Sunday, April 20, 2014

Did the resurrection of Jesus evolve as a story from ancient myths?

They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.  1Thessalonians 1:9-10

Why should the story of Jesus' resurrection have any more credibility than tales of dying and rising gods such as Osiris, Adonis, Attis, and Marduk -- that are so obviously mythological?

First, good historical evidence exists for Jesus' resurrection. It's impossible to dismiss the resurrection unless you can refute its solid core of supporting evidence.

Second, T.N.D. Mettinger--a senior Swedish scholar, professor at Lund University and member of the Royal Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities of Stockholm--wrote one of the most recent academic treatment of dying and rising gods in antiquity. He admits in his book, The Riddle of Resurrection that the nearly universal consensus among modern scholars is that no dying and rising gods preceded Christianity. They all postdated the first century. Obviously, that timing is crucial: Christianity couldn't have borrowed the idea of the resurrection if myths about dying and rising gods weren't even circulating when Christianity was birthed in the first century AD.

Mettinger, however, takes a decidedly minority position by claiming there might be as many as five examples of dying and rising gods that predate Christianity. However after analyzing these accounts he found that none of them serve as actual parallels to Jesus' resurrection story. None of them.

They are far different from the reports of Jesus rising from the dead. They occurred in the unspecified and distant past and were usually related to the seasonal life and death cycle of vegetation. In contrast, Jesus' resurrection isn't repeated, isn't related to changes in the seasons and was sincerely believed to be an actual event by those who lived in the same generation of the historical Jesus. In addition, Mettinger concludes that "there is no evidence for the death of the dying and rising gods as vicarious suffering for sins" and that "the death and resurrection of Jesus retains unique character in the history of religions."

-----Adapted from interview with Dr. Michael Licona

Note: The myth of Attis does predate Christianity. However, there is no reference to his resurrection until at least 100 years after Christ rose from the dead.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Upcoming Oscar Sunday: 'Alone Yet Not Alone has already earned a unique place in history

Joni Eareckson-Tada is an author, artist, and radio host. She is founder of Joni and Friends, an organization to "welcome, serve, and include people with disabilities." The ministry includes "Wheels for the World," purposed to give wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers to those in need all across the U.S. and overseas to developing countries.

In 2005, Joni was appointed to the Disability Advisory Committee, U.S. State Department. Joni herself is a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down, as a result from a diving accident in 1967.

Now 64-years old, she recently took on the task of singing a low-budget film theme song, "Alone Yet Not Alone," written by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel.

Sources say "her lung capacity is just 51 percent of what it ought to be -- so weak, in fact, that her husband needed to push on her give her enough breath to hit the high notes."

Since the song, ever beautiful though it may be, is from an obscure movie, it would escape notice by Academy Award voters if not somehow brought to their attention. 
It deserved the simple courtesy, without obligation, of letting the lyrics speak for themselves:
I'm alone, yet not alone.
God's the light that will guide me home.
With His love and tenderness,
Leading through the wilderness,
And wherever I may roam,
I'm alone, yet not alone.
I will not be bent in fear.
He's the refuge I know is near.
In His strength I find my own.
By His faithful mercies shown.
That so mighty is His shield
All His love is now revealed.
When my steps are lost.
And desperate for a guide,
I can feel his touch,
A soothing presence by my side.
Alone, yet not alone.
Not forsaken when on my own.
I can lean upon His arm,
And be lifted up from harm.
If I stumble, or if I'm thrown,
I'm alone, yet not alone.
When my steps are lost.
And desperate for a guide,
I can feel his touch,
A soothing presence by my side.
By my side! 
He has bound me with His love,
Watchful angels look from above.
Every evil can be braved,
For I know I will be saved.
Never frightened on my own,
I'm alone, yet not alone.
I'm alone, yet not alone.
Since the movie was not part of the elite publicity machine in press releases, gala screenings, or plushy parties with giveaways such as DVD's of upcoming movies, Bruce Broughton decided he could send out e-mails, a total of 70, to simply ask that the song be given a listen. His e-mail read:
"I'm dropping you a line to boldly direct your attention to entry #57...The clip includes the final scene in the film and a performance of the song as used in the beginning of the End Credits. I'm sending this note only because it is extremely unlikely that this small, independent, faith-based film will be seen by any Music Branch member; it's the only way I can think of to have anyone be aware of the song. This is merely a request "For Your Consideration," a hope that the song will get noticed and be remembered among the many worthy songs from more highly visible films." 
Sending out the emails posed no problems as nothing in the Academy rules prohibits sending "for your consideration" ads to anyone in Hollywood this time of year. The Academy did give a listen, and they liked what they heard. The song became a nomination for best original son.

