BP_blog

Signs and Wonders

ID-100281874Corporate Hypocrisy. PayPal has pulled out of North Carolina because the state has put in place a common-sense law, H.B. 2, to protect children from sexual predators. More than a dozen other companies have threatened to leave North Carolina, though so far none of them have actually done so. The Daily Signal took a close look at the companies that have been critical of North Carolina, and discovered some interesting information: Many of the companies that have criticized North Carolina for its law preventing men from using women’s bathrooms do business in countries where homosexuality is illegal, sometimes punishable by death, yet these companies have been silent there. PayPal, for example, does business in Saudia Arabia, Yemen, and Somalia—where homosexuality can bring the death penalty. Nigeria is also an important market, in part because it is the largest country in Africa, with more than 100 million people. But in this country with a 50 percent Muslim population, homosexual conduct is punished by caning and imprisonment. Unilever, Microsoft, and Time Warner are among a dozen or so companies speaking out against North Carolina while still doing business with some of the most oppressive regimes on the planet.
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Semper Quaerens

Kimberly-GenauNot long ago Kimberly Genau of Gaithersburg, Maryland, saw a need and answered it: a ministry for members of Congress and their spouses. As Kimberly points out on the Alabaster House website, "Most of our leaders have substantial workloads, coupled with significant time away from family and home. This creates great strain on their lives emotionally, spiritually, and physically." Alabaster House was created to address these needs.

I recently sat down with Kimberly to find out more about this new bipartisan ministry.

Anne: How does Alabaster House work?

Kimberly: Alabaster House provides spiritual resources to government leaders and their families through confidential prayer, biblical devotions, and friendship. As you know, the higher in leadership one ascends, the [more] opportunities are diminished for leaders to genuinely share their prayer requests. The last thing these leaders need is a gossip article in the newspaper. Many people interacting with leaders have an agenda and there are fewer opportunities where government leaders can trust. Alabaster House is a safe place for leaders to be encouraged in their faith.
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Internally Displaced Person

the_new_pilgrimsIn 2 Kings 6, the prophet Elisha has become the object of the king of Syria’s ire. The king has sent “horses and chariots and a great army” to rid himself of the man of God. When Elisha’s servant sees the host arrayed against his master, he understandably freaks out and cries, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” to which Elisha replies, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

I suspect that the look on the servant’s face told Elisha everything he needed to know because he then prayed, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” Then his servant saw what Elisha saw: “The mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” The Syrians never stood a chance.
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Signs and Wonders

ID-100143745SAGE Cons. Back in the ’70s, it was the Moral Majority and the “born again vote.” Then they were called the “Religious Right.” Then evangelicals. Today, it’s SAGE Cons. “SAGE Con” is an acrostic for “Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives.” It’s a designation popularized by pollster George Barna to describe evangelicals who actually believe what evangelicals are supposed to believe—and who vote. “One of the worst ways to find out who is evangelical is to ask them if they are evangelical,” Barna told me at a meeting of conservative activists in Dallas this week. Barna instead took the assertions in the statement of faith of the National Association of Evangelicals and asked people those questions. He found that if you ask Americans whether they self-identify as evangelical, between 25 and 40 percent will do so. But if you ask them if they believe Jesus is God, or if there is a real devil and a real hell, the numbers fall off dramatically. Barna says fewer than 10 percent of Americans believe these core tenets of evangelical theology. That’s why he and other evangelical activists are using the SAGE Con designation more and more. And in case you’re wondering, SAGE Cons think Donald Trump would be a mistake. In a survey conducted by Barna, almost half said they would be “disgusted” if Trump was the GOP nominee. The most common adjectives they used to describe Trump were “arrogant” (77 percent) and “rude” (61 percent). Only 1 percent described Trump as having a “godly character.”

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Signs and Wonders

ID-100173637Didn’t See That Coming. People “of a certain age” often speak disparagingly of younger generations: They are slackers. They are addicted to television (or their smart phones, or whatever). But whatever else you want to say about the younger generation, you can’t say they don’t read. Millennials in the United States read more books than do people over the age of 30, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Pew surveyed more than 6,000 U.S. adults. About 88 percent under the age of 30 said they read a book in the past year; only 79 percent of those over the age of 30 had.

