THE Big Story

Here’s an interesting presentation of THE Big Story of God, humans, and the world:

Please bear in mind that this is a three-minute summary, so do give the presenter some leeway if he does not include some details we would prefer to see if we were the ones to present a Big Story 😉 .

What do you think?

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Note (added 10/10/08): This presentation was developed by James Choung, who explains it further here.

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American Idols Shout to the Lord

I don’t really watch American Idol, so I missed the two episodes last week where, it turned out, the remaining contestants sang Darlene Zschech’s beautiful song Shout to the Lord.

I was just alerted to this through my favorite blog Parchment and Pen, which asked: What’s up with American Idol and Jesus? and posted a link to this YouTube video:

Maybe the program is just pandering to the strong conservative Christian market base, but that’s OK. Thanks be to God that praises to Jesus Christ are sung on US TV primetime.

(Seems that something happened behind the scenes, though, because the name “Jesus” was replaced by “Shepherd” in the first night’s performance, during the actual Idol Gives Back telecast. But the same song was sung again the following night, with the name “Jesus” placed back!)

Canadian Idol, on the other hand, seems to be already open to Christian songs. Their 2004 winner, the very talented Kalan Porter, performed this awesome number on that show, a moving rendition of MercyMe’s I Can Only Imagine:


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(Bonus clip 🙂 : Porter also sang this powerful song, for which a fan made a video montage on YouTube:)

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(Note: Wikipedia has a note about the performance of Shout to the Lord in last week’s Idol Gives Back show where the name “Jesus” was replaced by “Shepherd”, but was placed back in the following night’s repeat performance of the song. The Parchment and Pen post from which I got the original heads-up has interesting views on this from various commenters.)
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Muslims > Catholics? > All Christians?

A friend emailed me the news clipping below. It’s about Islam surpassing Roman Catholicism as the world’s largest religion.

This confirms a trend which a Catholic priest shared with me when I interviewed  him in 2004, while Perry and I were in the Netherlands.

Father Ype said that church membership and attendance in the various parishes he had served in the Netherlands had been declining steadily over the years. In fact, he said, some parishes had to be dissolved and merged with adjacent parishes because of the lack of parishioners.

The church has also had to withdraw from some buildings because of lack of funds, aside from dismally low attendance. Some of these church buildings, government properties, were then leased to Muslim communities—and converted into mosques.

Fr. Ype said that this was not just because of the fact that Muslims generally do not practice birth control, although that was true (he surmised that birth control might be against Islam’s teachings, just as its more popular forms are also contrary to official Vatican teachings—the problem is, Muslims generally follow their official teachings whereas Catholics do not practice many of their church’s official teachings).

But much more important than the comparative growth in population, Fr. Ype says, the biggest factor in the decline of the Christian faith in his country and the rapid rise of Islam, is that Muslims pass the faith on to their children, whereas Christians do not.

Muslim parents are generally very diligent in teaching their children about their faith and traditions, and can be very strict in seeing to it that these are adhered to.

In contrast, Christian parents are very lax and lenient. They usually adopt the attitude of letting their children choose which belief, if any, they would follow. And, of course, in the setting of postmodern relativistic Europe, and in the midst of the attendant peer pressure and molding from the educational system and the media, the children, unguided by their parents, usually end up not believing in Christianity.

That is why Fr. Ype predicted, and I also predict, that it will not be long before the Netherlands, and in fact most of Western Europe, will be predominantly Muslim societies. what with the influx of Muslim immigrants with very strong respect for their religion and traditions. Christian households already have less children than Muslim families, yet they do not care to pass on the faith to these few children. When the Christian parents die, who will carry on the faith in the next generations?

The demographics of Europe will change dramatically in the coming years because of strong Muslim influence—and Christian parents who do not care for their faith or traditions.

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Muslims more numerous than Catholics

By ALESSANDRA RIZZO, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 30, 2:48 PM ET

Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world’s largest religion, the Vatican newspaper said Sunday.

“For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us,” Monsignor Vittorio Formenti said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. Formenti compiles the Vatican’s yearbook.

He said that Catholics accounted for 17.4 percent of the world population— a stable percentage—while Muslims were at 19.2 percent.

“It is true that while Muslim families, as is well known, continue to make a lot of children, Christian ones on the contrary tend to have fewer and fewer,” the monsignor said.

Formenti said that the data refer to 2006. The figures on Muslims were put together by Muslim countries and then provided to the United Nations, he said, adding that the Vatican could only vouch for its own data.

When considering all Christians and not just Catholics, Christians make up 33 percent of the world population, Formenti said.

Spokesmen for the Vatican and the United Nations did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Sunday.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

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“A Bad Smell”

God is good!

Our project was enthusiastically received by our client’s transformation officers (TO’s). These TO’s would be in charge of training the project officers who, in turn, would lead the organization’s tens of thousands of clients in Bible studies all over the country (the organization is a coalition of 11 Christian microfinance organizations with branches all over the Philippines).

