We start a new series this Sunday called Spiritual Urban Legends. Several True Norther's (Northerner's?) have submitted videos to go along with the series. Also, there is a special guest doing the announcements this week. Last, but not least, arrive early because donuts are on us!
Print This Post
I thought this was interesting and it coincides with our new series that begins this Sunday; Spiritual Urban Legends.
This amazing image on Google Earth could be the elusive proof that the Loch Ness Monster exists.
Sun reader Jason Cooke spotted "Nessie" while browsing the Web site's satellite photos.
The shape seen on the surface of the 22-mile Scottish loch is 65ft long and appears to have an oval body, a tail and four legs or flippers.
Some experts believe Nessie may be a Plesiosaur, an extinct marine reptile with a shape like the Google image.
"This is really intriguing. It needs further study," said researcher Adrian Shine, of the Loch Ness Project.
Sightings have been claimed for centuries.
To see the object, enter co-ordinates Latitude 57°12'52.13"N, Longitude 4°34'14.16"W in Google Earth.Print This Post
U.S. Education Secretary Dodges Question on Whether Martin Luther King’s Views on God’s Law Should be Taught in Public School
On the 46th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington, Education Secretary Arne Duncan declined to say whether King’s view that just laws are based on God's law should be taught in public schools.
In his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King expressed his classical belief, based on the teachings of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas as well as the Founding Fathers, that a just law is a law that comports with the law of God and an unjust law is a law that does not comport with the law of God.
“How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust?” King asked in the letter, which he wrote in the Birmingham jail after being arrested for marching without a permit.
“A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law,” the civil rights leader said.
Citing St. Thomas Aquinas, King wrote, “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
At a press conference Tuesday publicizing the Kids for King education initiative, which aims to get children to learn about King’s teachings, CNSNews.com asked Duncan whether he thought the content of King’s letter should be taught in public schools.
Duncan did not directly answer, saying only, “I think there is so much to learn from Dr. King.”
Without speaking specifically to King’s concept of law “under God,” he seemed instead to point to lessons of secular morality. Duncan said kids can learn “the life lessons of valuing everybody, treating everybody the way they should be treated, (and) protesting but doing so in a non-violent manner.”
Duncan also told CNSNews.com that King’s presence in the public discourse shaped his life as a public servant.
“(For) kids like me growing up, his influence was extraordinary,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d be in public service if it were not for the influence he’s had on my life.”
Byron Garrett, CEO of the National Parent Teacher Association also attended the event and more explicitly explained that in teaching King’s views on moral law, it was “important” to comply with the separation of church and state.
“It’s fine if you’re teaching it in the context of history,” he said, but “not to the exclusion of other religions,” Garrett said.
National Education Association President Dennis van Roekel disagreed, however, lamenting the “narrowing” of public curricula.
“I think rich history in schools is absolutely essential,” he told CNSNews.com. “It’s kind of sad right now how they’re narrowing the curriculum.”
“I think that we ought to expose people to ideas--that’s what was done for us. We heard those ideas. I think it’s just part of a good education,” he continued. “You can’t be taught one side; you have to hear all sides. That’s how you get a good education.”
The Kids for King conference was held on the west side of the Tidal Basin, where a memorial for King is planned for construction.
The initiative asks kids to “write an essay, create a piece of art, or produce a short video” to show what they have learned about King’s ideals of “Democracy, Justice, Love and Hope.”
The best entries will earn students a trip to the nation’s capital in the fall of 2010.Print This Post
Pray big so that people will know God. That's what I took away from the Elijah series.
1 Kings 18
37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
Pray for something big. When it happens, let people know that it was only possible with God.
What are you currently asking God that may seem outrageous?Print This Post
Some interesting stats via USAToday.com. Some of the percentages are really surprising such as 86% of Evangelicals believe there is a Heaven. I am interested to know what the 14% believe.Print This Post
Via Washington Times
Students, teachers and local pastors are protesting over a court case involving a northern Florida school principal and an athletic director who are facing criminal charges and up to six months in jail over their offer of a mealtime prayer.
There have been yard signs, T-shirts and a mass student protest during graduation ceremonies this spring on behalf of Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and school athletic director Robert Freeman, who will go on trial Sept. 17 at a federal district court in Pensacola for breaching the conditions of a lawsuit settlement reached last year with the American Civil Liberties Union.
"I have been defending religious freedom issues for 22 years, and I've never had to defend somebody who has been charged criminally for praying," said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the Orlando-based legal group that is defending the two school officials.
An ACLU official said the school district has allowed "flagrant" violations of the First Amendment for years.
