Friday, August 29, 2008

Well There's a Suprise...

From the AP:

John McCain tapped little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate on Friday in a startling selection on the eve of the Republican National Convention.

Two senior campaign officials disclosed Mccain's decision a few hours before the Republican presidential nominee-to-be and his newly-minted running mate appeared at a rally in swing-state Ohio.

Palin is a self-styled hockey mom and political reformer who has been governor of her state less than two years.

Palin's selection shocked numerous Republican officials.

In making his pick, Mccain passed over several more prominent prospects who had figured in speculation for months — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge among them.

At 44, Palin is a generation younger that Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, who is Barack Obama's running mate on the Democratic ticket.

Gonna make it a little harder to use the experience angle, don't you think?

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Update: Did just a little digging on Palin. She is a anti-abortion feminist who belongs to Feminists for Life - the largest and most visible pro-life feminist organization.

From the end-all of sources, Wikipedia:

"Feminists for Life maintains that being pro-life is compatible with feminism, and, further, that it is the natural conclusion of feminist values. Members and supporters of the organization claim that being a pro-life feminist is not an oxymoron, it's redundant."

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Justin Taylor points out that Al Mohler did a piece about Palin back in May. When the Palin family learned that their 5th child had Down Syndrome, they never even considered aborting the child. Great story.

McCain on Obama's Nomination

Interesting...

Obama's Acceptance Speech at the DNC

My wife and I stayed up to watch Obama's nomination acceptance speech last night to close the Democratic National Convention. Even though I fear him being our next president, I didn't want to miss this speech. Whether you like him or not, the fact that we have an African-American officially nominated for president is pretty cool, and last night was an historic moment I didn't want to miss.

Impressions from the speech itself:

- Obama can talk...I mean, really talk. He has an ability to stir your emotions about things without actually really even saying anything sometimes. He gets going and it's almost like when Morgan Freeman talks...He could read the phonebook and make you want to listen.

- He has an interesting way of simply ignoring the fact that he's never done anything when he criticizes McCain. He will criticize McCain's voting record, ignoring the fact that his slight record is nothing to boast about.

- I flat out laughed out loud when he came out and they cut to people crying. It completly reminded me of an N'SYNC concert where little girls start crying as soon as they see their favorite stars. I realize the emotion was likely different, but it was hard not to make the connection.

- I found myself during the speech talking back to Obama when he would say things that didn't make sense or obviously had no substance behind it. He definitely stirs emotions, both joyful crying for some and anger for others.

- At other times, though, I realized how much there is that Republicans and Democrats agree on, which are mostly the kinds of things Obama says. Of course everyone wants unemployment to be low, everyone wants the economy to be strong, everyone would like the war in Iraq to be over, etc. The problem is we have very different philosophies on how to accomplish everything. The problem might be that some people just hear those things and agree with Obama without digging deeper to realize how he really envisions solving those problems.

- I got really excited when he said he was going to lay out exactly what the "CHANGE" would look like. Unfortunately, he then failed to lay out any real specifics. I was really hoping to understand exactly what those thousands of signs meant.

- His speech last night was one of the biggest (if not the biggest) political spectacles of all-time. Obama has definitely inspired a movement. I really liked his comment that the campaign was not about him but instead the people supporting him. I really hope he meant that.

- I worry about him being our president, but God is teaching me to trust in his sovereignty and not fear things like that.

- If you watched the FOX News version of the coverage, did you think it was very strange that Brit Hume, immediately after the speech, referred to Obama as Barack Hussein Obama? Pretty sure that was an accident, but I thought to myself, "Did he really just say that?" Yeah, that's his name, but with everything that's happened around the use of it, it was a weird time to bring that out.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Peggy Noonan on Politics

Great story in the Wall Street Journal today with Peggy Noonan's random thoughts about the Democratic National Convention and other political musings. She comments on Bill and Hillary's speeches, then goes in to talk about Michelle Obama's speech. This leads her into a great discussion of the differences between Democrats and Republicans, and why most people are frustrated with both.

"In order to paint both her professional life and her husband's, and in order to communicate what she feels is his singular compassion, she had to paint an America that is darker, sadder, grimmer, than most Americans experience their country to be. And this of course is an incomplete picture, an incorrectly weighted picture. Sadness and struggle are part of life, but so are guts and verve and achievement and success and hardiness and…triumph. Democrats always get this wrong. Republicans get it wrong too, but in a different way.

Democrats in the end speak most of, and seem to hold the most sympathy for, the beset-upon single mother without medical coverage for her children, and the soldier back from the war who needs more help with post-traumatic stress disorder. They express the most sympathy for the needy, the yearning, the marginalized and unwell. For those, in short, who need more help from the government, meaning from the government's treasury, meaning the money got from taxpayers.

Who happen, also, to be a generally beset-upon group.

