Saturday, May 22, 2010

The 3 - May 22, 2010

This week on my week-in-review feature, "The 3", I focus on some good news out of Haiti, a Texas school textbook victory for religious heritage, and a checkup on the health of the Southern Baptist Convention.

3 - Leader of missionary group to Haiti finally released

Laura Silsby, the leader of that missionary group arrested in Haiti for trying to transport orphaned children across the border to the Dominican Republic, was convicted this week, but freed to return to the United States, with the judge basically saying that her time served in prison was sufficient to punish her for her "crime". The Christian Post has the story.

With over 250,000 people dead in Haiti and over a million left homeless, it does seem the nation has plenty of serious issues on its hands. This missionary group, for all intents and purposes, seems to have simply wanted to rescue orphaned children and take them to a better life; but there are those who have questioned whether or not the Haitian government wanted to make some sort of political example out of them. And, yes, it did seem that most or all of these children had at least one living parent, but this is apparently a common practice by Haitian parents to place their children in orphanages so that they can be provided for.

2 - Texas textbook committee wins Texas-sized victory for traditional values

The role of religious heritage in the establishment of our nation has been downplayed or eliminated from the national discussion and specifically the teaching of our young people. Texas parents and members of the state Board of Education there wanted to highlight our traditional values and the rich religious background that we have, and so there was a successful attempt to write into the Social Studies textbook standards assurances that some of these aspects of our history will be presented. The vote came down on Friday, and Liberty Institute was one of those organizations on the forefront. Read the "live blog" of the proceedings this week.

It has been pointed out that this vote could have implications for other states. As textbooks are revised to meet these standards, those rewritten textbooks could go into other areas, as well, putting more mentions of religious heritage and American exceptionalism into classrooms nationwide.

1 - Baptists celebrate, contemplate latest statistics

Southern Baptists are the largest Protestant denomination in America, and as the national meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention approaches in Orlando, the denomination is evaluating its impact on the world. The task force assigned to make recommendations on a document called the Great Commission Resurgence has undertaken a daunting task, attempting to poise the denomination for more effective ministry in the future. Baptist Press has a nice piece on some of the ramifications of this overall strategy and the opinions on it.

Meanwhile, new statistics provide more information to consider - while baptisms are on the rise...slightly, the membership in the overall denomination has decreased...again slightly. Christianity Today has some facts and analysis.

Meanwhile, it appears there are 4 candidates for the Presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention, replacing First Baptist/Woodstock, GA Pastor Johnny Hunt, who has served the customary 2 years in the position. According to Baptist Press, those candidates are:

Jimmy Jackson, Pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, AL, currently serving as President of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. He was the SBC's first vice president in 2006-07.

Ted Traylor, Pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL, a former President of the Florida Baptist State Convention. Traylor is a trustee of the North American Mission Board and chairman of NAMB's presidential search team. He is a member of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and a former SBC first vice president.

Bryant Wright, Pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, GA, formerly President of the SBC Pastors' Conference (2006).

Leo Endel, Executive Director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention and former President of the Baptist Convention of Iowa.

The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is coming up June 15-16.

Honorable Mention:

Mojave Desert cross replaced, replacement removed

Movie on life of Keith Green possibly in the works?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Courageous: Report from the Set

4 fathers - united in tragedy - exploring their roles as fathers and challenging each other to follow God's intention for their lives.

Such is the premise of a new film that explores the power of fatherhood and the negative consequences of the lack of strong fathers. It's called, "Courageous", and the team at Sherwood Pictures, including Pastor Michael Catt, Executive Pastor Jim McBride, and Associate Pastors Alex and Stephen Kendrick, after much prayer and reflection, has crafted a script that brings to light a number of issues related to fatherhood and attempts to address these issues Biblically.

And, from all indications, not only does it promise to be spiritually and emotionally challenging - something I picked up just from viewing some of the clips that have been shot thus far - but, as Sherwood films "Fireproof", "Facing the Giants", and "Flywheel" have demonstrated, will be characterized by a powerful story and plenty of entertaining elements.

I made the short 3-hour drive from Montgomery to Albany, Georgia recently to spend some time observing the making of "Courageous". Why Albany? Well, it's the home of Sherwood Baptist Church, a 3000-plus member congregation that is not only devoted to ministering in its local community through its ministry programs, but also has as it's God-given ambition to reach the world through film. Sherwood is taking proceeds from its previous films and investing in missions and in the development of an 82-acre sports park that is built on a foundation of ministry.

