Religion Feed

Digest and Links to Religious Subjects in the News for This Week

What should be the focus of the first 100 days of the Obama administration?


On the death of John Updike and his relevance as a writer on theological themes: and


According to a new Pew research report, African Americans surpass the rest of Americans in religiosity.


The Poe has reaffirmed his solidarity with Jews, specifically regarding the Holocaust.


Among the many items in the proposed economic stimulus bill, HR 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is a provision for funding of $100 million for grants to faith-based organization through the Compassion Capital Fund :


President Obama reaches out to Muslims:


President Obama signed an executive order called the "Mexico City policy," which reverses a ban on funding international groups that provide abortions.


Family Research Council president Tony Perkins says while religious conservatives are pleased by President Barack Obama's faith-based rhetoric and outreach, they have concerns about how his administration will deal with some of their core issues.


President Obama plans to tap Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor and director of religious outreach for the campaign, to direct the office of faith-based initiatives, according to The New York Times. and and


Two notable critics have changed their minds on the controversial "local churches" movement that follow the teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.


Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter offered a blessing at the private prayer service for "Barack Hussein Obama" the morning of his inauguration, asking that those surrounding the President would place their hands on him. Read an interview with the pastor.


An interview with Rick and Kay Warren at Saddleback:


An interview with Shane Claiborne of "The Simple Way." In the young Evangelical world, Shane Claiborne is a rock star. He's infusing a new generation of Christians with hope and a sense of social service. It's this enthusiasm and his way of living in a monastic community that compelled us to ask for his perspective on the current economic crisis. He looks to the words of Jesus, describing them as fresh and an invitation, an opportunity, to hear them anew during these turbulent times.


Is Gaza a just war? A commentary by Rabbi Jack Moline.


Juvenile life without parole: Is it moral? There are over juveniles 2500 in the U.S. who have been so sentenced. and and and


Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, says many US Muslims are optimistic that President Barack Obama's administration will lead to a new climate of religious openness.


The Post-Neuhaus Future of Evangelicals and Catholics Together - an interview with Charles Colson on the life of Richard John Neuhaus:


The legacy of Father Damien of the Lepers:


Disney left the the wardrobe and now Fox has picked up the Narnia series. and


The Russian Orthodox Church is set to choose a new Patriarch. and


Some of the high-flying icons of the prosperity gospel—the belief that God rewards signs of faith with wealth, health, and happiness—have run into financial turbulence.


According to Ryan Bolger, "Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses nine practices. Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities." Christianity Today has identified "Five Streams of the Emerging Church."


Christianity Today interviews President Barack Obama:

This week, Obama also spoke to Beliefnet and CBN and preached at Atlanta's Ebenezer Church.







Henry's Web

My friend, Henry Neufeld  asks a stimulating question on his blog from PaceSetters.

Formal and Informal Prayers - a Metaphor

June 10th, 2007 by Henry Neufeld

Some Christians believe that the right way to approach God in prayer is through a very formal prayer, often a written prayer. Others believe prayers should be spontaneous and express your own thoughts at a particular moment. I have had some excellent times with God both with written prayers, especially the Lord’s prayer and John 17, and with spontaneous prayer.

So how should we approach God?  I would suggest the answer is “yes.”  ... Read More.

It would also be well worth anyone's while to become a regular reader to Threads from Henry's Web.



Selling is an honorable profession. Not only is it honorable, it necessary for the well being of economies, peoples, and the needy. Sales facilitates distribution and distribution brings the necessities of life to our doors. If the distribution system were to break down, we would be plunged into a rapidly escalating worldwide crisis of hunger. Our life support systems would come to a halt. Medicines would not be delivered. people would die; others would suffer.

Never apologize for selling. As a direct  or network marketer, you probably have many names for what you do, but the selling part is honorable. You are the life blood of the economy.

You move things.

You are an educator.

You feed, clothe, heal, and provide essential services for the masses.

You encourage people and give them hope.

You build communities.

Solomon develops a contrast between hoarders and sellers. See it in four different translations.

Proverbs 11:26:
The King James Version - "He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it."

The Message - "Curses on those who drive a hard bargain!Blessings on all who play fair and square!"

The New Living Translation - "People curse those who hoard their grain,but they bless the one who sells in time of need."

The New International Version - "People curse the man who hoards grain, but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell."

Selling is, as The Message translates it, the art of "playing fair and square."