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Priorities

51vdsGwFoZL._SX326_BO1204203200_Responding to Islamist terror attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, and Brussels, many observers continue to believe that the religion of Muhammad needs a reformation. Nabeel Qureshi has bad news for them.

“What they may not realize is that radical Islam is the Islamic reformation,” Qureshi writes in “Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward” (Zondervan, 2016). “Just as the Protestant Reformation was an attempt to raze centuries of Catholic tradition and return to the canonical texts, so radical Islam is an attempt to raze centuries of traditions of various schools of Islamic thought and return to the canonical texts of the Quran and Muhammad’s life.”
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Radical Life

American_Idol_logoWhen actress Natalie Portman was asked in an interview about where she displays her Oscar, she replied, "I don't know where it is. I think it's in the safe or something. I don't know. I haven't seen it in a while. . . . I was reading the story of Abraham to my child and talking about, like, not worshipping false idols. And this is literally like gold men. This is lit­er­ally worshipping gold idols—if you worship it. That's why it's not displayed on the wall. It's a false idol."

Idolatry? Please. This is 21st-century America here. To apply the word “idolatry” to components of the modern American Dream seems anachronistic and naïve.

But is it really?
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Internally Displaced Person

ThinkstockPhotos-484040802That’s the title of a recent blog post by the Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld. It’s presumably a reference to the saying “whom the gods would destroy, first they make mad,” which is attributed to Euripides but whose exact provenance is unknown. The object of the gods’ ill intent is, in van Creveld’s telling, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and, with it, the existence of the Jewish State.

The occasion of the piece is the killing of a wounded Palestinian terrorist by an Israeli soldier. To Israel’s credit, the shooting has, in van Creveld’s words, “sent the country into a turmoil.” Some people have decried the shooting, while others “lionized the soldier and accused the [IDF’s] chief of staff of failing to back his troops.” Whatever happens to the soldier, “the fallout from the case is splitting Israeli society from top to bottom.”

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Signs and Wonders

ThinkstockPhotos-184220993Global Warming? Bring It On. Others can argue about global warming: Is it happening or isn’t it? Is human activity causing it or is it just a part of Planet Earth’s normal, cyclical heating and cooling process? The folks in Nome, Alaska, have all the evidence they need that it’s happening, but they aren’t complaining; they’re adapting and hope to profit from it. Bering Sea warming is making the north and west coasts of Alaska ice-free for longer periods each year, but there are no deep-water ports there. Nome hopes to fix that. This historic mining town with about 4,000 people is preparing to build a deep-water port that can handle the extra traffic already plying the nearby waters. A deep-water port in this part of the world will enhance emergency response in this part of the world, but it could also be a destination for cruise ships that want to give tourists a taste of true Alaska living. So far, the plan is just that: a plan. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a study for public comment as an early step in the process.
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Internally Displaced Person

Featured_Atlanta_Problem_2To the surprise of no one, Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia vetoed House Bill 757, a.k.a The Free Exercise Protection Act, saying that “We do not need to discriminate against anyone in order to protect the faith-based community in Georgia.”

As the saying goes, I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the gentleman from the great state of Louisiana, and the people he quotes—with the caveat that what prompted the original Religious Freedom Restoration Act wasn’t, as Ryan Anderson puts it, “our contemporary over-active progressive government,” but things like anti-drug laws and prison wardens valuing good order in prisons over the free exercise of religion.

But I quibble. Rod Dreher is correct when he says that “We have to fight as hard as we can to hold what little ground might be available to us, but orthodox Christians and other religious conservatives must face the fact that we are in trouble.” Actually, we’re in more trouble than this implies. That’s because of the way questions of religious freedom have historically been determined in this country.

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Signs and Wonders

ID-100209675Hurting the Poor. California lawmakers and labor leaders have reached a deal that, if passed, would raise the minimum wage there to $15 per hour over the next six years. According to The Daily Signal, “The deal would raise the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour next year, with increases of $1 per hour taking place annually until the minimum wage hits $15 an hour. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees have until 2023 to comply.” Economists warn, though, that such a wage increase will cost the state jobs for at least three reasons. First, California businesses will relocate, shutdown, or fail to form in the first place. Secondly, the implementation of automation will accelerate, especially in service industries that were once labor-intensive. Self-service gas pumps, for example, now ubiquitous, were once rare. Automation is now coming to fast food and other industries that used to provide entry-level jobs. Thirdly, higher minimum wage laws make it harder for people to get that vital first job. As economist Jay Richard says, “Artificially raising wages hurts most the very people such policies are supposed to help: the poorest of the poor and the least skilled workers. Minimum wage and living wage laws raise the lowest rung of the ladder so high that those on the ground can no longer reach it.”
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Here Goes -- I Mean Amen

passion1_1Christian teaching is becoming more marginalized by the day—and no wonder, when we live in a culture that tells us we’re not half bad.

