Odd Christians

December 31, 2013

A. W. Tozer:

A real Christian is an odd number, anyway.

He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen;

talks familiarly everyday to someone he cannot see;

expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another;

empties himself in order to be full;

admits he is wrong so he can be declared right;

goes down in order to get up;

is strongest when he is weakest;

richest when he is poorest;

happiest when he feels the worst.

He dies so he can live;

forsakes in order to have;

gives away so he can keep;

sees the invisible;

hears the inaudible;

and knows that which passeth knowledge.

—A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1955), 156.

Divorce

December 28, 2013

A Summary and Questions to Ask on Divorce and Remarriage

The issue of divorce and remarriage is not only a painful reality, personally and pastorally, but is also a very difficult subject exegetically. I was helped several years ago by reading Jay Adams’ Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible. Even if you end up disagreeing with his conclusions, it’s a model of biblical and logical and pastoral reasoning.

I thought it might be helpful for some readers if I reproduced his summary and checklist:

Principles

A. Marriage

1. is a divinely ordained institution
2. is the first and most fundamental institution
3. is covenantal and binding
4. is a covenant of companionship
5. is the place for true intimacy
6. is to conform to the model of Christ and His church

B. Divorce

1. always stems from sin
2. is not necessarily sinful
3. always breaks a marriage
4. is never necessary among believers
5. is legitimate on the grounds of sexual sin
6. is legitimate when an unbeliever wishes to divorce a believer
7. is forgivable when sinful

C. Remarriage

1. in general, is desirable
2. is possible for a divorced person
3. is possible for a sinfully divorced person through forgiveness
4. is possible only when all biblical obligations have been met
5. is possible only when parties are prepared for marriage

Questions

1. Are all, one, or none of the parties Christians
2. Who wants the divorce?
3. On what grounds?
4. Does this party really want a divorce, or only a change in the situation?
5. Has 1 Corinthians 6 been violated?
6. Has sexual sin been present?
7. Is there acceptable evidence for such sin or only hearsay and/or supposition?
8. Has church discipline been applied? (Matt 18)
9. If so, what was the outcome?
10. Is there repentance/forgiveness?
11. Is reconciliation required?
12. Does an unbeliever want the marriage to continue?
13. Has a former spouse remarried another?
14. Did any church fail to handle a divorce/remarriage properly?
15. If so, how? And what must be done to set this straight?
16. Is the believer in a state where the church may declare him/her free from all obligations and,
therefore, free to remarry?
17. If not, what more needs to be done to bring about this condition?

-Justin Taylor

Bug Out

December 26, 2013

We’ve seen this before (Y2K), but it makes you think.

A top financial advisor, worried that Obamacare, the NSA spying scandal and spiraling national debt is increasing the chances for a fiscal and social disaster, is recommending that Americans prepare a “bug-out bag” that includes food, a gun and ammo to help them stay alive.

David John Marotta, a Wall Street expert and financial advisor and Forbes contributor, said in a note to investors, “Firearms are the last item on the list, but they are on the list. There are some terrible people in this world. And you are safer when your trusted neighbors have firearms.”

His memo is part of a series addressing the potential for a “financial apocalypse.” His view, however, is that the problems plaguing the country won’t result in armageddon. “There is the possibility of a precipitous decline, although a long and drawn out malaise is much more likely,” said the Charlottesville, Va.-based president of Marotta Wealth Management.

Marotta said that many clients fear an end-of-the-world scenario. He doesn’t agree with that outcome, but does with much of what has people worried.

“I, along with many other economists, agree with many of the concerns expressed in these dire warnings. The growing debt and deficit spending is a tax on those holding dollars. The devaluation in the U.S. dollar risks the dollar’s status as the reserve currency of the world. Obamacare was the worst legislation in the past 75 years. Socialism is on the rise and the NSA really is abrogating vast portions of the Constitution. I don’t disagree with their concerns,” he wrote.

In his latest note, he said that Americans should have a survival kit to take in case of a financial or natural disaster. It should be filled with items that will help them stay alive for the first 72-hours of a crisis, including firearms.

“A bug-out bag is a good idea depending on where you live even if the emergency is just power outages, earthquakes and hurricanes. And with your preparedness you will be equipped to help others who might be in need,” he wrote. “Be prepared. Especially because it keeps you from being scared.”