"The defendants all admitted wrongdoing," said Daniel Mach, director of litigation for its freedom of religion program. "For example, the Pace High School teachers handbook asks teachers to 'embrace every opportunity to inculcate, by precept and example, the practice of every Christian virtue.' "
The fight involving the ACLU, the school district and several devout Christian employees began last August when the ACLU sued Santa Rosa County Schools on behalf of two students who had complained privately to the group's Florida affiliate, claiming some teachers and administrators were allowing prayers at school events such as graduations, orchestrating separate religiously themed graduation services, and "proselytizing" students during class and after school.
In January, the Santa Rosa County School District settled out of court with the ACLU, agreeing to several things, including a provision to bar all school employees from promoting or sponsoring prayers during school-sponsored events; holding school events at church venues when a secular alternative was available; or promoting their religious beliefs or attempting to convert students in class or during school-sponsored events.
Mr. Staver said the district also agreed to forbid senior class President Mary Allen from speaking at the school's May 30 graduation ceremony on the chance that the young woman, a known Christian, might say something religious.
"She was the first student body president in 33 years not allowed to speak," he said.
In response, many members of the 300-plus-member student body taped crosses to their mortarboards and stood for an impromptu recitation of the Lord's Prayer during the ceremony.
Mr. Mach responded, "We believe students have the constitutional right to pray voluntarily in public or private. Constitutional problems arise only when public school officials promote or endorse prayer or specific religious views."
The criminal charges, which carry up to a $5,000 fine and a six-month jail term, originated with a Jan. 28 incident in which Mr. Lay, a deacon at a local Baptist church, asked Mr. Freeman to offer mealtime prayers at a lunch for school employees and booster-club members who had helped with a school field-house project.
Mr. Staver said no students were present at the event, which was held on school property but after school hours.
"He wasn't thinking he was violating an order," he said. "Neither did the athletic director. He was asked to pray and so he did."
Mr. Mach said the event was during the school day and that Mr. Lay, the school's principal, has said in writing that students were present.
"Decisions about the religious upbringing of children should be left in the hands of parents, not school officials," he said. As to whether prayer constitutes "religious upbringing," he said, "If school officials were promoting non-majority faiths and religious viewpoints, I suspect there'd be an uproar."
The ACLU brought the matter to the attention of U.S. District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers, who issued a contempt order for the two men.
Meanwhile, members of the small community of Milton, Fla., where Pace High School is located, have contributed more than $10,000 toward a legal defense fund for the defendants.
Anti-ACLU T-shirts are also being sold and the proceeds donated.
Judge Rodgers' order also included Michelle Winkler, a clerical assistant who was attending a school district event in February with other school employees at a local naval base. There, she asked her husband to offer a blessing for a meal, says the ACLU, adding that students were present and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
"She didn't do the blessing; she asked somebody to do it," Mr. Staver said. "The ACLU is sending people to school to monitor things happening on campus and see if there is anything encouraging religious activity, then running to the court if they see anything."
Her trial, which could result in a fine, is scheduled for Aug. 21.Print This Post
This may go against the purpose of this blog but I just want to see if anyone actually reads it. I thought I would throw out a hot topic and my brief opinion.
Topic: The Philadelphia Eagles signed Michael Vick to a contract yesterday. Vick was convicted in August 2007 of conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation, and was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison.
Opinion: What Vick did is disgusting and deserved punishment. He was punished and served his time. My faith tells me to forgive him. That means that I do not have a problem with him playing in the NFL or the Eagles for taking a chance with him.
What do you think? Remain civil...
AP - When Margie and Stephen Zumbrun were battling the urge to have premarital sex, a pastor counseled them to control themselves. The couple signed a purity covenant.
Then, when the two got engaged and Margie went wedding dress shopping, a salesperson called her "the bride who looks like she's 12." Nonchurch friends said that, at 22, she was rushing things.
The agonizing message to a young Christian couple in love: Sex can wait, but so can marriage.
"It's unreasonable to say, 'Don't do anything ... and wait until you have degrees and you're in your 30s to get married,'" said Margie Zumbrun, who did wait for sex, and married Stephen fresh out of Purdue University. "I think that's just inviting people to have sex and feel like they're bad people for doing it."
Against that backdrop, a number of evangelicals are promoting marrying earlier, nudging young adults toward the altar even as many of their peers and parents are holding them back.
Couples like the Zumbruns are caught between two powerful forces — evangelical Christianity's abstinence culture, with its chastity balls and virginity pledges, and societal forces pushing average marriage ages deeper into the 20s.
The call for young marriage raises questions: How young is too young? What if marriage is viewed as a ticket to guilt-free sex? What about the fact that marrying young is the No. 1 predictor of divorce?
The conversation is spreading from what pastors say is a relatively small number of churches and ministries that promote early marriage to the broader evangelical community, with the latest development being a Christianity Today magazine cover story this month titled "The Case for Young Marriage."
