Change in a Nation

No greater moral change ever passed over a nation than passed over England during the years which parted the middle of the reign of Elizabeth from the Long Parliament. England became a people of the book, and that book was the Bible. It was read at churches and read at home, and everywhere its words, as they fell on ears which custom had not deadened, kindled a startling enthusiasm. As a mere literary monument, the English version of the Bible remains the noblest example of the English tongue.

But far greater was the effect of the Bible on the character of the people. Elizabeth might silence or tune the pulpits, but it was impossible for her to silence or tune the great preachers of justice and mercy and truth who spoke from the Book. The whole temper of the nation felt the change. A new conception of life and of man superseded the old. A new moral and religious impulse spread through every class.

John Richard Green, A Short History of the English People

Isn’t It Strange

Isn’t it strange how we can spend hours and hours with good friends, talk a lot, do things together, and yet not really know them? Or how unknown we can be to those we work with, plan with, eat with, talk with? Sometimes this is because we don’t want to be known. The risk is too great. Maybe we won’t be liked if we reveal ourselves to others. At other times it is because we choose not to make the effort to get to know others, though they may desperately want to be known.

Jesus lived with his disciples for three years. He chose them, taught them, worked miracles before their eyes, prayed with and for them, and taught them to pray. He loved them deeply and attempted to reveal himself and the Father. But when it was time for him to die, and they didn’t fully know who he was. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t give up. He tenderly leads them to this knowledge of himself as he prepares them for his departure from this world.

Isn’t it strange how we can spend hours and hours with the church, talk a lot, do things together and not really be prepared for our departure from this world. Christ has chosen you and wants to reveal himself to you. He wants to lead you to an intimate knowledge of himself so you will be prepared. Talk to him!

Needed: A Part-Time Congress

Written by Cal Thomas

The finding by the bipartisan House Ethics Committee that Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., is guilty of financial misconduct and the conviction of former Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay by a jury in Austin, Texas, on charges of political money laundering brings a question: Are we getting the Congress we’re paying for?I’m with Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who told Human Events last week, “Make them part time; give them term limits. Don’t let them become lobbyists. When they have to live under the same rules and laws they pass for the rest of us, maybe you’d see some more common sense coming out of Washington.” Jindal, a former congressman, said once elected, too many lawmakers become entrenched in Washington and are transformed into the very people they campaigned against.I’ve seen no polling on this question, but I would bet most Americans are not clamoring for Congress to pass more laws. Several states have part-time legislatures that meet every two years to consider a budget and other truly important matters.

I’ve seen no polling on this question, but I would bet most Americans are not clamoring for Congress to pass more laws. Several states have part-time legislatures that meet every two years to consider a budget and other truly important matters. At other times, the part-time legislature is on-call should anything momentous occur. Should Congress follow suit? Maybe if it did we would be better off. A part-time Congress might reduce the temptations exemplified by Rangel and DeLay.

Serving in Congress should be seen as just that: service, which is distinct from self-service. It ought to be considered a privilege, not a profession.

The Founders were keenly aware of the danger of a Congress divorced from the realities of the rest of the country. During the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Roger Sherman of Connecticut wrote, “Representatives ought to return home and mix with the people. By remaining at the seat of government, they would acquire the habits of the place, which might differ from those of their constituents.”

Returning home shouldn’t mean flying home for long weekends and then coming back to Washington. It should mean returning to a real job where the member can’t raise his own pay, receive top medical care at reduced or no cost, print and spend other people’s money, or count on others to pay into his retirement fund. If he owned a business, he would have to meet a payroll and balance the budget. The member would also have to rely on Social Security, like other Americans.

Some states are getting as bad as Congress in their cost and ineffectiveness. The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives writes of Pennsylvania’s legislature: “With a price tag that’s grown to $300 million, Pennsylvania’s 253-member General Assembly is the most expensive (and second largest) state legislature in the country. It’s also among the four ‘most professionalized’ in the nation with staff totaling nearly 3,000. For perspective, the legislatures of Illinois and Ohio—the states closest in population to Pennsylvania—have 1,023 and 465 staff, respectively.”

