Life is beautiful and imperfect, a source of wonder and a challenge so complex that it’s good to pause from time to time and check our perspective and priorities against eternal truth. Jim Daly’s blog, Daly Focus, is full of daily insight and wisdom that promises to help you navigate today’s culture.
The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The headlines have been gruesome and the facts behind the stories are difficult to even read. We recoil at the horrors that seem to be present at every turn these days. The Boston Marathon bombings, the agonizing trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, the shootings at Sandy Hook and the Aurora theater come readily to mind.
Sadly, this road of national tragedy is growing increasingly familiar. It’s almost as if the public has grown accustomed to the aftermath of senseless death. Within moments of the news my friends on Facebook had created memorial and tribute pictures. It used to be we didn’t know what to say. But now it seems we do, and I don’t think that’s a positive development.
What of the long-term impact?
We may take a short time to mourn and reflect, but once the shock wears off, the gloves are off.
Just the other day a pundit said he hoped the Boston bomber was a white American, lest racial tensions escalate should it be an individual of foreign descent.
And so in the days and weeks following tragedy, we all too soon succumb to the temptation of fitting grisly facts into tidy political narratives. Pundits go to the airwaves, and the nation watches the heated exchanges on TV. The extremes seem to dominate. Opinions are encapsulated into 30-second sound bites and 140 characters or less.
None of this changes the fact that babies and children, the most vulnerable among us, are increasingly becoming the victims of unthinkable evil that should have never, ever have happened. Somehow, what really matters gets lost in the chaos.
Can we do something differently this time?
I think we can.
For starters, we have to be willing to accept tough truths. We have to curb our instinct to say that it was bad public policy that allowed this or that to happen, or that entertainment/culture/the right/the left was to blame.
Instead, let’s be honest and recognize the evil that can dwell in the human heart.
It’s certainly not popular to throw around terms like wickedness and sin. As we marvel at our achievements, our education and our technology, it’s easy to think we’re somehow worlds apart from our uncivilized ancestors. The reality is, however, that human hearts don’t change simply because our thinking may have advanced. The only way out is back, reversing course from our decades-long march into the wasteland of moral relativism.
Simply put, we may not want to admit there’s right and wrong, but deep down, we know it’s true. That’s the truth that gnaws at us as we learn about 20 murdered children or a suddenly departed 8-year-old who dreamed of peace or infants apparently brutally killed moments after they were born alive.
What I’m about to say will not be a widely popular message in our present culture, but I’m convinced it is the only cure for what ails us.
There is a creator who has given us, his creation, the blueprint for a healthy humanity. It involves love and selflessness and respect and truth and grace and clear moral standards and a host of other principles by which societies are designed to function. Yet we have, in our “wisdom” and “sophistication,” turned our backs on those timeless teachings, dismissing them as outmoded and unenlightened.
As our culture drifts ever further from the truth that each person is created in God’s image, and is therefore of unspeakable value, life will continue to be viewed as a cheap commodity. Troubled souls will continue to wreak havoc on innocent men, women and children. And we will continue to wring our collective hands in desperate search of a solution. But short of a moral and spiritual reawakening, we are left to apply Band-Aid solutions to tourniquet problems.
We must lead by example, living out a true love that cares, that tends to people’s needs, and that speaks the truth.
God help us.
NOTE: This essay originally appeared in the Washington Post's On Faith page.
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Have you seen this commercial produced by Dove?
How does this strike you?
Do you see yourself as other see you?
More importantly, how does God see you?
My friend Graham Baird is a pastor here in town. In a sermon he recently preached using this video as an illustration, he noted that we tend to under-rate our beautiful qualities and over-rate the things that don’t matter. "God sees our beautiful qualities that we don’t see, and wants us to bring our deepest blemishes (pride, selfishness, stewardshipship, etc.) to Him."
I think he's exactly right.
Did you catch the dedication of the Bush Library yesterday?
The NBC News Facebook page ran this photo along with the following caption:
For the first time since the 2006 funeral of Gerald Ford all the nation’s former living presidents came together with the current commander in chief to honor one of their own Thursday at the Bush Library dedication.