Democrats show little expressed sympathy for those who work to make the money the government taxes to help the beset-upon mother and the soldier and the kids. They express little sympathy for the middle-aged woman who owns a small dry cleaner and employs six people and is, actually, day to day, stressed and depressed from the burden of state, local and federal taxes, and regulations, and lawsuits, and meetings with the accountant, and complaints as to insufficient or incorrect efforts to meet guidelines regarding various employee/employer rules and regulations. At Republican conventions they express sympathy for this woman, as they do for those who are entrepreneurial, who start businesses and create jobs and build things. Republicans have, that is, sympathy for taxpayers. But they don't dwell all that much, or show much expressed sympathy for, the sick mother with the uninsured kids, and the soldier with the shot nerves.

Neither party ever gets it quite right, the balance between the taxed and the needy, the suffering of one sort and the suffering of another. You might say that in this both parties are equally cold and equally warm, only to two different classes of citizens."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dave Barry on the DNC

Dave Barry of the Miami Herald:

"It's hard to blame Sen. Clinton for being bitter. Here she is, the smartest human ever, PLUS she spent all those years standing loyally behind Bill Clinton wearing uncomfortable pantyhose (I mean Hillary was, not Bill) (although there are rumors), PLUS she went to the trouble and expense of acquiring a legal residence in New York State so she could be a senator from there, PLUS she assembled a team of nuclear-physicist-grade genius political advisors, PLUS she spent years going around to every dirtbag community in America explaining in detail her 23-point policy solutions for every single problem facing the nation including soybean blight. And after all that, she loses the nomination to a guy who has roughly the same amount of executive governmental experience as Hannah Montana. Hillary is like: ``Are you KIDDING me?''...

...The Obama-Clinton tension is only one of the dramatic storylines developing in Denver. Another one is Obama's choice of running mate. Following days of feverish media speculation over a list of names that at one point included the late Hubert Humphrey and a probably fictional congressperson named ''Chet Edwards,'' Obama, in a bold move, went with the one name guaranteed to send an electric shock of electricity through the spinal cord of American politics: Joe Biden.

This choice not only virtually locks up Delaware's electoral vote (which it shares with Wyoming) but it also buttresses the Obama team with one of the Senate's most vocal voices. Sen. Biden is scheduled to address the convention Wednesday night from 8:48 p.m. until dawn.

But in the end, the focus of this convention will be on Barack Obama, who on Thursday night will receive the nomination in long-overdue recognition of a distinguished career of seeking the nomination. His goal, in his acceptance speech, will be to win over the undecided voters -- the people who are unsure of what he really stands for, or who have received emailed rumors that he is a Muslim, or a socialist, or a vampire, or a lesbian. His goal will be to show, with no disrespect to the Muslim socialist vampire lesbian community, that he is a regular person just like you, except he has Vision and Leadership. After that, he will lay out his specific policies for building a brighter future. Then he will turn into a bat.

No, he won't, although that would make this the most fun convention EVER. But it still promises to be interesting. I'll be on hand to report all the convention-news developments to you from Denver as I think them up. Then next week I'll head to Minnesota or possibly Wisconsin and do the same from the Republican convention. Back-to-back party conventions! It's an exciting time to be a political ``junkie.''

Please, shoot me."

What I'm Currently Listening To

Currently getting a lot of time in my CD player or through my iTunes at work:

Jimmy Needham - "Not Without Love"

A combination of Jason Mraz and John Mayer, Jimmy combines great melodies with witty, Christ-honoring lyrics. Great stuff.




Chasen - "Shine Through the Stars"

Sweeping, soaring melodies (especially my favorite song, "Drown"). There's a hint of maybe some Oasis influence here, along with some Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox 20 mixed in.




Voice (a.k.a. Curtis Allen) - "The Process of the Pardon"

Amazing beats, ridiculous rhymes, and a theology lessen on the ordo salutis on top of it. How can you beat that?




Above the Golden State - "Above the Golden State"

Part Switchfoot, part worship band. Favorites include "Streets," "Love," and "Chapter 13."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Piper on Abortion

John Piper speaks about the main issue with abortion: It's a God issue.

One of the most disturbing things I've heard Obama say during this campaign is his answer to when life begins. Months ago, his answer was that he hadn't decided on this:

"This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it's very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? ... What I know, as I've said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we're having these debates."

Later, at the Saddleback debate, he claimed the question was "above his pay grade." Among the other things Piper addresses in this video, he says that if you're not sure, if it might be a human, you don't kill...you err on the side of not killing something you admit might be a human.

Donald Miller's Prayer at the DNC



Please join me for the next few moments in our Benediction.
"Father God,
This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.
We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.
We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.
Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left.
Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.
Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.
Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.
Help us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.
Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.
We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.
Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world?
A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.
Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world?
Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.
Lastly, father, unify us.
Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.
And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.
God we know that you are good.
Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.
I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.
Let Him be our example.
Amen."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rick Warren on Politics

The Wall Street Journal has a very interesting article highlighting Rick Warren. After the forum at his church last week, many are praising him for being able to toe the line between Republicans and Democrats without compromising to either.