There are times for giving things away, but nothing can be sustained that way. A fair and quality product for a fair price is a win-win scenario that keeps production and distribution alive.

Hoarding is selfish and unproductive.

What do we hoard?

Sometimes we hoard information that would help people make better decisions, buy better products, improve their lives, and create a better income and lifestyle.

D.T. Niles said that evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. In a way, so is sales. Not to tell is to let the other person starve for lack of information.

Hold your head up high; you are doing important work. Now, go out and DO IT!

Still Not Ready?

Here is an acronym to empower your resolve: The FAIR DEAL

F = Facilitation
- If you are dealing fairly with people, you are the facilitator of a process that they really want and need to happen. You are a facilitator, not a manipulator. You are helping them reach THEIR GOALS AND GET WHAT THEY WANT AND NEED. Is this not also true of evangelism?

A = Acquisition   - Things need to move from hand to hand along a pipeline from point of origination to point of use. You help that happen by providing the support, information, guidance, and contacts that make it possible. As sales professional, you are a servant in the arena of acquisition.

I = Integrity - People choose to do business with you because they know you, like you, and trust you. Integrity bolsters this trust. You must always do your best to tell the truth and act in an honest, ethical, and forthright manner in all you do. You will elevated the profession of sales, the ministry of evangelism, or even the pastorate by your integrity. Lack of integrity in any of these areas of endeavor is devastating to the reputation of all. Solomon advocates fair dealing. Proverbs 11:1 says, " The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight."  Integrity always pays in the long run.

Here are some helps for operating with integrity:

  • Under sell and over deliver. Make that a habit. Always surprise people by doing more than you promise, faster than you guaranteed, and with a bigger smile than when they signed the contract.
  • Admit your lack of knowledge and willingness to try to find answers. Don't make them up.
  • Rehearse the truth not a lie. What you say in private will lodge itself in your mind and emerge from your lips.
  • Don't try to elevate your product or business opportunity by cutting someone else's down.
  • Sell only what you can believe in without doing mental contortions.If you do not believe your own message, find one you believe and deliver it.

R = Relationships - Remember that selling is not a product business; it is a people business. work constantly on your people skills and highly value people. Love them. Try to get them the best deal. Serve them. enjoy them. Never see them merely as a means to an end. People can see through that. Make a friend and earn a long term business relationship. All of this works in ministry as well.

D = Dependability
- With all the integrity in the world, if you are flaky and sloppy about your appointments, other people's time, and your commitment to returning calls and correspondence in a timely and courteous many, you will be perceived rightly as undependable. If you have to wear yourself out at anything, make it in the area of promise keeping and respect for the time of the people you serve.

E - Even-handedness - For a deal to be fair, everyone must win. No one goes away thinking he "took" the other. There is a mutual understanding that the seller deserves a fair profit and the buyer deserves a fair price.

A - After-the-sale Attention
- If you are going to do repeat business with someone, it will most often be because you stand by your product and remember your clients after the transaction of the deal. They are, after all, now your friends. Remember them. Stay in touch with them. Do little things for them. Most of all, make sure that they are happy with the deal and, if not, try to fix it.

L = Leverage - In network marketing, we talk a lot about time leveraging. Sales is all about leveraging - time, people, knowledge, contacts, associations, affiliations, and our ability to expedite matters. There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of the power of leverage to improve the product that our clients receive and the profitability of our own efforts and that of our teams. Along the way, you will find people who see the power of leveraging and you can invite them to share its benefits by becoming part of your team.

Go out and do it now and know that you are an important part of making the world go around today.

Andy  Andrews Affiliate Link

Tom's Blogsphere


My primary network marketing commitment is Pre Paid Legal. it would be an honor to help you build a Pre Paid Legal business. To find out more, visit this site: Getting Paid Daily


Let's Get to Church

It is Sunday and if you are reading this within the next hour or so, you have time to get up, get dressed, and get to church.

Do it.

You don't go to church?

What great things will you do then? Polish the silver? Watch a fishing show? Read the paper?

Come on. It won't hurt you. You might like it.

You say you can pray at home?

Of course you can. I hope you do. That's not the main reason you go. In fact, the level of praying at church is pretty lame compared to what you need to be doing on your own - BUT, you do it TOGETHER and that can be very powerful and encouraging.

You say you want three good reasons to leave this box we call a computer and go to church?

OK - I'll even add a bonus:

1) Someone there needs to see you and be encouraged by YOU! They need your handshake. They need to see your face.

