Atheists and Pope Francis: Following in Jesus’ footsteps?

Posted by    |    April 17th, 2014 at 11:30 am

National Ask an Atheist Day at Penn State University, 2013 (Credit: Secular Student Alliance via Facebook) Tonight, Pope Francis will visit a home for the elderly and disabled in Rome.  There he will wash the feet of residents, all of whom are lay people.  Women and non-Christians may be in the group.  However, not everyone applauds the pope’s inclusivism, claiming that priests are required by Church law to wash only the feet of 12 men.  The pope doesn’t seem to care.  According to a Vatican spokesman, such rules can be a distraction from “the profound messages of the Gospels and of the Lord of the Church.”

I wonder what Pope Francis would think about the fact that today is “National Ask an Atheist Day.”  Organizers hope to provide “an opportunity for the general public—particularly people of faith—to approach us and ask questions about secular life.”  Ironically—or providentially—the annual event falls this year on Maundy Thursday.

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Denison Forum on Truth and Culture

Was Jesus married?

Posted by    |    April 16th, 2014 at 11:30 am

'Gospel of Jesus wife' written in Coptic on small papyrus fragment held by professor Karen L. King of Harvard (Credit: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary) An ancient papyrus fragment is creating quite a stir these days.  It was first made public two years ago by historian Karen L. King of Harvard University.  When, where, or how the fragment was discovered is unknown.  The owner insists on remaining anonymous.

It is only four by eight centimeters, smaller than a business card, comprised of eight lines written in black ink.  The fragment is clearly torn out of a larger document.  It was written in Coptic, an Egyptian language using Greek letters.  While some remain convinced that it is a recent forgery, analysts now report that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eight centuries and is likely that old.

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Boston bombing: dancer is a ‘survivor ‘ not a ‘victim’

Posted by    |    April 15th, 2014 at 11:30 am

Boston Strong (Credit: Dylan O'Dowd via Flickr) Adrianne Haslet-Davis lost her left foot in the bombings that devastated Boston a year ago.  The dancer has continued with her career, and plans to appear on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars.”  She will run the last mile of next week’s marathon, flanked by her twin brothers.

Since last year’s attacks, Haslet-Davis has become a public advocate for those affected by the attacks, asking that people refer to them as “survivors” rather than “victims.”  She is right: “victims” connotes a sense of powerlessness, while “survivors” withstand their ordeal and often become stronger as a result.

We will all need to be “survivors” as the clash with jihadist terrorism continues.  This fact was made clear to me today as I read Joseph Warrick’s frightening “Radical Islamic Terrorism.”  Warrick has spent nearly 30 years serving America in special operations forces and counterintelligence.  His latest essay surveys the most recent research on jihadist threats to the West and the world.

Warrick cites Marc Sageman, M.D., Ph.D., a former CIA Operations Officer who warns that al-Qaeda has inspired countless like-minded individuals such as the Boston Marathon bombers—men and women who are not part of any specific organization, but desire to commit acts of violence against us in the name of their radical ideology.  More jihadist organizations are recruiting “clean skins” such as the Tsarnaev brothers—people who are not from a country known for producing terrorists, have no ties to terrorist groups, and have unfettered access to targets in their home countries.

Since the bombing a year ago, Hezbollah has made significant inroads in Latin America, and is now working with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate American borders.  And Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistani organization, aspires to plant the flag of Islam in Washington, D.C.  Analysts consider it the greatest terrorist threat to America today.

Clearly, the Boston bombings are not likely to be the last attack of their kind against Americans.  But Adrianne Haslet-Davis is right: we must not see ourselves as the powerless victims of Islamic jihadists.  Jesus commissioned his church to attack the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18)—we are to “take the fight to the enemy,” spiritually.  We must match their zeal with our own, their sacrifice with our commitment.  As they plot attacks against us, we must pray fervently for the Spirit to transform them with the gospel.

Such spiritual initiative is working.  Believers in the Middle East say their region is experiencing an unprecedented number of Muslims converting to Christ.  Entire mosques in Africa are coming to Jesus.  Former sheikhs, imams and militant Islamists now make up 20 percent or more of new Christian leaders in Muslim regions.  Church growth in the Muslim world is accelerating much faster than in most of North America.  One missionary has learned to “expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results.”

On this Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus spoke God’s word to the religious authorities who sought his death.  Now he calls us to take the gospel to those who seek ours.  The best way I know to remember the Boston bombing is to pray for God’s Spirit to transform terrorists into missionaries.  Will you join me today?

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Don’t invite a friend to church for Easter

Posted by    |    April 14th, 2014 at 11:45 am

First Baptist Church of Chesapeake school bus used as part of their bus ministry to bring visitors and other church goers to church (Credit: First Baptist Church of Chesapeake) One in five Americans hasn’t yet decided if they will attend church services this Easter.  According to a recent survey, 41 percent say they are planning to attend, while 39 percent say they definitely will avoid church this Sunday.  But 20 percent are undecided.

