Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Parting of the Red Sea

Scientists Propose How Red Sea was Parted
Wed, Sep. 22, 2010 Posted: 02:28 PM EDT

The parting of the Red Sea is one of the most famous stories in the Bible and now scientists believe they have figured out how it actually happened.

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado used computer simulations to gauge the impact of a strong wind on the Red Sea.

They concluded that a strong east wind of 60 mph, blowing for 12 hours, could have pushed back waters at a bend where a river flowed into nearby lagoon. This in turn would have created a land bridge that would have been wide enough for people to walk across.

"The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus," said Carl Drews, who led the team of researchers.

The Old Testament account tells of how Moses stretched out his staff over the sea and divided the waters. The biblical passage states: "all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land."

The Israelites, who were fleeing from Pharaoh's army, were then able to cross.

Drew explained that the parting of the waters can be understood through "fluid dynamics."

"Wind setdown occurs when wind blows across a body of water and part of the water level drops and so it exposes dry area," he said. "That's a well-known phenomenon. But the tricky part is to get water on both sides of the crossing."

The biblical account, he noted, describes a wall of water being on both the left and right of the Israelites when crossing.

Previous researchers tried to duplicate this and proposed that an underwater reef was exposed and that was where the crossing took place.

Drews, however, found in his research that it is difficult to make the reef "completely dry" in the course of 12 hours.

Thus, he proposed another mechanism where there is a bend in the body of water.

"When the wind blows, the water shifts and splits at the point of the bend," he explained. "And such a place occurs in the Eastern Nile Delta."

The research team used data from satellite images and maps, as well as archaeological records to recreate the lagoon as it would have been 3,000 years ago.

The findings are published in the latest edition of the PLoS One journal.

Brian Hutt
Christian Today Reporter

Sunday, September 26, 2010

You'll never be perfectly balanced

You'll Never Be Balanced
Sat, Sep. 25, 2010 Posted: 11:21 AM EDT

Balance is a mirage. It's a mirage in ministry. It's a mirage in marriage. It's a mirage in everything! No church is perfectly balanced. No theology is perfectly balanced. No person is perfectly balanced.

So for the record: you'll never be perfectly balanced.

Trust me, I wish I could perfectly balance family and ministry. I wish I could perfectly balance work and play. I wish I could perfectly balance grace and truth. There are a thousand things I'd love to balance. But you'll never be perfectly balanced.

Let me demonstrate. Stop reading. Stand up. And balance on one leg. You're not balanced are you? Muscles are quivering as you constantly react to your imbalance. Life is like that. So is ministry. I know that some of you are getting depressed, but this shouldn't be depressing. It should be incredibly liberating. Leadership is all about making the right adjustments. When you get out of balance, you know how to recalibrate. For example, you've been working too hard for too long. You need some play time! In theological terms, you need a sabbath. The sabbath is the way we balance creation and recreation.

My point? Embrace the imbalance. Such is life. We've got to continually evaluate the tensions in our lives and recognize where we need to recalibrate. For me, it's been family. I'm scaling back my travel because I sensed an imbalance. So I don't know where you're imbalanced, but I know you are! Again, you'll never be balanced. But it's a problem that can be solved once and for all. It's a tension that will be managed the rest of your life! Almost like rotating and recalibrating the tires on your car, you'll be standing on one leg the rest of your life.

Adapted from Mark Batterson's weblog at markbatterson.com. Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church (www.theaterchurch.com) in Washington, D.C. One church with nine services in five locations, NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations. Mark is the author of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and Wild Goose Chase and is a daily blogger at www.markbatterson.com. Mark and his wife Lora live on Capitol Hill with their three children.”

Mark Batterson
Christian Post Guest Columnist

Saturday, September 25, 2010

More young local pastors

United Methodists Start to See Uptick in Young Clergy
Fri, Sep. 24, 2010 Posted: 07:41 AM EDT

The United Methodist Church has begun to see an increase in the number of young clergy after decades of decline, a new report reveals.

There are now more young local pastors than at any time in recent history, according to the Lewis Center for Church Leadership.

Up from 3.4 percent in 1985, local pastors under the age of 35 now make up 5.8 percent of all 7,341 UMC clergy, including part-time pastors.