I've never been a huge fan of Warren, but some of the things he's saying are starting to really impress me:

It is true that Mr. Warren, whose book "The Purpose Driven Life" has sold 25 million copies, argues that his community needs to "broaden its agenda" to include issues like environmental conservation and fighting poverty and disease. "I don't just care that the little girl is born," he tells me. "Is she going to be born in poverty? Is she going to be born with AIDS because her mom has AIDS? Is she going to never get an education?" And he adds that there are plenty of evangelicals who are tired of the "combativeness" associated with the religious right.

But there is a misunderstanding by the media, says Mr. Warren. "A lot of people hear [about a broader agenda] and they think, 'Oh, evangelicals are giving up on believing that life begins at conception,'" he explains. "They're not giving up on that at all. Not at all."...

...So why is most of the press under the impression that Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist, is so different from, say, Focus on the Family president James Dobson? "It's a matter of tone," says an amused Mr. Warren, who seems unable to name any particular theological issues on which he and Mr. Dobson disagree.

Speaking at the Aspen Institute a few years ago, Mr. Warren was asked by a member of the audience whether he believed that she, a Jew, would be going to hell after she died, since she had not accepted Jesus as her savior. "Yes," he answered, honestly...

...In our interview, he recalls that tolerance used to be the idea that you "treat others with respect." Now, he laments, it has come to mean that "all ideas are equally valid." And so you can begin to understand why some people today are not happy with the idea of tolerance. But Mr. Warren aims to return Americans to that old view. Despite his calm demeanor, his easy laugh and his casual dress, there doesn't seem to be a relativist bone in Mr. Warren's body...

...In Africa, his plan has been to use churches to promote literacy, economic growth and public health. Short-term visits from American churchgoers serve to train church leaders. But there are also less tangible tasks -- cultural problems -- which Mr. Warren believes churches can address better than governments or nongovernmental organizations. For instance, we need "to teach men and boys to respect women and children." No amount of AIDS education is going to help if women are still being raped by men in their villages. "And that is my job as a pastor. No government can do that."

Mr. Warren's notion that you can't have "salvation by government" extends to domestic politics as well. When it comes to gay marriage, he says, the government operates "downstream from the culture." If you wanted to change people's ideas about sexuality, you should have been doing it through the culture, "through sports and music and entertainment." While he notes that religious people often look to the church to help with these efforts, "secular people have to look to the government." Indeed, what struck him most about the Aspen Institute discussions was that the people there thought "the answer to everything was a government program."

Read the whole article here.

Music Video of the Week

Jimmy Needham - "Hurricane (Live Acoustic)"



With Jimmy's new CD, Not Without Love, out last week, I thought I'd include a bonus. This is from his first CD. It's called "The Benediction." It's a poem written and read by Jimmy, and someone took the words and made a cool video out of it. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Donald Miller on Obama and the DNC

Donald Miller, he of Blue Like Jazz fame, has been tapped to deliver the closing prayer at the Democratic National Convention. Christianity Today caught up with Miller for a quick Q&A about the event.

Why did you choose to accept the invitation?

Somebody calls you and asks you to pray, you do.

You get three minutes to pray? Have you thought about what you’re going to pray?

I’ve not written the prayer yet, but I really wanted to hone in on the theme of unity, even unity between Republicans and Democrats. In the convention, as we highlight our differences that we wouldn’t forget that we’re unified, we have more in common than we don’t. That’s the focus of the prayer.

Cameron Strang was in that slot before and said that people perceived the prayer as showing favoritism. Are you worried you’ll receive the same reactions?

I’m not. I’m a registered Democrat. While that’s perceived as black or white, or hostile toward the Republican Party, I grew up in the Republican Party. I even attended as a kid the Republican National Convention when it was in Houston when Bush Sr. was running against Clinton. I changed parties about five years ago. I really felt like the Republican Party was taking advantage of the evangelical community by throwing us abortion and gay marriage, really not giving the heart of Christ more thought. I felt like it was the party of the extremely wealthy and they needed this conservative base in order to get a majority and so they pandered to us.

I felt used by the Republican Party in that sense. I started looking at the Democratic Party and looking at social issues that are affecting the world, seeing the presidency and Congress from a global perspectives. Even though many Democrats don’t identify themselves as evangelicals, many of the precepts of the party, charitable foundation of the party did reflect what evangelicals are about, the sanctity of human life, the importance of really not leaving people behind. I don’t think either party is the answer to the world’s problems. I lean toward solutions the Democrats seem to favor.

Where do you stand on issues like abortion and gay marriage?

The issue of abortion is a very sensitive one and it’s an important issue. I look at from a perspective of, what’s the best that we can do. As we elect a Republican House and Senate, and as we elect Republican leadership in the executive branch, we see very little changes on that issue. We’re electing someone who agrees with us on abortion, being sort of a tragedy in our country, and yet can’t get anything done. It’s kind of like saying, I want a pilot on my plane who feels this way about abortion, but he can’t fly the plane. The executive branch doesn’t have that much power, it has some power, but it doesn’t have much power. You look at the reality of that and say, what can I do to defend the sanctity of all human life, including the living, and the marginalized and the oppressed and the poor? What can we do to better social conditions so that less women are put in situations where they feel like they need to have an abortion. What does looking at the issue holistically look like. I hope the Democrats will listen to those of us who lean toward pro-life and those changes can be made.

