Once let the truth of God obtain an entrance into the human heart and subdue the whole man unto itself, no power human or infernal can dislodge it. We entertain it not as a guest but as the master of the house-this is a Christian necessity, he is no Christian who doth not thus believe. Those who feel the vital power of the gospel, and know the might of the Holy Ghost as he opens, applies, and seals the Lord’s Word, would sooner be torn to pieces than be rent away from the gospel of their salvation.
What a thousand mercies are wrapped up in the assurance that the truth will be with us for ever; will be our living support, our dying comfort, our rising song, our eternal glory; this is Christian privilege, without it our faith were little worth. Some truths we outgrow and leave behind, for they are but rudiments and lessons for beginners, but we cannot thus deal with Divine truth, for though it is sweet food for babes, it is in the highest sense strong meat for men.
The truth that we are sinners is painfully with us to humble and make us watchful; the more blessed truth that whosoever believeth on the Lord Jesus shall be saved, abides with us as our hope and joy. Experience, so far from loosening our hold of the doctrines of grace, has knit us to them more and more firmly; our grounds and motives for believing are now more strong, more numerous than ever, and we have reason to expect that it will be so till in death we clasp the Saviour in our arms.
Wherever this abiding love of truth can be discovered, we are bound to exercise our love. No narrow circle can contain our gracious sympathies, wide as the election of grace must be our communion of heart. Much of error may be mingled with truth received, let us war with the error but still love the brother for the measure of truth which we see in him; above all let us love and spread the truth ourselves.
”—Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon commenting on 2 John 2: “For the truths sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.”
The after-tax income of the wealthiest 1 per cent of US households increased by 275 per cent over the past three decades, much faster than the average growth of 62 per cent for all Americans, according to a new study by congressional analysts. For the poorest 20 per cent, the growth was only 18 per cent.
The report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which analyses the impact of tax and spending policies for US lawmakers, could set off a new round of discussion over rising income inequality in the US.
Democrats in Congress have already called for higher taxes on the richest citizens: a new economic stimulus plan proposed by the White House would be paid for with a surtax on income above $1m under their plan. Republicans have objected to such policies as “class warfare” – but are trying to craft their own message in response to the mounting concerns about unequal income distribution.
In a speech on Wednesday, Paul Ryan, chairman of the House of Representatives budget committee, is expected to take up the issue, arguing that the Democratic approach was divisive and stifled upward mobility, according to one aide. “Rather than raising taxes and making it more difficult for Americans to become wealthy, let’s lower the amount of government spending that the wealthy now receive,” Mr Ryan will tell an audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation, according to prepared excerpts.
The Wisconsin congressman – a leading spokesman for the Republican party on fiscal issues – will suggest means-testing of government health and pension programmes, as well as winding down what he labels “corporate welfare and crony capitalism” in the form of government subsidies.
The debate over income disparity – which was already simmering – has been further fuelled over the past month by protesters from the “Occupy Wall Street” movement who have been rallying across large US cities against what they see as the “greed and corruption” of top earners.
They may well seize on the latest findings by the CBO, whose study was commissioned by Max Baucus, Democratic chairman of the Senate finance committee, and Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator from Iowa who also sits on that panel.
The CBO concluded that while after-tax household incomes grew by 275 per cent for the richest 1 per cent between 1979 and 2007, they rose by 65 per cent for the rest of the top 20 per cent of Americans. For the 60 per cent in the middle-class, after-tax incomes grew by slightly less than 40 per cent, and for the poorest 20 per cent by only 18 per cent.
The CBO said the primary source of greater income disparity in the US was that the richest 1 per cent simply raked in a much bigger share of money than they had in previous decades, pointing to some possible factors such as changes to executive compensation policies, and innovations in the labour market for athletes and music stars.
But the CBO also said tax and spending policies had contributed to rising inequality by not “equalising” the dispersion of income as much as it did three decades ago.
FROM Seattle to Sydney, protesters have taken to the streets. Whether they are inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York or by the indignados in Madrid, they burn with dissatisfaction about the state of the economy, about the unfair way that the poor are paying for the sins of rich bankers, and in some cases about capitalism itself.
In the past it was easy for Western politicians and economic liberals to dismiss such outpourings of fury as a misguided fringe. In Seattle, for instance, the last big protests (against the World Trade Organisation, in 1999) looked mindless. If they had a goal, it was selfish—an attempt to impoverish the emerging world through protectionism. This time too, some things are familiar: the odd bit of violence, a lot of incoherent ranting and plenty of inconsistency (see article). The protesters have different aims in different countries. Higher taxes for the rich and a loathing of financiers is the closest thing to a common denominator, though in America polls show that popular rage against government eclipses that against Wall Street.
Yet even if the protests are small and muddled, it is dangerous to dismiss the broader rage that exists across the West. There are legitimate deep-seated grievances. Young people—and not just those on the streets—are likely to face higher taxes, less generous benefits and longer working lives than their parents. More immediately, houses are expensive, credit hard to get and jobs scarce—not just in old manufacturing industries but in the ritzier services that attract increasingly debt-laden graduates. In America 17.1% of those below 25 are out of work. Across the European Union, youth unemployment averages 20.9%. In Spain it is a staggering 46.2%. Only in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria is the rate in single digits.
It is not just the young who feel squeezed. The middle-aged face falling real wages and diminished pension rights. And the elderly are seeing inflation eat away the value of their savings; in Britain prices are rising by 5.2% but bank deposits yield less than 1%. In the meantime, bankers are back to huge bonuses.
Braver politicians would focus on two things. The first is tackling the causes of the rage speedily. Above all that means doing more to get their economies moving again. A credible solution to the euro crisis would be a huge start. More generally, focus on policies that boost economic growth: trade less austerity in the short term for medium-term adjustments, such as a higher retirement age. Make sure the rich pay their share, but in a way that makes economic sense: you can boost the tax take from the wealthy by eliminating loopholes while simultaneously lowering marginal rates. Reform finance vigorously. “Move to Basel 3 and higher capital requirements” is not a catchy slogan, but it would do far more to shrink bonuses on Wall Street than most of the ideas echoing across from Zuccotti Park.
The second is telling the truth—especially about what went wrong. The biggest danger is that legitimate criticisms of the excesses of finance risk turning into an unwarranted assault on the whole of globalisation. It is worth remembering that the epicentre of the 2008 disaster was American property, hardly a free market undistorted by government. For all the financiers’ faults (“too big to fail”, the excessive use of derivatives and the rest of it), the huge hole in most governments’ finances stems less from bank bail-outs than from politicians spending too much in the boom and making promises to do with pensions and health care they never could keep. Look behind much of the current misery—from high food prices to the lack of jobs for young Spaniards—and it has less to do with the rise of the emerging world than with state interference.
Global integration has its costs. It will put ever more pressure on Westerners, skilled as well as unskilled. But by any measure the benefits enormously outweigh those costs, and virtually all the ways to create jobs come from opening up economies, not following the protesters’ instincts. Western governments have failed their citizens once; building more barriers to stop goods, ideas, capital and people crossing borders would be a far greater mistake. To the extent that the protests are the first blast in a much longer, broader battle, this newspaper is firmly on the side of openness and freedom.
The decor of Erin and Anthony Rodriguez’s guest room could really only happen in the United States. In fact, a European did lay eyes on it one time, and his superior brow furrowed instantly with disbelief as he said, “What…is THAT?” It isn’t just the powder-pinkness of the third bedroom in their Gahanna, Ohio, home. It’s more the hot pink stars stenciled along the ceiling border, and that between them alternate the words “Katie” and “an American Girl.” Erin, who’s 30, Ohio born and raised, Ohio for life, can’t decide herself if she should be excited—I mean, it’s not not funny—or mildly embarrassed to show it to people. Nobody named Katie lives here. This paint scheme was left by the previous owners. On the early June afternoon when I drop my suitcase by the bed, Erin exclaims, “You can be our Katie!”
