For week of January 11, 2009

Issue 236

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“To fear God is never to pass over any good thing that ought to be done.” Pope Gregory I

Members of Congress are often accused of being out of touch with average citizens, but an examination of the religious affiliations of US senators and representatives shows that, on one very basic level, Congress looks much like the rest of the country. Although a majority of the members of the new 111th Congress are Protestants, Congress — like the nation as a whole — is much more religiously diverse than it was 50 years ago. Indeed, a comparison of the religious affiliations of the new Congress with religious demographic information from the Pew Forum’s recent US Religious Landscape Survey of over 35,000 American adults finds that some smaller religious groups, notably Catholics, Jews, and Mormons, are better represented in Congress than they are in the population as a whole. However, certain other smaller religious groups, including Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus, still are somewhat underrepresented in Congress relative to their share of the U.S. population.

The study finds that there’s at least one major difference between Congress and the nation as a whole: Members of Congress are much more likely than the public overall to say they are affiliated with a particular religion. Only 5 members of the new Congress (about 1%) did not specify a religious affiliation, according to information gathered by Congressional Quarterly and the Pew Forum, and no members specifically said they were unaffiliated. By contrast, the Landscape Survey found that individuals who are not affiliated with a particular faith make up about one-sixth (16.1%) of the adult population, making this one of the largest “religious” groups in the US…. Read this in full at

The leaders of African American churches will commemorate one of the most extraordinary events in American history — the inauguration of the country’s first President of African descent – with a gala celebration. The African American Church Inaugural Ball will be held on Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 6 pm at the Grand Hyatt Washington, Washington, DC. The event is shaping up to be a star-studded affair with representation from the religious, business, arts and entertainment communities. The collective membership of African American Churches, and others, is invited to gather to honor the 44th President-Elect, Barack Obama, and the great history and strength of the African American church and its community.

Supporters of a strict interpretation of the separation of Church and State in the United States have filed a lawsuit seeking an end of the use of the term “so help me God” during President-elect Barack Obama’s 20 January inaugural ceremony.

The lawsuit, initiated by groups of US atheists and humanists, also wants an end to the practice of prayer and invocations at public events. “We think the law is on our side,” Bob Ritter, an attorney for the American Humanist Association, was quoted as saying by the Washington Post, citing what he said are clear US constitutional dictates.

Among the claims of the lawsuit is that the phrase “so help me God”, which has been used at least since the time of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is not specifically mentioned as part of the presidential oath prescribed by the US Constitution…. Read this in full at

With fresh fighting in the Holy Land and the global economy in ever-deeper crisis, Pope Benedict XVI starts 2009 with poverty and war among his most urgent concerns. Those issues also loom large in his agenda for the coming year. Among the major events on the papal calendar: Benedict will make his first trip to Africa as pope this March, when he visits Angola and Cameroon. The pope has designated 2009 as the “Year of Africa,” to underscore the Catholic Church’s growing presence on the continent, and to address the disease, deprivation and military conflict plaguing the region…. Read this in full at

The events, people, and debates of the past year that Christianity Today’s editors and writers believe have shaped, or will significantly shape, evangelical life, thought, or mission:

  1. Election 2008: Democrats woo evangelical vote, making only slight gains from Bush era.
  2. Voters turn back California Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision.
  3. Christians in Orissa, India, again become scapegoats for Hindu extremists
  4. Anglican Communion continues to implode in slow motion.
  5. Christians flee Iraq and Gaza.
  6. Candidates’ religious associations come under scrutiny.
  7. Ministries hold their breath as financial crisis threatens the global economy.
  8. Muslim and Christian interfaith dialogues get serious.
  9. Todd Bentley’s Florida Outpouring divides charismatic movement.
  10. Texas authorities raid FLDS ranch.

embers of the Religion Newswriters Association chose the 2008 elections and the controversy surrounding President-elect Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as the top story of the year. Obama was also named as the RNA’s top Religion Newsmaker of 2008.

