Rick Warren drawing heat from the AP over association with Jesus

This man invokes Jesus.
This man invokes Jesus.

It appears that the Associated Press has learned that there are Christians like Saddleback pastor Rick Warren who invoke the name of Jesus (!) when they pray and that it may offend some — notably people like journalists who hold to a faith that relies on human understanding alone. Warren, for his part, played it coy:

Warren did not answer directly when asked whether he would dedicate his prayer to Jesus. In a statement Tuesday to The Associated Press, Warren would say only that, “I’m a Christian pastor so I will pray the only kind of prayer I know how to pray.”

“Dedicate” his prayer to Jesus? What kind of people are these Christians? The Associated Press investigates further and finds this, courtesy of the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, who invoked the name of Jesus at George W. Bush’s 2001 inauguration:

Evangelicals generally expect their clergymen to use Jesus’ name whenever and wherever they lead prayer. Many conservative Christians say cultural sensitivity goes way too far if it requires religious leaders to hide their beliefs.

“If Rick Warren does not pray in Jesus’ name, some folks are going to be very disappointed,” Caldwell said in a recent phone interview. “Since he’s evangelical, his own tribe, if you will, will have some angst if he does not do that.”

This Jesus thing is tricky. Everybody knows that the only people allowed to invoke his name are liberal politicians bent on shaming conservatives into paying way more taxes. When it comes from an acknowledged evangelical minister it can only mean proselytizing. Fortunately, the Associated Press is on the case. Stay tuned.

America, land of opportunity

From Jeremy Taylor, who is back blogging after a long hiatus, points out something I’d heard before but is good to remember now that we have a new group leading our country:

American conservatism is often derided by the Left for exceptionalism, or the belief that as a country, we’re different and exceptional (which sometimes leads to unilateralism on the order of Mark Steyn’s America Alone.) And there are always the two dangerous ditches– one of vanity and hubris which blinds one to the faults of his country and the other, self-deprecation which blinds one to the virtues of it. The ditch which the Left all too often falls into is knee-jerk apologizing for America.

Now with the proper sophrosyne and balance, let me quickly dispense with the customary precursor and invocation which must precede, “I’m proud of America,” and that’s, “Of course, America isn’t perfect. We have our faults.”

He continues:

Collectively in the primaries, we saw a guitar-playing former Baptist minister, a Mormon business executive, a Kansas farmer, an Italian-American twice remarried district attorney, a decorated Vietnam Vet, a female lawyer, a black community organizer, a Hispanic gun owner. Now, the descriptors obviously are simplistic tags, but they aren’t meant to be reductionist or divisive.

The labels are meant to show that we have diversity and social mobility and one cannot compare Europe (much less Asia or daresay Africa) to America. Where is there such a diversity of candidates for executive office?

So, let’s be humble in the coming year but also let’s be grateful. There are opportunities afforded to us in this country that are not found elsewhere.

Disney bails: Will there be another Chronicles of Narnia movie?

Disney has decided not to distribute another Chronicles of Narnia movie.
Disney has decided not to distribute another Chronicles of Narnia movie.

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Disney has declined to exercise its option on the next installment of the Chronicles of Narnia, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” The movie, which was slated to hit theaters in May 2010, is now in limbo:

While declining to elaborate, Disney and Walden Media confirmed Tuesday that for budgetary and logistical reasons the Burbank-based studio is not exercising its option to co-produce and co-finance the next “Narnia” movie with Walden.

The third entry in the series, based on the classic books by C.S. Lewis, was in preproduction and set for a spring shoot for a planned May 2010 release. The development puts the participation of the talent attached in doubt. Michael Apted was on board to direct a script by Steven Knight. The key players of the second installment, “Prince Caspian” — Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell — were to return for the third film.

Walden has a strong relationship with the Lewis estate and will shop “Treader” in hopes of finding a new partner. The most likely candidate at this stage is Fox, which markets and distributes Walden fare under the Fox Walden banner.

