Friday, May 9, 2008

MP3 Player Shaped like a Cross

If you’re looking for something “different” to play your tunes, check out this MP3 player. Build by iceTECH, the TEO MP-301 is made in the shape of a cross and you can wear it around your neck. There’s a built-in microphone and FM radio but no preloaded Christian music. It comes with a hefty $48 price tag. Bloggers complain that the interface is clunky and hard to figure out. It comes with the conversion software that would allow you to transfer music of various formats from your CDs and files to this device.

Defying the IRS

The Alliance Defense Fund is trying to get pastors to defy the IRS on September 28th– and preach about candidates for office. Tax laws bar churches from taking part in partisan politics or else they can lose their tax-exempt status. But the Arizona group wants to challenge the government agency in court on the issue, hoping to get it declared unconstitutional. The United Church of Christ is being investiged now for allowing Barak Obama, who is a member, to speak last year.

SoulForce Challenges Osteen Church's

A support group for gays called Soulforce is trying to get Houston megachurch pastor Joel Osteen to welcome them on Mother’s Day to Lakewood Church. Jay Bakker, son of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner is one of the Soulforce supporters hoping to meet with the high-profile leader. Bakker says Osteen’s silence on gay issues is “as destructive as speaking out against” the community.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Israel's Bible Quiz

A teenager who believes in Jesus was Jerusalem’s representative in Israel’s annual youth Bible quiz. A group called Yad L’Ahim asked religious Jews to boycott the event because of Bat El Levy’s messianic beliefs. But Israel’s Education Ministry rejected calls for banning her participation. A 15-year-old from Nahariya won yesterday’s contest. American Dov Mordechai Nadal was third. In all, 65 contestants from 37 countries took part.

McCain on Religious Freedom

"There is no right more fundamental to a free society than the free practice of religion. Behind walls of prisons and persecuted before our very eyes in places like China, Iran, Burma, Sudan, North Korea and Saudi Arabia are tens-of-thousands of people whose only crime is to worship God in their own way. No society that denies religious freedom can ever rightly claim to be good in some other way. And no person can ever be true to any faith that believes in the dignity of all human life if they do not act out of concern for those whose dignity is assailed because of their faith. As President, I intend to make religious freedom a subject of great importance for the United States in our relations with other nations. I will make respect for the basic principle of religious freedom a priority in international relations." - John McCain speaking at a town hall meeting at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan

Obama's Pledge to Isreal

"America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakable. I pledge to you that I will do whatever I can in whatever capacity to not only ensure Israel's security, but also to ensure that the people of Israel may thrive and prosper and build on the enormous promise that was made 60 years ago." - Barak Obama

God Tube Gets Manna from GLG is getting a cash infusion. British hedge fund GLG Partners is reportedly pumping more than $30 million into the Dallas-based video site. grew nearly 1000% during its first month and has had 1.6 million unique visitors every month since, according to comScore Inc. The Christian video-sharing and social-networking site is run by Dallas Theological Seminary student Chris Wyatt. Members of other religions are trying the same thing. JewTube gets about 175,000 visitors per month and IslamicTube is averaging 23,000.

There are major changes underway at the GLG. Fund manager Greg Coffey is leaving and may take more than $4 billion in investments with him when he sets up his own fund later this year.

Student Group Sues University

The Christian Fellowship of Shippensburg University is suing the Pennsylvania school for threatening to shut it down. Administrators object to the group’s requirement that members must be Christians and its president has to be a man. The Christian Fellowship says Shippensburg University is violating its free-speech rights.

Name Change Poll

Our poll of Christian News Report readers showed 75% of you did NOT want a judge to let a Chicago area man change his name to In God We Trust. That's right. Steve Kreuscher wants to switch from Steve to In God for a first name and from Kreuscher to We Trust for a last name. The artist and father of four will find out what the judge decides on June 13th. Kreuscher has told local media he remembers when God Reigns was taken off the city seal a few years ago. And he fears the same thing could happen to In God We Trust - that it could be taken off our courentcy. The name change will cost him about $400 since there are court costs to pay and public notices that are required to be published in newspapers.