  1. Wright’s controversial sermons lead to the withdrawal of Obama as a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Meanwhile, GOP nominee John McCain rejects the endorsements of outspoken evangelists John Hagee and Rod Parsley.
  2. Democrats increase outreach efforts to woo faith-based voters and pay more attention to evangelicals at the Democratic National Convention. Obama and McCain take part in a faith-based forum moderated by California megachurch pastor Rick Warren.
  3. Sarah Palin’s GOP vice presidential nomination renews some evangelical interest in the Republican ticket but also causes a dilemma for some religious conservatives who oppose women’s leadership roles.
  4. The California Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage in May is overturned in November when voters approve a constitutional amendment. Gay marriage is defeated in Arizona and Florida polls as well.
  5. Pope Benedict XVI brings a message of hope during his first U.S. visit, during which he meets with victims of clergy misconduct.
  6. Conservative Episcopalians ask Anglican Communion officials to permit a new Anglican Church in North America that would permit unhappy conservatives to operate under the authority of a North American bishop.
  7. Terrorism, believed to be motivated at least partly by religious fervor, results in the deaths of almost 200 people in Mumbai, India, in a three-day siege that attacked a Jewish center and resulted in the death of an American rabbi and his wife. Meanwhile, attacks on Christians continued in the eastern Indian state of Orissa and elsewhere.
  8. China cracks down on Buddhists hoping for Tibetan independence in a prelude to a peaceful Olympics.
  9. The crumbling economy and a related drop in contributions prompts many faith-based organizations to cut back on expenses, even as there is an increased need for social services.
  10. Violence continues in Iraq, with Sunnis and Shiites attacking each other and Christians also being targeted. Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Rahho is kidnapped and murdered in Mosul.

Two-thirds of Americans think religion is losing its influence on US life, a sharp jump from just three years ago when Americans were nearly evenly split on the question, according to a new Gallup Poll. Sixty-seven percent of Americans think religious influence is waning while just 27% say it is increasing. That perspective demonstrates a continuing downward trend, Gallup said. But the 27% figure is still higher than the record low, set in a 1970 poll, when just 14% of Americans thought religion was increasing in influence…. Read this in full at

Before heading into the Christmas holiday, Walt Disney Pictures announced that it will not be co-producing and co-financing the third installment of the “Chronicles of Narnia” movie series. Citing “budgetary considerations and other logistics,” Disney pulled out of its partnership with Walden Media, leaving the rights-holder of the Narnia books to scout for a new partner to produce “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” which they had planned to release in May 2010. The latest move casts a cloud of doubt over the third Narnia film, which may cost around $200 million to produce. It has also drawn criticism from fans of the original book series, who blame Disney for the less-than-expected success of the second Narnia film, “Prince Caspian.” Read this in full at

In two separate reports, both appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that men who took vitamins C, E or selenium developed prostate cancer as frequently as men who did not take the vitamins. In one trial, called SELECT, which tested the preventive effects of vitamin E and selenium in more than 35,000 men, participants taking 400 IU of vitamin E daily or 200 micrograms of selenium each day, or a combination of the two, had the same rates of prostate cancer as the placebo group. In the second study, involving more than 14,000 physicians, those taking 400 IU of vitamin E every other day or 500 mg of vitamin C daily also had similar rates of prostate and other cancers as those popping placebo pills…. Read this in full at,8599,1865464,00.html

The founder of Saddleback Church, the Lake Forest, Calif., megachurch (22,000 in attendance on Sundays), seems to be in the pulpit one minute, in Washington or Rwanda the next. His work is in every bookstore, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. Online. On CD. On DVD. Indeed, tell him about any new mode of communication, “and I’ll be there,” he said in a recent interview. The conversation at a Capitol Hill hotel was sandwiched between an event where he presented President Bush with a newly created medal honoring Bush’s efforts to combat AIDS and a New York media swing to promote his newest inspirational book/CD, The Purpose of Christmas.

The very word “purpose” is part of the Warren franchise. His Bible-reading handbook, The Purpose Driven Life, has sold 30 million copies and financed Warren’s ever-expanding goals. These include his civil forums and his international PEACE Coalition (Promoting reconciliation, Equipping servant leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick and Educating the next generation), which works with public, private and religious sectors. Warren initiated the plan after his wife, Kay, was drawn to help AIDS orphans in Rwanda. To reach beyond his network of 400,000 pastors in 162 countries, Warren has a new deal with Reader’s Digest to introduce and edit a new quarterly magazine this winter, Purpose Driven Connection, tied in with a social networking website…. Read this in full at

Recognizing both the power of prayer and the urgent need for men to pray, the North American Mission Board is issuing a call for Baptist men to engage in focused prayer in January.

The result could be the largest-ever combined prayer effort by Southern Baptist men in praying for God to do a fresh work among them and across North America.

To help men do this, NAMB’s mission education team has prepared a 31-day prayer guide to lead men in seven areas of prayer: recognize God’s plan for men; a call to holiness; confession and repentance; passion for the church as the bride of Christ; models of mission action; the hearts of men; and workers for the harvest…. Read this in full at

So you’re racing through another jam-packed day, late picking up the kids from basketball practice because you got stuck at the office. You still have to pay the bills, walk the dog and perhaps grab cold pizza before collapsing into bed. When do you ever find time for God? Publishers and pastors are serving up God on the go via books, e-mails, even podcasts for busy Americans hungry for spirituality…. Read this in full at,0,1739629.story

As atheist ads hit London’s buses on Tuesday, one faith-based think tank says they will only get people thinking more about God. The ads by the British Humanist Association carry the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” They are to appear on 30 of London’s bendy buses.