Sherwood Servanthood.

What did I find on my trip to Southwest Georgia? Well, I was drawn in my the friendliness and the hospitable nature of the people of Sherwood. The staff members and movie volunteers who I encountered demonstrated a high level of servanthood and were quite welcoming to me and the other media representatives that visited the site. This is a congregation that is obviously devoted to doing church and ministry well.

Passionate Participation.

My show, "The Meeting House", on Faith Radio, originated from the set of the, this is not some big Hollywood back lot we're talking about here - it's a neighborhood where several of the houses are being used for the actual scenes of the film. I was set up, along with American Family Radio and Family Life Radio (NY, PA), in the carport of a house, where I was greeted by a steady stream of people associated with the film. Some examples: 2 people who were prominently featured in "Fireproof" - Erin Bethea (Catherine Holt) and Harris Malcom (John Holt, Caleb's father) - are behind the scenes for this new film...Erin is working in makeup and did the daily devotional the day before the radio show, Harris is involved in the prayer team. "Fireproof" actor Ken Bevel returns in "Courageous" as one of the 4 law enforcement officers depicted in the film. One of the things that struck me over and over as I interviewed people associated with the film was that they really "bought in" to the message - not only did they elaborate on their individual roles, but they reflected a love for Christ and an ability to communicate the message of the film effectively.

Glorifying God.

Time on the set illustrated to me the commitment to quality that is exhibited by the Sherwood team - with a painstaking degree of precision, shots were meticulously set up, repeated "takes" were performed, but there was a real sense of the cast and crew doing this for the glory of God. This is attributable to the amount of prayer that is going on, and the commitment to unity that is demonstrated on the set, beginning with the daily morning devotional, where participants circle up, hear a devotional, and pray together for their efforts to be unified and for God to be glorified.

The Supremacy of Story.

In attempting to "reach the world from Albany, Georgia", the Sherwood team realizes that the message is key. Not only do they desire to make inspiring, entertaining films, but foremost, their desire is to tell compelling stories that teach Biblical truth. Marriages have been saved through "Fireproof" as a result of the absorbing and the application of this truth into lives. I sense that through this film, they want to strengthen men and encourage them to fulfill their God-given role as fathers. Through reaching beyond the walls of the church and telling these stories to the culture at large, God is able to use these depictions to exalt Christ and draw people to a relationship with Him.

To download my weekly podcast featuring interviews from the set, click here.

You can download full conversations from the Meeting House website at

Thanks so much to the team from Provident Films, Sherwood Pictures, Lovell-Fairchild Communications, and Renaissance Communications for their overwhelming assistance in arranging for me to go to Albany and coordinating the various elements of my experience there.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The 3 - May 15, 2010

On this edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", I highlight recent developments concerning graduation and religion, the theft of a war memorial that just received reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court, and the announcement of a new high court nominee.

3 - "Friend or Foe" Graduation Campaign Announced, Graduation Controversies Begin

We are entering that very special season where high school seniors receive their diplomas at graduation ceremonies. There is still confusion about the rights of students to express their faith during those ceremonies, and, in a recent Connecticut lawsuit, even about the location of graduation ceremonies. Liberty Counsel has announced its 8th annual "Friend or Foe" Graduation Prayer Campaign to offer clarity, as well as legal assistance, if students feel their rights to free expression of religion are being impeded. Basically, students have the right to pray and share religious references in graduation ceremonies - where that type of expression has been judged by courts to be unconstitutional is when it is initiated by school officials.

Also, Alliance Defense Fund announced this week that an Arizona nursing school has decided not to eliminate the opening and closing prayers from its pinning ceremony, after receiving a letter from ADP.

Nevertheless, there are organizations, such as the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, that insist on disrupting free expression, sometimes in rather unusual ways. Take, for instance, the Connecticut lawsuit, where those two organizations have attempted to keep graduation ceremonies from being held in a church building. Here is CitizenLink's report.

2 - Mojave Desert Cross Stolen

Just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the war memorial in the Mojave Desert did not have to be removed, vandals took the matter into their own hands and removed the memorial, which was in the shape of a cross. Liberty Institute, which has represented caretakers of the monument, has mounted a campaign to restore a memorial at that same site, and is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators. And, according to The Christian Post, atheists have offered $5,000 to erect a more "inclusive" memorial.

