Scary “Prayer”

September 5, 2013

Hey, this could be progress. About time last year, the Democratic National Convention booed when the platform committee tried to backtrack and add a mention of God that had been earlier removed. In Iowa, at least Democrats have gone back to openly praying, but perhaps they should be hoping that God isn’t listening:

They made the unusual decision, for Democrats, to begin the event with a prayer. This was likely in response to a prayer vigil being conducted by pro-life activists at the same time nearby.

Des Moines activist Midge Slater took the podium and spent five and a half minutes thanking God for abortion rights, abortion doctors and taxpayer funding for abortions. She also referred to the decision to have an abortion as “a blessing”.

During the entire prayer, State Senator Jack Hatch and Rep. Tyler Olson, both of whom are running for governor, kept their heads bowed and eyes closed, joining in the group prayer.
The Iowa Republican transcribed a bit of the prayer, which goes on for quite a while:

“We give thanks, oh Lord, for the doctors, both current and future, who provide quality abortion care.”

“We pray for increased financial support for low-income women to access contraception, abortion and childcare.”

“Today, we pray for women in developing nations, that they may know the power of self-determination. May they have access to employment, education, birth control and abortion.”

“Today we pray for the families who have chosen. May they know the blessing of choice.”
Here’s my favorite part, very obviously aimed at the pro-life demonstrators:

“We pray for women who have been made afraid by their paternalistic religion.”
Afraid? For feminists, they don’t seem to have much faith in women to decide for themselves whether to live as Christians and follow its tenets without fear forcing them into it. However, based on this prayer for blessings on abortions and the demand to spread it worldwide, I’d guess that they’re less interested in faith than they are in their own political agendas anyway.


September 5, 2013

At a physician’s roundtable years ago, I asked Senator Orrin Hatch why I couldn’t punch out of Social Security, happy to leave all that I had paid “into the system” on the table. Why couldn’t anyone, I asked, willing to leave behind all they had paid in, be allowed to walk away from these entitlements, as long as they were willing to forgo a future claim to these “benefits?”
He wouldn’t answer me. The answer is obvious, though, isn’t it? Without the current “contributions” of the young (and yes, draws on the credit line of the unborn), the current beneficiaries would discover that these programs were bankrupt.
Virtually all of the legislators that brought us Medicare are dead and gone now. All of the legislators who brought us Social Security are dead and gone. This is no coincidence, for these men realized that it was politically much more popular to give away government goodies paid for by the young and unborn than to tax the very same people who were to “benefit” from their “ideas” and “programs.”
Dead now, these criminal politicians have largely escaped the harsh judgment they deserve for buying votes with property that would belong to future generations. Currency depreciation (“inflation”-the current political class’s favorite way to rob the young for the benefit of their current constituents) has the same effect on future generations.
This is the essence of a Ponzi scheme. That is a fraudulent investment scheme that pays investors not out of profits but out of money paid in by later investors.
If you think about it, all government programs are Ponzi schemes. It is becoming increasingly clear that the same can be said about the [Un]Affordable Care Act. I call it the UCA, instead of the ACA.
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UCA can’t let young people out for the same reason that Social Security can’t. Young workers aren’t paying or saving for their own benefits, but for older, sicker people.
UCA rules force insurers to charge them more than they actually cost to help offset the higher cost of insuring older and sicker people. If the young don’t sign up, premiums for everyone in the insurance pool will dramatically increase, as will the cost to the government.
People generally don’t volunteer to be overcharged so that strangers can be undercharged. Hence the individual mandate, and tax penalties.
Young adults are beginning to see the reality as the UCA takes shape, and understand how they wind up losing from every angle. Hence the $600 million advertising campaign and multimillion-dollar Navigator program to steer people into the program as quickly as possible. UCA promoters know how hard it is to take away an entitlement once people are trapped in it.
The idea is to entice people with subsidies so they won’t notice how outrageous the premiums are. When enough are lured away from private insurance-the “crowding out” effect shown so well with the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)-private insurance will collapse. Like Medicare beneficiaries now, all Americans will be without options for major medical insurance.
The success of the UCA hinges on the successful fleecing of the young people. This is the same immoral basis for Medicare and Social Security, “programs” that are still alive because participation in these Ponzi schemes is involuntary. With Bernie Madoff, at least people could take their lumps, having learned their lesson and move on. They didn’t have to continue to give him money after they learned what he was up to.
I am optimistic that today’s young people will reject the shackles that many of their elders have embraced.