The article's author, University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus, argues that evangelicals "have made much ado about sex" but are damaging the institution of marriage by discouraging and delaying it.
Regnerus is not saying that premarital sex is OK. But he does suggest that abstinence has its limits, and that intensifying the message won't work. When people wait until their mid- to late 20s to marry, he writes, it's unrealistic and "battling our creator's reproductive designs" to expect them to wait that long for sex.
Statistics show that few Americans wait. More than 93 percent of adults 18 to 23 who are in romantic relationships are having sex, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. For conservative Protestants in relationships and active in their faith, it's almost 80 percent.
Regnerus, a conservative Presbyterian, knocks the "abstinence industry" for perpetuating "a blissful myth" that great sex awaits just beyond the wedding reception. He advises against teen marriage, but argues that early 20s marriages are not as risky as advertised.
"I'll probably get framed as I want people to marry because I don't want them to have premarital sex," said Regnerus, author of "Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers."
"I think marriage is just a fantastic institution for people who think rightly about it, have realistic ideas about it and put the requisite work into it."
The median age for first marriages in the U.S. is about 26 for women and 28 for men, the highest figures since the Census Bureau began counting. Solid data on evangelicals is not readily available, but research suggests they marry only slightly younger, Regnerus said.
High-school sweethearts Megan and Jay Mkrtschjan planned to marry at 20. But the suburban Chicago couple waited an extra year to finish college under pressure from Megan's parents.
There were few doubts in their minds about marrying young. They had found each other. Why wait?
"For me, it was really a trust issue," Megan said. "Marrying right out of college was showing our friends, showing the people we were acquainted with, that we trusted our lives with God."
For Jay, a songwriter and guitarist, "the sex issue" was the best argument for early marriage. "By getting married young and dating for a shorter period of time, it leaves less room to sin sexually," he said.
Now four years married, the Mkrtschjans say their relative youth helped them through early trials, which at one point took them down to $26 in the checking account.
"We were going through these hardships together," said Megan, a fifth-grade teacher who owns a cake-decorating business. "It made things easier because we weren't stuck in our ways. We were open to what each other had to say."
Many young adults today view their 20s as a time for fun, travel, career-building or finding themselves — not for settling down.
Among evangelicals, there's a tendency to wait because many believe God "is going to deliver me a spouse right to my door," so they don't actively seek one, said Glenn Stanton, director of family formation studies for the evangelical ministry Focus on the Family, a young marriage promoter.
Then there's what Stanton calls the "eHarmony philosophy" — the belief God will deliver someone perfect.
Stanton doesn't blame the abstinence movement. "I don't think that it's so much to much focus on abstinence, but the silence on marriage makes the abstinence message sound so much louder," he said.
At Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., associate pastor Michael Lawrence emphasizes that marriage is a covenant, not a convenient arrangement, and offers advice to young couples on overcoming arguments over money, sex and family.
"We probably haven't served our young people well by on the one hand emphasizing abstinence, but on the other hand telling them to wait to get married," Lawrence said. "It seems to be setting them up to fail."
Like most proponents of young marriage, Lawrence does not set an arbitrary "right" age for marriage. Waiting until after college might be advisable if the alternative is crushing debt or dropping out, he said.
Supporters of abstinence programs promote them as both marriage-preparation tools and longer-term support systems for those who don't marry.
Jimmy Hester, co-founder of True Love Waits, part of the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay Christian Resources, disagreed with the argument that abstinence past a certain age is too much to ask.
"There are too many examples of people who have done it," he said. "And not out of their own strength, even, but out of a relationship with God who gives them strength."
Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin, who studies families and public policy, said young marriage is a tough sell. A half-century ago, when people married earlier, fewer people attended college, high school graduates could get good-paying factory jobs, women became mothers right after school and families were larger, he said.
"Most evangelicals, as well as most Americans, realize how expensive it is to raise children these days," Cherlin said. "The most important rationale for early marriage — having a larger family — has disappeared."
Some single evangelical women want to marry young, but the numbers are against them: single women outnumber single men in churches 3 to 2, and the available men are postponing growing up, Regnerus and others say.
Skeptics, meanwhile, suspect early marriage backers want to turn back the clock on gender roles.
"There is some rolling of the eyes, especially among women ... 'Why are you giving up your 20s and going back to the 1950s and June Cleaver?'" said Jay Thomas, college pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Ill.
Other evangelicals simply want to wait and cite their faith as motivation. Valerie Strattan, 24, of Chicago, has a serious boyfriend of 2 1/2 years. She believes that for now, God has called them to focus on separate pursuits: he's a musician, she works in refugee resettlement.