At the same time, however, the median age of local pastors is still 55.

Younger clergy are not necessarily better ministers than their older colleagues, but they often bring a new passion and fresh ideas to their vocation, the Rev. Lovett H. Weems Jr., the project director of the study, told the United Methodist News Service.

For years, United Methodists have been making efforts to draw more young people to clergy positions after a report in 2007 found that less than 5 percent of the denomination’s leadership came from the younger generation. Twenty years earlier, 15.05 percent of the leadership were aged 35 or under.

The Rev. Jerome King Del Pino of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry called it a leadership crisis and urged action to double the number of young people in clergy, elder and deacon positions.

Weems of the Lewis Center observed, "Our assumption is that God continues to call people of all ages, so if there is a particular group not responding to that call, then it’s probably not [because of] God. There are other reasons why younger persons might not be responding."

One of the reasons he listed is that there are fewer children.

"What under-35 clergy have most in common is that they were active in church as children," he said, according to UMNS. "They were active in church as youth. So if year after year, there are fewer children in church, then it would naturally seem that there would be fewer clergy coming in."

According to the Lewis Center report, released this week, for the first time, more than half of active elders are now between the ages of 55 and 72. Elders are responsible for preaching and teaching the Word of God, administration of the sacraments, and ordering of the ministry of the church.

What may be accounting for the high number of older clergy is the decrease in retirements, mainly due to the economic downturn.

Meanwhile, the percentage of elders in the 35-54 age range dropped dramatically over the last decade, from 65 percent in 2000 to under half in 2010.

Still, the denomination has reason to hope.

There are currently more young elders, deacons, and local pastors than ten years ago, the report shows. The number and percentage of young deacons – who are responsible for forming disciples and assisting elders in the administration of the sacraments – reached their highest levels in 2010. They now make up 9.56 percent of all deacons.

The purpose of the Lewis Center's ongoing research effort is to identify clergy age trends in The United Methodist Church so that denominational leaders have the data for planning and a baseline for monitoring future changes.

The United Methodist Church is the second largest Protestant denomination in the country with 7.9 million members.

Audrey Barrick
Christian Post Reporter

Friday, September 17, 2010

Intermarried more easily and with greater acceptance

Bringing two halves together

By June H.L Wong
Friday September 17, 2010

For too long, we didn’t pay enough attention to Malaysia Day. Now that we have, there is still much to be done to forge a greater sense of unity, togetherness and appreciation of each other.

YESTERDAY was Malaysia Day. We “celebrated” it, or rather took note of it for the first time because it was a national holiday.

It’s good that we have finally given recognition to an immensely important historical event but one wished it had come sooner.

Imagine what we could have achieved if we had started years ago. That was what hit me when I read our Malaysia Day Star Special. It was the work of my colleagues who were picked for their familiarity with Sabah and Sarawak. Together, they produced an excellent edition that focused on giving a voice to Malaysians in those two states.

While I enjoyed the stories, I came away feeling that after 47 years there seems to be two nations, not one. All this leads to the inevitable question: Why is this so? Is it because of the way history is taught in schools?

From my time as a student – and I am a true blue product of the Malaysian education system from kindergarten to university starting from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s – till now, our history books seem to end with Merdeka declared on Aug 31, 1957, with only a cursory look at the events after that. The creation of Malaysia seems barely imprinted in our consciousness.

It is this failure to connect the two halves of the country that we now find ourselves in the embarrassing situation of being ill-informed of what brought these halves together as a nation and who these people are who share the same nationality as us.

It’s not just our education system that has failed. There are other institutions that should have played their part but didn’t.

Yesterday, the Department of Museums Malaysia director-general announced plans to showcase the cultures and lifestyles of ethnic groups in Sabah and Sarawak.

Datuk Ibrahim Ismail, who oversees 21 museums nationwide, was quoted by The Star as saying this would enhance integration among all Malaysians.

We support and applaud Ibrahim for his plans but again it also beggars the question: Why only now? Why wasn’t this done from the moment Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaimed “Merdeka Malaysia!” on Sept 16, 1963?