From Wash. Examiner

Remember and Pray

December 25, 2013

This Christmas, Remember Pastor Saeed. Remember the Persecuted Church

This is the second Christmas that Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen, will spend in an Iranian prison.

His only crime? His Christian faith.

Last Christmas, Pastor Saeed was locked away in Evin Prison – Iran’s brutal destination for political prisoners – where he was beaten and abused, suffering internal injuries.

This Christmas, he’s in an even worse prison, a prison overrun with murderers and rapists, where Pastor Saeed has already been threatened at knifepoint, and his life is in danger every day.

Inexcusably, he remains in prison even after the Obama administration made a “deal” with his captors. According to this “deal,” Iran keeps enriching uranium, Iran keeps its centrifuges (key equipment for building nuclear weapons), Iran gets billions in sanctions relief, and Iran gets “humanitarian transactions” from the United States.

Before this deal, Iran also received back one of its own, a nuclear scientist imprisoned in the United States.

His crime? Nuclear proliferation.

And what did America get in return? Certainly not its own citizen, in chains for the Gospel.

We pledged humanitarian aid for the Iranians. Where is Iran’s humanitarian gesture for America?

Earlier this month, Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, traveled from her Idaho home to once again testify before Congress on behalf of her husband. Alongside my son, ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow, she pleaded for the State Department not to leave Pastor Saeed behind, telling Congress:

I had anticipated that I would battle the Iranian government for my husband’s freedom. I never anticipated that I would also have to battle my own government and that the journey would become even much more difficult than it had been. My husband is suffering because he’s a Christian. He’s suffering because he’s an American. Yet his own government did not fight for him when his captors were across the table from them.

But as we remember Pastor Saeed, we can’t forget the plight of millions of Christians in the Middle East, nor can we forget that again and again the Obama administration has made deliberate choices that have increased their suffering.

In Egypt, after the administration’s naïve embrace of the “Arab Spring,” President Obama threw his weight behind the Muslim Brotherhood, even as it enacted a Shariah-based constitution and its enforcers killed Christian protestors.

He condemned the popular revolution that threw the Brotherhood out of power and continued to defend the Brotherhood even as they set fire to dozens of churches in reprisal.

In Syria, the president threw his weight behind an Al Qaeda-infested insurgency, trying to drag the United States into war on behalf of rebels who murdered priests and assaulted ancient Christian towns. Fortunately, the American people – left and right – spoke with one voice to prevent American bombs from helping Al Qaeda and harming Christians.

And now, the president throwing his weight behind an Iranian regime that has yet to provide any evidence that it’s dealing with America in good faith.

The president has to change course. After five years of failure in his dealings with jihadists, he has to realize that strength matters, and we can’t squander our considerable economic leverage without getting anything in return.

America and Iran are still at the bargaining table, and as they bargain, the world’s lone superpower must send Iran – and the entire Muslim world – two clear messages: America takes care of its own, and America will never support or abet the persecution of Christians.

If we don’t send those messages, if we remain on the course of appeasement and retreat, then more churches will burn, more Christians will suffer, and next Christmas Pastor Saeed will still be in prison, facing abuse and dangers that we can scarcely imagine.

It’s time to draw the line. No more deals, no more sanctions relief, until an American pastor is returned to his family.

Jay Sekulow

BAGHDAD (AP) — Militants in Iraq targeted Christians in three separate Christmas Day bombings in Baghdad, killing at least 37 people, officials said Wednesday.

In one attack, a car bomb went off near a church in the capital’s southern Dora neighborhood, killing at least 26 people and wounding 38, a police officer said.

Earlier, two bombs ripped through a nearby outdoor market simultaneously in the Christian section of Athorien, killing 11 people and wounding 21, the officer said.

The Iraq-based leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Sako, said the parked car bomb exploded after Christmas Mass and that none of the worshippers were hurt. Sako said he didn’t believe the church was the target.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but Iraq’s dwindling Christian community, which is estimated to number about 400,000 to 600,000 people, often has been targeted by al-Qaida and other insurgents who see the Christians as heretics.

Along with Christians, other targets include civilians in restaurants, cafes or crowded public areas, as well as Shiites and members of the Iraqi security forces, attacked in an attempt to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government and stir up Iraq’s already simmering sectarian tensions.