Tada was thrilled. Her quotes to the Hollywood Reporter include,
"I'm the least likely candidate to record a song for a movie, I'll tell you that up front, so it's amazing. It's amazing enough that a family-friendly movie with a Christian theme is nominated in any category for an Academy Award. Besides The Blind Side, which was wonderful, it's just not the norm. 
"I don't know how the nomination process works, but I'm grateful. I think I give a good performance but not a great one, and I think that the Academy recognizing this humble, good little song is rather wonderful.   
"Hollywood always talks about the dark horse film, and man this horse is so dark. This is such an out-of-left-field thing. The God of the Bible delights in using ill-equipped, unskilled and untrained people in positions of great influence, everyone from Joseph to David. It's all to show that it's not by human prowess or brassiness, but all by God's design. I don't know if that's what he's doing here, but it's worth giving pause and considering."
She wasn't the only one with a surprised reaction.

A writer of a song that wasn't nominated hired private investigators basically to find a reason why the song should be disqualified. They figured something had to be fishy because how could a little-known song possibly be more deserving of a nomination than a much more visible song performed by professional singers? It was suspected that standards for advertising stated in the Academy’s rules for eligibility were not met. The Academy proved otherwise and dismissed the allegation.

The investigators did not give up.  The charge they finally came up with is that arms were twisted and that members of the Academy were afraid not to heartily comply, in spite of the fact that votes were secretly cast. They emphasized that though Broughton currently has no position at the Academy, he was an Academy governor until 2012. Furthermore, they pointed out, he is on the executive committee of the Academy's music branch.

The Academy decided they had a good point. President Cheryl Boone Isaacs stated,
"No matter how well-intentioned the communication, using one's position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one's own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage."
This is the only time in Academy Award history that a nominated song has been disqualified because of an advertising ethics complaint even though all kinds of advertising practices by "film, director, writer, cinematographer, actor, art director, costume designer and efx house" to promote work has heretofore been the norm. (See Gerald Molen, producer of "Schindler's List," quote below).

From Gerald Molen is a colorful and dead-on response to Cheryl Boone Isaacs:
"Every film, director, writer, cinematographer, actor, art director, costume designer and efx house finds a way to pitch or promote their work. Many will see this decision as faith-based bigotry pure and simple." 
Critics will pounce and accuse us of being out of touch and needlessly offending middle America by stripping this song -- a song sung by a quadriplegic hero to evangelical Christians who has captured the imagination of the American people -- of its nominationl 
In my humble opinion, it seems to me that this has turned a Cinderella story that America loves into a story of the wicked stepmother who wants to keep her daughter from the ball, with we the Academy cast as the villain." 
My goodness, if we were truly to operate by this new standard the committee has cited, your office would be filled with returned Oscars from past winners and nominees who have lobbied their friends and colleagues. This seems to me to have been a normal practice for a long, long time, and yet the Academy has suddenly discovered lobbying in the case of this one song?" 
It has been reported that a rival film hired a private investigator to find dirt on the film in an attempt to discredit it as not having been advertised properly and that when this failed to sway the committee, a decision was instead made to disqualify it because of the email. I urge you and the Academy to reconsider this decision and restore the song and fairness and integrity to our process."
Four nominees remain in best original song category: "Happy" from Despicable Me 2, "Let It Go" from Frozen, "The Moon Song" from Her, and "Ordinary Love" from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. There is no replacement song for the worthy yet disqualified "Alone Yet Not Alone."
On the Red Carpet
Screen Crush
Hollywood Reporter

Broughton's response: "I indulged in the simplest grassroots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention. I got taken down by competition that had months of promotion and advertising behind them. I simply asked people to find the song and consider it."
For original article, click here.
Update: "Let It Go" from Frozen was winner for best original song.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The True Story behind Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer

A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out  his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.

