Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Young Americans Losing Their Religion
New Research Finds Number Who Claim No Church Has Risen Sharply
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Saturday, April 26, 2008
"In solitude, we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us. In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It's there we recognize that the healing words we speak ar not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can expres is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received."
"In solitude we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness"
-- Henri J.M. Nouwen
"To the majority of those who have reflected deeply and written about the origin and nature of the universe, it has seemed that it points beyond itself to a source which is non-physical and of great intelligence and power. Almost all of the great classical philosophers--certainly Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Locke, Berkeley--saw the origin of the universe as lying in a transcendent reality. They had different specific ideas of this reality, and different ways of approaching it; but that the universe is not self-explanitory, and that it requires some explanation beyond itself, was something they accepted as fairly obvious"
-- Keith Ward
Monday, October 08, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
In the felt experience wherein the soul finds the certitude that God is within it, the soul is given the grace of wanting God so perfectly that everything in it is in true and not false harmony. False harmony exists when the soul says that it wants God but does not really mean it, because its desire for God is not true in everything, in every way, or in every respect. Its desire for God is true when all the members of the body are in harmony with the soul, and the soul in turn is in such harmony with the heart and with the entire body that it becomes one with them and responds as one for all of them. Then the soul truly wants God, and this desire is granted to it through grace.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
A Protestant Christian living in 21st century America has a theology based on the teachings and understandings of 500 years worth of theological debates, teachings and systems, beginning with Marin Luther. Every possible angle and argument 'for this' / 'against that' has been examined, judged and noted. However, the question remains: has Protestant systematic theology helped to clarify what it means when the Bible talks about salvation, or has it made it into something that wouldn't be recognizable by Jesus, Paul, Peter and the early church? I'm afraid the later point may be the case.
But rather than giving a critical analysis of the various systems of Protestant theological thought in the 21st century, I think it better and wise to examine what salvation meant, and how it is obtained by taking an inductive look at the entire canon of New Testament writings, especially those authored by Paul.
But first, the most important issue: what is salvation? How is it defined? Salvation is first of all, and most importantly for us, the God given ability to be removed from the actions and attitudes in this life that are ultimately destructive in nature. These activities are quite varied, and include the usual list of vices like drunkenness, laziness, lying, cheating and so on. In the salvation experience, God delivers us from those destructive tendencies which had previously controlled our lives. If you aren't a slave to God, chances are you are a slave to something else, and something no where near as redeeming.
Secondly, salvation has to do with the fact that God greatly desires to be in relationship with man, and is willing to do whatever he can to enable and encourage this relationship, like the above mentioned deliverance from destructive activities, i.e. "sin". However, it is God's desire to continue this relationship for all eternity, and hence those who accept the God's invitation to salvation, can ultimately look forward to eternal life with God, through the resurrection of the dead. This is the great hope of every single Christian believer. [see JOHN, chapter 3]
Sadly, the concept and the teachings about salvation have been somewhat distorted by popular Christian teachers on TV and radio, as well as by other Christian celebrities who are far more interested in building large organizations than in correct theology. The main difference between a Biblical understanding of salvation and the way it is generally defined in pop-Christian culture is that in popular understanding salvation is an event, while in the Bible, salvation is defined as a process.
Some blame for this can be laid at the feet of divinity schools themselves, especially more conservative ones. But mostly the problem rests in the philosophical mindset that dominates Western culture, and application to Biblical texts, that philosophy being the rational, analytical mindset that tends to see things as component pieces rather than complete systems. While this mindset can be quite useful for scientific and technological pursuits, it can get in the way when it comes to large scale, long time period processes that involve multiple variables and inputs. The Western mindset has a tendency to avoid this sort of complexity, in favor of very simple, practical concepts that can be easily understood. However, a life of a man is not something that can be lived nor understood by simply applying the scientific method; rather, it is more like a story or novel, where various problems and people must be engaged and overcome. To understand the Biblical texts is to understand a story, not a single event, that story being God's relationship with man.
In the New Testament, you will often find texts that would lead you to believe that salvation is an event, especially in the book of Acts. However, reading the New Testament in a more inductive, synthetic fashion demonstrates clearly that salvation is not just a point in time where you turned to God and turned away from a destructive life style, but it is an ongoing process that begins the day you decide to follow after God, and is ultimately rewarded on the Day of Judgment, when Christians and non-Christians alike stand before the throne of God to be judged for their actions (not theological knowledge!), and rewarded or punished depending on that judgment.
The following is a general outline of how the process of salvation works in the life of a believer:
1. A person discovers that God is real, and that God desires relationship with man, as made clear through the teachings and life of Jesus, the son of God. This discovery is always a direct result of God's intention, not man's! In other words, God is the one who seeks us out, and initiates relationship, and we respond accordingly.
[ see LUKE 19-1:11; JOHN 6:25-71; JOHN 10 ]
2. A decision is made to intentionally ask God to help facilitate that relationship, which is commonly known as "the sinner's prayer," where as a person will ask God to help them put an end to any destructive attitudes or actions that they have engaged in, and then commit to live a constructive, ethical life based upon the ethics and morals as described in the Bible, but which are often well known to the human heart as well.