But he’s not the only one who's wanted to make a curious name change:
In 1998, Byron Looper of Tennessee became..
Low Tax
In 1997, Robert Rion of Mundelein became..
Santa Claus
In 2001, Scott Nall of Ohio became..
Optimus Prime
In 2003, Karin Robertson of Virginia became..
In 2005, Jose Espinal of New York became..
Jesus Christ
In 2007, Michael Burrows of Washington became..
In 2008, Marvin Richardson of Idaho..

Florida Ark?

Does he know something we don’t? George Hansen is building a – well, it appears to be an ark similar to the one Noah built. It’s across from Dinosaur World near Tampa. Construction started last year on what Hansen said was supposed to be a war memorial. He says the resemblance to Noah’s Ark is just a coincidence. The building is up for lease. The Tampa Tribune has a photo.

National Ten Commandments Day

The National Ten Commandments Project will kick off this afternoon at the Supreme Court. It's an effort to create a National Ten Commandments Day. The group behind is called Faith and Action which says its purpose is to minister to government officials in Washington.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Letter to Congress

A group of Christian leaders is sending a letter to Congress, objecting to an on-going investigation into several television ministries. The group claims the probe is setting a dangerous precedent. Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwel is among the signers. The investigation is being led by Senator Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. In the spotlight: Creflo Dollar, Bishop Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn and Randy and Paula White.

Religious Voters

Indiana voters who attend church..
Weekly: Obama 55%, Clinton 45%
Occasionally: Clinton 54%, Obama 46%
Never: Obama 52%, Clinton 48%
Catholics: Obama 59%, Clinton 41%

North Carolina voters who attend church..
Weekly: Obama 55%, Clinton 43%
Occasional attenders Obama 59%, Clinton 39%

Source: MSNBC

New Car Tag

Christians may get a new license plate in South Carolina. The license plate has the words I Believe on it along with a cross on a stained glass window. The Senate has already passed the bill. Now the House gets to vote on the special tag. An effort to get the same plate approved in Florida (a sample of which you see here) failed to get through the Sunshine State’s legislature.

Facebook and MySpace

Facebook Sites

100,000,000 Christians Worship God - Nearly half a million members

I'm Nothing Without God - Started by Winona State University student Daniel Holum

My Church - Co-founded by Joe Suh, a UC Berkeley graduate in electrical engineering and computer science. The site has lots of Facebook apps.

MySpace Sites

Joel Osteen

TD Jakes

Compassion International

Father Makes Ultimate Sacrifice

The son of a Chicago pastor saved his daughter’s life by sacrificing his own. Joseph Richardson saw an out-of-control car approaching and quickly picked her up and held his daughter out of harm’s way. The 4-year-old was injured but survived. Richardson was pinned against an iron fence and killed. They were walking to a McDonald’s restaurant at the time. Police say the driver of the car was drunk and is charged (so far) with driving without a valid license or insurance. Richardson was church pianist and organist at Cottage Grove Baptist Church and the Greater Revelation Missionary Baptist Church where his father is pastor.

Where the Megachurches Are

(churches with weekly attendance of at least 2000)
California 178
Texas 157
Florida 85
Georgia 73
Illinois 46
Tennessee 44
Ohio 44
Michigan 43
North Carolina 39
Indiana 31
Source: Hartford Institute for Religious Research

Religious Oppression

A federal commission says there are 11 nations the State Department should identify as oppressing religion but are being ignored. The countries are China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan named with Iran, North Korea Others are Eritrea, Myanmar, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. . The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms points to violent government repression of religious communities. A decade ago Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act. It equires the US to identify "countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief." The US State Department hasn’t made an designations for two years.

An Evangelical Manifesto

This morning a group of Christian leaders will present what they are calling an Evangelical Manifesto. It chastises Evangelicals for being used by the political parties, suggesting the focus on politics has diminished the Gospel. Among the 80 signers: Megachurch pastor Rick Warren, author Os Guinness, Fuller Theological Seminary president Richard Mouw and Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School. Among those who did not sign the document: Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Richard Land, head of the public policy arm for the Southern Baptist Convention. Read the Manifesto here.

Christians & Politics

Are Christians too involved in politics? Those responding “no”.