2) The pastor will preach a better sermon to "those other folks" who need it if your unexpected body is sitting in a pew. You will encourage him/her by your presence.

3) God is blessed when His people gather to praise Him. This is actually a big, fat, hairy deal and a major motivator. After all, if you have a spark of faith, you already know that pleasing God is sort of a big thing.

Now, I promised a bonus and I believe in under-promising and over-delivering:

1) Someone is at church that you need to see, touch, and make contact with. You have some divine appointments in that community that will encourage you to the next level of your faith progress. Come on. Get dressed.

2) Something the pastor says will challenge, inspire, motivate, or convict you. I don't care how mature and insightful you are, how much you read on your own, and how much of a better job you could do, you can get something out of today's sermon if it is only the scripture reading in the power of the Spirit among a group of people gathered in Jesus' Name.

3) Your voice may be just what is needed to create critical mass in the congregational singing. You may make the difference between lackluster singing and a choral masterpiece to the glory of God - even if you can't carry a tune in a bucket.

Am I done?

Well, not quite.

For instance, there will be some challenges to action and ministry today that you need to plug into because you have certain gifts no one has. That church is doing some good in the hood and you can be part of it.

It will be fun, exciting, and rewarding - a whole lot better than reruns of Gumby and Pokey.

Finally, it is your family - whether or not you have met them. This is a group of people that love or will love you and you will learn to love them - and working out your "stuff" with and among them is the only way you will ever get it worked out - and they have some pretty ugly stuff to work out with you too. You can help and be a help. And as uncomfortable as that makes you feel, it can only be done in community.

And that is why God planned it that way and gave us the gift of the church and entrusted all His earthly business of any importance to it.

So ...get, get dressed, and get over there.

Seven "E" for a Christ-Centered Community

Building a Christ Centered Community for Transformation

I may have published these Seven “E”s of Building a Christ-Centered Community before. They were initially posted on my Transformational Communities blog.

1. Christ-centered Entrepreneurship that celebrates the dignity of the person and affirms the priesthood of every believer and a creative creation of God.

2. Christ-centered Education that fosters a community of earnest seekers for truth and equips that seeking.

3. Christ-centered Engagement that encourages full participation of every person in the life of the community while lifting up the value and responsibility of all to all.

4. Christ-centered Economics that returns to the biblical principle of the steward of the oikos (household) to find the literal meaning of the term and approaches the subject with the understanding that everything belongs to God.

5. Christ-centered Environmentalism which takes stewardship to the next level of commitment, building sustainable and responsible systems and loving our neighbors who are yet to occupy this planet.

6. Christ-centered Evangelism which knows that the proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom of God is always at the heart of a vital community.

7. Christ-centered Exchange which opens doors of communication and sharing among diverse peoples and invites everyone in the community to the table.

The Debate Continues

What seems obvious to me as a man of faith may not be so clear to others. has brought together a group of scholars from the left and the right to debate the issue of the historical Jesus. They include some notables who affirm His divinity and some who argue for a Jesus who is so human as to scoff at any possibility of the miraculous.

Sign Up Now!

Among those who have entered the debate is Bishop John Shelby Spong, who recently said:

"Religion in America today embarrasses me," said Spong, 75, who will speak in Rochester next week. "If that's what Christianity is all about, then I'm not really interested in that."

My news to Bishop Spong is that turnoabout is fair play. i have often been embrarrassed by him. For more of the interview where he made his red-facxed declaration, click here.

There is actually a rather heated discussion of the matter on the Religion Forum .

as others have noted, the faith that Spong sees as obsolete is thriving around the world and transforming lives. It a new global world, it makes one wonder who is out-moded in his thinking.

Christianity has survived attacks in every generation because it is real. The question is always this, "Are we real?"

Lyn Perry and Thought Renewal

Lyn Perry is getting the job done at Thought Renewal. His balance of good sense and biblical grounding is refreshing and challenging. Any serious entrepreneur with a deep commitment to Jesus Christ and Christian principles would do well to subscribe to Lyn's blog.

His mission is stated as, "Helping People Help Themselves to a Joyful Life of Abundance"

I first came across Lyn's work while writing and researching a Christian perspective on the recent documentary, "The Secret." I found his analysis very similar to my own . Lyn encourages employment of the "Law of Affirmation."