[ see EPHESIANS 2; LUKE 15; LUKE 18:9-14; LUKE 19:1-11; 2 CORINTHIANS 5 ]
3. In order to get the ability to live a changed life, a person will ask God to be "baptized" by the Holy Spirit, which is simply asking God to live within you! Sometimes God will provide the Holy Spirit even without it being asked for directly, due to his merciful response to those who are struggling to overcome difficulty in their lives. Asking God to live within you gives you the spiritual energy and wisdom you need to overcome evil in your life, and the lives of others. It is literally the power and energy of God given to man. It is the single most important gift God gives man, and when a person learns to live by the power of the Holy Spirit, there is no limit in terms of the good that they can do.
[ see JOHN 3; JOHN 14 through 17; ACTS -the entire book ]
4. Often times a person will ask for and receive water baptism as an outward sign of their commitment to live a new life guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the well known ethics and moral of Christianity.
[ see MATTHEW 3; JOHN 3; ACTS 2; ACTS 8 ]
5. Once the decision to follow God has been made, and the baptisms of water and the Holy Spirit are received, a person will then begin the process of spiritual, emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical healing, as enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. These healings can take place almost instantly, or in other cases quite a while, depending upon the person, their background, and their resolve to be healed.
[ see MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE, JOHN, ACTS -the entire books ]
6. In order to maintain the momentum of the initial decision to live an upright and constructive life, a person will then begin to engage in outward disciplines designed to help them move forward towards the ultimate goal of eternal life, especially the meeting together with other Christians, Bible study, prayer, and devotional reading.
[ see ACTS 2; 1 CORINTHIANS 11 through 14; ROMANS 12; 1 PETER 4:7-11 ]
7. But the most important discipline of all, is learning to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives direction, purpose and motivation to a person's life. By living by the power of the Holy Spirit, a person will be enabled to live the very moral and ethical life that is required by God.
[ see ROMANS 8; GALATIANS 5:16-26; ACTS -the entire book ]
8. Once a person makes the decision to follow after Jesus, they will be tested with a variety of trails, tribulations and problems that will need to be overcome. In some cases, these trials may begin almost as soon as a person makes the commitment. Yet no matter the person or their circumstance, testing of their faith is guaranteed. The testing comes mainly in two general forms: external and internal. External testing is usually opposition, either active or passive, from other people who are opposed to your decision; whether they be friends, family or co-workers. The internal opposition comes from destructive habits and thoughts that still have a foothold in our lives. Often both forms of testing come about through the work of evil spirits, who are opposed to God, and to anyone who would follow after Him. These demonic spirits use other people they have influence over, plus your own weaknesses and woundedness in an attempt to halt the process of salvation.
[ see LUKE 21; JOHN 8; HEBREWS 12; 1 THESSALONIANS 3 ]
9. The testing of a person's commitment through the trials and tribulations of life results in an even deeper understanding of the Trinity, and greater reliance on the Holy Spirit for guidance and power.
[ see 2 CORINTHIANS 11:1-12:10; JAMES 1, 1 PETER -the entire book]
10. As a person matures in their salvation, they become increasingly effective in pursuing and implementing various positive, constructive habits and behaviors that not only increases the joy and happiness of the one so transformed, but also those around them. However, it should be noted that for this to be fully successful, it relies on a person's ability to live by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Hence, it is not just a person's good intentions and will power that are at work, but the enabling power of God working through a person. There is a very real and literal partnership between a Christian and God, that results in one of the often overlooked activities of salvation: brining heaven to earth. A Christian becomes a partner with God to bring about justice, compassion, peace and well being here on earth. This activity is a critical component of salvation.
[ see 1 CORINTHIANS 2, GALATIANS 5 through 6, JAMES -the entire book ]
11. Having lived a set number of days on earth, pursuing a relationship with God through trails and troubles, and working with God to bring about justice and compassion, a believer stands before the judgment seat of God, to be evaluated as to their commitment to salvation, and their activities regarding salvation. A Christian who has lived his life in accordance with the leadings and guidance of the Holy Spirit will have nothing to fear on this day.
[ see MATTHEW 25, REVELATION 20 ]
12. Having been approved by God for the life lived on earth, a Christian enters into eternal life, where trials, troubles and tribulations cease, and now the Christian becomes a co-ruler with God. The very least, most humble person on this earth, who has lived his life in accordance with the leadings and guidance of the Holy Spirit to the best of his ability, may become one of the greatest kings in the heavenly realm of God. And yes, for those who've persevered until the end of their days, they will inherit far greater wealth, luxury and happiness than the greatest kings here on earth, without any of the troubles and problems that earthly kings face. As far as opportunities go, is this the greatest opportunity that a man can have in this life, well worth any price or pain endured in it's acquisition.