And, in an interesting twist, the Desert Dispatch newspaper reports receiving an anonymous letter "explaining" the theft of the cross. Not any validation there, but the rationale expressed could actually reflect the mindset of someone taking the matter into their own hands.

Meanwhile, the debate over the significance of the display of religious symbols continues. This week, a Kentucky display of the 10 Commandments received a favorable ruling from a Federal appeals court. Here's the story from CBN News.

1 - Kagan Named New Supreme Court Nominee

The reponse was swift and not unexpected to the nomination of U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, replacing retiring justice John Paul Stevens. Kagan, while lean on judicial experience, is recognized as a skilled academician, but some of her writings will probably give Senators on the Judiciary Committee some cause for close scrutiny with respect to whether or not she will assume an advocacy position on the court for such issues as abortion and gay rights. Her opposition to military recruiters being allowed on campus at Harvard because of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is one instance that opponents point to as an example of her advocate's stance. For an overview of some of the dynamics of Kagan's background, CitizenLink put together an excellent article.

The National Right to Life Committee exposed some of Kagan's writings that seem to disparage those who take a pro-life point of view. And, after the protracted hearings on the nominations of Sonia Sotomayor, perhaps Americans are scrutinizing justices more thoroughly with regard to their view of the Constitution. That might be one interpretation of a recent poll, reported on by The Christian Post, showing widespread opposition to the nomination of Kagan, even though most believe she will be confirmed. It will be interesting to see if enough opposition can be generated by Senate Republicans, 7 of whom voted to confirm her for Solicitor General, in order to derail her nomination.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The 3 - May 9, 2010

This Mother's Day edition of "The 3" finds the values that my mom taught me upheld in a variety of ways - as atheists lost another one in court, leaders learned to put others first, and people came out to pray across America.

3 - Atheists Lose Appeal of Lawsuit against "God" in Presidential Oath

Noted atheist Michael Newdow's crusade against the mention of God in certain institutions of our society, such as the Pledge of Allegiance, the motto, "In God We Trust" on our money, and the mention of God (as in, "So Help Me, God") in the Presidential oath, was dealt another blow by a three-judge panel of a Federal appeals court in Washington, DC. The Christian Post reported on Friday's development.

This ongoing battle is indicative of the mindsets of people in America that want to eradicate religious expression from the fabric of our nation's life. That's why prayer is so important, as we pray for our religious liberties to be preserved and for people to recognize that our nation was founded on unmistakably Christian principles.

2 - Thousands Inspired by Chick-Fil-A Leadercast

For years, John Maxwell has been presenting a yearly simulcast featuring well-respected business leaders. Churches nationwide have been using this opportunity to invite people into the business community into their facilities. This year, with a new corporate sponsor, the Chick-Fil-A Leadercast attracted an estimated 65,000 people or more.

I reported on the Leadercast for The Meeting House on Faith Radio, and originated my Friday afternoon program from the live location, the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The nexus of post-Leadercast coverage can be found at This site has links to a variety of blogs, as well as backstage interviews. Notable speakers included Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, Dr. Ben Carson, John Maxwell, and corporate leaders such as Ed Bastian (Delta Air Lines) and Jim Goodnight (SAS). One of the common themes that some of the speakers dealt with was the importance of putting others first, realizing we lead effectively as we seek to reach out to others with humility.

1 - 59th Annual National Day of Prayer Observed

This past Thursday, May 6th, the National Day of Prayer was marked by gatherings all across America - numerous churches, as well as municipalities, hosted events, people gathered for public observances, and the increased visibility for the day may have in fact brought more people out to participate.

That visibility came in part from a judge's ruling in Wisconsin saying that Congress did not have the constitutional right to proclaim such a day, as well as the high-profile withdrawal of Franklin Graham's invitation to speak at the Pentagon. Graham did pray there, but outside the Pentagon instead. And, in a bit of good news, President Obama did declare the day as the National Day of Prayer, following in the tradition of previous Presidents.

CitizenLink offered this coverage of the NDP
. Also, some reports from across the media have been assembled at the National Day of Prayer Task Force Facebook page. This is a great American tradition, and hopefully will be a springboard for consistent prayer on a variety of issues, as we intercede for our nation and its leaders to turn to God and rely on His strength, wisdom, and protection.