To be sure, these five men represent very different views and ideologies. As evangelical Christians, we’ve applauded some of the things they’ve done and decried others. But at the end of the day, it’s good to acknowledge that what happened yesterday is more than just unique – it’s rare, especially given the various types of governments around the world. That all five men can amicably and peacefully gather stands as a testimony to the strong and enduring traditions of this nation.
This photograph also serves as a good reminder to pray for America’s leaders - past, present and even future.
What does grace look like to you?
Grace often shines brightest when the circumstances surrounding it are at their darkest. It’s a person forgiving their spouse the betrayal of their infidelity. It’s extending love to someone who has spewed harsh words and hatred at you. In certain cases, it’s the skilled hands of a doctor rescuing the life of a murderer.
I was struck by that exact imagery recently in the hours following the manhunt of the young man accused of the Boston Marathon bombing. One of the news outlets reported that, after his capture, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken to a local hospital to be treated for wounds he sustained in one of several shootouts he had with police.
It was the same hospital where scores of people who had been injured by his bombs had been taken for medical treatment and recovery. Suddenly, many of the same doctors who had tended to the wounds of innocent victims now found themselves using their skill to save the life of one of the men responsible for murdering 3 people, shooting a police officer dead, and severely wounding over 200 others.
Does it seem unfair to you that he should be treated so well? It does me when I think from a human perspective about the ruthless mayhem this young man caused and the victims he created.
But then God leads my mind and heart back to His cross.
As author Philip Yancey says, “Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part.”
The doctors involved didn’t debate about whether he deserved treatment. Doctors seek to heal. It’s who they are. It’s what they do.
My heart breaks for the families whose lives were forever altered on that bright New England day. And, I admit, there’s a part of me that’s challenged with the idea that the person responsible received the same care and attention as his victims. But the fact that he did is a powerful image of just how deep God’s grace runs.
Praise the Lord that all are welcome at the foot of the cross. God seeks to save.
It’s who He is.
It’s what He does.
Let me be candid.
I’m not a gun enthusiast. It wasn’t part of my heritage or upbringing. Even though I know how to use various firearms now, I’m still something of an amateur on the subject.
Even so, I feel the need to comment on the discussions in Washington and throughout the media recently calling for increased gun control legislation.
From my viewpoint, attention is being focused in the wrong direction.
I don’t claim to be an expert on the specifics of the gun control debate. Perhaps there are some commonsense measures that don’t infringe on constitutional liberties. Those seem to me to be a fair discussion. And certainly the issue of mental illness should not be overlooked.
But what if all of the angst and energy being directed toward this debate were instead being aimed at the root causes of the problem, starting with the breakdown of the family?
Statistics show that young men who are deprived of an active father figure are far more likely to commit violent crimes than those who have the steadying and loving influence of a dad in the home.
What about the effort to make ours an amoral society, the relentless messages from Hollywood and the media, from our schools and universities, from our music and video games, which confuse kids into thinking there is no real standard of right and wrong, good and bad?
How about the ongoing efforts to remove God from the public—and increasingly the private—square?
I grieve much like any parent when I see the all too common acts of violence that rock our culture and terrify and threaten our kids. This is an unsettling time to raise children, many of whom were born—like my two boys—with the dust of the collapsed Twin Towers still lingering in the cultural air. Unlike my own childhood, concerns about terrorism and episodes of mass violence are seemingly part of everyday discussions, and they often dominate the 24/7 news cycle. So I understand this frantic desire to do something—anything—to reverse this downward spiral and protect our kids.
But we will get nowhere on this issue unless we come to terms with reality.
We’re desperately chasing solutions that are simply a mirage.
The ultimate issue is not the misuse of inanimate objects. Since Cain used a rock or maybe some other object to slay his brother Abel, disturbed human beings have employed a wide array of neutral tools for wicked purposes. Look no further than the pressure cookers used in last week’s Boston Marathon tragedy, or the knife attack at the Houston-area college earlier this month, or the fact that 92% of violent crimes involve a weapon other than a firearm, most often the perpetrators’ own hands.
The heart of the matter then is not the existence of guns, knives or pressure cookers, it is this: It’s the evil lurking in the hearts of people. And there is only one solution to that problem.
His name is Jesus Christ, and the change He brings to a person’s heart is the ultimate cure for the violence and wickedness that surrounds us.