In terms of gay marriage, I see it as a constitutional issue. Until we become a theocracy, I think that judges should look at it from a constitutional issue. Whether I think homosexuality’s wrong, personally? America is not God’s country. It’s not considered a Christian nation anymore. You have to look at everybody, not just Christians and say, what are the rights of these people based on this constitution. That’s another difficult issue as well. I get a bit frustrated when the evangelical position is reduced to two issues. So many other issues are not a concern to us. What happened was, in my opinion, the Christian positions has been reduced in order to manipulate us. If we give them these two issues, we can do whatever we want.

I assume that means you support Barack Obama? What do you think he will do as president that would appeal to evangelicals?

This is one of the reasons I was attracted to obama and read his book and wanted to take him seriously as a candidate. If you look in the last eight years, we have lost our reputable standing among most nations. Certainly among many poor nations and Muslim nations, we’re not very respected. There’s a great deal of hostility against us. As we travel the world, America represents Christianity to the rest of the world. What we have is Christianity being represented by what is perceived as arrogance, bullying, an inability to negotiate peace, an inability to listen. People assume that Christianity is that way. You ask yourself, what sort of person might God rise up to heal the wounds that have been created by that kind of positioning in the world. You would think a very intelligent minority, who came not out of wealth, who’s not only power position in Washington, D.C., a man who’s more thoughtful in his answers and less bullyish, not as simple of a thinker, even as reality is not simple, a man who has spent part of his upbringing overseas and has connections with Kenya, that’s the guy. A name like Barack Obama, you just kind of go, that would be the guy that God would choose to heal some of the wounds that we’ve caused in the world. That’s what made me take him seriously. I read his book, listened to his speeches, asked myself some of those hard questions. When all the math was done, he edged out as a favorable as a favorable candidate for me.

Do you see yourself as a person who plans to be more involved in political activism?

I’m a writer. That’s my calling. I’m not a pastor. I’m a believer. I write about spirituality. I have political opinions that may not have more worth than anybody else. In this instance, when someone calls and asks you to come and pray, I say yes. I’m a supporter of this candidate, and I think that’s great. After I came out on a blog and expressed about the Bush administration, they invited me to the White House and had breakfast with the president’s assistant. I enjoyed that and enjoyed them as people. When someone asks you to come, you come, and you have a conversation. I don’t see this as an, “I’m against Republicans.” That’s not that kind of a move. This is about any believer who’s called and asked to come and pray. No matter you’re called to pray, you go.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jimmy Needham - Not Without Love

So everyone needs to check out Jimmy Needham, whose 2nd CD, Not Without Love, came out yesterday. I just recently was introduced to Jimmy's music, and it's all I've been listening to since. It's amazing to finally find some Christian music that avoids cliched lyrics and generic melodies. Jimmy is truly an original. Check out what some places are saying about his new album:

Christianity Today:

It's the writing, though, that elevates Needham above the average. As outlined in the impressive opener "Come Around," the young singer/songwriter wrestles with allowing legalism and his zeal for sharing the gospel to compromise showing practical acts of love and kindness—it's a spot-on indictment of today's Christian culture. "Forgiven and Loved" works along the same lines, drawing on Romans 8:1 and Ephesians 3:17-19 for a very thoughtful and biblical treatise on grace...

...Needham is a teacher and a communicator, not just towing the line for radio play. Christian music has seen its share of songs about familiar topics like finding peace amid life's hectic pace ("A Breath or Two"), building through brokenness (the worshipful and introspective "Hurricane"), and the message of the cross ("The Great Love Story"). But it's rare for such songs to be infused with such personality, original lyricism, and clever wordplay...

...Needham gets it right in nearly every way with this album, seemingly destined to build on his skills and to develop even more profound songwriting for albums to come.

The Christian Manifesto:

This is the kind of album that the Christian music industry should be producing. “Not Without Love” is simply good music. I almost hesitate to label it Christian, not because it lacks it spiritual substance but because it offers a universal beauty that can easily connect with anyone who enjoys songs about love, life and the search for God amidst it all. And the real tragedy would be if this album only got relegated to Christian bookstores because it has the musical integrity to stand on its own in the mainstream market. Inpop Records has truly found an emerging talent that has great potential.

Track List:

1. Come Around
2. A Breath or Two
3. Hurricane
4. Firefly
5. Forgiven and Loved
6. Before and After
7. Tossed by the Wind
8. Unfailing Love (Kelly’s Song)
9. Rend
10. The Author
11. The Great Love Story
12. Not Without Love (Benediction)

Monday, August 18, 2008

More on Christians in China

Randy Alcorn had a great post yesterday on whether or not Chinese Christians are still persecuted in their country. Many have made claims in recent years (and even more now with the Olympic exposure) that persecution like that is a thing of the past and that Chinese people have complete freedom of religion.