-Keith Smith, MD

Billy and Bono

September 1, 2013

Last week, a clip from CNN featuring Billy Corgan made the rounds in the blogosphere, especially amongst Christians. There comes a point, says Corgan when you have to leave your youthful angst aside and mature into more interesting topics like God. He calls God the “third rail” of rock and roll – the untouchable subject (like religion is the third rail of politics), tells Christian musicians to stop copying U2, and says “Jesus wants better bands.”

His comments are interesting, if not wholly original. Many have lamented the monolithic culture and sound of Christian music – especially praise music, with it’s formula of four chords, chimey delayed guitars, and anthemic choruses. In a consumer culture, people stick with what works, and ever since the rise of Delirious, Matt Redman, and Chris Tomlin around the turn of the century, that sound has been the template for contemporary worship music.

There may be some very practical reasons for this, though. For one thing, U2’s sound (and its imitators) thrive on a certain kind of simplicity. The Edge’s guitar playing (especially on records like “The Joshua Tree” and “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”, which provide the template for the aforementioned sound) is the amalgam of well-employed technology, a minimalist and punk-influenced aesthetic, and a compositional approach to guitar playing that is 100% in service to the song. In fact, one could say that of the bass and drums as well.

I think this is one reason it’s come to be imitated by praise bands; it’s not a technically demanding style of music to play. That doesn’t mean it’s inferior, though. As Miles Davis supposedly once said, the most important notes are the ones you don’t play. Minimalism is difficult to pull off, and it only works in ways that are enduring when it’s married to truly great songs. While “The Joshua Tree” endures as a great record twenty years later, most praise choruses have an expiration date of a few years. We sing them every Sunday until someone rolls their eyes and says, “This one again?” And then they disappear.

We should ask: has this sound become the template because musicianship is a lost art? Are we playing this music because we don’t know how to play anything else? While Delirious (one of the bands that established the template) certainly had roots in U2’s sound, they also had roots in other sounds. They were at times reminiscent of The Police, Queen, and Radiohead. They were great musicians, and could stylistically dabble in many directions, resulting in a catalog of albums that (sonically, anyway) are diverse and interesting. Many of their songs were musically demanding, requiring a band to know more than four chords and requiring guitar players to be able to play melodies think musically. (Those songs rarely became their hits, though.)

And they’re far from alone. While I think Corgan’s critique rings true at a certain level, at another, it rings very false. He has obviously not heard people like Gungor, Mars Hill Music, Indelible Grace, and many others who venture into other sonic territory. The U2 sound might rule the radio waves, and might have a strong foundation in the CCLI Top 10, but it isn’t the only game in town.

I’ll add one more observation here, from a more personal perspective. At Sojourn, we’ve experimented with a variety of sounds and styles over the years. One Sunday you attend, you might hear Bluegrass music, the next, you might hear indie rock, and the next, it might be Americana. U2 has certainly influenced us too.

But one thing I’ve noticed often – especially from those who are outside of our church – is that any song that doesn’t fit the template is immediately dismissed. “It’s not congregational,” they often say. In fact, whole albums I’ve released have been blasted with that comment.

Since we’re talking U2 here anyway, I think most of us would agree that U2’s melodies aren’t congregational at all. We don’t all have Bono’s range and passion. But you know who sings them? Everyone at a U2 concert. In unison. At the top of their lungs. (I’ve talked about this elsewhere here at TGC.) The same can be said of some of the melodies of the CCM songs that are imitators. The range is too wide. The melody too bizarre. And yet, congregations sing them robustly because they love the song and they love what it invites them to sing about.