[ see 1 CORINTHIANS 15; MATTHEW 19:16-30; MATTHEW 25; REVELATION 21 through 22 ]
It needs to be noted that there are three key points about the process of salvation that are critical to it's successful conclusion. These are three activities/attitudes that every single Christian is called to participate in, no matter their background or their circumstances:
1. A Christian must learn to live and yield to the power of the Holy Spirit within them, and continually work to develop the relationship with the Spirit. The Spirit does not come into a person to take over, but only to offer guidance and motivation. However, it is up to the Christian to seek out and consider the Spirit's help, and to follow it's leadings. Just like a human source of guidance, the Holy Spirit can be ignored or disregarded, often at one's peril.
[ see 1 CORINTHIANS 2; ROMANS 8; HEBREWS 12 ]
2. All Christians are called to play an active role in God's redemptive work. The activity required involves works of compassion, charity, generosity, and various other types of constructive, positive activities. Specific details of how these virtues are to be appropriated and managed are given by the Holy Spirit.
[ see MATTHEW 5 through 7; EPHESIANS 4 through 5; JAMES -the entire book ]
3. The single most important resolution a Christian must make is to never, ever give up the pursuit of a righteous, compassionate life, no matter the consequences. Even if threatened with persecution unto death, a Christian must determine to never compromise on his beliefs and his lifestyle. A partially lived, or incompletely lived Christian life is not going to impress God, nor is it going to be adequate for eternal life. Only a life lived in complete dedication to God, from the moment of salvation to the end, is a life deemed one worthy of the reward of eternal life.
[ see MATTHEW 10, ROMANS 2, HEBREWS - the entire book]
Now, it is important to note that the process of salvation is NOT one of perfectionism and legalism. It is not about following a code of conduct perfectly, or even at all. Nor is it about the avoidance of making mistakes. As a matter of fact, one will make plenty of mistakes, for a variety of reasons, as they pursue the straight and narrow path of salvation. However, the only mistake that will only ultimately count against you is a refusal to persevere in your pursuit of God and a righteous life. In other words, the only real sin that is disqualifying towards eternal life is the sin of giving up.
Next time: perils in the path of the process of salvation.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
The local Church that you belong to is not the local denominational congregation that you attend, important though that congregation is. Biblically speaking, the local Church that you belong to is defined more by geographical than denominational or confessional lines. The local denominational congregation that you attend might be more closely analogous to a Gentile Christian group in Antioch in the first century. Such a group is part of the local Church, but it is not the local Church. The local Church includes Jews and Greeks, male and female, slave and free. In our situations, the local Church will probably include Catholics and Protestants, Presbyterians and Baptists, Methodists and Pentecostals.
In light of this, we should beware of giving too much loyalty to denominations. The work of God in our areas far exceeds the work that He is doing through our particular denomination. We need to become more concerned about the progress of this larger work than we are about the progress of the cause of our denominations. We need to become more committed to the larger cause of God in our area than we are to preserving our particular denomination’s identity.
SOURCE: Internet Monk: Riffs: 06:16:07: Alastair Roberts on “The Denominational Church”: 16 JUNE 2007
Read the entire article, it's worth it.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
By the time I finished Christopher Hitchens’ new book about his life-long struggle with the various Gods in his life, “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” I was sick of it. God, religion, the book, and mostly Hitchens himself. It is the book of a smart ass, an enfant terrible, a book of a man who has been everywhere and found no resting place.Click on the source link to read the whole thing:
It is made up of junk history, junk scholarship and finally turns out to be junk apostasy. The subtitle gives the essential clue to the book (and probably to Hitchens himself). The book is too personal and the poison is in the eye of the beholder. It is a pitiless screed that is unrelenting and eventually tiresome.
It is difficult to understand why he wrote the book since there is nothing in it that hasn’t been written before in the long history of atheism. All of his criticisms are well known and obvious—organized religion has encouraged killing of millions in wars; it has fostered ignorance and superstition which results in unhealthy practices; it has fought reason, science, and modern thought; it is full of inconsistencies, errors, impossibilities and irrational assertions all in the service of superstition. Others have written about all these issues more thoughtfully and in more depth. Hitchens’ main contribution is that he wants to destroy all religions and the idea of God altogether.
SOURCE: Horsefeathers; SCORECARD: GOD 1---HITCHENS 0; 11 June 2007
Saturday, June 02, 2007
This past Saturday's broadcast featured a very nice Memorial Day tribute, with Garrison Keillor reciting the entire Gettysburg Address by memory, a fitting speech for Memorial Day, as it was given originally by Abraham Lincoln as a memorial for the soldiers who died during the battle of Gettysburg.
I you have iTunes, you can subscribe to the "Lake Wobegon" portion of the Prairie Home Companion broadcast, as a podcast, by clicking here and following the instructions. Those of you who don't want iTunes on your computer can use the free "Juice" podcast software instead. I use both.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Also there is a descion-tree game that allows you to play an alternate strategy of attack from the Confederate point-of-view. Very interesting little simulation.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
While I was at the Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad on my recent trip to Iraq, a pair of Spanish journalists--a newspaper reporter and a photojournalist--walked in, fresh from their embed with the 1-4 Cavalry of the First Infantry Division (the unit with which I embedded only days later). They had spent two weeks amongst the troops there, living and going on missions with them, including house-to-house searches and seizures, and their impressions of these soldiers were extremely clear.
