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January 1997 Issue

People Sharing Jesus Key to Growth

Backed-up rain gutters overflowed into the building, allowing a steady stream of water to run through the decaying structure. Collapsed ceiling tiles dangled with pink insulation, filling the air with the scent of mildew. Residents of Whitesburg, Ky., saw a slowly decaying building in the shadow of the courthouse. Once a bowling alley, then a grocery store, now a chair factory, the structure had clearly seen better days.

But Keith Joseph saw more. He envisioned a church start that would reach out into the Appalachian towns and hollows of Letcher County and bring individuals to faith in Christ. That would come, in time — after the handful of members spent three months renovating the building so it could be used.

Now, after nearly four years, North Fork Baptist Church has grown from twelve to 100 members and has a new sanctuary that seats 300. Last year it ranked second in baptisms in the association and has baptized sixty people since its founding — twenty-sev...

Reflections on Our Times and Tasks

Some say it happened with the election of John F. Kennedy. Others, at his death. Still others argue that it started way before that, perhaps at the Civil War and certainly before World War II. While there is disagreement on whether it has been a long-term, gradual shift or an abrupt one of recent vintage, most agree with the results: America is no longer a Christian culture.

It wasn't always like this. Christians in America used to work and minister from a position of strength and in the context of a Christian world-view where laws and morals and the people themselves reflected familiarity with, and often a commitment to, the precepts of Christianity. That advantage is lost, and now, when we bear witness to Christ in the world, it is often in a setting of antagonism and hostility.

The prophet Daniel, as a young man, faced a dramatic shift in cultural context. He was an exile in one of the first deportations to Babylon from Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel and h...

Dreams and Visions Precede Mass Conversions

One silent, holy night in Algeria, God descended on a Muslim village. On that night in 1983, villagers later testified, the Holy Spirit moved from house to house, revealing Himself through dreams, visions, and angelic visitation. Some 450 Muslims in the village converted to Christ.

Christians had nothing to do with the incident — or so they thought. When mission workers began asking how such a miracle could have occurred, they discovered this: More than six centuries before, Spanish missionary Raymond Lull had been stoned to death by Muslims for preaching where the village now stood.

Lull, often called the first missionary to the Muslims, wrote before death that Islamic strongholds could be conquered not by force, but only "by love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and blood."

Despite the deadly conflict raging in Algeria today between Muslim militants and government forces — and ongoing persecution of converts to Christianity &mdas...

Willful Deception in the Culture Wars

A great struggle is underway in our nation. It is a struggle of ideas, values, and morals, — the most basic questions of right and wrong. It is not a matter of slight difference in opinion. Indeed, many describe our national cultural debate in stark terms usually reserved for warfare. The most fundamental issues are at stake, and two competing and mutually exclusive views of the world are represented in the contest — for one of them to win, the other must lose. Because the conflict is about ideas, about truth, honesty is crucial. But, some in this struggle are not honest; they have set up the equivalent of their own Department of Disinformation and Propaganda.

Sound, even benevolent ideas are made to take on the appearance of a threatening, alien, specter. Time-proven standards of moral behavior or biblical belief are made to seem poisonous. Christians are appalled when they hear reports of unreasonable, uncivil, incoherent demands made by other Christians; those of th...

While broad audience movies propelled the year-end box office in 1995, R-rated movies dragged down the total gross.

In Ted Baehr's "Report to the Entertainment Industry," he said throughout 1995 Hollywood seemed shocked some of its prized, big-budget movies flopped at the box office.

"For example, 'Jade,' 'Strange Days' and 'The Scarlet Letter' were dead on arrival and resulted in as much as $150 million in losses that left many people in the industry shaken," said Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission, with offices in Norcross, Ga., and North Hollywood, Calif.

Baehr, one of the first recipients of a "Covenant" award from the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission for promoting values in media, said a top studio executive expressed his concern by saying, "I don't know what the lessons are here, except we're making a lot of movies that people don't want...

Parents Key to Reversing Ignorance

"There is no new thing under the sun," King Solomon wearily wrote almost a millennium before Christ. But in a keen observation on the capacity of human beings to forget, he added, "There is no remembrance of former things." (Eccles. 1:9-11)

Nearly 30 centuries later, Harry Truman offered a similar perspective: "The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know."

If the historical knowledge of America's schoolchildren is any indication, little has changed. How many kids today can identify Solomon, or Harry Truman? Adults display just as much historical ignorance; many are products of a public school system in decline and a society that lives for the moment.

"The fabric of our way of life is in jeopardy because we are losing our national memory," warns David McCullough, historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a book about Truman. "We are raising a generation of historically i...

Gallup Study Examines Fears Faced by American Teenagers

America's teenagers have a lot to worry about — drugs, drinking, eating disorders, sex, AIDS, street crimes, violence at school — and statistics prove they're on a dangerous path in many areas.

