When millions of curious seekers crowd into America's churches on Easter Sunday, what will they find?
Millions of "Easter Christians" and other curious spiritual seekers will crowd into America's churches on the next two Sundays. Some will visit simply to "put in their time"—either in an attempt to ease their consciences or to please relatives. A few will see it as an excuse to buy and show off new outfits. And many will come out of genuine spiritual hunger.
A recent survey conducted by Lifeway Research revealed that 56 percent of Americans would attend a church service if invited by a friend. And while polls show that many older denominations are losing members, non-denominational churches are growing in many regions of this country at a brisk pace (along with non-Christian religions). Despite all the grim economic news we've heard this year, some trends indicate that we could actually be on the cusp of a spiritual awakening.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many professing Christians in America, yet so few cities that have been truly transformed for Christ? Why, in prayer meetings and conferences, we passionately cry out for nations to be saved in a day; yet our local spheres of influence remain largely unchanged year after year?
The answer can be found by examining the historical seeds of past revivals. For example, legend has it that Jonathan Edwards, before the birthing of the Great Awakening, made a covenant with God. Standing on a riverbank, he cried out to God for revival in the land. Drawing a circle in the sand, he pledged that before God could take the city, the region, the nation, He must start here—and he pointed to the circle. Then Edwards stepped into the circle.
During the last few weeks, there has been much discussion about the future of the evangelical movement and its impact on the American culture. For years, prophets of doom have been busy telling the world that the evangelical movement is dead or dying. This year as President Barack Obama's administration has shifted the nation's stance on embryonic stem cell research and abortion, many in the faith community have justifiably become concerned. Further, RNC Chairman Michael Steele's decision to lower his personal and his party's vocalization of socially conservative issues, such as protecting the life of the unborn and preservation of traditional marriage, has left many evangelicals feeling abandoned by both parties.
What's next for evangelicals? It seems to me that evangelicals are on the verge of finding their collective voice in a very new way. In the future evangelicals will seek to be more of a swing vote, placing pressure on both parties to advance a theologically conservative and fiscally conservative agenda. They will base these stances on a combination of biblical orthodoxy and common sense. The conservative movement would do well to attempt to re-build bridges behind the scenes with mature and developing evangelical leadership - especially in minority communities.
There have been many discussions and actions this year concerning bailouts for companies and corporate America and for the banking industries. But we as the people of God must not forget that God is going to bail out His people and save them in the day of calamity.
I've gotten good response to my new format. I've added a link to a page where you can put your comments on the overall column in addition to commenting on each article. Each time we issue the Strang Report we'll try to bring you what I consider the most interesting timely news of what is happening in what some have called "the cultural wars," including spiritual, cultural and political trends.
You may be interested to know our company has its own social networking site at ChristianLife.com. I invite you to try it out. It is very similar to Facebook, only Christian. If you join, be sure to add me as a friend. And if you tweet, you can follow me at twitter.com/sstrang.
Indecision is a miserable state to be in and certainly is not a fruit of the simple life. Simplicity prays, seeks wisdom and decides. It doesn’t waffle. It sticks with the decision it made unless there is a very good reason to change it. The apostle James said the double-minded man is unstable in all his ways and will not receive anything he asks from the Lord.
How can God give us anything if we can never make up our minds concerning what we want?
Inevitably, our journeys through life bring us to many unavoidable decisions, and we will always get into trouble if we make them emotionally or according to what we think or want. God wants us to make wise decisions. I believe having wisdom is choosing to do now what we will be happy with later.
Dr. Alveda King, Pastoral Associate of Priests for Life and the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., commented today on the shooting of four Oakland police officers and the jailing of an Oakland pro-life activist last Friday.
"Four Oakland policemen were gunned down over the weekend while serving as protectors of human life," said Dr. King. "They will be forever heroes, victims of injustice. Only hours before they were struck down, however, another hero who tried to protect the innocent, Rev. Walter Hoye, was to a much lesser extent a victim of injustice as well.
A judge ruled March 23 that the controversial morning-after pill Plan B be available to 17 year olds without a prescription. U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman also ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reconsider whether to make the drug available to girls of all ages without a prescription.
"Judge Korman based his decision on political talking points rather than facts. The FDA has never approved that a high-dose of a drug be available without a prescription when a lower dose of the same drug requires a prescription. But now an activist judge has ordered that minor girls have access to this drug without medical oversight or parental knowledge," stated Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America.