I imagine you have been following this whole debate. What are your thoughts?
Do you ever get into a “chicken rut?”
That’s how a colleague of mine described her cooking routine - a repeated use of chicken in the kitchen, night after night, much like the myriad of ways the character “Bubba” in Forrest Gump cooked shrimp.
It’s understandable to find yourself in a cooking rut. Families are busy. It’s tough to find time for meal planning, grocery list building and recipe finding when parents also have to take kids to soccer practice and youth group as well as help with the night’s homework.
It’s enough to make your head spin!
But dinnertime can serve an important role in a family’s health. We neglect it at our own peril.
There are the obvious benefits that come from serving nutritious meals – but did you know mealtime can also bolster a family’s emotional health? It’s true: research has found that children of families who eat dinner together regularly have improved communication, fewer problems with drugs and alcohol and receive higher grades. In short, the intentional time spent together at dinner helps develop a protection factor against all important risk behaviors.
So how can moms and dads help make dinnertime a fun time without all the preparation stress?
Focus on the Family has teamed up with eMeals to help solve this dilemma.
eMeals is a subscription-based online meal planning service that provides weekly meal plans based on a customer’s eating style, family style and preferred grocery store. Each week, eMeals provides seven dinner recipes along with organized grocery shopping lists that incorporate weekly grocery store sales where possible. By taking most of the work out of meal planning, eMeals helps take the stress out of meal prep and will help get your family around the dinner table more often.
My colleague started using eMeals as a resource to help her in the kitchen – and it helped get her out of her chicken rut. Let me share what she thought about the service in her own words:
I love the fact that it easily lists the ingredients you need with even the prices for certain stores. The price information is great because we really try to stick to a food budget. The weekly email reminds me to think outside the box.
Her report is heartening. I’m glad we’re able to team up with companies that provide such practical and useful services to today’s busy families. After all, oftentimes it’s the little things that go a long way when it comes to maintaining family health. I encourage you to look into eMeals at www.focusonthefamily.com/emeals. By using our link, you can receive 15 percent off your initial subscription.
Please let us know what you think!
If you’re looking for a film to watch in the theater, I’d like to suggest the award-winning movie “Not Today,” currently out in theaters.
Powerfully moving, “Not Today” highlights the real problem of human trafficking taking place in India through the eyes of Caden, a rich American 20-year-old young man, who travels to India with friends. While there, he a meets a father forced to sell his young daughter, Annika. The movie chronicles how Caden and the father team up to rescue Annika.
The movie was produced by Friends Church Yorba Linda, a congregation which seeks to end human trafficking and educate India’s Delit population, the “untouchable” people of the country’s caste system. It can serve as a wonderful way to introduce the topic of human trafficking to teens. It’s rated PG-13, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for the young children in your home, but it could certainly serve as a powerful conversation starter with your older kids.
Here’s the trailer:
To access a full review please visit our award-winning Plugged In website here.
I mentioned last Friday how Kirsten Powers (pictured left), a regular contributor to FOX News and a highly respected journalist, had the nerve to write a column in USA Today detailing the horrific case of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. His trial, which is now in its fifth week, had, up until that point, earned surprisingly little attention from the mainstream news media, despite the fact that the details of the case are so shocking and so horrifying that they deserve to be a major national news story.
Make no mistake. This is not just about the political football of abortion. The case involves breathtaking accusations of racism, medical malpractice, the abuse of women, and the systematic murder of born-alive babies.
Why has this terrible tragedy not garnered more attention from the press?
That’s the question we’ll be addressing on today’s Focus on the Family broadcast. Our guest is the aforementioned journalist Kirsten Powers, who contributes to a number of publications, web sites, and TV programs including The Daily Beast, USA Today, and The O’Reilly Factor. Although there are a number of issues on which we would likely disagree, Kirsten has done an amazing job of documenting the mainstream media’s astonishing bias in its failure to give this story the attention it deserves. You’ll likely find the program both frustrating and disturbing, but you owe it to yourself to hear Kirsten’s exposé.
Despite the media’s best efforts, the truth about abortion—and the damage it does to the value of human life—cannot be suppressed.