Honorable Mention:

Nashville Flooding Yields Christian Response

Only 5 in 100 Oppose National Day of Prayer, According to USA Today/Gallup Poll

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The 3 - May 1, 2010

Plenty to discuss this week, and a plethora of candidates for "The 3" - narrowing it down, I spotlight the beginning of filming for a Christian motion picture, dialogue about an announced find of a key Biblical artifact, and pro-life legislation passing state legislatures.

3 - "Courageous" begins filming

I would say that more than a few curious eyes are fixed toward Albany, Georgia, as Sherwood Pictures began filming this week on its next film, "Courageous", slated to be released next year. The film focuses on 4 law enforcement officers who are struggling in their role as fathers, and when tragedy strikes, they are forced to wrestle with even greater issues, including their faith.

This film, which follows their previous effort, "Fireproof", I would think would have some high expectations in the Christian community, and for good reason - Alex and Stephen Kendrick and the team at Sherwood Pictures have shown a great deal of creativity, skill, and outstanding ability to tell a story. And, most of all, the on-set demeanor is one of prayer and submission to the Holy Spirit. And, I know that they covet your prayers for "Courageous" to touch lives in a powerful way, just as their previous films have done.

I'm scheduled to be on the set of "Courageous" later this month - I am greatly looking forward to the visit, and am planning to bring some inspiring reports to you! The movie website is There you'll find video reports from the set, a listing of the principal cast members (in the blog), and plenty more!

2 - Noah's Ark declared discovery discussed

Perhaps the most elusive and anticipated artifact related to the Christian community is Noah's Ark - there have been numerous expeditions, even some announced discoveries, but so far, no one has brought back the prize...until now, perhaps?

Well, a team of evangelical explorers have announced that they have discovered the ark on Mt. Ararat in Turkey. Read the story of their discovery from Fox News.

But, it's no surprise there is skepticism. A noted archaeologist came out this week to forcefully discredit the find. Randall Price shared his perspective with AOL News. And, noted creation and science organization Answers in Genesis took a "wait and see" attitude. Dr. John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research exhibited a cautionary view, as well.

Well, as Ken Ham pointed out in a Tuesday Answers in Genesis piece, "We have no doubt, however, that there once was a massive Ark that served as a vessel of salvation during a global Flood and landed on the mountains of Ararat, as recorded in the book of Genesis. " So, of that we can be certain, and the discovery of Noah's Ark, whenever it might occur, will be further validation of the truth that is found in the Bible.

1 - Pro-life victories in State Legislatures

All across America, there is action taking place in state legislatures with regard to the broad health care legislation that was passed by Congress. Over a dozen state attorneys general have filed suit, contending the legislation violates the Constitution, and legislatures are taking up the cause to exempt their states from the numerous Federal mandates that are contained within the thousands of pages of legislation and regulation.

And, this week, Arizona became the first state to enact legislation that would exempt their state from taxpayer funding of abortion, as Gov. Brewer signed the bill. Three other states - Tennessee, Mississippi, and Florida - have had their legislatures pass similar bills. CitizenLink reported on the Arizona development.

More pro-life news from Florida - the Legislature passed a bill that would offer an ultrasound to women considering abortion...this would include ultrasounds being made available in abortion clinics. The bill now goes on to Governor Crist. Here is the report from

And, some good news on the pro-life front from Oklahoma - the Legislature there overrode a gubernatorial veto on 2 pro-life is a mandatory ultrasound bill and another bill would prevent "wrongful life" lawsuits that claim a baby would have been better off being aborted and that a doctor should have suggested abortion. Here is the report from

In light of a Congress that included taxpayer funding of abortion in health care reform legislation, a Supreme Court that is not set to overturn Roe v. Wade, and an Administration that has been described as the most pro-abortion in history, it is not particularly productive to expect Federal action on the life issue. However, there is a trend by states to protect life, and that may increase as these legislatures are reacting to the new health care law.

Honorable Mention:

"Pro-Life Freedom Rides" announced by prominent pro-life leaders in Birmingham

Creation Museum greets one-millionth visitor

Congressional National Day of Prayer will allow Graham to speak despite Muslim opposition

New report chides White House response to religious freedom