WorldNet Daily recently reported that Merriam-Webster, one of the nations most well known dictionary companies, has expanded the definition of marriage to include the uniting of “a person of the same sex in a relationship.”
On Monday Liberty Counsel filed a Reply Brief at the Florida Supreme Court, in which it argued that The Florida Bar should remain neutral in the homosexual adoption controversy. In addition to Liberty Counsel, the Petitioners include Anita Staver, President of Liberty Counsel, and Scott Dixon, affiliate attorney for Liberty Counsel. Liberty Counsel represents the interests of its staff and affiliate attorneys who are licensed by the Bar.
Liberty Counsel filed a Petition at the Florida Supreme Court on February 27; the Bar filed its Response and on March 23 Liberty Counsel filed its Reply. In its Response, the Bar admits that it is prohibited from taking sides on this or any other issue that has the potential of causing deep philosophical or emotional division among a substantial segment of the Bar. The Bar argues that the Family Law Section, membership in which is voluntary, is filing the brief, not the Bar itself, and that having only one law firm and two attorneys object does not make an issue divisive among a substantial segment of the Bar.
Note from Steve: As many evangelicals are saying the Republican Party is ignoring their socially conservative agenda for a more fiscally conservative focus, U.S. News & World Report recently reported that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has launched an organization centered on mobilizing religious conservatives. I thought you'd be interested in this. You can read more about ithere.
On March 20 the Rev. Walter Hoye of Berkeley, Cali., was ordered to serve 30 days in county jail by Judge Stuart Hing of the Alameda Superior Court. The Rev. Hoye had been found guilty on Jan. 15, of unlawfully approaching two persons entering an abortion clinic in Oakland. Judge Hing had also ordered him to stay one hundred yards away from the abortion clinic for three years. However, Hoye refused this term of probation and would not agree to a stay-away order. Therefore, the judge denied the defense motion to stay the sentence pending appeal. Hoye was taken into custody from the courtroom.
We must use the right building materials if we want our ministries to stand in the day of His visitation.
Every state in this country has strict building codes. You can't just buy a piece of land and throw up a structure any way you choose. Local governments have standards for foundations, floors, drywall, roofs, exhaust systems, water heaters, wiring, lighting and sanitary drainage. In my neighborhood you can't even erect a shed in your backyard without a permit, and an inspector will always drop by unannounced to make sure you followed the rules.
These codes are important in Florida where I live. You don't want to discover during a hurricane that your contractor used shoddy plywood or defective concrete when he built your house or condo. Bad construction just might send your roof into a neighbor's yard!
To the woman at the well, Jesus asked, "Will you give me a drink?" I can't imagine being asked by the living water Himself to fetch Him some refreshment. Yet Jesus asks us to quench His thirst—to bring Him something that will refresh Him. That makes me wonder, Is Jesus thirsty in my relationship with Him? Do I bring Him a cup of cold water in my worship, in my praise? Does my life water and refresh His heart?
One way we can refresh the heart of Jesus is by watering others. Jesus talked about water more than once. He tells us that when we give a drink to others we have done it unto Him.
Last week as I was discussing the difficulty of communicating issues of faith on secular media, a Catholic friend of mine asked why the Pope had spoken out so boldly on the AIDS problem. It seemed to this liberal Catholic that the Pope had once again stuck his nose where it did not belong. Pope Benedict XVI made the following statement in Yaounde, Cameroon, "You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms ...On the contrary, it increases the problem."
As far as I can tell, contrary to my friend's opinion, the Pope was right this time. In fact, his statement was not just a doctrinal position on sexuality; it was also a practical observation about a dreaded disease that the Roman Catholic Church has invested billions of dollars to fight around the world. I agree with the Pope that a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease.
It was appropriate that his statement was made in sub-Saharan Africa, where some 22 million people are infected with HIV (accounting for two-thirds of the world's infections in 2007, according to UNAIDS). Adding insult to injury, this region also accounted for three-quarters of all AIDS deaths in 2007. In four southern African countries, national adult HIV prevalence has exceeded 30 percent: Botswana (38.8 percent), Lesotho (31 percent), Swaziland (33.4 percent) and Zimbabwe (33.7 percent). Food crises faced in the latter three countries are also linked to the HIV/AIDS epidemic by some experts. In just the past year, the AIDS epidemic in Africa has claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people in this region. Perhaps most concerning of all is the fact that more than eleven million children have been orphaned by AIDS, according to the UNAIDS 2008 report.