From Randy Alcorn's post:

Those who deny persecution often say they visited China and saw Bibles for sale in a store, or a registered church. (That’s true; registered churches are permitted to have Bibles.) An American Christian leader assured me that he and his ministry preached the gospel in China and had cordial meetings, even friendly ones, with communist government leaders. I rejoice in this. But he then spoke of the “misconception” that Christians are still persecuted in China. Unfortunately, the documented incidents demonstrate it’s not a misconception, but a reality.

A Chinese Christian told me “somewhere in China the sun is always shining, and somewhere the snow is always falling.” In other words, there’s always freedom somewhere and persecution somewhere else. Visitors to China rarely go to the countryside where much persecution takes place. They will not be given an audience with persecuted Christians. Believers will not step forward to share their stories with visitors who are escorted by or traveling under the favor of government officials!

None of the NBC Olympic features will include Christians dismissed from teaching at Chinese universities, or unregistered church pastors tortured in prison. No news teams will be permitted to visit such places.

It is irresponsible to claim that Christians are no longer in prison or beaten or discriminated against, simply because the visitor doesn’t see this happening, or because Chinese officials and government tour guides say it doesn’t happen. Should we believe the government (who denied persecution even under Mao), or the actual Chinese Christians, most of whom remain in unregistered churches, despite the great cost of their doing so?

I've been very torn during these Olympics. I absolutely love watching the games. I appreciate the fact that so many countries can come together to compete peacefully. I appreciate the diversity we get to witness and how we can enjoy the coming together of so many different cultures while at the same time all be part of the human race. It can be beautiful. But I am hesitant to support something that is rewarding a country that has done, and still does, so many horrible things against the cause of Christ.

Randy's conclusion:

In a context of praying for human government, Scripture says "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men" (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

As we watch the Olympics, may our love for the people of China grow, and may we pray for our brothers and sisters there, most of whom gather illegally and are shunned by a godless power-hungry government.

Let's be careful to distinguish the Chinese people we see in the Olympics-related broadcast features (which I thoroughly enjoy) from their government. For the Chinese communist party has proven time and again to have a blatant disregard for human rights. This includes the right of Christians to gather without placing themselves under the dictates of an atheistic government which demands a lordship that only Christ deserves.

________________________________

Right on time, this story out today about Chinese officials confiscating bibles from some American Christians in China who had brought Chinese bibles to distribute.

Music Video of the Week

Casting Crowns - "Slow Fade"

Friday, August 15, 2008

Obama's "Never Gonna Give You Up"

Just stumbled across this...had to share.

The Chinese Church - What's the Reality?

Much has been made during these Olympics about how much China has improved their human rights efforts, specifically related to freedom of religion. Many people will tell you that people in China have complete freedom of religion. The government will point to state-sanctioned churches where a slight form of religion resembling Christianity is taught. They will coordinate photo ops of President Bush attending church in Beijing and say, "Look, we're open to these things."

In reality, though, Christians are still persecuted in China every day. I witnessed some of this when I lived in China briefly last year, and my wife and I know a missionary family that lived in Beijing for quite a while and we heard stories from them as well. China is all about perceptions, and they have created a perception that Christianity is allowed among its people. This is not the reality in many cases.

From the Wall Street Journal:

President Bush attended church in Beijing on Sunday. He worshipped alongside Chinese Christians and sang "Amazing Grace." But what happened outside the church says more about the state of the millions of Christians in China.

Earlier that morning, the pastor of an illegal underground Christian church, Hua Huiqi, was detained by police as he was biking to the service that Mr. Bush was to attend. His whereabouts are still unknown. Mr. Hua's brother, who was briefly detained, said Mr. Hua only wanted to worship at the church where he was baptized.

China's constitution ostensibly allows freedom of religion, but events like this show the real extent of this "freedom." On the mainland, religion is tolerated only insofar as it is controlled by the state. The only legal churches are those run by the State Administration of Religious Affairs, a government bureau. Those who choose to attend "house" churches -- roughly half of China's Christians -- face the prospect of harassment or detention. Dozens of Christians remain under arrest.

These types of persecutions are not isolated, either:

House church meetings have been disbanded and a number of Christians have been arrested, including two Christians in Xinjiang province who were charged with being “separatists.” Throughout the province, officials have posted signs asking citizens to report any “evil cult activity,” a label which encompasses house churches. In Hebei province, officials closed down a Bible school on May 13, while on May 15 Public Security Bureau officials broke up a prayer meeting held by more than 20 Christians for victims of the earthquake and for the Olympics.

The Communist Chinese government fears religion with a passion. Jesus Christ is sovereign over all things...people, events, nations, and governments. Chinese officials rightly recognize that this is one the things Christianity teaches, and this threatens their ability to control people. If a person's ultimate allegiance is to Christ and not the government, control is lessened.

I pray that God would show his sovereignty and power over the Chinese government by continuing to have the gospel go throughout the country despite the attempts to suppress it. The number of Christians continues to increase, and one day, the government will be overthrown as Christ comes back to rule and reign over all.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

McCain Considers Pro-Choice VP

John McCain continues to disappoint as the presumptive Republican nominee for president. On Wednesday, FOXNews reported that McCain is considering former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, a supporter of abortion rights, as a running mate. He believes this would be a good way for him to capture more independent voters, who McCain apparently believes are pro-choice.