Young people are growing up scared, concluded researcher George Gallup, using data from three scientifically controlled samplings of teens for what he called "a reality check" to separate facts from impressions and to determine how teens really experience the world. Those "realities" are published in the book, Growing Up Scared in America and What the Experts Say Parents Can Do About It.

Gallup organized his findings around four "at-risk" behaviors which make for a frightening world: violence, sex, health issues and drug and alcohol addiction. Then, fifteen experts responded to the Gallup study, offering parents advice for helping their troubled teens. Following are excerpts from the research ...

Public education is often characterized by evangelicals as a wasteland, destitute of sound values and dominated by forces hostile to Christianity. Without question, our nation's schools are in the grip of powerful negative forces — the breakdown of families and neighborhoods, escalating violence, lowered academic standards, and the pervasive lack of sound ethical and moral values.

Fault-finding and doomsaying come easily. But before the church turns its back on public schools, we need to take a look at the human face of public education. In my work with Christian Educators Association International, I am privileged to meet some of the world's most dedicated servants of Christ. Let me introduce you to three who exemplify the call to public education:

Mark Nakamura is an elementary sc...

The Doctor Says, "We Were Wrong"

Psychologist William Coulson helped found the movement to emphasize "self-esteem" as a path to school success. Today, he travels the country confessing, "I take responsibility. I was part of this approach which has taken over our education system. We were wrong." Coulson now encourages teachers to "stand up for a return to academics. That is really what is needed."

What explains this turnabout? Partly, new research debunking the notion that boosting a child's image of himself brings greater competence. For instance, a recent, exhaustive review of different classroom techniques known as "Project Follow-Through" tracked 7,000 children at 139 sites across the country and discovered that the educational models focusing on self-esteem "resulted in lower academic scores than any other model evaluated." On the other hand, the instructional methods that produced the best student performance stressed effective teaching of academics and made ...

Here we are at another year, getting ever closer to another millennium. How is the history of humanity told, as centuries roll over each other? Well, oddly, children's rhymes are one way that it is done. For instance, we remember the sixteenth century and the persecution of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer in the nursery rhyme, Three Blind Mice. We remember the black death of the fifteenth century in the nursery rhyme that deals with plague symptoms and epidemic in Ring a Ring of Roses.

But what of 1996? Who knows what the children of 2297 may be singing in their stainless steel nurseries, of the happenings of this year? Take this spring for instance. Thinking of the endless tension between congress and the presidential veto stamp, the children may dance in circles singing:

Sing a song of tax cuts. Heigh, heigh, ho!
Welfare, welfare. Whoa, whoa, whoa!
Gingrich in the meadow with a long, long bow!
Gotta catch a Demmy by the toe, toe, ...

Major changes in attitude and behavior have occurred in our culture in regard to sexual purity. Those changes have been felt in the Christian community, and even among church leaders.

For every widely publicized instance of clergy sexual misconduct, numerous lesser-known pastors and other Christian workers are felled by sexual immorality. High on the list of "moral land mines" inherent to ministry are ego-feeding flattery, debilitating criticism, and the stress and fatigue of endless tasks. Further, the naive notion that "it could never happen to me" sets one up for temptation and failure. Paul's warning is well taken: "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).

Helpful advice is offered by Randy Alcorn in a direct and practical article titled "Strategies to keep from falling" in the Summer 1996 issue of Leadership magazine, highlighted below.

...

Most of us put on a little weight over the holidays. Last year my New Year's resolution was to lose some weight. For me, the second week of a diet is the easiest because by then, I'm already off the diet. But last year I was serious. My body is a temple, but my building program was getting out of control. At first, it was the little signs, like the elevator stopping a floor short. Then it started getting obvious. When I stepped on the scale, the message said, "One at a time, please." Then, Evel Knievel called to see if he could jump over me. Later, someone from the government called and said I was being picked up on the satellite photos. I guess the final straw was when I went to McDonald's and got stuck in the golden arches, and the next morning I put my pants on backwards and they fit better. I knew it was time to do something.

I started out with the low fat cookies for snacks. I reasoned that when you eat low fat cookies, it's like eating at church &mda...

Playing God — and Mocking Him

Jack Kevorkian's twenty-sixth "suicide" victim, Patricia Cashman, was a cancer patient who died in November. An autopsy revealed she had no lingering trace of the disease. "There was no cancer," said Kanu Virani, deputy chief medical examiner for Oakland County, Michigan, after the autopsy.

Culture Wars magazine comments, "We haven't seen any press reports in which Kevorkian acknowledges his mistake, or indeed, that he views Patricia's death as a mistake. May we suggest a motto for Dr. Death? Try this: The only good person is a dead person."

Kevorkian, afflicted with an intense spiritual blindness, and wholly without conscience or...