I am grateful to Kirsten Powers for bringing this story, terrible and tragic as it is, into the light.
A colleague recently came across a funny website I thought you’d enjoy. It listed some hilarious mistakes people made on their résumés. Here are a few highlights:
“Skills: Strong work ethic, attention to detail, team player, self-motivated, attention to detail.”
“I have a demonstrated ability in multi-tasting.”
“Graduated in 1882.”
“Took a career break to renovate my horse.”
“My work ethics are impeachable.”
“I consistently tanked as top sales producer for new accounts.”
“Dear sir or madman…”
“Skills: I can type without lokng at thekeyboard.”
“Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain store.”
One woman sent in her résumé and cover letter without deleting a friend’s edits, including such comments as, “I don’t think you want to say this about yourself here.”
The whole job interview process can be stressful, can’t it? Certainly none of us want to make the kind of mistakes listed above, but maybe there’s some wisdom in not taking ourselves quite so seriously and lightening up just a bit.
Do you have a funny job interview moment – as interviewer or interviewee – you’d like to share?
Brad Lomenick is a good friend of mine and he just released a new book this week. It's titled THE CATALYST LEADER.
In the book Brad shares eight essentials for becoming a change maker - a leader who has the potential to dramatically impact the world for the sake of the Kingdom. I highly recommend this book to those who are passionate about the calling God has placed on their lives.
To give you a better sense of Brad and the book, here are two questions recently posed to him:
Q: What is the Catalyst Leader about?
A: The Catalyst Leader lays out the eight essentials for becoming a change maker. The traits that I believe one must develop in order to become a change maker, and ultimately a Catalyst Leader.
It’s a practical guide for leading now, and leading well, serving as a leadership handbook for the next generation of leaders in our country. The book presents the key essentials that I believe will define our generation’s ability to influence over the next 20-25 years, laying out what it means to be a Catalyst in this generation.
The Catalyst Leader is packed with a combination of candid interviews with thought leaders, research with the core leadership community, and overall leadership best practices. A rising generation of leaders needs to be equipped for the task of leadership.
Q: Why did you write The Catalyst Leader?”
A: I wrote this book primarily for 3 reasons.
First, while leading the largest leadership movement that gathers young career-aged Christian leaders in America, I noticed that many of these young leaders desired to lead right now, but they didn’t know how to ultimately lead well. We have a generation of “called but not yet equipped leaders.” Leaders who are passionate about making a difference and having influence now. Called leaders who want to change the world, a generation ready for action, ready to influence and ready to lead, but not yet equipped for the task. They need the tools, the roadmap, the guide for leading well and getting that done. So many of my peers at 25, 30, 35, 40 years of age are flaming out and need a resource to help them finish well.
Second, I noticed that the leaders who were leading well shared several common traits and characteristics. What I’m calling the eight essentials. The book lays out those essential characteristics for becoming a change maker, and ultimately a Catalyst Leader.
Third, we’ve been handed the reins to lead. I just turned 40, and I believe it’s my generation's turn and time to stand up, take the reins, and lead. We are now in the driver's seat, and it’s up to us. The called but not equipped generation. I want to see leaders, my peers, finish well. Too many leaders are crashing early and often right now. Just like me, tons of leaders in their 20s and 30s are facing great opportunities that they feel a deep calling and passion for, and are willing to take on, but not altogether equipped to handle. These peers of mine need a roadmap, a guide, a handbook for leading well and tools for the journey forward. Our generation needs a roadmap for leading well. Some of my best friends currently sit atop great organizations but are failing to shepherd their teams and lead these entities well. I’ve begun to see a disappointing pattern among young leaders. They achieve liftoff with a rocket start but quickly fizzle out. With each instance of short-lived success, I grow further convinced that we need to nurture leaders who will not just lead now, but also lead well.
Ultimately, I’m writing a book that I wish would have been available to me 20 years ago when I was first starting my career and vocation life.
Of all the hats I wear in life, the one I enjoy most may be that of “dad.”
As much fun as Trent, Troy, and I have together, whether it’s camping or just throwing the ball around, not a day goes by that I don’t give serious thought to how my wife, Jean, and I are leading them spiritually. In the grand scheme of things, we only a have a short window to help them build a solid biblical foundation before they launch out on their own.