They all agreed that the Bible study materials/devotionals which Perry developed would be very helpful in enabling them to provide a holistic ministry to the micro-entrepreneur clients—not just helping them in terms of providing loans and business and management skills training, but also in terms of sharing spiritual blessings with them.

The TOs’ enthusiasm was further boosted by reports from field tests, where random samples of clients were asked to read and study the materials, which we have entitled Gawaing Bahay (Household Work).

A great majority of the clients are mothers who are borrowing money in order to set up small businesses that can augment the family income.

One mother said that, in all her 43 years, she had never read the Bible. She thought that it had nothing to teach her. Besides, she thought that she could never have the time. But when she read the Gawaing Bahay material, she realized that the Bible was very relevant to her life, and could actually be appreciated even if read for only short chunks of time in the midst of her very busy schedule as mother, housewife, and microentrepreneur. Now she is motivated to study it along with the Gawaing Bahay as guide.

Another said that the Gawaing Bahay materials, which draw lessons from ordinary household work such as doing the laundry, cooking, sewing, etc., gave dignity to her routine housework, a perspective which she never had before.

Our client has already bought 30,000 copies of the Tagalog version for distribution to their microentrepreneur clients. We are now in the process of translating the Tagalog into Ilonggo, Cebuano, and Ilokano, three other major Philippine languages. We are also polishing the English version, which we will also print soon.

Below is an excerpt from the English draft of Devotional #4 of Gawaing Bahay (the Bible verses are taken from Today’s English Version):

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A Bad Smell
(Devotions 4)

If clothes are not washed well, they will have a bad smell. One day, I was folding the clothes that had been washed. While doing this, I smelled the clothes. One sock didn’t smell good. I asked myself, “How come? This is the only one that doesn’t smell good. All the others are okay.”

Probably it was because the sock was thick and black. Maybe I didn’t scrub it well, thinking that it was black anyway and any remaining dirt wouldn’t be noticed. But I was wrong. Maybe the dirt couldn’t be seen, but the uncleanness can be smelled! So I soaked it again in laundry detergent, and this time I scrubbed and rinsed it well. When it was dry, I held it to my nose and smelled it again. “Hmmm,” I said, “Now that smells good.” Since then, I have been more careful in washing black clothes to make sure that they will not smell bad.

Dirt in dark clothes may not be noticeable. But you cannot hide it even if the color of the clothes is dark, because it will smell. Sin is also like that: it smells bad even when it is not easily seen. This is why we cannot say that we can hide our sins because no one knows what we do in secret anyway. We should be more careful of secret sins because some day it will smell—and then what a shame it will be!

The Bible says that we ourselves are the ones who suffer when we know that we have done wrong and yet refuse to admit it.

But you know, God “does the laundry” very well. He knows everything about us—even sins done in secret. If you will only listen to Him, He will make you realize those sins so that you can allow Him to wash them away. He does not want to leave you smelling bad!

Things to Think About or Do:

(1) This is very personal, and you do not have to share this with anybody: Is there anything in your life which you know is wrong but which you do not want to let go?

(2) Would you like to spend some time, maybe 15-30 minutes, talking to God about it?

 “Hmmm, newly washed clothes really smell good!” That’s what we want, right? That is why we look for detergent soap and fabric softeners that will not only clean our clothes, but also leave them smelling clean. We feel good when our clothes smell clean, and we feel confident when we wear them.

A life surrendered to Christ smells clean. When we allow Jesus Christ to cleanse us from our sin, and specially when we serve Him, our lives “smell good” not only for God, but also for other people:

God uses us to make the knowledge about Christ spread everywhere like a sweet fragrance. For we are like a sweet-smelling incense offered by Christ to God, which spreads among those who are being saved and those who are being lost.
—2 Cor. 2:14-15

God is so good to cleanse us. He knows that we will only be truly happy when we are clean. You might want to use the following Psalm as a prayer to God:

Be merciful to me, O God,
     because of your constant love.
Because of your great mercy
     wipe away my sins!
Wash away all my evil
     and make me clean from my sin!

I recognize my faults;
     I am always conscious of my sins.
I have sinned against you—only against you—
     and done what you consider evil.
So you are right in judging me;
     you are justified in condemning me.
I have been evil from the day I was born;
     from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful.

Sincerity and truth are what you require;
     fill my mind with your wisdom.
Remove my sin, and I will be clean;
     wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness;
     and though you have crushed me and broken me,
I will be happy once again.
Close your eyes to my sins
     and wipe out all my evil.

Create a pure heart in me, O God,
     and put a new and loyal spirit in me.
Do not banish me from your presence;
     do not take your holy spirit away from me.
Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation,
     and make me willing to obey you.

Then I will teach sinners your commands,
     and they will turn back to you.

Spare my life, O God, and save me,
     and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness.
Help me to speak, Lord,
     and I will praise you.
—Psalm 51:1-15

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God is so good and gracious to allow us to participate in a great work that He is about to do among our countrymen. All praises, thanks, honor and glory be to Him!

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