We’ve been roommates before. But that was back when we went to Ohio State, from which we graduated almost 10 years ago. Now Erin has a grown-up job as a public school teacher and a husband who’s a public information specialist for the Ohio agency that keeps tabs on local utilities and makes sure they don’t go all Enron on consumers. They have a baby, Jocelyn, who is extremely cute and well behaved, as well as a gray cat named Princess Vespa and a black cat named Barack Obama. For a long time, my contact with Erin has been limited mostly to occasional phone check-ins during which we brief each other on, like, how adulthood is going. Now I’m taking up temporary residence here not as a fun former roomie but as a reporter. I write Erin a rent check for a third of the mortgage—$430. She says she’s really happy to see me, even though she knows the grown-up reporter reason I’m here is that she and her husband are state employees, so something bad is bound to happen to them in the next month. That $430, she tells me, might make an important difference in their finances soon.
If the sign at the edge of town is to be believed, Gahanna is one of the Top 100 Places to Live. The Columbus suburb is a lot like the Cleveland suburb I grew up in. Green. Sprawly. Solidly middle-class, chock-full of shopping centers. And Erin and Anthony’s house is a lot like a lot of houses around it, a modest split-level with a big front yard and a deck in the back. In the wedding pictures on the walls, Erin’s got short blond hair. Currently, her locks are chin length and closer in color to the chocolate corduroy couch on which we sit while, on the floor before us, Jocelyn makes herself the center of a four-foot radius of toys. Erin’s beaming in the photos, and that’s pretty much what she usually looks like, pretty teeth bared, shiny cheeks. She still feels warm and open even as her face creases with anxiety and she says, “When we bought our house, we basically wiped out our savings.” The only reason there’s any money left in the bank at all is because of the rebate from President Obama’s first-time homebuyer’s credit program. Because the house, like most people’s houses, isn’t paid for, and neither is Anthony’s car, like many people’s cars, the prospect that Anthony might have only three more paychecks coming is making Erin “not fine,” though she’s “trying to be fine.” When we were in college, we all had these fabulous plans. Or at least plans to be supersecure once we found careers. To make a living and then…live. Erin blames the governor for her doubts now. She calls him some unsavory names.
A lot of people are doing that. A couple of weeks ago, a poll showed the approval ratings of John Kasich, the newly elected Republican governor, at 33 percent. Once upon a time Kasich was a United States congressman, before he left in 2001 to become a managing director at Lehman Brothers, where he worked until it imploded and destroyed a bunch of lives in 2008. On the side, he hosted his own show on Fox News, as well as frequently guest-hosting The O’Reilly Factor and appearing on the Sean Hannity vehicles. He took office in January, and his approval ratings have been abysmal since March, something to do, no doubt, with the release of his proposed budget for fiscal years 2012-13.
Erin’s specific dismay, the governor’s plan slashes $3.1 billion from an estimated $58.8 billion state budget largely by cutting funding to city governments and services. Anthony’s state agency, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC)—which advocates for customers in complaints, regulatory hearings, and court cases involving utility companies—is slated to lose 51 percent. The Department of Education loses 10.2 percent. A local think tank estimates that 51,000 state jobs are at stake. Local unions are panicking that the public employees who remain will have little control over their own futures, since Kasich effectively killed collective bargaining in a bill called SB 5 shortly after he took office. This is the manifestation of his campaign promise to “shine up the state.” In one of his campaign videos, he says that his parents used to say, “Johnny, make sure the place that you were is a little better off because of the fact that you were there.” He won the 2010 election, barely, on a job creation platform. His budget is called “The Jobs Budget.”
But for the differing accents and college football allegiances, this could be Florida, or Michigan, or Wisconsin. They’ve all got their own new Republican governors facing protests over public-sector job cuts or voter ID bills or union dismantling or destruction of public transportation projects or unemployment benefits. And those governors all have plummeting approval ratings.
IF you happened to be watching NBC on the first Sunday morning in August last summer, you would have seen something curious. There, on the set of Meet the Press, the host, David Gregory, was interviewing a guest who made a forceful case that the U.S. economy had become “very distorted.” In the wake of the recession, this guest explained, high-income individuals, large banks, and major corporations had experienced a “significant recovery”; the rest of the economy, by contrast—including small businesses and “a very significant amount of the labor force”—was stuck and still struggling. What we were seeing, he argued, was not a single economy at all, but rather “fundamentally two separate types of economy,” increasingly distinct and divergent.
This diagnosis, though alarming, was hardly unique: drawing attention to the divide between the wealthy and everyone else has long been standard fare on the left. (The idea of “two Americas” was a central theme of John Edwards’s 2004 and 2008 presidential runs.) What made the argument striking in this instance was that it was being offered by none other than the former five-term Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan: iconic libertarian, preeminent defender of the free market, and (at least until recently) the nation’s foremost devotee of Ayn Rand. When the high priest of capitalism himself is declaring the growth in economic inequality a national crisis, something has gone very, very wrong.
This widening gap between the rich and non-rich has been evident for years. In a 2005 report to investors, for instance, three analysts at Citigroup advised that “the World is dividing into two blocs—the Plutonomy and the rest”:
In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer”, or indeed the “Russian consumer”. There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.
Before the recession, it was relatively easy to ignore this concentration of wealth among an elite few. The wondrous inventions of the modern economy—Google, Amazon, the iPhone—broadly improved the lives of middle-class consumers, even as they made a tiny subset of entrepreneurs hugely wealthy. And the less-wondrous inventions—particularly the explosion of subprime credit—helped mask the rise of income inequality for many of those whose earnings were stagnant.
But the financial crisis and its long, dismal aftermath have changed all that. A multibillion-dollar bailout and Wall Street’s swift, subsequent reinstatement of gargantuan bonuses have inspired a narrative of parasitic bankers and other elites rigging the game for their own benefit. And this, in turn, has led to wider—and not unreasonable—fears that we are living in not merely a plutonomy, but a plutocracy, in which the rich display outsize political influence, narrowly self-interested motives, and a casual indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic bubble.
Through my work as a business journalist, I’ve spent the better part of the past decade shadowing the new super-rich: attending the same exclusive conferences in Europe; conducting interviews over cappuccinos on Martha’s Vineyard or in Silicon Valley meeting rooms; observing high-powered dinner parties in Manhattan. Some of what I’ve learned is entirely predictable: the rich are, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously noted, different from you and me.
What is more relevant to our times, though, is that the rich of today are also different from the rich of yesterday. Our light-speed, globally connected economy has led to the rise of a new super-elite that consists, to a notable degree, of first- and second-generation wealth. Its members are hardworking, highly educated, jet-setting meritocrats who feel they are the deserving winners of a tough, worldwide economic competition—and many of them, as a result, have an ambivalent attitude toward those of us who didn’t succeed so spectacularly. Perhaps most noteworthy, they are becoming a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home. Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s super-rich are increasingly a nation unto themselves.
Over the next day or so, I’ll be posting a series of articles and materials on the growing gap between the poor and middle class and the advent of the super-rich in America (and around the world). This shift is wealth distribution is unprecedented in the history of our country and will have a profound effect on how we shape the future. Closer to home, it will impact what you do for a living and just what America will look like over the next ten years.
In America income inequality began to widen in the 1980s largely because the poor fell behind those in the middle. More recently, the shift has been overwhelmingly due to a rise in the share of income going to the very top—the highest 1% of earners and above—particularly those working in the financial sector. Many Americans are seeing their living standards stagnate.