A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Wednesday’s bombings came amid a massive military operation in Iraq’s western desert as authorities try to hunt down insurgents who have stepped up attacks across Iraq in the past months, sending violence to levels not seen since 2008.

The Christmas Day attacks brought the total number of people killed so far this month in Iraq to 441. According to United Nations estimates, more than 8,000 people have been killed since the start of the year.

Screen Time=Bad News

December 25, 2013

No duh.

NEW YORK (AP) — Tablet computers are so easy to use that even a 3-year-old can master them.

And that has some pediatricians and other health experts worried.

Since navigating a tablet generally doesn’t require the ability to type or read, children as young as toddlers can quickly learn how to stream movies, scroll through family photos or play simple games.

That ease-of-use makes tablets -and smartphones- popular with busy parents who use them to pacify their kids during car rides, restaurant outings or while they’re at home trying to get dinner on the table. And many feel a little less guilty about it if they think there’s educational value to the apps and games their children use.

The devices are expected to rank among the top holiday gifts for children this year. Gadget makers such as Samsung have introduced tablets specifically designed for kids and many manufacturers of adult tablets now include parental controls. Those products are in addition to the slew of kiddie tablets produced by electronic toy makers such as LeapFrog, Vtech and Toys R Us.

But some experts note there’s no evidence that screen time – whether from a TV or tablet – provides any educational or developmental benefits for babies and toddlers. Yet it takes away from activities that do promote brain development, such as non-electronic toys and adult interaction.

They also say that too much screen time has been linked to behavior problems and delayed social development in older children.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, points out that iPads have only been on the market for a little over three years, which means tablet-related research is still in its infancy.

Christakis says educational games and apps have some value if they engage a child and prompt them to interact with the device, but cautioned that if all children do is watch videos on their tablets, then it’s just like watching TV, which has a limited ability to engage a child.

He also notes that parents need be mindful of whether tablet time is replacing more important activities such as sleeping, reading or interacting with adults. He says that while the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of screen time a day for kids over the age of two, he thinks one hour is plenty.

“The single most important thing for children is time with parents and caregivers,” he says. “Nothing is more important in terms of social development. If time with the tablet comes at the expense of that, that’s not good.”

Dr. Rahil Briggs, a pediatric psychologist at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center, says tablet usage needs to be limited for the youngest of children, because too much screen time can slow language development. And since there’s very little research out there so far, experts still don’t know exactly how much is too much, she says.

For older children, Briggs says too much tablet use can slow social development. She notes that the solitary nature of the activity means that kids aren’t using that time to learn how to make friends or pick up on social cues.

Some experts, however, believe tablets and smartphones possess unique educational benefits.

Jill Buban, dean of the School of Education at Post University in Waterbury Conn., says the more children absorb and understand technology before they start school, the more comfortable they’ll feel when they enter a classroom for the first time.

But she says even the best educational apps must be monitored by parents and limited. She recommends no more than 30 minutes of tablet usage at a time in light of the short attention spans of most young kids.

“There’s so much media out there and so much marketing,” she says. “It’s all about smart choices and research, whether it’s an app on a tablet or a TV show.”

Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says parents should be wary of any TV show or app that touts educational benefits for babies or toddlers, saying that scientists have yet to prove that there are any.

“Babies and young children are spending huge amounts of time with screen media when really what they need is hands-on creative play, active time and face-to face time with the people that love them,” Linn said.

Linn’s group, known for its allegations against “Baby Einstein” videos that eventually led to consumer refunds, is urging the Federal Trade Commission to examine the marketing practices of certain apps and games geared toward babies.

“The best toys are the ones that just lie there until the child transforms them,” Linn said pointing to blocks and stuffed animals as examples. “If all children do is push a button, that’s not the kind of play that promotes learning.”

Since its debut over 40 years ago, Sesame Street has dealt with questions about the amount of screen time small children should have.

Scott Chambers, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president for digital content, says the brand, which now includes 45 apps and 160 e-books, has gotten a huge boost from touch screen devices, which are much easier for preschoolers to handle than computer mice. That content can provide children with a much more customized and interactive educational experience than the show could hope to deliver, he says.

“It’s a balancing act, but all we can do is try to provide a good enriching media experience wherever parents and preschoolers may be,” Chambers says.