If you’re a parent, I’m guessing you’re well aware of how challenging that can be. Even the statistics bear out the struggle we face. The exact percentages are up for debate, but we know that a significant number of kids walk out the church doors after high school graduation and never return.
Well, the specific reasons depend on which study you read, but most of them point out how adults fail to connect teenagers to God’s redemptive work in meaningful ways. A recent example of this comes from a website designed for workers in church leadership. The article’s author , Marc5Solas, lives in a college town. He interviewed a large number of twenty-somethings to get their take on why Christianity is no longer important to them and boiled down what he learned into ten reasons you might find interesting.
Take a look and see what you think.
10. The church is “relevant.”
Normally, “relevant” is a positive term. In this case, it labels the problem. We’ve couched our faith in modern trappings to the point that 2,000 years of history and rich tradition have been diminished. As the article suggests: “What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize to. In our effort to be ‘like them,’ we’ve become less of who we actually are.”
9. They got into church, but the church never got into them.
Many young adults may have been taken to church by their parents, but the church wasn’t integrated into the fabric of their lives. Church was a Sunday event, not something that impacted the everyday realities of their lives.
8. They were treated as smart by others.
Many students interviewed felt they were spoon-fed a Christian worldview, while professors and others who held atheist viewpoints challenged their intellect and inspired them to ask questions and to use their mind.
7. They were sent out unarmed.
Many youth have mastered Christian lingo – the pithy catchphrases spoken regularly in churches and marketed through popular evangelical campaigns – but they’re ignorant of deeper theological truths. They know what “WWJD?” means, and they’re familiar with how to “invite Jesus into your heart,” but they can’t explain what atonement or justification means or its relevance to life’s realities.
6. They’ve been given a “hand-me-down” religion.
Many kids leave the church feeling like they’ve been asked to accept their parents’ faith, instead of encouraged to ask tough questions, so they can incorporate Christianity into their lives and make it their own.
5. They exchange one community for another.
Our modern faith sometimes places a greater emphasis on community than on God. As a result, many of today’s youth see other people as the answer to their problems instead of God. When they leave home, they often seek out a community of people of any belief system rather than one committed to the God of the Bible.
4. They seek opportunities to “feel” better.
Much of modern Christianity is based on “feeling,” rather than on objective, eternal truth. It reduces the Christian faith to a search for good feelings rather than exhortation to conform our human nature to God’s standard of righteousness.
3. They got tired of pretending.
Some segments of Christianity suggest that being a Christian removes all struggle from life. But that message rings hollow for many kids who try to serve God and continue to face difficult challenges … or who see their parents teach a similar message while succumbing to anger or depression themselves. Many youth feel Christianity leaves no room for authenticity.
2. Christianity is reduced to “do/don’t do” instead of “be.”
Many church kids were taught it’s all about what they do, not who they are. The Christian faith was reduced to a long list of do’s and don’ts. They felt trapped beneath the weight of their own abilities, instead of freed by the work only God can do in their hearts and lives.
1. They don’t need it.
When church is perceived as nothing more than a place to learn good principles for living, or to have a happy marriage, or well-behaved kids… Well, you can find that in most any self-help book. You don’t need a crucified Jesus for that. What kids need is the gospel; what they’re sometimes given is “a cheap knockoff of the entertainment venue they went to the night before.”
These findings challenged me. For one thing, I think it’s important to listen carefully to those we’re trying to reach, even when what they say isn’t so easy to hear. Only when we dig beneath a person’s words can we hear the true cries of their hearts.
I should add that I have the utmost admiration for pastors and youth workers, who are often lone voices, speaking truth into the lives of young people against a cacophony of noise from the culture. Add in limited budgets and time constraints and reaching young people for Christ is often an uphill battle indeed. I feel confident that most churches are doing everything they can to minister to young and old alike in their community.
And what about us parents? Well, articles like this that suggest how much may be amiss in the spiritual lives of today’s youth can certainly be daunting. As such, it’s always wise to be aware of our kids’ struggles and to make adjustments as necessary. But it’s just as important to remember that our kids are ultimately in the Lord’s hands. Strip away all the research and facts and figures, and underneath is this bedrock of Truth:
God has called us to rely on His grace to do the very best we can and to trust Him with the rest.