"Absolutely amazing," said David Beriain, the reporter (and the one who spoke English), said of the young Cavalry troops. "In Spain, it is embarrassing--our soldiers are ashamed to be in the army. These young men--and they seem so young!--are so proud of what they do, and do it so well, even though it is dangerous and they could very easily be killed." Mr. Beriain explained that the company he had been embedded with had lost three men in the span of six days while he was there--one to a sniper and two to improvised explosive devices, both of which had blown armored Humvees into the air and flipped them onto their roofs. Despite this, he said, and despite some of the things they might have said in the heat of the moment after seeing another comrade die, the soldiers' resolve and morale was unshaken in the long term, and they remained committed to carrying out their mission to the best of their ability for the duration of their tours in Iraq.
It was in the process of performing that mission, of coping with the loss of loved ones, and of just being themselves as American soldiers that these young men were able to win over the admiration and affection of more than one journalist who had arrived in their midst harboring a less-than-positive opinion of the Iraq war, and of those who were tasked with prosecuting it.
"I love those guys," Mr. Beriain said, looking wistfully out the window of the media cloister in the Green Zone that is the Combined Press Information Center. "From the first time you go kick a door with them, they accept you--you're one of them. I've even got a 'family photo' with them" to remember them by. "I really hated to leave."
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal: 23 MAY 2007: 'I Love Those Guys'
HAT TIP: PajamasMedia
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Here is a long excerpt from his article:
Atheism can't accept a place in the spectrum alongside other ideas because it has to destroy religion. It has to be base itself upon the outmoded concept that one idea is true and its contrary is false. Now Christianity believe this too. As I say, it's both good and bad for Christianity. But Christianity can survive in a version that liberalizes itself enough to be part of the mix. It has its' special qualities that others don't have and that's its appeal but it can also allow others to have their views. Atheism can't allow any idea but one, hate religion. Atheism depends upon the myth of a golden progress into the shining Godless future where science has prevailed and destroyed religion, leaving it behind as a failed adaptation. That myth is over. That myth is the myth of modernism and has been left behind in the dust.
Of course fundamentalism will have to go. That may be on the rise now the new atheist fundamentalists are an attempt to join the ranks of the postmodern fundies, but it wont succeed because it's major myth is opposed to the paradigm of the world today. Atheism has to destroy religion, it has to dissolve it, it has to undermine it or it can't exist. The existence of atheism as anything other just a lack of belief, which is far from all it is, is predicated upon hatred of religion and the need to demonstrate one's superiority over religious people. This is not an age for that. This is the age of tolerance, diversity, of equality among all ideas. The Irish gave up their passion for a nationalistic Northern Ireland because they realized they would rather go shopping than blow things up. A liberalized Christianity can fit into the diversified mixture of a postmodern social construct, but atheism can't by its nature and its definition.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
At the DOXA website, there is an excellent (and extremely technical) article about mind/body dualism entitled "Consciousness: Mind, Spirit, Brain."
So what's the big deal about mind/body dualism? Athiests insist that the distinction between our bodies (matter) and our minds (spirit) is false, that our minds and bodies are one in the same, and there is no such things as a "mind" or "spirit" that is distinct from our body.
However, science has been unable to prove that they are one and the same, and most interestingly, all evidence points to the FACT that there is a true distinction between body and mind.
The article is very technical, and there are some spelling and grammar mistakes that makes it even more difficult, but it makes for a fascinating read.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Very interesting (and long) interview with Sister Judith Zoebelein, who is in charge of the Vatican's web site. Very interesting interview.
From time to time, I will be posting some things this summer, but just short, quick blurbs. For the most part, they will be posts of things I wish to keep track of for later reference and research.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Well, I finally found a chart that benchmarks each and every CPU made by AMD and Intel for the PC and server markets. It's CPU Benchmarks available at PassMark software.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Wendee Holtcamp, a Christian bohemian evolutionist and author has a new blog worth checking out: The Fish Wars. It is a commentary on Christian faith and and science.
I've always been fascinated by the debate between science and religion, and have done some interesting research on it, as well as looking at the debate from a philosophical perspective. Let me state a few facts about this debate for the record:
1. Christianity has done far more to help foster science and research than it has to thwart it. While there are those who love to hold up examples like the persecution of Galileo, it should be noted that when major paradigms of thought are overthrown, there is often a backlash. This is not just a science vs. religion issue, but even within the scientific community, perhaps especially within the scientific community, there can be tremendous resistance to new, revolutionary ideas and theories. (Those who have done a bit of research into the history of science know what I'm talking about.) No where on earth has science and technology flourished more bountifully than in Protestant Christian nations, especially those of the former British empire. The reason for this is that freedom of speech and thought, long supported by Protestant Christians, have allowed paradigm shifting ideas to develop without too much fear of retribution. (Though that fear can never be completely eliminated, nor should it...)