Without sap the tree cannot flourish or even exist. Vitality is essential to a Christian. There must be life -a vital principle infused into us by God the Holy Ghost, or we cannot be trees of the Lord. The mere name of being a Christian is but a dead thing, we must be filled with the spirit of divine life.
This life is mysterious. We do not understand the circulation of the sap, by what force it rises, and by what power it descends again. So the life within us is a sacred mystery. Regeneration is wrought by the Holy Ghost entering into man and becoming man’s life; and this divine life in a believer afterwards feeds upon the flesh and blood of Christ and is thus sustained by divine food, but whence it cometh and whither it goeth who shall explain to us? What a secret thing the sap is! The roots go searching through the soil with their little spongioles, but we cannot see them suck out the various gases, or transmute the mineral into the vegetable; this work is done down in the dark.
Our root is Christ Jesus, and our life is hid in him; this is the secret of the Lord. The radix of the Christian life is as secret as the life itself. How permanently active is the sap in the cedar! In the Christian the divine life is always full of energy-not always in fruit- bearing, but in inward operations. The believer’s graces, are not every one of them in constant motion? but his life never ceases to palpitate within. He is not always working for God, but his heart is always living upon him.
As the sap manifests itself in producing the foliage and fruit of the tree, so with a truly healthy Christian, his grace is externally manifested in his walk and conversation. If you talk with him, he cannot help speaking about Jesus. If you notice his actions you will see that he has been with Jesus. He has so much sap within, that it must fill his conduct and conversation with life.
”—Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon reflecting on Psalm 104:16—“The trees of the Lord are full of sap.”
Democracy’s Collateral Damage: 100,000 Coptic Christians may have fled the country since Mubarak’s fall; More than half of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians have fled the country since the American invasion toppled Saddam Hussein
THE Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, tracing its roots to St. Mark the apostle and the first century A.D. Coptic Christians have survived persecutions and conquests, the fall of Rome and the rise of Islam. They have been governed from Constantinople and Ctesiphon, Baghdad and London. They have outlasted the Byzantines, the Umayyads and the Ottomans, Napoleon Bonaparte and the British Empire.
But they may not survive the Arab Spring.
Apart from Hosni Mubarak and his intimates, no group has suffered more from Egypt’s revolution than the country’s eight million Copts. Last week two dozen people were killed in clashes between the Coptic Christians and the Egyptian Army, a grim milestone in a year in which the Coptic community has faced escalating terrorist and mob violence. A recent Vatican estimate suggests that 100,000 Copts may have fled the country since Mubarak’s fall. If Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood consolidates political power, that figure could grow exponentially.
This is a familiar story in the Middle East, where any sort of popular sovereignty has tended to unleash the furies and drive minorities into exile. From Lebanon to North Africa, the Arab world’s Christian enclaves have been shrinking steadily since decolonization. More than half of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians have fled the country since the American invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.
More important, though, this is a familiar story for the modern world as a whole — a case of what National Review’s John Derbyshire calls “modernity versus diversity.” For all the bright talk about multicultural mosaics, the age of globalization has also been an age of unprecedented religious and racial sorting — sometimes by choice, more often at gunpoint. Indeed, the causes of democracy and international peace have often been intimately tied to ethnic cleansing: both have gained ground not in spite of mass migrations and mass murders, but because of them.
The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God.
We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar. The tragic results of this spirit are all about us. Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit: these and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.
For this great sickness that is upon us no one person is responsible, and no Christian is wholly free from blame. We have all contributed, directly or indirectly, to this sad state of affairs. We have been too blind to see, or too timid to speak out, or too self-satisfied to desire anything better than the poor average diet with which others appear satisfied. To put it differently, we have accepted one another’s notions, copied one another’s lives and made one another’s experiences the model for our own. And for a generation the trend has been downward. Now we have reached a low place of sand and burnt wire grass and, worst of all, we have made the Word of Truth conform to our experience and accepted this low plane as the very pasture of the blessed.
It will require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times and return to Biblical ways. But it can be done. Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days.
Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there.
For the first time ever, the total amount of student loans in the U.S. topped $100 billion last year. And sometime this year, it’s expected that outstanding student loan debt will hit $1 trillion—also for the first time ever.
*Students today are borrowing double the amount they did ten years ago—after adjusting for inflation.
*Over the past five years, while most consumers have tried diligently to pay off credit card debt and mortgages, total outstanding student loan debt has doubled.
*The percentage of student loan borrowers in default (more than nine months behind on payments) is on the rise, from 6.7% in 2007 to 8.8% in 2009, per the most recent federal data available.
What’s more, there are plenty more borrowers who haven’t fallen quite as behind on student loan payments, but who are nonetheless struggling. Over the summer, a report showed the student loan delinquency rate (when loans are more than 90 days past due) at 11.2%. In other words, more than 1 in 10 people with student loans were more than three months behind in their payments.
While student loans are typically portrayed as the best kind of debt to take on—you’re investing in your future, after all—these loans are also among the scariest, most inescapable sort of debt out there. Declaring personal bankruptcy won’t get rid of them. If you can’t pay off a mortgage or a credit card, there are ways out—via short sales and negotiations to pay off debt for pennies on the dollar. Nothing along these lines is possible, however, with student loan debt.
All of this sounds pretty scary. Now add in the fact that the employment levels for young people reached their lowest levels ever over the summer. The proportion of Americans ages 16 to 24 in the workforce was just 59.5% in July 2011. That’s the lowest rate in any July on record, and it’s down substantially from, for example, July of 1989, when 77.5% of young people were in the workforce. In September, the unemployment rate for men ages 20 to 25 stood at 15.8%, much higher than the rate for the general population (9.1%), and both of these figures are understated because they don’t factor in people who have never joined the workforce or who have given up looking for jobs.
Then again, while it may seem like a bad idea to take on hefty student loans with the jobs market in such awful shape, workers who never earn college degrees typically have a poor understanding of things like late fees and interest payments—and they often wind up in even worse financial straits than the folks struggling to pay off their student loans.
Why Facebook Is After Your Kids: 7.5 million children under the age of 12 have Facebook accounts
In May, Consumer Reports announced that 7.5 million kids age 12 and younger are on Facebook. The magazine called this “troubling news,” in no small part because their presence is at odds with federal law, which bars Web sites from collecting personal data about kids under 13 without permission from their parents. “Clearly, using Facebook presents children and their friends and families with safety, security and privacy risks,” Consumer Reports concluded.
Within weeks of the Consumer Reports news, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, called for challenging the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa), which prevents Facebook from signing up young kids legally. “That will be a fight we take on at some point,” Zuckerberg said at the NewSchools Summit in California. And indeed, with the Federal Trade Commission poised to tighten Coppa’s regulations, Facebook has tripled its spending on lobbying, formed a political action committee and hired former Bush and Obama officials to push for its agenda.
We don’t really know yet how joining Facebook at a tender age affects kids socially and emotionally. There’s the fun and freedom of Facebook, and then there’s the Consumer Reports finding that the site exposed a million teenagers to bullying and harassment last year. What is clear is that Facebook thinks it needs access to kids’ lives in order to continue to dominate its industry. The younger the child, the greater the opportunity to build brand loyalty that might transcend the next social-media trend. And crucially, signing up kids early can accustom them to “sharing” with the big audiences that are at their small fingertips.
Increasingly, Facebook is staking its future relevance and profits on this idea of sharing, which it made “frictionless” in late September. With certain apps on Facebook, like Spotify, you can choose to enable a feature where everyone can see what you’re listening to or viewing, without your hitting another key. Before rolling out frictionless sharing, Facebook emphasized that it is now easier to see what your default settings are. But the company refuses to change those settings so that the default would establish more privacy, no doubt because it affects Facebook’s bottom line.