Hopefully, a new distributor will be found, and one that will fully support the films without compromising the stories. While news like this is disturbing, we must remind ourselves that we do have the books themselves, which are treasures whether they are made into movies or not.

HT: Tim Challies

John Piper’s book on John Calvin now available

John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God
John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God

John Piper’s tiny new book  — 64 pages — on John Calvin, “John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God” is now available from Desiring God.

From Desiring God:

John Piper focuses on the supremacy of God by unfolding Calvin’s zeal for the glory of God.

God rests lightly on the church’s mind in our time. We are obsessed with ourselves and God takes second place, if that. The experience of his majesty sometimes seems to have disappeared from the modern evangelical world.

John Calvin saw a similar thing in his day. His aim was to “set before [man], as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God”—a fitting banner over all of his life and work.

“The essential meaning of Calvin’s life and preaching,” writes John Piper, “is that he recovered and embodied a passion for the absolute reality and majesty of God. Such is the aim and burden of this book as well.”

This book comes as we enter 2009, the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth. Look for more titles concerning Calvin to come out in the coming year. For another resource into this influential Christian thinker, see also Piper’s biographical message at the 1997 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors: The Divine Majesty of the Word: John Calvin: The Man and His Preaching. You can read it, listen to it streamed or download it.

Christmas message from Apollo 8: God is above all

This is a view of Earth from Apollo 8
This is a view of Earth from Apollo 8

I have heard this message in the past, but this seemed appropriate because, as this year closes, there are many who are burdened by what seems like a host of problems in this world. This message is from the crew of Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve 1968. This is late, I know, but it is something to think about: How must those three men — William Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman — have felt when they looked upon the Earth in a way that none of us had?

Jonah Goldberg, writing in National Review Online, gives some background:

Nineteen sixty-eight was one of the most tumultuous years in American, even in world, history. By Christmas Eve, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy lay dead from assassins’ bullets; King’s murder had provoked bitter riots. The Democratic Convention in Chicago was marred by protests in the streets. Over 14,000 Americans died in Vietnam that year, as the Tet Offensive turned the country increasingly against the war. A demonstration in Mexico City ended with hundreds of deaths just before the Olympics there opened. Students rioted in Paris, at Columbia University, and elsewhere. The “Prague Spring” of liberalization was crushed by Soviet tanks.

In this distinctly un-cheery season, a voice of hope spoke from, quite literally, the far side of the Moon. Apollo 8, only the second manned Apollo craft to go into space after the tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, had launched from Florida on December 21, 1968. Its crew of William Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman became the first humans ever to enter the orbit of another heavenly body and the first to see the “dark side” of the Moon. They saw, for the first time, Earthrise as they completed Moon orbits and emerged above the near side pointed towards Earth.

In this historical, breathtaking scene, the three astronauts chose the words from Genesis to give their listeners perspective about Who controls a world seemingly spinning out of control:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

Let us never forget and let us cling with hope to a God who keeps it all in place and running.

What wondrous love is this

Click to listen to a sample of this song
Click to listen to a sample of this song

What Wondrous Love is This” is a song that resonates this time of year when we think of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This version, as recorded by Matthew Smith of Indelible Grace, is my favorite. I especially appreciate the bridge he wrote which talks about God’s love that overcomes our stubborn hearts and draws us to Him. Overall, a beautiful song and lyrics that point to verses like Romans 5:8 that deserve meditation on our part.

Here are the lyrics:

What wondrous love is this,
O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse
for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down,
sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown
for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb,
I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb
Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme,
I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And what wondrous love is this,
Thou I raised my clenched fist
he opened up my hand
to receive His gift

And what wondrous love is here,
The God immortal has drawn near
and shed His blood
to close the rift.