Christians - 52%
Evangelicals - 72%

Source: LifeWay Research

Just 4 Votes Short

A Nashville megachurch fell just four votes shy of tossing out 71 dissatisfied members. The group is suing the leadership of Two Rivers Baptist Church for mishandling finances. Pastor Jerry Sutton put the ouster vote on the table. 663 voted to dismiss the plaintiffs, while 337 voted “no.” The dissenters say Sutton used church funds for his daughter’s wedding among other questionable expenses. Many top leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention attend the church.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

SBC Presidential Possibilities

Here are some of the people expected to be nominated for the position of president of the Southern Baptist Convention when the group meets June 10-11 in Indianapolis:

Frank Cox, pastor of the Atlanta-area North Metro First Baptist Church

Wiley Drake, First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, California

Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia

Bill Wagner, former Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary professor

Avery Willis, retired SBC International Mission Board executive

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler dropped out of the race for health reasons.

The Wright Effect

Half the people voting in the Indiana and North Carolina primaries today said Barak Obama’s former pastor was an important factor in their decisions, according to exit polls. About 70% of those who said it was important in Indiana also said they were voting for Hillary Clinton. Whites and blacks were about as likely to call the situation important. But whites were much more likely to vote for Clinton if they said it was significant.

From Pornography to Bible Park

He once shot photos for Penthouse magazine. Now he wants to help build a Bible park in Tennessee. According to the The Tennessean newspaper, Amnon Bar-Tur who was born in Israel and immigrated to the US, shot cover and centerfold photos of nude models in the ‘70s. He later helped to form SafeHarbor Holding. The company is proposing a 282-acre theme park called Bible Park, USA be built in Rutherford County near Murfreesboro. It would feature re-enactments of life Bible times, theaters and other attractions based on stories from Scripture. The developers say the Penthouse connection is irrelevant to whether to build the park - which they claim could pull in a million-and-a-half visitors every year.

Online Bible Quiz

An online quiz for pastors and church leaders about the Bible is sparking a lot of discussion. More than 30,000 people have answered the 20 questions developed by Leadership journal and created by Scot McKnight, a professor at North Park University in Chicago. Here’s how the numbers break out according to the journal:

The conservative hermeneutic group scores 52 or lower.
Moderates generally score between 53 to 65.
Those who score 66 or more can be seen as leaning toward the progressive side.

Take the Quiz

Rosie O'Donnell on Rev. Wright

“This man is, is following a tradition of black preachers and that there is a righteous indignation about people who were only considering three-fourths of a person until fairly recently in our history. And that his anger, which annoys some and forces some to look at issues that America is not really ready to face, is the actual issue. That racism does exist in this country and it's still thriving. And that some of the things that Jeremiah Wright says he's held accountable for. But there are things that white preachers have said that are just as insane. Pat Robertson saying that, you know, gays and feminists were responsible for the 9/11 catastrophe. Here's what I think. There is a place in the world, an inspirational, liberational kind of preaching that Reverend Wright does. You know when you read what he says, I was not as offended as the people in the polls that I read. I listen to him, and frankly, it made sense to me. I totally understood what he was saying."
- Rosie O'Donnell speaking on the "Today" show

Megachurch Facts

Number of megachurches in the US - 1210

Average Yearly Income - $6 million

Combined Incomes - $7.2 billion

Average Attendance - 3,585

Combined Weekly Attendance - 4.4 million

Percentage By Region:
South 49%
West 25%
Northcentral 20%
Northeast 6%

States with the Most:
California (14%)
Texas (13%)
Florida (7%)
Georgia (6%)

Percentage Belonging to a denomination - 66%

Denominations with the Most:
Nondenominational 36%
Southern Baptist 25%
United Baptist 9%
Assembly of God 5%

For a church to be counted as a megachurch in this survey, it had to have a weekly attendance of at least 2000
Source: Megachurches Today 2005
Survey conducted by Leadership Network and the Hartford Institute for Religion Research

Monday, May 5, 2008

Aid Groups Mobilize

Christian relief organizations are scrambling to get aid to Myanmar (also known as Burma). The Southeast Asian nation is cleaning up from a cyclone that may have killed more than 15,000 people. A World Vision spokesman says, "The destruction is unbelievable.” The humanitarian organization is appealing for $3 million in donations. Church World Service issued an appeal for $50,000 to help disaster victims. Catholic Relief Services is also raising funds and sending a team to the area. The US has economic sanctions in place against the country because of human rights abuses.