McCain stated:

“I think that the pro-life position is one of the important aspects or fundamentals of the Republican Party...And also I feel that — and I’m not trying to equivocate here — that Americans want us to work together...You know, Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders and he happens to be pro-choice. And I don’t think that that would necessarily would rule Tom Ridge out.”

For those who were apprehensive about whether McCain was truly pro-life or not, this can't be a good thing to hear. I understand the sentiment of working together, but this conveys more about how strongly (or weakly, rather) McCain actually feels against abortion. To say that someone's leadership ability trumps their immoral position that it's ok to kill babies is disturbing.

The other thing that bothers me about that statement is the first part. He says the pro-life position is important to the Republican Party. What about you Mr. McCain? Is it important to you at all? Apparently not.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mark Driscoll - Death by Love

I'm a huge Mark Driscoll fan. His new book, Death by Love, comes out September 30th. From Crossway's description of the book:

Real people. Real sin. Transformed lives. A compilation of heartfelt letters written from a pastor to his people that explains Jesus’ work on the cross. Death by Love is a unique book on the cross of Jesus Christ. While many books debate the finer points of the doctrine of the atonement, what is often lost are the real-life implications of Jesus’ death on the cross for those who have sinned and have been sinned against.

Written in the form of pastoral letters, Death by Love outlines the twelve primary effects of Jesus’ death on the cross and connects each to the life of a different individual.


Check out the trailer they put together for the book. Very intense, but looks to be a very important book.

Some Thoughts on the Beijing Olympics

Leah and I went on vacation this weekend, just in time to miss the opening ceremonies on Friday. It also meant I haven't had a chance to post about the Olympics at all yet. Well, Leah and I finally had a chance to watch the opening ceremonies last night (thanks to DVR). I don't know that we'll ever see another live performance with so grand a scale or with more meaning to a people ever again. It was an amazing spectacle that left me awe-inspired...and with a sickness in my stomach at the same time.

(As a side note, I couldn't help but wonder what people would think if the U.S. put on an opening ceremonies performance as laden with Christian imagery as the Chinese one was with their religious symbols and philosophies. I wonder what would have happened.)

There are so many conflicting feelings about having the Olympics in China this year. Having lived there for a while last year in Shanghai while completing my MBA global internship, I developed a heart for the people there, who have very limited access to the gospel. The gospel they do hear, many times, has been filtered by the government and can barely be called the gospel.

That's made it difficult to be completely happy about the games being in China. On one hand, we are rewarding a country with a horrible human rights record that has sought to completely eliminate Christ from the consciousness of its people. On the other hand, you have the entire world focusing on their every move, which could lead to improvements in human rights there or at least some exposure to how bad it really is (I haven't seen this exposure yet as every story NBC does is to say how great China is).

By the way, if you don't think it's bad, do a little searching for some stories like this one (which also has a good commentary on God's probable view of the opening ceremonies), or read Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn.

Randy had a great post on the Olympics today. A sample:

Since the Beijing Olympics were first announced in 2001, shortly after I finished my novel Safely Home, I've had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I believe it was wrong to award the Olympics to a country that has such a poor civil rights record. (In the next blog I'll talk about the question of whether Christians are still persecuted in China--the answer, despite claims to the contrary, is still yes.)
On the other hand, I'm glad for the Olympics because it is putting China under the greatest world scrutiny it's been under in modern times. Since China is extraordinarily image conscious, this may restrain the hand of persecution against believers.

Whether or not it does, it is certainly resulting in the gospel being brought into China, because every Christian athlete, coach, trainer, and support personnel can bring gospel witness and many have brought in Chinese gospel literature. They won't have as much freedom to go about the countryside as with many Olympics, but they certainly will be taken to the Great Wall outside Beijing, and the summer palace and the temple of heaven and other places that bolster China's image. Ultimately, I believe the Lord will bring much good out of this. Also, with China being the focus of world attention, there is more prayer, and God will answer.

So, on ethical grounds I opposed the decision for the Olympics to be in China (just to clarify, no one called and asked my opinion). But for the reasons I cited, I certainly welcome many of the good things that will likely come from it. (The end doesn't justify the means, but when there are good ends we can still be glad for them. Like Joseph to his brothers who'd sold him into slavery: "You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good, to save many lives.")

Ultimately, the fact that the games are in China means the Lord has ordained that it be so. That means this will be used to bring glory to him. God is sovereign over all, including repressive governments that vainly try to keep the gospel from reaching its people.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Music Video of the Week

Mat Kearney - "Nothing Left to Lose (Acoustic)"

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Hanging Out in Virginia Beach

Leah and I are in Virginia Beach for the weekend. Leah was flown out here to photograph a wedding, and since they are paying for her flight, hotel, and rental car, we decided to pay for my flight and make a short vacation out of it since yesterday was my birthday, too. Leah's out shooting the wedding right now, but we had a half day yesterday, and we'll have the whole day tomorrow to relax on the beach. It's a nice change of pace from the hectic environment at work right now.