And when from death I’m free,
I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free,
I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity,
I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on

Yes, Virginia, there is a Jesus Christ. But about Santa Claus …

Every year, my local newspaper prints an old editorial entitled, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” It was written in 1897 by an editorial writer for the New York Sun in response to a letter by an 8-year-old girl named Virginia. The little girl wondered if there really was a Santa Claus since some of her friends said he didn’t exist.

Poor little Virginia. She was asking the wrong question. Maybe her friends were pointing her to a more satisfying focus of her devotion and, rather than turning to find him, some ridiculous adult went on to ramble about how Santa will live a thousand years from now even though you couldn’t see him or prove he exists. Great. So, in the spirit of journalism, this is repeated yearly as if it somehow preserves some kind of childlike innocence.

Here’s something for all you Viriginias out there. Was there a Santa Claus? Mark Driscoll at The Resurgence looks at the man known as Saint Nicholas and the myths surrounding him. What you will find is that there is a lot of storytelling involved in the Santa story. But, on the other hand, you will find that what is known about Jesus Christ is not just hearsay but was written down by eyewitnesses and then handed down faithfully. It’s not another fairy tale, but real history. And that’s the best news. If you are going to look forward expectantly for someone this Christmas, look forward to Jesus.

The Jesus way is better than the Santa way

As every kid will tell you, Santa “knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.” Good for goodness sake? Really? So Santa is up there tallying up our good and bad deeds so we should keep track of the good ones and hope they outweigh the bad ones? There’s no gospel there.

What does Jesus say? He says:

“I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15).
“Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).

Jesus is the reason for the season because the truth is that none of us has been a good little boy or girl this year, and we need a savior not something in our stockings.

HT: Desiring God blog

The war in Iraq: It all starts with security

My younger brother, serving our country in Iraq, writes about what the mission looks like these days. Surprisingly, it looks less like a war and more like everyday life:

In 2006 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Muhammad Yunus for his work in giving micro-grants to people needing a little help to improve their small businesses. He showed the world how grants as little as $1,000 could change the lives of those (high-potential, low income) people. This week, I began handing out micro-grant applications to local sheiks (who will help me find and nominate the best candidates from the area).

I wish I could say that I thought of the idea. I am merely helping to facilitate the program in our area. The idea is simple yet powerful: meaningful growth and improvement can come from humble beginnings. This isn’t just an Iraqi phenomenon either; this micro-grant program is growing in the United States as well (see http://www.microgrants.net).

The types of applications I’ll be looking for will buy tools for that small engine repair shop; it will buy refrigeration for the local butcher to keep his products safe and hygienic. It will add a sewing machine to the local clothing shop, it will add workers to these shops, it will expand the economic base and capacity of this area.

As my brother writes, none of this kind of work would be possible without first securing the area. So, in other words, there has been significant progress made in Iraq. When you hear about reporters throwing their shoes at the president of the United States, remember that there’s more news out there than what gets on the network.

A quickie ‘Twilight’ book review

Courtesy of Andy Osenga over at ILikeAndy.com:

The heart of the tale, though, lies in this simple conversation that is had, and this is no exaggeration, probably 200 or 300 times throughout the book:

Her: “I love you, you’re so beautiful and perfect.”
Him: “Yes, I am.”Her: “But I’m so clumsy!”
Him: “Yes, you are, and I love you.”
Her: “I love you, you’re so beautiful and perfect. And cold.”
Him: stares off in the distance, looking like a model.

If you cut that conversation out of the book it would probably be twenty pages long. And probably no better. There’s also the sad commentary on how teenage girls LOVE this book, and how this girl decides to completely give up her friends, family, personality and everything else to be in a relationship with a rich, good-looking guy who treats her terribly. I hope my daughters read this when they get older and learn that valuable lesson.

Andy’s full review is at the link, but that pretty much covers it. This review was confirmed by my pretween son, who somehow was tricked into reading it thinking it had some kind of noble fighting to wash out the taste of obsessed teen love. He was wrong and now is disgusted that he picked the book up in the first place.