His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob's wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. 

Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad's eyes and asked, 

"Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?"

Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob.He never seemed to fit in.   Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he'd rather not remember. 

Bob did complete college, married his loving wife Evelyn and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery  Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl.
But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all their  savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one - a storybook!
Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling.
Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.
Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn't end there. 

The general manager of  Montgomery  Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print,
 Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.
By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.  In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May.

The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed; and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn't end there either. 

Bob's brother-in-law, John ny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.

"Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas." 

The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing. --author unknown

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

By Congressman Randy Forbes
November 27, 2013

There are some seasons when we feel immensely grateful, like when receiving a phone call from the doctor with news: “cancer free,” or hearing the announcement of new life. These blessings are obvious and big, and we feel overwhelmed with thanksgiving in these seasons. Then, there are some years where we are grateful for simple things, like having all the children home for the holidays or making a trip to visit an old friend. These are not glamorous things. Yet, they provide great joy in their simplicity.  And then there are other years where it takes a little more effort to find that for which we are grateful, especially in the face of job loss, the deterioration of a relationship, or the failing health of a parent.

On one of my drives from Chesapeake to Washington, D.C. for the DC work week, I found myself thinking of these seasons. Each of us has probably found ourselves in these times at one point or another. We encounter people every day – at the grocery store, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, at the carpool line at school – who are in varying seasons in their own lives. We, as a nation, find ourselves moving through seasons, too.

Right now, we are in a year where many Americans may feel that it takes a little more effort to express gratitude. There is a sense of frustration at the state of our politically divided government. People are too exhausted to turn on the news. Many are looking at smaller budgets for the holiday season.

In seasons where it is difficult to find gratitude, I find it helpful to look to the guiding words of others for inspiration. In 1789, George Washington issued a proclamation for a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. He called for this day to acknowledge “with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”

The nation he addressed through this proclamation, by all accounts, lived in a season of exhaustion. We like to think of our nation at that time as being celebratory ­– we had won independence from England and the Constitution had finally been signed. But the nation still felt the shadow of a war. Families were still learning to exist in a new environment, many without much money. Some were trying to establish businesses to provide for their households. Daily life was hard.

Yet, in the midst of that shadow, George Washington offered these charges, calling out very specific things for which our nation could be grateful:
- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His providence… in the course and conclusion of the late war --  for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness;- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed;- the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;- and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath pleased to confer upon us.Today, I find George Washington’s proclamation encouraging. We have collectively lived through seasons of hardship, of shadows, of plenty, and of celebration. Through it all, we have remained united and free from tyranny.  We continue to see the peaceful transition of power. We still have the opportunity to rely on the powerful forces of freedom, courage, and sacrifice that determine the character and the course of our nation.

This week as a nation, we celebrate Thanksgiving. But more than a holiday, thanksgiving is a word of action. It is something we choose to do. No one forces us to find gratitude. It must come from within. America is remarkable for overcoming our challenges to make this nation stronger and better for future generations. We have been given abundant blessings, direct results of the sacrifices of those that have come before us. Our challenge is to continue to acknowledge that for which we are grateful, no matter the season we face.
 Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation, click here.
Thanksgiving, 1863.
America was suffering through its single greatest division in its 80-plus year history.  Hundreds of thousands were dead; hundreds of thousands of Americans, both North and South, would die. 