Only 16 percent of Pennsylvania voters think the state legislature is doing a “good” job. Congressional job approval is also pathetically low.

Would congressional term limits work? They seem to in states that have tried them, opening opportunities to people, including women, who might not otherwise have been able to challenge entrenched and well-funded incumbents. Opinion is clearly on the side of abbreviated terms. In September, a Fox News poll found that 78 percent of voters favored term limits for Congress.

Former Missouri Republican Sen. John Danforth has said, “I have never seen more senators express discontent with their jobs. I think the major cause is that, deep down in our hearts, we have been accomplices to doing something terrible and unforgivable to this wonderful country . . . we know that we have bankrupted America and that we have given our children a legacy of bankruptcy. . . . We have defrauded our country to get ourselves elected.” That’s because too many have stayed too long at the fair. Limiting their terms would be good for them, good for the rest of us, and the best thing to do for America.

 

Where Are the Leaders? Barna

This is an interesting era for tracking the appeal and lifespan of leaders.On the one hand, we live in a time when more and more people think of themselves as leaders – more than six out of ten adults say they fit that description. This is probably egged on by the “everybody is a leader” nonsense that some people teach. What a happy day it will be when serious trainers of leaders realize and communicate that leadership is not something you choose to do, it is a calling that God gives to some; that relatively few people are called to this challenge; that those who are called are discernible by the gifts and abilities they are given by God so they may succeed in fulfilling the calling; and that godly character is one of the prerequisites for receiving and maintaining that calling.On the other hand, we have been witnessing a revolving door among leaders, perhaps as a reflection not of the public’s fickleness, but of the absence of the calling, character and competencies that enable one to succeed in leadership in their times of intrusive media scrutiny, public micro-management, unreasonable performance expectations, and widespread skepticism and cynicism. As you explore the downfall of many of these so-called leaders, you find several things in common.

One is the absence of vision, which is a clue that the “leader” is merely playing a role without the requisite substance. Over the years I have made it a practice to study the vision that propels people in leadership positions forward, and have found a galling paucity of vision among those attempting to lead. In my experience, a majority of those who seek the chance to lead are simply pandering and posing in order to get the platform to pursue outcomes that are peripheral to the needs of the public they seek to represent – not necessarily bad outcomes, but certainly not the critical results that the audience they serve deserves.

Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that a recent Pew study discovered that about three-quarters of Hispanics in America are unable to identify America’s primary Hispanic leaders – that is, the people who best represent their needs and interests in this multicultural society. With all due respect, the most frequently named Hispanic “leader” – recently appointed Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor – is hardly the kind of leader that the Hispanic community needs at the forefront. I do not mean that she is not skilled, intelligent, or trustworthy. The issue is that her position precludes her from providing frontlines leadership. Justices are discouraged from publicly speaking out on issues, do not organize people to fight for causes, typically write about matters of policy and social substance (other than Court opinions) only after they retire, and maintain a low public profile. By the way, Justice Sotomayor topped the list even though she was mentioned by only 7% of Hispanics.

Hispanics are not alone in struggling with this leadership vacuum. A recent study among registered Republicans revealed that six out of every ten party members were unable to identify who they believe is the true leader of their party. While we’re at it, let me note that Christians are in the same boat. Past Barna Group studies found that both Protestant pastors and individual Christians are generally unable to agree on individuals – other than Jesus Christ – whom they believe are providing significant leadership to the Christian body in America.

It is not hard to list a plethora of reasons why people are unable to identify leaders. But one of the reasons that may get too little attention is that we have ceased to understand what a genuine leader is. It is not someone who has a title, training, tenure, or even popularity. It goes back to the marks of leadership that we can readily distinguish: a clear and compelling vision, upstanding character, commitment to serving people, skills that facilitate progress, a track record of accomplishment in leadership situations, ability to attract a competent team of leaders to work with, a history of openness and accountability, and a blend of courage, confidence, wisdom and humility.