Even the most “Christlike” Christians on the planet will be totally ineffective unless they get near people who are living far from God. The stakes are too high for us to gloss over the need to be connected with people far from God. It’s the only way that relationships get forged, bridges get built, and God opens doors to spiritual conversations. If you’re attempting to do the work of evangelism and your life is stuffed with believers, you’ll find yourself out of work pretty quickly. What’s the point of saving the “already saved”? Remember, trend lines show the average Christ-follower growing increasingly isolated from the exact group he or she is called to reach.
Over the years, I’ve run across a common misconception people have about my credibility to speak to the issue of (getting connected with people far from God). People say, “Well, sure, it’s easy for you. You’re a pastor! You’re always around people who need God.” And while it’s true that I have opportunities to hear from seekers on occasion who approach me after a weekend service, left to its own devices my life is made up almost entirely of people who are already following Christ. Those of you who serve in full-time ministry understand that this proximity issue is harder than most people imagine. Within an hour of waking up tomorrow morning, countless friends of mine (and yours) will step foot in an office where they are utterly surrounded by people whose hearts have never received the love of Christ. Others will walk onto a construction site or onto a school campus, through neighborhood streets or local shops or city buildings. And I think, you lucky dogs! You can experience the great adventure all day, every day! I envy those of you who work in the marketplace day in and day out, almost entirely surrounded by people far from God. I covet your never-ending proximity to people who would be deeply impacted by your spiritual potency. Not to complain, but for me, getting close to people who need Christ’s witness in their lives requires wrenching my whole world out of shape. I have to work hard to stay “out there” in the world and get creative about finding ways to envelop irreligious people in friendship.
Living (like Jesus) involves developing friendships with the people right around you — many of whom are living rather far from God. But it doesn’t end there. Once you look up, really seeing into those eyes that you encounter day in and day out, the next step is to intentionally discover their stories. Learn what life has been like for them. What they dream about. What is going well in their estimation and what needs work. And as you might guess, these discussions don’t occur at arm’s length. You have to throw yourself into people’s lives to earn the right to have these types of conversations.
”—Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith by Bill Hybels
What’s new is this amazingly efficient distribution system for stolen property, called the Internet – and no one’s gonna shut down the Internet.
And it only takes one stolen copy to be on the Internet. The way we expressed it to them (the record labels) was: You only have to pick one lock to open every door.
At first, they kicked us out. But we kept going back again and again. The first record company to really understand this stuff was Warner. Next was Universal. Then we started making headway. And the reason we did, I think, is because we made predictions. And we were right. We told them the music subscription services they were pushing were going to fail. MusicNet was gonna fail. Pressplay was gonna fail. Here’s why: People don’t want to buy their music as a subscription. They bought 45s, then they bought LPs, they bought cassettes, they bought 8-tracks, then they bought CDs. They’re going to want to buy downloads.
They didn’t see it that way. There were people running around – business-development people – who kept pointing to AOL as the great model for this and saying, “No, we want that – we want a subscription business.”
Our position from the beginning has been that eighty percent of the people stealing music online don’t really want to be thieves. But that is such a compelling way to get music. It’s instant gratification. You don’t have to go to the record store; the music’s already digitized, so you don’t have to rip the CD. It’s so compelling that people are willing to become thieves to do it. But to tell them that they should stop being thieves – without a legal alternative that offers those same benefits – rings hollow. We said, “We don’t see how you convince people to stop being thieves unless you can offer them a carrot – not just a stick.” And the carrot is: We’re gonna offer you a better experience… and it’s only gonna cost you a dollar a song.
The other thing we told the record companies was that if you go to Kazaa to download a song, the experience is not very good. You type in a song name, you don’t get back a song – you get a hundred, on a hundred different computers. You try to download one, and, you know, the person has a slow connection, and it craps out. And after two or three have crapped out, you finally download a song, and four seconds are cut off, because it was encoded by a ten-year-old. By the time you get your song, it’s taken fifteen minutes. So that means you can download four an hour. Now some people are willing to do that. But a lot of people aren’t.
The truth is, it’s really hard to talk to people about not stealing music when there’s no legal alternative. The advent of a legal alternative is only six months old. Maybe there’s been a generation of kids lost – and maybe not, who knows? Maybe they think stealing music is like driving seventy mph on the freeway – it’s over the speed limit, but what’s the big deal? But I don’t think that’s the way it’s going to stay, not with future generations, at least. But who knows? This is all new territory.
Steve Jobs, in a 2003 interview with the Rolling Stone, commenting on the creation of iTunes and purchasing digital music a song at a time. The interview came at a point in history when free downloading services like Napster and Kazaa were at the forefront of music on the internet. I like how Mr. Jobs predicts that subscription services will not work; spot on for AOL, but not so sure that Spotify and Rdio got the memo. Read the entire interview HERE.
US pulling ALL troops in Iraq at year-end bringing to a final concluison an eight year war
BAGHDAD—The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned. The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively end more than eight years of U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, despite ongoing concerns about its security forces and the potential for instability.
The decision ends months of hand-wringing by U.S. officials over whether to stick to a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline that was set in 2008 or negotiate a new security agreement to ensure that gains made and more than 4,400 American military lives lost since March 2003 do not go to waste.
In recent months, Washington has been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand American troops remaining to continue training Iraqi security forces. A Pentagon spokesman said Saturday that no final decision has been reached about the U.S. training relationship with the Iraqi government.
But a senior Obama administration official in Washington confirmed Saturday that all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.
A senior U.S. military official confirmed the departure and said the withdrawal could allow future but limited U.S. military training missions in Iraq if requested.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Throughout the discussions, Iraqi leaders have adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans have refused to stay without it. Iraq’s leadership has been split on whether it wanted American forces to stay. Some argued the further training and U.S. help was vital, particularly to protect Iraq’s airspace and gather security intelligence. But others have deeply opposed any American troop presence, including Shiite militiamen who have threatened attacks on any American forces who remain.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has told U.S. military officials that he does not have the votes in parliament to provide immunity to the American trainers, the U.S. military official said.
A western diplomatic official in Iraq said al-Maliki told international diplomats he will not bring the immunity issue to parliament because lawmakers will not approve it.
For once, the instant critical analysis of an Apple product announcement was muted, not ecstatic. The new iPhone was faster than its predecessor, and included a better camera. You could get it with double the storage. But the case design hadn’t changed a bit, and most of the changes involved subtle refinements. People expected something eye-poppingly new; Apple delivered a phone that didn’t tamper too much with a proven success.
The iPhone in question? Nope, not the iPhone 4S that Apple unveiled in Cupertino last week. I’m thinking of the iPhone 3GS, which the company announced back in June of 2009. Much of the punditoracy declared it to be a disappointment. (Here’s one example. Consumers, however, seemed pleased. So much so that it’s still with us more than two years after its release—a rare accomplishment for any gadget. It’ll remain on the market, along with the iPhone 4, once the iPhone 4S hits stores on October 14th. (See the 50 best iPhone apps of 2011.)
As for the 4S, the Apple rumor mill has always been fueled as much by fantasy as by fact, but in the months leading up to last week’s launch, it switched into some sort of hitherto-unknown turbo mode. There was going to be a radically new iPhone in a thinner, “teardrop” shaped aluminum case. The iPhone’s screen was going to get bigger. T-Mobile was going to start selling the new iPhone, or maybe it would be a Sprint exclusive. The iPhone was going to use Near-Field Communications (NFC) to let owners use it as a digital wallet.
Wait, did I mention that there were going to be two new iPhones? And that one would be a cheaper, smaller model?
