Thursday, June 21, 2007

Embryonic Stem-Cell Research

President Bush vetoed the stem cell research bill passed by Congress. Why are President Bush and many other Christians concerned about embryonic stem-cell research? What is the moral and ethical problem with it?

In all the hype, certain facts are lost. First, the debate is on embryonic stem-cell research, not adult stem-cell research. Second, the controversy is over government funding of such research. The research itself hasn’t been made illegal, and embryonic stem-cell research has been going on for years, funded by non-federal sources. Third, with all of this research, no significant breakthroughs have occurred.

The main problem certain Christians (and others, I’m sure) have with embryonic stem-cell research (with the emphasis on embryonic) is that they believe it destroys a life. Many Christians and others believe, with very good reason, that life begins at conception. Even though an embryo is not a fully-formed human being, it has its own unique DNA and of course, if left alone, will develop into a viable human being. Therefore, many Christians are concerned about our society entering a Brave New World of killing people for research, going down that slippery slope of the ends justifying the means.

The issue gets more difficult when you consider the thousands of embryos that are being kept frozen, the result of in vitro fertilization. These essentially abandoned, but still viable, embryos will never be “adopted” and placed in a womb, with the exception of a precious few. Is it ethical to destroy these abandoned embryos that will never have a chance to develop in utero so that the research could possibly save countless lives or reduce suffering in the future? This is, perhaps, the most difficult question to answer.

Embryonic stem-cell research has been heralded as the next major breakthrough in health care. However, nothing much has come out of the embryonic stem-cell research that has been going on for years (funded by private sources, not the government). Meanwhile, adult stem-cell research is showing promise, as is research with umbilical cord blood. Yet some get so hung up on embryonic stem-cell research that they forget about the other options still eligible for government funding that are showing promise.

Obviously you and I are bystanders in this debate, but I thought you should understand a few things about this controversy, especially when some say Christians are against “stem-cell research” leaving off the key word embryonic. I hope this helped you to understand the issue a little better.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Father’s Day Thoughts on Parenting

Since we recently celebrated Father’s Day, I have some more thoughts regarding being a good father. Although these apply to any parent, they are aimed at fathers and their importance in the family:

1. Fathering must be intentional. Parenting of any value does not leave the results to chance. Dads must take seriously the development of their family.

2. Fathering must be patient and loving. Dads need to be involved. That means we are called to show love in such a way that our children can model our behavior. Showing love to their mom is a great start — loving them is “priceless.”

3. Fathering must be spiritual. For a child to properly develop as a whole person, he or she needs a dad with biblical values, and one who puts into practice his faith. Statistics prove that families with godly dads, in the end, have a better result. The bottom line: “Dad” — you’re important!!

The Importance of Fatherhood

When I was working at the hospital as a chaplain intern, I learned an important lesson. That lesson was, my visit as a chaplain could make a big difference in a patient’s day and even their whole stay in the hospital. It didn’t matter who I was – it mattered what I was. Most people coming into their rooms were sticking them with needles. A chaplain comes in just to spend time with them, pray with them, and to listen to what they have to say. Nobody else in the hospital has time for that sort of thing.

There is a similar situation with fathers. A father’s presence in a child’s life is important precisely because he is their father. Of course if a father is missing from the home, then some other male figure such as an uncle should spend time with the kids. Despite the importance of a father’s presence in a child’s life, we often don’t spend the time we should with our kids.

The Importance of Love, Acceptance and Discipline

While our kids can be annoying at times, it is critical that we show them that they are loved and accepted despite occasional bad behavior. Sometimes that love comes in the form of discipline. Discipline should be both appropriate to the age, and appropriate to the transgression. Some parents want their kids to be perfect, and are constantly yelling at them to shape up. Some parents are too laid back, and their kids aren’t disciplined as they should be.

Finding that middle ground isn’t easy, because you want to both discipline them as needed, yet still show love and acceptance to them as people of worth. Pray to the Lord for wisdom and guidance in your parenting. God the Father, our divine parent who has his share of problems with his children (us), will guide you. Trust in the Lord, and he will show you the way.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Influence of the Media

I would like to pass on to you this recent article about the media that you might find interesting:

Do the media play a significant role in shaping what Americans believe and how they behave? The Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center, conducted a study to find out. Among their conclusions was that 64 percent of Americans believe the media are an important factor in shaping moral values in this country; only seven percent say the media do not impact moral values. Findings also showed that 68 percent of Americans say the media have damaged the moral values of our nation.