I think there are more of these kinds of leaders out there than the media would have us believe. We encounter them every day in business, government, churches, schools, non-profits, and families. And how great it would be to begin highlighting the good ones, and being able to support and learn from them.

Who are some of the leaders – not by virtue of position, but as recommended by their calling, character, competencies, vision, performance, and commitment – who have impressed you? What have they done that has made that impression upon you? Surely we can all point to alleged leaders whom we have found to be disappointing, or even counterfeits – people more interested in the position, perks and power than in serving people with humility, justice and righteousness. We don’t need more attention cast upon those who are not getting the job done. Instead, focus on those whose behavior you believe deserves some credit. What did they do that set them apart from the rest? What can you and I learn from their example?

Heavenly Realms

I know now that there is a dimension surrounding us called the heavenly realms. Most people are not aware of this dimension. Certainly non-Christians are not. Sadly, because we are so immersed in our secular and materialistic society, Christians to whom this dimension should be home are only dimly aware of it, if at all. The heavenly realms, to believer and nonbeliever, seem like a distant echo reserved for people who have died.

This needs to change. Christians have blessings in the heavenly realms and have access to them now.

This movement into the heavenly dimensions of life and the blessing that Jesus Christ brings is a two-staged process. The first stage is spiritual regeneration. We need to have our old self-centered hearts of stone replaced with hearts that are centered on God. This regeneration may take place in a dramatic conversion or it may take place quietly during a Sunday-school teacher’s lesson. However it happens, it is a gift of God that we do nothing to deserve and can’t achieve through our own efforts.

The next stage in the process, however, is different. It is the development of a Christian mind. The apostle Paul writes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12:2.

It is with the new mind that we begin to distinguish the sights and sounds of the heavens and that we begin to discern with our hearts. As we learn to think Christianly, we are able to articulate the individual notes of creation that sing God’s glory, whereas before, the notes were all compressed together. Our minds are like prisms that distinguish the colors of God’s glory that previously seemed a brilliant white light.

How we get this Christian mind is no mystery. Nor is it a mystical experience. It comes through the process of education. Just as it takes years of education for an engineer to think like an engineer or a doctor to think like a doctor, so it takes years to learn to think like a Christian. It requires all the effort that we can muster and then some. And even then, the transformation comes slowly, over a period of time.

…from Spiritual Encounters

Sermon 4 Peace.docx

SARAH WAS RICH

She had inherited twenty million dollars. That’s a lot of money any day, but it was immense in 1890.

She was the belle of New Haven, Connecticut. No social event was complete without her presence. No one hosted a party without inviting her.

Sarah was rich. Well known. Powerful. And miserable.

Her only daughter had died at five weeks of age. Then her husband had passed away. She was left alone with her name, her money, her memories,…and her guilt.

She fled to San Jose, California.

She bought an eight-room farmhouse plus one hundred sixty adjoining acres. She hired sixteen carpenters and put them to work. For the next thirty-eight years, craftsmen labored every day, twenty-four hours a day, to build a mansion.

Sarah’s instructions were more than eccentric…they were eerie. The design had a macabre touch. Each window was to have thirteen panes, each wall thirteen panels, each closet thirteen hooks, and each chandelier thirteen globes.

Corridors snaked randomly, some leading nowhere. One door opened to a blank wall, another to a fifty-foot drop. One set of stairs led to a ceiling that had no door. Trap doors. Secret passageways. Tunnels.

The making of this sad estate ended only when Sarah died. The completed estate sprawled over six acres and had six kitchens, thirteen bathrooms, forty stairways, forty-seven fireplaces fifty-two skylights, four hundred sixty-seven doors, ten thousand windows, one hundred sixty rooms, and a bell tower……….a sad, sad story.

There is, wrote Paul, a “worldly sorrow” that “brings death.” A guilt that kills. A sorrow that’s fatal. A regret that’s deadly.

Does a worldly sorrow plague you? We would do well to ask, “What is a contrite spirit? What should be our attitude?”