The posters are the atheist response to a number of high profile Christian advertising campaigns on London buses and billboards, notably ones run by the Alpha Course, whose posters ask, “Is this it?” and “If God did exist, what would you ask him?”

The atheist ads have been publicly endorsed and partially financed by prominent atheist Professor Richard Dawkins, who told the BBC that the ad campaign was designed to make people think, an action he said was “anathema to religion.” Read this in full at

When 21-year-old Matt Williams transferred to Texas Tech University last August, he was just excited about making new friends and getting involved at First Baptist Church in Lubbock, where the school is located.

But after winning a kick-for-rent contest at the Tech football game against Massachusetts on Sept. 20, Williams’ life changed, and he gained a spot on the Tech football team.

Williams, a former high-school kicker and soccer player who briefly played both sports for the NCAA Division II Tarleton State University, said that he was shocked to be chosen for the contest, but just tried to do his best while he was on the field.

“Going down there was just a big rush — being in front of all those people,” Williams said. “I was just praying and talking to God while I was on the field and the week prior to that. And afterwards, I was just praising him. I went out there and just kicked the ball and did what I knew how to do.”

Even though Williams is now living his dream, he said joining the team mid-season was a culture shock and a challenge to his faith. “On the football field, it is really hard,” Williams said. “There are only a few guys that go to church and really show it. It’s hard out there to have Christian ethics, but it’s something that you can use for the good of the team.”

To stay strong in his faith, Williams has befriended fellow believers and teammates Baron Batch and Brian Duncan. He is also involved with Paradigm, First Baptist’s Thursday night worship event for college students, as well as the church’s Acts Ministries men’s Bible study. Sam Law, Williams’ Sunday school teacher at First Baptist, said the kicker’s commitment to Christ has strengthened despite his new fame and busy schedule…. Read this in full at

by Kenneth Chan
In theaters now is the remake of a classic 1951 film cherished by critics and sci-fi fanatics. Being a remake, Scott Derrickson’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still” will be viewed critically by avid fans of the original. Having seen both, I personally feel the remake is definitely worth seeing -– by both fans of the original and those who never heard of it.

Now, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is not a Christian movie, per se. But so obvious are the biblical allusions that it will likely be embraced by believers –- should they see it, that is. The movie makes for a great modern day retelling of the Noah’s ark story. And seeing the destructive nature of mankind in the movie really helps believers and non-believers understand more clearly why God -– or any deity or powerful entity –- would end the lives of so many…. Read this in full at

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

It seems to us that the most important work in the world is the work which is visible, which we can see: building a house, plowing the land, feeding cattle, gathering fruits; and that the work which is invisible, the work done by our soul, is not important.  But our invisible work at the improvement of our soul is the most important work in the world, and all other visible kinds of work are useful only when we do this major work.” Leo Tolstoy

A majority of all American Christians (52%) think that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life. Among Christians who believe many religions can lead to eternal life, 80% name at least one non-Christian faith that can do so. These are among the key findings of a national survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life from July 31-Aug. 10, 2008, among 2,905 adults. Even among white evangelical Protestants, nearly three-quarters (72%) of those who say many religions can lead to eternal life name at least one non-Christian religion that can lead to salvation…. Read this in full at

Earlier this year a study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life concluded Americans are embracing a ‘nondogmatic approach to faith.’ Pew’s ‘Religious Landscape Survey’ noted religious believers increasingly have an accepting attitude toward other faiths and different ways of interpreting their own faith. Given these trends, what will American religious life be like in another generation? For some scholars, the Pacific Northwest provides a preview…. Read this in full at

Whittier, California hurches aren’t all that worried about money. “Monthly financial reports don’t look any different than they did in past years, and I can’t think of anybody off the top of my head who has lost their job. We don’t really have a lot of people who are living on the edge,” said the Rev. Geoff Nelson of Whittier Presbyterian. Sounds like the polar opposite of what everyone else is thinking in the midst of the current recession. Except other churches. “Our giving is $200,000 more than last year, which is really good; that’s about 87% of what our budget is,” said John Ortberg, executive pastor at Whittier Area Community Church.

Church treasurer Steve Janney said Whittier Hills Baptist’s giving from July to November this year is nearly 7% more than the same time last year, even though some members have lost their homes and a few have lost their jobs. Money for charitable gifts and church events is also coming in steadily…. Read this in full at

We all know things are tough in the newspaper biz, with widespread cutbacks and layoffs. It’s been particularly hard for religion reporters, who’ve seen their beats downsized or eliminated. But you know things are really bad when a newspaper cuts its printed prayer after 36 years, as the Indy Star just did. Star Editor and Vice President Dennis Ryerson offered this: “We appreciate that this has been a long tradition in The Star. But we are re-evaluating our mission and all that we do. I believe that prayer is a very personal thing and that offering prayers is something for individuals and their churches. We are a newspaper, not a church”…. Read this in full at

Father Richard John Neuhaus, the influential Roman Catholic priest and writer, the primary author of the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s 1981 founding manifesto, “Christianity and Democracy,” passed away January 8 due to complications from cancer.