Here is his from one of his recent articles, Daily Afirmations, Part 3:

"I have decided to use the talents God has given me and create wealth for my family and those around me."

  • Think of my family and friends who will benefit.
  • Think of the ministries we can fund and the saints we will serve.
  • Think of our future friends we'll greet in the Kingdom.
  • Think of the tens of thousands of lives we can touch.
  • Think of the taxes we'll pay.
  • Think of the business we'll generate and the people employed because of it.
  • Think of my parents and the positive impact they've had as successful business owners.
  • Think of the legacy we'll leave.

His integration of scripture and sound business and motivational principles will keep bringing me back. I am subscribing!

The Open Secret

My review of "The Secret" has been getting a lot of attention - much more than I expected. I appreciate all the comments including those that brought these links to other excellent evaluations across my screen:

The Secret's Out
- from Thought Renewal by Lyn Perry - This blog is going into My Favorites.

Have you seen ‘The Secret’?   from Women by Grace

Don Whitney's Review from Baptist Press

I am still committed to not throwing out the baby with the bathwater, so i am writing an article to post later this week called, "The Real Secret."

Who Is a Light to the Nations?

A friend on the Religion Forum posed this question from a Jewish perspective:

>>It is interesting that the Jews are supposed to be a light unto the nations, in deed, not in changing anyone and then Christianity comes along and changes what G-d has told specifically to the Jews.  As a Christian, do you see a problem here.<<

What follows is my answer.

Good question, my friend - not so easy to answer. That's no reason not to try <s>.

What I say from here on is my belief and my perspective - but I also believe it to be a New Testament point of view.

Jews are a light to the nations. The history of the Jews is a living witness to G_d's faithfulness. The scriptures, which Christians accept as relevant to our beliefs are a "gift" from the Jews. The continuing Covenant relationship between G_d and the Jews is a witness to the world as to G_d's desire to invite all people into relationship with Him.

No one can provide an adequate substitute for that role of Jews in the world.

That kind of relationship does in fact change people. Being light just points to the possibility of life transformation. People do not change people. Conversion is internal and spiritual. Forced, coerced, or deceptive conversion is not conversion at all from a Jewish or a Christian standpoint. Conversion that turns people from scoundrels into productive members of the community is spiritual and genuine. Of course, not all who need/desire conversion are outward scoundrels; some are just afraid of their own shadows, devalued by themselves, or haunted by a nagging suspicion that there is more to life than materialism and the roller coaster of earthly succes and failure.

I am still in need of daily conversion, transformation, and change (not that they are not all the same thing) because I am not all I can be and will be. Thank G_d for that!

In Esther's day, many Gentiles became Jews, not by persuasion but because of the witness of a faithful people and the miracle demonstrated by a faithful G_d.

In the same way, the Jews embraced those who wished to join them at every point in history. I like your point that they were often discouraged because it is a hard thing. Jesus said something silimar, "Count the cost."

Jonah did not attempt to convert. He hoped that the folks would not be converted (the little soiled sport <S>). But G_d converted the people through the message/light of Jonah's, all beit reluctant, faithful witness.  They were not converted to a particular religion, but to a recognition of their evil and G_d's sovereignty. G_d had mercy and spared them through the light of the Jews.

Christianity does not/cannot usurp the role of Judaism as a light to the nations. It just includes those who come to the Kingdom through the witness of Jesus.

It is not a contradiction as we see it, but a complement. It is the possibility of righteousness - which from my understanding has a two-fold  meaning from scriptures: (1) right relationship with God and (2) heading in the right direction.

Even the Paul I read in the NT was no arm-twister. Nor did he ever try to convert people to a new religion. The Jews he influenced to become disciples still considered themselves Jews and observed the law. The Gentiles to whom he directed most of his ministry saw themselves as benificiaries of the light shed by the Jews and  deeply indebted to Jews.

What went wrong? I think it was a combination of political power, respectability, and comfort. Even today, when believers in Jesus focus more on those three things, they become less likely to stand with the poor, have broken hearts over the 8,000 people who die of AIDS daily, the 6000 new orphans, or the injustices that are perpetrated in the world. They retreat to the suburbs leaving iner city churches empty. They don't have to deal with lives broken by gangs and drugs because they are comfortable. They can focus on being judgmental and moralistic and delude themselves into thinking that such a course is the way of grace and salvation. When Christians began to think they had the power of majority, they often exercised it ruthlessly. That is history - but it is not all of history.