Diverse Set of National Concerns Topped by Widespread Economic Worries

September 13, 2010

The diversity of the United States population has been well-documented: a multi-ethnic mixture of more than 310 million people, comprised of individuals from a wide range of educational and economic backgrounds. Providing effective leadership for such a country is exceedingly challenging. The range of worldviews, faith perspectives, and personal dreams and expectations held by Americans makes it difficult for a national leader to possess a comprehensive and coherent point-of-view that a majority of the public will support.

The latest national survey by The Barna Group underscores the breadth of opinions and concerns that Americans possess.Breadth of ConcernsThe national survey among 1,000 randomly chosen adults found that more than 40 different national issues were listed by a significant number of people as matters that they consider to be the most important for the nations leaders to address. Those issues related to dimensions such as strengthening the nations economy, environmental protection, morality, health care, national security, education, international relations, lifestyle, government corruption, constitutional rights, oil dependency, and the role of government.The population groups among whom the greatest diversity of issues were expressed included adults in their mid-20s to mid-40s; residents of the western…

via The Barna Group – Diverse Set of National Concerns Topped by Widespread Economic Worries.

Americans Believe the Church Should Serve the Poor

October 25, 2010

Most Americans believe that the Christian faith has made positive contributions to American society during the past few years. A new nationwide survey from The Barna Group reveals that most of those contributions fall into one of three categories. Surprisingly, the survey also discovered that Americans are even more likely to identify negative contributions to society by Christianity in recent years.

Positive Contributions
In response to an open-ended question – meaning that survey respondents were not prompted with a list of possibilities but were asked to provide answers off the top of their head – one out of every five adults (19%) mentioned how Christians in the United States have helped poor or underprivileged people to have a better life. Adults under the age of 25 were especially likely to cite such service (34%). Others who were more likely than average to point out how Christians have helped those in need included blacks (28%) and those who describe themselves as “mostly liberal” on social and political matters (29%). Interestingly, evangelicals (11%) and those who say they are “mostly conservative” on socio-political matters (11%) were among the people least likely to list this as the greatest contribution of American Christianity.

The second most prolific contribution named related to evangelism – i.e., efforts to advance belief in God or Jesus Christ or to promote becoming an adherent of the Christian faith. Overall, one out of every six adults (16%) offered this response. Evangelicals (25%) and non-evangelical born again Christians (23%) were among those most likely to list evangelistic efforts. While one-quarter of all Protestant adults (26%) named evangelism, just one out of ten Catholics (11%) followed suit.

The third most common contribution listed was shaping or protecting the values and morals of the nation. This perspective was given by one out of every seven adults (14%). Those in the “mostly conservative” segment (19%) were among the most likely to mention this contribution. Young adults, Skeptics, and people in the “mostly liberal” categories were only half as likely as the national average to mention this outcome.

Overall, just 6% mentioned positive contributions by the Christian faith that related to marriage, and 5% listed favorable actions related to stopping abortions.

Slightly more than one out of every ten adults (11%) said Christianity had not made any positive contributions to the United States. This perspective was most common among people associated with a faith other than Christianity (23%) and Skeptics (27%).

The most frequent response, however, was the inability to think of a single positive contribution made by Christians in recent years. One out of every four respondents (25%) said they could not recall anything of this nature. Skeptics (34%), unchurched adults (33%), and Independent voters (29%) were more likely than other people to fall into this response category.

Negative Contributions
When asked to identify what they thought were the negative contributions of Christians to American society in recent years, the most frequent response was violence or hatred incited in the name of Jesus Christ. One out of five Americans mentioned such vitriolic attitudes. This was most likely to be mentioned by people associated with non-Christian faiths (35%) and by evangelicals (31%).

Three other responses generated similar levels of support. Thirteen percent said the opposition of Christians to gay marriage was the largest negative contribution. People 25 or younger were twice as likely as other Americans to mention this. Blacks (20%) and Skeptics (20%) also registered above-average levels of concern about that position.

Twelve percent cited churches being too involved in politics as a major negative. Another 12% named the sexual abuse scandals involving Catholic priests as the biggest black-eye for the Christian faith. Those revelations were particularly disturbing to young adults and Hispanics.