Neuhaus, 72, served on the IRD board until today. His work at the New York-based Institute on Religion & Public Life and at the influential journal First Things was far-reaching, leading to the friendships between religious leaders from many Christian traditions as well as political decision makers.

Neuhaus was a major force behind the “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” movement, which brought the two closer in common theological affirmations and public witness.

IRD President James Tonkowich commented: “The passing of Father Neuhaus is a great loss to the IRD and to the causes we fight for and represent. Neuhaus sought to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society, one in which the extremes of theocracy or rigid secularism were declined in favor of open engagement between religion and public life. The Institute on Religion & Democracy is indebted to the steady intellectual and spiritual foundation that Neuhaus helped lay and continued to nurture.”

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was probably the most influential Christian thinker after the Gospel writers and St. Paul. It is to him that we owe such doctrines as original sin and predestination. Yet he has traditionally been unpopular with those concerned about Christian treatment of Jews over the centuries, a disapproval that was expressed eight years ago by the popular historian James Carroll in his much read book Constantine’s Sword. Carroll wrote that Augustine and his followers believed that Jews “must be allowed to survive, but never to thrive” so that their public misery would broadcast their “proper punishments for their refusal to recognize the truth of the Church’s claims.” And the rest, goes the claim, was bloody history. But in a new book, Augustine and the Jews, Paula Fredriksen, a Boston University religion professor and self-proclaimed “Augustinista,” upends the received wisdom. Fredriksen is no coddler of anti-Judaism. A former Catholic who long ago converted to Judaism, she was one of Mel Gibson’s most acerbic critics when he released his movie The Passion of the Christ. But her book’s subtitle, “A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism,” describes what she contends was Augustine’s actual stance on the topic, one she says was “was little short of revolutionary” — in a good way. Read this interview at,8599,1864878,00.html

Invisible in His own nature [God] became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, He chose to come within our grasp.” Leo the Great (390?-461)

Teach us to number our days right, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Words: Aurelius Prudentius (348-circa 413); translated from Latin to English by Edward Caswall, 1849

Now with creation’s morning song
Let us, as children of the day,
With wakened heart and purpose strong,
The works of darkness cast away.

O may the morn so pure, so clear,
Its own sweet calm in us instill!
A guileless mind, a heart sincere,
Simplicity of word and will.

And ever, as the day glides by,
May we the busy senses rein;
Keep guard upon the hand and eye,
Nor let the conscience suffer stain.

Grant us, O God, in love to Thee,
Clear eyes to measure things below;
Faith, the invisible to see;
And wisdom, Thee in all to know.

>from CyberHymnal at

The last and highest result of prayer is not the securing of this or that gift, the avoiding of this or that danger. The last and highest result of prayer is the knowledge of God–the knowledge which is eternal life–and by that knowledge, the transformation of human character, and of the world.” George John Blewett (1873-1912)


Use the following list as your daily prayer guide. Think of a brother or situation that applies and lift them up in prayer.

I am agreeing in prayer with you for God’s blessings to overtake you!

Marital harmony
Family unity
Children saved
Faithful pastor
Spirit-filled church
Real friendships
Relatives redeemed
Educational benefits
Recreational time
Fulfilling career
Favor with God and man
Be in God’s will

Better Jobs
Raises or bonuses
Sales & commissions
Business Growth
Estates & inheritances
Investment increase
Rebates & returns
Checks in the mail
Gifts & surprises
Money to be found
Bills decrease while blessings increase

“And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God” (Deut. 28:2).

[As you travel on business or vacation, let me know if you’d like the church guys to pray for your safety and spiritual effectiveness. I’ll add your name to the list for the time you’ll be away.]

Are you looking for something or do you have something to sell? Let me know and I’ll put it in this newsletter.

Book your next vacation with us!

Books, Music & More!

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Let me show you how to earn money as you travel!
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Tell us what sites you find enjoyable and why.


Flash Earth

(BTW: whenever the URLs in this newsletter are too long to turn into links on your e-mail program, just copy the entire URL (two lines or more) and paste it into a temporary email message. Then delete the return in the middle of it and copy it again. Then paste it into your web browser and hit enter.)

A clenched fist produces anger; an open hand produces harmony.
Min. Frank Coleman, Editor

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