There are 314 million people living in the United States.  Twenty percent is 62.8 million people.  Many in this demographic are far less religious than most who will read today’s Cultural Commentary.  It would seem obvious that we should invite them to church for Resurrection Sunday.

Here’s what works even better: bring someone with you.

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When your pastor fails: 5 biblical facts

Posted by    |    April 11th, 2014 at 11:45 am

Bob Coy, founder and pastor of Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, addresses the student body of Liberty University at Convocation, the largest weekly gathering of Christian students in North America, November 15, 2013 (Credit: Liberty University via YouTube) Bob Coy, the founding pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, continues to generate headlines.  He resigned last week from his position at the 20,000-member congregation after an unspecified “moral failing.”  Many members of his congregation are understandably hurt.  For them, and for all of us who have been wounded by a minister, I’d like to highlight five biblical facts.

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3 crucial ways to pray for the sick

Posted by    |    April 10th, 2014 at 11:45 am

The BatKid, Miles Scott, a five year-old leukemia survivor, throws out the first pitch at the San Francisco Giants' opening day game (Credit: Kari Van Horn via Twitter) Miles Scott has been called “the tiniest superhero in the world.”  The five-year-old has leukemia which is now in remission.  His dream of becoming Batman became a reality last year, when San Francisco and the Make-A-Wish Foundation staged a daylong celebration for him as “Batkid.”  He dressed as the superhero and spent the day fighting crime.  Now he’s appeared again, this time to throw out the first pitch for the Giants’ home opener.

Leukemia is one of more than 200 different types of cancer, which is the second-leading cause of death in America.  You probably know someone who is dealing with cancer or another life-threatening disease right now.  How should you pray for them?

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Muslim Brotherhood launches political party in America

Posted by    |    April 9th, 2014 at 11:45 am

American Muslim girl with US flag painted on her face (Credit: Mangagirl3535 via DeviantArt)The Muslim Brotherhood is launching a political party in America for the purpose of electing Muslims and influencing legislation that is favorable to Islam.  This development should come as no surprise: the number of mosques in the United States has escalated 74 percent since 2000.  The government of Turkey is building a $100 million mega mosque in Maryland.  There are now 66 mosques in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

According to a recent survey, 98 percent of mosque leaders say Muslims should be involved in American institutions, and 91 percent agree that Muslims should be involved in politics.  We should expect to see a growing number of Muslim candidates for office, and a growing number of Muslims who will support them financially.

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Should Christians watch Mixed Martial Arts?

Posted by    |    April 8th, 2014 at 11:45 am

A Documentary exploring the world of MMA Fighting and Christianity. Directed by Oscar Winner Daniel Junge & Bryan Storkel. (Credit: Fight Church Documentary/Bryan Storkel) “Can you love your neighbor as yourself and at the same time knee him in the face as hard as you can?”  This is one question raised by “Fight Church,” a new documentary on Christianity and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).  As the name implies, the sport pits contestants who combine boxing, wrestling, and other martial skills.  It is the fastest-growing sport in America, with as many as 65 million fans globally.

It is also a sport with significant Christian connections.  Many of MMA’s best-known figures are believers.  More and more churches are staging MMA events to attract non-Christians.  Some offer programs which combine MMA with biblical discipleship.  There’s even a clothing line called “Jesus Didn’t Tap” (to “tap” in the ring is to quit).

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Is lesbian-only cemetery wave of the future?

Posted by    |    April 7th, 2014 at 11:45 am

A stone statue of a woman leaning against a cross found in the Lutheran Georgen Parochial cemetery in central district Mitte of Berlin (Credit: Astra Nilsson via Flickr)The Lutheran Georgen Parochial cemetery was established in 1814 in central Berlin, Germany.  I’m guessing its founders would not have predicted the day when a section would be reserved as a graveyard for up to 80 lesbians.  This unique section is intended to be a place “where the lesbian community can live together in the afterlife.”  I need to point out that while we will all have an afterlife, it will not be in a cemetery.  And I wonder if/when we will see other such cemeteries around the world.

Is this announcement part of an even larger cultural trend?

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What the Fort Hood shooting teaches us

Posted by    |    April 3rd, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Sgt. First Class Erick Rodriguez stands guard before a news conference by Lt. Gen. Mark Milley at the entrance to Fort Hood Army Post in Texas April 2, 2014. (Credit: Reuters/Erich Schlegel) Fort Hood made global headlines in 2009 when Nidal Hasan killed 13 soldiers and wounded 31.  Now it’s back in the news for the same tragic reason.  An Iraq war veteran named Ivan Lopez opened fire on his fellow soldiers Wednesday around 4 P.M.  Three were killed and 16 wounded; when he was confronted, he killed himself.

While the Ft. Hood shooting captured headlines, other stories illustrate the same theme of innocent suffering.  According to police, someone duct taped razor blades to playground equipment at a park outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  A week ago, authorities in western Illinois found a dozen razor blades glued to playground equipment in a city park.

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