I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve recorded some songs at Sojourn Music that aren’t congregational; that’s part of the journey of writing indigenous music with a community of young, developing church musicians. But I think as often as not, the dismissal of our songs has nothing at all to do with the singability of the melody, and everything to do with the genre of music itself. We’ve come to expect certain sounds that define worship for us, and when we don’t get that british pop sound we say, “Oh yeah, that’s not congregational at all.”

To those critics, I often just want to say, “Really? Come to my church. You’ll be surprised what you hear. People sing!” I know folks at Mars Hill and RUF (singing Indelible Grace tunes) would say the same thing.

Many musicians and artists are working well outside the template that Corgan mocked on CNN. But they work against a reality that demands that sound. It has become it’s own 21st century traditionalism.


Fb Warning Label

August 26, 2013

Facebook has been linked, in numerous clinical trials both here and around the world, to feelings of intense envy, dissatisfaction with life, insomnia, major depression, disrupted friendships and feelings of isolation — especially in young people.

Facebook may well be addictive, as well—just like tobacco.

Facebook has been linked to feelings of intense envy, dissatisfaction with life, insomnia, major depression, disrupted friendships and feelings of isolation—especially in young people.
Many young people have told me, in my practice of psychiatry, that they want to stop using Facebook and feel it negatively impacts their lives, but “just can’t stop.” My colleagues tell me they are hearing the same thing from their patients.

The number of people at risk for psychological damage from Facebook is in the hundreds of millions, in North America alone (with hundreds of millions more at risk, around the globe). And, I would argue, there is now plenty of evidence that people should be warned by the nation’s most prominent public health official that, “Academic research studies have determined that using Facebook may be dangerous to your health and may cause serious psychiatric symptoms.” In the alternate, a warning could state, “Academic Research Suggests Facebook Use Is Addictive and May Cause Psychiatric Disorders.”

Placing such a warning on Facebook would be a first, serious step by the U.S. government to alert the public to known hazards of Facebook use, and over-use. It would also set the stage for putting Facebook on notice that they cannot ignore the growing number of studies that link their product to more than one illness.

I have written before that class action lawyers are, no doubt, eyeing Facebook for its liability in causing or deepening psychiatric disorders in, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of cases.

The only reason the Surgeon General would fail to act would be if he considers psychiatric/psychological disorders to not be as serious as physical ones. Because if it were seriously suspected — and backed up by studies around the world — that swimming pools were causing diabetes or hypertension in hundreds of thousands of Americans, you can bet there would be posters required to warn folks of the possible danger.

Certainly, the National Institute of Mental Health should launch a very large scale trial of the impact of Facebook on adolescents and teenagers, to start with. But there is no reason to wait for that more expanded data to flow in.

Facebook endangers users’ psychological well-being. I believe the company knows this — or should know it — and bear liability for any harm done users from use/overuse of the drug they are selling, from today, forward. And, I believe the Surgeon General knows it, too. Now, he should make sure all Americans are put on notice.

Dr. Keith Ablow


August 14, 2013

I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.
Psalm 101:2–3

“We Americans recently passed one of those cultural milestones we’ve been slouching toward for years: We now have more television sets in our homes than people.

Nielsen Media Research found that about half of us now have three or more TVs, with a sizable number boasting as many as seven or eight. And, believe it or not, 25 percent of two-year-olds have a TV in their room.”

Let’s remove this distraction from our homes, our lives.


Job, Career, Calling

August 12, 2013

Should You Look for a Job You’re Passionate about?

Probably not, says one business writer. But if you stay long enough, you should be able to love the job you have.

In an article for, Jeff Haden maintains that too often we are told to “find work we are passionate about,” without stopping to consider if we have relevant passions. Haden–building on the insights of Cal Newport, Georgetown professor and author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Search for Work You Love–argues that most often our passions are better suited as hobbies, and hobbies aren’t generally the things will pay us to accomplish. So the typical advice “to follow your dreams” leads a lot of well-intentioned adventurers into one dead end after another.