2. The modern debate between science and religion is really just a one-horse buggy: that buggy being evolution. Christians, especially conservative Christians, are very suspicious of evolution, not because it thwarts the creation account of Genesis, but because it's biggest proponents have been militant atheists, starting with Thomas Huxley, a.k.a. "Darwin's Bulldog." (Note: early atheists like Huxley and famous lawyer Clarence Darrow used the term "agnostic" rather than "atheists" mostly for public relations purposes. Upon close examination of both men's thoughts and world views, they were both militant atheists in all but name.)
3. With the exception of evolution, Christians, even very conservative ones, have no problems with other scientific disciplines. For example, there is no backlash against chemistry or physics, or even most aspects of biology. It is evolution alone, and those who promote it that raises the suspicions of many Christians, let alone people of other faiths. Even young earth creationists often resort to scientific explanations for their beliefs!
4. This may surprise many of you, but evolution is far from a proven fact. There are still a lot of biological problems that evolution does a poor job explaining. You will not find much about this on the web, but such issues are discussed and studied in academic circles. One of the problems that has has a bit of public exposure is the problem of stasis. The fossil record, surprisingly, has little if any truly transitional forms. Often the earliest instance of a creature will change very little from it's last instance, even when hundreds of millions of years are involved. Also, almost all of the animals that exist on earth today have very close, if not identical ancestors that go back to the days of the dinosaurs. If evolution is true, why is there so much evidence of stasis in the fossil record, and so little evidence of transitional forms? An attempt to solve this problem is the theory of "punctuated equalibrium" put forth buy Stephen J. Gould.
5. Evolution is not a repudiation of the Genesis creation account, nor is the Genesis account a repudiation of evolution. Genesis functions more like a parable than a journalistic account of what exactly happened at the moment of creation. Nor does evolution does not do way with the need for a creator, as there is still a need to explain origins of life and the universe. Evolution can give us a "how" but not a "why" answer to life itself.
6. The denial of evolution as an explanatory means for the origin of the species is not just a religious issue, there atheists who have problems with it as well, even atheistic scientists. Just like there are Christians who are in complete agreement with evolution.
7. While evolution is not a proven fact of history, it's negative impact on humanity certainly is, especially when you realize its philosophical and theological implications. The most evil regimes of the past 100 years, including Nazi Germany and various communist regimes were all completely in favor of evolution and it's implications, while usually being entirely opposed to religion in any form. However, even here in America, the science of eugenics (now mostly ignored) was a direct response to the ideas of evolution. Looking at history since the publication of Origin of the Species, one can be very hard pressed to find any beneficial effects it's ideas have had on humanity.
There are some amazing people on this earth, who more than make up for those of us who are merely mediocre. Two such people are Rolland and Heidi Baker of Iris Ministries; a trans-denominational Christian ministry with a charismatic flavor. They have dedicated their lives to helping the poorest of the poor: the citizens of Mozambique, Africa. As just one part of their ministry, they run an orphanage caring for 6,000 children!!!
I'm going to reprint an e-mail newsletter that Rolland sent out this past March, to give you an idea of the work they do in Africa in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a ministry of ultimate suffering, and tremendous miracles. If you would like to know the lastest about Roland and Heidi, I highly recommend their blog.
I also highly recommend supporting this ministry any way you can. Many people I know have gone on short-term mission trips to Mozambique, and they all come back testifying to the reality of the miracles, and the amazing work that Iris Ministries does on a daily basis.
Here's the March e-mail from Rolland:
Floods of revival
Rolland and Heidi Baker
Iris Ministries, Inc.
6 March 2007
Photo gallery/refugee camp photos: http://www.irismin.org/march2007.htm
Morrumbala, Saturday, 3 March 2007
Heidi and I have one more day in the flood zone before we fly our Cessna back to Pemba. So we are up early at the World Vision compound in Morrumbala, loading our Land Rovers and big trucks for a trip to more refugee camps. We would especially like to get to the flooded Shire River and paddle our way in dugout canoes to people stranded on isolated islands.
Our little convoy heads east on a dirt road through the pristine African bush. The mountains and skies are in their full glory, wild, clear and beautiful. Brilliant cumulus clouds perfectly accent the deep blue heavens overhead, hiding a dark fury that has been unleashed on this land for two months. Heavy rains and cyclones have pounded southeast Africa until now over 300,000 people in this area have been forced from their houses and have lost everything.
A thousand feet above the flood plain, the countryside around Morrumbala is poor, but lush, green and relatively dry. We are racing and swerving over the rutted, winding road to make time. We raise clouds of dust, climb hills, dip into valleys, wave to children in villages, and press on to the infamous river.
But suddenly we encounter a camp we didn't expect. It is huge. We can't just drive by, so we pull off the road and stop, surrounded by a desperate crowd. They find out who we are, and they are thrilled. Many of them are already in our churches, and so we start singing and worshiping even as we discuss the situation with their leaders.
