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January 2002 Issue

The following is from a sermon delivered on January 28, 2001 by Gary Dyer, pastor of First Baptist Church, Midland, Texas.

I have seen some stunning still pictures in my lifetime — photographs that have permanently etched scenes into my memory. But I don't think any photograph has so moved me as the one of little Samuel Armas' hand holding onto a man's finger.

There is nothing unusual about a picture of a baby's hand, and yet this picture, taken by Michael Clancy for USA Today, has been labeled by some as the photograph of the century. What makes this picture so unique is that Samuel had not yet been born. He was a twenty-one-week-old fetus still developing in the womb of his mother, Julie Armas.

Samuel had been diagnosed with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal column fails to close properly during the first months of pregnancy. Julie and her developing little boy were taken to Vanderbilt University Hos...

Americans are reconsidering their view on life issues. For the first time since the question was posed in 1995, an August 2001 Gallup Poll revealed the number of Americans considering themselves "pro-life" equals the number who say they are "pro-choice" (46 percent). In September 1995, 56 percent claimed to be "pro-choice" and 33 percent "pro-life."

In the poll, 61 percent of respondents said abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances. (The first time that question was asked, September 1994, only 51 percent of those agreed with those statements.) And 93 percent said when an unborn child is injured or killed as a result of a violent crime against his mother, the perpetrator should face "additional charges for harming the unborn child."

Even with this apparent good news, advances in medical technology that easily allow a woman to carry the unborn child of strangers, a relaxing of the laws protecting the unborn, a...

Ultrasound And Decisions For Life
An unborn baby's heart begins to beat eighteen days after conception, and his fingerprints are completely established during the fourth week of development in his mother's womb. He sucks his thumb seven weeks after conception; and sometime between nine and ten weeks, this preborn wonder squints, swallows, and moves his tongue. At the moment of conception, every piece of his genetic puzzle is in place — a miraculous blueprint of life. Using modern scientific advancements such as high-resolution ultrasound imaging, Scripture's absolute accuracy can be demonstrated. As a weaver knows his every stitch, as a seamstress purposefully fashions a beautiful garment — God's creation is wonderful and whole even while our form is hidden.
Ministering To The Fathers Of Aborted Babies

This story originally appeared in Religion Today News January 2000. While some of the references are dated, the message is more relevant than ever.

Bill Thomas is an abortion victim, too. Since the day twenty-seven years ago when his girlfriend ended their child's life, his life has been in ruins.

Thomas — not his real name — squandered a promising career, has failed to hold a steady job, and abuses drugs and alcohol, says Sue Liljenberg, then Thomas' eighteen-year-old lover.

Liljenberg, forty-five, said she went through a "healing process" years ago that left her with a rock-solid confidence in God and an enthusiasm about His power to transform lives. She is married to a man who has three sons, and leads Healing Hearts, a nondenominational Christian ministry. The Seattle-based group has helped more than 2,000 post-abortive women since 1988.

Healing Hearts wants to help men, too. Post-abortive women ...

Padgett's Creek Baptist Church hopes to rekindle a 200-year-old spiritual awakening in their rural community of Union, S.C., this year. But while an emphasis on prayer is likely similar to the revival early in the church's history, their methods are decidedly 21st century.

The church is one of the first to use a new software and Bible study resource, PrayTimer: Real Time for Real Prayer, published by the North American Mission Board. Pastor Keith Andrews said it is helping him not only organize and maintain church prayer lists but also to implement a comprehensive prayer strategy throughout the church.

"PrayTimer is going to be a key asset," Andrews said, "in getting our people on their knees and focusing on spiritual renewal."

That was just the sort of role envisioned by Thomas Wright, a prayer evangelism specialist who supervised development of the software and wrote the companion Bible study on prayer. His motivation w...

Southern Baptists Martyrs In The Dominican Republic

Paul Potter, thirty-three, was a young seminary-trained pastor in Missouri with a devoted wife, Nancy, and two sprightly children when he heard a missionary on furlough ask, "Why has God called so few to serve the rest of the world while so many serve in the United States?"

"It isn't fair," Paul told Nancy. From that time they began praying for God's direction in missions.