Does this mean we are destined to muddle through life, hating what we do for a living? Not all. According to Haden and Newport, the best way to be passionate about what we do is to get really good at what we do.

Roughly speaking, work can be broken down into a job, a career, or a calling. A job pays the bills; a career is a path towards increasingly better work; a calling is work that is an important part of your life and a vital part of your identity. (Clearly most people want their work to be a calling.)

According to research, what is the strongest predictor of a person seeing her work as a calling?

The number of years spent on the job. The more experience you have the more likely you are to love your work.

Why? The more experience you have the better your skills and the greater your satisfaction in having those skills. The more experience you have the more you can see how your work has benefited others. And you’ve had more time to develop strong professional and even personal relationships with some of your employees, vendors, and customers.

Where business success is concerned, passion is almost always the result of time and effort. It’s not a prerequisite.

Obviously, some people are blessed to have a passion, get a job that fulfills that passion, and keep on enjoying that job for a long time (I count myself among those so blessed). But for most people, passion is something we grow into (and my passion for ministry has grown the longer I’ve been in it). Passion is, in large part, the product of positive feedback over time after longevity, hard work, and improvement. Which is why working right often trumps finding the right work.

Want to love what you do? Pick something interesting. Pick something financially viable–something people will pay you to do or provide.

Then work hard. Improve your skills, whether at managing, selling, creating, implementing–whatever skills your business requires. Use the satisfaction and fulfillment of small victories as motivation to keep working hard.

And as you build your company, stay focused on creating a business that will eventually provide you with a sense of respect, autonomy, and impact.

“Don’t focus on the value your work offers you,” Newport says. “That’s the passion mindset. Instead focus on the value you produce through your work: how your actions are important, how you’re good at what you do, and how you’re connected to other people.”

When you do, the passion will follow–and if you work hard enough, someday you’ll be so good they can’t ignore you.

Christians will want to round out this advice with biblical principles about working as unto the Lord and being God’s image bearers in the world. But as a general piece of sanctified common sense, the article is on to something. Try something, work hard, get better, make a contribution–you may just find that you’ve found your passion after all.

Thanks to Dan Lohrmann, Michigan’s Chief Security Officer and one of our elders, for passing along this article.


Where’s the Media?

August 8, 2013

A viral video showing the beating of a 13-year-old white boy by three African-American youths in Florida has left hundreds of thousands of viewers horrified, but critics say the case doesn’t seem to be attracting much sympathy from self-styled civil rights activists.

In the chilling video, three 15-year-old boys repeatedly beat and kick a victim police said was left with a broken arm and two black eyes.

Although Florida came under fire in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting and George Zimmerman’s acquittal by activists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson – who called it an “apartheid state” – neither has spoken publicly about the bus incident. But one reason the case has not become as racially charged as other attacks may be that many news outlets have either not shown the first few seconds, before the victim goes down behind a seat, and others blur out his face to the point his race is no longer apparent.

The bus driver, 64-year-old John Moody, can be heard frantically calling a radio dispatcher for help, although he was criticized in some quarters for not physically intervening.

“No, you’ve got to get somebody here quick, quick, quick,” Moody pleads on his phone as the assailants take turns landing windmill punches and vicious kicks on the cowering victim. “They about to beat this boy to death over here.”

“They about to beat this boy to death over here.”
– Florida bus driver John Moody

The attack took place July 9 in the St. Petersburg-area community of Gulfport. But the horrific cell phone and surveillance video only came out only recently. Police say the three youths, all African-American, attacked the boy after he told officials at their dropout prevention school that one of them had tried to sell him marijuana.

Most of the focus has so far been on Moody, who retired two weeks after the incident. Moody went on CNN earlier this week to defend himself.

“Me jumping in the middle of that fight with three boys, it would have been more dangerous for other students on the bus for as myself,” he told Morgan. “There’s just no telling what might have happened.”