The report, The Media Assault on American Values, issued June 6, also concluded that the more a person watches television, the less likely he or she is to believe that the media are influencing the nation’s morals. Robert Knight, director of CMI, called this the “seductive effect” of the media. Brent Bozell, founder and president of MRC, said, “[Liberalism] is seeping into the culture and it’s having its corrosive effect.” Syndicated talk-show host Michael Medved called the study one of the most important ones in years because it is one of the first to examine the amount instead of the quality of television viewed by Americans.

Other conclusions in the report include:

73 percent of Americans say the entertainment industry has a negative impact on moral values; only seven percent say the entertainment industry is having a positive impact.

54 percent of Americans say the news media have a negative impact on moral values; only 11 percent say the news media have a positive impact.

The more a person watches television, the less likely he will be to accept responsibility for his own life and for his obligations to the people around him.

The more a person watches television, the less likely he is to conduct himself honestly, reliably and fairly; the more permissive his attitudes toward moral issues — such as divorce, sex outside of marriage, abortion and homosexuality — are likely to be.

The more a person watches television, the less likely he is to honor godly values and religion in public life; the less likely he is to value religious principles and obedience to God.

David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, noted, “The real impact [shown by the study] ... is the ability of media to shape norms and values. That’s why advertisers like their messages in the media, because they know that they can influence us.” He also said it is important to realize that the correlation between watching a lot of television and being less suspicious of the media do not necessarily go hand in hand. “You can certainly say that those two things go together, but you can’t say that one causes the other, and they did imply that [in the study], and so that would be, I think, a weakness in their interpretation of the CMI study. ... When they make the leap from correlation to cause-effect, they’re making a leap that they shouldn’t be making.”

Visit for the full report from the Culture and Media Institute

From the Pastor’s Weekly Briefing, 6/14/07, Copyright © 2007, Focus on the Family
All rights reserved.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day Thought

Since we just finished celebrating Father’s Day, I thought the article below might be of interest:

Children whose parents talk to them about religion and where the parents regularly attend religious services were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than children with non-religious parents, according to a study reported at However, if parents regularly argue about their faith, it has the opposite effect.

Researcher John Bartkowski, a sociologist who led the study at Mississippi State University, sees three reasons for the result:

(1) Religious networks provide social support to parents which can help improve parenting skills. Children who are brought into such networks and hear parental messages reinforced by other adults may also “take more to heart the messages that they get in the home.”

(2) The types of values and norms that circulate in religious congregations tend to be self-sacrificing and pro-family. These “could be very, very important in shaping how parents relate to their kids, and then how children develop in response.”

(3) Religious organizations imbue parenting with sacred meaning and significance.

One limitation of the study, Bartkowski points out, is that it did not compare how denominations differed with regards to their effect on the children.

From the Pastor’s Weekly Briefing, 4/26/07, Copyright © 2007, Focus on the Family
All rights reserved.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Typhoid Mary

Speaking of self-centeredness (see previous posting on Paris Hilton), I couldn’t help but think about that lawyer who, despite warnings, traveled on multiple international flights after having been diagnosed with tuberculosis. The focus has been on how communications had been bungled, yet he was given a clear diagnosis of TB. Anybody with such an infectious disease, even without knowing it was the drug-resistant type, should not have traveled. As a lawyer, you know he would have been the first in line to sue anybody who infected him on a flight, yet he put many people at risk.

I’m picking on this lawyer, who flagrantly ignored the interests of others for his own selfish reasons, but we all are guilty of self-centeredness. When our life is too self-absorbed, we are often jeopardizing other people. We don’t spend enough time with our kids because we have other priorities, and the family suffers. Marriages break up because of self-centeredness: “If you can’t meet all of MY needs, I’m outta here.” People don’t come to church because they would rather sleep in or go shopping, and the family’s spiritual life suffers.

Let me suggest that you and I become a little less self-centered and a little more other-centered. Let’s begin to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3-4:
“When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.” (NCV)
If we follow these principles, then the world just might become a little better.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Paris Hilton’s Conversion

It hasn’t been big news, but Paris Hilton seems to have found God in prison. On June 10 she had a telephone interview with Barbara Walters from jail. In that interview, Hilton told Walters,
“I’m not the same person I was. I used to act dumb. It was an act. I am 26-years-old, and that act is no longer cute. It is not who I am, nor do I want to be that person for the young girls who looked up to me. I know now that I can make a difference, that I have the power to do that. I have been thinking that I want to do different things when I am out of here. I have become much more spiritual. God has given me this new chance.”