That year, 1965, the Southern Baptist Convention met in Atlantic City to celebrate the jubilee of the SBC's mother Triennial Convention which had been founded in Philadelphia 150 years before. The mission-minded Potters were there.

The call came for 5,000 missionary volunteers who sensed God's leadership to come to the front. Paul and Nancy joined the stream of those answering the call. They moved through the appointment process without a hitch, volunteering to serve in the Dominican Republic (called by natives "the D.R."), the war-racked island n...

Editor's Note: While Mr. Simon's views were originally published in The Wall Street Journal, they are particularly relevant and cogent for our readers in light of recent calls from some Christian leaders for peace at any cost.

Pacifists often commit the same mistake as generals: They prepare for the last war, not the next one. Many of the peace activists I have seen trying to rouse opposition to today's war against terrorism remind me of a Halloween parade. They put on old, familiar-looking protest masks — against American imperialism, oppression, and violence — that bear no resemblance to the real demons haunting us now.

Pacifism has never been exactly popular. But when I became a Quaker as an adolescent in the late 1960s, pacifism seemed to offer a compelling alternative to the perpetuity of brute force. Mahatma Gandhi had overthrown an empire and Martin Luther King had overturned a racial tyranny with nonviolent marches,...

With every attempt to rescue another victim from a senseless drug tragedy, the truth emerges more clearly: An ounce of prevention is certainly worth far more than a pound of cure.

How many times we have heard the misinformed regrets of a sober one who proclaims to us, "I wish I had an exciting story to tell like the ones you have shared!"

Our reply comes quickly, "We wish that we possessed life stories similar to the one you disdain. If only we had never taken the first drinks, or popped the first pills, or smoked the first joints, then we would never have stumbled so often or gotten into such terrifying troubles. And we would not have wasted so much of our lives. You are the one with the great story! You can point with pride to the difficulties you have avoided because your mind has been clear. You can rejoice in the knowledge that your positive lifestyle has brought happiness to you and countless others. And, above all, you have pleased our Lord while ou...

Piercing is the order of the day. Piercing is cool. Anything that sticks out (and I mean anything) may be pierced. If it doesn't stick out but can be scrunched up and wrinkled, that too may be pierced. Abs, pecs, lobes, tongues, glutes, and nostrils — anything you can get an alcoholed ice-pick on one side and bloody cork on the other may be pierced. Although the custom seems to be slightly more popular in California and New York, I have found a bit of it in Des Moines and Peoria.

I recently ordered a French Dip sandwich from a girl with steel through her tongue, ears, and eyebrows. She seemed in no pain, but just looking at her hurt me all over. I felt the same pity I used to feel reading the National Geographic and seeing pictures of women with their lips stretched over round plates. They, too, seemed to be in no pain, but I felt it for them.

Piercing must have something aesthetic about it that I'm unable to see. When you have rings ascending your n...

It was a Catholic school and the children had confession every Friday. They had time each day to write down their sins and then at confession they would read their list. One little boy, running late, grabbed the paper and ran to confession. Halfway through he stopped and shouted, "This isn't my list!" Then he said, "It sure was fun confessing someone else's sins." We like to do that, too!

Have you ever listened to Christians talk? You might hear things like, "Real Christians don't wear make-up," usually said by those who need to wear it. "Real Christians wouldn't smoke a cigarette after dinner," usually said by someone who eats a half gallon of ice cream after dinner. "Real Christians don't dance," except maybe on roller skates. We all have a list, and the reason some of you are laughing is because I haven't gotten to your list yet.

If we're not careful, we get narrow and self-righteous and becom...

Dangerous Deception

Evidence suggests that the U.S Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently suppressed a report on the ineffectiveness of condoms at preventing most sexually transmitted diseases while simultaneously continuing to encourage condom use as a means of "safe sex."

Former U.S. Representative Tom Coburn learned of the government report on condom usage and requested it in June 2000. It was not until July of 2001, however, that the CDC even acknowledged the report's existence. In the meantime, the government launched a new campaign called Healthy People 2010 in which it assures people that "condoms, if used correctly and consistently, can help prevent both unintended pregnancies and STDs [sexually transmitted diseases]."

The report specifically found that the scientific evidence is far too weak "to draw definite conclusi...