A Palm Sunday musical event on Fox took a unique angle on the gospels. In The Passion,” hosted by Tyler Perry, Jesus and His disciples were depicted as a 21st-century boy band in New Orleans, sporting ripped jeans and singing pop songs arranged into a kind of Holy Week ballad.

As I said, unique. But though Christ’s forgiveness of sins was mentioned, it wasn’t clear what the program’s writers meant by “forgiveness” or “sin.” By the end, figuring out what to make of the spectacle was as tough as figuring out which of the Gucci-clad Apostles was Peter. One message, though, came through loud and clear.

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Literary Lights

Edmund_Burke2_cEdmund Burke was a son of Ireland, and a sage for all seasons. Few writers and political thinkers from the 1700s are as well remembered today. His wisdom and legacy come highly recommended to posterity. To cite but one example, books about C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien show they thought very highly of Burke indeed.

Lewis, said former student David Bleakley in “C. S. Lewis at Home in Ireland,” was well aware “that he was part of a rich Irish tradition of scholarship and intellectual brilliance [and] Edmund Burke (1730-1797) was high on his list.” Lewis’s admiration, Bleakley said, centered on three things: “Burke’s command of words,” “his masterly use of the art of the pithy observation,” and Lewis’s belief that Burke was “eminently quotable.” Lewis, Bleakley concluded, “retained an interest in Burke throughout his life, and often recommended his merit when advising reading programmes.”
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Signs and Wonders

Of_Kings_And_Prophets_ABCShould Christians Carry Guns? Kimberly Corban was a 20-year-old student at the University of Northern Colorado, when a man broke into her apartment in Greeley, Colo., and sexually assaulted her for nearly two hours. Today, 20 years later, she works with sexual assault survivors and is a strong advocate for the Second Amendment. When I read her story in The Daily Signal, I asked myself the question: “Should Christians carry guns?” It is, obviously, a multi-faceted question: guns for hunting, guns for self-defense, or an arsenal of weapons stashed at your fortified safe-house in the wilderness? Theologian Wayne Grudem, in his book “Politics according to the Bible,” says the Bible does not condemn weapons used in self-defense. In fact, Grudem calls “the right of self-defense” a “basic human right.” He notes that Jesus’ own disciples carried swords (Luke 22:36-38). I commend Grudem’s book to you. I keep a copy on my desk as a reference guide for tough issues, and for clear ways to discuss issues I am already sure about. For a summary of Grudem’s arguments, as well as other biblically derived thoughts on gun ownership, click here.
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Internally Displaced Person

ID-10047196Our fearless leader, John Stonestreet, likes to use the phrase “the cultural moment” a lot. It’s kind of a corollary to Jesus’ admonitions about reading “the signs of the times.” But while Jesus was warning His contemporaries about missing the fact that the Kingdom of God was in their midst, our fearless leader wants his contemporaries to understand just where Christians stand vis-à-vis the larger culture.

Case in point: a recent story in the Washington Post entitled “NFL Suggests Georgia’s Religious Liberty Bill Could Affect Georgia’s Super Bowl Bid.” The headline tells you nearly everything you need to know: Georgia’s legislature recently passed a bill that “protects pastors from being forced to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies and individuals from being forced to attend such events. It also allows faith-based organizations to deny use of their facilities for any event they find ‘objectionable’ and exempts them from having to hire or retain any employee whose religious beliefs or practices differ from those of the organization.” (Scare quotes around “objectionable” courtesy of the Post.)

Yet in addition to wanting to protect religious freedom, Georgia also wants to host the Super Bowl. Badly. And there’s the problem. As the headline also makes clear, the NFL is prepared to force Georgia to make the same choice the NCAA forced Indiana to make this time last year: religious freedom or the big event you desperately want to hold.