President Abraham Lincoln, fresh from delivering his Gettysburg Address, reminded the nation that it would not be through force of arms that the Union would survive... but only through the healing of Almighty God.  Lincoln's 1863 proclamation reads as follows:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. 
To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. 
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. 
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. 
Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. 
They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. 
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. 
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
It's easy to forget that in times such as these, when politics seems to replace religion, that our Founding Fathers gave us an inheritance that placed the success of our great nation in the hands -- not of the people necessarily -- but of God, both to guide us to prosperity, and to heal the wounds of a nation.
Lincoln understood and remembered this legacy from lights such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  Even though force of arms would prevail, Lincoln knew that "unless the LORD builds the house, the laborer buildeth in vain."  (Psalm 127) 
Today's house may feel divided at times.  Only in the hands of God will such divisions ever heal.
by Rev. Louis P. Sheldon
The very first Americans
393 years ago a small band of religious pilgrims set sail from England to the New World to establish a better life. Upon arriving at Plymouth they founded a new settlement and agreed on how it would be governed. Their covenant began, “In the name of God, Amen.” Today, we know this agreement as the Mayflower Compact, and these pioneers as the Pilgrims.
The Pilgrims would have considered themselves among the earliest English settlers in the colonies — but in fact, they were some of the very first Americans.
These Pilgrims left their homes and came to this continent with nothing. They wanted to build a new life, to find freedom, and to participate in the great experiment of self-government.
Since 1620 this tremendous act of faith has been repeated by millions who have made their way to America to become part of this incredible experiment.
Today, we are blessed to live in this great country -- the freest and most prosperous nation on earth. We have so much to be thankful for!
This Thanksgiving, we hope you have an opportunity to enjoy the many pleasures of life in America with family and friends.
Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!
Your Friends,
Newt and Callista


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Muslim official in UK says Christians must be defended

Born in England to Pakistani immigrants, Sayeeda Warsi was elevated to the House of Lords in 2007 at age 36, making her the youngest peer in parliament at the time.
In 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron appointed her as minister without portfolio, and in 2012 was named minister of faith and communities.

Sayeeda Warsi calls persecution 'the biggest challenge we face'


The first Muslim to serve in Britain's cabinet said Friday that Western governments must protect Christians being forced out of the Middle East.
"Persecution, I believe, is the biggest challenge we face in this young century", said Sayeeda Warsi during a speech Friday at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C. Warsi, as the Minister for Faith and Communities, is a senior minister of state in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Christians in the Middle East, she said, are seen as "newcomers" in the region where they have lived since the dawn of Christianity, seen as "outsiders" in societies they have helped shape for centuries, and blamed for  perceived Western offenses.
"A mass exodus is taking place, on a biblical scale", Warsi said. "In some places, there is real danger that Christianity will become extinct".
In her Georgetown speech, Warsi said leaders of all faiths and governments in the West can fight the "new sectarianism that is breaking out across continents" in four ways:
·         Emphasizing the moments in history when people of one faith came to the aid of the people of a different faith.
·         Insisting that "the presence of other faiths doesn’t come at the expense of your own".
·         Promoting the link between religious freedom and economic health. "Persecution is bad for business", she said.
·         Encouraging leaders of the major faiths to defend the others.
"Our response to this global crisis must not itself be sectarian", Warsi said. "It must not be a case of Christians defending Christians, Muslims defending Muslims, or indeed faith groups defending faith groups".
Earlier Friday, during a question-and-answer session at the Council on Foreign Relations, Warsi said the rise of sectarian violence has driven a wedge between the major religions, creating space for extremist elements.
"[T]he challenge appears to be that certain bits of the world want to talk about Islamophobia in the West and other bits of the world want to talk about freedom of expression and persecution of Christians, so it is very polarizing, and it's about trying to find that middle way," she told the audience at the Council on Foreign Relations event.
Part of the response to sectarian violence, she said, requires religious authorities to refute extremists when they point to their religion to justify persecution.
"[T]ake away from the extremists their moral high ground", she said ."Do not allow them the faith. And anything that allows them to take the faith as their mantle, I think, empowers them. And we've got to take that away from them."
©2013 World Watch Monitor


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