"We don't feel the rush to marry," Strattan said. "If I am listening to God, and he is listening to God, then God isn't going to lead us in separate places if he does truly want us to get married."Print This Post
The prophet Elijah was able to call fire down from Heaven on at least 3 occasions. That is, he made the request and God obliged. It is a pretty neat story and one of my favorite from the OT. If you want to hear more join us on Sunday morning. Who doesn't enjoy a good fire story? Right?Print This Post
LAKE PROVIDENCE, La. — The Rev. Michael Owens says nothing compares with dunking someone toward salvation.
Owens, the pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in this small church-crowded hamlet in northeast Louisiana, recently joined a dozen other pastors in leading outdoor baptisms in Lake Providence. They baptized 40 white-robed children, ages 4 to 15, plus three adults who waded in unannounced.
"Spirit's in that water," Owens said after the ceremony, his white robe still drenched from the waist down.
Outdoor baptisms are rapidly disappearing in America. Once prevalent in the rivers and deltas of the South, the ritual has been nearly extinguished by indoor pools, mega-churches and modernization, researchers and ministers say.
Only a handful of churches keep it alive.
"It's a feature of American Protestantism that is vanishing," says David Daniels, professor of church history at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
No one keeps statistics on outdoor baptisms, which are performed predominately by Baptists and Pentecostals. But officials at the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest grouping of Baptist churches in the USA, say of the 342,000 baptisms performed last year by its member churches, the vast majority were done indoors.
"Most churches, even small ones, have indoor baptisteries," says Rob Phillips, a spokesman for LifeWay Christian Resources, the SBC's publishing and research arm. "That's culturally the way folks do it these days."
The tradition of submerging someone in a river to wash away their sins began in Europe, came to America in the 18th century and spread across the South by Baptist ministers, Daniels says. The Christian tradition replicates Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist 2,000 years ago.
African slaves on plantation churches in the South quickly adopted the tradition, says Shayne Lee, an assistant professor of Sociology and African Diaspora Studies at Tulane University. The slave who walked down to the river for his baptism was publicly embracing Christianity while shedding his African religious beliefs, Lee says.
"For slaves in particular, it was not only a statement of faith, but a political statement," he says. "It was a statement to the world: 'I am now connected to Christianity.'"
In the 1950s, churches modernized to draw more parishioners and began constructing indoor pools for baptisms, Lee says. Later, as thousand-seat mega-churches began replacing smaller, rural churches, outdoor baptisms further dwindled, he says.
"We now have a whole generation of churchgoers who grew up in mega-churches, where indoor baptisms are the norm," Lee says. "Outdoor baptisms just don't resonate anymore."
A few decades back, weekend outdoor baptisms were as common in northeast Louisiana as Sunday school — at Galilee Baptist Church in Madison Parish, at Pine Hill Baptist Church in Rayville, at St. Joe's out on Highway 15, says Annie Staten, a retired librarian in Monroe, La., who documents and studies outdoor baptisms.
Staten says she vividly remembers her own baptism in the Boeuf River near Monroe on a clear Sunday morning 54 years ago. She remembers how the other children on the riverbank were scared but she wasn't, because her father was the minister. She remembers how her father pinched her nose to keep the water out before pushing her under. She remembers the sound of women singing, "Take Me to the Water," when she was brought back up.
"It's something you never forget," says Staten, now 60.
Pine Hill and St. Joe's stopped performing their river baptisms years ago, she says. Galilee was on a plantation which sold, closing down the church. Dozens of others ceased performing the ritual.
"It's a very sacred tradition in the Baptist church," Staten says. "Our children are hurting because they don't have that tradition anymore."
Once every summer, Progressive Baptist Church in Lake Providence joins with other churches to lead a two-week revival, where parishioners sing, pray and decide whether they're ready for salvation, says Glenn Dixon, a church deacon. On the revival's last day, they march to the lake for the baptisms.
At exactly 8:30 a.m. Sunday, under a gray, cottony sky, 15 pastors and deacons, garbed in white ceremonial robes, joined hands and waded waist-deep into the lake's murky water. On the banks, more than 100 bystanders — aunts, grandmothers, cousins, random passersby — watched and sang hymns as the children and adults were escorted into the water, four at a time. The mayor showed up to watch. The police chief was among those saved.
After a quick sermon, each candidate was pushed backward underwater. The little ones cried. Relatives cheered and snapped pictures with their mobile phones as, one by one, the children were returned to a tangle of outstretched hands, kisses and The Lion King-emblazoned towels.
"I was so nervous, I thought I was going to cry," says Valerie Thompson, 9, still wrapped in a towel. "But I didn't. I just felt happy."Print This Post
Here is the recent newsletter from missionary Chatty Daniels in Kenya. The link is a PDF file and requires Adobe Reader.Print This Post