Chuck Norris at Commencement

Actor Chuck Norris will be the commencement speaker this Saturday at Liberty University. A supporter of Mick Huckabee's presidential campaign, the star of Walker, Texas Ranger is the author of several Christian books including The Justice Riders. The Lynchburg, Virginia school was founded by the late television evangelist Jerry Falwell who died a year ago at the age of 73. Jerry Falwell Jr is now Liberty’s chancellor.

Why Oprah Left Wright’s Church

Oprah Winfrey was once a member of Jeremiah Wright's church. But unlike Barak Obama, she stopped going back in the 90’s because she was uncomfortable with some of his anger-filled sermons, according to Newsweek magazine. The daytime TV diva also left Trinity United Church of Christ because she had grown tired of organized religion. Winfrey has declined to comment on the report.

Evangelical on Dem Platform Committee

Christian author and speaker Tony Campolo has been appointed to the committee that will review the Democratic Party’s platform. Campolo says he will defend pro-life issues at the national convention in Denver this summer. In the last few years, the party’s platform has directed supported a “woman’s right to abortion”.

Church Raises Millions in Two Days

Kensington Community Church located in Detroit’s suburb of Troy has come up with $17 million in pledges from its 11,000 members in just two days. The megachurch has a full-time directors of development on staff to coordinate fundraising efforts. Kensington hired Greg Gibbs from Cargill Associates, a Texas-based church fundraising and consultant firm. Kensington’s budget is more than $10 million. The new funds will go toward construction of a new 72,000-square-foot church building.

CS Lewis Screening

The CS Lewis Society of California will get a private screening of the new film Prince Caspian Saturday, May 17 at San Francisco’s Metreon. The film based on CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series opens on the big screen the night before. The first Narnia film, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, took in $740 million. Sales of Lewis's Narnia series have topped 100 million copies. The event includes a presentation by Cambridge professor Michael Ward who wrote Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Wright Effect

Barak Obama's unfavorable rating among independents before the Wright controversy broke was 27%. It’s now 36%.

About 25% of Americans who are following the controversy say their "best guess" is that Obama agrees with the views of his former pastor, despite Obama’s repeated claims that he finds them offensive and wrong.

Source: USA TODAY/Gallup Poll

Obama on Joining Wright's Church

"I think that the American people understand that when I joined Trinity United Church of Christ, I was committing not to Pastor Wright, I was committing to a church and I was committing to Christ. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. What he said did not bring the country together; it divided the country. It fed into all of the racial antagonisms and divisions that have haunted this country for so long, and, you know, I did not want to give a platform for that." - Barack Obama on NBC's Meet the Press

TIME's Top 100

TIME Magazine has picked Richard Cizik for its top 100 most influential people in the world for 2008. The Evangelical Presbyterian minister heads up the Office of Government Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals. His views and work on environmental issues such as global warming brought him to Time’s attention - and earned him criticism from fellow Evangelicals. Cizik first hit the political map a quarter of a century ago when he invited President Ronald Reagan to talk to his group. That speech to the NAE is still remembered for Reagan's reference to the Soviet Union as the "evil empire".

Getting to know… Jeremiah Wright

▪ Born in Philadelphia, September 22, 1941

▪ His father, grandfather and an uncle were pastors

Enrolled in the seminary at Virginia Union University but dropped out

▪ Served six years in the Marines and the Navy

▪ Earned two masters' degrees and one doctorate from Howard University

▪ Became pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ in 1972 when the church had less than 100 members

Trinity now has more than 8,000 parishioners

Oprah Winfrey was once a member but stopped going in the 1990s

The motto of Trinity Church is Unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian

▪ Barack Obama titled his second book after a sermon given by Wright called The Audacity to Hope

ORU Leaking Students

Oral Roberts University is losing students. Many are transferring before graduating to avoid association with the school that has been rocked by a financial scandal involving former president Richard Roberts. Enrollment is expected to be at least 150 lower this fall than last year. Some reports put the figure closer to 400 (or more than 12% of the student body). Applications to the Tulsa, Oklahoma school are down as well.