Ibrahim was spot-on when he said Peninsular Malaysians were only familiar with very few communities from Sabah and Sarawak. When The Star editors met on Wednesday evening to pick the front page photo for the Thursday edition, none of us Semenanjung folks could confidently identify the ethnic groups represented by the four pretty girls standing in front of the Malaysian flags.

We had to call our Kuching colleagues who told us the girls were Rungus and Kadazan. While it took a peninsular leader to create this entity called Malaysia, it is those in Sabah and Sarawak who seemed to have embraced it more whole-heartedly.

They are the Malaysians who are more colour blind and united, as observed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak himself. They are the ones who more comfortably adopted Malay as their lingua franca and intermarried more easily and with greater acceptance.

More than ever, we need to confront the truth why Peninsular Malaysians are “less Malaysian” than those in Sabah and Sarawak. Then only can we accept that something needs to be done; that we must bring the two halves of the nation closer together and learn the best practices from each other.

And we can do it because we do have common values and interests. It’s called 1Malaysia and if we can put aside our knee-jerk cynicism towards such a notion and really work towards it, it can become a reality.

Apart from getting our history books, Sejarah lessons as well as our museums right, we could also take a leaf from Hollywood and Singapore’s MediaCorp which produced TV series like Phua Chu Kang and The Little Nyonya.

Much as we hate to admit it, that little Red Dot of a country repeatedly runs rings around us and seizes upon ideas and opportunities way ahead of us.

Why do Malaysians love Phua Chu Kang? Why isn’t this TV character and his adorably dysfunctional family a Malaysian creation?

We know clever and sincerely wrought humour, even if built on stereotypes, can be accepted and enjoyed wholeheartedly. We have Lat to prove that.

So why haven’t we been able to build on Lat and have something that we share proudly?

Singapore keeps stealing our lines. Again, we should have come up with something like The Little Nyonya, a 2008 MediaCorp production about a Peranakan family set in Malacca spanning 70 years, currently on ntv7 with a huge following.

We could have done it better and truer too be cause the cast would speak in a mix of Malay, Hokkien and English instead of Mandarin in the Singapore series.

It’s not that we haven’t done it before – produced shows that Malaysians wanted to watch. We had those much-loved P. Ramlee movies, Bakat TV (this talent competition was the hottest thing on TV circa 1972) and Empat Sekawan.

If we look hard enough, we can find great stories to tell. For one, there is the fictional pirate created by Italian writer Emilio Sagari in 1883 called Santokan, the Tiger of Malaya, who was the nemesis of White Rajah James Brooke of Sarawak. Wouldn’t that make an exciting series if done right?

Remember that excellent Maybank advertisement about the Iban girl making her way in the world without forgetting her roots? Could that have been expanded into a powerful and riveting drama that would get Malaysians cheering for one of their own?

Here’s another idea: Next year marks the 500th year of the fall of the Malacca sultanate in 1511. That is one date we all learnt in school. Can you just imagine a gripping TV series based on the events leading to that year of infamy? History can be useful if we know how to wield it

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Started off in an old, abandoned feed store

America's Largest Church to Mark 50th Anniversary
Fri, May. 08, 2009 Posted: 12:44 PM EDT

Mother’s Day this year falls on May 10 – the same date as it did in 1959.

And while few Americans may know that historical fact, members of the largest church in America are almost certain to say they knew given that it was that same day 50 years ago that its church first opened its doors.

This weekend, Lakewood Church in Houston will be marking its 50th anniversary in a place far different from the old, abandoned feed store that it started off at.

Its 38,000-large congregation will be celebrating in the arena formerly home to the Houston Rockets, where it has worshipped for the past four years.

“I can hardly believe that we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Lakewood Church this coming weekend on Mother's Day,” the megachurch’s senior minister, Pastor Joel Osteen, expressed Wednesday.

“Most people know the story of how the church started off in an old, abandoned feed store with less than 100 people. But who would have ever guessed that my parent's hard work and dedication would establish a ministry that has literally affected people all over the world in every country from every race, tribe, and tongue,” he added.

Aside from the 38,000 churchgoers that Osteen draws each week to his 16,000-seat church, up to seven million Americans each week and more than 20 million each month reportedly view Osteen’s weekly sermon, which is broadcast into television markets across the United States and in over 100 nations around the world including Canada, Australia, India, South Korea, Africa and throughout Europe.