Moody stopped the bus, and police said the suspects used the emergency exit of the bus to escape. Joshua Reddin, Julian McKnight, and Lloyd Khemradj, all 15 years old, were arrested a short time later. All three were charged with aggravated battery and have since been released. Reddin is also charged with unarmed robbery.

Pinellas County school policy does not require a driver to intervene and prosecutors have said Moody will not face charges, but Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent told WFLA that Moody should have stepped in.

“There was clearly an opportunity for him to intervene and or check on the welfare of the children or the child in this case, and he didn’t make any effort to do so,” Vincent said.

Read more:

Double Standards

August 3, 2013

Why does one get punished and the other doesn’t? I want an explanation. I want an apology. (Read both articles)


In an interview with the Daily Beast published Friday, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) suggested Tea Partiers are the “same group” who fought for segregation during the Civil Rights movement.

RELATED: The GOP and the Albatross of White Racial Panic

“It is the same group we faced in the South with those white crackers and the dogs and the police. They didn’t care about how they looked,” Rangel said.

Because of this, Rangel said the Tea Party could be defeated using the same tactics employed against Jim Crow.

“It was just fierce indifference to human life that caused America to say enough is enough. ‘I don’t want to see it and I am not a part of it.’ What the hell! If you have to bomb little kids and send dogs out against human beings, give me a break,” said Rangel.


The Eagles fined Cooper an undisclosed amount for his use of the N-word at a Kenny Chesney concert in June. The receiver said Wednesday the fine was substantial.

Although Cooper was drinking alcohol when he used the slur, he is not being treated for alcohol use, league sources told ESPN’s Ed Werder. In addition, Cooper is expecting to eventually return to the Eagles, who are paying him during his absence and have dedicated a roster spot to him.

“There’s never been any question of cutting Riley,” coach Chip Kelly said Friday. “We talked on Day 1 when we met with Riley, [owner] Jeffrey [Lurie] and myself, Riley was in full agreement that he needed to get some assistance in this situation. It took us about 24 to 36 hours to kind of put a plan in place. It was really important, I thought, for Riley to be with us yesterday.

“We just didn’t want him sitting at home so, he was here with the team, and when we finally got plans in place, I met with him again this morning. He’ll be gone. I don’t have an exact timetable. That will get figured out, but his status with us is not in question.”

The mayor of Philadelphia, Michael A. Nutter, released a statement to ESPN in which he was highly critical of Cooper and Eagles management, saying in part, “As the Mayor of this City and an African-American man, I find the remarks made by Riley Cooper repugnant, insensitive and ignorant, and all of us, regardless of race or nationality, should be offended by these comments.

“In a year when we celebrated the great achievements of Jackie Robinson in the movie “42”, it is truly saddening that racial epithets are still being hurled like baseballs, or by a football player, at the human dignity of African-Americans and others. This incident is a disgrace, and cannot be excused by just paying a fine, as if it were a parking ticket.”

Media Outlets are Evil

July 15, 2013

The media outlets are evil, and here is a prime example:

Last night’s not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial will enable the neighborhood-watch volunteer to resume his case against NBC News for the mis-editing of his widely distributed call to police. Back in December, Zimmerman sued NBC Universal Media for defamation over the botched editing, which depicted him as a hardened racial profiler.

George Zimmerman (R) talks to defense counsel Don West during his trial on Saturday. (EPA/JOE BURBANK / POOL)

Here’s how NBC News, in a March 27, 2012, broadcast of the “Today” show, abridged the tape of Zimmerman’s comments to a police dispatcher on the evening of Feb. 26, 2012:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

The full tape went like this:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about. Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.

NBC Universal Media responded to the Zimmerman complaint by noting that other media outlets played up the racial angle of Zimmerman’s deadly encounter with Trayvon Martin.

The company also noted the pivotal nature of the second-degree murder case: “[I]f Zimmerman is convicted, that fact alone will constitute substantial evidence that the destruction of his reputation is the result of his own criminal conduct, and not of the broadcasts at issue which, like countless other news reports disseminated by media entities throughout the country, reported on the underlying events.”