Anyway, might be a little quiet the next couple days...we'll see. For now, I'm going to go back to chilling in the sun...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

C.J. Mahaney on Art Monk

C.J. Mahaney wrote a great piece on his blog about Art Monk's recent induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. It had been a longer-than-anticipated wait for Monk to get in, and he had to watch others with similar stats and significantly less character get enshrined while he waited. So, of course, upon finally achieving H.O.F. status, he would naturally deliver a speech about vindication and finally having his accomplishments recognized, right?

Not even close.

His words:

… Getting here did not come without controversy, as I'm sure it did with some of the guys sitting behind me. But through it all, I'm here with a greater appreciation for something that not every player is able to achieve and for the people who stood up for me and spoke out on my behalf. …

What I’ve tried to convey to those who were upset about the process was that I was okay with it. But in all due respect, that as great as this honor is, it’s not what really defines who I am or the things that I’ve been able to accomplish in my life. …

And even now as a Hall of Famer, the one thing I want to make very clear is that my identity and my security is found in the Lord. And what defines me and my validation comes in having accepted his son Jesus Christ as my personal savior. And what defines me is the Word of God, and it’s the Word of God that will continue to shape and mold me into the person that I know he’s called me to be.

So I’ve learned a long time ago never to put my faith or trust in man, for man will always fail you. Man will always disappoint you. But the Word of God says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. And He will never fail you.

And that is what I live by and what I stand on. Being included into this fraternity is a pretty humbling experience for me. I always grew up seeing these guys as giants and legends who make significant contributions to the game of football. And it’s pretty hard for me to believe that I’ve now been included as part of them. Growing up I was never voted the most likely to succeed. And there was never anything about me that would have given anyone the impression that I would have played in the NFL, let alone to be standing here.

There’s a scripture that I think about almost every day and I’ve come to personalize it to my life. It says: “Lord, who am I that you are mindful of me?” [Psalm 8:4]. And the Apostle Paul says, “Think of what you were when you were called. Not many were wise by human standards. Not many were influential. Not many were born of noble birth” [1 Corinthians 1:26]. And when I look at my life and how I grew up, I certainly had none of those qualities or benefits.

But I understand and I know that I’m here not by, in, and of my own strength—but it’s by the grace and the power of God upon my life, who I know gave me favor along the way, and who provided opportunity and room for me to use my gifts.

So I am very grateful to receive this honor, and I can stand here before you and say, “Hey, look at me, look at what I did.” But if I’m going to boast, I’m going to boast today in the Lord, for it’s because of him that I’m here and I give him thanks and glory and honor for all that he has done for me.

Amazing stuff.

C.J.'s take:

From my view in the cheap seats, too many pro athletes who profess Christ appear theologically ignorant, have little or no involvement in the local church, and have no pastoral oversight in their lives. Monk’s speech appears to be the fruit of good pastoring. If more professional athletes participated in churches where sound doctrine was taught, there might be more examples like Art Monk and Darrell Green...

...The quiet sports star stepped in front of thousands of fans and used the moment, not for self-congratulation, but to glorify God. Standing beside a bronze bust of himself, his speech is no celebration of human achievement, but of amazing grace. In a place built to enshrine human achievement, Monk reminded us all of human weakness.

Sunday Art Monk provided a compelling example for fathers and their children of true greatness—humility before God. I try to seize these moments as teaching moments for my soul and my son. And I am freshly provoked to provide my son with a similar example of humility.

As someone with a son on the way, that really hit home for me. I thank God for true examples of greatness-humility like Art Monk, Darrell Green, and C.J. Mahaney. I hope God blesses me with the ability to be that kind of example to my son.

Read C.J.'s whole post here.

NFL Fly-Overs

Have you ever been at a football game, all hyped up and ready to watch your favorite team do battle against the biggest rival, heard a passionate rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner," and then, as the singer belts out the amazing last note, the air is suddenly filled with the sound of fighter jets or helicopters flying just over the top of the stadium? It can be a very powerful thing.

I got this forward from my wife yesterday (who of course got it from her retired dad...what else does he have to do?). It had a link to this story NFL Network did on those fly-overs and all the planning that goes into it. Pretty cool stuff.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Don't Waste Your Job











Colossians 3:23-24


"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."