If Christianity would disappear from history, there would still be Judaism. However, without Judaism, there is no Christianity. However profoundly our Jewish friends may feel we have misinterpretted the Hebrew scriptures, they provide the foundation of our beliefs. We have a debt.

Jews continue to have a message to Christians. That is why people like Rabbi Abraham Heschel and Martin Buber speak so deeply to my soul and propel me to a deeper love of God.

Concerning the awful attrocities done in the name of evangelism through the centuries - shame on us.

But acknowledging all that, those of us who have what we consider to be good news (which is really quite simple)  have an obligation to live it and share it when given permission to do so - at least to make it available. G_d has given all people the privilege and responsibility of being light with the light they have - and I think Jews still have a very big, and unique chunk of that.

That is how I would answer that question from how I understand my own perspective on the matter.

- Tom (taking off his theologian's hat now and putting his friend/sysop hat back on <s>.)

BONUS (Some quotes from Wikipedia's article on Abraham Heschel by Abraham Heschel):

  • "All      it takes is one person… and another… and another… and another… to start a      movement"
  • "Wonder      rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge."
  • "A      religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one      time, at all times, who suffers no harm done to others, whose greatest      passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of      despair."
  • "God      is of no importance unless He is of utmost importance."
  • "Just      to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy."
  • "Self-respect      is the fruit of discipline, the sense of dignity grows with the ability to      say no to oneself."
  • "Life      without commitment is not worth living."
  • "In      regard to cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some are      guilty, while all are responsible."

The rest of the discussion is available online.

Critical and Strategic Thinking

I am developing a workshop on critical and strategic thinking. I would value dialogue on this subject and am posting this framework as a launch pad.


How to Think Critically and Strategically



 Topic – We must have something to think about.

 Technique – We must cultivate processing skills.

 Timeliness – We must think in the context of our times.



 Hours – It takes time to think strategically.

 Honesty - With truth as the object, brutal honesty is required.

 Holistic – Our thinking must embrace multiple concerns.




 Intellect – Thinking always engages the mind. Mental capacity must be nurtured.

 Integration – Ideas, convictions, and paradoxes must be incorporated in the stew.

 Inspiration – The spiritual dimension is necessary. The Holy Spirit illumines our thinking.




 Negation Mechanism – We need to weed out irrelevancies.

 Need-Based – We are thinking to solve a problem.

 Next – Strategic thinking taes us to the next level.




 Knowledge – It is a primarily a tool more than an outcome.

 Koinonia - Fellowship is seen in collaborative thinking.

 Kerygma – It must come under the authority of ultimate truth.


© 2006, Thomas B. Sims

Henry Stirs the Pot

Our own Henry Neufeld has placed himself in the thick of the fray in the ongoing Intelligent Design debate, this time arguing from a Christian theological perspective that ID is bad theology.

Henry's full article can be found on Threads from Henry's Web .

Why is ID bad theology and why is this assessment shared among even conservative Christian scholars? Neufeld explains:

"If you are wondering why there is a split amongst conservative Christians over ID, it is simply that many conservative Christians are saying either that this does not prove or that it is not even trying to prove anything that actually works within their theology."

Going further, he asserts, "I don’t accept ID precisely because I believe that the universe is designed."

I'm not going to do all your work for you; you'll have to read the article and come back and comment here and on his blog and well as on the Religion Forum. There is a lively discussion of the article there. In it, I responded to my friend:


I would say that while Paul does say that one can find God through creation, he doesn't offer any guarantee that we'll all find out everything, or that we'll get everything right.  I think "clear enough" would be a good equivalent there.<<

My theology professor, Bill Hendricks, in his lecture on revelation, said that God has not revealed everything about Himself, but what He has revealed is true to who He is and adequate for us to know Him and relate to Him.

All Paul really guaranteed in Romans 1 was that nature offered enough revelation to point us toward "awe" "wonder" and that in human rebellion, we rejected even that.

Psalm 19 is a two-parter in my view - the revelation through creation which is adequate as a "call to worship," refined by the spoken word in the second part of the Psalm that reveals even more information....

My own article on Romans 1:18-20
[on my Roman Road blog] is admittedly preachy and on a different vein - because it is, afterall, the begining of a sermon I intend to preach on Sunday.

But it is a curious thing <g>

- Tom

ID is a hot button issue these days. More from me here. You can pick up my sermon and borrow as much as you like with proper attribution.