In the end, Apple released one iPhone, with a faster processor, better battery life, a camera packing multiple improvements, and an improved, built-in version of Siri, the remarkable voice-controlled software which the company acquired last year. It didn’t up the display size or change the case. The phone is now available on Sprint as well as AT&T and Verizon, but not on T-Mobile. And there’s no NFC.
In short, everything about the iPhone 4S is evolutionary, not revolutionary. It kept all that was good about the iPhone 4, and improved a few things in a strategic fashion. That’s perfectly okay. In fact, it’s worthy of celebration.
Evolution may not get anyone’s pulse pounding, but it often pays greater dividends in the real world than audacious changes that cry out “Look at me!” Big changes often bring major downsides; smart tweaks, however, are almost always nothing but good news.
With the 4S, for instance, Apple skipped NFC, a technology that’s still a work in progress. But it did improve the phone’s existing camera in just about every way it could—it upgraded the sensor, the lens, the flash, the video-capturing capability, and the image-processing software. People who buy the 4S will benefit every time they snap a photo.
Why Occupy Wall Street Is More Popular than the Tea Party*
One of the juicier nuggets in TIME’s wide-ranging new poll is that voters are embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement as they sour on the Tea Party. Twice as many respondents (54%) have a favorable impression of the eclectic band massing in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park than of the conservative movement that has, after two years, become a staple of the American political scene.
A closer look at the poll’s cross-tabs provides a fuller picture of the movement’s diverse support. Occupy Wall Street enjoys majority backing among men (57%) and women (51%), young (60% of respondents 18 to 34) and old (51%). Self-identified Democrats, unsurprisingly, comprise the left-leaning movement’s largest bloc, with 66% professing support. But more than half of independents (55%) harbor favorable views of the protesters, as do a third of Republicans.
As the movement has snowballed, it has become — as the Tea Party did — the subject of sneers from opponents bent on undermining its objectives and minimizing its influence. Like the Tea Party, it benefits in its incipient stages by venting a broad array of common frustrations. Many of these are vague enough that even Republicans can co-sign them. Of the respondents in TIME’s poll familiar with the protests, 86% — including 77% of Republicans — agree with the movement’s contention that Wall Street and its proxies in Washington exert too much influence over the political process. More than 70%, and 65% of Republicans, think the financial chieftains responsible for dragging the U.S. economy to the brink of implosion in the fall of 2008 should be prosecuted. Other questions reveal a sharper split along partisan lines but nonetheless reveal the strength of economic populism. Nearly 80% of respondents (96% of Democrats and 56% of Republicans) think the class chasm between rich and poor has grown too large, and 68%, including 40% of Republicans, say the affluent should pay more taxes.
There are warning signs embedded in the good news too. Not the least of these is the Tea Party’s own waning influence. That grassroots movement also grew from the seeds of economic frustration, generalized rage at Washington’s policies and a virulent strain of populism. Over time, those broadly popular sentiments calcified into a hard-line movement that regards political cooperation as grounds for a primary challenge. TIME’s poll provides a snapshot of a movement that no longer boasts the broad support it once enjoyed. Just 34% say the Tea Party has had a positive impact on U.S. politics, including just 35% of independents. Only 11% of respondents familiar with the movement call themselves members. It’s easy to trace the Tea Party’s withering support to its obstinacy; 89% of those surveyed argue that it’s better for politicians to find common ground than to be hidebound to fixed principles.
To avoid the same fate as it matures, Occupy Wall Street will have to do a better job than the Tea Party of negotiating that tightrope between principle and pragmatism. The swelling movement will have to clarify its goals, contend with Establishment forces seeking to co-opt its enthusiasm and confront the reality of a gridlocked Congress. The Tea Party backlash came only after it made that gridlock worse. For Occupy Wall Street, channeling early momentum into staying power won’t be easy, and both sides know it: 56% of respondents, including 51% of Democrats and 53% of the 18-to-34 demographic that forms the movement’s backbone, say it will ultimately have little impact on U.S. politics. The protesters’ challenge is to prove them wrong.
Dilma vs. Gisele: The War over Brazilian Womanhood
It’s hardly surprising that Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female President, has placed women in some of her government’s highest positions. But replacing leathery male dinosaurs may have been the easy part. Rousseff’s latest opponent is one whom many would have expected to be on her side: Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen.
The political and fashion heavyweights are at odds over recent television ads in which Bündchen instructs women on how to put their feminine charms to practical use: If you crash the car, max out the credit card or invite your mother to stay, the best way to break it to o marido — the husband — is to glide into the room in high heels and sexy lingerie. You pout. You throw your hips to one side. Then you break the bad news.
The campaign for the Hope lingerie label has angered Rousseff’s Cabinet-level Women’s Secretariat, which in a statement said the ads “reinforce the wrong stereotypes of the woman as a husband’s mere sex object and ignore the great advances we’ve achieved in deconstructing sexist thoughts and practices.” The secretariat petitioned the National Council for Advertising Self-Regulation (known by its Portuguese acronym Conar) to open an investigation into whether the campaign was sexist, and Conar accepted the request. A decision is pending.
The controversy has sparked a debate over the role of women in a society that is still resolutely macho despite the advances of powerful women like Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who spent three years in jail during Brazil’s 1964–85 military dictatorship. In a culture that exalts female sexuality as few others do, even Rousseff still finds herself the butt of jokes about a business-like appearance and forceful personality that would be largely admired in many other big countries today. Hope argues that Brazilian women don’t need TV ads to tell them how to use their erotic capital. Responding to the government’s complaint, the company insisted that “the natural sensuality of the Brazilian woman [is] recognized worldwide,” and it said the campaign’s joking point was to show how that sensuality “can be an effective weapon at the time of giving bad news” — especially if Hope’s skimpy garments are on display to soften the blow.
But Brazilian leaders like Rousseff know all too well that there are grimmer realities behind the national ideal of bronze thong-bikini-wearing lovelies like the Girl from Ipanema. While women are a majority in Brazil, they remain less educated and are paid less than men (the latter problem still persists in developed nations like the U.S.). One in every five Brazilian females has suffered some kind of violence at the hands of a male aggressor, according to a recent government-funded study, and authorities have yet to adequately assist them: in a nation of 192 million people, there are only 72 shelters for battered women. “These [lingerie ads] show women as stereotypes to keep them in their place, and it is that kind of portrayal that leads women into submission and to accept [problems] like domestic violence,” says Aparecida Gonçalves, Brazil’s subsecretary for combating violence against women.
In what can only be described as a nutritional step backward, Charlotte Motor Speedway unveiled a brand spankin’ new treat called the “Funnel Bacakonator.”
"Bacakonator," a disturbing hybrid of "bacon" and "cake," pretty much describes the dessert in all its glory: a funnel cake topped with bacon and chocolate and strawberry sauces.
It may seem like the raceway, home of Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 Sprint Cup Race, is trying to butter up the national obesity rate. In reality, the funnel cake was introduced alongside ”Danica Patrick’s Fit Fuel Menu,” which will feature items like turkey and veggie burgers, fruit and vegetables, trail mix and healthy energy bars.
But if salad and energy bars don’t fuel your fancy and you need an entree for your Funnel Bacakonator, look no further than the newest burger selection: a beef patty with pimento macaroni and cheese and crumbled pork rinds.
The cry of the Christian religion is the gentle word, “Come.” The Jewish law harshly said, “Go, take heed unto thy steps as to the path in which thou shalt walk. Break the commandments, and thou shalt perish; keep them, and thou shalt live.” The law was a dispensation of terror, which drove men before it as with a scourge; the gospel draws with bands of love. Jesus is the good Shepherd going before his sheep, bidding them follow him, and ever leading them onwards with the sweet word, “Come.” The law repels, the gospel attracts. The law shows the distance which there is between God and man; the gospel bridges that awful chasm, and brings the sinner across it.