These people haven't eaten in weeks. The rising waters forced them from their houses along the river plain, and they slogged on foot through muddy swamps until they reached high ground and gathered in huge camps. When they arrived they had nothing but the ragged clothes on their backs. The people literally sat on the ground in pouring rain, thunder and lightning with no shelter, food, or visible hope. Children were sick, crying and screaming. Some ran naked like animals. The desperate tried to eat nasty roots and worms out of the ground. Skin and eye infections, intestinal disorders, malaria and an array of other health problems began to spread.
After some days the people began building primitive little huts out of nearby sticks and grass, and now there is a sea of these huts for the six thousand refugees in this one camp (see photos!). But still the people sit and sleep on the dirt with absolutely nothing -- no flashlights, toilets, CD players, sleeping bags, cots, Coleman lanterns, tea kettles, bug spray, fans, water bottles or hot dogs. They just wait
-- tired, hot, dirty, hungry and sick. Our visiting doctor, Koos Le Roux from near Cape Town, begins to treat cases, and says he's never seen such a needy medical situation.
While some of us discuss food logistics, we preach too, and pray for the sick. Terry Inman and Rodney Hogue, pastors from the San Francisco Bay Area, flew immediately here to help us minister, and they passionately pour their hearts out with Heidi and me. No one resists the Gospel. Everyone is eagerly listening to every word, responding to every call, wanting prayer for everything. Many already know Jesus, as we have probably several thousand churches in this one province, but now they understand all the more how much they need Him.
We brought tons of rice, beans, blankets, plastic tarp and other supplies, but not enough for the whole camp at once. Organizers are afraid if we feed only part of the camp, there will be rioting and bloodshed. But no other supplies have come to this camp yet, and we just can't take the food away. We are assured other organizations will bring additional food immediately.
Meanwhile, in the hot sun and under trees all around, Jesus is saving and healing. Four deaf people hear this morning. Our own Mozambican pastors are praying throughout the crowd. We always have good news, we tell the people. Jesus knows your suffering. Through all of this we will seek Him more, and He will reveal Himself more than we ever thought He would.
We have to go, but will be back with much more. We only made it to the edge of the actual flood waters, and never got to an island, but Jesus knew what we had to do.
Two days later in Pemba
Three hours' flight to the north, we are preparing more teams to drive south and help in the relief effort. The poor of our own church in Pemba pour their hearts out in generosity, some giving up months of salaries and their humble but most valuable possessions. As our first sketchy reports get out, churches and friends are responding from around the world. As a relief organization, Iris Ministries is just a little child with a lunch to give, but we are so pleased to give it and see what Jesus can do.
We learn that there are more than thirteen refugee camps near Morrumbala along the Shire River, which flows into the Zambezi from Malawi. Many more camps of refugees have formed along the Zambezi and other rivers that have also flooded. These camps are remote and very difficult to access by road, and some can only be reached by helicopter. Two thousand people a day are pouring into them.
We were persuaded by disaster relief personnel that we should take complete care of one camp of nearly three thousand, instead of trying to help many camps in some smaller way, dividing and confusing the work of different aid agencies. However, we have received news that no further food and supplies were delivered by anyone else to the camp we last visited, and that in fact many other camps are not expected to receive any aid at all from anyone unless Iris can respond. Now we are being told that many thousands of lives are dependent on Iris supplying the necessary relief and filling the aid vacuum in the months to come.
In the big picture, 100,000 acres of crops have been destroyed at the height of the growing season, and this follows last year's major crop failure due to severe drought. And still this is only the beginning of March, and weather forecasters are warning of more flooding until the rainy season is over.
At the moment, the Zambezi River has subsided, but is still past the flood stage. The discharge of water from the Cahora Bassa dam on the river has been reduced to one-third of the 8,000 cubic meters per second that it was releasing at one point when it was in danger of structural failure. When Heidi and I arrived in our plane several weeks after the initial emergency, the flood waters had receded some, but the land left behind was still soggy, swampy and unusable.
Following the Good Shepherd's example, we have always tried to set a pattern of going to most remote and forgotten areas we can, and now in this crisis the result is that our people are looking to God and to us for help that is not forthcoming from other directions. A wave of humanity in Mozambique is again left without any hope but Jesus. And again we are in a position to participate in the building of the Kingdom in the most unlikely places, and to see another level of revival that we could not have predicted or imagined. We don't know yet all that God will do in this country among our Mozambican people, but He surprises us every day. Reports of miracles are flowing in from the camps. Four blind people saw and two deaf people heard today. Our pastors and visitors are being filled with new energy. The gifts of the Spirit are being stirred up. More revival than ever is brewing. The word is getting out, and the church is coming together. May we see His glory in the faces of the redeemed in the Zambezi Valley. As one eleven-year-old in America prophesied, "I have to tell you what the Lord told me. He said that the rains will cease, but the flood has just begun. Mozambique is a community cup, and all who drink from there will be saved!"
We thank with all our hearts everyone who has responded so far, including churches and ministries who have already taken amazing offerings. May Jesus multiply all that you give in an unprecedented way, and return to you vastly more than you anticipate!