I’d like to hear what you think.
This won’t come as a shock, but there seems to be precious little tolerance for the views and opinions of Christians in public schools lately.
Here are just three examples of the escalating tension involving the expression of faith within educational circles:
1. Christian student groups are being told they can’t require their own club leaders to share their biblical beliefs.
3. College and high school students are facing expulsion and suspensions after expressing a biblical viewpoint on sexuality.
And yet, students who have a vibrant faith don’t want to be silenced. As Christians, they want to share the hope they’ve found in Jesus Christ. They want to engage their classmates and teachers in civil discussions over issues that matter. What’s more – they have the right to share their opinions on topics like sexuality, marriage, bullying and anything else that might come up in classroom conversation.
To help students proactively exercise their First Amendment rights, Focus on the Family sponsors a student-led, nationwide free speech event—the Day of Dialogue—happening this coming Thursday, April 18th. This event equips students to exercise their freedom to share their deeply held biblical beliefs about God’s design for marriage and sexuality in a loving and respectful manner. It carves out a safe place for faith-based perspectives and ensures that Christian students have a place at the table and an equal opportunity to share their viewpoint on these current social issues.
Day of Dialogue helps students of faith to open the door and share the truth that God cares for them, their lives and even their sexuality. It gives students an opportunity to stick up for students that are being bullied and to affirm the value and worth of every human life. Through its informative website, Day of Dialogue provides students with practical tips on getting involved and breaking the ice with helpful conversation starters. The website also helps students respond to any challenges that come up by outlining the legal rights and protections they have to promote and participate in the Day of Dialogue in their public school.
Sharing our faith with words isn’t an option for Christians. You may have heard the famous quote attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” As my colleague Glenn Stanton explained in his blog post, that quote has created a “useless dichotomy between speech and action,” and has been used to imply that “those who ‘practice the Gospel’ are more faithful to the faith than those who preach it.”
The only problem is Francis never said it.
Here is what he said:
No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister...All the Friars...should preach by their deeds.
The bottom line here is that Christians are certainly called to live out the Gospel in deed – but we can’t adequately share our faith without words. It’s not a matter of either/or, it’s a matter of both/and.
What Day of Dialogue is helping Christian students do is both practically love their classmates and share God’s truth with them. The opportunity to speak will help open eyes to why Christians have behaved differently during the school year. Giving Christian students a chance to share about their faith will help explain why they don’t engage in bullying and why they care about others.
Jesus Christ both fed the crowds and preached the Sermon on the Mount. In a similar way, our young men and women can show kindness throughout the year and speak the Good News as they engage in conversations that are sometimes difficult, but always loving and honest.
This was the question posed to me by the editors of Christianity Today recently:
If the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage, what next?
Hypothetical questions are not always productive, but in this case, I was privileged to participate in the panel, which featured answers from two other individuals. The panel of three also included Elodie Ballantine Emig, instructor of Greek at Denver Seminary and Timothy Dalrymple, managing editor at Patheos.com.
You can read the entire exchange by clicking here.
Here is how I answered the question:
Should the Supreme Court discard the age-old understanding of marriage, the church will face challenges unlike any it has encountered. And yet the calling of pastors and their churches on this issue will remain largely the same as it is now.
The biblical ideal of self-sacrificing, lifelong, heterosexual marriage is already countercultural. We must still uphold and celebrate God's wise and magnificent design in this unique, complementary, and irreplaceable relationship between a man and a woman. We must teach coming generations of its benefits and beauty. And, above all, we must model it well.
It is vital that we frame marriage as an example of God's common grace, given for the benefit of all humanity, transcending even fundamental faith differences. We must speak about the damage to our culture of departing from this blueprint—not because "we want our way," but because people inevitably suffer when God's basic guidelines for human flourishing are jettisoned.
The church will be called upon once again to help its people embrace challenging times through the prism of God's Word, and to hold out the beacon of hope that Christianity offers to the lost. If we want others to understand marriage from God's perspective, we should strive to converse in a spirit consistent with God's heart. We must speak truth boldly, yet with compassion, understanding, and love.