From the first moment of your spiritual life until you are ushered into glory, the language of Christ to you will be, “Come, come unto me.” As a mother puts out her finger to her little child and woos it to walk by saying, “Come,” even so does Jesus. He will always be ahead of you, bidding you follow him as the soldier follows his captain. He will always go before you to pave your way, and clear your path, and you shall hear his animating voice calling you after him all through life; while in the solemn hour of death, his sweet words with which he shall usher you into the heavenly world shall be-“Come, ye blessed of my Father.”
Nay, further, this is not only Christ’s cry to you, but, if you be a believer, this is your cry to Christ-“Come! come!” You will be longing for his second advent; you will be saying, “Come quickly, even so come Lord Jesus.” You will be panting for nearer and closer communion with him. As his voice to you is “Come,” your response to him will be, “Come, Lord, and abide with me. Come, and occupy alone the throne of my heart; reign there without a rival, and consecrate me entirely to thy service.”
”—Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon, commenting on Matthew 11:28—“Come unto me.”
After the disharmony that plagued the French team in the first stage of the Rugby World Cup, the coaches and players now seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet.
France came within a whisker of being eliminated two weeks ago after Coach Marc Lièvremont’s public criticism of players and after his erratic lineup selection led to internal bickering.
With a loss to Tonga on Oct. 1, after being beaten handily by New Zealand the previous week, the French hit their lowest point at a World Cup, even though they had somehow managed to scrape into the quarterfinals with two victories in their four opening-round matches.
Lièvremont’s offer of reconciliation over a postmatch beer was rebuffed by the players immediately after the Tonga loss. But peace was established the next day with veteran players like Lionel Nallet, Julien Bonnaire, William Servat, Imanol Harinordoquy and Dimitri Yachvili apparently concluding that only with a collective approach could the French hope to defeat England.
Whatever was said in that bonding session over a few beers clearly worked as the French prevailed last weekend, 19-12, to set up a semifinal showdown against Wales on Saturday. The players appear happier and say Lièvremont is listening to them.
After the victory against England, Lièvremont said his players had an opportunity to make history. Although France has a history of stirring World Cup victories — most notably against Australia in a 1987 semifinal, and against New Zealand in a 1999 semifinal and a 2007 quarterfinal — it has never won the World Cup.
“I warned the players about not getting carried away,” said Lièvremont, who played in the 1999 final. “In ’99, we spent too much time thinking about our semifinal win against New Zealand and we came up short against an Australian team that was programmed to win.
“The danger is for the players to start thinking they are too good. We are Latin, so there is always a risk. The Anglo-Saxons are far more pragmatic.”
In the strange land of GOP candidates, pizza king Herman Cain now has his own catchy tax plan for helping America. Stay smart, folks. These guys are incredible. Read the entire NYT piece HERE.
It was a strategy session at 28,000 feet. Herman Cain, the Republican presidential candidate, and his advisers were on a campaign flight this summer between Atlanta and New Hampshire, tossing around policy ideas.
Mr. Cain, a former pizza chain chief executive, wanted a proposal to jolt the economy and give his candidacy some definition. “I said, ‘The first fundamental, guys, is we have to throw out the tax code,’ ” Mr. Cain said Wednesday in an interview.
“How do we come up with a bolder plan?” he pressed two of his close advisers.
From that exchange emerged the plan that Mr. Cain calls 9-9-9: a flat 9 percent individual income tax rate, a 9 percent corporate tax rate and a 9 percent national sales tax.
He has uttered the triple digits repeatedly, metronome-like, in speeches and debates, until they have acquired the catchy power of a brand.
Although Mr. Cain’s rivals have tried to use the plan’s simplicity against him — responding that it sounds like the price of a pie with pepperoni, for example — he has stuck to his message.
Now both he and his proposal are getting intensive new scrutiny as Republicans continue to flirt with their candidates less than three months before casting the first votes of the primary season. He continues to surge in national polls.
A poll released Wednesday by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Cain was effectively tied with Mitt Romney; on Tuesday night, Mr. Cain and his tax plan were at the center of the candidates’ debate.
But although the specifics of the 9-9-9 plan were developed only in the last few months, it is only the latest incarnation of two ideas popular among some supply-side conservatives for decades.
Mr. Cain was a co-chairman in 1996 of the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes, who advocated a flat tax — a single rate on income for all payers. Mr. Cain later supported a “fair tax,” one that would replace all other taxes with a national sales tax.
The 9-9-9 plan combines elements of both ideas. But it is little more than a sketch of what would be a radical and complex overhaul of the tax system. In developing it, Mr. Cain relied heavily on Rich Lowrie, whom he calls his lead economist. Mr. Lowrie is an investment adviser at a Wells Fargo office in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Although he is an unpaid member of an advisory board of the American Conservative Union, he has never worked for a policy research group or an academic institution, or made a name through economic analysis.
The interior journey of the soul from the wilds of sin into the enjoyed Presence of God is beautifully illustrated in the Old Testament tabernacle. The returning sinner first entered the outer court where he offered a blood sacrifice on the brazen altar and washed himself in the laver that stood near it. Then through a veil he passed into the holy place where no natural light could come, but the golden candlestick which spoke of Jesus the Light of the World threw its soft glow over all. There also was the shewbread to tell of Jesus, the Bread of Life, and the altar of incense, a figure of unceasing prayer. Though the worshipper had enjoyed so much, still he had not yet entered the Presence of God. Another veil separated from the Holy of Holies where above the mercy seat dwelt the very God Himself in awful and glorious manifestation. While the tabernacle stood, only the high priest could enter there, and that but once a year, with blood which he offered for his sins and the sins of the people. It was this last veil which was rent when our Lord gave up the ghost on Calvary, and the sacred writer explains that this rending of the veil opened the way for every worshipper in the world to come by the new and living way straight into the divine Presence.
This Flame of the Presence was the beating heart of the Levitical order. Without it all the appointments of the tabernacle were characters of some unknown language; they had no meaning for Israel or for us. The greatest fact of the tabernacle was that Jehovah was there; a Presence was waiting within the veil. Similarly the Presence of God is the central fact of Christianity. At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His Presence.
That type of Christianity which happens now to be the vogue knows this Presence only in theory. It fails to stress the Christian’s privilege of present realization. According to its teachings we are in the Presence of God positionally, and nothing is said about the need to experience that Presence actually. The fiery urge that drove men like McCheyne is wholly missing. And the present generation of Christians measures itself by this imperfect rule. Ignoble contentment takes the place of burning zeal. We are satisfied to rest in our judicial possessions and for the most part we bother ourselves very little about the absence of personal experience.
The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His Presence. The instant cure of most of our religious ills would be to enter the Presence in spiritual experience, to become suddenly aware that we are in God and that God is in us. This would lift us out of our pitiful narrowness and cause our hearts to be enlarged. This would burn away the impurities from our lives as the bugs and fungi were burned away by the fire that dwelt in the bush.
The highest love of God is not intellectual, it is spiritual. God is spirit and only the spirit of man can know Him really. In the deep spirit of a man the fire must glow or his love is not the true love of God.
The Barna Group has released the findings of a five year study on why young adults are leaving the church. The research project was comprised of eight national studies, including interviews with teenagers, young adults, parents, youth pastors, and senior pastors. No single reason dominated the break-up between church and young adults. Instead, a variety of reasons emerged. Overall, the research uncovered six significant themes why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15. We’ll have more on this work later, or read more about it HERE.
Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective. A few of the defining characteristics of today’s teens and young adults are their unprecedented access to ideas and worldviews as well as their prodigious consumption of popular culture. As Christians, they express the desire for their faith in Christ to connect to the world they live in. However, much of their experience of Christianity feels stifling, fear-based and risk-averse. One-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” (23% indicated this “completely” or “mostly” describes their experience). Other perceptions in this category include “church ignoring the problems of the real world” (22%) and “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful” (18%).
Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow. A second reason that young people depart church as young adults is that something is lacking in their experience of church. One-third said “church is boring” (31%). One-quarter of these young adults said that “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” (24%) or that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough” (23%). Sadly, one-fifth of these young adults who attended a church as a teenager said that “God seems missing from my experience of church” (20%).
Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science. One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%). Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%). Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%). And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.
Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental. With unfettered access to digital pornography and immersed in a culture that values hyper-sexuality over wholeness, teen and twentysometing Christians are struggling with how to live meaningful lives in terms of sex and sexuality. One of the significant tensions for many young believers is how to live up to the church’s expectations of chastity and sexual purity in this culture, especially as the age of first marriage is now commonly delayed to the late twenties. Research indicates that most young Christians are as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, even though they are more conservative in their attitudes about sexuality. One-sixth of young Christians (17%) said they “have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.” The issue of sexuality is particularly salient among 18- to 29-year-old Catholics, among whom two out of five (40%) said the church’s “teachings on sexuality and birth control are out of date.”
Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity. Younger Americans have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance. Today’s youth and young adults also are the most eclectic generation in American history in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, technological tools and sources of authority. Most young adults want to find areas of common ground with each other, sometimes even if that means glossing over real differences. Three out of ten young Christians (29%) said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and an identical proportion felt they are “forced to choose between my faith and my friends.” One-fifth of young adults with a Christian background said “church is like a country club, only for insiders” (22%).
Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt. Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%). In a related theme of how churches struggle to help young adults who feel marginalized, about one out of every six young adults with a Christian background said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems” they experience (18%).
O thou pleasant, comfortable, kindly, good-natured God: How glad I am that I can look forward, with a reasonable degree of certainty, to another ordinary day. Keep me today from anything that taxes my faith from discomfort, from unnecessary strain, from unusual problems, especially those involving sickness or death, or the necessity of extending financial aid to relatives and friends.
Dear Lord, grant that nothing may occur which will disturb my satisfaction with the way I am, and the things I say, and the thoughts I think, the acts I do, or the many deeds I leave undone. Give me this day, in addition to my daily bread, the butter, meats, and sweetmeats that are my necessary diet, and let me not be troubled by qualms of conscience concerning the amount of time and money I spend on food and clothing, pastimes, good and bad, and those pursuits which, while not of spiritual value, are the accepted hall-mark of the normal citizen of this enlightened community in this enlightened age.
About the future and the darkening trend of things, keep me from thoughtfulness. Events rush on, the world travails. Can screaming headlines prove thy hand’s at work this very moment, bringing near that fateful cry, ‘Behold! He comes!’? O, Lord, such disconcerting thoughts! Keep me from worrying about such things, and guide me safely to and from my office, and my home. Amen.
”—At CSF we studied this week the Matthew 25 passage on the sheep and the goats. This “prayer” helps drive home a point about the goats and false Christianity, no matter how much it may be dressed in evangelical clothes. Perhaps nothing can describe it better than this prayer, written by Richard Woike. He calls it “A Prayer to Avoid” but we might well term it, “The Prayer of a Goat.” From a message by Ray Stedman.
Assault with a bratwurst and a bun: Woods Finishes 30th After Bizarre Hot Dog Incident
From NPR—weird sports news. Full report HERE. And yes, Tiger already is a wiener of many golf tournaments.
The Frys.com Open brought the first PGA Tour win for Bryce Molder, who joined the tour in 2002. But the tournament was also memorable for Tiger Woods, who played well — and survived having a hot dog thrown at him on the putting green.
Molder holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th that got him into a playoff with Briny Baird. Molder then outlasted Baird on the sixth extra hole, the longest playoff on tour this year, by making a 6-foot birdie putt.
Woods hadn’t played on the PGA Tour since the middle of August, when he missed the cut at the PGA Championship amid growing questions about whether he could get his game back to where it once was or even come close to that standard.
His golf looked much improved. Because of injuries to his left leg this year that are finally healed, Woods has played less than a dozen full rounds since the Masters. None were as unusual as Sunday’s, when a man rushed the green and threw a hot dog him.
The incident occurred on the seventh green, as Woods eyed a putt that could have given him a birdie on the hole. Suddenly the silence was broken by a man yelling “Tiger! Tiger!” and jogging onto the green — following the wiener he’d just launched in Woods’ direction.
As the man proceeded onto the green, he went to his knees and lay face-down on the grass, with security personnel rapidly approaching.
When Woods finished his round with a birdie, any seriousness of the incident gave way to levity. Dan Diggins, head of security for tournament sponsor Frys Electronics, said the man would be arrested for “everything” and described him as “just an idiot.”
"It wasn’t a chili dog," Diggins said. "That could have been really bad."
The man, whose name has not been released, was charged with a misdemeanor. Officials say he offered no motive for his actions.
This is How to Do it--Alltech Cultivates Haitian Coffee
From the Herald Leader; full story HERE. Of all the things we are doing to help Haiti, this may be one of the best. A tip of the cap to Alltech who is showing us how to blend solid business ideas with good works. To me, it will take businessmen leading the way for the church and just ordinary folks who are well-intended but just don’t have the business backgrounds.
A little more than a year since its launch, Alltech’s fair-trade Haitian coffee is reaching new heights. The company has vastly expanded its distribution, began offering profit-sharing to charities that help sell it, and continued to use all the remaining profits to help improve the coffee cooperative that grows the beans.
"Every time we sit down with a potential client or customer, they almost immediately have such faith in the story and how great this project could be that we essentially have a new supporter every time we meet someone," Alltech Product Development Manager Chris Gayton said.
The growth is already coming for the project that was rooted in Alltech founder Pearse Lyons’ visits to Haiti after the devastating earthquake there in January 2010. When Alltech launched the coffee, called Alltech Café Citadelle, in September 2010, it initially looked at restaurants as the best distribution avenue.
"We’re still pursuing that angle but learning that the food-service business is part of the learning curve for us on this project," Gayton said.
Instead, the Nicholasville-based animal nutrition company has been increasing the coffee’s presence at retailers and is embracing what Gayton calls the “Girl Scout cookie model.”
The company has worked with a number of Rotary Clubs and offers them a charity code to give to people who buy the coffee on Alltech’s Web site. Each bag bought with the code equals $1 for the cooperative. The money is paid out quarterly.
"We realized what we needed to be doing was tapping into the charitable-cause community essentially," Gayton said. "We split profits with them to help use the coffee to raise money for themselves, and it helps us multiply our sales force."
Alltech’s share of the profits goes directly to a non-profit foundation the company set up that then distributes the money to the Haitian coffee farmers through infrastructure improvements and other projects, said Alltech Product Development Coordinator Matthew Mathis.
"We truly do feel it’s a direct correlation between you buying the coffee and us going back down to Haiti and doing projects," Mathis said.
Recently, the company has helped to install a sanitary kitchen, bathrooms and a water system in a school at the co-op.
"It was a really good little school that was doing some good things but didn’t have the money to stay in the building they were in," Gayton said. "The amazing thing is, when I list these projects off, they sound huge but, in Haiti, where labor and materials are cheap, it’s not that difficult for us to accomplish."
Alltech also has paid for a new roof over part of the building and a new security wall for the coffee co-op. Rather than wait on profits from the coffee, the company funded much of the improvements itself “because Alltech has the means,” Gayton said, adding that the company is paying the salaries of the school’s teachers, too.