As always, donations can be sent to our U.S. support address, P.O. Box 493995, Redding, CA 96049-3995, USA, or to our offices in Canada and the U.K. as listed at the end of this newsletter. Additional inquiries concerning involvement with our relief effort can be sent by email to Mary Chico at
In Mozambique you will be directed to our coordinator, Angela Olson, at
+258-82-420-2825. If necessary regarding transportation and other
details they will refer you to Betty Johnson at
tel: +258-82-886-4700. In the Morrumbala area of Zambezia Province our relief coordinator is Herbert Barbutti at
tel: +258-82-708-7885, and our Mozambican staff member Carlos at
+258-82-025-8650. South of the Zambezi our relief coordinator is Claudia
Bernhardt in Dondo near Beira, at
All inquiries regarding shipments to Mozambique can be directed to Gordon Haggerty at
May you all be hugely encouraged by the power, wisdom, love and joy of the Lord!
In Jesus, Rolland
Thank you for praying for us during this difficult time of flooding and cyclones. We are feeding many thousands of people each day in various camps in Caia and Zambezia. We are also rebuilding churches in Cabo Delgado that were washed away in the floods.
I just finished interviews with several journalists from the Mozambique national radio station. As I shared with them about the needs and our desire to help, they were visibly touched. Please pray the Lord will use these interviews in mighty ways!
We are overwhelmed with gratitude for people who have been helping us "for such a time as this." The Lord spoke to me from John 6 that Iris Ministries is an example of the boy with his bread and fish. We have handed Jesus our lunch and He is multiplying it for the multitudes. Tens of thousands of people have given their hearts to Jesus in these last weeks! The deaf have heard, the blind have seen and the poor have heard the Good News. I don't think I have ever seen such suffering and hunger as I encountered in the camps in Zambezia. We thank God every day for your love and concern for the poor.
Please pray for the favor we need with the government of Mozambique as we are having a difficult time receiving the containers duty free. We have just received a phone call today telling us that we passed the first phase of approval from the government's emergency coordination commission, and we are awaiting the national director's approval now.
Much love in Jesus,
Rolland and Heidi Baker
Iris Ministries, Inc.
PO Box 275
U.S. office for mail, support and information:
Iris Ministries, Inc.
PO Box 493995
Redding, CA 96049-3995, USA
Iris Ministries Canada
3092 Shannon Crescent
Oakville, ON L6L 6B4
(905) 847-7749; fax (905) 847-7931
Contact Janis Chevreau, Trustee
Iris Ministries (UK) Ltd
PO Box 351
Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1WQ
irismin.org (newsletters, photos, Rolland and Heidi's blog, etc.)
irismin.com (admin, travel schedule, support info, missions school, applications, products, etc.)
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Now, Peggy Noonan sounds in with the same concern I have, and that is the fear factor that television is bringing to the lives of children (let alone adults!). Here's an excerpt from here recent column in the Wall Street Journal (do yourself a favor and subscribe--best journalism in the USA is in the pages of the Journal.)
For 50 years in America, whenever the subject has turned to what our culture presents, the bright response has been, "You don't like it? Change the channel." But there is no other channel to change to, no safe place to click to. Our culture is national. The terrorizing of children is all over.
Click. Smug and menacing rappers.
Click. "This is Bauer. He's got a nuke and he's going to take out Los Angeles."
Click. Rosie grabs her crotch. "Eat this."
Click. "Every day 2,000 children are reported missing . . ."
Click. Don Imus's face.
Click. "Eyewitnesses say the shooter then lined the students up . . ."
Click. An antismoking campaign on local New York television. A man growls out how he felt when they found his cancer. He removes a bib and shows us the rough red hole in his throat. He holds a microphone to it to deliver his message.
Don't smoke, he says.
This is what TV will be like in Purgatory.
It's not only roughness and frightening things in our mass media, it's politics too. Daily alarms on global warming with constant videotape of glaciers melting and crashing into the sea. Anchors constantly asking, "Is there still time to save the Earth? Scientists warn we must move now." And international terrorism. "Is the Port of Newark safe, or a potential landing point for deadly biological weapons?"
I would hate to be a child now.
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal: 27 APRIL 2007: We're Scaring Our Children to Death
So would I. We live in a culture of violence and fear that is 99% the creation of our mass media. It doesn't have to be that way, but sensationalism sells, and fear mongering is the best sort of sensationalism.
HAT TIP: Relapsed Catholic
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Well, it's been a little while since that fateful day when a young and very angry Korean resident alien shot-up Virginia Tech, firing something on the order of 170+ rounds of ammunition during a romp through Norris hall, unleashing death and destruction like some sort of devil incarnate.
Let me state for the record that this I deplore and condemn the actions of Cho Seung-Hui, and find it to be a work of despicable evil. His actions cannot be justified, nor admired by any reasonable human being. But then again, this was not the act of a reasonable human being, at least not from my perspective.
My interest is the Virginia Tech shooting is simple: I don't want to ever see this happen again, and one of the best ways to understand how to prevent this is to understand what caused the killer to do what he did.
While everyone and his brother are throwing the "psychopath" label at Cho, I hesitate to do so for a very simple reason: it does not really explain anything.