Chambers notes that some of Sesame’s apps encourage kids to put down their devices, pointing to Sesame’s new “Family Play” app. Instead of having a child interact directly with a phone or tablet, it gives parents ideas for ways to play together.

Adam Cohen, a stay-at-home father of two from New York, says apps have been a key part of his 5-year-old son Marc’s education since he was just a baby.

“He had an iPad at close to 18 months so he was definitely one of those babies swiping away in his stroller,” Cohen says. “Now it’s different, but back then we were a little ostracized. Now he’s reading at close to a second-grade reading level and I credit a lot of that to iPad apps.”

Marc now has his own iPad loaded with mostly educational content and his baby sister Harper, who isn’t yet one-year-old, seems frustrated that she doesn’t have one too, Cohen says.

Still, not every parent is keen on tablets and apps.

Lance Somerfeld, another stay-at-home dad from New York, says he thinks he and his wife are stricter than most parents. They don’t own a tablet and didn’t allow their 5-year-old son Jake to watch TV until he was nearly three. But Somerfeld says he does have an iPhone and lets Jake occasionally play with some of the apps.

“If I have an hour and a choice, I’d really rather spend it reading books with him,” Somerfeld says. “But he’s really engaged by the apps, so you could make the case that there needs to be a balance.”

It’s Not a Game…

December 14, 2013

If I post about parenting– but ignore my child’s needs…

If I tweet about marriage– but am too tired for intimacy…

If my Facebook status is for friendship– but I’m too busy for my friends…

If I text about service– but do not respond when my neighbor’s need is clear…

If I Pinterest-pin verses– but don’t actually read my Bible…

If I say “I will pray”– but forget to follow through…

If I speak about love– but fail to love in action…

If I– fail to love in daily-real-in-the-flesh-life?

Oh it’s not a game.
Let me live the walk I talk.

For little eyes are watching to see what truly captures my heart.

“…let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” ~1 John 3:18

Map of Religious Groups

December 12, 2013

We recently came across this map, based on the 2010 census data, of the largest religious groups in each county of the U.S.

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A few observations from the perspective of 2013:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka the Mormon Church, seems to have heeded Mark Twain’s advice: “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” In November the Mormon Church bought 2% of Florida.
The Bible Belt, comprised mostly of Southern Baptists, is on full display and informs the strong social conservative strain that runs through American politics.
Catholics barely beat out the Southern Baptists for the highest number of counties with the most adherents. Catholicism’s nationwide reach is reminiscent of widespread support of the Notre Dame football team:
“Millions of Catholics—whether Irish, Italian, German or Pole —lived vicariously through the wins and losses of Notre Dame’s football teams. For that vastly immigrant population Notre Dame football symbolized the triumphs of an ostracized people. It also reflected the ascendancy of U.S. Catholics into the nation’s mainstream.”
Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, and West Virgina appear to have the most diversity when it comes to dominant religious groups. On the other side is Vermont and New Hampshire, which are considered the Godless states.

Repeating History

December 5, 2013

We’re repeating history, and probably even on larger scale, similar to Rome or even Israel.

It is all but impossible to conceive of a more vivid example of the devastation wrought when a coalition of liberal Democrats and Big Labor bosses holds unchallenged sway for five decades over a beautiful, prosperous and growing American city like Detroit circa 1960. In that first year of the 1960s, Detroit was America’s fourth largest city and its 1.8 million residents enjoyed the highest per capita income in the country. Chrysler, Ford and General Motors dominated the automotive market, profits flooded their coffers and hundreds of thousands of workers enjoyed high pay and generous benefits.

And today? In a bracing five-part series published July 22-26, the Washington Examiner’s Sean Higgins described the city’s fall in these terms: “Detroit is now the most dangerous big city in America, according to FBI statistics, with a crime rate five times the national average. The city’s economy crumbled, too. Unemployment was 7.2 percent in 1970 but soared to 19.7 percent by 1990. Today it is a staggering 18.6 percent, far above the national rate of 7.6 percent. The city is nearly $20 billion in debt. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed an emergency manager in March. It may be decades before Detroit digs itself out of the financial pit into which it has fallen.”


More than anywhere else in America (with the possible exception of Chicago) Detroit has been a one-party union city.