Relatively small numbers of respondents mentioned negative contributions such as the perceived intolerance or bigotry of the Christian body (2%), the failure of Christians to be assertive enough (2%) and the failure of believers to reflect genuine Christian values in their lifestyle (2%). Intolerance was a particularly common reply among Skeptics (12%).

Overall, one out of every eight adults (12%) said they could not think of any negative contributions of the Christian population to American society. Surprisingly, evangelicals were among the subgroups that were least likely to say they were unable to identify any negative contributions by Christians; just 6% of evangelicals fit that category, positioning them as the single, most critical subgroup of all (statistically tied with the 7% of liberals who gave that reply). Evangelicals were especially hard on Christians with regard to their failure to reflect the values and lifestyles taught by Jesus. For instance, while 25% of the nation listed failings such as violence, hatred, bigotry, intolerance, and lack of love for others, nearly twice as many evangelicals (48%) listed those same items.

Another one out of five adults (19%) said they did not know what the negative contributions of Christians had been.

Additional Outcomes
The survey also pointed out some interesting patterns and connections.

§ Although many churches are worried about offending people by sharing the gospel, less than 1% of the population complained that Christians are too aggressive in their evangelistic efforts. This corresponds with recent Barna studies that have shown that relatively few Christians discuss their faith with non-Christians in ways intended to encourage non-believers to adopt the Christian faith.

§ The people who seemed least aware of either the positive or negative contributions of Christians were the largest segment of Christians: Notionals. Along with the unchurched, Notional Christians were the segment most likely to not be able to identify either a positive or negative contribution of American Christians. Nationals currently represent about half of all Christians in the U.S.

§ Most of the non-Christian segments of the population cited serving the poor and underprivileged as the best thing that Christians have done.

§ Overall, there was a more extensive and diverse list of complaints about Christians and their churches than there was of examples of the benefits they have provided to society.

§ It is ironic that Baby Boomers – the generation famous for Woodstock, sexual liberation, the rise of recreational drug use, introducing the culture of narcissism, and the explosion in the number of divorces – was also the generation most likely to applaud the morals and values that Christians have stood for in the U.S.

George Barna directed the study and cautioned readers to realize that because the questions were asked in an open-ended format, the percentages of people providing many of the responses is substantially smaller than would have been the case had respondents been asked directly if they felt the items listed were significant contributions. The company plans to conduct additional research in this area in the future.

Privacy Rights

We all like our privacy. There is a fortress of privacy within all of us which is impregnable, our own private possession. It is difficult to venture out of the fortress because we are forced to face new experiences and problems. Our inner selves are considered our own for us to invite whom we wish and whom we love….

This "leave me alone" attitude of contemporary life is dangerous because it contradicts the essential nature of the Christian as a man for others. When we begin to care about people, we sacrifice a private life, the fortress is impregnated, and we no longer belong only to ourselves. Beware—that will cost. But we are not our own. We have been bought with a price. We belong to God.

When is the last time you allowed your privacy to be invaded to care for at least one other person?

Heaven Thoughts

In the days the eastern emperors were crowned at Constantinople, it is said to have been a custom to set before his majesty a certain number of marble slabs, one of which he was to choose to be his tombstone. It was considered good for him to remember his funeral at his coronation. Life is time, and the purpose of time is to prepare for eternity. A Greek philosopher, Anaxagoras, was asked why he thought he was born. His answer was, “That I may meditate upon heaven.’

To the uninformed eye, a caterpillar turns into a completely different creature when it becomes a butterfly. If a child had never been instructed that one emerged from the other, he would not recognize them as being related. But the scientist knows that when a caterpillar changes into a chrysalis, the whole of its body material undergoes a complete transformation except for a central and essential nerve that controls its entire system. This is retained. Then why shouldn’t our spirits have greater powers in the next life? Why should they not be able to repeat our likeness in a celestial and sanctified form, so that we shall be as easily recognized by other spirits in the next world as we are by other bodies in this world?

What you think today matters even there. Think a little more of heaven and a lot more on what you say here!

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