While it has been discovered that Cho was diagnosed as being mentally ill, there does not seem to be any information as to what he was diagnosed with. According to information that I've seen, it seems that Cho was extremely depressed and suicidal. Also, it seems that he was diagnosed with autism when he was a child, which is something that does not go away when one gets older.
Autism often has other psychological disorders that go along with it. Hence, Cho was probably dealing with more than just autism. But please don't mistake autism for being retarded: children and adults with autism can be very intelligent, and many, with proper help, can lead fairly normal lives. But getting proper help is the key.
I have a feeling that Cho Seung-Hui never got the help and support that those who suffer with autism need, especially when they are young. It is also a fact that Cho was regularly on the wrong end of quite a bit of bullying and name calling when he was young, which is not unusual at all for those who suffer from mental illness. Take from a parent: children can be rather evil and demonic when it comes to bullying and mistreating other kids, especially those who are weaker or a bit strange. Children are not born civilized, they are not nice people.
Bullying and name-calling is difficult to handle when you are mentally sound, but when you are under the burden of something like autism, it can be very, very difficult to deal with. Autistic people, frustrated with their inability to fit in or even have the control of their bodies and minds like normal people do, can easily get worked up into a rage, and they can hurt others. This is nothing new. They simply do not have the self-control nor the ability to deal with conflict like the rest of us, anyone who has worked with autistic people/children can testify to that.
I'm one of the few people who was glad to hear that Cho left a manifesto, small portions of which MSNBC has made public. (I'm also probably the only person who would like to examine the entire manifesto, and not just snippets that MSNBC feels we should be allowed to see.)
When Cho expresses himself in his own words, there are three things that are very obvious: he was very angry, he was very depressed, and he had a difficult time expressing himself verbally. It is also evident that he was an intelligent person, proven by his choice of firearms (Glock & Walther), his use of technology, and the way he was able to plan his mission of vengeance. He even made time to go to the post office and overnight a package to MSNBC, in between killing people.
For Cho, the killings were not an act of terrorism or the mad ravings of a lunatic, rather he believed that he was avenging himself, along with all others in this life that end up on the wrong end of bullies and snobs. He mentions the persecution and bullying he was subject to, and explains quite clearly that he is now going to be doing a bit of bullying himself.
I myself can clearly remember a time when some little pipsqueak wanted to have some fun at my expense. At first I just tried to ignore the person, but that just seemed to encourage him all the more. I said nothing and did nothing in my defense, but he just continued to carry on. Then something in me just had enough, and I grabbed the little squirt by the neck, and proceeded to choke him, which had the immediate effect of stopping his increasingly insulting monologue. While I did not break his neck, nor choke him to death, I very easily could have, and was very much tempted to do so. Needless to say, after I put the fear of God into him, he never felt felt impressed to ridicule me again.
I bring that up to say this: people can be ridiculed and insulted into violence, even if they themselves are not violent by nature. Do this to someone who is having a hard enough time dealing with mental illness and flush with hormones, and you have the makings of one very angry, vengeful person, who will think nothing of killing his fellow man, and himself.
It was obvious that Cho was not just "picked on," but it is clear from the news reports and Cho's own writings that he was subject to constant ridicule and abuse, and was getting quite tired of it. He does not mention who is tormentors are by name, at least not in the information we have, but that many not be relevant.
What is relevant is that we live in a society and culture that glorifies those who kill for vengeance. We glorify all sorts of bad behavior, foul language, and rebellious attitudes. Then we all act very shocked and dismayed when someone actually acts out this behavior in public. Well, what did we expect? We reap what we sow, and Cho is just some of the first fruits of what is looking like a bumber crop.
Friedrich Nietzsche, no matter what you think of the man, was quite prophetic in his forsight in terms of seeing that the 20th century was going to be one of the most violent ever, thanks mainly to the increasing acceptance of a atheistic, nihilistic world view. After the past 100 years, you would think that such a world view would be tossed in the ash heap of history, but instead it has grown even stronger, even more bold, and it's already looking like the 21st century will make the 20th look like picnic in the park by comparison; especially since nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are within easy reach of even the lowiliest thug.
Cho, and those like him are a product of a culture than has grown increasingly narcissistic. It doesn't matter how poorly or badly we made Cho feel, it only matters that we made ourselves better by ridiculing him. Even in death, he cannot escape our collective ridicule and disdain.
Yes, I do condemn Cho's actions on that fateful April day at Virgina Tech, but I refrain from condemning Cho himself. Rather, I feel great sadness, both for him and those who were the object of his wrath.
But for those who were guilty of the systematic bullying of Cho, for them I have no sympathy at all. The earth would be a much better place without them.
May God have mercy on Cho's soul.
"Not by wrath does one kill, but by laughter."
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Monday, April 23, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
The NY Times has a very well written, descriptive account of the Virginia Tech massacre from the killer's point of view. It goes back to his early childhood. Very interesting piece: New York Times: 22 APRIL 2007: Before Deadly Rage, a Life Consumed by a Troubling Silence.
HAT TIP: Drudge Report