That formulation is now null.

According to Zimmerman attorney James Beasley, the case against NBC News was stayed pending the outcome of the criminal case. Now that’s out of the way, and Beasley is ready to proceed. “We’re going to start in earnest asap, we just have to get the stay lifted which is a ministerial act,” says Beasley, a Philadelphia lawyer, via e-mail.

When asked how the not-guilty verdict affects the civil case against NBC News, Beasley responded, “This verdict of not guilty is just that, and shows that at least this jury didn’t believe that George was a racist, profiling, or anything that the press accused George of being. That probably doesn’t get you that much but it’s simply time for us to start the case and hold accountable anyone who was irresponsible in their journalism.”

Bliss Spillar is assistant to the lead pastor at Portico Church in Charlottesville. He blogs at

When we think about the book of Acts, we usually think about the beginning of the church, the miracles performed by the Apostles, the work of the Holy Spirit, the conversion of Paul, and so on.

Too often, we overlook a wonderful thread that weaves its way throughout the entire book. The early church was made up of Christians that were dedicated not only to the gospel, to community, to mission but also to prayer (Acts 1:24, 2:42, 4:24-31 6:6, 16:25, 20:36 and many more).

It is easy to neglect praying for our cities I believe for three reasons.

First, if we were to be honest, many of us believe that the “heavy lifting” of ministering to our city comes in the form of our Sunday gatherings, community groups, missional events, etc. While these things are necessary, when it comes to prayer we are often times (as Jeff Vanderstelt puts it) “functional atheists.”

Secondly, we forget how important prayer is to God. In Jeremiah, God instructs the prophet,

“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf…” (Jer. 29:7).

Jesus in the Gospels commands the disciples,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38).

From beginning to end, the call to pray is commanded in scripture and not something to be abandoned.

Finally, we are a prideful people. I am often reminding myself that I am a workman in a field that does not belong to me, using tools that do not belong to me, reaping a harvest that does not belong to me, and working for a glory that does not belong to me (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). By His grace, making prayer for my city a priority has allowed the Spirit to remind me that God alone saves and God alone deserves glory for redemption.

During a sermon on 1 Peter 2:7, Charles Spurgeon made the statement, “Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor.”

A disciple of Christ is a life on mission, one that I believe is marked deeply by prayer for the people God has sent them to. Our states, our cities, our neighborhoods desperately need the life-giving renewal and redemption that flow from Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

Praying for the mission of God in our cities is one of the beautiful ways we join God in His renewal and redemption of our city. Let us be people who are marked not just by lives on mission in the everyday, but people who intercede daily and earnestly on behalf of our cities.

Below I have listed out prayers that we have recently been utilizing to pray for our city. My prayer even now, is that the Lord would use these to glorify Himself in the redemption and renewal of your city.

Sunday – That the Gospel would be boldly and unashamedly proclaimed in our local churches. That our churches would be places for the broken, unwanted and hurting. That Christ will be offered as the only remedy for the very thing we cannot do, make our selves better or save ourselves.

Monday – Pray that Romans 8:35-39 would become a reality. Pray for yourself, for your family, for your pastors, for your church. That our hope would be found in Christ and in Christ alone and that his hope would produce Gospel boldness in our lives.

Tuesday – Pray Matthew 6:10 over your city. Spend this day replacing the word “earth” with the name of your city… for me it is “In Charlottesville as it is in heaven”.

Wednesday – Pray that the Spirit would weed out the sin in your life that has kept you from living a life on mission. That He would open up opportunities for you to be present and intentional with the gospel in your neighborhood. Pray for your neighbors by name.

Thursday – Pray boldly Psalms 33:8 over your city. The the people would stand in awe before Him.

Friday – Pray Habakkuk 3:2 over your city. That the Lord’s love, wrath, justice and mercy would be made known in the City.

Saturday: Pray that the Lord would increase our burden for our city. That our love and growth in the Gospel would produce a desire to see others saved, and grow in their love and understanding of who God is, what He has done and what He is doing.

Trevin Wax