Mark Mitchell preached a sermon at Joshua Harris' Covenant Life Church this past week entitled, "Don't Waste Your Job." Haven't listened to it, but looks worth the time. Joshua Harris pointed out the following quote from the sermon on his blog:

"The Reformation notion of 'the priesthood of all believers' by no means denigrated the pastoral office, as is often assumed... Rather, it taught that the pastoral office is a vocation, a calling from God with its own responsibilities, authority, and blessings. But it also taught that laypeople as well have vocations, callings of their own that entail holy responsibilities, authorities, and blessings of their own. All believers, like the priests of the Old Testament, can come into the presence of God through the blood of the Lamb. All believers can handle holy things (such as the Bible, earlier denied to the laity). All can proclaim the Gospel to those who need its saving message. 'The priesthood of all believers' means that all Christians enjoy the same access to Christ and are spiritually equal before Him. 'The priesthood of all believers' did not make everyone into church workers; rather, it turned every kind of work into a sacred calling... Every kind of work, including what had heretofore been looked down upon - the work of peasants and craftsmen - is an occasion for priesthood, for exercising a holy service to God and to one's neighbor." - Gene Edward Veith, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, page 18-19

They also prepared some great application questions to go along with the sermon:
1. Genesis 1 and 2 teaches that our work is from God. In whatever kind of work we do, no matter how significant or insignificant it is before men, our work reflects some aspect of the image of God and fulfills His command to subdue the earth. Is this your perspective on your work? In what ways does your work reflect God’s image? In what ways does your work obey God’s command to subdue the earth?

2. Mark Mitchell reminded us that every kind of work is a sacred calling from God. Quoting Gene Edward Veith, he said that, “every kind of work…is an occasion for…exercising a holy service to God and to one’s neighbor.” Have you incorrectly seen your work as “secular” and only your church activities as “sacred”? Have you wrongly assumed that pastors are “called” but you are not? How can you begin to see your work as “exercising a holy service to God and your neighbor”?

3. Colossians 3:22-23 calls us to obey our earthly master, to work with “sincerity of heart” and to work “heartily, as for the Lord.” Mark taught us that these commands call us to obey thoroughly and to give our best effort—even when others are not watching. In your work, where are you tempted to laziness, grumbling, man-pleasing or taking short-cuts? What would repentance and change look like to honor and fear God in your workplace?

4. Colossians 3:23-24 teaches us that we should work “as for the Lord,” knowing that in our work we are “serving the Lord Christ” and that He will ultimately reward us for our faithfulness. How should this eternal perspective transform the way you view and perform your job?
Listen to the sermon here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Braves (and Baseball) Lose a Legend

Skip Caray, the legendary announcer for the Atlanta Braves for so many years, passed away on Sunday in his sleep. Growing up a Braves fan watching TBS, I'll never forget Skip's ability to be harshly sarcastic, while being lovable and hysterical at the same time. My favorite Skip-ism is when there was a foul ball into the stands. "And a fan from (obscure town), GA goes home with a souvenir," Skip would quip.

He was also about the most honest announcer in history. He was known to give viewers permission to turn off the game when the Braves were stinking it up. He had a blunt mouth and a big heart. I've listened to him call games for my favorite team pretty much my whole life, and he will be greatly missed.

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

"It's a sad day," John Smoltz said. "There are no words. Sad doesn't do it justice. I will always remember Skip for his humor and his ability to go about life the way he did. I gained so much respect for what he did and how long he did and how he did."

"I figured Skip Caray is as much a part of Atlanta Braves baseball as any of us," said Jones, who will rejoin the team in Arizona later this week. "We all grew up listening to Skip, whether it be on TV or radio. Any time the guys on ESPN imitate [you] calling the highlights, you're pretty much a legend. From a fan's standpoint, he's going to be a huge loss for them because he relayed the games to fans for so long."

...Said manager Bobby Cox: "This was completely unexpected and is a complete loss. I had just spoken with Skip this week when we did the radio show and I didn't know he wasn't feeling well. He seemed in his normal good spirits. We've all lost a very good friend. For me, he was a good buddy -- at the park and away from the park. We always had a lot of great laughs. He will be very sorely missed."

From Dave O'Brien at AJC:

Skip was in the pantheon of great baseball broadcasters, in my book. That he didn’t get selected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown while alive is a shame. If he doesn’t get elected soon it’ll be a complete injustice. Yes, he was that good, that impactful, that important. No doubt...

When the Braves looked awful, Skip would say it — he’d spare no words in his brutal assessment of the team to others of us who covered it, and on the air he’d make his point with acerbic humor, rather than express some phony, rose-colored lens view that no one would’ve bought anyway...

And he wasn’t phony. Nothing about him was.

You knew where you stood with him, and you knew how he felt about the team, about baseball and about the corporations and networks that have pumped so much money into the game and hijacked it, for all intents and purposes. They arrogantly believe they can make whatever changes, subtle or otherwise, they see fit to make to further their own interests. They believe that because they can.

Skip hated a lot of that stuff. But he loved the game. Man, how he loved it....

We’re gonna miss Skip. We’re gonna miss him something fierce.

The venerable broadcaster, who lived life to the absolute fullest, died Sunday in his sleep.

Rest in peace.

Here's a few other stories:

Chipper, Cox, other Braves mourn Caray (AJC)
Skip Caray did it his way (AJC)
Braves grieve after losing great friend (MLB.com)
Farewell to Skip Caray (ESPN.com)

We'll miss you Skip. Thanks for all the great memories.

Music Video of the Week

FLAME feat. Lecrae & John Reilly - "Joyful Noise"

Friday, August 1, 2008

Obama's a Superstar

I was emailed the link to this video today. Video's cool, but I thought the song was really interesting.

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