Things are so bad in Detroit, according to National Review’s Mark Steyn, that “40 percent of its streetlamps don’t work; 210 of its 317 public parks have been permanently closed; it takes an hour for police to respond to a 9-1-1 call; only a third of its ambulances are drivable; one-third of the city has been abandoned; the local realtor offers houses on sale for a buck and still finds no takers.” This is Detroit, the city once described as “the arsenal of democracy” because its factories so quickly switched from making Fords to Flying Fortresses. The city that put the world on wheels and drove the American economy to previously unimagined prosperity.

The last time Detroit elected a Republican mayor was 1957. Only one Republican has made it to the city council since 1970. More than anywhere else in America (with the possible exception of Chicago) Detroit has been a one-party union city. Democratic politicians backed by the United Auto Workers and public employees unions have ruled virtually as they pleased. Along the way, many of the politicians ended up in jail on corruption charges and the bureaucrats made out with sweetheart deals on pensions and health benefits. Those sweetheart deals now account for most of the $20 billion in debt that put the city into bankruptcy.

There are too many disturbing parallels between Detroit and America. The national debt of $17 trillion gets a lot of attention, but the reality is the government’s actual debt, counting the unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare and federal employee and retiree benefits, exceeds $86 trillion, according to former congressmen Chris Cox and Bill Archer. As they say, things that can’t go on forever, won’t.

Hometown Hero

December 4, 2013

People like the “Babe” should be recognized more.

To the end, Edward James “Babe” Heffron insisted that he wasn’t a hero, that his service in World War II was simply part of an obligation to serve his country in a time of need.

But when fame followed him in the wake of Stephen Ambrose’s book “Band of Brothers” and its HBO miniseries, Heffron, who died Sunday at the age of 90 after a short battle with colon cancer, used it to praise the sacrifices made by countless men and women during America’s most trying times.

“He felt the heroes were the moms who sent their kids off and the guys who never came back.”
– Ed Zavrel, Heffron’s son-in-law

“He felt the heroes were the moms who sent their kids off and the guys who never came back,” Ed Zavrel, Heffron’s son-in-law, told FoxNews.com Tuesday night. “Babe didn’t consider himself a hero, just a guy who did his job.”

As a paratrooper in Company E, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Private Heffron joined Easy Company shortly after the Normandy invasion and participated in some of the war’s fiercest battles, including the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. He received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

After the war, Heffron returned to south Philadelphia, his hometown, where he found work at a whiskey distillery and later checked cargo on the Delaware River waterfront.

Like many veterans of his era, Heffron never spoke about the war, and if it wasn’t for Ambrose’s book, his family might never have learned about his service.

But after the book — which documents Easy Company’s harrowing engagements and prominently features several soldiers, including Heffron — was published in 1992, and especially after the miniseries aired in 2001, Heffron became something of an icon for a generation that went to war. He was featured in interviews for the miniseries (in which he was portrayed by Scottish actor Robin Laing) and participated in a 2008 USO tour to the Middle East.

Along with one of his comrades, William “Wild Bill” Guarnere, and journalist Robyn Post, Heffron also wrote a 2007 memoir called “Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends.”

Walking around Philadelphia in his airborne jacket and hat, Heffron would often be stopped by people thanking him for his service, Zavrel said. Heffron made regular appearances at local schools, where he would spend hours with children telling stories about the war and general “life lessons,” Zavrel added.

As news of Heffron’s passing spread early this week, many paused to offer their condolences.

Actor Tom Hanks, who co-executive produced the miniseries, posted a photo of the 101st Airborne’s “Screaming Eagle” patch on his WhoSay account.

“In honor and memory of Babe Heffron and Earl McClung,” said Hanks, the latter a sergeant who served alongside Heffron in Easy Company who passed away last month. “Farewell, Brothers. Hanx.”

Heffron is survived by his wife, Dolores Heffron, and their daughter, Patricia Zavrel. Funeral arrangements will be private, and some of Heffron’s former comrades were expected to attend.

The family is “holding up as well as can be expected,” an emotional Ed Zavrel said. But in following Heffron’s example, they’re intent on making sure “Babe” is properly honored.

“Babe didn’t want any fanfare,” Zavrel said. “He was never one for tears. He said you got to do what you got to do.”