Pastors must recommit themselves to the task of teaching on the subject of marriage from a biblical perspective. We must train our children about this issue, first in the home, but also in Sunday school and teen groups.
We must also humbly confess the damage we have done to marriage by our own careless treatment of it. Though the divorce rate among committed Christians is lower than among the general populace, it remains far too high. The single greatest argument we can present to the world on this issue is to live out marriage in all its God-ordained fullness and radiant beauty.
We must approach this sacred institution with profound seriousness. We must offer—even mandate—robust premarital counseling for church members. We should raise an army of marriage mentors, experienced couples who have weathered the storms, to walk alongside and show the way to younger couples, and to serve as a lifeline to those struggling to stay afloat. Let us also lift up and celebrate those couples who have endured through decades, and make those examples known to a younger generation, many of whom have not seen marriage successfully modeled in their families of origin.
To be sure, I pray that the Supreme Court does not make this mistake. But if it does, the church will have a new opportunity to shine its light in increasing darkness. Let us pray it doesn't come to that, but prepare as though it will.
Growing up in Southern California in the 1960s and ‘70s, the Los Angeles Dodgers were my team. I can still hear the poetic Vin Scully calling the games on the radio. (Pictured below) His play-by-play was the soundtrack of my summers. Vin’s voice was a steady bright spot throughout my dysfunctional childhood. It was predictable, too, a quality I longed for in my life.
Attending Dodger games was a real and rare treat; my first game was a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds. In fact, on that memorable day, I was able to get Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes and Dave Concepcion to sign a ball. The event left a lasting impression on me.
Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in the major leagues, retired before I was born. He died when I was a young boy. But I remember hearing about him, of course, even though as a youngster living in a clearly integrated neighborhood, I couldn’t quite understand why baseball was ever segregated in the first place.
I guess that’s a good thing, to be perplexed by racism. To be colorblind as a kid is a great way to start life, to believe instinctively that all men and women are created equal.
Jackie’s remarkable story has been told before, but I’m thrilled that Hollywood is lifting him up once again. Today’s release of “42” is reason to celebrate. As parents we often talk about wanting our children to have heroes to look up to and Jackie, though an imperfect person like all the rest of us, is a legend worthy of lauding.
Our team over at Plugged In always does such a great job of reviewing new films. My colleague, Adam Holz, recently offered some reflections on “42” and I’d like to share a few excerpts of his review with you. For the full review click here.
In 1945, the Allies celebrated their victory over the Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Back home in the Allied superpower of the United States of America, however, a battle for freedom on another front still raged: the battle against racism.
White baseball players competed in Major League Baseball. Black athletes, meanwhile, were relegated to the Negro League. Never did the two worlds intersect.
Until, that is, one brave team owner decided it was time for a change. Time for an end to segregation on the ball field. "I don't know who he is," Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey tells his front office management team in the spring of 1945, "or where he is. But he's coming." The he in question? MLB's first black player—a player Rickey was determined to recruit.
On the surface, Rickey's motivation seems driven by money. "New York's full of negro baseball fans," he explains. "Dollars aren't black and white. They're green." But it turns out there's more to Rickey's barrier-shattering decision than that.
A year later, the Dodgers have found their man, a base-stealing slugger from the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs. His name is Jackie Robinson. When one of Rickey's men points out that Robinson was court-martialed and dishonorably discharged from the Army, Rickey counters that it was because Robinson refused to submit to unfair treatment. "If he were white," Rickey says, "we'd call that spirit."
Spirit is something Robinson will need as he faces resistance at every turn. On the field. In hotels. In airports. Even on his own team (first as a player for the minor league Montreal Royals in 1946, then as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947). It's a barrier-busting role that will demand courage, Rickey tells Robinson at the outset: the courage not to retaliate.
"You want a player who doesn't have the guts to fight back?" Robinson demands.
"No," Rickey says. "I want a player who's got the guts not to fight back."
"You give me a uniform, you give me a number on my back, and I'll give you the guts," Robinson promises.
And in so doing he becomes one of the most decorated soldiers ever to fight in that homegrown battle against prejudice and racial hate.