Who knows whether this was a true conversion, but I suspect God did speak clearly to her. Often when we are at a low point in life, we are more open to listening to that still, small voice of God. We are more receptive to what God has to tell us when the only place we have to go is up. Many people find God in prison, because you can’t get much lower than that.

Let us hope that this is not some momentary awakening, and when all this is over, will return to her old ways. Let us pray that Hilton can find purpose in life, and will become a positive role model rather than an example of shallowness and self-centered living. She was speculating with Walters that she might want to dedicate her life to breast cancer or multiple-sclerosis causes since both of her grandmothers had those diseases. Pray that she does turn her life around and that her life becomes a powerful witness to the power of God.

I also pray that if you are at a low point in your life, you will seek God and listen for that still, small voice calling to you to turn to God and follow him. Maybe you aren’t incarcerated, but you can still be imprisoned by something.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Bible –Part VII

We have had an extensive (but by no means complete) discussion of the Bible in the last few postings. I would like to share with you poll results that I recently read that gave some information about how Americans view the Bible:

More than 75 percent of Americans believe that the Bible is “literally the word of God” or “inspired by the word of God.” In a series of three Gallup surveys, 31 percent of respondents agreed that “the Bible is absolutely accurate and should be taken literally word for word.” Forty-seven percent said the Bible is “the inspired word of God.” About one in five Americans believe that the Bible is a book of ancient fables, history and “moral precepts” recorded by man.

Those who attend church weekly were found to be the highest percentage of literal believers at 54 percent. High school graduates (42 percent) and Southerners (41 percent) were next. Those in the East and West are least likely to believe in a literal Bible.

According to a survey of 1,006 adults conducted in January by the Barna Group, 78 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats say the Bible is “totally accurate in all of its teachings.”

Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll, said that a literal-belief structure has influenced a number of public issues, including teaching evolution in public schools, same-sex relationships, the role of a husband and a wife in marriage, observance of a day of rest, the idea of men-only clergy and even “seemingly unrelated topics” such as immigration.

Among religious groups, beliefs vary. Protestants or other non-Catholic Christians are significantly more likely to believe that the Bible is the literal word of God than are Catholics.

From the Pastor’s Weekly Briefing, 5/31/07, Copyright © 2007, Focus on the Family, All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Bible – Part VI

One problem we will have to live with is the many tensions we find in the Bible. This is especially true when we try to understand the attributes of God’s, such as loving and merciful on one hand, and God’s justice and punishment on the other. If we come down too much on one side without taking into consideration the other, we have a distorted view of God. For example, some people reduce God to a single attribute according to what it says in 1 John 4:8 (NRSV): “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Yes, unconditional love is an attribute of God, but not the only attribute. If you come down too much on the side of “God is love,” then we discount the fact that God is also just, does not tolerate sin, and that we are all accountable to God. Too much love and we make out God to be jolly old Saint Nick – a Santa Claus figure. Too little love, and God is wrathful, mean, vengeful, and uncaring.

These are the tensions we live with, and that’s just what they are – tensions. They are not contradictions or inaccuracies, but simply tensions that are difficult for us, with our limited abilities, to come to terms with. Therefore, the best advice I can give you is to live with the tensions, and try not to come down too far on one side or the other in your understanding of God and God’s ways.

The important thing to remember is that the Bible is God’s gift to us, and God also has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us as we read it and meditate on it. Before I trusted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, what little I knew about the Bible made no sense to me. Now that I have the Holy Spirit, I understand much more – not because I’m any smarter, but because I have the Holy Spirit to guide me.

Understanding follows faith: put your faith in Christ, and understanding will follow. So give God a chance to work in your life, by placing your faith in Christ and then studying the Bible to learn the things we discussed earlier. You’ll be surprised at what you learn and understand, and how your life will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Bible – Part V

In Part IV of my discussion of the Bible, I discussed the dilemma we have with many of the supernatural events in it, especially the Old Testament. Let me give you two possible ways you can deal with this.

One way around this dilemma is that you can voluntarily suspend disbelief, as we all do when we go to see a movie. We know what’s happening on the screen is not real, but we allow ourselves to get so absorbed by the story that we react to it as if it were really happening. By suspending disbelief when we read the Bible, we are practicing trust in God, we exercise our faith that God could do it, we don’t get hung up on trivia, and we focus on the message, not the medium.

The other way around this dilemma is to not take some Bible stories literally, but to look at them as divinely inspired stories given by God to make a point. Jesus often used parables to illustrate points, so God may have done the same thing in the Old Testament to get the message across in a way that anybody could understand. By viewing some of these stories as illustrations or parables, we don’t worry about whether Adam had a belly button and how all those critters got on the ark. Instead, we focus on what God is telling us by way of the story, not on how some of these things could have happened. How they could have happened, or if they happened at all, is irrelevant in my opinion. Not taking these stories literally in no way diminishes their validity as God’s communication of vital truths to us (although I know some disagree with me on this).