“I can't even begin to imagine how many lives have been touched over the years through the seeds they've sown,” Osteen wrote in his blog Wednesday.

Though Osteen has been praised by many for his uplifting messages and popular bestsellers, the charismatic minister has also received much criticism for his lack of formal theological training and for preaching what critics call the “prosperity gospel,” a belief that prosperity and success – particularly financial – is a sign of God’s favor.

Osteen, however, insists that his theology is not “dangerous,” as some say it is, and that God has used him to turn people’s lives around and to give them hope.

"I don’t know what can be so dangerous about giving people hope [or] causing people to have better relationships. I'm not leading them to some false God or something like that," Osteen said last year to Byron Pitts of CBS.

"You know, you get people that wanna criticize, 'You’re not doing enough of this, enough of that.' Well, we're not perfect,” he continued.

“But to have ... hundreds of people tellin’ ya 'You changed my life,’ ‘I haven't been in church in 30 years,' or 'You saved my marriage' ... you just feel very rewarded. You feel very humbled ... that you could help impact somebody’s life," Osteen said after getting emotional.

In the months leading up to this weekend’s anniversary celebration, Osteen has pushed forward with a number of new projects, including a collection of greeting cards that feature his inspirational messages and the Hope for Today Bible that features insights, notes, and encouragements from Osteen and his wife.

He also recently held the first non-baseball event in the new Yankee stadium in New York – a one-night inspirational event that drew nearly 42,000 people.

“Overall, the week was a tremendous success and the highlight ... was when over 20,000 people stood in Yankee Stadium to dedicate their lives to Christ and renew their faith in Him! We couldn't have asked for a better night,” Osteen exclaimed.

Though it was under Osteen that Lakewood grew from 8,000 attendees to 38,000, the popular preacher said Wednesday that he and his wife, Victoria, merely “picked up the baton” and continued the work that his parents had started.

“[M]y dad used to talk about how one day he was going to build a sanctuary that could hold 20,000 people. He prayed. He sacrificed. He and my mother stayed in faith year after year. When he went to be with the Lord, it looked as if the dream had died. It looked like as if it wasn't going to happen. But when you live a life of faith, when you honor God and go out each day being your best, you are storing up favor for future generations,” he stated.

Osteen succeeded the position of senior pastor from his father in 1999, more than eight months after the elder Osteen died of a heart attack. Before his father’s death, Osteen had only preached before a church once in his life – the week before his father died.

Today, aside from being the pastor of the largest church in America, Osteen is also author of two bestselling books. His first book, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, remained on the New York Times bestsellers list for more than two years and has sold more than 4 million copies. His second book, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day, was released in October of 2007 and was an instant New York Times bestseller, remaining on the list for more than seven months and selling more than 1.6 million copies.

Osteen is also the most watched inspirational figure in America, according to Nielsen Media Research, and was featured as one of ABC News' "10 Most Fascinating People of 2006."

According to Osteen’s ministry, more than one million people each week download audio and video podcasts of Osteen’s messages, making his podcast consistently one of the top five in the world.

Eric Young
Christian Post Reporter

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Power of Prayer

How important is faithfulness in prayer?

Dr. Wilbur Chapman often told of his experience when, as a young man, he went to become pastor of a church in Philadelphia.

After his first sermon, an old gentleman said to him, "You’re pretty young to be pastor of this church. But you preach the Gospel, and I’m going to help you all I can."

Dr. Chapman thought, "Here’s a crank."

But the man continued: "I’m going to pray for you that you may have the Holy Spirit’s power upon you. Two others have covenanted to join with me in prayer for you."

Dr. Chapman said, "I didn’t feel so bad when I learned he was going to pray for me. The 3 became 10, the 10 became 20, and 20 became 50, the 50 became 200 who met before every service to pray that the Holy Spirit might come upon me.

I always went into my pulpit feeling that I would have the anointing in answer to the prayers of those who had faithfully prayed for me. It was a joy to preach!

The result was that we received 1,100 into our church by conversion in three years, 600 of whom were men. It was the fruit of the Holy spirit in answer to prayer!"

Prayer makes a difference in people’s lives. We should pray for one another, and even let one another know that we’re praying.