Jackie Robinson isn't just brave when it comes to baseball, by the way. He tells his newborn son, "My daddy left us flat in Cairo, Ga. I was only six months older than you are now. I don't remember him. Nothing good. Nothing bad. Nothing. You will remember me. I'm gonna be with you until the day I die."
I always knew Jackie Robinson was an important figure in the history of professional baseball. But before watching 42, I don't think I really grasped just how trailblazing Robinson's presence was. His willingness to endure taunts, threats, intimidation and violence, all without responding in kind, was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Similarly remarkable, in a behind-the-scenes kind of way, was Branch Rickey's willingness to recruit Robinson in the first place, then stand behind his man the whole way, coaching and encouraging him not to give up.
42 is drenched in inspiration, in part because it doesn't shy away from realistically depicting the kind of resistance Robinson and Rickey were up against.
[Jackie] Robinson is [portrayed as] a loving and faithful husband, a father who wants to do better than his own dad did and someone who relies on his faith to make it through. The latter is also true in Branch Rickey’s case, whether he’s quoting Scripture, alluding to Jesus or telling an adulterous manager to reconsider his immoral ways. In the end, these two men’s faith and fortitude forged a path for others to follow, forever ending segregation in baseball and challenging racism in the culture at large along the way.
If you get a chance to take in “42” this weekend, let us know what you think of it.
Yesterday’s USA Today ran a piece by Kirsten Powers, a columnist and political commentator, that questioned why the trial of Kermit Gosnell isn’t making front page news.
That’s a good question.
Mr. Gosnell is an abortionist who allegedly performed illegal and horrific late-term “abortions” in deplorable conditions that, in addition to killing the babies, also cost at least one women her life. The grand jury report can be accessed here.
I’m putting the word abortion in quotes because Mr. Gosnell allegedly murdered children after they were born.
Ms. Powers’ piece was noticed by other reporters, who, thanks to her, now realize what is going on – or at least are finally compelled to report what was largely only being reported by pro-life-friendly sources.
Some are calling Powers “brave” for taking the risk to write her column. She should be credited for calling out the mainstream press, especially since she may pay something of a price for doing so. As a pro-life Democrat who once worked in the Clinton administration, she’ll likely be criticized by those in her party who advocate for abortion.
The fact that people openly acknowledge that a news professional is taking a risk for reporting factual news reveals the depth of the media’s bias when it comes to the issue of life.
“Media row” at the trial has been empty. Up until today the trial hasn’t been mentioned by most of the main TV and cable news outlets. It’s been given only passing mention by a few national papers.
The media may have been largely ignoring the murder of seven infants who were born alive, and the two women killed during abortions, but pro-life advocates haven’t.
When it comes to the reporting regarding abortion the bias is nothing new, of course. But the new media is making it more difficult for some to ignore what so many now see on Twitter, Facebook or other social media.
Back in 1999, when Sen. Barbara Boxer refused to acknowledge a newborn’s right to life after it had been completely separated from its mother, there was little to no coverage of it. Of course in 1999 there was no such thing as Twitter or Facebook, either.
That members of the traditional media would ignore this important trial and similarly newsworthy items about this issue shows how blindly the majority in their field supports abortion. And to those of us who see things differently it’s frustrating, especially given their ability to influence people.
It’s not my place to condemn them, but I will tell you this:
It breaks my heart.
How have some hearts grown so cold towards our most innocent and vulnerable?
In the midst of the darkness, though, there is good news when it comes to the growing public opposition to abortion. The press may support it, but more and more people do not. Thankfully, those who would commit, support and hide these atrocious acts are in the minority. Bolstered by ultrasound technology that brings the reality of life within the womb to our eyes, more and more people are holding to a pro-life worldview. The younger generation is more pro-life than the one that preceded it.
You, the advocates of life in all of its stages, are making sure people’s minds are swayed. You do this by taking to social media and making sure people know what is happening. You do it by showing love and care to a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy. You do it by serving the elderly, taking care of the orphan and highlighting the plight of the vulnerable. You change the hearts of people by being the hands and feet of Jesus, speaking biblical truth with Christ’s heart, whenever you get an opportunity.
As we think about what’s happening today, let’s cling to the good news that truth will ultimately be made known.
Evil will be uncovered.
Eyes will be opened.
Voices will be heard.
And God's heart for innocent children will be known.