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News That Illustrates: March 19, 2012

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall: Am I Pretty or Ugly?
Various news outlets have been reporting on a disturbing trend among teenage and even preteen girls: "Am I Pretty or Ugly?" videos. The young girls are posting short video clips on Youtube and then asking people, "Am I pretty or ugly?" One such clip had over 4.5 million hits and 114,000 comments (and those hits and comments are growing every day). The responses ranged from "U have nothing to worry about" to harsh and degrading comments. In an insightful blog post, Sharon Hode Miller writes, "As I watched these videos, I wanted to reach through the screen and hug their tiny shoulders." Miller claims that many women in our culture struggle with the same "Am I pretty or ugly?" question. So Miller urges women to remember that their real beauty is fixed and unchangeable in Christ. "The end goal," she writes, "is the 'blessed self-forgetfulness' that Tim Keller describes—a forgetfulness that frees us from fussing over ourselves so that we can worship and serve God."

PREACHING THEMES: Beauty; Identity in Christ; Self-image; Women

The Japanese Tsunami—One Year Later
Christianity Today ran a hope-filled but realistic appraisal of how churches are still reeling from and responding to the tidal wave that hit Japan just over a year ago (March 11th). Here's a wonderful quote about how God is bringing hope in the midst of tragedy: "Prior to the earthquake, there was little connection between the typical Japanese church and the community at large. Pastors were exemplary shepherds of their small congregations …. But their social engagement was minimal, and the community remained suspicious or largely unaware of the church's purpose or role. The tsunami changed that …. Churches became some of the first distribution centers. They took in evacuees, stored supplies, served meals. 'Churches were the shred of hope that people clung to when they had nothing else,' [a missions expert said]. 'As these centers became centers for hope, the walls started melting away. People started saying, 'Wow, these people are real. They aren't some strange cult or taken over by some foreign religion. They are really our people and they care about us.'"

PREACHING THEMES: Church; Community Impact; Outreach

Has Someone Stolen Your Heart?
Last Saturday morning, worshipers and tourists entered Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin to discover that an iron cage, bolted to the wall, was broken and empty. The cage normally held a heart-shaped box, which contained the actual preserved heart of St. Laurence O'Toole, the patron saint of Dublin. O'Toole's heart had been displayed in the cathedral since the 13th century. Apparently, the heart thief hid in the church on Friday, waiting for guests to leave and officials to lock up for the evening. He then cut through two bars, pried the box open, and made off with the 800-year-old heart. The Dublin police have no suspects, and are unsure why anyone would steal a heart. Unfortunately, this isn't the only time a church has had its heart stolen. The Bible warns that even Christians can "lose heart." (Thanks to Dave Bolin for this story. Dave ministers and blogs at Harvestfield Church in Rainbow City, Alabama.)

PREACHING THEMES: Discouragement; Heart; Hope

The Slippery Slope of Abortion Just Got More Slippery
Some pro-choice folks are finally getting gut-level honest. A recent article published in a prestigious academic journal called the Journal of Medical Ethics begins with this shocking thesis: "Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life." The paper's abstract notes, "The authors argue that what we call 'after-birth-abortion' (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled." The editor of the journal defended the decision to publish the article by stating, "The authors provocatively argue … if abortion is permissible, infanticide should be permissible." The Telegraph, a British paper, offered the following succinct and accurate headline about the article: "Killing Babies Is No Different From Abortion." Pro-life people used to warn about the slippery slope. This article not only proves that the slippery slope exists, but that we've also taken a ride and hit bottom.

PREACHING THEMES: Abortion; Human depravity; Human dignity; Pro-life

Stop Watching Mean People
Here's the conclusion from a recent study published in the journal Aggressive Behavior: watching TV programs about mean people can make you a mean person. The study focused on 250 college women who viewed clips depicting different forms of aggression, from violent fighting to gossiping and excluding others. But here's the scary part to the study: "Aggressive reactions are more automatic and less conscious than most people assume …. That means nobody deliberately decides to imitate a Real Housewife; the connection is more subtle and unintentional … One of the authors points out that even TV shows depicting friends putting each other down in the name of a joke has its effects, too."

PREACHING THEMES: Character; Entertainment; Renewing the mind; Television

The Oreo Cookie Turns 100
Here's a fun article with nine facts about Oreos, the world's best-selling cookie. The National Biscuit Company rolled out the first batch of Oreos on March 6, 1912. A hundred years later, we're still twisting them, dunking them, and loving them. But how much do we really know about them? For instance, did you know that every Oreo has a 71 percent to 29 percent cookie-to-cream ratio? Or that the Oreo reached the Jewish market by becoming kosher in 1998? Or that Oreos are sold in more than 100 countries? Or that 450 billion Oreo cookies have been sold worldwide since they hit the market in 1912? This news story could be a great introduction to a sermon about focus and faithfulness over the long haul, vision, or global missions (they sure have a vision to reach the world with a cookie).

PREACHING THEMES: Faithfulness; Focus; Missions; Vision

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