The Pope's observation about the use of condoms also applies to the spread of HIV in the developed world as well. There needs to be a world- wide initiative aimed at two things: 1. stopping the spread of the disease and, 2. finding a medical cure for HIV/AIDS.
Just days before the Pope issued his statement in a far away national capital in the impoverished land of Cameroon, leaders in the world's most powerful city also threw up their hands in exasperation. Washington, DC health officials discovered that at least 3 percent of residents are living with HIV or AIDS. The report points to increases of incidence in every race and sex; in fact the disease has impacted every population and neighborhood within the District.
This is particularly disturbing compared to the 2006 report. The DC report does not conclusively show that condoms do not work. It suggests to me, that many people are not even trying to use condoms. The increase in the HIV/AIDS infection rate is not the only surprise in this work. Let's look a little deeper into the study.
Cases of HIV and AIDS in DC jumped 22 percent in the last two years. What has caused such an abrupt increase? The report states that men having sex with men accounts for most of the cases. Heterosexual transmission and injection drug use follow. The raw data states that of those living with AIDS, 37.5 percent were due to homosexual contact, 25.6 percent were due to heterosexual contact and 23.5 percent were due to drug use.
I was personally shocked by how many older people in the nation's most powerful city assumed that all "the noise" about safe sex was for someone else. Those in the 40-49 year age bracket had a startling 1 in 10 rate of occurrence among residents. Further, the black community in DC seems to need a very intense HIV/AIDS education program since black men reached the highest infection rate. In the 2008 DC update, the black female infection rate is equal to that of white males.
The overarching lesson the DC numbers show me is that the AIDS pandemic has similar dynamics here in the states as it does overseas. Dr. Shannon Hader, Director of the HIV/AIDS Administration at the DC Department of Health, stated (somewhat defensively) that Washington does not have the highest rate of the disease among the world's capital cities - but it does have the highest rate among US cities.
Thankfully, Dr. Hader stated that the District is still looking to initiate a comprehensive response, including early detection and prevention of ongoing transmission. Even the Washington HIV/AIDS Administration agrees that responsibility toward sexual encounters is a primary factor in preventing the virus from transmitting. In fact, Dr. Hader stated that along with other preventions, "...serious decisions about relationships can make a large prevention difference."
In conclusion, let me applaud the Pope's boldness to state the primary way HIV/AIDS can be stopped. I felt sorry for him that his brave statements have been interpreted as petty, bigoted, and out of touch with modern sexuality. I also applaud the Roman Catholic Church for having the wisdom to minister to people around the world suffering with AIDS. Many of us non-Catholics are guilty of criticizing the way problems are being addressed without investing anything in a solution. For this reason, I have made a commitment to stamping out AIDS in our lifetime. I have raised thousands of dollars to fund research for a world famous, D.C.-based organization. My vehicle for raising the money was running several marathons. The fund raising has been my contribution. What's yours?
We should all do what the hymn writer said, "If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be!" Let's take every opportunity to combat the spread of this dreaded disease.
In light of the recent economic crises and major political, social and moral changes in our nation, people everywhere are asking, "What can I still count on in these turbulent times?"
I have an answer that is firmly grounded in the Scriptures: "You can count on God's unfailing faithfulness." Here are three ways God is faithful, no matter what the circumstances are that are swirling around you:
Note from Steve: Here's an item that ran in "The Washington Times" on March 18, by former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas who I supported when he ran for the Republican party's nomination for President. It is so clear thinking I wanted to give you a link to read it by clicking here.
Undercover videos produced by Live Action Films were used to help strip Planned Parenthood of the $292,000 in taxpayer funds it received from Orange County, CA. The videos, part of the ongoing Mona Lisa Project, clearly show Planned Parenthood employees ignoring the sexual abuse of minors, which mandatory reporting laws require clinicians to report.
Mark Bucher, a local resident and board member of the Family Action PAC, saw the videos and decided to find out if Orange County gave taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood. Bucher proceeded to uncover an intricate money trail unknown even to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, and found that Planned Parenthood received funds through the Orange County Health Care Agency but was never identified as the recipient.