And anticipating sales growth for the coffee, Alltech and the co-op are investing in infrastructure projects to produce more.
Alltech Café Citadelle, a fair-trade coffee from Haiti that sees all proceeds go back to the farmers, is available through the following:
Lexington retail locations: Liquor Barn, Coffee Times, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Good Foods Co-op, Critchfield Meats, Asbury University’s Hiccup Café, Hilton Lexington/Downtown and Lexington Catholic High School’s Knights Kastle.
Non-profit organizations: Some Rotary Clubs and Southland Christian Church offer online codes that, when used, donate $1 of every bag purchased back to the organization.
Barna: State of the Church in 2011-A Disturbing Look at Shifts in Our Religious Beliefs Over the Last 20 Years
George Barna, author of the trends book Futurecast, has released a series of assessments of how America’s faith has shifted in the past 20 years on 14 religious variables. In the series of briefs, Barna explores not only the aggregate national patterns, but also digs into how matters have changed according to gender, ethnicity, region, generation, and religious segments. We’ll feature more of these on Guard the Trust or you can check them out on the Barna web site HERE.
All in, it’s a disturbing look at erosion in the church. Not so much in terms of the church as an organization but in terms of the church as people and a slow fade in terms of what they believe. As Paul puts it in 2 Timothy, it’s just a form of godliness, but there is no power in a weak set of beliefs. What we believe, and how firmly we believe it, goes a long way to defining who we are.
An examination of six religious behaviors tracked over the past 20 years among American adults shows that five of the six experienced statistically significant changes during that time frame.
Bible reading undertaken during the course of a typical week, other than passages read while attending church events, has declined by five percentage points. Currently an estimated 40% of adults read the Bible during a typical week.
Church volunteerism has dropped by eight percentage points since 1991. Presently, slightly less than one out of every five adults (19%) donates some of their time in a typical week to serving at a church.
Adult Sunday school attendance has also diminished by eight percentage points over the past two decades. On any given Sunday, about 15% of adults can be expected to show up in a Sunday school class.
The most carefully watched church-related statistic is adult attendance. Since 1991, attendance has receded by nine percentage points, dropping from 49% in 1991 to 40% in 2011.
The most prolific change in religious behavior among those measured has been the increase in the percentage of adults categorized as unchurched. The Barna Group definition includes all adults who have not attended any religious events at a church, other than special ceremonies such as a wedding or funeral, during the prior six month period. In 1991, just one-quarter of adults (24%) were unchurched. That figure has ballooned by more than 50%, to 37% today.
The only behavior that did not experience any real change was the percentage of adults who attend a church of 600 or more people.
Christians have a lot to learn from understanding the biblical background and purpose of the Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur finds its roots in Leviticus and God’s requirement that we “afflict our souls.” Almost any Google search will tell you more, but here is a brief explanation of the holiday. Spend some time thinking about this and what it all means to you.
Yom Kippur 2011 (5772 in the Jewish calendar) starts at sunset on Friday, October 7, and ends at nightfall on Saturday, October 8.
But on the tenth day of this seventh month it is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation unto you, and you shall afflict your souls, and you shall bring a fire-offering to the Lord. And you shall do no work on this very day for it is a day of atonement to atone for you before the Lord your God. (Leviticus 23:27-28)
Honest self-examination, communication with one’s Maker, commitment to become a better person — all these are encouraged throughout the year in various religious systems, but there is one day on the Jewish calendar that is tailor-made for such activities: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Yom Kippur is celebrated on the tenth day of Tishri, i.e., ten days after Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. It is the culmination of ten days marked by increased levels of prayer, charity and other good deeds, and the seeking of forgiveness from anyone one has harmed, purposely or inadvertently, during the previous year.
This day, the holiest and most solemn in Judaism, is also among the most joyous, as it affords one the opportunity to rectify past wrongs and face the future with a slate wiped clean. Some people have the custom of wearing white as a symbol of purity. Some stay awake all night; others refrain from all unnecessary speech.
On Yom Kippur, so exclusive is the emphasis on one’s inner life that there are five prohibitions designed to help reduce the focus on physical needs and thereby shift the spotlight to spiritual pursuits:
Eating and drinking
Anointing (applying creams and lotions)
Wearing leather shoes
Those for whom following these requirements would present a health risk are exempt. The traditional restrictions on labor that apply to the Sabbath apply to Yom Kippur as well.
The bulk of the day is spent in prayer, of which there are five separate services — one on the eve of Yom Kippur and four the following day (in contrast, normal weekdays have three prescribed prayers and Sabbaths and holidays, four). The liturgy focuses on the enumeration of personal and communal shortcomings, pleas for Divine forgiveness, and reminders of the special relationship between God and His chosen people.
Yom Kippur services begin in the evening with the Kol Nidre prayer, which casts the congregation as petitioners in a court seeking to have their vows of the preceding year — unheedingly made and imperfectly fulfilled — annulled. Such is the consciousness of the human inability to live up to stated goals that in most versions of this prayer, a preemptive annulment of vows that will be undertaken during the coming year is requested as well.
Another noteworthy element of the liturgy, recited in the afternoon, is the verbal recreation of the Yom Kippur avoda — the ceremonial service performed in ancient times by the High Priest in the Holy Temple. This ritual included the sacrifice of two goats, one that was sacrificed to God in the Temple and another that became a scapegoat symbolically carrying all of the Israelites’ sins out to the desert till he tumbled to his death off a rocky cliff.
The biblical book of Jonah, which recounts the prophet Jonah's encounter with a whale and the repentance of the entire city of Nineveh, is read in the afternoon as well.
At the end of services at nightfall, the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown. As the sound of the blast fills the synagogue, so does the feeling of having been cleansed both by the physical deprivations of the day and by the certainty that a merciful God has granted the longed-for atonement. The age-old wish of Jews around the world, “Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem,” is proclaimed.
Gmar chatima tova! May you be sealed in the Book of Life.
There is in the American air — some 13 months away from the 2012 election — a whiff of suggestion that Obama might not be re-elected. Or re-electable.
A recent poll reveals that most Americans — 55 percent — believe Obama will be a one-term president. On hearing the results, Obama told ABC News: “I’m used to being an underdog.”
Another survey by CNN reveals that if the 2012 presidential election were to be held today, Obama would narrowly beat Republican hopefuls Ron Paul (by a mere 4 percentage points) and Rick Perry (by 5 points), and he would be neck and neck with Mitt Romney. And, according to Gallup’s most recent weekly approval rating average, Obama’s approval rating is around 41 percent today.
"Since the poll shows that voters tend to support candidates based more on how they ‘feel’ about them and less on whether they line up on the issues," write James Oliphant and Kim Geiger in the Los Angeles Times, “that’s a worrisome trend for Obama.”
Uh-oh. Underdog. Worrisome trend. Are the storm clouds of uncertainty gathering over the Obama presidency? Is the once-popular Illinois politician headed for defeat in 2012? Is the next “Change We Can Believe In” perhaps — what only a few months ago would have been unbelievable — a change of the guard? And is it really possible that the “Yes We Can” man can get not only panned, but canned?
Not so fast. “Presidential approval fluctuates for all presidents,” says Bert A. Rockman, a political science professor at Purdue University. “Mostly, approval reflects conditions. When things are going well and no scandals strike, presidents do well in the polls; when things are not going well or scandals strike, they tend to do less well.”
Most every president has a low point during his first term when he seems vulnerable, if not downright un-re-electable. A crucial consideration is when that point arrives. Historically, it seems, the sooner a president craters, the better his chances of recovery.
Read the rest of the NPR story HERE and the analysis of how Presidents Bush (both father and son) and Clinton fared in trying to recover from approval rating issues and capture a second term.