factor indicating whether children practiced high levels of empathic concern for others in their adult years was whether they had an involved father in their life. In fact, father care was a stronger indicator here than the three strongest maternal factors combined! The study explained, “These results appear to fit with previous findings indicating that pro-social behaviors such as altruism and generosity in children were related to active involvement in child care by fathers.”

Fathers matter in many unlikely ways. And when fewer children have less access to their fathers, that matters for the children, and it matters for all of us.

Go to A Tale of Two Fathers to view the study from Pew Research.

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)