The bottom line is that we have to focus on the message given to us by God through the Bible, not on the details of how a particular event could have occurred. For example, some people believe the walls of Jericho falling down was caused by an earthquake, thus dismissing the supernatural aspect of the event. It could have been an earthquake, but in this life, timing is everything. The timing of that earthquake (if it was one) is essential, showing God’s hand in it.

By the way, the reason I don’t think it was an earthquake is that in Joshua 6, it doesn’t say: “And the earth shook mightily and with a great roar, the walls of the city came down.” No, instead it says in Joshua 6:20b: “They raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat.” (NRSV). Before drawing erroneous conclusions of biblical events, take care to look at the evidence. If it had been an earthquake strong enough to bring down the walls, that mighty shaking of the earth would have been recorded.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Bible – Part IV

An addendum to my earlier posting “The Bible- Part III” regarding my comments on science: Science, as we all know, is constantly making new discoveries and developing new theories based on new evidence. That’s what makes science so exciting, but we have to be careful not to put our faith in the latest theory. Today’s “scientific fact” is tomorrow’s discredited theory.

Now, let’s now take a look at the miracles in the Bible, which present problems for some people and causes some to doubt the validity and credibility of the Bible (see my earlier postings for more on the Bible).

Because of our knowledge of how nature works, sometimes people have trouble believing some of the supernatural events recorded in the Bible. For example, because we know how conception takes place, some have trouble believing in the virgin birth of Christ. Some have trouble with the large fish swallowing Jonah, and him actually surviving for three days inside the fish. Some doubt the flood of Noah’s time, Jericho’s walls falling down, the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and later the Jordan River on dry land, time standing still, a talking donkey, and many other supernatural events in the Bible.

The problem is, when we disbelieve, we are putting God in a box. Because of our own knowledge (which is still limited), we either try to figure out how something in the Bible could have happened, or we just do not believe it, dismissing it as impossible. When we do not believe, we are limiting God and not acknowledging that the Creator of the universe can suspend the laws of nature whenever he wants.

Moreover, getting hung up on the details means you are focusing on trivia and not the big picture. God is telling us important things in the Bible, so we should concentrate on the message, not on irrelevant details or unanswerable questions. If you have trouble believing biblical events, a future posting will give you two things you can do to possibly help you with this.

I just read something recently that ties in nicely with this dilemma of supernatural events in the Bible:

“We must be careful that we do not become over-concerned with the ‘how’ and ‘reduce the mystery to manageable proportions,’ as the Christian psychologist and spiritual director Dr. Larry Crabb puts it. Asking ‘how’ is sometimes (though not always) a foolish question when it comes to the things of God.” From “Every Day with Jesus” by Selwyn Hughes, May/June 2007, © CWR 2007.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Bible – Part III

Now that we understand the functions of the Bible as outlined in my earlier postings (see Parts I and II), we have an idea of what the Bible is. Now let’s look at what the Bible isn’t, because it’s important to understand that too.


The Bible is not a history book, even though it contains a fair amount of history. Those historical narratives have been found to be remarkably accurate from what we can determine from other sources. But if somebody uncovers an apparent inaccuracy or contradiction in the historical narrative, we shouldn’t come to the conclusion that the Bible is full of errors and no good. The history is there mainly to instruct us regarding how God interacts with people and how God is active in history, not as a precise record of historical events.


The Bible isn’t a science book either. The Bible tells what God did in the realm of nature, but doesn’t necessarily explain how God did it. How God did some things is left to science to try to explain.

Unfortunately, we don’t always get the best answers from science because science tries to explain things apart from God. Therefore, the scientific explanations are missing a key aspect, because scientists feel it is necessary to eliminate God so they can maintain objectivity and scientific integrity. Yet you can’t help but see God in the order and complexity of the universe.

We also have to realize that science isn’t infallible – only God is. Watch out when somebody states that something has been “scientifically proven,” because that is usually not a valid statement. Science, as we all know, is constantly making new discoveries and developing new theories based on new evidence. Something is rarely scientifically proven beyond a doubt. If it is, then it becomes a law of nature, such as gravity. Usually the research demonstrates that a theory looks like it may be correct, but rarely is something proven with absolute certainty. I’ll put my trust in what God tells me, and let the scientists battle out the details.