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Worldview and You

14994690I am not a big fan of Internet memes. Recently though, I was surprised to find I could learn something important from them.

It surprised me because -- okay, I’ll admit it -- I'm really not a fan of memes. I’d go so far as to say that if you’ve never run across a meme and don’t know what one is, you can count yourself lucky. Read on anyway, please, since as I said, there’s something here to learn.

What is a meme? The name itself biases me against them. Originally it was a term coined by Richard Dawkins for his supposedly scientific explanation of the way “irrational” ideas like “God” have propagated as successfully as they have. Memes in that sense have been thoroughly discredited by sociology, psychology, communication theory, and philosophy (just for starters). Dawkins’s version of memes has not fared well.

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Signs and Wonders

United_States_Capitol_west_front_edit2Lower Your Standards. An old Saturday Night Live skit gave women having a hard time finding dates the dubious advice to “lower your standards.” That’s exactly what the United States military is doing, to disastrous effect. The military’s social engineering schemes have opened the door to openly gay soldiers, women in combat, and—according to a story in WORLD—sailors who can’t meet previous weight standards. The Navy’s old policy allowed for 22 percent body fat for males ages 17-39, and 33 percent body fat for females ages 17-39. The new standards increase the maximums to 26 percent for men and 36 percent for women, even though—according to the American Council on Exercise—a man with more than 25 percent body fat is considered obese. For women, 32 percent body fat counts as obese. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, says there’s a hidden agenda in the new standards: “The Navy [wants] to have a gender ratio of 25 percent women. One way to meet that goal is lowering standards.” Donnelly told WORLD: “If gender quotas are a primary goal, accommodations such as this become necessary. Military considerations become secondary.”

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All Things Examined

800px-Bloch-SermonOnTheMountGod’s people are to be a joyful people. So much so, that Billy Sunday, the famous early 20th century evangelist, once said that if joy is missing in your life “there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.” For, while love is the operational standard of the kingdom, joy is its defining temperament.

Indeed, in dozens of Psalms and nearly every New Testament epistle, the author expresses a joy he hopes his readers will share. Jesus told His disciples that His teachings were intended to bring them joy. Luke records the joy experienced by them, by those who received their message, and by various individuals like Mary in the Magnificat, Zechariah in the Benedictus, and Simeon in the Nunc Dimittis.
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Internally Displaced Person

Rembrandt-BelsazarDaniel 5 tells the story of what turned out to be literally the party to end all parties, at least for the man throwing it. The Babylonian king Belshazzar throws a feast for his nobles, and, after a few too many goblets, he orders that the sacred vessels from the temple in Jerusalem, which his father Nebuchadnezzar had sacked and burned, be brought out to serve as wine glasses of sorts.

Huge mistake. A disembodied hand appears and writes four words on the wall: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. Neither Belshazzar nor his guests can read the handwriting, much less interpret the message. That task falls to Daniel, who proceeds to give Belshazzar the bad news: “God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. . . . You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. . . . Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

The biblically inspired phrase “the handwriting is on the wall” has entered common usage, but, as is sometimes the case, it has come to mean almost the opposite of what the Scriptures meant. In current usage, it means that the outcome of a course of action is plain to see, whereas in Daniel, Belshazzar and his guests knew that something was happening but weren’t sure what it was, much less why it was happening.

Recent political events have brought the story of Belshazzar’s Feast to mind. It’s obvious—or at least it should be obvious—that something momentous is happening. But “what?” and “why?” isn’t clear, at least not to me.
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Signs and Wonders

bridgesMan Knows Not His Time. Jerry Bridges, prominent member of The Navigators ministry and popular NavPress author, passed away Sunday, March 6, 2016, from heart failure. He was 86. Bridges was best known as the author of “The Pursuit of Holiness,” which has sold more than a million copies. He wrote nearly 20 other books. His final book, “The Blessing of Humility,” will come out in June. One interesting aspect of Bridges’ career is that he was not primarily a pastor or speaker, but an administrator, serving in leadership roles in finance, human resources, and administration at The Navigators. He was also a founding board member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Growing up in poverty and with few educational prospects, he joined the U.S. Navy, and then attended college on the G.I. Bill. While in the Navy, he became involved in The Navigators, then primarily a military ministry. He spent 60 years on the ministry’s staff.

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